The Last Prayer of Pedro Alva González - by Martijn Knol

The Last Prayer of Pedro Alva González - by Martijn Knol

Translated by Michele Hutchison

1. One

This isn’t fucking, it’s copulating. I thrust as though the survival of the species depends on it. The girl lying under me smells of sweat… her breath of onions and booze…my pumping blends the smells. Music blares out from all around us… heavy, rumbling beats… bodybuilders whacking empty oil drums with giant rubber hammers…. We are all rhythm… heartbeat and hip movements… We are dancing. Her long, dark hair billows over the yellow canvas with every thrust. Drops of sweat pour from my brow, down my nose, over my lips. My trousers around my ankles, I’m more animal than human… I lean forwards… if a group of wags caught us here they’d be able to look right up my arse…the fear they’d shove a stone up your arsehole for a joke… I ram hard… thrust, thrust, thrust…. The chick is pure horn… Drops of sweat fall from my forehead, splatter onto her closed eyelids. After each thrust the smell of her cunt wafts upwards… my hands seek support from the canvas next to her body… We accelerate… she groans… I feel the sperm mounting… it’s coming.. I speed up and

2. Two

What the fuck? … a stab of pain in the soft, defenceless part of my left side… I’ve been stabbed… Right away an even more horrible thrust in my back… a crumbling feeling, as if wood is breaking, stacks of crates moving… The knife has hit my backbone.. I push myself off… get up and as I’m turning, I see the string of sperm, white as a sheet, shooting out of my cock and splattering onto my attacker’s jeans…
He’s facing me, furious. Crooked nose, stubble, necklace with a silver nameplate. He is about to give me a smack in the face… only – we know each other… Every night we play football with about twenty other boys on an abandoned factory site behind the main camping field… I know his name: Hernández. He’s as big a fan of The Crying Sparrows as I am… yesterday or the day before we danced and screamed next to each other at the brilliant show they put on one of the small stages….
‘That’s my girlfriend, you wanker.’ When he says the word ‘girlfriend’, his face changes from devil to little boy. ‘You were fucking my girlfriend!’
‘I didn’t know… I didn’t recognise her… I didn’t even know you were together, man.’
‘We’re having a baby!’
‘She’s pregnant!’ Tears fall from his pale eyes. He’s crying.
‘I’m sorry, mate,’ I say, pulling up my trousers. But he’s not listening.
‘Penélope,’ he roars. The girl is still lying on the pile of folded up party tents. She’s too pissed to recognise his voice. I look at her wet, gaping pussy. She’s lying there waiting for me to carry on…
Hernández bends down over his girlfriend. ‘She was going to give up drinking next week!’ he says over his shoulder. He begins to slap her on the face to bring her back to her senses.
I grope around behind me … I’m looking for the knife…. I’m expecting a dagger with a handle wrapped in a leather band… but I feel a cold, hard surface… Half a beer bottle is sticking out of me… a bottle of Noguera… the only brand with a screw top… I can feel the groves at the tip of the neck… I lean against a eucalyptus tree. A few rubbish containers, some dumped furniture. In the distance are mountains and after that the sea. The nearest First Aid post is in the next field.

