Prose
28. 12. 2018
Nebojša Radić

The Symposium

The first piece of cardboard read Jacques Lefevre, or similar. The
second was Helmut something, then Abdullah, Madelaine, Gonzalo
Barrios… No, my name wasn’t there. I walked straight to the opposite
end of the arrivals hall, dropped my computer bag on top of the suit-
case and began to monitor the area. I had faith in Garikoitz Baltasar
Goikoetxea. After all, he invited me to this symposium on cross-cul-
tural communication. He organized the event thanks to some gener-
ous funding from the Basque government and he wanted it to be a suc-
cess. I am a multi-pluri-trans-lingual author and Garikoitz’s interest in
me and my literary and Camford-based scholarly work was obviously
the reason for the invite. He might have perceived me also as somewhat
exotic for I come from the Balkans and write in Serbian. In combin-
ation with my literary practice in English and Italian my vast experi-
ence and skills made me… unconventional, shall I say? You don’t find
many people around nowadays who can write good stories in three
languages. I was sure that Garikoitz Baltasar Goikoetxea understood
all of this. Yes, he did.
So, where was Garikoitz? I was in the arrivals hall of the Bilbao air-
port and he was nowhere to be seen. Where was Garikoitz? I had found
his photograph on the University web site and now started to nervous-
ly look around. A man got up from a white, plastic table staring at me.
He then looked around and came across the hall.
‘Señor Zhbirkowalski?’
‘Yes, it’s me. Garikoitz?’
We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Günter, a Swiss col-
league had gone to the loo and we would leave as soon as he was back,
Garikoitz informed me. Shortly after, Günter arrived and extended his
hand: ‘Günter Grutner’.
‘Zhbirkowalski,’ I replied and shook the hand. I am a tall man and
couldn’t help noticing that Günter was a couple of inches taller.
We walked out of the arrival hall and entered the multi-storey
garage where Garikoitz managed, in slightly over half an hour, to suc-
cessfully locate his vehicle on the third floor despite him being sure he
had left it on the fifth. When we finally reached the red Seat, Günter
offered me to sit in the front. ‘No, thanks, you are taller and you flew in
first!’ I said and squeezed myself in the back seat.
Garikoitz said that the drive would take less than an hour. We
drove through Bilbao city centre and out onto the motorway. It was
nine o’clock of a miserable, rainy and foggy February evening and
Garikoitz drove 90 miles an hour holding the wheel with his left hand
while he used the right to illustrate some subtle technical points about
the practice of self-translation to and from Euskera, the Basque lan-
guage. I then asked him whether they received any financial support
from the local government. To articulate his views precisely, he turned
around completely while my eyes were glued to the speedometer that
was showing 100 m/h. The fog around us looked as solid as an ancient
Roman wall while the rain kept on pouring down. This is the end, I
thought. This is the comical end of a glorious, although not so long,
life. My life. Here, in the dark mountains of the País Basco, in the north
of Spain.
Eventually, we made it to Vitoria-Gastheiz and the car stopped in
front of the HP hotel. Günter and I took the luggage out of the boot
and stood on the pavement. Garikoitz recommended we should eat
dinner at a nearby traditional Basque restaurant. He would come first
thing in the morning to take us to the Faculty of Literature where our
symposium would take place. ‘Buenas noches,’ we shouted and entered
through the revolving door.
We checked in and got adjacent rooms, 417 me and 416 the Swiss.
We then took the elevator and reached the rooms except that while
Günter entered his by inserting the card into the lock slot, mine kept
on showing a red dot. ‘That’s fine,’ I said when Günter offered to help.
‘You go unpack and I’ll see you downstairs in fifteen minutes.’
‘Are you sure?’ said Günter.
Of course I was sure. I picked up my suitcase and computer bag
and went down to the reception for a new key. At the reception there
was a group of noisy Chinese tourists so it took me fifteen minutes to
obtain a new card. Patience, I thought, such is life. I rushed into the
room, dropped my luggage and exited again for it was time for dinner.
No shower after a six hour long journey from London, no change of
clothes… Well, such is life.
The Swiss was dutifully waiting for me in the lobby and we decided
