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Lidia Vianu - Director of CTITC (CENTRE FOR THE TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE CONTEMPORARY TEXT), Bucharest University, Professor of Contemporary British Literature at the English Department of Bucharest University, Member of the Writers’ Union, Romania.

 

 
 
 
 
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CTITC

CENTRE FOR THE TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE CONTEMPORARY TEXT
CENTRUL PENTRU TRADUCEREA SI INTERPRETAREA TEXTULUI CONTEMPORAN

 

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 TRANSLATION CAFÉ 


 

CTITC
CENTER FOR THE TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE CONTEMPORARY TEXT

MTTLC
MA Programme for the TRANSLATION OF THE CONTEMPORARY LITERARY TEXT

 

TRANSLATION
CAFÉ



Review of Contemporary Texts in Translation and E-Learning



 

                                                       Nr. 9/June 1, 2007




 

Director: LIDIA VIANU

© CTITC
    MTTLC

 

 

ISSN 1842 – 9149

Issue Editor: Dorina Palade

These translations are an online seminar of literary translation, part of Lidia Vianu’s course [Guide to Contemporary Literature and Its Translation], and a session of E-Learning in the MA Programme for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text, directed by Lidia Vianu.
The texts have also been discussed in translation group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/translationcafe/

 

CONTENTS

Guest Writer: NICHITA DANILOV

Translations from NICHITA DANILOV by Dorina Palade and Ehren Schimmel




 

 

NICHITA DANILOV

Cateva cuvinte...


Munca scriitorului se asemana, īntrucītva, cu cea a exporatorului care īnainteaza, folosindu-se de maceta, prin jungla tropicala... Cuvintele te napadesc din toate partile. Trebuie sa fii extrem de atent ca imaginile care īti apar īn fata ochilor sa nu te sufoce. Trebuie sa ai un reper. Sa fii calauzit de o idee. Altfel risti sa te īnvīrti īn cerc. Trecerea de la un gen la altul pentru un scriitor e un fenomen natural. Īnaintīnd prin jungla, exploratorul simte nevoia unui scurt popas. Drept care, se opreste īn loc si īsi aprinde o tigara. Ei bine, abia acum el are ocazia, īn scurtul sau ragaz, sa priveasca īn jur si sa se minuneze de frumusetea lumii. Acesta-i momentul revelatiei poetice. Apoi mai vine si un popas de seara, cīnd aprinde un foc si mediteaza la lucrul sau. Atunci īn constiinta sa se produc mutatii. E momentul īn care se releva de la sine si proza si poezia. Cu romanul e mai greu. Acolo e vorba de o munca asidua si perseverenta. Inspiratia trebuie tinuta mereu la o anumita temperatura. Sīnt pasaje care se scriu greu. Lucrezi la ele ca si cum ai ciopli un tunel īn stīnca. Altele vin de la sine. Se spune ca momentul cel mai dificil pentru un scriior e atunci cīnd se decide sa se aseze la masa de scris. si asta este. Scriitorul amīna mereu acest act. Dar la un moment dat, nu mai are īncotro. Constiinta īl obliga sa se aplece asupra colii albe de hīrtie din fata sa. Īn momentul cīnd a depasit acest prag psihologic s-ar putea ca sa iasa ceva. S-ar putea sa nu iasa nimic. Frumusetea muncii lui consta īn aceea ca se bazeaza pe hazard, dar si pe cunoastere umana.

 

 

 

NICHITA DANILOV

 

A Few Words...


To a certain extent, the writer’s work is similar to that of the explorer who advances through the tropical jungle using a plan...The words storm you from everywhere. You must be extremely careful so that the images which appear in front of your eyes do not suffocate you. You should have a guide mark. You should be led by an ideea. Otherwise you go round in circles. For a writer, transition from one genre to another is a natural phenomena. Advancing through the jungle, the explorer feels the need of a short break. Reason for which he stops and lights a cigarette. Well, only now, during this short rest, does he have the opportunity to look around and wonder about the beauty of the world.This is the moment of poetic revelation. Then an evening rest comes too, when he makes a fire and meditates on his work.Then mutations take place in his conscience. It is the moment when poetry and prose reveal themselves. With a novel it is more difficult. It is dealing with an assiduous and perseverent work. Inspiration must always be maintained at a certain temperature.There are passages that are hard to write.You write them as if you were cutting a tunnel through the rock. Others come naturally.It is said that the most difficult moment for a writer is when he decides to sit down and write. And that’s it. The writer is always postponing this act.But at a certain moment he has no choice. His conscience forces him to lean over the white sheet of paper in front of him. The moment he goes beyond this psychological threshold something might come out of it. Or not.The beauty of his work consists in his reliance on hazard and human knowledge.

