At the crossroads stories from selected writers of the south caucasus

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Maybe salty and bright mornings, blue, marine mornings, and a sea with small waves, surrounded by white lacy foam, also flourished in the past…


I don’t know about those mornings, but I believe that even then things, or to be more precise a lot of things, were predicted by hermits, detached from this world. For example – what once drove a hermit, living in the desert, to write:

“And because of the increase of iniquity, many people lost love”.

Who dictates these words? They do, for sure.

The sea is a couple of steps’ distance from the guest house. A strange, lonely man frequently walks along the sea shore. But he is not lonely, he has a macaque with him. The macaque’s name is Maka. From time to time the man unties the macaque and the monkey jumps from one tree to another. Once he jumped down on me from a magnolia tree, grabbed a banana from my hands and threw my hat far away… The wind there obliged me to run right to the edge of the shore to catch my white summer hat. I returned to the balustrade completely breathless.

He didn't even apologize, didn’t smile, but continued walking along the beach with an absolutely calm face. Later I was told about him: the man had been recently released from prison. At a certain time everyone had betrayed him: his mother, his wife, his friend, his girlfriend and even a casual stranger in the street … he had worked on the highway, his profession was erecting huge advertising billboards on the roads. On one of his billboards, over the highway, he had written “Have a happy journey!”: however, thanks to these people the phrase: “…your mother, … you all!” had suddenly popped up there.

Barry, our terrier, doesn’t like Maka. I think he has good reason to hate him, his hatred is well justified.

It’s hot. From time to time cones crack in the pine forest. Few people can be seen on the black sand of the beach, lying in the sun.

In contrast to those who frequent other resorts, where the sun shines over the beaches even in wintertime, the tourists here are not rich. Their poverty is emphasized by the presence of a beautiful woman, shining in all gold rings-earrings-necklace combination. The queen of the beach (that’s what I call her to myself) has a glamorous body and glamorous laughter. Sometimes, looking at her, I start fantasizing: does the queen of the beach get rid of her sartorial wealth when going to bed or does she gracefully indulge in tenderly clinging golden-pearl sex…?

In the morning at breakfast the bread, freshly baked in the hotel, reminds me of the Beach Queen – it’s warm and soft, and its ancient fragrance makes me lose my mind.

You seem not to be in a hurry to come.

You are cutting it very fine.

Last night, as always, I sat up with my laptop till three o’clock. Later the songs of cicadas in love prevented me from going to sleep. I fell asleep just at dawn, and dreamed of the yellow house again. Again I entered that house … you were sitting at the table, smiling at me with your eyes. A pyramid could be seen through the window, a drunk pharaoh and a drunk slave were sleeping under the shadow of the pyramid.

Apart from the cicadas and laptop, the couple next door wouldn’t let me sleep – their bed was creaking all night long. The guest house has these huge ancient beds, like things from the last century when people were obsessed with an uncontrollable, almost wild desire for comfort…

Barry didn’t sleep well either.

One word was beating in my head all the time: 'spam, spam, spam, spam…'

In the morning the woman serving at table suggested wine, the local Isabella, a deceptive drink as sweet as Port…maybe because of my age, I always get drunk after two glasses of it and beautiful women make my heart beat faster and faster…

Before going down to the sea to swim I search Facebook for a while. When I look at my Profile photos, I think that I may become ill soon. In the light of the twinkling screen of my laptop even my hands seem too wrinkled.

The sea near the hotel is shallow, you can walk and walk on its sandy bed and the water won’t reach your chest …. but because the water is shallow it gets warm faster – a couple of hours of sun is enough. Today dolphins swam close to the shore. First I heard some noises, which I thought were just waves, then I looked and there they were, bottle-nosed dolphins! Apparently they were following the mackerel shoals. There were quite a lot of them, about thirty.

I switched on the TV as soon as I got back to the hotel – there are about six hundred channels on this TV, but I mechanically switched it on. I turned it off almost immediately: a strange man was talking about something in an unfamiliar language, and on the screen it looked as if he had been cut in two and placed in a medical bottle filled with spirit.