3. Three

I walk calmly around the bowling alley towards the field of tents. I’m wearing red and blue bowling shoes. My boots are still on the shoe rack, inside, behind the counter. It’s been cloudy all afternoon. In the distance I can see the washrooms, behind them a white flag with a red cross fluttering.
I’m leaking… my hand is all slippery… blood pours from my side, down the left leg of my jeans…. I squeeze the wound shut, as though I’m stuffing my face with Raoul and want to show him my fat rolls as a joke… As well as blood, a kind of thick, black stuff is oozing out… it looks like clumps of waste oil… organs have been damaged… or intestines….
In the car park, next to a strip of grass with myrtle bushes, there’s a stall selling snacks. A long queue in front of it. I tap the last one in the queue on the shoulder, two boys turn around at the same time. They are stoned out of their minds.
‘Guys,’ I say. ‘Someone has stuck a bottle in my back. Would one of you pull it out for me?’
I turn around. ‘Can you see it?’
‘I see it,’ one of the boys says.
‘It’s a Noguera,’ his friend says. ‘Pretty insane to look at, man.’
‘He’s stuck it right through the leather,’ the first says.
‘Goatskin,’ I say.
‘OK. Well, here we go.’
When the boy grabs the neck of the bottle, a surge of electricity shoots through my upper body. I swing around, bellowing with pain, and fell both of the boys with a Siamese Punch Monkey. Jaws break under my fists – vinyl snapping when bent too far.
I look around, reeling. In the distance are tents, men with naked chests, women in bikinis. Palm trees. Oleanders. The fluttering flag. Dark clouds move overhead. I look at my left hand, it’s scarlet. This can’t be fixed. I’m going to bloody die. I sober up immediately, I’ve drunk nothing but coffee all my life. Forget that First Aid post… the only thing they do is hold your hand and lie to you that everything will be alright… I’m going to find Miranda…. As I trot off away from the stand, I get my mobile phone out of the breast pocket of my shirt. Under the eucalyptus trees in front of the bowling alley a man is carrying a woman. It’s Hernández and his girlfriend. I select my mother’s landline.
As the phone rings, I picture her… her empty flat, the white garden furniture. We were supposed to go and help her choose furniture. When she picks up, I cry, ‘Mama!’
‘Alva! About time! Or have you been fired and suddenly thought of your mother?’
‘I’m at the festival, Mum. Miranda and I are heading to Malaga, remember?’
‘Oh yes,’ she says flatly.
I don’t dare tell her what’s going on.
‘What time are you coming on Sunday?’
‘I don’t know yet, Mum.’
My back is wet with sweat, rivulets run down my skin… I’ve explained to her so many times that a concert is like a kind of open air church service that she’s really started to believe that we are all sitting here like pious goody two shoes… the bottle in my back makes a dirty liar of me… I hang up without saying anything else and put the phone back in my breast pocket. I’m the man of the family, I should have been more careful….
Skirting guy ropes, beer crates, airbeds, I hurry across the field which has been transformed into a second campsite. Three smiling, teenaged girls come out of a gigantic white tent where you can eat at tables and benches. I grab the middle one firmly by her upper arms. ‘I’m dying!’ I shout louder than she can scream. ‘I’m dying!’ Her friends start pulling on my arms… I let the girl go… the three of them bolt back into the tent…. The middle girl’s sleeves are now covered in blood….
I look around, my left hand in my side. I wipe the sweat from my brow and get out my phone. I scroll down to Miranda’s number… actually I need to tell the garage too… Miranda doesn’t pick up… she can’t hear it ringing, of course ….
The last section of the festival site. Agaves. A t-shirt in a cactus. I begin to run. A cool breeze rises up. The strip leading to the stage entrance is the straight part of a racetrack. I run past busses, stalls and tables with mugs and CDs. T-shirts dangle ominously from awnings. There’s been a weather warning out for the past couple of days… I avoid a beer bottle and still manage to step on it….
God, this isn’t fair… I can almost picture myself picking up my youngest daughter in twenty years time… far from the entrance because she doesn’t want her friends to see…. I will never go fishing again, never change an exhaust.… My Volkswagen… no more driving to the coast with the windows open…. Mama kept her pram for nothing….. Oh, how angry she’ll be when she hears why I got stabbed…. She’s always liked Miranda…. My little, fat, dark-haired Miranda….. Lord, you know that I thought of other women when I made love to her, but you know how much I love her too… before we got together we already liked the same bands…. If there’s a good tune playing on the radio at breakfast time, we run downstairs as fast as we can to listen to the rest of it in the car…. If I roll a cigarette, she cuddles up close to me because she knows that if she breathes in my exhaled smoke, she can be sure we’re breathing the same air. She thinks its sweet that my hands are always dirty…. Oh, when she hears why that fellow stabbed me…. You can’t do this to her, Lord… Who is going to cheer her up when she’s down? And who is going to make sure she gets up in the morning if I’m no longer there?… You can’t just rip me out of her life, Lord… our life together has only just begun… she’s crazy about my brown, puppy dog eyes. Once she’s got over my death, she’ll go to concerts again… two hands holding onto a crush barrier while a guy with a hairy arse rides her, skid-marks in his underpants like a duck sitting on the nest of his dropped trousers. Fuck, if I die, then I’m going to fucking do it in Miranda’s arms.
The sun’s nowhere near setting yet. But it looks like it’s getting dark already… the valley is already a pit filling with motor oil… Soon the tents, vans and speakers will float through the darkness…. My shoes… I need to take these shoes off…. I rip open the flat, white shoelaces, kick off the bowling shoes and run on barefoot…. I look at my phone…. She was going to stay at the main stage all afternoon…. No use sending her a text… knowing her sense of direction she’ll only rush off the wrong way…. It’s beginning to get cold…. I run towards a television truck with a dish on its roof….

