Shadowtrain

Anatoly Kudryavitsky
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(translated from the Russian by Siobhán McNamara)

Agamemnon in Cambridge

 

Agamemnon is giving lectures on psychology. ‘You love them when you don’t know them, and you know them when you hate them’ he says. ‘And knowledge changes your face, so that by the time you’re forty you get ambiguous congratulations from the mirror,’ adds someone’s portrait from the wall.

After the lecture Agamemnon drinks goats’ milk in the bar. The milk is brought in especially for him from an Irish farm.

‘Is a private life important for a male academic?’ one of his students asks him. Choking on his milk, Agamemnon thinks: ‘I’d love to send the young pup down to Pluto for insinuations like that’ but he answers aloud, calmly: ‘A man can live in a heavenly landscape too. Indeed, and he can guess at the love of girls and all people. The clouds will depict this love for him, and even completely figuratively – showing him three noble visions.’

 

 

 

 

A Witness of an Underwater Time

 

Hardly anyone has noticed that the octopus, as well as possessing eight legs, also wears a tie. The octopus is unlikely to be able to explain why he needs this finishing touch to his dress – perhaps it’s a sign of a self-esteem that has been challenged too often? All in all, the octopus is honest, scrupulous and poor. He doesn’t need much. Perceiving the endlessness of the underwater paths on which his epoch got lost, he thinks about himself: I am a creature without a name or a biography. I have a body, but it’s almost transparent. My brain is transparent through and through. My memories are gradually becoming colourless; my voice cannot be heard from under deaf waters. So what’s left? What’s left?

The sharks smile crookedly: there’s a lot left – ink.

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Livingstone’s Africa

 

Some people carry the Northern Lights inside them, some a Brazilian beach or a Japanese rock garden. What Dr. Livingstone carries inside himself is Africa.

In this Africa an enormous brown ape sits under a tree and small black monkeys scratch her heels. If another large ape appears nearby, she walks on straight through the first one, not causing her the least harm: the strong can exist in different worlds.

The brown ape from Dr. Livingstone’s Africa needs a good example to imitate. When things become absolutely unbearable for her, Dr. Livingstone sends her his human form. It climbs up to a branch above her, and she spends hours looking up at it, all the time sitting in the one position.

Meanwhile Dr. Livingstone goes around without his human form. His observations suggest to him that in the world as he knows it there are far fewer people than human forms. The people float like shadows along paths and streets, and to stop themselves from being blown away they carry something weighty: the Northern Lights, a Brazilian beach or a Japanese rock garden. As we already noted, Dr. Livingstone carries Africa inside him.

 

 

 

 

 

The Abyss is Calling

 

Night was drifting along the black river from village to village, from century to century. History was swimming behind it, spluttering and spitting out silt. At one point in space there was an unscheduled stop, and in the timeless silence was heard: ‘Farewell Ramirez, Gonzalez and Rodriguez! The abyss is calling you!’

Then there followed an abrupt command – and a splash…

A General emerged from the darkness, and announced where the next unscheduled stop would be. New gold medals with pictures of Ramirez, Gonzalez and Rodriguez jangled mysteriously on the general’s uniform.  

The darkness did what it does best: it closed in.

 

 

 

 

                                Translated from the Russian by Siobhán McNamara

 

Copyright © Anatoly Kudryavitsky, 2008