cărţi cu Roberto Kuzmanovic și Bibliocărţi

         Pe cei de la Bibliocărţi i-am cunoscut în 2013, când se aflau încă la început de drum. O echipă extraordinară cu care mi-a plăcut să lucrez, o echipă care nu face decât să crească, oferind o experienţă plăcută cititorilor săi și căutând să satisfacă gusturi literare dintre cele mai diverse.

           Se spune că o carte deschide porţi ce altfel nu s-ar deschide. Călătorul ce bate pagini cu semnul de carte află mai multe mai repede și mai puţin costisitor decât turistul ce bate drumul înarmat c-un toiag și-o hartă. Cu toate acestea, unii spun[1] că o carte este întotdeauna provincială. Nucleul textului, esenţa, vine dintr-un loc mic: din blocul 3d spre exemplu, aflat în Crângași, colţ cu Ion Mihalache – fostul 1 Mai. Cu toate acestea, locul mic astfel descris devine punctul de origine al unei povești universale, care transcede graniţele orașelor și limbilor, vorbind în graiul autentic al celor ce rezonează cu povestea. Şi-apoi ce-i mai frumos decât să afli cu atât de puţin efort c-au mai fost și alţii în povești similare cu a ta? Cartea umple casa, sufletul și mintea cu poveste, alungând în cotloane și firide prăfuite îndoiala, frica și singurătatea.

            Apoi, sunt două feluri de oameni pe lume: cei ce citesc și cei ce se gândesc la asta. Pentru primii, cât și pentru cei din urmă, există biblioteca. Iar de la o vreme biblioteca a devenit și mai accesibilă, locuind mai puţin în stradă și mai mult în online. Diverse proiecte, oficiale, alternative sau de underground, caută să aducă cititul pe ecranul fiecăruia, oferind un spaţiu virtual în care utilizatorii pot “răsfoi” o carte sau pot citi recenzia alteia. Astăzi ne vom opri asupra unui astfel de proiect alternativ, Bibliocărţi pe numele său, condus de-o echipă frumoasă și foarte muncitoare, hotărâtă să ofere calitate cititorilor săi.

           Bibliocărţi a luat fiinţă în 2013 ca o nouă versiune, mai mare și mai vitează, a “Bibliotecii Prăfuite” găzduite odinioară de blogspot. Astăzi, proiectul a trecut de pragul de zece mii de fani pe facebook și continua să atragă cititori pe www.bibliocarti.com.

Calea către inima unei femei trece prin librărie (sau bibliotecă)

          În spatele proiectului se află Roberto Kuzmanovic, un clujean destoinic de 21 de ani; om fain și cu vorba molcomă care, crezând c-ar fi loc de mai bine în oferta românească de cărţi și recenzii online, s-a pus pe treabă și a alcătuit un plan și-o echipă de oameni care să-i împărtășească viziunea și să ajute Bibliocărţi să crească și să devină cu fiecare zi mai bun.

Roberto Kuzmanovic

          Şi tocmai pentru că este un om fain și destoinic, Roberto a acceptat să răspundă la câteva întrebări legate de proiectul simpatic pe care l-a ticluit alături de echipă. Şi pentru că nu știam de unde-ncepe, am decis să-l întrebăm ce cărţi îi plac:

            Roberto, există pe rafturile Bibliocărţi vreo carte anume pe care s-o fi citit înainte și de care îţi aduci cu drag aminte? Sau vreo scenă dintr-o carte pe care-ai vrea s-o-mparţi cu noi?

          Tipurile de cărți pe care le citesc acum nu se găsesc încă integral pe Bibliocărți, însă o să apară în timp. Există însă un titlu,  Schimbând gândirea îţi schimbi viaţa, de Brian Tracy pe care îl recomand oricui. O carte care te ajută să vezi din altă perspectivă viața și mintea omului, o carte care te ajută să îți ridici moralul, să îți schimbi viața prin simplu fapt că îți arată cum mintea ta poate fi deschisă spre orizonturi mult mai largi, o carte care te poate face să devii fericit.

          Un fragment care mi-a atras atenția și m-a impulsionat a fost:

          Gândurile tale determină imagini, reprezentări și emoţiile asociate, așadar, cu ceea ce ai în minte. Aceste vizualizări și trăiri determină atitudini și acţiuni. Faptele tale au apoi consecinţe și rezultate care influenţeaza evenimentele ulterioare.

          Dacă te vei gândi la succes și încredere, te vei simţi puternic și competent și vei avea rezultate mai bune în tot ceea ce faci. Dar în cazul în care te vei gândi ca poţi greși sau să te faci de râs, vei obţine rezultate slabe, indiferent de cât de bun ești în realitate.

          Fragmentul subliniază importanţa modului de a gândi, iar dacă ești o persoană neîmplinită, îți sugerează că ar trebui să-ți schimbi mentalitatea în abordarea obstacolelor apărute în cale.

            Dac-ar fi să explici în trei cuvinte de ce ţi-a plăcut scena respectivă, care-ar fi cuvintele pe care le-ai folosi?

          Descoperire, schimbare, acțiune!

            De ce-ai ales să deschizi o bibliotecă online?

            Aveam acasă o bibliotecă moștenită în care stăteau vreo 40-50 de cărți și pe care nimeni nu o băga în seamă. Era plină de praf. Acolo erau și volumele de poezii de Eminescu care m-au atras foarte mult. (Așa am început eu să citesc) Făceam curățenie și m-am gândit că mi-ar plăcea să o extind. Mi-ar plăcea să povestesc cu alte persoane despre cărțile citite. Atunci mi-a venit prima dată ideea unei biblioteci online. M-am interesat, am căutat pe internet și am văzut că lumea pare a fi interesată. Așa a luat naștere blogul Biblioteca Prăfuită. Mi-a plăcut, am fost motivat să citesc mai mult, să povestesc mai mult, să scriu mai mult și cel mai important, am descoperit o lume frumoasă a cărților. Mi-am dezvoltat tot mai mult ideea, am văzut și greșelile făcute la început și mi-am dat seama că merită să continui. Am continuat cu Bibliocărți.com care a devenit adevărata bibliotecă online pe care mi-o doream.

          Am fost atât de atras încât a devenit dintr-o idee, o adevărată pasiune.

            Cât de mare speri să ajungă Bibliocărţi?

            De la o pasiune a devenit principala mea ocupație! Sper să ajungă cel mai mare site de lectură din România și nu numai.

Gândurile tale determină imagini, reprezentări și emoţiile asociate, așadar, cu ceea ce ai în minte. Aceste vizualizări și trăiri determină atitudini și acţiuni. Faptele tale au apoi consecinţe și rezultate care influenţeaza evenimentele ulterioare.

             Ce înseamnă cititul pentru tine? Este lectura  pentru fiecare sau numai pentru unii?

         Lectura este pentru fiecare, de ce n-ar fi? La fel cum muzica este pentru oricine. Lectura are beneficii importante care n-ar trebui să fie neglijate. Trebuie doar să vrei să citești!

          Pentru mine cititul înseamnă mult. La fel ca sportul. Eu eram genul de copil care mergea la liceu cu cărți din bibliotecă, nicidecum cu manualele școlare. Citesc ca să învăț și să descopăr mai multe, citesc ca să mă relaxez, citesc pentru că știu, vreau și pot!

            Cartea bate filmul sau filmul bate cartea?

          Îmi place foarte mult această întrebare. Niciodată nu am spus că e mai frumos filmul decât cartea sau invers. Aș considera o astfel de judecată oarecum lipsită de respect. Orice carte care mi-a plăcut mi-a șoptit că mi-ar plăcea să retrăiesc povestea uitându-mă la film. Evident, cartea cred că oferă mult mai multe detalii decât filmul. În film e posibil uneori să nu găsești toată povestea originală și în acest sens, cartea iese în evidență. Dar dacă nu te deranjează concizia atunci nu-i nici o problemă. Eu le recomand pe amândouă. Cartea mai întâi, apoi filmul.

            Dar muzica? Dacă romanele ar avea coloane sonore, ce piesa ar intra în coloana sonoră a cărţii tale preferate?

          Combin lectura cu muzica destul de des. O muzică ambientală, de relaxare, cu sunete din natură îți dă o senzație extrem de plăcută. O vioară, un pian, la fel: sunt binevenite.

Muzica instrumentală de dragoste, citind un roman de dragoste sau poezii, sună atât de plăcut.

            Ai cunoscut oameni interesanţi cu Bibliocărţi?

          Datorită lor mă simt motivat să continui: cu cât voi continua mai mult, cu atât voi cunoaște mai mulți oameni frumoși și interesanți. Cine spunea că nu sunt oameni frumoși sufletește în România? Ba sunt! Chiar foarte mulți. Scriitori, poeți, bloggeri, oameni de afaceri, webmasteri, cititori, profesori, mai are rost să enumăr? Cu toții sunt superbi.

Bibliocărți va evolua mult! Nu se va opri niciodată! Nici dacă mă voi opri eu! Bibliocărți suntem noi toți! Restul e plin de surprize.

            Ce înseamnă să fi membru al echipei Bibliocărţi? Care este calitatea cea mai de seamă pe care ai sperat s-o găsești  în colaboratorii tăi?