4. Four

If you exist, dear Lord, perform a miracle… heal my wounds…. I ask forgiveness for all my sins, but it’s always been harder for me than the others, not having a dad, you know that…. Merciful Lord, merciful…. I can explain everything… I’m the man of the family… I’m only here for the music… for the people…to have fun… companionship…. Do you really mean for the 24-year-old mechanic Pedro Alva González to die? Are you sure you haven’t made a mistake? If you don’t save me, you’ll have my mother’s death on your conscience before long too… the grief of losing her son will kill her…. You can’t do this, Lord…. You know how things were after my father left? I can explain everything… I’ve hardly slept the past few days, just drank… I went into that bowling alley to get some baccy, that girl had lost her friends… we got talking, decided to hire a lane for a laugh and then went outside together a bit later… How was I supposed to know she had a boyfriend?… and with the skin you’ve given me, I don’t get many chances to cheat on Miranda….
The guards in the caravan at the entrance are just sitting there… last day, seen it all…. I drag aside a barrier and weave my way through the steel construction onto the festival site…. Just to be on the safe side I raise my right arm up so that the two dog-heads can see my wristband… If I fall down dead it will be a nightmare for the festival…
The furthest part of the field is empty… The main stage in the distance… the beat… I begin to sprint over the trampled earth… beer cans, sunglasses, an acoustic guitar… here and there a clump of grass… stones…. A shaft of sunlight breaks across the ground… like a threadbare rug… I reach the back rows… as I wrestle my way through the mass of girls, I’m electrocuted every time anybody touches the bottle in my back… 220 volts… mains voltage…. Smell of sweat… the ground vibrating…. The second one wasn’t a stab but a thrust… as though he wanted to ram the bottle right through me….
I push aside half-naked women, they all have their eyes fixed on the men on the stage, I get out my phone, it slips through my hands, I let it fall and wrestle my way further…. My eye-sight is dimming… I don’t want to die… God, please… let me live… I’ve always been afraid of the dark… I bump into bodies… the man of the family… I must reach the stage… people call out to me, I’m pushed and cursed… The crowd surges – I hear the band’s famous harmonica. Hundreds of voices sing along with the lead singer. I am a ruined house overrun with bougainvilleas of pain… My teeth chatter… It’s dark…. The rising oil level…. The beat mocks hip movements and heartbeats.
‘That guy’s bleeding!’ shouts a grown woman. Cries… girls jumping and recoiling… ‘Sorry, sorry.’ I step on a plastic beaker, it makes more noise than all the stages put together…. I smell sand, beer… and in the distance…. I have to climb up onstage, so that Miranda can see where I am and come to me through the crowds….
Shit… I’ve tripped, pushed… I fall with my hands outstretched onto the hard, sandy earth…. As though God thinks it’s time I learned how to kneel… flat tyre… If I die, it’ll be a nightmare for the festival… I try to slither up again… I don’t want to die… I press hard against my side… I’ll rise, god damn it… jump from the highest diving board and when you’ve got to the bottom of the swimming pool, push off with all your might and break through the surface of the water…. Getting lost in man-sized rows of corn as a child… once got lost in a flock of sheep…. Which side is the stage?… where’s the beat coming from?… Watch it, I’m the man of the family… the man of the family….

