This story is excerpted from Daša Drndić’s Doppelgänger, released in English translation in the U.S. by New Directions this fall. It was translated from the Croatian by S. D. Curtis.
Oh. He shat himself.
An ordinary day, sunny. Soft sunlight, wintry. A view of the railway tracks. A view of the customs house, people in uniform. In the distance, a bit of sea, without any boats. A lot of noise: from the buses, from the people. This is what is called a commotion. Beneath the window—commotion. The panes quiver, the windows of his living room. They’re quivering, like jelly, quivering like a small bird. The glass trembles impatiently. He watches. He listens. He’s very still while he listens to everything trembling. He places the palm of his hand on the glass. To check what is actually trembling: whether it’s a little or a lot, whether it’s trembling gently or violently, just the way it trembles—or might it be him that’s trembling? He watches what’s happening outside, down below. Beneath the window it is lively. His window-frame is peeling, the wood is coarse, unpolished. Women neglect themselves, become unpolished, coarse. Especially their heels. Especially their elbows. Especially their knees. Men less. Less what? They neglect themselves less. They take care of their heels. Take care of their heels? How do they take care of their heels?
There are three trash cans under the window. That’s where poverty’s gathered together, below his window. Drunken women gather, cats gather. Life gathers down below, beneath his window. HE is above. Watching. All shat up. His penis is withered, all dried up. The panes are loose. The wood is bare and rotten. Between his buttocks—it’s slippery. Warm. Stinky. It stinks. Sliding down the leg of his trousers. Down both. He squeezes his buttocks, he walks and squeezes, à petits pas. He puts on a diaper. Looks through the window. Here comes darkness. There goes the day.
Diapers. Incontinence, incompetence, incompatibility. He watches gray-haired ladies weeing in their diapers and smiling. They smile tiny smiles and they smile broad smiles. When they give off big smiles, old ladies quiver. Old ladies in aspic. In buses they piss and smile to themselves. In coffee shops, in cake shops, in threes, in fives, sitting at small marble tables jabbering, some are toothless, nattering over cakes, secretly pissing and smiling. Great, happy invention. Diapers. Each one of them is warm between the legs. Just like once upon a time. In their youth. In joyful times. Long ago.
HE looks at his bulge, it’s bulging. Like huge artificial genitals. Inside the bulk there squats a tiny willy, his willy, all shriveled. Dangling. Everything is little. Little meals. Little solitude. Solitude—decrepitude. When the rash appears he powders it with talcum, one should do that, yes, and baby cream rubbed in gently. He strokes the rash between his legs, the inside of his thighs, in circles, tenderly, his willy stands up. (He pomades his wee-covered sons on the island of Vis. Little willies.) His hairs have grown thin. He has very little pubic hair. He’s no longer hairy. Transparent skin. All shriveled. Bald. That’s your portrait.
Look at yourself.
As thick as shit between the buttocks. Dense.
He’s got his features, they have remained. They’re there. Look.
Everything is so tidy.
SHE steps into the bathtub cautiously because she’s old. The tub is full of bubbles, the water is warm. She runs her hand over her flabby skin, she’s got a surplus of skin, with her hand she runs over her flaccid stomach, her tits are in the way, her tits are a bother, capillaries break, let them break, ah, she wees in the tub. The water is warm.
SHE has a collection of earplugs. The earplugs lie on the edge of the bathtub, neatly, in a little box. She plucks them out with her index finger and thumb. She takes the wax ones, the tiny round ones, dappled with yellow from frequent use, no, with dark-brown earwax. Yuk. This is my earwax. It’s not yuk. It’s my insides. That’s how she thinks. She kneads the earplugs with her thumb and her forefinger, moulds them, sticks one into her left ear, another into her right ear. Like when they push into your bowels, into your arsehole. Plugs for this, plugs for that. SHE is a carapace. A shell is all that’s left.
She leans back in the tub, the edge is cold. She shuts her eyes. She can’t hear any noises from outside. Outside there’s nothing but a white void. A hole. A white hole with a dot on the right. The dot is a passageway, an entrance to her head. A tight entrance. A narrow entrance, small. Through it her days wriggle out. In her head there is a rumbling, a silent rumble like the rattling of a 4 hp Tomos motor bought on credit for a plastic boat bought on credit thirty years ago, oh, happy days. There’s music in her head, her head is full of tunes.
Astrid is a nice name. Astrid is wholesome and fun, Astrid is capable and not very spiteful.
Ingrid is like her, Astrid.
Iris is a nice name. Iris is strange and not very pretty, but she is charming, yes, definitely.
Sarah is pretty and clever. Always lands on her feet. You could call her a loose woman.
Lana is short and bright. She has a wicked tongue. A sharp tongue.
Adriana is stupid.
Isabellas are good and gentle. Isabellas are special beings. Isabellas are sad because there are terrible people in the world. Isabella, that’s me.
Isabella likes to paint. Isabella loves color. She doesn’t like brown. White doesn’t exist for her. Isabella has talent. Being an artist for a living was not something to be taken seriously.
Isabella loves acting. Isabella has been acting her whole life. My real self I keep only for myself, thinks Isabella.
Isabella loves photography. She believes that photographs are frozen memories. Isabella never smiles in photos.
Isabella loves running. She runs whenever she is in a bad mood. Running allows her time for thinking. When she runs she has the impression that she clears away her problems. She runs fast. Recently, since she turned seventy-seven, she isn’t as fit as she once was because she doesn’t have so many problems. That’s why she hasn’t run recently.
Today Isabella did some drawing. There was a lot of black. The water’s getting cold. Isabella adds warm water. She must get out; she’s all wrinkled.
The mirror’s misted up.
The old woman asks herself, what’s that? What kind of distorted image? From now on I’ll dream of garden gnomes, from now on I’ll dream fairy tales, Isabella decides. Isabella is drying her heels. Her heels are soft and smooth. Isabella is proud of her smooth heels. She never scrapes them yet they’re always smooth. The skin of her heels is thin. Fine.
Isabella has never told stories to anyone. Isabella is alone.
HE and SHE will meet.
They don’t know it, they don’t know they’ll meet while they’re getting ready to step into the night, into the night of New Year’s Eve, bathed and old and dressed up and alone, as they are preparing to walk the streets of this small town, a small town with many bakeries, an ugly small town.
It’s New Year’s Eve.
It’s now they’ll meet, now.