            Un membru al echipei Bibliocărți este pasionat de cărți, de citit, dar și de povestit. Calitatea cea mai potrivită este creativitatea. Să scrie într-un mod creativ despre lectură și nu numai, să propună lucruri creative pe care să le punem în aplicare împreună. Se muncește mult, dar se muncește cu seriozitate și cel mai important, cu plăcere. La Bibliocărţi, ne place ceea ce facem. Ce poate fi mai frumos decât asta?

            Bibliocărţi își întâmpină deja cititorii cu o selecţie generoasă de titluri, recenzii și articole, dar am auzit din surse sigure că nu se va opri aici. Ce ne mai pregătește?

          Un anticariat online, unde lumea va putea să cumpere, să vândă, sau să facă schimb de cărți. Vor putea prin intermediul anticariatului să vândă și să cumpere inclusiv cărți electronice.

          O comunitate online unde atât scriitori remarcați, cât și cei la început de drum vor putea să publice poezii sau proză.

          Bibliocărți va evolua mult! Nu se va opri niciodată! Nici dacă mă voi opri eu! Bibliocărți suntem noi toți! Restul e plin de surprize.

           Pentru a afla mai multe despre acest proiect ambiţios, vă invităm să accesaţi site-ul bibliotecii, aici. Puteţi căuta un titlu preferat pe rafturile lor, citi o recenzie sau un articol sau puteţi susţine proaspăt lansata campanie “O poartă deschisă spre lectură” pe care o recomandăm:

O poartă deschisă către lectură


[1] Ideea că o carte bună este întotdeauna provincială apare și în discursul lui Amos Oz, scriitor israelian, autor al unor romane precum “Între prieteni” sau “O poveste de iubire și întuneric”. Pentru fragment, iată un extract din interviul de la Passaporta, Bruxelles, 2013:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7o7br3MUPI

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the split hairs of narrative art

Dan May is a fine artist currently living in Northern Michigan. A native of Rochester, NY, Dan attended Syracuse University where he achieved a BFA and began to immediately pursue his artistic interests.[1] He was featured in publications such as Hi Fructose Magazine (Vol. 9, USA, 2008), Dangerous Ink (Issue 4, UK, 2010) or Dark Inspiration – Victionary (Hong Kong, 2010). His works are imbued with story, making him a representative of narrative art who chose surrealism as a form of expression. Today, we’ll take a look at his latest portfolio, enriched with some of the oneiric magic we seek to brighten even the most uneventful of days.  

                The things that address one’s imagination are the things one cherishes most, for deep down – although some believe that “this is the best of all possible worlds“, we’re all curious and hungry for novelty: a novelty that can be explored, understood and that can nourish us.

Imagine for a moment that “the world that is” is only a prelude to a world that could be: full of wonder and magic, full of things that haven’t yet crossed your path. The two worlds now cohabiting before the mind’s eye are highly unequal (one believed to be preternal, the other a brittle new-born of last moment’s imagination), but one feels drawn to exploring both.

So far, one knows that the two worlds stem from the same source (momentary perception), but the rest is an every moment’s history of what could be, an alternative with similar causality.

What would you populate this alternate universe with?

M. May populated his world with velveteen creatures, or with girls with long, silky hair. He populated his world with owls, beautiful, big, white owls that calmly flap their wings instilling a dreamlike décor.

Sting of the Season by Dan May

Possibly his most intriguing choice, he decided that his world will have no ordinary ground, but instead it will have dense and anaesthetising hair, a metaphor really, for greater aspects of humanity, a different view over what is safe and what simply is.  And with his choices, the artist told a story.

The Reunion by Dan May

“Good story” means something worth telling that the world wants to hear. Finding this is your lonely task. It begins with talent (…) and a lot of love.

But the love of a good story, of terrific characters and a world driven by your passion, courage, and creative gifts is still not enough. Your goal must be a good story well told.[2]

There is a difference though, between carving worlds made out of words and carving worlds made out of image. For one, whilst the storyteller tells his story over time (in a diachronic fashion), the narrative artist creates pictures that are all seen at once (in a synchronic fashion). This allows for episodic events to be conveyed faster to the viewer, while leaving an imprint over the primary sense of man: his sight. And whilst it might seem an easier task, it really isn’t: for the mind’s eye holds the key to portraits that stem from within, whereas the hand must replicate them in a way that speaks to those without – a wordless task that this artist addresses well.

Moon Walk by Dan May

                Out of all current types of narrative art, M. May’s latest works seem to prefer that of the monoscenic narrative, leaving the door ajar for the viewer, who can catch a glimpse of the artist’s soul.  This glimpse will be later used as inspiration for yet another different world that conjures a different story: a story that happens in the viewer’s mind.

Th eOffering by Dan May

For more of M. May’s work, visit his website.


[1] Quote from the artist’s About page.

[2] McKee, Robert – Story, Chapter I – The story problem, p.21, Regan Books, 1997.


minimalism

Mathematics is the language of nature. This means that algorithms are involved in the creation of everything that lives, twists, swirls or simply stands on the surface of the world and beyond.

There’s a core of everything too, and a shape of everything, just like there is a shape of nothing, an all-encompassing shape in which everything so perfectly and gracefully fits. Knowing this is what makes understanding minimalism possible. Because shapes come from shapes evolving into shapes, and the more successful a pattern is, the more likely its natural replication becomes.

Many of the neurons in the visual part of the brain respond specifically to edges orientated in a certain direction. From this, the brain builds up the shape of an object.

The Science Museum in London, feeds us this bit of useful data: Many of the neurons in the visual part of the brain respond specifically to edges orientated in a certain direction. From this, the brain builds up the shape of an object. Information about the features on the surface of an object, like colour and shading, provide further clues about its identity. Objects are probably recognised mostly by their edges, and faces by their surface features. This means that, much like the mental short cuts our brain takes when understanding words, in the case of images too, we function from simple to complicated, understanding edges and shapes first. Amongst others, the neurologist Oliver Sacks also approached shape perception, when confronted with a patient who mistook his wife for a hat. In that particular example, the patient – who suffered from visual agnosia – had trouble recognising the surface features that differentiated people from other people, or even from inanimate objects.

In the case of a healthy human being, the normal way of looking at things applies, so that from shapes and edges patterns emerge. And because these patterns emerge, short cuts emerge with them, allowing us to see a shape in a cloud, for instance.

Let’s try a simple exercise of understanding minimalism: three images of carved fruit were used to create imagined covers of known children books. Have a look at the covers and try your luck at guessing which works they refer to:

1:

2:

Veggie figurine from http://www.artglass-pottery.com

3:

Elephant veggie figurine found at http://www.annabelkarmel.com


love, loss and insects with Dan Stockman

Dan Stockman is a writer who only recently made the transition from the factual world of journalism to the relative world of fiction. Before taking this step, he acquired some fifteen years of experience in journalism, striving for authenticity alongside his colleagues at The Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His novel, Brood X, character driven and with an intriguing parallel between our world and that of the elusive seventeen years cicada, tells a story of love, loss and insects, a story that teaches us a valuable lesson: it isn’t death, but life that we have to constantly make peace with. The insects in the novel seem to know that well, in an atavist fashion their human counterparts’ lack.

A few things on love, loss and insects with Dan Stockman

M. Dan Stockman

 Changing the imperative of fact for the imperative of word carving isn’t the smoothest of transitions. Therefore, we will begin our interview, by asking the author how did he cope with the pesky need of the verisimilar, a need Mark Twain turned into a mantra for most of the budding writers out there, when he advised them to “write what you know”.

Considering that journalists write under the predicament of truth, was it a challenge to commit to paper a work of fiction?

It was very difficult at first, not because it was hard to write the words, but because it was hard to read them – in my head they just didn’t sound believable, because I knew I had made them up. It turns out I had a couple of things working against me: First, of course, was the fact that for the 15 years before that, my standard in everything I wrote was “Can I prove this in court?” That is a very good habit to have in journalism, but a difficult one to break for writing fiction. The second was that voice that any writer hears in their head, the one that says your words are not good enough, that no one wants to read them and that you have nothing worthwhile to say. The combination of the two made everything I wrote just seem so “made up” that I couldn’t get past the first page for a couple of weeks. I must have re-written that thing 100 times. Later, in revisions, I rewrote the entire first chapter, but that was only because I wanted it to flow differently.

What was the easiest part of the creative process? Also, what was most difficult in completing Brood X?

Let me start with the second question first: The most difficult part was the outline. Usually when I write, I know the characters and the ending – everything else comes later because, to me, everything else is in service to those two things, preferably both at the same time. In this case, I knew the main characters of Andy and Ashley, that they had been in love as teenagers until Ashley disappeared, and that in the end, Andy would discover not Ashley, but himself. But weaving adult Andy’s story together with the flashbacks to young Andy’s story with Ashley, plus the story of the cicadas, was like putting together a very complicated puzzle, especially since I knew I wanted it all to happen in exactly seventeen chapters. But once that puzzle was put together, the fun part began: The writing. I used my outline as a sort of roadmap for how the novel would work, but left the in-between parts open to the creative process. In other words, with each chapter, I knew which things I had to accomplish but left it up to the writing to figure out how to get there. For example, I knew that in Chapter Ten, Andy and Ashley needed to talk about the future and their plans for themselves and each other. I knew that Andy had to in some way help Ashley reach for dreams she never thought possible. But the scene where they visit the guidance counselor together just came together on its own.