5. Five

Man, I want to spend more time behind Raoul’s caravan discussing our favourite whores… drinking beer, reading comics… Chucking darts at pictures of women way out of our league… My head is a gymnasium full of toppling dominoes… the sound of my cancelled future. All those Sunday mornings Miranda and I won’t push a pram through freshly-watered parks… violets…. I see tangled sheets… the young female bodies I have yet to cheat on Miranda with…. In my empty arms I feel the weight of the sweet parcel of my unborn son…. The smiling faces of my best friends around campfires I will miss being set and put out… all those songs that still have to be written…. Driving home at night with square eyes from all the gaming while fires are lit on all sides…. Roast chicken with rice and sweet corn… the heavy slosh of the waves….

I’m a broken hourglass… my body empties grain by grain. The stabs of pain die down. I’m not even clutching at my side anymore… sweat everywhere… on my back, my forehead… my cock still smarts… Every second a drop of blood less… I go slowly… I go slowly out….

Trying to get closer to the stage on my hands and knees… towards the stage… I grab for the waistband of someone’s trousers… drag me to the stage, please… It is pitch-black now… pitch-black and cold… I don’t want to go… I want to stay with you all….

My lungs burn, my fingers tingle… I have inhaled fire… the man of the family… it tingles…. The threads attaching my soul to my body are pulled loose, one by one… each thread snaps with the pain of an un-anaesthetized root canal… No more singing along in the pouring rain to my favourite

I’m lying flat out on the hard earth… barefoot… dozens of girls are standing in a wide circle around me… blood is still gushing from the neck of the beer bottle in my back, a feeble fountain…. The first drops of rain fall on my hair and onto the back of my hand, but I think I no longer feel….

I pull on the handbrake, get out, leave the car park.

Written in 2012, translated in 2013.

The Dutch version of this story was published, in 2015, in Tirade 457.

four fragments - english

Taking Leave
Last night, I cycled into our street after sunset, just in time to wave off the Turkish family who live opposite me. They were leaving for Istanbul in a fully-packed, newly-renovated Space Wagon. They didn’t toot their horn because the entire street was already asleep. That afternoon, I’d seen their youngest daughter, Ozgür, say goodbye to her best friend, Maryam, my Moroccan neighbour. They were sitting next to each other on a wall. As I unlocked my bike, I heard Maryam saying, ‘If you die, we’ll never see each other again.’

Maryam is sitting on the carrier of a child’s bike. Despite the heat, she is wearing her big sister’s dark blue coat. In her arms, a purring tortoiseshell cat.
‘He’s mine,’ she says as I walk past the bike rack. She strokes the cat’s head.
‘Wow,’ I say, ‘what a handsome creature.’
Maryam nods.
‘When cats purr, it means they’re happy,’ she says.
‘This cat must be very happy then.’
We listen to the purring for a moment. Maryam looks at me proudly. I’m not unsporting enough to tell her I’ve never seen a tortoiseshell cat that looks so remarkably similar to our neighbour Ellen’s cat as Maryam’s does.
‘What’s his name?’
‘Your cat.’
‘Have you already given him a name?’
‘What’s he called then?’

Elsewhere, 2014
The curtains are open but the net curtains closed. We’re watching the sunset from our bed. A chilly late afternoon in November. It’s so hot in the bedroom, we’ve only covered ourselves in a sheet. I tell your mother how, years ago, when I’d only just graduated, I came home from my first job in the dark and went to the kitchen of my flat to make a pan bami. As I was chopping up the leek, I danced to the music playing on the portable radio that had been a permanent fixture in all the places I’d lived since leaving high school. I laid my knife on the wooden chopping board so I could move more freely. I swayed, thrusting my hips and as I made a quarter turn, dancing, I saw in the lit-up kitchen of a flat on the opposite side of the carpark – like a lake between the two apartment blocks – a girl standing there dancing too. We knew we could see each other and carried on dancing – two solitary movers merging in a single choreography. We danced together across the large expanse between us. From her movements, the way she wiggled her hips and turned her shoulders – almost as though she was taking her blouse off without using her hands – I could tell she was dancing to the same song as me. We were listening to the same commercial music station. The distance between us was too large to be able to make out the expression on the girl’s face – and yet I didn’t find this dance just touching, it was also exciting. My scrotum contracted, I got goose pimples all the way up to my shoulders from the base of my spine. We danced together for two or three minutes – I’ve never moved so supply, I was olive oil streaming from a bottle into the pan. This was magical and unique – I knew who the girl was; we were passing acquaintances but when we ran into each other afterwards, we simply nodded. You mother asks me something about love, intimacy, predestination, connection. She’s happy with my reply.