He’s seventy-nine and his name is Artur.
FROM POLICE DOSSIERS
SECTOR: SURVEILLANCE OF MILITARY OFFICIALS – MEMBERS OF THE (FORMER) YUGOSLAV PEOPLE’S ARMY
SUBJECT: ARTUR BIONDI(Ć) RETIRED CAPTAIN OF THE YUGOSLAV NAVY.
FILE: 29 S-MO II a/01-13-92 (EXCERPT)
Artur Biondi(ć) born in Labin, 1921. Extramarital son of Maristella Biondi(ć) (deceased) and Carlo Theresin Rankov (deceased). The father of Artur Biondi(ć), Carlo Theresin Rankov (deceased), was born in 1900 on the shores of the river Tanaro, as the extramarital son of Teresa Borsalino, co-owner of a hat factory in Alessandria, and the Serbian military officer of the Austro-Hungarian army under Ranko Matić (deceased).
Artur Biondi – widowed since 1963. Father of two (legitimate) sons, now adults. Retired captain of former Yugoslav Navy. Stationed on the island of Vis until 1975. Citizen of the Republic of Croatia. Inactive since 1980. Lives alone. Constitution prominently asthenic. Height – circa 190 cm, weight – circa 80 kg. Asocial. Suffers from epilepsy. Diagnosis: grand mal, epilepsia tarda. Behavior occasionally bizarre. Owns a rich collection of hats and caps. Never leaves his house bareheaded.
Artur is wearing a black hat. The brim is broad. Artur is walking behind Isabella. He’s looking at Isabella’s hair from behind. That’s pretty hair, curly. That’s black hair. It’s swaying. Her hair sways lazily, sleepily. He has no hair. Isabella doesn’t know that, she doesn’t know his name is Artur and that he has no hair. She’ll find out. Artur’s walking behind Isabella. He catches up with her. My name is Artur, he says. With his right hand Artur touches the brim of his black hat as if he’s going to take it off but he’s not going to take it off, he just brushes it: that’s how it’s done. Elegantly. He touches the woman’s bent elbow, bent, because she has thrust her hand into her coat pocket, that’s why it’s bent. His touch is like a fallen snowflake. But there are no snowflakes. There is only the black sky. Happy New Year, Artur.
My name is Isabella.
FROM POLICE DOSSIERS
SECTOR: SURVEILLANCE OF CITIZENS
SUBJECT: ISABELLA FISCHER, MARRIED NAME ROSENZWEIG.
FILE: S-C III/05-17-93 (EXCERPT)
Isabella Fischer, born January 29, 1923 in Chemnitz, Germany. She had an elder brother and elder sister (Waller and Christina) both transported in 1941 to the Flossenbürg concentration camp where all trace of them is lost. In 1940 Isabella Fischer, with her mother Sonia Fischer, née Leder, flees to her relatives in Belgrade. Her father, Peter Fischer, co-owner of the shoe factory BATA, remains in Chemnitz. In Belgrade, Isabella Fischer obtains false documents and with her friend of Aryan extraction – Juliana Vukas – leaves for the island of Korčula on April 8, 1941. The mother returns to Chemnitz. In 1943 both of Isabella’s parents are transported to Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz. Isabella Fischer remains with hundreds of other Jewish families on the island of Korčula until September 1943. At the height of attacks on the island, she crosses to Bari by boat. In Bari, Isabella Fischer is taken care of by American soldiers. Isabella Fischer speaks German, Italian, and English. In Bari she meets her future husband, Felix Rosenzweig, co-owner of a chocolate factory in Austria. After the war, she learns through the International Red Cross that 36 members of her close and extended family have been exterminated in the concentration camps of Flossenbürg, Auschwitz, and Theresienstadt. Until her husband’s death in 1978 she lives in Salzburg, after which she moves to Croatia. She has no children. By profession a photographer, she opens a photography studio under the name Benjamin Vukas. In 1988 she becomes a citizen of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and sells her shop to the Strechen family. She owns a substantial collection of photographs dating from World War II. Pension insufficient to cover living expenses. Receives a regular annuity from Austria of 4.972 ATS per month. Each monetary transfer is accompanied by a box of chocolates and – quarterly – by a pair of women’s seasonal shoes. No relatives.
Applies for Croatian citizenship three times. Application rejected twice. After the intervention of Swiss Government, the request of Isabella Fischer, married name Rosenzweig, is granted on February 1 1993.
My name is Isabella, says Isabella, and then she smiles so that he, Artur, can see her full set of teeth. Artur notices at once that she has her own teeth, and therefore doesn’t have dentures, he thinks, running his tongue across his small left dental bridge starting from the back. Isabella smiles, she smiles, he sees that she, Isabella, has her own teeth. How come? Artur wonders. My teeth are nicer than his, thinks Isabella, because they’re real. My hair is nicer too. I’m nicer all over. And so, without many words, they stroll along. Artur and Isabella, next to each other, trying to walk in step, because they don’t know each other and their rhythms, their walking rhythms, are different, but they are trying discreetly to walk together on this deserted New Year’s Eve, when all the festivities have ended, the street festivities. It is four o’clock in the morning, January 1.
Those are your teeth? Artur asks anyway. Are those your teeth? he asks nervously, and without waiting for an answer he decides: I’ll tell her everything about myself. Almost everything.
They are walking. Along streets empty and littered from the New Year celebrations. Artur says: I’ll tell you everything about myself. We’re not children. The night is ethereal.
You don’t need to tell me everything, says Isabella.
Artur says: I used to work for the Yugoslav Navy. I was stationed on Vis. That’s where I met my wife.
Isabella asks: Were you a spy?
Artur thinks: That’s a stupid question. He says nothing.
I adore spy stories, says Isabella, and skips like a young girl.
My wife had a heart condition. She was confined to her bed. Alongside the Yugoslav Navy I used to do all the housework. I became very proficient. Today I do all the housework without a problem.
How do you iron? asks Isabella.
I have two sons, says Artur. My wife died, Artur also says.
How do you cook? asks Isabella. They are still walking. Strolling.
I cook fast and well. I like cooking. Slow down a bit, Miss Isabella. Shorten your stride.
They walk. Artur glances quickly at Isabella, askance, and then at the tips of his shoes. The shoes are old. She glances quickly at him, and a bit at the tips of her shoes. She has pretty shoes, she has pretty shoes, new ones, his are cracked, old.