You are late.


You are nowhere to be seen.

I go downstairs and feed the dogs on the boulevard with bread and sausages.

“Today God sent this food through my hands, tomorrow others will be looking for you ... be strong!”

I know the wind will bring my whisper to you.

And at last, you show up. The sea breeze makes you stir and sway, your wet, straight hair looks like a wheat field after rain. Your eyes are wet too.

We take a long walk. Behind the magnolia bushes a guy and girl are busy kissing, as if trying to memorize each other’s faces with their lips.

You are telling me:

“Their love will melt away and only sea and sky will stay.”

That’s what you are saying.

An unfamiliar old man, sitting with closed eyes, similar to some other old fellow once known to us, is greedily inhaling the sea air. However, if the man we knew were still alive, he would be about a hundred and twenty years old, and would have read his own obituary in the newspaper.

Your hair lightly touches my face, I gently caress your thigh.

These people seem to be going to visit some friends – father, mother and two daughters running after them. The woman is carrying a big white cake. The family reminds me of the ants I once saw in a popular science fiction movie. You smile at me, as if saying – I feel sorry for them.

We enter the hotel, and Barry meets us, and seems to be overexcited.

You ask me to turn the laptop on.

I turn it on, and you tell me: you are sitting at the laptop as if you are a pilot sitting at the control panel of a flying saucer!

You have 786 friends on Facebook and the 787th requests friendship:

'Levan Lazishvili wants to be friends with you on Facebook.'

You make a sign, asking me to agree. I confirm “friendship” though I’m jealous: more and more men want to be friends with you. You are so beautiful on your profile photo – in the red dress on the beach. A red ship can be seen on the photo, far away in the sea. You laugh at my jealousy, or rather at me.

I’m angry. Ha-ha-ha, - I write to the new friend, and again – Khi-khi-khi.

I receive a message:

'Beso Khvedelidze sent you a message on Facebook…'

I erase endless requests to play FarmVille and CityVille.

I have 11 more messages in my Inbox.

Someone asks a question:

“My dear friends, visit this link and tell me: Does God exist? It’s very important for me today”.

I write under your dictation:

“My Dear, today is the day when God really does exist everywhere”.

Will he understand? I doubt it.

I review the “main wall” and “recent updates”.

A girl in a red shawl has uploaded a new poem on my wall – “Tomorrow”

We read. : )))

Here is a story – 'Real Creatures.'


Forty photos of a friend – the album is entitled “Old City”: stone pavement, stone pavements…balcony, balconies…

Someone has remembered the royal wedding in England and uploaded a photo: the bride in front of the prince, bending in rather an embarrassing posture (38 comments).

A photo from GUR MAN: shish kebab, chargrilled (323 comments, mainly WOWWWW… and WANTTTTTT…).

Photos of counters of apples and Churchkhela WOWWWW… and WANTTTTTT… (211 comments).

Someone is begging:

"Like this photo – it is a photo of my village, I am taking part in the Bank competition”

What can you do? We LIKE it!

A photo of a woman, lying among a pack of wolves on the snow, in the freezing cold (first I thought she was a boy). “Your voice rang like icicles, snowflakes were swirling in the room…”

A young fellow with a blindfold over his eyes. Arab, probably. He refuses to believe in the death of Bin Laden. A tall man’s phantom silhouette appears in the room – John Kennedy!

Horrible video – soldiers cutting the throat of another soldier. DELETE!

I smile at the video clip of Matilda, a white Labrador, dancing with its mistress, dancing, dancing and smiling.

In one of the discussions on the page a Russian producer says that Japan is being punished for its sins. A Georgian priest replies that the Japanese are being punished because they are not Orthodox.

Someone’s blog: “We’ll Survive” (2 comments: one - : ))), second -WOW…).

When America and Africa, which are moving towards each other at a rate of a centimeter a year, are merged into one we’ll have a happy continent called Aferica, and a happy planet.