Did you feel close to Andy Gardner? After a while, the readers begin to root for his happy ending. What about the author? Did you feel like siding with him?

Absolutely. In fact, I felt close to all of the characters, but especially Andy because I had spent so long trying to tell his story, and I wanted to do that because it’s a story that I think anyone can relate to, because we’ve all fallen too hard for someone at some point and lost ourselves in the process. So yes, I certainly was siding with Andy, but I also knew before I started writing how his story ended – not the particulars, but that he would, in fact, discover who he is and who he is supposed to be; his story was always about that particular journey.

If anything, I have become a bit protective of these characters: A few readers have asked for a sequel, with one suggesting she would like the sequel to be about Ashley. But I feel that, though she’s not real, Ashley deserves her privacy and that she’s been through enough already and it would just be cruel of me to punish her with another book, especially one about her.

In your book, Andy Gardner has his destiny entwined with that of the seventeen years cicada, but the link is fortuitous and the character isn’t giving it too much consideration. Other authors, like Philip Pullman for example, made a more apparent link between humans and what we loosely call the animal world: creatures like shadows moving about and morphing in the ages of the soul. Could it be that in Brood X’s case, too, the main character is morphing into a different age of his soul?

Andy is definitely changing; the cicada metaphor is particularly apt for his transition because of the long period in which cicadas appear to be dormant but only show the changes they have made in the last few moments of their lives. In Andy’s case, not much appeared to change in his life in his first seventeen years – though we know from our own experience that humans change dramatically in that time. But outwardly, and to him, the change only came that seventeenth summer when he met Ashley. The next seventeen years of his life outwardly also seem to be a type of dormancy – he was emotionally paralyzed and still stuck where he was in that moment when Ashley left him. All the action – at least all that we see in Brood X – is in that (second) seventeenth summer when he decides to go find her.

However, I didn’t want Andy to be aware of the link, at least not fully aware. He realizes there is some kind of link with him and the cicadas, but in his mind, he thinks that Ashley may be the cicada and he the cicada killer wasp, as if he was somehow responsible for her disappearance. A lot of his decisions and emotions are based upon that mistaken notion.

Most authors admit to having used “hooks” or “crutches” well embedded in their surrounding reality, in order to be able to keep on going down the path their writings took them. Does Brood X contain such real life elements, neatly added to the fabric of its fiction?

Yes, and for Brood X, it was definitely a crutch. As I said earlier, it was very difficult as a long-time journalist to write things I knew hadn’t actually happened. The way I overcame that was to include many elements from real life: I set the story in my own neighborhood. The house Ashley lives in exists in reality a few blocks from mine. Andy drives my brother-in-law’s red Grand Am and works at a job he used to hold, in a cabinet factory. Adult Andy lives in a neighborhood I’m familiar with because of flooding in recent years, his favorite restaurants are my favorites: Coney Island and Powers Hamburgers.

All of those things ground the story in a real place, which I think is important, but they also let me get past that feeling that the story wasn’t believable. Otherwise, it may never have been written.

The book also makes for an interesting audition. The characters are surrounded by the cicada song, but also, every here and there, as their story unfolds, the important moments are accompanied by music. Are their songs your favorite songs too? What made you choose the soundtrack of Brood X?

I think the only song young Andy listens to that I would call a favorite would be “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, the song he and Ashley dance to when they’re worried about their future together. I love 80s music, but that song is one of my absolute favorites – I’m mesmerized by it.

The other song that’s important both to Brood X and to me personally is “A Song for Someone” by Elaina Burress. I was working on the end of the book when an old friend from high school posted some songs by Elaina on her Facebook page; Elaina at that time was a student at the high school I went to in Muskegon, Michigan, until she transferred to the singer-songwriter program at Interlochen, a prestigious school for the arts near Traverse City. I was immediately taken by her music, but the lyric for “Song for Someone” just fit so perfectly with what both Andy and Ashley were going through that I knew I had to use it somehow. Fortunately, Elaina granted me the rights to use the lyric, for which I’m very grateful. You can hear the song at: http://www.elainaburress.com.

Towards the middle of the book, Holden Caulfield is mentioned. This prompted us to consider the reason why Brood X sounded so fluid, so familiar: the narrative voice is original, yet archetypal. And this is something we’ve encountered before, in the short stories of one J.D. Salinger. This made us curious as to what inspired the author: Which classic voices does he hold dear, and does he think they have an influence over his style?

As a young writer in college, I struggled a long time to try to find my own voice. Then, in journalism, I worked very hard to hide my voice. So when I set out to write Brood X, I knew I wanted it to be similar to the very clear, plain voice that I use in journalism, but with the freedom granted by the novel. In short, I wanted the voice to be my own, but also to have the ability to create the beauty I don’t get to develop for the newspaper. This was especially true when I read Leif Enger’s “Peace Like a River,” which flows so easily between clear, straightforward text like Salinger and Hemingway (both are favorites) and passages that are just gorgeous. At the same time, as a journalist I work very hard to use the voice of the people I’m reporting on, so I knew I needed to be very careful about what books I was reading while I was writing this novel, because I did not want another author’s voice to start coming through in my own writing. So while I think Barry Hannah’s writing is so beautiful it hurts, I knew I should not be reading his work while writing Brood X. Eventually I settled on some of Toni Morrison’s older novels, “Sula,” “Tar Baby” and “Song of Solomon.” I was certain that Morrison’s voice was so distinct and so different from my own that it would have no effect on my own writing. And it didn’t – at least as far as voice goes. But “Song of Solomon” ended up being a big influence, because the main character’s transformation gave me the assurance I needed that Andy’s transformation was strong enough to hold its own as a narrative arc.

When we speak of the novel, we are compelled to mention cicadas. Chapter eight, for instance, is entirely dedicated to these fascinating creatures.  The manner in which their life cycle is depicted, tell us that there is perhaps more to them than just a plot detour. What is it about seventeen years’ cicada that interests you most?

Many things, from their synchronized emergence (scientists now believe it is probably based on soil temperature) to their long dormancy and amazing changes. There’s certainly something tragic about their life cycle, but also something beautiful. And that is how I think of humans: You can choose to look at our lives as short, tragic cycles of birth, pain and death, or as something made even more beautiful and precious by its fragility.

The characters spend some time driving. In fact, the main character goes on a self-seeking journey right out of a bildungsroman.

Contemporary writers give a great deal of significance to the ritual of driving and often use it to portray key moments in a character’s life. Annie Proulx, for instance, used driving in the The Half-Skinned Steer to take the character to a funeral.

In Brood X too, the car ride is isolated from other events and gains significance. The meditation and remembrance, combined with the growing Song of the cicada makes us consider the impediment of doom. Was this part of the building momentum all along? Is there any particular significance to their driving?

For a long time I’ve been fascinated by watching traffic, in that each car is sort of its own bubble, a piece of someone’s world. In this car is a professional woman driving to work; surrounded by the things she owns and carries, maybe in her mind she’s contemplating a divorce. But in the very next car are three teenagers, with all the tension and drama of the complicated relationships between them, their search for who they want to be in life, and a great song on the radio. In the next car is a farmer, maybe he’s coming in to the city to buy life insurance. All of these individual worlds, in tiny spheres of metal and glass, rolling past like a parade of the human condition. That being said, I didn’t think of the driving itself so much as the journey Andy takes. Dostoevsky once said there are only two types of stories: A stranger comes to town and a journey of discovery. Andy’s on a journey of discovery; I suppose if the story had been set in Europe he would take much the same journey, only he would do it on a train.

The novel has scenes from Kalamazoo and Muskegon, would you consider both the scenes and the characters states of mind as telling of mid-Western sensitivity?

Yes, and that was deliberate. So much fiction these days is about self-obsessed people on the East Coast of America who have nothing to do but go to therapy and worry about what’s wrong with them while complaining about everyone around them. Some of those books are great; but they’re not about people I know and live around. I wanted to write a book about people that might live next door to me, the kind of people I know and grew up with. It is definitely a Midwestern book.

And lastly, what is Dan Stockman currently working on and what should the readers expect next?

Right now I’m working furiously on my master’s thesis; if all goes well, I’ll graduate from Fairleigh Dickinson University in August with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. I hope that thesis will become a non-fiction book or at least a long magazine piece about a tragic auto accident that occurred in the area. In the meantime, my wife and I are working on an adoption memoir, together we write a wine column at Cheers! Wine Consultants, and I’ve got a few ideas for the next novel kicking around in my head…

Thank you for your time, Dan, we wish you the best of luck with future endeavors and we are eager to read more.

Brood X by Dan Stockman

Dan Stockman’s novel, Brood X, debuted in November 2013, and is readily available to the readers on both sides of the pond, via Amazon. You can find more about the book here, or purchase the novel on amazon.  Also, you can check out our article on topic, here and even get a glimpse of chapter eight in the pithead chapel’s archives.

by milena with the excellent collaboration of m. dan stockman © 2014.


kurdish folktales

Corduene folk tales are of the same root as Iranian lore. They contain motifs and settings common to tales told by Persian speakers and the peoples of Luristan, Azerbaijan, Gilan, and Mazanderan. The ones collected in Mohammed Hamasalih Tofiq’s Kurdish Folktales, are the result of ten long years of methodical collecting, done in the Sulaimani and Kerkuk regions of Iraqi Kurdistan. The plots unveil in surprising ways, and the values depicted weigh differently than in the tales of the West. They make for a rich and diverse reading.