 

Translation by Dorina Palade

   

NICHITA DANILOV

Anghilele

Pe poetul Evgheni Rein l-am reīntīlnit la Galoway, pe tarmul Atlanticului, īn apropiere de celebrul turn Basel, cladit din caroseriile masinilor uzate si ale celor care suferisera o avarie mai mare sau mai mica, pe soselele vesnic umede ale Irlandei. Primaria orasului le oferea proprietarilor sau mostenitorilor (īn cazul unor accidente soldate cu deces) o recompensa, reprezentīnd a zecea parte din valoarea autovehiculului. Turnul era, de fapt, un cimitir de masini, stivuite cu grija, o opera postmoderna a unui arhitect excentric, un admirator al lui Dali, ridicata pe malul Oceanului, avīnd menirea sa serveasca pe timp de noapte drept reper pentru navele aflate īn larg (turnul era dotat cu reflectoare, confectionate din vechile faruri), iar ziua ca un punct de atractie pentru turistii veniti sa viziteze orasul. Sīmbata si duminica seara se adunau aici grupuri de tineri, unii aprindeau focul, altii cīntau la chitara, acompaniati de imensele valuri ce se rostogoleau din larg. Vīntul puternic declansa claxoanele turnului, care, la rīndul lor, puneau īn functiune o parte din motoarele vechilor automobile, ce fusesera reparate cu grija, farurile se aprindeau si ele brusc, conferind de la departare constructiei aspectul unei nave cosmice ce se pregatea sa decoleze spre alte civilizatii. Luminile si zgomotele atrageau pescarusii adormiti īn cuiburile cladite printre caroserii, dar si cīrduri de rate salbatice si multimea de lebede ce īnoptau īn apele īnspumate ale rīului Carrib Walkway, ce se varsau rotindu-se lent īn ocean. Tinerii petrecareti īi alungau agitīndu-si mīinile īn aer sau aruncīnd īn sus cutiile de bere golite si umplute nisip si scoici.


Erau orele sase dimineata. Dupa o noapte de nesomn, iesisem sa-mi fac obisnuita promenada matinala. Plimbīndu-ma pe promontoriu, īncercam sa-mi adun gīndurile si sa-mi linistesc bataile inimii, care, din pricina oboselii acumulate, īmi zvīcnea din ce īn ce mai neregulat īn tīmple. Petrecerea de peste noapte luase sfīrsit. Rīnd pe rīnd, tinerii se īmprastiasera pe la cesele lor. Motoarele si claxoanele se linistisera si ele. Iar lebedele īsi reluasera locul īn piesaj.


Līnga turn, mai ramasese un singur “oaspete”: Evgheni Rein. Purta o sapca īn carouri si un trenci alb, pe care vīntul īncerca din rasputeri sa-l smulga de pe trup. Pantofii sai de lac, cu sireturile desfacute, zaceau pe botul botit al unui automobil Rolls Royce, ce suferise un accident, la Dublin, īn anul 1921. Poetul statea cu pantolonii suflecati si picioarele abandonate īn valuri. Ochii sai obositi contempalu oceanul. Din trabucul aprins o suvita albastrie de fum se ridica plutind peste caroseriile umede ale vechilor automobile, napadide de o multime de cuiburi de pescausi si ierburi. Semana cu un detectiv - sau asa mi l-am īnchiuit eu - desprins din romanele lui Conal Doyle, un Sherlock Holmes obosit, ajuns la capatul unui caz dificil, enigmatic, a carui dezlegare se lasa īnca asteptata. Vazīndu-l adīncit īn meditatie, am dat sa-l ocolesc, dar poetul īmi facut semn sa ma apropii. Cīnd am ajuns la cītiva pasi de el, am vazut ca picioarele sale neobisnuit de subtiri fusesera acoperite de moluste si alge marine. Oare de cīt timp statea aici Evgheni Rein?!
- Am venit aici acum o ora. Dar o ora petrecuta pe malul unui ocean e la fel de lunga ca un secol. Spunīnd acestea, poetul īmi īntinse o tabachera.
- Cum numai de o ora, Evgheni Borisovici? am excamat aproape involuntar, tradaīndu-mi nedumerirea. Dar cutiile astea? Dar sticlele?
- Nu sīnt doar opera mea, s-au mai perindat si altii pe aici. E drept, ca īn noaptea aceasta am petrecut, dar nu aici, īn alta parte. Fumezi, Nichita? ma īntreba? Am clatinat din cap ca nu. Oricum, ia o tigara. Sīnt foarte bune. Le-am cumparat de Los Angeles, unde am fost acum o saptamīna. O vei fuma la Iasi, pe malul Bahluiului...
Amanunte acestea m-au mirat. Cum de retinuse Evgheni Rein numele orasului de unde veneam si mai ales numele rīului ce traverseaza dulcele nostru tīrg?!