I have an urge to smoke a cigar, but you hate smoke. I pour some brandy. One drop of brandy falls on the table, and I see it fall in slow motion. The golden drop of brandy splashes, adopting the shape of a miniature royal crown. Royal crown and color of blood together…

An Argentinean sailor comments on our photo (the one of me and Barry together) : Bello, bello! Lindos!..

There are photos of Djermukha and Shemakhi. It’s raining in both places, equally.

O'NUR presses a hyena to his chest and says hello to friends from Kenya. Cheeky, talented O'NUR!

“Look at this video, the best people are talking about it.”

After the second glass the bottle of brandy starts to glow from inside, like the book in my thoughts which I will never ever write.

You remind me:

“The first nuclear bombs were called 'Tolstushka (Fatty)' and 'Kroshka (Crumb)'.”

I remind you of the scrapyard where both metal and people turn equally useless and rusty.

A message from Gela Gabiani is still on the wall. How many times can this Gela Gabiani write to you?

“Dear, is that you – the one who posted on the main wall two months prior to the disaster in Fukushima! “Fukushima! My God!” - Was that you? Who are you? Where are you? Answer me!”

What does he want? Why won’t he leave us alone? Who is he? What does he want? What can we do?

You make me write:

“This is me, and I was the one, tpp”.

Gela Gabiani:

“How could you have known what would happen in Fukushima? How could you know? How? Who are you?”

“I died two years ago … I’m dead”

That was what you dictated to me.

Those are the words my fingers are typing.

That’s how it is.

Barry, unlike on previous days, is too tense today, even surprised at something - he doesn’t see you, but feels your presence near him, is looking for you, wandering around the room, looking out of the window, sniffing at the table.. looking at the ceiling. You caress him, he bends his head as if in fear,… no, in joy!

Later you dictate a strange, very strange text that we don’t send anywhere, just save as a file.

Right now I’m reading it - I am thinking about that text, but I don’t understand anything…


First published in issue number 2 of the magazine ”Tsiskari” (Tbilisi)

Translated from Georgian by Tamar Gaidarova

Rafiq Tagi

Rafiq Tagi was born in 1950. He is a novelist and essayist, and also a physician by profession. In 2004 he was expelled from the Writers Union of Azerbaijan, which he had joined in 1987. On November 15, 2006 he was arrested and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment for publishing the essay “Europe and Us”. On the request of the international community he was released from prison on December 29, 2007.

Rafiq Tagi lives in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The Opera-Ballet”

I’m going to pull out into the light of day this Hanifa, who is swarming in my brain like a greasy worm. I've said it: I will take him out of the past and stuff him into a small and narrow story! In my memory he lived happily ever after, so let him die in the story! It serves him right! He will hardly take five steps now, as his wide, fleshy, cow-like tongue falls out of his mouth. His blue-black lips give him an offensive look.

In my opinion, it’s better to put Hanifa in the story somewhere near the end of his life. Let not the reader imagine him young. Let Hanifa puff and blow in the story, just as in real life, and tire my readers. Maybe the reader will shout at him: “Take your stinking mouth away!” Thus this story will be full of carbon dioxide, emitted from Hanifa’s lungs.

To lower the level of this carbon dioxide emission, I have to put  green trees in the text and outside it.

Willow. I have often met them on the banks of the Kura River. They line up alongside the ditches as if dancing the yalli14.. Their leaves are thin and long – from light green to dark green. Sometimes they are weeping.

I planned to write only a weak story about Hanifa. This philological self-encroachment is inevitable, but  nothing could be more difficult than constructing willfully weak writing. One needs a particular talent for it. It is impossible to simulate weak writing by playing the fool. The writing really should be weak in itself, not something pretending to be. People will quickly forget weak text. If this story is forgotten, Hanifa will go to Hell, though for him it would be like a slap. In the text I’ll present him any way I want, and send him to where there is no return. Good riddance.

Apple. In spring its snow-white flowers give the impression of daylight. Ants scurry up and down its trunk. For some reason I’m sorry for the apple gardens, which give an ample harvest.