Isabella says: Why do you have such big hands? You have unexpectedly big hands.
He really does have big hands. When he left the Navy, he worked as a salesman for years.
He says: I really do have big hands. When I left the Navy, I worked as a salesman for years. Listen, says Artur and stops. Artur cannot walk and pronounce serious thoughts simultaneously. The woman sits on a stone step of a stone building, next to a shop window. They are on a promenade. The promenade is crowded with shop windows. The promenade is actually crowded with shop windows, one next to the other. There are illuminated shop windows. Illuminated shop windows flooded with light that spills over the stone promenade, so that the promenade shines. The shop windows are lit because it’s New Year’s Eve, otherwise the shop windows and stores are mostly dark at night because here poverty reigns.
Dark shop windows. Closed stores. Father’s shoe shop is dark. Isabella would like new shoes. New shoes, black patent leather shoes because Isabella is twelve and they’re giving a school dance and she has to be pretty for the dance. Father teaches her, for days on and off. Father teaches her to waltz, they practice listening to an old record of The Blue Danube, they spin, Isabella and Father, Isabella in Father’s arms, it’s safe and warm. Father’s store is called BATA. There’s a poster hanging in the window of Father’s shop, a big poster. The huge poster covers the window. Isabella does not see which shoes she would like to buy. She can’t see. The poster hides the shoes. There are no lights. The letters on the poster are black and big. Isabella reads and secretly peeks behind the poster, she searches for black patent leather shoes. For the shoes she’ll never buy.
On the 21st day of December 1935, in this shoe shop, Ilse Johanna Uhlmann, typist at AEG, purchased footwear from the Jew Peter Fischer.
On the 23rd day of December 1935, Arno Lutzner, a salesman for AGFA, bought a pair of slippers from the Jew Peter Fischer, co-owner of the BATA store.
On the 29th day of December 1935, Johannes Weichert, Head of the Isolation Ward of Chemnitz Hospital, bought three pairs of shoes.
In compliance with Act 2 of the Decree of Prohibition of the Purchasing of Goods in Jewish Stores, issued September 15, 1935, the above-listed citizens are to report at the local police station by noon of December 30, 1935, at the latest.
Citizens are informed that Jewish stores are under constant surveillance by photographers engaged by the local government. Whoever enters a Jewish shop will be photographed and will suffer all the consequences specified by law.
W. Schmidt, Mayor of Chemnitz
Isabella sits on the yellow bench in the park, opposite her father’s BATA shoe shop, singing along to “The Blue Danube.” Singing. The bench has been newly painted. The dance is canceled. The dance has been canceled for Jews. The school is closed. The bench is yellow. Isabella doesn’t go to school anymore. Isabella goes into her father’s shop and sits there, she doesn’t want to sit on the yellow bench, she wants to sit among her father’s shoes. In the dark shop. In the deserted shop. It is the winter of 1935.
They cut off Doctor Johannes Weichert’s beard in the main square. People watch and say nothing. Dr. Johannes Weichert wears a board on his back. Dr. Weichert the sandwich man. On the board it says: Ich habe von den Juden gekauft. In big black letters.
Artur watches the woman sitting on the stone threshold of a house on the promenade with shop windows, the woman’s name is Isabella, he looks at her from above. He says: I’m rich but lonely. I have houses, three of them, I have land, I have money. We’re grown-ups, there’s no sense in equivocating. We could give it a try.
In what sense? asks Isabella.
Artur slides down next to the woman. Now both are sitting on the stone threshold, gazing in front of them at the littered promenade. There’s paper, there are colored ribbons, there is confetti, there are glasses and bottles and tin cans. There are two tall fir trees decorated with paper bows, because baubles get stolen. Isabella and Artur are seated, leaning on a heavy wooden door. Behind the door is a long dark corridor. Behind the door it is dark. They sit leaning against the entrance in the dark. Outside. Sitting on the stone threshold, in the middle of the promenade. Their shoulders touch. Barely. Their legs are bent at the knees.
The woman lays the palm of her hand on Artur’s knee, Artur has a bony knee. Isabella’s hand drops between Artur’s legs. You wear diapers, says Isabella. You wear diapers, she says, and stretches out her legs. Then she spreads her legs apart; she spreads her outstretched legs apart. Touch, she says.
Artur touches. Diapered ones, says the woman. Slide your hand under.
Under where? asks Artur.
You have a nice hat, says Isabella. Slide it under the diaper.
The night is moonless, says Artur and slides his hand under Isabella’s skirt, he fumbles, he rummages, he muddles. This is a strange town, whispers Isabella, her heart missing a beat, she sighs, ah, and breathes deeply. Isabella sits in her diaper, her legs apart, she sits on the stone threshold and waits. Through the diaper Artur fights his way (somehow) to Isabella’s skin. Isabella has a long neck with a tiny Adam’s apple sliding up and down as she watches what Artur is doing. Isabella says: I’ll take hold of you too, Mr. Artur. We’re adults, there’s no point in beating about the bush. Isabella adds: This town is full of boredom.
The old lady is dry. Down there. All dry. I’m dry, says Isabella.
Mr. Artur, you have a fat finger.
Isabella’s hand is in Artur’s trousers. (Artur moans.) In her palm Isabella holds Artur’s small penis, his small, shriveled penis. The diapers are—thank god—dry. Both hers and his are clean and dry. In her closed hand Isabella holds Mr. Artur’s penis, she holds his penis and rubs. Up and down.
Arbeit macht frei
Auf gut deutsch
Isabella’s hand hurts. Isabella slows down.
A bit faster, please, a bit faster, Miss Isabella.
Blut und Boden
down up down
Die Juden—unser Unglück
up n’ down n’ up n’ down when will he come?
Hitler under “H”
we’re almost there, up n’ down n’ down n’ down n’
down n’ up n’ down n’ up n’ down
A one-minute hand job, ten years of history, ten years of Isabella’s life. Isabella’s hand is full of Artur’s lukewarm diluted sperm.
Isabella has small hands. Artur hasn’t got much sperm.
Artur’s finger, which finger Isabella asks herself, the middle or the index finger, Mr. Artur has big fingers, his finger finds its way, enters, and inside it twists and turns it turns and goes a bit in and a bit out, in and out and in and out.
You’re no longer dry, says the old man, I’ve turned you on, says Artur. Yes, says Isabella, I haven’t been turned on for a long time. Now I have to pee.