- Memoria nu m-a parasit cu totul, se confesa Rein. Cu cīt īmbatrīnesc mai mult, cu atīt īmi aduc aminte de mai multe. Deseori ma trezesc vorbind despre lucruri si oameni pe care nu i-am cunoscut. Traiesc uneori strania senzatie ca fragmente de timp si de spatiu se rup din bolta cerurilor si-mi invadeaza creierul īn momentele de oboseala. Cred ca exista unele momente cīnd mintea noastra devine extrem de receptiva. Fiecare atom, fiecare particula ce ne-nconjoaa au īmagazinate īn ele toate faptele ce s-au petrecut īn lume din momentul nasterii si pīna-n momentul mortii lor. si acum aceste fapte se perpetueaza ca un ecou īn haul cosmic care se onduleaza deasupra noastra ca un ocean, ca un vīrtej, ca un fel de nebunie...


Evgheni Rein trase fumul adīnc īn piept, apoi īl slobozi spre turn. Īn ciuda vīntului care sufla dinpre larg, fumul nu se risipi īn aer, ci se aduna īntr-o singura suvita albastrie, ce se ridica īncet de la baza spre vīrful insolitului far.


- Turnul acesta-i un simbol. Nu īntīmplator ne aflam aici īn preajma lui. E un nou Babel...
- Sīnt profund uimit de cele ce mi-ati spus, am īngīnat.
- Am sa-ti povestesc acum de-un caz, de cazul Balanzaizis. E o poveste neobisnuita... Dar sa trec la subiect. Īn Letonia, apropiere de Palanga se afla un sat īn care majoritatea familiilor se ocupau cu pescuitul. Pescuiau heringi si guvizi. Dar īndeleptnicirea acesta nu le aducea cine stie ce cīstig. Norocul cel mare venea odata pe an, cīnd soseau anghilele. Anghilele sīnt pesti bizari, care au un comportament enigmatic. Vreme de cīteva decenii ihtologii i-au studiat īndeaproape, dar nu au reusit sa īnteleaga decīt o mica parte din misterul care īnvaluie aceasta specie de pesti. Lavrele anghilelor se nasc īn Marea Sargasselor, īn apropiere de Cuba, unde adultii īsi depun, icrele dupa care mor. Larvele lor, purtate de curentul cald al Golfstromului, ajung, dupa o calatorie (care dureaza doi sau patru ani) īn fluviile ce uda tarmul european. La maturitate, anghilele se aduna īn bancuri si iau calea īntoarsa, strabatīnd īn sens invers Atlanticul. Pescuitul acestor pesti este o īndeletnicire pe cīt de rentabila, pe atīt de dificla. Instinctul de conservare al acestor pesti e de-a dreptul uluitor. Programul lor genetic functioaza ca un mecanism perfect. Anghila stie locul unde urmeaza sa-si depuna icrele si īsi conserve toata energia pentru a ajunge acolo. Nu stiu de ce, dar migratia anghilelor īmi aduce aminte de exodul lui Moise. Īmi īnchipui Golfstromul ca pe o biblie cu pagini curgatoare. Larvele sīnt ca niste litere ce pluteasc dintr-o parte īn alta a Atlanticului. Noaptea corpul lor electrizat pare sa transmita semnale luminoase marilor constelatii ce rotetesc deasupra Oceanului. De multe ori am facut o anologie īntre migratia pasarilor si cea a acestei specii de pesti. Pasarile cunosc locurile de unde vin si pleaca. Exemplarele tinere sīnt initiate de adulti. Experienta se transmite din generatie īn generatie. Anghilele sīnt mult mai misterioase. Codul lor genetic e si mai greu de descifrat. Dar se ne īntoarcem acum la cazul Balanzaizis.