Broken (from Alles kan kapot, 2011)
The temptation to tell her father all about Kat’s fits of rage was overwhelming, and yet they only talked about the paintings she was working on. She didn’t say that her left arm was in plaster because Kat had broken it with a wine bottle.
After Serafijn had hung up, she went to her studio and sat down at one of the tables to work. Kat lay under the sunlamp, ominously quiet. It was turned off. She had been gloomy and difficult for a couple of days now. She turned her head towards Serafijn. Without looking up from her sketch pad, Serafijn said, ‘Shall we go grab some food?’
‘Not hungry.’
‘Do you fancy a swim?’
‘With that pot on your arm?’
‘You could go into the water alone?’
‘Why would I go swimming?’
‘ … ’
‘Pointless, isn’t it.’
‘ … ‘
‘Or were you just trying to get rid of me?’
‘Absolutely not. Well, it’s too late to go swimming anyway.’
 Serafijn looked up from her paper. Kat had got out of the solarium and come towards her. Every muscle in her face was stretched to breaking point; she sniffed and repeated. ‘Pointless, isn’t it.’
‘Last time… ‘
‘Ouch, Kat!’
‘That really, really hurts.’
‘It’s bloody pointless, isn’t it!’
‘Yes, well, it’s pointless.’
 Affirm. Agree. Placate. And hope that her anger cooled before she really got into full swing. Kat kicked her hard on her upper arm, in the ribcage and in her face. Serafijn held onto a corner of the table. It remained unreal, being beaten.
As Kat walked over to the window and, probably without seeing anything, looked outside, Serafijn felt at her eye and top lip and used her thumb and index finger to touch at a canine that was a bit wobbly. She took it out of her mouth and laid the ivory lump on her palm. There was a string of blood attached to it. She could cope with pain but now she was so shocked she began to cry.
 ‘Cut it out!’ Kat shouted. She came striding over like a footballer about to take a penalty kick. Serafijn shot to her feet to flee the atelier – she couldn’t stop crying. As Kat swung her right leg, a fan of blond hair hung around her head like a halo. She kicked Serafijn so hard on the thigh she had to seek support from the wall and still fell to the floor. Photos, copies and strips of paper slid down with her onto the ground.
Kat took her hands, as though she wanted to help her up, but slung her around, without any consideration for her broken arm – two children (idyllic summer evening damp back garden) trying to spin in circles as fast as possible. Until Kat let go and Serafijn took off and saw her studio for the first time from the air, in flight: tables, brushes, canvases, high windows, tall palm tree in the corner – until she hit an unfinished painting and smashed to the ground with it, easel and all.

Kat rushed over to her, muttering, grabbed her and slammed her against the wall. She picked up the fallen easel with both hands and hit Sera’s head with it. Serafijn ducked out of the way and the easel smashed a large hole in the plaster dividing wall. Dust and plaster powder puffed out of the cavity. 

four fragments - arabic

الوداع من مدونة الكاتب الهولندي مارتاين كنول
ترجمة: أمينة عابد

في مساء البارحة عدت بعد غروب الشمس إلى الحي على دراجتي الهوائية، استطعت أن أصل في الوقت المناسب لأودع جيراني الأتراك الساكنين قبالتي. لقد غادروا بسيارة الـ«سبيس فاغن» المصلَّحة حديثاً والمحمَّلة بالأغراض صوب استانبول. لم يضغطوا على بوق السيارة لأن الشارع كان غاطاً في النوم. بعد ظهر يوم الأمس سمعتُ ابنتهم الصغرى، أوزغور، تودع صديقتها الحميمة مريم، ابنة جيراني المغاربة. كانت إحداهما تجلس إلى جانب الأخرى على حائط منخفض. بينما كنت أفتح قفل دراجتي الهوائية، سمعت مريم وهي تقول لها: «إن متِ، لن أراك مرة أخرى على الإطلاق.»