And so, on the stone step they sit and gaze straight ahead with glassy eyes, with dead eyes, like fish, no one passes by, they touch like children.
Where do you buy your hats?
I have a rich collection of hats, says Artur. I have a distant cousin through whom I get my hats, Artur adds. He says that quietly.
FROM POLICE DOSSIERS
DOCUMENT: A.B./S-P IVc 31-10-97
A DEBRIEFING INTERVIEW BETWEEN THE INVESTIGATOR TITO FRANK (HENCEFORTH REFERRED TO AS “THE INVESTIGATOR”) AND THE HATTER, THOMAS WOLF (HENCEFORTH “WOLF”) ON 31 OCT. 1997
Investigator: You are a hatter?
Wolf: I am a creator of hats. There is a difference.
Investigator: How long have you been working in this profession?
Wolf: Sixty years. I inherited the store and the workshop from my father.
Investigator: Where was your father from?
Investigator: You also create hats for the president. How did that happen?
Wolf: Excuse me. I created hats for both presidents.
Investigator: What kind of hats were those?
Wolf: Black. The model is called President. They are always called President but they are never the same.
Investigator: You only made hats for the presidents?
Wolf: No. Due to market pressures I had to widen my range.
Investigator: Who are your customers?
Wolf: We are a successful family firm. We have many customers. Ask if the great author Krleža bought from us?
Investigator: Forget Krleža. Who buys your hats nowadays?
Wolf: Krleža was a special customer. He didn’t often order in person. He had the use of a car, I think it was an Opel, and his chauffeur would take the hats. We would make the hats according to the rules of the trade, but Krleža would squash them, distort them a bit, and only then put them on his head. Today lots of different people buy our hats. Politicians and ordinary people.
Investigator: How do politicians take to your hats?
Wolf: Obediently. It doesn’t occur to them to knead them into shape.
Investigator: Who else?
Wolf: What do you mean who else?
Investigator: Who else buys them?
Wolf: The writer Marija Jurić Zagorka bought them. She had a large circumference: 61 cm. After the Second World War women covered their heads with scarves, they didn’t frequent our store.
Investigator: Is it true that you created the first officers’ hats?
Wolf: In which period are you referring to? When our business first opened, my father created hats only for women. I am the best hatter in this town. And further.
Investigator: You also provide a dog-training service? For police dogs?
Wolf: In my youth, I was also a boxer. Right now I am a member of the local mountaineering club. I climb the lower heights. Mostly on Sundays.
Investigator: Were you in the war?
Wolf: Which war are you referring to?
Investigator: What is your opinion of our politicians?
Wolf: They are all bigheads. They all have circumferences bigger than 60 cm. My hats have a soul.
Investigator: Do you create hats from your own imagination or do your customers tell you what they’re looking for?
Wolf: Some people need advice. Presidents don’t like to change models. They stick to one style. Always the same.
Investigator: How often does the president change his hat in a year?
Wolf: The president isn’t a big fan of hats. He has maybe four or five hats, and those are the ones we gave him as presents. He didn’t buy new ones. Sometimes he sends his hats to be brushed. He keeps them well. Those in his entourage who take care of his wardrobe have a problem: his hats would always get destroyed during travel. That’s why we sent him a hat box. Good thing the president doesn’t travel often.
Investigator: Does the president pay by card or with cash?
Wolf: The president doesn’t pay. We wouldn’t allow that.
Investigator: Who else wears your hats?
Wolf: Members of the Senate. Mostly those of the right-wing party. They are the majority.
Investigator: Do you have a favorite head of state?
Wolf: I made a Slavonian hat for Genscher.
Investigator: You once said that big heads were cleverer than small heads.
Wolf: There are always exceptions.
Investigator: Does the making of women’s hats differ in any way from the making of men’s hats?
Wolf: Women’s hats are considerably more pliable. For men’s hats you often need physical strength to work the material. Women’s hats take more time; they are not made in multiple copies.
Investigator: What opinion do you have of the Croatian people based on their choice of hats?
Wolf: I don’t have an opinion.
Investigator: Do you know Artur Bondić?
Wolf: His surname is Biondi. He is the greatest wearer of hats in this country. We are distantly related.
Isabella lifts her left hand (the right hand is still in Artur’s trousers), touches his hat, takes the hat off the old man’s head, puts it on her own head, puts it back on the old man’s, on his hairless head, the old man is called Artur.
Why? Why do you collect hats?
This town has no class, says Artur. My grandmother was Italian. From Alessandria. Her name was Teresa, he adds.
Once upon a time, Artur’s mother tells him, once upon a time, Serbian officers in the Austro-Hungarian army were stationed in barracks in Lombardy. Alessandria is in Lombardy, says his mother. Serbian officers go out in Alessandria looking for women, because the town is full of pretty girls, yes. Later, the town was full of hats, says his mother. I’ll tell you a story, she says.
Once upon a time there was a young man named Giuseppe. In the year 1857 he came to Alessandria, caught a heap of rabbits and started making hats from their fur. The business flourished. When Giuseppe died, he left behind a large hat factory. That was in 1900. His factory made 750,000 hats a year. Many people worked in his factory. Giuseppe had a son and a daughter. The son took over the factory and the daughter’s name was Teresa. Years passed by. Hat production increased immensely. The hats were exported to every corner of the world. Two million people walked the globe wearing hats from tiny Alessandria. When Fascism came, production fell and you, Artur, were small, mother tells him. When Fascism comes there are more important things to produce.
There is a dish called Escalope Borsalino. It’s served in France. Artur has been to France, to the Loire, he visited the castles on an organized tour. That’s why he knows.
Alessandria lies on a river. The river is called the Tanaro. It has banks covered with rushes and rushes rustle in the wind, they rustle like whispers.
So Artur reads guidebooks and studies the small history of the Alessandria where his father was born, in the rushes.
See, it’s like a fairy tale, Miss Isabella. That Alessandria.
I adore fairy tales.
Artur adores his hats, he doesn’t know what he’d do without them, how he’d live without them. His hats are his past. And his present. His sons no longer visit him.
This model is called Borsalino Como.
It’s a nice model.
It’s made of fur felt, rabbit fur.
It’s a hat for conclusive, sorry, exclusive occasions. It’s extremely expensive.
Four hundred and twenty thousand lire.