Pescarii care reusesc sa descopere secretul anghilelor se īmbogatesc. De fapt, secretul īn ce consta? Īn fiecare an, anghilele trag la alta momeala. Balanthaizis era tatal unei familii destul de īnstarite. Mestesugul pescuitulului īl desprinsese din mosi stramosi. La rīndul sau īi īnvatase pe cei doi fii ai sai, Leons si Briedis, cīte ceva din tainele acestei meserii. Īntr-o noapte s-a īntīmplat īnsa nenoricirea. Batrīnul Balanzaizis a plecat pe mare si nu s-a mai īntors. Iesind īn larg, s-a stīrnit un vīnt neasteptat, barca s-a rasturnat si batrīnul a fost īnghitit de valuri. Familia a īncercat sa gaseasca trupul tatalui īnghitit de valuri. Cei doi fii, scormonind fundul marii īn preajma stīncilor, au reusit sa descopere cadavrul aflat īn putrefactie: trupul tatalui misuna de anghile. Cei doi fii au ramas īnmarmuriti. Tatal lor mort le aducea īn dar o adevarata comoara. Nimeni din sat, cu toate īncercarile, nu reusise sa pescuiasca nici o anghila, iar ei aproape ca umplusera barca cu prada lor. Briedis si Leonis erau fericiti. Recuperasera trupul tatalui din mare. si odata cu el descoperisera si secretul anghilelor: īn acel an anghilele erau sensibile la carnea de cadavru. Acum uitīndu-se unul la altul, fratii se īntrebau ce ar trebui sa faca cu marfa? Anghilele se īnfruptasera din carnea tatalui lor, acum oricine ar fi mīncat aghile, ar fi pacatuind mīncīnd din carnea lui Balanzaizis. Gramada de bani pe care ar fi putut sa cīstige le juca īn fata ochilor. Leons fu de parere sa-l īngroape, dar fratele sau clatina din cap. "Tatal nostru ne trimite un semn; ar fi pacat sa-i refuzam darul," spuse Briedis. "Eu mai degraba cred ca Necuratul cauta sa duca īn ispita", facu Leons, cu inima īndoita. " Fratele sau īl convinse īnsa ca mormīntul cel mai bun pentru un pescar e marea. "Decīt sa-l manīnce viermii, mai bine se hranesc pestii din el..." "Ce se va īntīmpla īnsa daca un astfel de peste va nimeri īn plasa unui semen de-al nostru?" "Ce-o sa se īntīmple? replica Briedis. Murind, tatal lor īnviase. O parte din carnea sa era vie. Sufletul sau vietuia īn sutele de anghile care-i napadisera cadavrul. Dar probabil dorinta sa e una mult mai mare. Poate ca sufletul sau vroia sa populeze nu numai aceste nevinovate vietuitoare, poate vroia sa sa salasluiasca īn carnea semenilor sai?! Ajuns cu logica aici, Briedis īi reminti de-o veche legenda letona īn care fii manīnca inima tatalui lor mort ca sa-i pastreze viu sufletul īn piept. Leons dadu a lehamite din umeri. Fratele sau avea o fire atīt de īncapatīnata, īncīt daca-i intra ceva īn cap nu mai aveai scapare. Īn afara de aceasta. īl atragea si pe el cīstigul. Īn sfīrsit, fratii se ciorovaira īntre ei si pīna la urma cazura la pace. Hotarīra sa pastreze secretul doar pentru ei. De altefl, ce ar fi spus lumea daca ar fi aflat ca navodul si momeala la care pescuisc Leons si Briedis este un cadavru? si īnca nu orice fel de cadavru, ci cadavrul tatal lor cazut prada marii! Fratii īnsa se mai temeau īnca de un lucru: de "concurenta".... Cīstigul i-ar fi putut tenta si pe altii. Dar cum sa-ti spun: de ceea ce te temi nu scapi. Īntr-o seara, Leons se duse la cīrciuma si se īmbata crunt. La betie, īi povesti unui prieten toata tarasenia. Drept care, dupa vreo doua zile pe mare mai aparu un pescar de anghile. Prietenul īsi facuse curaj si dezgropīnd un mort din cimitir īl folosea acum drept momeala. Īn sat lumea īncepu sa faca fel de fel de presupuneri. Multi se īntrebau: ce momeala pun īn navodul lor fratii Balanthaizis ca prind atīta peste? Lumea īncepu sa-i pīndeasca asunsa printre stīnci. Curīnd secretul deveni al tuturor. si atunci se īntīmpla un fapt uluitor, īncetul cu īncetul mortii din cimitir luau calea marii. Īl locul lor, satenii asezau īn sicriu niste mogīldete umplute cu paie si fīn. Cum se īntuneca, barbatii ieseau īn larg. Unii pescuiau la lumina felinarelor, altii foloseau lanterne si altii lumīnari. Se apropia Pastele. Sezonul de pesuit era īn toi. Ca un facut, marea fierbea de anghile. Abundenta de marfa alarmase autoritatile, care-si trimisera iscodele īn sat. Urmara cercetarile. Īn saptamīna Pastelui īntreg satul era pus pe jar. A avut loc o expertiza. S-au facut deshumnari. Īn curīnd a urmat procesul. Nu era usor sa judeci īntreg satul... Asta pe de-o parte. Pe de alta parte, nici autoritatile nu vroiau ca povestea cu cadavrele sa ajunga īn presa straina. Anghilele luau calea exportului. Ajungeau īn Germania, īn Suedia si Olanda. Prin urmare, scandalul putea lua proportii internationale. Asa ca pīna la urma, autritatile au īnchis ochii. cazul a fost musamalizat. Singurii care au avut de suferit, au fost fratii Balanthaizis. Amīndoi au fost condamnati la ani grei de lagar. Rein rasufla adīnc. Ochii sai obositi scrutara orizontul. O cuta adīnca īi brazda fruntea. Poetul arunca o privire spre mine si spuse:
- si totusi povestea anghilelor nu se termina aici. De ce nu ma īntrebi cer s-a īntīmplat cu ele? Unde au ajuns? Ei, bine au ajuns īn burta unor oameni respectabili. si care a fost efectul? Efectul a fost unul uluitor. Blanthaisis suferise de cancer la plamīni. Zilele lui erau numarate. Exista chiar banuiala ca batrīnul īsi pusese capat zilelor. Ei, bine, si aici intervine elementul miraculos. Conform relatarilor aparute īn presa vremii, s-a constat ca īn proportie de 80% din pacientii care sufereau de aceasta boala s-au vindecat consumīnd carnea de anhila. Īn ei sufletul batrīnului prindea o noua viata...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NICHITA DANILOV