The King of the East[1]

They say that a long time ago there was a merchant who had a daughter. The daughter was mad, and lest she harm anyone they locked her up in a room and gave her food and water through a window. Once the merchant packed up his goods and set out to trade in a distant country. He journeyed for a long time, and along the way he went and sat down by a stream to rest. He looked and saw something round floating down the stream. He pulled it out. It was a human head, of which only the bones remained. When he examined it closely, he saw that on the forehead it was written: “Although I am dead, I will have an offspring, and he is fated to kill forty men.” To himself the man said, “By God, I must hide this skull and not let the killing of those forty people come about.”

Then he got up, crushed it to smithereens with a rock, put the remains in a bag, and took them away. When he had completed his business, he went back home and put the bag on a shelf. One day one of the children picked up the bag from the shelf and took it to the mad daughter’s window. The girl grabbed it and ate some of the contents. Immediately she was cured and called out to her mother, saying “Why am I in chains in this room? I am not ill, and there is nothing wrong with me.”

They called a doctor, and he proclaimed her well. After a time the girl’s belly began to swell, and it was obvious that she was pregnant. She was examined, but it turned out that she had not done anything bad except to have eaten some of the pulverized fragments from the bag. The father knew in his heart that something extraordinary was going to happen, and after nine months and nine days the girl gave birth to a boy. The child grew in such an extraordinary fashion that when he was only five or six years old he had the intelligence and understanding of fully grown man.

The merchant also had a son who worked as a farmer. One day there was no one to take him his noon meal, and the child said, “I’ll take it.” Although they told him he was only a child and couldn’t do it, it was of no use. When he took the food to his uncle and they sat down together to rest, they saw a man carrying a burden on his back and headed toward them. “Uncle,” the boy said, “that man who is coming toward us is going to the judge in order to have a dream interpreted. He had a dream last night, and in his dream a ray of light from the sky fell onto their hearth. The judge will interpret it to mean that there is a jar of money under the hearth. When the judge is interpreting the dream he will try to play a trick and say, Was it our hearth? Meaning the judge’s. If the man says yes, by virtue of that word the jar of money will go under the hearth in the judge’s house, and they will get it for themselves. I’m going to call him because that’s not how it is supposed to be.”

“Uncle”, the boy cried out, “didn’t you have a dream last night?”

“Yes, I did”, the man said.

“In your dream did a ray of light come through the skylight in your house and fall on your hearth?” The boy asked.

The man was astonished and said, yes, that is how it was. How did you know? Uncle, said the boy, come, let me explain it to you. Your dream indicates that there is a treasure under your hearth. During the interpretation if the judge asks you if it was his hearth, say, No, it was our own hearth. Otherwise the jar of money will go under his hearth.

The man thanked him with skepticism and went to the judge.

When he got there he put down his sack of gifts and told the judge why he had come. Exactly as the boy had said, the judge asked him, was it our hearth? However, he said, No, your honor, it was our own hearth. The judge repeated his question again, but the man did not change his initial response.

“From whom did you learn this?” The judge asked, and the man told him about the boy.

“Go on your way, said the judge, for you have your treasure.”

Then the judge sent two men to the farmer. Before they went he said:

“He has a boy with him who is a seer and knows hidden things. Go, buy him from the farmer, and no matter how much he asks, give it to him. Then kill the boy. I’ll give you a sufficient reward.”

The men went to the farmer and explained to him what they wanted. He was confounded and said:

“He is my nephew. How can I do such a thing?”

The boy called to his uncle and said:

“Uncle, I am not your son, and I do not belong to you. Agree to sell me on condition that they give you my weight in money.”

One way or another, the uncle had to agree on condition that they give him the boy’s weight in money. They went off to the judge and got a lot of money with which they satisfied the man’s demand. They got the boy, but first he filled a sack with the money paid for him, gave the remainder to his uncle, and said good-bye. Along the way, when the men were about to kill him, he said to them:

“I’ll give you this sack of money, which is several times your hire. If you go to the judge and say you’ve killed me [the blade] will fall on your necks! Let me go, and I promise you I’ll leave this country, and you can tell the judge you’ve killed me.”

The judge’s men liked what the child said to them, so they took the money and set him free.

The boy went his own way through several cities and several countries until he reached the edge of a body of water. He looked and saw an old man who was busy fishing. He went up to him, greeted him, and said:

“Uncle, this is not your job. Why don’t you go home and rest? Why do you bother with the headache of such a task?”

“What can I do, my son?” The old man said. “I have no child or anybody else to make a living for me. I have no choice but to work hard in order for us to live.”

“Uncle,” said the boy, “I am a child who has nobody and nothing – neither father nor mother. I’d like you make me your son.”

This was just what the old man had been wanting, so he was very happy. He took the child home with him, and his wife was also very happy with him. The boy began interpreting dreams, telling fortunes, and doing that sort of thing and he made so much money that they became rich, and the old man and woman flourished. However, the old man stuck to his old habits and went out fishing every day. The boy kept saying “Father, it is a shame with us being so rich. Give it up!” But it was of no use.

One day he threw out his hook, and when he drew it in, there was a beautiful white fish on it. “By God,” said the old man, “this fish would be good for the king’s daughter. It is so beautiful she could keep it.” Putting the white fish in a pot of water, he took it to the king’s daughter.

Instead of thanking him and expressing her gratitude, she said quite frankly:

“This fish is male, and it can’t stay near me because it would be against religion for me to look at it.”

With these words the fish began to guffaw.

The girl got angry with the old man and him arrested and put in prison. Night fell, and when the old man didn’t come home, the old woman said:

“There are a thousand dangers he could have fallen into.”

However, the boy told her that the king’s daughter had detained him.  Early the next morning the boy took himself to the king’s daughter and begged her to release his father, but the girl said:

“I won’t release him until you tell me why that fish laughed at me.”

“It would be better for me not to tell you,” the boy replied. And he had an exchange of strong words with the king’s daughter.

Then the servants came and took him before the king. When the king asked why he had come, the boy said angrily:

“Your daughter had my father arrested. Now you give an order for his release. If you don’t, I’ll do to you what was done to the king of the east.”

“Now, my small son,” said the king, “tell me that the king of the east was and what happened to him. Tell me the story.”

“Your Majesty,” said the small boy, “the king of the east was a king of great might and power. He had a wife who was without equal for her knowledge and cleverness, and she was called Long-Tress. The king loved his wife very much.

The king also had a parrot he kept in a cage.

Early one morning the king got up and saw another parrot sitting on the cage, and the two parrots were chirping together. After a while the second parrot flapped its wings and flew away. The king’s parrot curled up and burst into tears.

“Parrot,” asked the king of the east, “who was that who came to you?”

“That was my brother, the parrot said. “He invited me to his wedding, but I, as you can see, am a prisoner in this cage. I began crying out of sadness.”

The king was quite moved and said:

“Parrot, if I let you go to your people, will you promise you’ll return to me? “‘

Swearing he would return, the parrot flapped his wings and flew away to his own country, where he attended his brother’s wedding. Then he asked his father for permission to leave. His father gave him an apple sapling and said:

“Anyone who plants this apple sapling in a pure state and waters it while in a pure state will get an apple, and anyone who eats it, no matter if he is eighty or ninety years old, will turn into a fourteen-year-old boy. “

Early one morning the king woke up, looked, and saw that the parrot had returned to his cage. The king rejoiced and welcomed the parrot back. The parrot in turn gave him the apple sapling, saying:

“My king, this is a gift from my father to you. Plant it thus and so in order for it to bear fruit. “

A few years passed, and the tree bore fruit. One night a violent wind storm knocked an apple from the tree, and just then a poisonous snake found it and bit into it.

The next morning that very apple was taken to the king, who said:

“Now, Long-Tress, divide it into two, and each of us will eat a piece to see whether the parrot is telling the truth that we’ll be young again.”

The king had a very wise and clever vizier who said:

“Long live the king. First let’s give a bit of it to an animal lest parrot has plotted against us.”

The vizier’s opinion suited the king, and a little of the apple was given to a sheep, which immediately dropped dead. The king ordered the parrot’s head cut off. Then his suspicions landed on his wife Long-Tress’s head as he said to himself, ‘One way or another, she has had a hand in this plot.’ And he gave an order for her to be killed too.

Now, there was an old man in the king’s city. He had young women to serve him, but he always found fault with them and in the end sent them away. Finally the old man got sick of living and decided to go eat some of the apple in the king’s house and rid himself of his headache.

When he ate the apple he immediately gave a shiver and became a fourteen-year-old boy. This became the talk of the town at the news spread far and wide. When the king heard about it, he realized that the first apple had been bitten by a snake, and in his grief and regret he turned into a wild boar, upon which the dogs were set and tore it to pieces.

“Now, king,” said the boy, “I swear by God that if you don’t release my father, I’ll do to you as was done to the king of the east.”

The king laughed and said:

“Small boy, your stories are nice. Come tell us another.