Isabella quickly takes her hand out of Artur’s trousers and wipes it on her thick brown stockings. On her brown stockings opaque white smears appear. There are no chocolate balls that expensive. No, there aren’t, whispers Isabella. She brings her hand to her nose. Sniffs. They smell authentic, she says. Artur nevertheless brings his middle finger to his mouth. Sucks. Artur sucks his middle finger as if he has just cut it.
From her pocket Isabella takes two chocolate balls. The chocolate balls are hard. Compact. You have to hold them in your palms for a long time before they become soft. It’s cold outside. Isabella adores chocolate balls. There are lots of different ones on offer, different makes for sale. Isabella is a real connoisseur. Isabella knows chocolate balls filled with pieces of candied orange or raspberry: orangeade and Razzmatazz balls, perfect balls, perfect for mornings that follow bad dreams. Isabella knows the dark, bitter balls Choc-a-lot and Loca Moca, she saves them for when she watches thrillers on television because they are exciting and keep her mind alert. Isabella eats milk chocolate balls when she feels loneliness coming on. She saves the milk chocolate balls to comfort her in different ways; mostly for small troubles, daily ones. She throws them into her mouth and rolls them left and right with her tongue, gently. Then, when they have melted to the right texture, exactly right, Isabella penetrates them with a sharp movement of her tongue, enters inside them, breaks in. With her tongue. Inside, in her chocolate balls, a different sweetness is waiting. Soft cream, thick cream, across her palate, across her mouth cavity, it spreads out like tiny kisses, like a velvet cloak. Then Isabella closes her eyes and smacks her lips. Her Carmelita, her Nutropolis, her Coco Motion and Butterscotch-cha-cha. Her music, yes, oh yes. Lindor chocolate balls, packed in boxes of 48 for 50 marks—one ball, one mark. Lindor chocolate balls are eaten deliberately. Isabella eats them sparingly. Ferrero Rocher come in smaller boxes of only 30 balls. Baci Perugina are crunchy inside, like the bites of her nervous lover. Most of all Isabella likes Swiss Teuscher balls, she knows them best, she knows them inside out, thoroughly. Marzipan, fruit, all kinds of fruit, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, dark chocolate, white chocolate, milk chocolate, raisins, coffee, all kinds of joy from the imagination of Dolf Teuscher, in his village in the Swiss Alps. A hundred and one chocolate secrets hidden in the chocolate balls of Dolf Teuscher. Dolf Teuscher, the great lover. Rum balls, coconut balls, balls filled with Irish coffee and balls filled with maraschino in which floats a tiny cherry. Yes! Chocolate balls with tiny inebriated cherries, all spaced out, dark red like a drop of Isabella’s blood, like her clitoris in the days of her youth. My little cherry, that’s what Isabella calls her clitoris. Her clitoris is no longer red, it doesn’t pulsate, it’s not soaked with passion. Her clitoris is slack and pale pink. I’ve got an anaemic clitoris, says Isabella. Artur helps himself to a chocolate ball. Here’s an almond inside, says Isabella, not a cherry.
Artur munches. The chocolate sticks to Artur’s palate. The softened chocolate, blending with Artur’s saliva, runs slowly down Artur’s front teeth. Artur smiles. He has a brown smile, a little brown smile because he is clenching his teeth, because the chocolate ball isn’t very sweet. It’s bitter, says Artur, and keeps on smiling. Artur looks foolish. It’s now four o’clock and forty-five minutes. The dawn still hasn’t arrived. It’s cold.
That’s a new one, says Isabella.
The new chocolate was launched in Chemnitz. From 1953 to 1990, Chemnitz was called Karl-Marx-Stadt. The balls are wrapped in red tinfoil with a picture of Karl Marx on them. The balls carry Karl Marx’s portrait printed on them, all in chocolate, including the beard. In Chemnitz, long ago, they erected a bust of Karl Marx. The sculpture was placed in the center of town. That’s logical, it’s logical that Karl Marx’s bust be installed in the center of a former East German town previously called Karl-Marx-Stadt. The bust weighs 42 tons. Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto.
Isabella agrees: the chocolate balls with Karl Marx on them are not very tasty. The silver paper is pretty. It has a star. It can be used for wrapping up walnuts and hanging on Christmas trees. Like in her childhood, her youth. Isabella knows Chemnitz.
Isabella is thirteen. The headmaster of her school removes the statues of two boys, the statues are on top of the building. They are there as decoration. There are eight of them, eight statues, the headmaster takes two of them away. The headmaster orders that the statues be destroyed. Grown-ups smash the statues, they smash the statues of the two boys. Downstairs, in front of the school, with stone hammers, they violently smash the boys to pieces. Isabella watches. The blows echo. Children watch. The boy Moritz was the sculptor’s model, Isabella doesn’t know the name of the sculptor, he’s no longer in Chemnitz. Moritz is a Jew. The boy Moritz is a Jewish boy and his likeness must be destroyed.
People are leaving Chemnitz. Mama says, Let’s go, Daddy says, I’ll watch the store. People leave. The invisible leave. Daddy says, We won’t go. We won’t go yet. After the war, people return to Chemnitz. Fifty-seven people return. After the war. Chemnitz is a small place. A small number of people return. Now a new century is beginning. A new return to Chemnitz. Chemnitz has three hundred Jews. Chemnitz gets a new synagogue. People set the old synagogue alight; Isabella Fischer’s neighbors burn down the old synagogue. The flames are high, the night is cold, it’s November of 1938, it’s the eighth of November 1938, fires everywhere. Isabella watches. Isabella is fifteen years old, she’s no longer small.
Chemnitz has become a part of Flossenbürg. A part of the camp of Flossenburg. Chemnitz has become a concentration camp, but a tiny one.
Isabella always unwraps her chocolate balls with care so that she can save the silver paper. Over the year, she collects the foil wrappers in a book beside her bed because she eats most of the chocolate balls in bed. When she finishes the book, she will put the wrappers into another one. At the moment she’s reading an exciting book. The book is called This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. She puts the Karl Marx foil wrappers in it. By the end of the year, she will have collected a lot of wrappers for the Christmas tree, more for the branches she hangs on the walls because trees are expensive, branches can be found amongst the waste, in the trash, one could say, in the trash. But Isabella doesn’t wrap up walnuts anymore. She sorts out the shiny ones. There are different sorts. Blue with silver stars, or silver with blue stars, Isabella can’t remember at the moment, but nevertheless, they are like little skies, like little skies you can put in your pocket. Isabella has many little square heavens (Baci Perugina) inside the book she is reading: This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. In her youth, space was enormous, the night sky filled with silver dust that seemed infinite and close enough to touch. Now it is small and here, she can touch it, stroke it, put it in her pocket, put it in a book. Isabella doesn’t know why she is reading that particular book, this book that is amusingly called This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. There are more amusing books, there are better books. Isabella knows that. She reads all kinds of books. Why should I read him, that Borowski?