 

THE EELS

I met the poet Evgheni Rein again in Galoway, on the Atlantic shore, close to the famous Basel Tower which is built from the bodywork of old vehicles that had been more or less damaged on the ever humid highways of Ireland. The City Hall offered the owners or the heirs (in case the driver was killed in the accident) a reward— about 10% of the car cost. The tower was, in fact, a scrapyard carefully piled up, a postmodern work of an eccentric architect, an admirer of Dali, built on the shores of the ocean, destined to be like a beacon for the ships out at sea at night (the tower was equipped with reflectors, made of the old lights) and by day as a place of interest for the tourists who came to visit the town. On Saturday and Sunday evenings groups of young people gathered here; some lit a fire, others played the guitar accompanied by the immense waves rolling onto the beach. Strong winds made the horns resound which, in turn, made part of the engines of old vehicles work. They had been carefully repaired. The lights suddenly turned on so that, from a distance, the tower looked like a spaceship, ready to take off to other civilizations. The lights and sounds lured not only the seagulls, that fell asleep in their nests among the bodywork, but also the flocks of wild ducks and the hosts of swans that spent their night in the foamy Carrib Walkway River whose waters, rolling slowly, flew into the ocean. The fun loving youngsters chased them away waving their hands up in the air or throwing up empty beer cans filled with sand and shells.
It was six o’clock in the morning. After a sleepless night I went out to have my usual morning stroll. While walking on the promontory, I tried to put my thoughts together and calm my beating heart, which was causing my temples to throb, more and more irregularly from fatigue. The all-night party had finished. One by one the young people had gone back to their houses. The engines and the horns had also quieted. And the swans had reclaimed their place in the landscape.
Next to the tower, only one “guest” remained: Evgheni Rein. He was wearing a checkered cap and a white trenchcoat that the wind was trying to tear off with great force. His patent-leather shoes, laces untied, lay on the crumpled hood of a Rolls Royce that had had an accident in Dublin, in 1921. The poet was standing, with his trouser legs rolled up and his feet abandoned to the waves. His tired eyes contemplated the ocean. From his cigar a trace of blue smoke was floating up above the humid bodywork of old vehicles, filled with gull nests and grass. He looked like a detective— or at least that’s how I imagined him— out of Conan Doyle’s novels, a tired Sherlock Holmes arriving at the end of a difficult and mysterious case whose solution was still a ways off. Seeing him deep in meditation, I intended to avoid him, but the poet motioned for me to come over. When I was a few steps away, I noticed that his unusually thin legs were covered with mollusks and sea weeds. How long had Evgheni Rein been staying there?!
-I came here an hour ago. But an hour spent on the shores of an ocean lasts as long as a century. While saying this, the poet stretched out his hand and gave me a cigarette case.
-Only one hour, Evgheni Borisovici? I exclaimed almost involuntarily, revealing my astonishment. What about these boxes? And the bottles?
-I wasn’t the only one here, there were others, too. True, I partied all night long, but not here, somewhere else. Do you smoke, Nichita?, he asked me. I shook my head no. Anyway, take one. They’re very good. I bought them in Los Angeles where I was a week ago. You’ll smoke it in Iasi, on the banks of the Bahlui River…