Should I write this not as a story but an article or essay? Maybe it will be weak if I do. In any case, logically, an article or essay can be forgotten immediately upon reading. This is not an insult. It is required by the genre. Until now, I haven’t seen any claim to eternity in any article or essay. Why should there be one, you ask? Or you might object, saying this is not so. But I know some things as well! In particular, I can easily distinguish the eternal from the transitory. I could easily fill in the description of Hanifa with uninteresting details, empty characters; turn sentences into blank ammunition. So you, dear reader, even if you are a genius, will not remember anything, get tired and throw my story away. Or even put it in the trash. And this “darkey” with it .

Here, I’ve already started to write the story of the piece of scum, who thanks to a handful or two of corn, “found” as evidence in the bullock-cart of my grandfather, set him up, made him rot in a Soviet prison and brought him to an early grave. Here I omit the episode in which the body of my grandfather, Suleiman, was brought home. I omit it for the sake of making my story weak. Woe to me if the story turns out to be good: for I’ll thereby give the murderer of my grandfather a place in eternity. Hanifa would have liked to live in eternity, even as a negative character. Probably grandfather Suleiman, with a reproachful look from the highest spheres, is trying to awaken my honor. But if I write everything down, these points will come over well. That’s where the danger lies. What I want is to let my story be as dry as possible. Sketchiness is important. All my strong similes and metaphors, hyperboles, etc. I will send to Hanifa’s proper place. No, you just take a look – this is the umpteenth time such dirty words have slipped from my mouth, I cannot quell the excitement raging in my soul, suffocating me. No, if I write this stuff down, it is my end: my story will turn into a magnificent work.

Blackthorn. Its fruit is purple. The word “Blackthorn” evokes the fruit more than the tree itself. I have always put it above cherry-plums, as if the blackthorn deserves greater respect. For some reason I have always likened the blackthorn to Ashik Shakir, and cherry-plums to Ashik Panah (famous bards). Nowhere  have I seen such a thorn as I saw at my diseased aunt’s as a child.

Hanifa’s puffing can be heard in all the cracks in my story. But never mind, let him puff as much as possible – this is to the benefit of the story. Anyway, the trees I have put in here will purify the air. But Hanifa had once known good days! In the thirties, he killed two birds with one shot and there was no forester around to confront him. He also had a mustache like Stalin. And he wore this “Stalin mustache” until the abolition of the “personality cult”. Then it became dangerous to wear this under his nose, and Hanifa shaved it off.

After the war, he, like Stalin, took an interest in culture. He built a collective farm club. He put “factory-furnished” monuments of Lenin and Stalin in front of the village council. When Stalin and his “suite” went to the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Hanifa, with his “party activists”, went to the club. The actions of the upper levels were reflected in the lower levels. The lower ranks were like the upper ones. The upper level changed – and the lower levels changed as well. But when the lower levels changed, the upper ones remained unchanged.

Despots sit on culture like flies.

Yes, Stalin loved the Bolshoi Theater, and Hanifa loved the “opera-ballet”. Throughout his life Hanifa never used the word “theater” in conjunction with the “opera-ballet”, he did not even think about it. He always thought that “opera-ballet” was one thing and “theater” something quite different. All year round he could talk at collective farm management meetings about how he had visited the “opera-ballet” in Baku. He is highly cultured – let the people have no doubt. That’s why he has the right to cause misery to any farmer. To Hanifa, the basic meaning of “opera-ballet” was its abundance of participating beauties. Houris in paradise go the same way. There you will boil, get excited and pounce on rural women. If he approached his wife as if she were a sick cat, he flew like a hawk to other women. Finally, after 10-15 years of visits to the “opera-ballet”, Hanifa began to differentiate opera from ballet. In opera they also sing, but in the ballet only dance. In the ballet they walk around almost naked. Ballet is a sort of belly dance. The opera did not arouse any special interest in him, since the singers are properly dressed there.

Mulberry. Its flower is clear and white, but leaves a black trail of blood on the hands. Its dense foliage creates coolness in a courtyard. The whisper of its leaves is like the chirping of birds.