Why do I stick to Borowski?
FROM POLICE DOSSIERS
SECTOR: SURVEILLANCE OF CITIZENS
SUBJECT: ISABELLA FISCHER, MARRIED NAME ROSENZWEIG.
NUMBER: P-G III/12-19-99 (EXCERPT)
Bought with her monthly allowance for December 1999, Isabella Fischer, married name Rosenzweig, received a book by the controversial communist spy and propagandist Tadeusz Borowski, born in the Ukraine to parents of Polish origin. In spite of the fact that the book speaks of Borowski’s experience in the camps of Auschwitz and Dachau, which he somehow managed to survive, the arrival of other books by Borowski may be expected – books that promote communist ideology and philosophy.
The fact that Borowski is not alive does not diminish the power of his words. On the contrary.
Borowski, born in 1922, committed suicide by gas poisoning in his flat in 1951.
Maybe Isabella is looking for something, some answer, some clue, some glimmer. Maybe Borowski knew Waller and Christine, maybe he met Mama Sonya and Daddy Peter, there. And? When she’s read This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, she will read other books, surely, yes. She will read lighter books, warmer. She will read about garden gnomes. They are more appropriate for the collecting of shiny, rustling wrappers with the scent of chocolate.
Save the wrappers, Isabella says.
Isabella carefully opens her Karl Marx ball and smooths the foil across her knee with the outside edge of the thumb of her right hand.
I used to have a dog, says Artur.
I have garden gnomes, says Isabella. Then adds: They don’t die.
Artur doesn’t see well. Artur doesn’t know if he ate the chocolate Marx. He’s hungry. He’s cold. He can still taste the chocolate bitterness.
When Chemnitz was called Karl-Marx-Stadt the inhabitants didn’t ask for the 42-ton Marx, it came by itself. Now they don’t know what to do with it. They hope that the town will become famous for the chocolate balls.
Artur has been to Salszburg. They have Mozart balls there, with marzipan inside. They are delicious. He hasn’t been to Chemnitz, nor to Karl-Marx-Stadt. These balls are not worth a piece of shit. Here’s your silver paper, says Artur.
I’ve got more, says Isabella, try this one. She offers Artur a Strauss cube, actually a Droste praline. It’s a cube, says Isabella, not a ball. Isabella carefully opens her Strauss cube and almost to herself she adds: These cubes are expensive, but your hat is more expensive. These are Strauss cubes. A large box costs two hundred and forty marks. I prefer Tchaikovsky. His music relaxes me the way Mozart balls do. Tchaikovsky hasn’t got chocolate balls named after him.
Tchaikovsky was an epileptic, says Artur. So was Handel.
Alfred Nobel was an epileptic too, says Isabella. And Thomas Edison. And Paul the Apostle.
Artur is shaking. Artur is afraid he’ll have an epileptic fit. Artur is an epileptic. When he has an attack, he fills his diaper. When he gets an attack he is filled with a joyous feeling, he floats, he hears music, and the music whispers to him, secrets which are otherwise beyond his grasp. His epilepsy is his friend, it is his companion, his small invisible secret love that tortures him and bestows gifts. Well, without his fits, without his seizures, convulsions, jerking, without his petit mal, his falling-down disease, his sacred disease, he would be completely alone. But at this moment Miss Isabella is here, and they are eating Strauss cubes that are so much better than Karl Marx balls, and they are enjoying themselves. Artur implores his lover to postpone her visit. Byron, Edward Lear, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Dickens, Agatha Christie, Truman Capote. Artur studies famous epileptics. Mark Twain. Napoleon. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar. Peter the Great, Socrates, Pythagoras, Van Gogh, da Vinci, Michelangelo.
History is full of epileptics. That’s nothing to worry about, says Isabella.
It seems that Artur and Isabella complement each other.
We complement each other, says Artur.
I cannot complement anybody, says Isabella. I’m empty.
Isabella’s flat is full of gnomes. Isabella lives in a flat. She doesn’t have a garden. You can’t call her gnomes garden gnomes. They are home gnomes. Two white ones are placed at the front entrance, greeting her when she comes home. She always comes home. They have tall hats. Isabella’s flat seems spacious, open, like a garden. It has no doors. It has no internal walls. Isabella had all the walls knocked down. Isabella tells the white gnomes her life story. They are silent and listen. Sometimes, Isabella touches them. The gnomes have their leader. The gnomes keep her safe from earthquakes. Isabella loves fairy tales. If she had a garden, Isabella would have it full of winding paths and gnomes. Criss-crossing paths that would confuse evil spirits. Isabella wants to go home.
FROM POLICE DOSSIERS
SEARCH OF FLAT BY ORDER OF CHIEF OF CITY POLICE ON JANUARY 1ST 2000 FROM 4:07 TO 5:02 A.M. REPORT.
SUBJECT: ISABELLA FISCHER, MARRIED NAME ROSENZWEIG.
NO: 38 S-C I/01-01-00 (EXCERPT)
✓ The flat is tidy and spacious. The only separate room is a bathroom (with toilet). No internal walls. The whole flat is some 70 m2.
✓ 36 garden gnomes arranged throughout the flat. Some are completely white, others have their clothes painted red, yellow, green, blue. Some of the gnomes are smiling. There are male and female gnomes. Some of them are exceptionally short, some tall, almost large. Every gnome has a metal ID plate hanging round its neck. In compliance with previously collected data, it may be concluded that those are the names of the deceased members of Isabella Rosenzweig’s (née Fischer) family.
✓ Throughout the living space, on the floor and on the furniture, lie boxes of chocolates. A count of 77 boxes. There are boxes of different shapes and sizes, of world-famous brands. The chocolate boxes carry the labels of: Manner, Lindt, Droste, Suchard, Nestlé, Milka, Neuhaus, Cardullos, La Patisserie, Asbach/Reber, Biffar (the only box of candied fruit, the rest contain chocolate), Hacher, Underberg. Some of the sweets have unusual names. A conspicuously large number of chocolate balls bear the inscription “Joy of Life” and “Karl Marx Kugeln.” ALL THE BOXES HAVE BEEN OPENED.