to go for a walk and explore the city centre. The rain kept on pouring. I
had my hat with a wide brim and Günter had an umbrella.
‘Do you want to come under the umbrella?’ he asked. No, of course
not. ‘I never use umbrellas,’ I explained with indignation. It was con-
trary to my lifestyle and generally heroic attitude towards life. After all,
I lived in England, the land of umbrellas and grey skies. I’m in Spain
now and I shall ignore the bad weather.
Günter said he lived in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland
where he taught German literature at the University of Lugano. He
spoke, of course all the Swiss official languages (French, German and
Swiss German, Italian and one or two dialects of Romansch) as well
as Spanish and some Portuguese. He was a researcher in the field of
literary translations with special reference to intercultural communi-
cation and the realities of his multi-lingual country. I am from the Bal-
kans, from Serbia, I explained and waited a moment to see his reaction.
There was none. I continued by saying that I come from what used
to be Yugoslavia and my language was Serbo-Croatian. I wrote short
stories novels and articles in English, Serbian and Italian. So, unlike
Günter who was a researcher in the field I was more of a practitioner.
‘In Italian,’ said Günter and we continued our conversation in the
language of Dante and Francesco Totti.
‘The Balkans is a mystery to me,’ said Günter.
‘Yes,’ I agreed looking him straight in the eyes. ‘The Balkans is a
mystery.’
To you of course, I thought, not for me, not for us, the Balkan Über-
menschen who prevailed over the Ottoman and Nazi hordes, survived
countless wars, packs of howling wolves and hungry, brown bears. Not
for us, born under the wings of the almighty white-headed eagle and
raised in harsh winters and arid summers. I thought all of that with a
sense of pride and superiority. And also, yes, why not spell it out, with
a sense of visceral, well earned superiority.
We found a Museo del Jamón eatery and went through the boc-
cadillos, anchovas, ensaladas, queso, a mountain of jamón and two
bottles of vino rojo like a hot knife through butter. It was time to go to
bed and get ready for a very busy day. ‘Señora, la cuenta, por favor,’ I
waived to the waitress. ‘Sixty-six Euros,’ she said and presented the bill.
Günter was quick. He took out of his pocket a banknote and extended
his hand. I did the same with one of my three banknotes that I brought
from England: a ten, a twenty and a fifty Euro piece. The Waitress took
the money and said we gave her sixty Euros only. Embarrassed in all of
my superior Balkan glory, I opened my wallet and extracted the twenty
Euros bill and exchanged it for the ten Euros piece. Done.
‘Está bien,’ I said, ‘You can keep the change.’ The camarera thanked
us and left. I was in the middle of an intricate mental composition, a
complex linguistic explanation that needed lucidity and precise articu-
lation. I was petrified though. Günter was looking at me through the
glasses. I looked at him and smiled. You Swiss people have no honour
or dignity and the concept of sharing is totally alien to you, I thought.
All Swiss are the same, all the same. I remember when I shared an
apartment in Florence thirty-four years ago with a Swiss who left with-
out paying his portion of the utility bill. I then had to vanish myself,
and left the poor Japanese chap, Yoshito Kobayashi to settle to bill.
Well, same here. I paid fifty, then twenty Euros and received ten Euros
rest. That can only mean one thing and one thing only. Günter gave
the waitress a ten Euros banknote! They are all the same. Switzerland
is one of the richest countries in the world. All banks full of gold stolen
from the Jews, Nazi deposits, shady arm deals, white slavery and drug
trafficking… What a nation of hypocrites! A Balkan person would
never do anything of the sort if it were the last handful of money on
Earth. Incredible, utterly in-cre-di-ble! In the Balkans we take pride in
being open, in communicating, opening our souls and hearts and let-
ting them pour out in the streets need be, unlike the Swiss, obviously
– A treacherous sort, worse than the English. Treacherous.
This affair is taking infamy to new heights, I thought.
The conversation slowly died down. It was nearly one o’clock past
midnight and we decided to have some rest. Günter left a full glass
behind him on the table. Well, he didn’t pay for it, did he? I thought
sharpening my sardonic edge. I should drink it, it’s mine, it crossed my

