Editor’s note: Kramberger with Monkey remains unpublished in English, but it has been translated into Slovene and published (Kramberger z opico). What does this tell us about the literary landscape in America? All I can say is that this particular excerpt reminded me a bit of the “Oxen of the Sun” episode from Ulysses, one of the greatest chapters from one of the greatest works of literature. And just as one cannot read a single episode of Ulysses and expect to ‘know what it’s about,’ so it is with this excerpt, which is a mere glimpse into a world of stories and wordplay and black humor. I hope you enjoy the alliteration, multilingual puns, and scatology. If you are a publisher, what are you waiting for? Contact the author right away and make your offer.
Author’s note: Valvasor is the only written source for the Erazem story that I know of. Of course, the power of the time in this general part of Europe was in Vienna, and Lord Erazem insulted some folks, and Ravbar was sent from Trieste to take him down. But given the position of the castle and the landscape and the weather it turned into a nightmare mission. Ravbar’s troops were starving much of the time, so Erazem fed them, flinging big dead creatures from the castle. What Ravbar did not know was that Erazem had a path through the earth above his head to the forests subalpine where the game was plentiful. All we know is that someone betrayed Erazem. I posit a dwarf-bonobo (hence the rape, which in bonobo is not rape but a form of greeting that they use occasionally) and as the toilet was set apart it was a clean target, so to speak. After a year or so, then, Erazem was killed. In the book, the protagonist is killed after the first chapter but spoken of throughout, is enchanted with cute little Slovenia and thrilled that they had an assassination he didn’t know about—a guy named Kramberger who was standing in the first national election. He was a populist who drove around in a homemade Bugatti with a monkey named Ančka on his shoulders, sold his own books, and was basically a populist.
Painfully priapic, the prickly pallbearer of paltry pigballs pranced apelikely impudent to the enemy camp spilling soup of sweinbeutel swishing upsides the cauldron only a canny homunculus could carry yet not calm.
Grab the dwarf! cried Ravbar.
Seventeen steaming stews of stinking stones astirring, leave me be, responded the pinioned puny spooner.
Seventeen? Queried Ravbar. And they make you to carry each?
Who be more worthy than the worthlessmost. Leave me be.
Release the dwarf! Ravbar reconsidered without rancour.
And the dwarf dwarfwaddled off and up up up for the castle was high in the mist opacitating the cavemouth.
O dragsome winter, we spew, we spray, day after day no one to slay. They do not come, they do not go, yet happy they feast whilst we fam in snow.
Zakaj means why and we don’t know.
Down again comethe dwarf from fog to fro, steaming cauldron sizzling path through snow. Pigballs for the enemy, we beseech the besiegers lest your absence make us fonder of heart, so eat hearty and I will return sixteen times more that all may sup soup, announced the dwarf.
Beutel bearded swillagery slap soaked and sweating soup—and sated—Ravbar rapped wood spoons upon heads left and right.
Vexmani, Sordzwiller: what thinks ye if brains be now up arisen aloft of bowels?
Two thugly tholdiers eyesidled as if two shots apiece rattling the volant. Peace alist.
What! Sons of Magyar mutts! Mute! Like as if a pigball be resided in my beard.
And so it is lord, Vexmani vouched unsafe.
So? Then ye (Sordzwiller), cowardly pusillanigist, take a bite of my beard yet let not hair be besnagged in yer teeth if ye want not be tied and tossed in treacherously trickly torrent subterr—rain yet fed–stream legend states the frigidmost fore of the Frigidus.
Uncomely comedy, puerile punishment; onlookers’ levity fear-veiled: stunishment.
Will swallow, Sordz, will?
As if apple of Adam shook free by burry from tree in hurry. Descent assent!
Good, now we proceed forth aheadward. What have we glained of dwarf terrain? Wherefrom the midge?
A rapist, lord, captured in yon woods or where near woods be not. From east travelling west.
(Yes! I fucked a child! She was my size!)
Captured? Captured so captive. Captivating. Could cap this crap.
We cudgel the cuddly cunt for revenge?
Simpletons! Anglegrinders! Fartnoise of gaseous thinks…It stinks! Crapulous cohorts besmirch me no more. Bastards! We bridge the midge. Here to yon-there. Espy me espionage engenderment? Erase Erazem eagerly dwarf would to escape these woods. Soft now: when in the course of human events Triestine soldiers freeze in tents, intense intents needs be tendered timely toward abfahrt and aimly bamboozlery for to finally finish off the menemy. Or if nought be nary but a one, Erazem and vamoose.