تجلس مريم على المقعد الخلفي لدراجة الأطفال. على الرغم من الطقس الدافئ، فإنها ترتدي جاكيت أختها الكبيرة ذا اللون الأزرق الداكن. وبين ذراعيها قطٌ بلون صدفة السلحفاة، يهرهر باسترخاء.
تقول لي، عندما أمرُّ من جانب موقف الدراجات الهوائية:
- هذا القط لي.
وتداعب رأس القط بإحدى يديها.
فأقول لها:
- وااو! يا له من قط جميل!
تومئ مريم إيماءة موافقة برأسها، ثم تقول:
- القطط تهرهر عندما تكون سعيدة.
- معنى ذلك أن هذا القط سعيدٌ سعادة عظيمة.

ننصت إلى هرهرة القط برهة يسيرة من الوقت. مريم تنظر إلي بافتخار. طبعاً، لست سخيفاً إلى درجة أن أقول لها إنني لم أرَ في حياتي قطاً يشبه قط جارتنا إيلين مثل قط مريم.
- ما اسمه؟
- مَن؟
- القط.
- ...
- ألم تسميه بعد؟
- بلى
- ما اسمه إذن؟
- أحمد.

من رواية «في مكان آخر» للكاتب الهولندي مارتاين كنول
ترجمة: أمينة عابد

الستائر السميكة مفتوحة، والستائر الشفافة مسدلة. نراقب من سريرنا غروب الشمس. إنه يوم بارد من أيام تشرين الثاني (نوفمبر). لكن جو الغرفة يبلغ من الحرارة أننا لم نغطِ أنفسنا بأكثر من شرشف واحد. إنني أخبر أمك كيف أنني قبل سنوات، بعد تخرجي من الجامعة بوقت قصير، عدت في الظلام إلى البيت من عملي الأول، ووقفت في مطبخ شقتي أطبخ طنجرة من الأكلة الصينية «بامي». بينما أفرم الكراث على شكل حلقات، كنت أرقص على الموسيقا المتعالية من الراديو المحمول الذي آخذه معي إلى كل بيت أنتقل إليه منذ دراستي الإعدادية. أضع السكين على لوح الفرم الخشبي من أجل أن أطلق العنان لنفسي في الرقص. آخذ بالتمايل، ألكز بوركي أثاث المطبخ، وعندما ألتفت راقصاً ربع التفاتة، أرى فتاة ترقص هي أيضاً في المطبخ المضيء في الشقة الواقعة على الجهة الأخرى من ساحة وقوف السيارات التي تترامى مثل بحيرة وسط البنايات. نلاحظ أن أحدنا قد رأى الآخر ونستمر في الرقص بلا اكتراث - شخصان وحيدان ينصهران في رقصة واحدة. على الرغم من المسافة البعيدة بيننا، نرقص واحدنا مع الآخر. أرى من حركاتها، ومن الطريقة التي تهز بها وركها وتمايل بها كتفيها – وكأنها على وجه التقريب تقوم بخلع قميصها دون أن تستعمل يديها – أنها ترقص على الأغنية نفسها التي أرقص أنا عليها. إننا نستمع إلى نفس المحطة الإذاعية التجارية. المسافة بيني وبينها تبلغ من البعد أنني لا أستطيع أن أقرأ تعابير وجه الفتاة، ومع ذلك فإن هذه الرقصة لا تؤثر في عواطفي فحسب، بل تستثير مشاعري الجنسية أيضاً. أشعر بكيس الصفن يأخذ بالانكماش، وبرعشة تهفو من عصعصي وحتى لوح كتفي. يرقص أحدنا مع الآخر مدة دقيقتين أو ربما ثلاث دقائق – لم يحدث قط أنني تحركت بمثل هذه المرونة والليونة، أنا زيت الزيتون الذي يسيل من الزجاجة إلى الطنجرة. هذا شيء ساحر ويحدث مرة واحدة. أعرف من تكون الفتاة، أعرفها من الشكل والوجه، ولكن حتى بعد هذه الليلة إن التقينا بحكم المصادفة، أومأ أحدنا إلى الآخر بإيماءة من الرأس فحسب. والدتك تسألني شيئاً عن الحب، والوصال، والقدَر، والارتباط. أجيبها بجواب يشعرها بالرضى والسعادة.