“King,” he said, “I am not a story teller. For the last time I’m telling you that if you don’t let my father go, by God I’ll do to you as was done to the hunter.”

“Tell me what happened to the hunter,” said the king.

“Your majesty,” he said, “Once there was a hunter. He had a very clever hawk with which he hunted. This hawk would grab any prey upon which it was set and not let go. On account of this hawk the hunter never returned empty-handed and for this reason he loved his hawk more than anything. One day in a parched and waterless desert, the water in his water bag spilled, and he got so thirty he almost went blind. After much searching for water, he chanced upon a waterfall and a pool. He looked and saw that yellowish water was dripping drop by drop. As he was about to go blind from thirst, it was hard for him to cup his hand, and it took him a long time to get a handful of water. He was just about to take it to his mouth when the falcon flapped its wings against him and made him spill the water.

“The man was very angry with the falcon, and when he filled his hand with water again, the falcon made him spill it just as it had done before. This time the man had had enough, so he grabbed the falcon and wrung its neck. Then he stepped back not far from the pool and looked. What he saw was a dragon lying there and-wouldn’t you know it? – The water wasn’t water; it was the dragon’s poison dripping into the pool. In a fit of regret the man sprouted two great horns and turned into a mountain ram. A hunter set his dogs on him, and they killed him.

“Yes, your majesty, by God I’ll do to you just as that hunter did if you don’t let my father go. The king sent for his daughter and asked her, “Daughter, why did you have this man arrested?”

“Father dear,” she replied, “this man brought me a fish that laughed at me. That’s why I had him arrested. And I told him that unless he told me why the fish was laughing I wouldn’t let him go.” The young boy said:

“Your majesty, I’ll tell her, but on condition that she must do whatever I say and not refuse me.”

The boy went through all the rooms in the palace, and in the daughter’s room he discovered a secret door leading underground. He asked the girl for the key.

The girl turned pale and said:

“I’ve lost it.”

However, her father forced her to produce it, and they opened the door and looked in. There were thirty-nine huge men inside. The small boy said:

“Your majesty, your daughter enjoys herself every night with these men but she tells my father that if the fish is male she can’t look at it!”

On the spot the king put a sword into the boy’s hand and said:

“Cut all thirty-nine of them into ribbons.”

He cut off all their heads and then, at the king’s command, he killed the girl. In this way the forty murders that were foretold on the forehead of the skull came true. The boy was well rewarded by the king, and he returned to his old grand mother, they lived happily ever after.


[1] from Kurdish folktales, collected by Mohammed Hamasalih Tofiq, translated by professor Wheeler Thackston, department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Harvard University.

***

a Romanian translation of this story can be found here.


basme kurde

Basmele din Corduene fac parte din trunchiul comun al învăţăturii iraniene. Ele conţin întâmplări și motive comune poveștilor spuse de povestitorii persani și de locuitorii din Luristan, Azerbaidjan, Gilan și Mazanderan. Poveștile culese de Mohammed Hamasalih Tofiq în Basme Kurde, sunt rezultatul unui deceniu de triere metodică a istoriilor populare din regiunile Sulaimani și Kerkuk din Kurdistanul irakian. Intrigile lor se desfășoară în formule adesea surprinzătoare pentru cititorul obișnuit cu povești de sorginte europeană. O lectură nouă, bogată în diversitatea-i.

CIS:25016:817

Regele de la Răsărit[1]

Umblă vorba prin târg că ar fi fost odată, demult, un negustor și soţia sa. Şi avea negustorul mulţi copii, iar între ei o fiică. Fiica negustorului era nebună.  Pentru a nu-și face rău sieși sau altcuiva, negustorul o încuia într-o cameră și-i aducea mâncare prin fereastra strâmtă crestată în ușa ferecată.

 Într-o zi, negustorul și-a împachetat lucrurile și s-a dus să facă negoţ într-un tărâm îndepărtat. Şi-a mers și-a tot mers, cale lungă, să-i ajungă, până când a poposit la marginea unui pârâu să se odihnească. Şi cum privea negustorul în volbura apei, a văzund ceva rotund plutind pe apă în jos. Curios, a întins mâna și a scos la mal ce plutea pe apă. Era o ţeastă de om, din care numai oasele rămăseseră. Privind îndeaproape, a văzut omul că pe fruntea moartă stătea scris: “Deși eu nu mai sunt, voi avea un urmaș, iar urmașul meu va ucide patruzeci de oameni.” Şi-apoi iată ce și-a spus negustorul: “Trebuie s-ascund ţeasta cu orice preţ, s-o fac să piară și să-mpiedic moartea a patruzeci de oameni.”

Apoi s-a ridicat, a zdrobit ţeasta în mii de ţăndări c-o piatră de râu ce-i veni la mână, a pus pulberea într-o desagă și-a luat-o cu el. De cum și-a gătat treburile prin târgul îndepărtat, s-a întors acasă, și a lăsat desaga cu pulberea pe-un raft. Într-o zi, unul dintre copii a înhăţat de pe raft desaga și a dus-o la fereastra fetei celei nebune. Cum a zărit-o, fata a și înșfăcat-o și-a înghiţit din pulbere înainte să i-o poată smulge din mâini cineva. Şi-apoi de cum a mâncat din desagă, de cum s-a vindecat. Şi-a strigat la mama-sa și i-a zis:

– Mamă dragă, mama scumpă, de ce sunt înlănţuită în camera? Nu sunt bolnavă și nu-i nimic în neregulă cu mine.

Au chemat apoi un doctor pentru fată, iar doctorul, văzând-o, a spus că e bine. După o vreme, fata a început să crească-n pântece, și-apoi iară a fost examinată. Dar n-au găsit nimic în neregulă cu ea, alt decât că mâncase înainte vreme din desagă.

Tătâne-său știa în sinea lui că ceva extraordinar urma să se întâmple, și iată că după nouă luni și nouă zile fără greș, născu fata un băiat. Băiatul creștea într-o zi cât alţii într-un an, astfel că la numai cinci sau șase ani era la fel de isteţ ca un om mare.

Mai avea negustorul un fiu mai mare, care lucra deja pământul. Întâmplarea făcu că într-o după-amiază nu se găsi nimeni să-i poată duce fiului acesta merindele. Băiatul sări, zicând:

– I le duc eu, i le duc eu!

Încercară să-l oprească dar nu fu chip. Când ajunse cu mâncarea la unchiu-său, poposiră pe o piatră împreună, să se odihnească. Şi stând ei cum stăteau pe-o piatră, le trecu pe dinainte un om, cărând pe spinare o desagă mare și grea. Şi-atunci băiatul zise: “Unchiule, omul de colo ce vine acum spre noi, se duce la jude să-i tălmăcească un vis. A visat azi-noapte, și-n vis o rază de lumină s-a coborât din cer până pe vatra lui. Judele o să-i tălmăcească visul și-o să spună că o comoară se află ascunsă sub vatră.

Dar apoi judele îl va păcăli pe bietul om și va spune:

– E vatra a noastră?”

Iar de omul va spune da, în temeiul spuselor sale, comoara va merge sub vatra judelui și judele o va păstra pentru sine.

Am să-l chem pe om și-am să-i spun de păcăleala judelui, ca să știe și să se ferească.

– Uncheașule” – strigă deci, băiatul – n-ai avut un vis azi-noapte?

– Ba da, răspunse omul.

– Şi-n vis, o rază de lumină  cădea prin fereastră în spatele vetrei matale? Mai întrebă băiatul.

Uimit, omul încuviinţă:

– Cum de-ai știut? Mai zise.

– Uncheașule, ascultă ce-ţi spun: judele îţi va spune că visul matale înseamnă că în spatele vetrei se-ascunde o comoară, și-apoi te va întreba dacă e vorba de vatra noastră. Matale să zici că nu, a mea e vatra. Altfel, comoara se va duce sub vatra judelui.

Omul i-a mulţumit, cu inima îndoită și s-a dus pe drumul lui. Ajuns la jude, i-a lăsat darurile la picioare și i-a mărturisit c-a venit să-i fie tălmăcit un vis. Şi-apoi, la fel cum i-a zis băiatul, judele l-a întrebat a cui era vatra. Iară omul, instruit, a răspuns că era vatra lui. Judele a repetat atunci întrebarea, dar și a doua oară a primit același răspuns.

– Cum de-ai știut răspunde astfel? Întrebă atunci judele, iară bărbatul îi spuse de băiatul întâlnit pe drum.

– Du-te pe drumul tău și-acasă vei găsi o comoară. Zise judele, și-apoi trimise doi oameni la unchiul băiatului, fermierul.

Înainte să plece, le spuse acestora:

– Fermierul are cu el un băiat dăruit cu darul vederii lucrurilor ascunse. Mergeţi și-l cumpăraţi de la fermier cu orice preţ. Apoi duceţi-l și omorâţi-l și vă voi răsplăti cum se cuvine.

Cei doi s-au dus deci la fermier și i-au explicat ce vor. Dar fermierul nu s-a învoit, zicând:

– Cum să fac una ca asta? Băiatul e nepotul meu, cum aș putea?

Dar băiatul și-a chemat atunci unchiul și i-a zis:

– Unchiule, eu nu sunt fiul tău și nu-ţi aparţin. Acceptă să mă vinzi, dar cere să-ţi dea greutatea mea în galbeni.