Prose
28. 12. 2018
Zoran Siriški

The Christmas Race

When the frozen flatland soil puts on the snow garment, that bridal
gown of the new year and new hopes, a serene quiet makes its pres-
ence in the purged air and in the life of the village or in the hearts of
the peasants. The endless canvas of neatly packed crystals renders the
already unbounded stretches of farms still more limitless and in an
odd fit of the forces of change brings it closer to the rest of the world.
The vast immaculate snowy coat shared by so many people and places
takes the human tribe back to the point of self-purification, repentance
and meditation. Summer solstice craves for the fuel of oblivion, sweat-
ing and hard work in the villages of Vojvodina or any other farming
region that complies to the whims of the continental weather. Sun and
dry winds combine with domesticated plants to soak in the best of
energy from laboring hands. When winter comes bodies are invited to
heal and engage only within the limits of the chores that would keep
them from getting stiff and lazy.
There is more time for socializing, merry making, story telling,
evening get-togethers or numerous other activities that lend the peas-
ants joyful opportunities to strengthen the friendship and other col-
lective bonds and make the whole village community feel the pulsa-
tions of benevolent forces emanating from land, dark muddy waters of
the canal below the thin hood of ice or air bathed in the feeble Sun that
strews its purple glow across the haze of chilly mornings. Fields are left
to doze under the long traipsing shadows of the nights while light and
cheering warmth is sought within family circles and neighborhoods.
If the elderly persons set the pace of busy summer living children lend
the main tone in winter life of the village. It is the magic of winter that
transforms the dusty roads and common place toil of summer into the
kingdom of fairy tales clad in draperies of frost and snow.
The street where Nikola’s grandparents lived was often the scene
of numerous events, inventions and activities throughout the year.
In the late 60’s the village streets were at the mercy of weather and
often changed from a trail of finest ash like powder dust to a road of
sticky mash of black mud that stuck to the farm wagon wooden wheels.
Wintertime used to close the season of summer changes by placing the
road into the chains of ice and snow. Nikola and his elder brother used
to spend winter holidays in the village and children from the neigh-
borhood and the cousins across the street used to play from dawn till
dusk. Rainwater that had gathered in puddles by the road furnished
the perfect temptation of sliding surfaces. Bands of pink steaming
faces queued up in a cloud of cheers and joyful screams and soon their
tireless bodies turned into darting arrows. Slides were soon polished to
the sheen of mirrors which was embarrassing to the elderly people who
watched their every step even on snow-covered pavements.
To make up for the complete lack of slants and slopes in a flat
countryside, children often joined hands, spades, old buckets or even
caps to fashion a snow hill. The army of biped ants toiled and panted
under loads of snow as the white pyramid was emerging amid the
frozen desert. The heaviest individuals were assigned the sweat-driv-
ing task of ramming the snow by stomping atop the growing hill and
often falling into its belly to their waists. One side of the snow hill was
extended streetwise for thirty or so yards to form a toboggan while
opposite of it a stairway was carved into the pyramid for easy access
to the top.
Many laborers were wet all through after hours of such play-work
which neither caused their concern nor incited them to go home.
Young blood and restless excitement soon performed their work of
drying or at least warming up their clothes and boots.
When completed, the snow toboggan was a masterpiece of local
architecture and modeling and it boosted the pride of the Medurich
Brothers Street. Even the elderly enjoyed the sight of it and at least it
was visible and easy to shun which was not the case with the slides
on the pavements. The kids from neighboring streets would join the
endless sliding and laughing game which made the toboggan look like
a gigantic revolving and vapor-spurting caterpillar. The joyful hubbub
resounded in the chilly air and seemed to bounce back from the frozen
firmament, rendering the scene of the game powerfully local and cozy.
About lunchtime the shrill voices of chronically overworked moth-
ers or grandmothers sounded their nervous calls and the scenery of
general excitement and endless commotion changed to one of lonely
fumigating glossy toboggan and temporary peace. Sunshine was at its
best at lunchtime and the sides of the snowy playground facing south
and west would soften their armors in the short untimely thawing
spill. When children resumed their playful activities sliding down the
toboggan went a bit slower due to their full bellies and retarding forces
of the melted snow. This however did not subtract from their enthusi-
asm and fervor to surrender to the inner calls of playfulness and so-
ciability that no vagaries of weather or calamities of fate could hinder.
The highlight of winter delights, however, was the Christmas
horse-race. Most households had horses in the before-the-tractor era
and it was customary and conducive to the health of horses to give
them an opportunity to have exercises during winter season. Niko-
la’s cousins had a beautiful chestnut-skinned stallion by the name of
Fitzco. He was tall and quite far from the category of sturdy fat working
horses, but of a rather quirky and whimsical character. An ideal horse
for sports but untrained and lacking the power of upbringing which
brings control of energy. Now Nikola was eager to take place in the
Christmas race, but his aging grandfather could not help him much on
that point since he had an equally aging and quite lazy barrel-shaped

Рубрике

ДОНАЦИЈЕ

Претплатите се и дарујте независни часописи Људи говоре, да бисмо трајали заједно

даље

Људи говоре је српски загранични часопис за књижевност и културу који излази у Торонту од 2008.године. Поред књижевности и уметности, бави се свим областима које чине културу српског народа.

У часопису је петнаестак рубрика и свака почиње са по једном репродукцијом слика уметника о коме се пише у том броју. Излази 4 пута годишње на 150 страна, а некада и као двоброј на 300 страна.

Циљ му је да повеже српске писце и читаоце ма где они живели. Његова основна уређивачка начела су: естетско, етичко и духовно јединство.

Уредништво

Мило Ломпар
главни и одговорни уредник
(Београд, Србија)

Владимир Димитријевић
оперативни уредник за матичне земље
(Чачак, Србија)

Радомир Батуран
оперативни уредник за дијаспору
(Торонто, Канада)

Александар Петровић
уредник за културу
(Београд, Србија)

Жељко Продановић
уредник за поезију
(Окланд, Нови Зеланд)

 

Небојша Радић
уредник за језик и писмо
(Кембриџ, Енглеска)

Жељко Родић
уредник за уметност
(Оквил, Канада)

Никол Марковић
уредник енглеске секције и секретар Уредништва
(Торонто, Канада)

Џонатан Лок Харт
уредник енглеске секције
(Торонто, Канада)

Лектори

Душица Ивановић
Торонто

Сања Крстоношић
Торонто

Александра Крстовић
Торонто

Графички дизајн

Антоније Батуран
Лондон

Технички уредник

Радмило Вишњевац
Торонто

Издавач

Часопис "Људи говоре"
The Journal "People Say"

477 Milverton Blvd.
Toronto ON,
M4C 1X4 Canada

Маркетинг

Мила Фокас
Торонто

Контакт

Никол Марковић, секретар
т: 416 823 8121


Радомир Батуран, oперативни уредник
т: 416 558 0587


477 Milverton Blvd. Toronto,
On. M4C 1X4, Canada

baturan@rogers.com nikol_markovic@hotmail.com ljudigovore.com


ISSN 1925-5667

© људи говоре 2019