When I first came to the village in 1972, he called me to him. It would have made him burst, had he not done so. He deemed a doctor an adornment to his life. He invented long stories about his illnesses. He received basic information about life and death from doctors. This information encourages people to act with wisdom. His legs would not obey him, and so he lost the ability to listen to music in the “opera-ballet.” He ate food only in the form of slurry. Yes, this is the puffing period of his life. His lungs compressed and decompressed as he bellowed. The air in the room was always heavy due to his breath.

All duties I had towards his health I undertook mechanically, considering compassion for him unreasonable. But, unfortunately, even the mechanical performance of these duties affected his status. He seemed to have forgotten that he had contributed to the arrest of my grandfather Suleiman. Or thought I did not know. It seems as if my grandfather, whose face was unknown to me, of whom, due to the “efforts” of both of us, there was not one picture left, had not walked on Earth at all. But the lack of compassion in me aroused suspicion in Hanifa. He wanted to make me laugh. He was ready to almost tickle me. He believed the years he had spent preying on the backbone of the people had been the best times of his life. No, medicine instills in me an inappropriate humanism. Is humanism needed here? Who will be interested in hearing stories of the monster according to whose will my grandfather had been wiped off the face of the earth, how he does his “number one” and “number two”? Sometimes he gave doctors orders, instructions, like he was at a meeting of the collective farm management. No, I was not born a lout: I gained sweet revenge for my grandfather – I examined Hanifa mechanically, drily. But I could do nothing - the use of medical devices, even without mercy, led to his improvement, they corrected his health in front of my eyes.

Sweet cherry. In our village there were two beautiful young women who wore the name Hylas15. They really were very beautiful. the leaves of the cherry tree are the size of a sparrow. However, they also absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

...One glorious day I went to the Opera and Ballet Theater. In front of the ticket office I remembered the long passed away Hanifa. Why? Had he bought tickets here as well? I hastily withdrew from the terrible ticket office and went inside. But how could I sit in the hall where once Hanifa had sat? I ran outside.

I will not go into the details. Let my story be weak.

Thank God, it seems it is weak. Well, you’ve understood that the plot is fairly commonplace. Thousands of books contain billions of similar things. My additions to the history of the dictatorship are actually unnecessary. The goal, at best, was to extract Hanifa  from my memory, bring him into the light and cast him into Hell, locked in a weak text. I have achieved what I wanted. His second death will be more interesting and useful than his first. This has now happened. Unfortunately, at this point, I myself must part with my story. I have encroached on him philologically. I have mutilated the story in order to once again “kill” Hanifa. Even though I have put the trees in and beyond it. The trees will bring to naught the “puffing” in my story.

November 13, 2003

Michelangelo’s Mistakes

Igor Zhelezov has one detention “on his list” already. Now he is soft. Like wax. Once bitten, twice shy. His previous behavior and his present are like black and white. He does not put on airs a great deal now. Only mundane criticism remains of his once-revolutionary soul.

Could a medical doctor resist Leonid Ilyich – the great Brezhnev?

He is very tall, he touches ceilings. He once said: “I have to leave the emergency ambulance service. In these low-ceilinged “Khrushchevka” buildings designed by someone short, visiting patients is impossible. Moscow's buildings have to be demolished, all of them, and replaced by new ones.” Several times he had brushed against ceiling lamps with his head, nearly burning his face. The ceilings of the prison cells he served his sentence in were higher than the ones in these flats. They were better even from an architectural point of view.

Igor raises the hackles of construction industry people mainly. He simply terrorizes them. He does not spare anybody - from architects to plasterers. But in the best cases his opinion is a reflection of public opinion. Unfortunately, it does not affect the democratic centralization principle in the country very much; i.e. it does not affect it at all. Criticism and pressure can only come from the top down. Bottom-up criticism translates into violence and imprisonment. There is strong drama in such criticism. It could be accompanied by Beethoven’s tragic symphonies.