من رواية «يمكن لأي شيء أن ينكسر» للكاتب الهولندي مارتاين كنول
ترجمة: أمينة عابد

كانت تعتريها رغبة عارمة في أن تخبر والدها بكل شيء عن نوبات الغضب التي تنتاب كات، لكنها مع ذلك لم تتحدث سوى عن اللوحات التي تشتغل عليها. لم تخبره بأن ذراعها اليسرى موضوعة بالجبس لأن كات كسرتها بزجاجة نبيذ.

بعد أن أنهت سيرافاين مكالمتها الهاتفية، مضت إلى مرسمها وجلست إلى إحدى الطاولات وانهمكت في العمل. كانت كات ترقد بهدوء متوعد تحت جهاز التشميس المُطفَأ. كانت مكتئبة ومشاكسة منذ عدة أيام. أدارت رأسها إلى سيرافاين، فقالت لها سيرافاين دون أن ترفع عينيها عن كراسة الرسم:
- هل نذهب لتناول شيء من الطعام؟
- لست جائعة.
- هل ترغبين في السباحة؟
- بهذا الحافر الموضوع في الجبس؟!
- بوسعك أن تدخلي إلى المياه فقط، أليس كذلك؟
- ولماذا يجب أن أسبح؟
- ...
- وما لك أنت في هذا الأمر؟
- ...
- أم أنك تريدين التخلص مني فحسب؟
- لا إطلاقاً. ثم إن الوقت قد تأخر على الذهاب للسباحة.

رفعت سيرافاين عينيها عن كراستها. كانت كات قد خرجت من «حمام الشمس» وسارت باتجاهها وعضلات وجهها تكاد تنفجر من الغضب. استنشقت الهواء ورددت:
- وما لك أنت في هذا الأمر؟
- في المرات الماضية...
- وما
- آخ!
- لك
- آخ!
- أنت
- ...
- في
- آخ، كات!
- هذا؟
- آخ، كات! إنك توجعينني كثيراً!
- الأمر؟
- ...
- وما لك أنت في هذا الأمر؟
- حسناً، كما تريدين. وما لك أنت في هذا الأمر؟
وافقتها، وسايرتها، وأكدت على صحة كلامها عساها أن تهدئ من غضبها قبل أن يحتدم مزيداً من الاحتدام. لكن كات لكمتها بقوة على ذراعها، وعلى قفصها الصدري، وفي وجهها. تمسكت سيرافاين بإحدى زوايا الطاولة وهي لا تصدق أنها تتلقى الضربات.
وبينما كات تمضي إلى النافذة، وتنظر عبرها إلى الخارج دون أن ترى شيئاً على الأرجح، تلمست سيرافاين عينها وشفتها العليا وتحسست بإبهامها وسبابتها سنها التي كانت تهتز اهتزازاً بسيطاً، أخرجتها من فمها ووضعت الكتلة العاجية على راحة يدها. كان ثمة خط من الدم عليها. كان بوسعها أن تتحمل الكثير من الألم، لكنها من شدة ما ارتعبت، بدأت تبكي.

