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Adrian Chivu


Excerpt from

Critics about

Novel, Ego. Prose series, Polirom, 2012, 248 pages

Copyright: Polirom

Translation rights sold to: All rights available

Excerpt from

and before our Romanian lesson Suzana gave the oracle to a boy from class seven and I felt a lump in my throat because I wanted it too and when she was about to pass me I stood in her way and she asked me what’s your name? and I said my name’s Traian Rusu but I’m not Russian and I wanted to ask her to give me the oracle so I could write in it too and I don’t know why but I couldn’t because my mouth went all dry each time I tried to ask her for it and she said my name’s Suzana and I said I know you’re in class seven and you live in the block by the bread shop the same as the Boar and she said yes that’s right and I said I was in class five and I was moving up to class six and she said class six is nice and I didn’t say anything about the oracle and Suzana went away because Mihut from class eight came up to us and Mihut wants to be with Suzana and Suzana likes him and I went back inside the classroom and I sat down on a chair and I told George I introduced myself to Suzana because he likes her too and after we finished our lessons we waited for Suzana so we could walk her home but Mihut came with us and we went to her block and Mihut said I’m going to be a reporter because my dad’s a reporter and George said you won’t have anything to report on until you grow up and Mihut said yes I will just you wait and see and George said you will only if you interview a bunch of coconuts and I laughed because he’d made Mihut look stupid and Mihut asked him have you ever seen a real coconut? and George said no and Mihut said I’ve seen one and Suzana laughed and George shut up and I asked Mihut and did you interview it? and George laughed because Mihut looked stupid again and Mihut asked me have you ever seen a real coconut? and I said no because I’ve never wanted to and Mihut asked me why have you never wanted to? and I told him to ask someone who’s thick and George and I laughed like a hundred devils because Mihut was looking stupid again and Suzana said I’m sure he’ll be a great reporter and when we reached the entrance to her block Mihut kissed her on the cheek and George and I said goodbye Suzana and she said goodbye and after that Mihut went away and the two of us walked as far as the Soviet cemetery which is where we parted because George was going to see a friend of his and I crossed the tramline and walked between the blocks until I got to my street and I saw Romeo at the gate of his house and I said hello Romeo and I asked him is there anything wrong? and he said no but it was obvious there was something wrong and I asked him have you caught syphilis? because that’s what Cip told us that you can catch it by kissing somebody and you can only get rid of it if you have injections and Romeo said let’s go round the back of the house for a bit and I told him hang on I’ll just drop off my satchel and then I’ll come back and he said bring it with you and I said no wait a bit I’ll be right back and I ran home but neither my mother nor sister were there and I left my satchel in the hall I took a piece of cheese from the fridge I stuffed it in my mouth I went outside and I went with Romeo behind the house and Romeo lit a cigarette leaned against a tree and looked at me frowning and I didn’t know what to do and I put my hands in my pockets and I waited for him to say something and he asked me what are you playing at? and we both heard my auntie calling him Romeo Romeo and he said we’ll talk later and he threw away the cigarette and he was going inside but I followed him and asked what do you mean? and he didn’t answer and my auntie’s top lip was swollen and when she saw me she covered her mouth with her hand and I looked away and she asked me how is it going at school? and she lowered her hand and smiled at me and I said all right and she asked me would you like some syrup? and I said yes thanks and I followed her into the kitchen and I jumped up on to a stool and she opened the fridge and took out the bottle of syrup and Romeo asked her from the doorway what do you want? and my auntie told him not to use that tone and Romeo asked her again in the same tone and she said I don’t want anything and if you’ve got something to say and she poured the syrup into my glass and Romeo said I haven’t got anything to say and my auntie told him I would have explained it to you myself and Romeo said I don’t need you to explain anything to me and she asked him what’s wrong with you then? and she turned the tap on and filled the glass and Romeo didn’t say anything and so I told my auntie that Romeo had French-kissed a girl and got syphilis and Romeo gave me such a dirty look that I had to turn away and my auntie stirred the syrup in my glass with a teaspoon and handed me it and Romeo said I’m off to do my history homework and I said if you don’t learn your history you have to repeat the year and Romeo didn’t say anything and I said that’s what our history teacher told us and Romeo glared at me and went out and I remembered the history teacher I had before who looked like a goat and we used to call him Goatie and I remembered how he used to point at his wristwatch and say it was from Switzerland and one day he didn’t come to our history lesson and the headmistress came instead and told us that our history teacher had been beaten up and robbed and when he came back a month or so later he didn’t have the wristwatch any more and it was like he wasn’t all there and he wasn’t the same as he was before and he didn’t stay long and he left our school and my auntie didn’t say anything and I asked her how is uncle? and she said he’s out of town and I asked when is he coming back? and she told me at the end of the week darling and I thanked her for the syrup and I went to Mircea’s house and I gave a wolf howl and Mircea came outside and I said I’ve got something to tell you and he asked what? and I told him about everything I had found out and he said your auntie killed your uncle and buried him your mother helped her that’s why your mother sent you to your auntie’s and I was gobsmacked and he said I bet he’s buried in your garden and he asked are we detectives? and I said yes we are but my knees were trembling and he said we’re going to expose your auntie and we’ll get a reward and when my knees stopped trembling he said I know the exact spot where your uncle is buried and I asked where? and he said under the pear tree in your yard that’s where and we both ran to see whether it was like he said and Mircea told me to bring a spade and I brought the spade and he started digging and when he got tired he gave me the spade and when I got tired I gave him the spade and we dug until we couldn’t dig any more and we sat down on the ground with our feet in the hole and my sister poked her head out of the window and asked what are you doing down there? and I said it’s none of your business and she