I. Zhelezov’s only current occupation is finding defects in new houses. He calls them “matchboxes’ all the time. He thinks the long-term construction projects only emphasize the decline of the country. Sometimes he stands at the corner of a building, nose in the wall, and looks, screwing up his face. He investigates whether a building is straight or not. He is going to publish in the press an article about crooked buildings.

“The tall man’s brains are in his heels”, say passers-by, looking at him, laughing.

Yes, Igor Zhelezov has found many crooked houses in Moscow. He puts his discoveries on the same level as those of scientific institutes. Applied practically, they can yield specific positive results. Abstraction is not for him, he even has a specific plan: to deal with the whole of Moscow, if he lives long enough. The crookedness of this city is intolerable! Alexander Pushkin was born here – and this is a fact! I am obliged, he says, to disclose the lies of arrogant architects, find snags in historic buildings, tell the world about falsehoods in architecture.

Once, with tape measure in his hand, he was seen measuring the height and width of a misproportioned building, making comments in his notebook. He raised his head and looked up, over and over again. It’s a pity, he thought, it is impossible to accurately measure height. Height is heaven’s prerogative. Height is in the state’s power only. The state could stumble on him, the Ministry of Construction in particular. Well, it can’t be helped! Defects in tall buildings do not much affect human life, anyway.

“Is measuring buildings your only business?”

“Is asking that question your only business?”

This was his repeated dialogue with the local ‘Aksakal’ (elder).

If you don’t water trees and flowers they will fade. “If houses are built crooked the motherland will be crippled,” Igor says.

Once on a sunny winter 's day Igor went to the museum with an old friend of his, a doctor who had come from Kostroma to undertake one of those “improving qualifications” courses. Igor admits ignorance of museums. But the first defect in the Pushkin Museum he discovered from afar.

“A shadow falls into the river in the mornings.”

“So what?” – his friend was surprised.

“Museums should be built in such a way that their shadows do not reach a river.”

“And why?”

“A shadow may absorb water from the river. The paintings may be dampened.”

The friend from Kostroma twinkled his eyes, surprised.

Igor stood in front of the Pushkin Museum and examined it from left to right, top to bottom, for a long time. It seemed he was making calculations to himself. But he did not say anything, and started climbing the stairs, shaking his head. The interior was surprising: the walls were dazzling, the light from the portraits illuminated their faces. Eh, if one could criticize this illumination! Habit gave him no peace, but he did not say anything yet. At that moment this museum deserved criticism because it was stifling his critical soul. But just you wait! One or two halls will not be enough. Igor will take note of the aesthetics of this place to the end. His views will confront the local aesthetics, that is what they are for. The museum's classicism will not strand his nihilism. His tastes – physician’s tastes – had been formed beyond the confines of museum aesthetics. He was satisfied with what he had. There had been more patients in his life as a physician than healthy people. He had seen many dead people, but not as many as living ones. Dead people, even if they had been specialists in aesthetics, were very far from the world of aesthetics. Besides, the holiest dead man is already unhygienic, and this condition of his is exaggerated every minute. Respect for the dead, and so on, are myths - the dead man is actually chased from the family, and society, in a civilized manner.

In one of the halls they encountered Michelangelo unexpectedly. That’s another story! Michelangelo subjected to Igor's criticism – an interesting discovery. Igor Zhelezov’s transfer from the current political situation to the cultural field was inevitable - and this is an appropriate arena for him. The critical view of any historical and cultural event becomes more secure over the course of time. The duration and ruthlessness of such criticism are directly proportional. The more time passes, the stronger is the criticism. He considered this law his own discovery. As it was still Brezhnev’s era, the scope for criticism would be minimal. Presumably, and even preferably, criticism should be downgraded to the minus level – to the praise level. This was the requirement of this objective law, his discovery. However, Igor himself had gone against this objective law, making tactical mistakes. His detention had been necessary. Of course, the violation of public and objective laws results in detentions.