✓ The price labels on the boxes are proof of their quality. The prices range from 40 to 60 DEMs per box. The Strauss are the most expensive chocolates, actually praline cubes, which cost 180 DEM. In the box there is also a CD. Supposedly with the music of Strauss. On the floor are large tin boxes on which the names “Constance and Amadeus” are written. Chocolate Constance and Amadeus balls are made by the company Reber.
✓ A number of silver squares were found by the bed, wrappers from the aforementioned chocolate balls. A book with an English title: This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. The author is a certain Tadeusz Borowski.
✓ A number of adult diapers were found in the bathroom. The bath was unwashed and damp. On the edge of the bathtub, a small box containing 6 pairs of earplugs, of varying shape and material.
✓ The kitchen area in disorder. Fridge: 4 boxes of Kraš chocolates, a dried head of garlic, 2 eggs and some withered vegetables. The other shelf space is taken up with unwashed dishes.
✓ At the entrance, ten pairs of women’s shoes. All in excellent condition. Of obvious quality
✓ Search ended at 5:02 a.m. due to notification that tenant was on her way home.
Artur wants to go home too.
FROM POLICE DOSSIERS
SEARCH OF FLAT BY ORDER OF CHIEF OF CITY POLICE ON JANUARY 1ST 2000 FROM 3:45 TO 5:10 A.M.
REPORT. SUBJECT: ARTUR BIONDI(Ć), RETIRED CAPTAIN OF YUGOSLAV NAVY.
No: 37 S-MO I/ 01-01-00 / (EXCERPT).
✓ The flat is tidy. The shelves are mostly taken up with books on epilepsy, hats, and Italy.
✓ In the bathroom – a large quantity of disposable diapers for adults. Bathroom – clean
✓ Kitchen – modern and stylish. Fridge stuffed with food. There are expensive delicacies, some in jars (caviar and marinated herring)
✓ A larger room has been adapted into a walk-in wardrobe:
✓ Suits: 17 (old-fashioned)
✓ Shoes: 10 pairs (worn-out)
✓ Shirts: 36 pieces, various styles. All made of natural materials: cotton, batiste, satin and silk. Threadbare.
✓ Hats and caps: the left sidewall – 3.75 m in height and 5.5 m in width – from top to bottom covered with shelves. On the shelves, hats and caps arranged by manufacturer’s brand and by name of article. All items in perfect condition.
✓ Noticeable high quality of all apparel, especially the hats. On some of the headwear a price is still visible. The room is reminiscent of a miniature museum. On some articles there is a short informative text. For example (a text taken from the photograph): BERET: Appeared first in France at the beginning of the 19th century. Mostly worn by French peasants and herdsmen in the Basque country. Later the beret was taken up by artists and bohemians, as a symbol of protest against the prevailing social system. Also worn by members of the French Resistance during the Second World War. The modern army wears them for everyday usage. Che Guevara also contributed to their popularity. In the 1990s the beret is still a favorite with men and women alike.
✓ Woollen berets, diameter 28 cm, ordinary. Make no longer visible: blue, black, brown, dark red, green. Price: 18.000 LIT per item (11 items).
✓ A special place is reserved for Borsalino berets. Description: Borsalino berets are made by one of the most renowned manufacturers of headwear. They are made of pure lambswool, lined with satin. Sizes range from: 55, 57, 61 and for particularly large heads – 63 cm. Price: 70.000 LIT apiece. Sizes present: 59 and 61 cm. Colors: black, gray, dark blue (7 pieces).
✓ 1 Hoquy beret. Description: manufactured in the family-run workshop of Hoquy, a competitor of Borsalino. Has produced headwear for over two hundred years. The workshop is located near the Pyrenees. Price: 90.000 LIT apiece. Shelf contents: 5 pieces – 2 black, 1 gray and two blue.
✓ Anglo-Basque beret made by Kangol. 100% wool. 3 pieces. Price: 58.000 LIT
✓ Parkhurst beret: cotton. Worn by men and women. Manufactured in one standard size. Price: 24.000 LIT. 5: 2 wine-red, 1 red, 1 beige, 1 olive green.
✓ Bankroft army beret, so-called Green Beret. Manufacturer: the same name as the American firm that supplies the US Army. Made famous by General Montgomery in the battle for El Alamein. Six identical pieces.
✓ Drover hats. Description: can withstand rain, wind and sun. Price: 71.000 LIT. 2 pieces (1 beige and 1 brown).
✓ Hats of different makes: Henschel Aussie, Kangol, Biltmore (150.000 LIT), Akubra (230.000 LIT), soft felt fedora hats made by Christy’s, Stacy Adams, Stetson Saxon, Rosellini and Borsalino – these take up 6 shelves. Their prices range from 196.000 to 368.000 LIT.
✓ Below are a dozen Homburg models, mostly black. Prices from 220.000 to 360.000 LIT.
✓ Artur Biondi(ć) owns fifteen Panama hats, all famous brands. The most expensive piece is Montecristi Superfino from the Equatorial province of Manabí. Biondi(ć) states that the hat is handmade out of palm-fiber cloth: paja toquilla – Carloduvica palmata. Price – 570.000 LIT (2 pieces). Biondi(ć) also has one of the cheaper models of the Panama hat – Montecristi Fino (290,000 LIT). All three hats are in natural colors (from label).
✓ On the shelf, next to the Montecristi hat, a small plastic box with a stand, is a framed computer printout of “Legends of the Panama hat.” No computer or printer was found in the flat. The legend reads: Upon arrival in the New Country, the first settlers, Spaniards, saw that some natives were wearing strange head coverings. Their caps were made of light, transparent material. The immigrants believed that it was the skin of skinned vampires. But in archaeological excavations on the Equator Coast, ceramic figures with the unusual caps on their heads were found, supposedly dating from the year 4,000 BC. These are the first variants of today’s Panama hat.
✓ Stetsons – 3 pieces, black. One with a 9.5 cm brim and a crown height of 10 cm, and two larger (brim – 10 cm, crown – 12 cm) All three hats are set in silver satin (from label). Price 300.000 LIT a piece.