Cu inima strânsă, unchiul acceptă. La rându-le slujbașii își ţinură cuvântul și-aduseră galbenii de la jude. Băiatul umplu cu galbenii un sac, dădu restul unchiului său și-și luă rămas bun. Pe drum, când oamenii puși de jude căutară un loc unde să se descotorosească mai ușor de el, băiatul le spuse:

– Vă dau sacul ăsta cu galbeni dacă în loc să mă omorâţi, mergeţi la jude și-i spuneţi că mi-aţi venit de hac. Dacă mă lăsaţi să plec vă promit c-am să fug de pe meleagurile voastre și nu veţi mai auzi de mine.

Slujbașii, înduplecaţi de vorbele băiatului, îi deteră drumul.

                Băiatul merse apoi pe drumul lui peste ţări și peste orașe până când ajunse la marginea unei ape. Privind pe ţărm, văzu un bătrân pescuind. Se duse dară la el și-i spuse:

– Uncheașule, asta nu e meseria ta. De ce nu te duci matale acasă, să te odihnești? De ce-ţi baţi capul cu așa o treabă?

– Ce pot să fac eu, fiule? Răspunse bătrânul – N-am nici copil, nici pe nimeni alt să aibă grijă de mine. N-am altă alegere decât să muncesc din greu ca să pot mânca și eu o pâine.

– Uncheașule, spuse băiatul, eu sunt un copil fără nimeni și nimic pe lume – n-am nici tată nici mamă. Mi-ar plăcea să mă iei la matale.

Atât aștepta moșneagul: un copil după atât amar de vreme. Luă deci băiatul acasă, iar soţia la rându-i fu tare mulţumită de el. Băiatul începu să tălmăcească vise și să le ghicească oamenilor norocul și câștigă atât de mult că se îmbogăţiră câteștrei. Bătrânul pescar nu se îndură însă să renunţe la pescuit. Băiatul îi tot spuse: “Tată, e păcat să muncești atât când avem deja atât de multe”, dar în zadar.

                Într-o bună zi, pescarul prinse în undiţă un pește măiastru.

Minunându-se, își spuse: “peștele ăsta atât e de frumos că ar fi bun de dăruit fetei de împărat.” Şi zicând astfel, puse peștele cel alb într-un vas cu apă, și-l duse prinţesei.

                În loc de mulţumire, prinţesa îi spuse:

– Peștele ăsta e de spiţă bărbătească și nu mi-e permis să-l privesc.

                Auzind astfel, peștele se porni a hohoti. Atunci fata de-mpărat se-nfurie și ceru să fie întemniţat pescarul pentru neobrăzare. În amurg, bătrâna soţie de pescar, îngrijorată, zise:

– Sunt o mie de pericole ce-ar fi putut să-l ajungă!

                Băiatul îi spuse atunci că pescarul e teafăr, dar în temniţa împăratului.

                Dis-de-dimineaţă băiatul se înfăţișă dinaintea prinţesei și ceru cu umilinţă să-i fie eliberat tatăl. Însă prinţesa spuse:

– N-am să-l eliberez până nu știi a-mi spune de ce a râs peștele de mine.

– Ar fi mai bine pentru mine să nu spun – răspunse băiatul, înfuriind-o.

Apoi, veniră slujbașii și-l aduseră dinaintea împăratului. Când împăratul întrebă de ce a venit, băiatul răspunse, furios:

– Prinţesa mi-a întemniţat tatăl. Cere să fie eliberat. Dacă nu, vei păţi ce-a păţit regelui de la Răsărit!

– Fiule – răspunse împăratul – spune-mi cine-a fost regele de la Răsărit și care i-a fost soarta. Spune-mi povestea lui.

– Măria ta – începu băiatul – regele de la Răsărit era un conducător neînfricat. Avea o soţie pe care-o iubea foarte mult, neasemuit de frumoasă și neîntrecută în măiestria-i. Cosiţe-Lungi o chema pe soţia lui.

Şi mai avea regele un papagal pe care-l ţinea închis într-o colivie.

Trezindu-se într-o dimineaţă devreme, regele a găsit un alt papagal stând pe acoperișul coliviei și ciripind împreună cu papagalul dinăuntru. După o vreme, al doilea papagal a zburat, iar papagalul regelui s-a ghemuit într-un colţ și-a început a plânge.

– Papagalule – i-a spus regele de la Răsărit – cine a fost acela de-a venit pe la tine?

– Fratele meu – răspunse papagalul, printre suspine – M-a invitat la nuntă, dar eu, după cum vezi, sunt prizonier în colivie. Am început a plânge de tristeţe că nu mă pot duce.

Înduioșat, regele spuse:

– Papagalule, dacă îţi dau voie să te duci, îmi promiţi că te vei întoarce la mine?

Promiţând că va reveni, papagalul a zburat pe meleagurile lui, și-a fost la nunta fratelui. Apoi i-a cerut tatălui său voie să revină, iar tatăl i-a înmânat un lăstar de măr, zicându-i:

– Cel ce e drept și plantează acest lăstar de măr, și-i dă să bea apă, va primi înapoi un măr. Iar de va mânca mărul, de-o fi tânăr sau bătrân, se va transforma pe dată într-un băiat de paisprezece ani.

Dis-de-dimineaţă, regele s-a trezit și privind a văzut că papagalul a revenit în colivie. Regele s-a bucurat și a salutat întoarcerea papagalului.

În schimb, papagalul i-a dat lăstarul de măr, spunându-i:

– Regele meu, acesta este darul făcut de tatăl meu. Pus așa și pe dincolo în pământ, lăstarul va rodi.

                După câţiva ani, mărul rodi, dar o furtună îi doborî rodul și-un șarpe veninos îl mușcă. În dimineaţa zilei următoare același rod fu adus regelui, care-l luă și zise:

– Acum, Cosiţe-Lungi, frânge mărul în două jumătăţi și fiecare dintre noi o să mănânce o bucată, iar de papagalul grăiește adevărul, atunci vom fi din nou tineri.

Dar iată că avea regele un vizir înţelept care, auzind ce se plănuiește, spuse: “Viaţă lungă îi doresc regelui, cale dreaptă și înţeleaptă. Îndrăznesc doar să spun c-ar trebui să dăm mai întâi unui animal o bucată și să vedem dacă nu cumva papagalul minte.

Regele plecă urechea la spusele vizirului și ceru să-i fie adusă o oaie, pe care o hrăniră cu o bucată de măr. Şi numai ce înghiţi oaia dumicatul, că se opinti un pic și căzu moartă. Văzând așa, se făcu regele foc și pară și ceru să i se taie capul papagalului cel mincinos. Dar moartea păsării nu-i curmă bănuiala și-apoi ceru să-i fie decapitată și soţia gândind că tot o fi fost părtașă la complot în vreun fel.

Acum, în regat trăia un bătrân. Avusese bătrânul multe slujnice, dar le găsea mereu câte-un cusur și-apoi le trimitea departe de la el. Până într-o zi când bătrânului i se urî de-atâta singurătate și  hotărî să mănânce din mărul regelui și să scape de grijile lumești. Dar numai ce mușcă din măr că tresări și dintr-o dată se prefăcu într-un băiat de paisprezece ani. Şi i se duse vorba în tot regatul până ajunse și la urechile regelui.

Auzind, regele a înţeles că primul măr fusese mușcat de-un șarpe veninos, și s-a pus a suferi. Şi-n suferinţa și tânguirea sa, s-a prefăcut într-un mistreţ sălbatic pe care-au tăbărât câinii și l-au sfâșiat în bucăţi.

– Acum, Măria ta, zise băiatul – îţi jur că de nu-mi vei elibera tatăl, vei păţi ce-a păţit regele de la Răsărit.

Împăratul râse, spunând:

– Băiete, poveștile tale așa-s de năstrușnice că iaca, mai vreau una.

– Măria ta, eu nu-s povestitor. Nu mai spun decât o dată, de nu-mi eliberezi tatăl, jur că vei păţi ce-a păţit vânătorul.

– Şi vânătorul ce a păţit? Întrebă împăratul.

– Măria ta – veni răspunsul – a fost odată un vânător. Şi avea vânătorul un șoim înţelept de care era nedespărţit. Iară șoimul știe prinde orice pradă și datorită lui, vânătorul nu era niciodată fără vânat. Şi îi era șoimul tare drag vânătorului. Şi iată că într-o zi, într-un deșert cu nisipul pârjolit și fără strop de apă, plosca vânătorului îi scăpă și apa se-mprăștie iute printre dune. Iar vânătorul însetă așa tare că aproape orbi. Dar în cele din urmă ajunse la o cascadă. Neîncrezător, privi în sus la picăturile gălbui ce cădeau una câte una. Cum era aproape orb de sete, prinse în căușul palmei câteva, vrând să le bea. Văzând astfel, șoimul bătu din aripi peste palmele slabe ale vânătorului și-l făcu să verse apa. Vânătorul, furios pe șoim, mai umplu o dată căușul palmelor cu stropii de apă, dar șoimul îl împiedică să bea și a doua oară. Ajuns la capătul răbdărilor, omul prinse pasărea și-i suci gâtul. Apoi, dându-se un pas în urmă privi în sus și ce să vadă? Un dragon și nu un munte stătea întins în calea lui. Iară apa nu era apă, ci otrava dragonului picurând într-o băltoacă.