These details astounded me. How was it possible for him to remember not only the name of the city I came from but even the name of the river that crosses our nice, little town?
-My memory still serves me well, confessed Rein. The older I get, the more things I can remember. I often find myself talking about things and people I’ve never met. I sometimes have the strange feeling that pieces of time and space detach themselves from the vault of heaven and storm my brain in times of exhaustion. I think there are moments when our mind becomes especially receptive. Each atom, each particle surrounding us has within them all the events that have taken place from the moment of their birth to the moment of their death. And now, these events resound like an echo inside the cosmic emptiness and reverberate above us like an ocean, like a whirlwind, a kind of madness…
Evgheni Rein drew the smoke deep into his chest then released it towards the tower. Despite the wind blowing from the sea, the smoke didn’t dissipate into the air, but gathered in one single bluish thread, rising up from the base to the top of the lighthouse.
-This tower is a symbol. There’s a reason we find ourselves here, in its midst. It’s a new Babel…
-I’m very impressed with what you’ve told me, I mumbled.
-I’m going to tell you a story now, the story of the Balanzaizis. It’s a strange story… But let me begin. In Latvia, not far from Palanga, there was a village where most of the families earned their living from fishing. They fished for herring and sea gudgeon. They didn’t get much of it. They hit it big once a year when the eels came. The eels are a strange sort of fish, with unpredictable behavior. For several decades, ichthyologists studied them closely but could only understand them somewhat. They’re a mysterious species. The eel larvae are born in the Sargasso Sea, close to Cuba, where the adults deposit their spawn and then die. Driven by the Gulfstream, their larvae reach European waters after (a voyage which can last somewhere between two and four years). When they are mature, the eels gather in shoals and then cross the Atlantic all the way back. Fishing the eels is a profitable business, but it is equally difficult. Their instinct of self-preservation is simply amazing. Their genetic instincts work like a well-oiled machine. The eel knows the place to spawn and preserves all its energy to get there. I don’t know why, but the migration of the eels reminds me of Moses’ exodus. I imagine the Gulfstream as a Bible with flowing pages. The larvae are like letters which float from one side of the Atlantic to the other. By night, their electrified bodies seem to send bright signals to the great constellations rotating above the ocean. Many times I’ve drawn an analogy between the migration of birds and that of the eels. The birds know where they’re coming from and where they’re going. The young ones are initiated by the adults. Experience is handed down from one generation to the next. The eels are much more mysterious. Their genetic code is even more difficult to decipher. But let’s get back to the story of the Balanzaizis.
Those fishermen, who managed to discover the secret of the eels, got rich. So what was their secret? Every year, the eels nibbled at a different bait. Balanzaizis was the father of a rather well-to-do family. He learned how to fish from his ancestors. In turn, he had taught his two sons, Leons and Briedis, a few things about the secrets of the craft. One night, however, something tragic happened. The old Balanzaizis went out to sea and never came back. Out in the ocean, an unexpected wind began to blow, the boat capsized and the old man was engulfed by the waves. The family tried to find the body of their father who was engulfed by the waves. Searching the bottom of the sea, close by the rocks, his two sons were able to find the putrefied corpse: their father’s body was teeming with eels. The two sons were stunned. Their dead father had brought them a real treasure. No one in the village, despite all their efforts, had managed to catch even one eel, and now they could almost fill the boat with their catch. Briedis and Leons were happy. They had recovered their father’s body from the sea. And at the same time, they discovered the secret of the eels: that year they were attracted to the meat of dead bodies. Looking at each other, the two brothers asked each other what they should do with the catch. The