✓ Straw hats – 8, various models. Short history attached.
✓ Bowler hats – 4. White Nürnberg (155,000 LIT), Homburg olive green (139,000 LIT), black Borsalino (430,000 LIT) and a Piccadilly from 1936 produced at Jakša Žuljević’s workshop in Split – no price.
✓ Top hats – 2. One black (460.000 LIT) and one gray (370.000 LIT), both of satin. According to the labels, the black one is foldable, the gray one is indivisible. Below is a short text on the fate of the top hat through history, taken from the Encyclopedia of the Yugoslav Lexicographic Institute, year of issue 1967.
✓ On one shelf there is a collection of decorative pins. As a distinctive female hat decoration, it does not fit into Arturo Biondi(ć)’s men’s collection. There are 23 pieces. They are housed in glass boxes on black plush. Some are very old and obviously have antique value. Each pin has a description and place of origin. There are no prices. Attached is a short history of decorative pins (for hats) from the late nineteenth to late twentieth century.
✓ In addition to decorative pins, there is another item that does not fit in the hat and headwear collection described above: a miniature women’s hat labelled “Doll’s Hat.” Under the description is the text: First issued in 1938. A miniature doll’s hat, slightly crooked, worn by adult women on the front right-hand side of the head. As soon as it appeared, it caused numerous controversies. Two years later it disappeared from the market and from use. The doll’s hat was mostly green or purple and adorned by a large Emu feather. Undocumented observers would now conclude that women of that age had miniature heads, of course, which could only accommodate a miniature brain. (Text downloaded with enlarged photos.)
✓ Found: a total of 274 hats and caps.
✓ Photos enclosed.
✓ Search ended at 5:30 a.m. due to notification that Artur Biondi was approaching the building.
Look at yourself.
Thick as shit between the buttocks. Thick.
You have features. They’re here.
Look at yourself in the window. The window is black. Behind it lies the night. Look how clear your image in the window is.
On the surface of the water float flakes of Isabella’s dead skin. Isabella is being flayed. She can’t say why her skin is dying. She’s got too much skin. Today Isabella did some drawings. There was a lot of black. The water’s getting cold. Isabella adds some warm water. She must get out, she’ll shrivel. Isabellas are good and gentle. Isabellas are special beings.
The Daily News
Sunday, January 2, 2000.
Woman Hangs Herself
in Attic of Block of Flats
Isabella F. (77) committed suicide by hanging.
According to the information obtained from the local police, the unfortunate elderly woman died in the early morning hours of Saturday, January 1. The body of the woman was found hanging in the attic of the building where she lived. The possible reason that led Isabella F. to perform such an act so far remains unknown. Following their examination of the place of suicide the local police released information to the press.
Man Kills Himself
by Jumping from Window
Artur B. (79) committed suicide on Saturday, January 1 by jumping from his living room window.
According to information given out at a press conference called by the police, the elderly man committed suicide between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. on the first day of the New Year. So far, any motive that could have led Artur B. to perform such an act remains unknown. The police have no information about whether the old man suffered from any serious illness that could have driven him to suicide. The investigation at the scene of the incident was carried out by the Criminal Officers of the City Police Administration.
FROM POLICE DOSSIERS
SUBJECT: ARTUR BIONDI(Ć) RETIRED CAPTAIN OF THE YUGOSLAV NAVY.
NUMBER: 39 D-C Ia /01-02-00
Artur Biondi(ć) committed suicide on January 1, 2000, by jumping from his living room window on the seventh floor. He was found lying motionless by the trash cans (three of them) in front of the building he lives (lived) in. The autopsy confirmed that death had occurred immediately after the fall. Time of death: between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m.
Case “Artur Biondi(ć)” filed ad acta.
FROM POLICE DOSSIERS
SUBJECT: ISABELLA FISCHER, MARRIED ROSENZWEIG.
NUMBER: 40 D-C Ib/01-02-00
Isabella Rosenzweig née Fischer hanged herself in the attic of the house she lived in. Time of death: between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. on January 1, 2000. She left no letter or message.
Case “Isabella Fischer married name Rosenzweig” filed ad acta.
Is that a forest? It is wide and spacious. There are trees and there are no trees. Where there are trees, the trees are small. Where there are trees, they are puny and short. Maybe it’s a magic forest.
Through that space, through that unbounded space resembling a terrestrial cosmos they run, they soar and they lose their way because there’s no end. It is impossible to arrive, there is no place to come to. They are seeds, they are grain and they scatter. On a tiny tree a harpy squats and watches. With folded wings it crouches and watches. And picks at leaves. Its belly is covered with feathers. That’s my face, says Isabella. That’s my face, says Artur. The branch breaks, it’s a tiny branch, a thin branch. The small tree turns red and begins to flow. They are leaves. We are leaves, they say. They pluck at themselves and they hang and they touch the ground and they flow. We pluck at ourselves, say Isabella and Artur. They have huge eyes, huge eyes like cows’, brown and round like Mozart balls. In which there is nothing. No marzipan, no almonds, no crimson cherries. There is only the round dark shell, empty. They do not know, because they are old and forgetful, they do not know that inside them crouch their doppelgängers who whisper, while they piss themselves, while they breathe, slowly and spasmodically, while they tremble, while they eat chocolates. Their disguised doppelgängers threaten and summon them, call out and shout, come on—join us.
By Daša Drndić, translated by S. D. Curtis, from Doppelgänger, copyright © 2018 by Daša Drndić. Translation copyright © 2018 by S. D. Curtis. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
Daša Drndić (1946-2018) was born in Zagreb in the aftermath of the Holocaust and later lived through the violent breakup of Yugoslavia in the Nineties. A writer of plays, short stories and “documentary fiction,” her novel Belladonna (New Directions, 2017) was called “perhaps the most ambitious novel of the twenty-first century so far” in the New York Review of Books. “Artur and Isabella” is drawn from the most recent of her books to be translated into English, Doppelgänger (New Directions, 2019). “It is not my job to interpret what I write,” Drndić told the Paris Review Daily in an interview toward the end of her life: “I find it amusing, even comic, if not ridiculous, when at readings, especially of poetry, authors give a short ‘introduction’ to their work. So that the audience would ‘get it.’ So that there would be no misunderstanding. … I love open endings, generally speaking, and not only in literature.”
Art credit: Oleg Borodin