صرخت بها كات: «كفى!»
وسارت نحوها مثل لاعب كرة قدم يذهب لركل ضربة جزاء. هبت سيرافاين واقفة لتهرب من المرسم، ولم تستطع أن تكف عن البكاء. بينما كات تركلها بقدمها اليمنى، تدلت غلالة من شعرها الأشقر حول رأسها مثل سحابة حبلى بالمطر. أصابت فخذ سيرافاين إصابة بلغت من القوة أنها اضطرت أن تستند إلى الحائط ولكن مع ذلك وقعت على الأرض. انزلقت الصور والنسخ والقصاصات معها إلى الأرض.

أمسكت كات يديها وكأنها تريد أن تساعدها في الوقوف، وأخذت تديرها حول نفسها دون اهتمام بذراعها المكسورة - طفلان (في مساء شاعري صيفي، في حديقة خلفية ندية) يحاول أحدهما أن يدور حول الآخر بأقصى سرعة ممكنة، إلى أن فكت كات يديها وانطلقت سيرافاين من الأرض وطارت لأول مرة في حياتها إلى داخل مرسمها، ورأت من الجو الطاولات، والخزانات، والمناشف، والنوافذ العالية، وشجرة النخيل الكبيرة في الزاوية – إلى أن اصطدمت باللوحة التي ما زالت تشتغل عليها وتهاوت مع حامل اللوحات وكل شيء على الأرض.

أسرعت كات إليها وهي تغمغم، أمسكتها بقوة، وخبطتها خبطة قوية على الحائط. ثم التقطت حامل اللوحات الواقع على الأرض بيديها الاثنتين وضربت به باتجاه رأس سيرا. نكست سيرافاين رأسها ففتح حامل اللوحات فجوة كبيرة في الجدار العازل المصنوع من الجبس. اندفعت من الفتحة سحابة من الغبار وبودرة الجبس.

Een groot blik rundvlees - vaderdag

‘Hij had dikwijls last van duizeligheid. Mama had daarom een groot blik rundvlees voor hem gekocht, maar hij vond het zonde en zei dat we dat maar moesten bewaren voor een speciale gelegenheid, om het met zijn allen op te kunnen eten. Hij zette het blik plechtig in de kast, als een boeddhabeeldje, en liet ons het twee maanden smachtend en fantaserend vereren. Uiteindelijk heeft niemand ervan gegeten. Bij een inbraak werd het blik gestolen. Mama ontplofte van woede, eerst verwenste ze de dief en toen mijn vader, en hoe. In haar razernij reeg ze de verwijten aaneen: dat hij ooit een paar yuan had verloren, dat hij zich ooit door de buren had laten gebruiken, dat hij met zijn afkomst uit de landherenklasse en met zijn hele stinkende strontkont het ongeluk over zijn nageslacht had afgeroepen, en nog veel meer dingen die wij kinderen maar half begrepen.’

Han Shaogong, Schoenenobsessie (1992), vertaald uit het Chinees door  Mark Leenhouts (Het Trage Vuur, 2004; p.18).

Mooie, magische novelle over een jongetje dat verder moet leven nadat zijn vader is verdwenen tijdens de Culturele Revolutie.

Dag, vader. Vaderdag.

Niet meer leverbaar, nog wel zeer genietbaar.

In zijn overzichtswerk Aards maar bevlogen, Chinese literatuur van nu (2008) wijdt Mark Leenhouts een hoofdstuk aan het werk van Han Shaogong.

translating china - utrecht: 11 mei 2017

Op donderdag 11 mei 2017 gaan vertaler Mark Leenhouts, docent Chinese Studies Anne Sytske Keijser, sinoloog/docent in de niet-Westerse wijsbegeerte Jan de Meyer en ik in gesprek over de Chinese literatuur, filosofie, film, cultuur.

Dit gesprek maakt deel uit van het Internationaal Literatuur Festival Utrecht.

Meer informatie over het China-programma op: ILFU.


Een reis-essay dat ik, in opdracht van Writers Unlimited & PEN Libanon, schreef over een schrijvers-tournee in Beiroet en omstreken, is nu verschenen op de website van Terras, tijdschrift voor internationale literatuur en kunst. Titel: Kalashnikov.