eels had feasted on the flesh of their father’s body, now everyone who would eat the eels, would be sinfully eating the flesh of Balanzaizis. The pile of money they could make was dancing in front of their eyes. Leons suggested they should bury him, but his brother shook his head. “Our father gave us a sign; it would be a pity to refuse his gift” Briedis said. “Instead, I think that we are being tempted by the Evil one,” replied Leons with a heavy heart. His brother convinced him that the best grave for a fisherman is out at sea. “Rather than worms getting to him, it’s better to give his body for the fish.” “What will happen if one of these fish is caught by one of our fishermen?” “And what if?”, answered Briedis. Their dead father rose again. Part of his flesh was alive. His soul lived in the hundreds of eels that flooded his body. But, in all likelihood, his wish is a much greater one. Maybe his soul wanted to inhabit not only these harmless creatures, but also live in the flesh of his fellow beings?! With his logic, Briedis reminded his brother of an old Latvian legend when the two sons ate the heart of their dead father to keep his soul alive. Leons shivered with disgust. His brother was so naturally stubborn that once he had an idea in his head, there was no getting it out. And besides, money was weighing on him, too. The two brothers quarreled, but eventually came to an agreement. They decided to keep the secret to themselves. And then what would people say when they found out that the fishing net and the bait Leons and Briedis used was a dead body? And not any dead body, but that of their father swallowed by the sea! The two brothers were equally afraid of something else: of “rivalry”… their success might tempt the others. And how shall I put it: you can’t escape what you are afraid of. One evening, Leons went to the tavern, got dead drunk and told the whole story to a friend. Consequently, in a couple of days, another fisherman appeared to fish eels. The friend had the nerve to exhume a corpse from the cemetery and was using it as bait. People in the village began making all kind of suppositions. Many were asking themselves what the Balanzaizis brothers were using to catch so many fish. People began spying them, hidden among the rocks. Soon everybody knew their secret. And then something remarkable happened: little by little, dead bodies from the cemetery were taken to the sea. In the empty coffins, the villagers put some dummies filled with straw and hay. When it got dark, the fishermen went out to sea. Some of them were fishing by the light of their oil lamps, others by lanterns and still others by the candlelight. Easter was approaching. Fishing season was in full swing and, as it happened, the sea was full of eels. The abundance of goods alerted the authorities, who sent investigators to the village. Inquiries followed. During Easter week, the whole village was in turmoil and a general investigation took place. Bodies were disinterred. Soon the trial began. On one hand,it wasn’t easy to judge the whole village… On the other hand, the authorities also did not want the story of the corpses to reach the foreign press. The eels were being exported. They reached Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands. Therefore, the scandal could have international implications. Eventually, the authorities turned a blind eye to it. The case was buried. The Balanzaizis brothers were the only ones held to account. Both were sentenced to years in prison. Rein took a deep breath. His tired eyes scanned the horizon. A deep wrinkle furrowed his brow. The poet cast an eye on me and said:
- And yet, the story with the eels doesn’t end here. Why don’t you ask me what happened to them?. Where did they end up?. Well, they got into the belly of some respectable people. And what effect did this have? A dramatic one. Balanzaizis had suffered from lung cancer. His days were numbered. There was even the suspicion that the old man committed suicide. But here is where the miraculous part comes in. According to the newspaper accounts of the time, they found that 80% of the patients that suffered from this illness cured themselves by eating eels. Inside them the old man’s soul was giving new life…

 

Translated by Dorina Palade and Ehren Schimmel
Part of the agreement between Ehren Schimmel and Lidia Vianu, within CTITC

 

 

 

 

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