De durere vânătorului îi crescură coarne și se prefăcu într-un ţap. Şi peste puţină vreme, un alt vânător își puse câinii pe urmele sale. Iară câinii, luându-i urma, îl sfâșiară numaidecât.

– Da Măria ta, așa spun, că vei păţi la fel cum a păţit vânătorul dacă nu-mi lași tatăl să plece.

Împăratul trimise atunci după prinţesă și-i spuse:

– Fiica mea, de ce-ai coborât în temniţă pescarul?

– Dragă tată, acel om mi-a adus un pește neobrăzat, care-a râs de mine. De-aia am pus să-i fie luată libertatea. I-am spus că de nu-mi va spune de ce a îndrăznit peștele să râdă de mine, n-am să-l las să vadă lumina zilei.

Auzind astfel, băiatul spuse:

– Măria ta, îi pot spune eu, dar cu condiţia să facă apoi ce îi voi cere și să nu mă refuze.

Şi zicând astfel, băiatul porni a căuta prin toate camerele palatului până când, ajuns în camera prinţesei descoperi o trapă. Hotărât, ceru prinţesei cheia, dar prinţesa, toată palidă, îngăimă că n-o găsește. Împăratul însă îi porunci s-o aducă, iar fata se supuse.

Cum deschiseră ușa privirile lor întâlniră treizeci și nouă de priviri de bărbaţi vânjoși:

– Iată, spuse băiatul, prinţesa petrece cu ei fiecare noapte, dar îi spune tatălui meu că dacă peștele e de spiţă bărbătească nu-l poate privi!

Văzând așa, împăratul puse un paloș în mâinile băiatului și-i porunci să-i prăpădească pe toţi treizeci și nouă de bărbaţi, iar apoi, orb de furie, îi porunci să dea pierzaniei prinţesa. Şi uite-așa profeţia înscrisă pe fruntea ţestei de om s-a adeverit, și patruzeci de oameni au pierit de mâna băiatului.

Cât despre băiat, el a primit de la împărat o răsplată copioasă și s-a întors la bătrână, și-au trait fericiţi până la adânci bătrâneţi.


[1] din Basme Kurde, culese de Mohammed Hamasalih Tofiq, și traduse în limba engleză de prof. Wheeler Thackston, dep. de Limbă și Civilizaţie din Orientul Apropiat al Universităţii Harvard. Originalul poate fi găsit aici.

 ***

traducere din limba engleză © milena.

varianta în limba engleză poate fi găsită și aici.


contemporary angst

On parenthood with Rubens, Goya and Elif Ergen

Elif Varol Ergen is an Ankara-born contemporary artist, illustrator and designer and also, since June 2013, a mother. Her amazing sketches show what some of us struggle so hard to hide.

There are two other certainties in life besides the proverbial death and taxes: the reality of our birth and the constant weakening of our power. A popular religion cleverly sums that up into “from ashes to ashes and from dust to dust”, but before the ashes and the dust, there is a great deal of flesh the phrasing conveniently obliterates.

This very same flesh is the fabric of torment for centuries upon centuries of pious and devout. And even before them, because before being creatures of conscience we are creatures of flesh, creatures of habit, telluric, if you will. We abide by the same rules of nature as all the other dirt-crawlers and this, of course, means that we too, feel fear – a great deal of it, that boils under the surface like the under glazing of a lava cake. The only difference is that we often have to hide it. Concealing it becomes even more of an imperative when it grows to the point of a malaise, when it turns into anxiety or panic, when it looks malsaine. And it looks malsaine when it breaks boundaries of convenience, or when it is directed at our own. This very look of decrepit sickness is what some of those depicting fear were trying to make us see.

Saturn devouring his son by Rubens

If you take the Greeks, for instance, they portrayed what once was the pinnacle of fatherhood fear in the gruesome tale of Cronus and his sons.

One of the Greek myths describes the titan Cronus who, upon learning of a prophecy claiming his son will be his doom, started fearing that he would be overthrown by one of his children and ate each one upon their birth – a horrid act of filicide. The titan’s wife, Ops, managed to hide one of his descendants, Jupiter who, sure enough, grew to defeat his father and take his place, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

The Greek cruel depiction of extreme fear didn’t go unnoticed. In fact, it was re-enacted under the expert brush of a Flemish baroque painter that went by the name of Rubens. In turn, he served as inspiration to the Spanish eccentric Goya, who decided to decorate the walls of his dining room with his own version of the filicide scene, now known as Saturn, devouring his son. The scene doesn’t lack interpretations: some say it is Time, the devourer of things. Others say it is political. I say it is yet another instance of natural and legitimate fear: fear of the kind we choose to hide, so that we can sleep at night and let others sleep, too.

Saturn devouring his son by Goya

I feel the same type of fear in modern works, as well. Surely, time passed and we are not the same people that stood in perplexed paralysis staring at the savagery and indecency of the painter’s brush. We’re creatures of a different kind; all the same but slightly different, encouraging and embracing our natural selves. And surely, we no longer ask of our own to raise above their human condition, surely we empathize and can relate to their plight and their angst, and to whatever other tokens of frailty. That is why we would never ask of parents to be something they are not, and we would never go around preaching that, say, mothers should be “natural born” and perfectly apt for motherhood from day T, minus one. And it is a good thing we don’t go around preaching that. Oh, wait.

They are about motherhood, psycological instability, deep anxiety, morbid mother and child relations, longing, etc.

There is one particularly interesting contemporary artist that took upon herself to depict the under glazing of the parent-child relationship and to expose, if you will, the hidden layers of the lava cake. She goes by the name of Elif Varol Ergen, an Ankara-born illustrator and designer that is also, since June 2013, a mother.

I remember – Forget it by Elif Ergen

Elif told Hi-Fructose the other day that the disturbing nature of her new sketches is entangled with her experience of pregnancy and motherhood: “they are about motherhood, psycological instability, deep anxiety, morbid mother and child relations, longing, etc”.

the gun by Elif Ergen

In other words, this is how fear looks from within. This is how instinct takes over reason in a swirl of worrying. Perhaps the fabric of this turmoil is what allowed Giger‘s alien such a smooth passage into our world: it made sense, somehow we all could relate. And it doesn’t get much better than that from the moment of conceiving until the moment the child rests in the mother’s arms. Even then, an astounding proportion of women ask the doctor – for no apparent reason in the world – if their newborn is mentally healthy. Perhaps knowing what they’ve seen and kept locked inside is what’s prompting them to ask – just to make extra sure, you never know.

princess by Elif Ergen

If you haven’t seen Elif’s works until now, go check her out on Hi-Fructose or on the artist’s personal website, where a whole lot more of her obsessive creations await. It isn’t hüzün, but something that stays true to the predicament of fear instead.

drawing by Elif Ergen


showrooming or when smartphone users go on free rides

                In the ever-growing highly-competitive business environment, change is often spelled as challenge. And back in 2000, change came in the form of box shaped, extra-large retailer shops, with a devouring appetite for mom and pop businesses. Sure enough, it nearly took local businesses off the map, forcing most of them to close their stores when faced with the discount-capable, mass-producing mastodons. Then customers briefly deplored the impossibility of making emotional ties with these new and rather impersonal actors on the market, but what the retailers lacked in endearment, compensated in best deals that even the most skeptical of clients found hard to refuse. Nearly a decade and a half later, these mean production machines met with what appears to be either a contorted form of market bounce-back or poetic justice because, as it turns out, the next best thing in shopping is shopping elsewhere.

infographic from Data Points

With the rise of smartphones a new pattern emerged. Showrooming, or the practice of prospecting the merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store in order to purchase it online at a lower price, is steadily on the rise and it had already taken its toll amongst the big retailer shops out there. According to a Time’s Bussines & Money 2012 release[1], when the phenomenon of showrooming started showing up in customer behavior studies and surveys, Best Buy had a net income tumble of 25% when compared with 2011. Showrooming was happening and it was very much out there.

The first instinct was to cut this bad weed before it spreads, but as it turned out, that was easier said than done, since there is nothing illegal about browsing for the lower fare. So while shoplifters couldn’t get away with the goods they stole, the people at the end of the aisles busying themselves with price fishing could simply walk free and purchase elsewhere, even though the business managers felt cheated.

Showrooming = the practice of prospecting the merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store in order to purchase it online at a lower price.

Data started piling up on the new trend: in April 2013, BBC labeled the practice “perilous” for businesses; citing research by the design agency Foolproof, BBC stated that 24% of people showroomed while Christmas shopping – and 40% of them took their business elsewhere.[2] Thus, the news weren’t good.

By June, Gallup published its own research on the matter and it looked somewhat less grim. Their study showed that “fully engaged” customers — those with the strongest rational and emotional connection to a particular retailer — and “actively disengaged” customers — those with the weakest rational and emotional connection — have drastically different in-store purchasing behaviors.