The Michelangelo exhibit was a giant sculpture of a man. Initially Igor began to examine the spelling of the artist’s name. He examined it very closely. “Michelangelo Buonarroti” – no, no mistakes there. Long live the Pushkin Museum! But a visitor stood beside this monument looks like a dwarf. Is it right to represent a human being in a sculpture of more than natural dimensions? This is sacrilege, definitely. The various parts of the body are clearly evident. One can name all of them. However, Michelangelo’s knowledge of this field would only be surprising for an ignorant viewer. Nothing surprising here. In this work the main role is played by primitive anatomical awareness, not creativity. It would be more accurate not to call Michelangelo a creator, but an anatomist, metaphorically speaking. Yet, he was still mistaken when he applied his anatomical knowledge in sculpture. Only the mentally retarded would be astounded by the anatomical manipulations of the sculptor, as exactly replicating body parts in a naturalistic artwork does not matter at all. Historical memory and the desire for total accuracy are characteristic of naïve people, and the study of history is characteristic of the vulgar herd. Supermen do not get hung up on historic facts. They completely ignore history, if necessary. Yet Michelangelo and mistakes are not supposed to go together.

  1. “Wow, I've found Michelangelo’s main mistake!” shouted Igor joyfully, and everybody turned to him - turned their faces at least, if not their whole bodies.

“A man’s left testicle is always lower that his right! And here it is vice versa!

“A work of art is not a visual aid in anatomy,” the friend said, elbowing him, “Shut up.”

“Well in that case why are all the other parts of the body represented correctly? Why do only the testicles have to be distorted?!”

“Testicles are only necessary to signify that this is a man. That’s all.”

“But could he not sculpt them correctly?”

“And what now? Should we execute Michelangelo? Or bring a criminal case against him?”

“Realistic work should correspond to reality. This Michelangelo work is a stain on realism.”

“Look at you! You amaze me!”

“Why is the right testicle lower, when the left should be! Please, explain! Or does this have an artistic value?”

“ It could be an accident.”

“Have I not been telling you this all along? I have discovered a five hundred year old mistake!”

“Calm down, we will include your discovery in the Guinness Book of World Records. Let’s go now.”

There are no excuses for Michelangelo making even a minor mistake. When an artist is not creating a work of hyperbole or fantastic invention, even a minor mechanical mistake is considered very serious. A mechanical mistake speaks of ignorance. Yet everything born by fantasy is an embodiment of talent. Michelangelo’s mistake could work against developed socialism. A right testicle lower than the left could have toppled the socialist regime in another country, whereas minimizing the number of similar mistakes in artwork could drive socialism forward. Placing in Pushkin’s Museum a figure with its right testicle lower than its left could also be regarded as democracy, and a positive public phenomenon, as it demonstrates that there are both negative public phenomena and alternatives as well, whereas socialism has to be built on intolerance of any alternative. Tolerance of any alternative society will decline gradually under socialism, but the incorrect representation of the testicles in the Michelangelo figure could trigger the collapse of socialism. This sculpture is harmful for the country. It is interesting - why has nobody noticed this mistake? And physicians in particular. Have they all been wandering into museum halls staring at the ceilings? With open mouths? Gawping? Horrible. This shows that there has not been a single competent physician in the world for centuries. Or that not a single competent physician has seen this sculpture. Only dull doctors have seen it. Or maybe the mistake lay hidden for five hundred years to shine as a lucky star in Igor Zhelezov’s life? Exactly! Michelangelo’s mistake had been waiting for Igor. The mistake, to be more precise, the discovery of the mistake, was predetermined for him. Through the discovery of this mistake mankind will take a great leap forward. Henceforth Michelangelo will not be “circulating” an incorrect opinion about men’s testicles. That’s all. Full stop.

The friend, arm in arm with Igor Zhelezov, took him home. Both had red faces. This was to be expected.

October 2003

Translated from Azeri by Nidgat Mamedov

Dimitri Tedeev

Dimitri Tedeev was born in 1975 in South Ossetia.

From 1994-1999 he was a student at the North Ossetian State University Department of Fine Arts and Draftsmanship. He has held and contributed to various exhibitions since 1999. He is also an author of stories and novels.

Dimitri Tedeev has lived in Moscow since 2001.

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