shouted I’m going to tell mum what you’ve done and I said if you tell her I’ll hit you and Mircea said hi Roxana and my sister answered with a phony smile hi Mircea and she slammed the window shut and drew the curtains and Mircea said it’s just like I thought all along he’s buried in the house and we looked in the house and didn’t find anything and Mircea said I don’t get it and I said my auntie said that uncle is coming back at the end of the week and Mircea said the dead don’t come back and we searched the house once more and in my mother’s bedroom he said this floorboard is crooked and so we pulled it up and then we pulled another one up to make sure he wasn’t there and before he left he said I’m going to think about it and I’ll tell you tomorrow and when my mother came and saw what I’d done she had a fit and my sister butted in and said to my mother I told him not to do it and I said she’s lying mum she didn’t tell me and my sister lost her temper and said you’re a liar because I did tell you and I said you’re the liar because you didn’t tell me and my mother asked why did you pull up the floorboards? and I said I was looking for uncle because you and auntie murdered him and buried him in the house or in the yard we don’t know where and Mircea and I are going to find him and claim a reward and Roxana laughed so hard she made me hopping mad and I said just you wait and see you liar and she asked see what sucker? and my mother said that’s enough stop it Traian fill in that hole and repair the floorboards and as a punishment you’re going to dig the soil around all six fruit trees and I filled in the hole and I dug the soil around all six fruit trees in the yard and I repaired the floorboards as best as I could and I ran as fast as lightning to Mircea’s house and I made a wolf howl and I waited for him to come outside and he asked what’s up? and he said I was eating and I said my mother said that we could look for him wherever we liked except at my house and we’re not allowed in the yard any more and Mircea said he’s not in your yard he’s somewhere else and I asked yes but where? and he said maybe at old man Ilie’s because he doesn’t see very well hang on I’ll be out in a minute and we’ll go to his house and I waited till I got bored stiff waiting and then we went to old man Ilie’s house and old man Ilie asked us whose children might you be? and I said I’m Traian Rusu and my mother’s called Maria and Mircea said my name’s Mircea Muresan and my mother’s called Ileana and old man Ilie said Rusu and Muresan I know you how could I not know you and Mircea asked old man Ilie will you spit up some blood for us? and old man Ilie said yes lad and he hawked up some phlegm and spat out a large clot of blood and we crouched down and Mircea said thanks old man Ilie and he spat but his spit was white and he said look red and white like the Dynamo strip and he laughed like a hundred hens and he said Dynamo are never going to win the championship and I said Red Star is what you put on the Christmas tree and Mircea said they’re European champions and I said no they’re not they only got that far by accident and old man Ilie asked what is it you want from me lads? and Mircea said we’re here because auntie Nuti sent us that’s his auntie and he pointed at me so and she said that you could show us what they did in your yard and old man Ilie asked whose yard did you say? and Mircea said in your yard and old man Ilie couldn’t remember anything and Mircea asked are you going to let us have a look around? and old man Ilie said look all you like lads look all you like and he opened the gate with his walking stick and we looked and we didn’t see anything and the dog was wagging its tail for us to play with him and Mircea went to his kennel and played with him because he really likes dogs and we went out of the yard and Mircea said we didn’t find anything old man Ilie and old man Ilie said there was nothing there to find lads the plums won’t be ripe until autumn and we went to the entrance of Cip’s block and we sat on the steps and Mircea jumped to his feet as if he had ten devils inside him and he said I know where they buried him and I asked where? and he said at old man Barbu’s house that’s where and I said that’s right because old man Barbu is senile and he forgets everything he does and we swear at him and when we pass the same way later he can’t remember that we swore at him and we ask him what are you doing old man Barbu? and he answers I was just repairing something but he doesn’t curse us this time and he speaks nicely and we went to old man Barbu’s house and auntie Carmen was in the yard and I said hello auntie Carmen where’s old man Barbu? and she said he’s sleeping and Mircea said we want to ask him something to see whether it’s true and she said I’m not going to wake him up tell me instead and Mircea asked do you know whether old man Barbu buried his uncle? and he pointed at me and auntie Carmen said say that again and Mircea repeated his question do you know whether old man Barbu buried his uncle the other night? and auntie Carmen asked why would Barbu bury Ion? and Mircea didn’t answer and I didn’t either and auntie Carmen asked us why Ion? and we didn’t say anything and auntie Carmen asked bury him where? and Mircea said here in the yard and auntie Carmen looked at us and her mouth was gaping open and we could see her gold teeth which looked like glow-worms and she made the sign of the cross and said that we shouldn’t wish other people dead and that we should leave her father alone because he’s in a sorry enough state as it is and we left and Mircea said old man Barbu is a good man that’s what people ought to be like they shouldn’t hold grudges but auntie Carmen is like the devil and he took a notebook and a pen from his pocket and he started to write something and I asked him what are you writing? and he said I’m writing down clues and information and I asked what have we found out up to now? and he said I’ve eliminated two theories and I said aha aha and he said they didn’t bury him at old man Barbu’s house because auntie Carmen is too much of a devil to have let them and it wasn’t at old man Ilie’s house and we went to the entrance of Cip’s block but there wasn’t anybody there and Mircea said they’ve gone off somewhere around the neighbourhood and I said let’s go find them and he said no I’m going home and I said all right then I’m going home too because I didn’t feel like searching the neighbourhood for them on my own and we parted ways and Mircea called after me Traian and I shouted back yes and he said I know where they buried your uncle and I asked where? and he shouted I’ll tell you tomorrow bye and when I got back home my mother started nagging me about whether I’d done my homework and I said I’m going to do it now and I asked where’s Roxana? and she said she’s at Madalina’s and she asked are you hungry? and I said yes and she said well then wash your hands and come to the table

 

Translated by Alistair Ian Blyth



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