  • Actively disengaged customers were nearly twice as likely as fully engaged customers to leave without making a purchase on their last visit, 19% vs. 10%.
  • Fully engaged consumer electronics customers, on average, spent $373 during their last visit, compared with an average of $289 for actively disengaged customers. That’s an increase in spending of 29% compared with what actively disengaged customers spend. 
  • Fifteen percent of fully engaged customers who did not purchase anything said they intended to or had already purchased the item at a competitor’s store, compared with 63% of actively disengaged non-purchasers. 
  • There were no differences between engagement groups in their intention to purchase items online. In all cases, it was 1% or less.[3]

According to Gallup, the problem was elsewhere:

Clearly if there is a monster under retailers’ beds, it is not “showrooming.” The real monster under the bed — the real peril — is retailers failing to create a compelling and differentiated brand promise that allows them to engage their customers.

And isn’t it ironic to see that at the very heart of the issue Gallup found the one thing that local businesses had and exerted so well – the power to engage customers and to offer them a unique experience?

By September2013, retailers had enough to start building up their defenses, so much so, that Time’s Business and Money edition issued a less alarming article on the matter, suggestively entitled Why Retailers Have Stopped Freaking Out About Showrooming[4].

While dropping the initial plan of charging extra fees for browsing, retailers decided to embrace the change and adapt and by November 2013, a Morningstar analyst, R.J. Hottovy, cited by NBC News, noted that It’s probably going to be a little bit better year for Best Buy (…)They’ve been finding creative ways of bringing people into stores like promotional periods for hot products, discounts or trade-in programs.[5]

amazon vs brick and mortar stores

The trouble is that while such techniques are readily available for big shops like Best Buy or Target, the price to pay is too steep for businesses that don’t make the cut by issuing a new model, or by discounting last year’s edition. And where the retailers manage to pull themselves out of the tar pits, the booksellers seem rather stuck, on both sides of the pond.

“People don’t want to “buy online”, they want to “buy cheap”. And the books aren’t getting any cheaper from a meat-space bookstore. We have bills to pay, employees to pay, books to buy. We’ve adapted by giving up on our attempt to attract customers who only care about price, and focusing on customers who are willing to pay for the extra services we offer” said Charlotte Ashley, a writer and bookseller from Toronto, Canada.

In Europe, things don’t look any better: booksellers everywhere find it hard to keep up with the online competitor, and showrooming is viewed as a plight or, at best, a difficult challenge to take on.

Everyone fights it differently: some bookshops back in Bucharest, Romania, offer their potential customers a full experience, with reading rooms and well stocked tea selections to please even the most pretentious of noses. While further north, a Brussels second-hand bookshop offers its customers the opportunity to sit down and grab a bite to eat at the restaurant downstairs.

All these developments show businesses that are struggling to create a cozy unique experience, one that their customers wouldn’t be tempted to browse for elsewhere.



on the secret life of bugs, with brood x

Now that I write about bugs, I remembered a fragment I read a while ago on the hatching and coming of age of a locust. After doing some digging, I found it again, the fragment belongs to Brood X, written by Dan Stockman who is, according to the Pithead Chapela veteran Journalist in Fort Wayne, Indiana (…) working on an MFA in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University. The extract is from chapter 8 and is written with a firm hand and a clear gift for storytelling.

I’ll only give a bit of a gentle nudge in its direction, with a first paragraph or so, but don’t take my word for it, go see the author’s piece on Pithead Chapel, it really is a think of beauty:

It is high summer, when the trees soar and the breeze is slow, the grass deep, and the world is exploding with life. Every square inch seems to be crawling with something, and even the inches themselves are alive—tree bark and plant root and soil. Even the inanimate feels the flow of energy, as vinyl siding expands with the heat of the day and contracts in the cool, asphalt fills its own cracks, and ice cream seems bent on escape from the confines of a cone. Children explode across the landscape, and even adults find new life, discovering both vast reserves of energy and a deeper lust for rest.

Quiet in the middle of this teeming, swarming world lies the egg, small and white, nestled carefully into an incision made into a twig on a tree branch, high above the ground (…)

You can find the full chapter 8, here:

Pithead Chapel Vol 2, Issue 5


janko raven

A Hungarian folktale, Janko Raven (Holló Jankó), tells the story of a boy from a poor family that went on to earn his living at the king’s court. The story is one of charity and perseverance and can be summed up with the proverb One good turn deserves another. Similarly to Nikita the Tanner, this boy too, refuses the king’s offerings, with one exception: the gold he had bargained for in the begining.

For this particular story I’ve also found a video adaptation, that I’ve linked below.

Janko Raven

Once upon a time when the world was much younger, there lived an old couple whom had nothing in the world but an old son, whom they called Janko Raven.jr2

When the boy grew up, he said to his parents:

“Well mother and father, I think it’s time I went and earned some money.”

As his parents had no objections, Janko Raven set on. When he crossed the village border he saw a troop of ants crossing from one field to another. Reeling at the rear was a little ant who fell into a hole and couldn’t come out. Taking pitty, Janko bent down to help her.

“Thank you for your kindness” said the ant. “Here, take this whistle and whenever you’re in trouble just blow it and I’ll come to help you”.

Janko pocketed the whistle and continued on his way. By nightfall he arrived at a huge forest where he found a small house and a white-haired old man.

“Good evening, grandfather” said Janko.

“Good evening, son. What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for a place where I could earn some money and bed for the night.”

The old man let Janko sleep in his place that night. Then in the morning he said:

“Well son, at the other end of the forest you’ll find a wide pasture and beyond that the sea and a huge mountain. On top of the mountain there lays a castle made of solid gold. That’s where the king lives. Go to him. He will give you work.”

Janko thanked the old man for his advice and the bed and went on his way. Just as he reached the edge of the forest, a flock of ravens flew up before him. Walking on he noticed one of the ravens flapping in the grass, unable to fly away. His feathers were wet by the morning dew that he was unable to fly away.

Taking pity on the bird, Janko gathered it up and stroke its feathers until they were completely dry.

“One good turn deserves another, Janko Raven. Here, take this whistle, and whenever you’re in trouble, just blow it and I’ll come to help you”.

Janko soon reached the sea at the foot of the mountain. As he stood there he saw a tiny fish struggling helplessly on the shore. Taking pity on the poor animal, Janko put the fish back into the sea. When the little fish recovered, he said:

“One good turn deserves another. I will give you a whistle to add to the other two I know you have. Whenever you’re in trouble, just blow it and I’ll help you.”

So Janko pocketed this whistle too, and began to climb the mountain.

When Janko reached the castle, the king asked;

“Well lad, what can I do for you?”

“I’ve come to enter into your service, your majesty”

The king said:

“Good. In my kingdom three days count as one full year and the pay is three hundred gold coins, but if you fail to carry out my orders, you will die a thousand deaths. Is it a deal?”

“Yes, it’s a deal.”

On the first day, at sunset, the king summoned Janko and said:

“Go into the farmyard where you’ll find three stacks of millet. By morning, pick out all the millet seeds and stack the millet and the straws separatedly. If you fail, you shall die.”

Janko was frightened almost out of his wits. Then he remembered the whistle given to him by the ants.

Suddenly, millions and millions of ants were swarming around his feet.

“What is the matter dear friend?”

“Oh, I’m in great trouble.” And Janko told the ants what the king had ordered him to do.

“Have no fear, said the ant king: we’ll get started and by morning, we’ll have the millet and the straw in two separate stacks.”

That was exactly what happened by the time the sun rose.

“I see you have carried out my orders” said the king. “You may have the day off, but come to me again, in the evening.”

That evening the king said:

“My three daughters are strolling in front of the castle. Go down and make sure no harm comes to them. If you fail, you shall die a thousand deaths.”

So Janko sat down to guard the three princesses, but he was so tired that he soon fell asleep.

The three princesses changed into ravens and flew away. When he woke up, he found that they were gone. Frightened almost out of his wits he remembered the whistle given to him by the ravens.

The birds appeared out of nowhere and asked:

“What can we do for you dear friend?”

“I’m in great trouble. The king told me to look after his three daughters, but I fell asleep and they’ve disappeared.”

“Have no fear” said the raven king. “Just sit on my back and take hold of this three halters, and off we go to find them!”

Janko climbed on to the ravens back and they flew up into the sky. When they flew behind the moon they found the three princesses sitting side by side in the shape of three ravens.

Jano threw a halter around each of their necks and took them back to the castle.

On the eve of the third day, the king summoned Janko once more:

“Find me the golden ring I lost in the sea or you’ll die a thousand deaths.”

Janko saw that the king meant what he said. So he went to the sea shore where he blew the whistle given to him by the tiny fish. Almost at once, the sea in front of him was teeming with fish.

“What can we do for you, dear friend?”

Janko told him what the king had said.

“Have no fear” said the fish king. “We’ll find the ring”. But as dawn began to break, they still hadn’t found it.

As a last resort, they looked for it in the stomach of a big fish. Sure enough, the ring was there.

“So, my lad, you have served your time well” said the king. “In return, I shall give you one of my daughters in marriage, half my kingdom and three carts, full of gold.”

But Janko didn’t want to marry any of the princesses. Nor did he want to have the kingdom. All he asked for were the three carts full of gold, which he took back to his parents. And together, they lived happily ever after on cheese pies and doughnuts.

jr1

The video is from the TV Series “Long Ago and Far Away,” hosted by James Earl Jones on PBS in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Narrated by Tammy Grimes.