Viennese. Spoken with contempt for to valorize the vouchfor.
He knoweth not what but beget and begone.
Truth be told. Miracle behold. Fargonetooth, ye understood your Lord. Bote a yoos guys.
Bugeared smiles of teethgapes ate the night’s frosty air.
On abouts the last dish deliver we nab said dwarf and praytell he will tell what is to tell and we then send Erazem to dark darkly hell. Said Sordzwiller.
Meanwhile back in the castle…his tormentual soul all embrassle, Prince Erazem brooded with gloombeglommed glee over goatgut. Behind him on the wall his portrait with two wolves in all, sat erect and stout Otto II and Lazar, oblivious in portrait and life to sarcasm and strife, yet the dour grandeur of the Prince exceedeth the portratoor’s normal tour of subject, for his grim begrizzled exceemal grunge, whirlpooled eyes of vision notwithstanding a man of his standing. All in all, and whatall if that not all, an accurate portrait, for this prince of men above his men in pain had one mellow plaint, for he knew well that men of kith and ken were naught but men and men were naught but beast endenned. His den.
Bruno anglegrinded Baba the Wench into the baldspotting corner as was his want and her wish it won’t, whilst his other loyal grum, Babić sported the dwarf outboundward with buskin in buttskin—as was his want.
(another gherkin in my jerkin)
Mutterith Erazem into his gizzard golaž, the dwarf will betray me. Bruno will deny me. Babić will weep falls of falsity over my fall—slap slobbery syphilism—here in my sylvan crepuscularium. And that is not all. Goat in gut maketh me groan, good god I am engorged yet foreget me meal not, for I am fully filled and the lower of the bowels beltray me. I must evacuate yet I feels eviscerate. A drum for a tum. I needs be oiled. Seven days brez kaka. Tis not natural. I shit you not and I shit not. O groaning guttering gut, sing to me of release and lightening of geese. Ja, twas geese yesterday. O fault be not mine, but I divine the betrayal of surcease of blackmail, and turning of coat I foresee Bruno on boat in yon Adriat Sea with Babiči cock going pee, foregone and forgot, Prince Erazem is not an historical figure to be.
How far is Ravbar? A turd up his nose, a Viennese cure, outfoxed him I have, but his plight is a spur to my generosity and gall, a stone is his pall, I bear him a year, his weakness is mirth for the free man who so near bringeth down dozens of deer. Venison in plenison, I feed my foe, yet ask him to leave and the answer is no…I guess I behaved badly in Veen out of my natural spleen…A turd to the Lord a turd to his men, who wake up enturded to smell it again. Such is the way after drunken fray. Like it or not a turd is your snot. And my best, yest, the best of my men, pardon if mention Bruno and Babić again, yet back then they were with me, no dreams of the sea, a permanent place in Ostro-phallocracy. Dipships, dolts, damn dung dangerees, turning their coats for the promise of sea. Ravbar will roast them in Vipava vallee.
Aye but the dwarf, from where did he spring?
Good lord! Is such pallor of mien and demeanor in our lord of the manor such as to beglory our well-crafted banner?
Ja! Suck not a thumb what wouldst befit up yer bum.
Even apt question from where springeth dwarf ill-betimed for the dwarf sprungst now forth.
Ravbar to the dwarf said: but two names may have thee, one be slave and t’other be free. Slave to Erazem or free made by me.
Something I’ve thought, said the dwarf to the men, something I’ve thought of again and again. But as I am a dwarf and great lord is thee tis not natural eye to eye for us be. Have these brutes put me aground.
A point there is made. Sordzwiller, Vexmani, gentlemen knights, diselevate the guest, fear not flight til behest.
Truer woo of word hast ne’er been spoke, for I have up my hump for Erazem one joke.
A joke! Meanst thou plan?
A mean plan yet a joke.
This not be funnery?
Nay, stunnery if accurate gunnery.
Assuming cannonic refinery.
We have the balls!
I’ll let that pass.
He means can—
Speak not lest ye be broken. Dwarfspeak.
Hearty laughter forged a gorge to rising, whereupon the midge made in ape mode a lightning leap to Vex and Sordz, gibbonging their heads like as if gongly gourds. They fell to flat, by nature groped up on all fours, vertiginous and vomitus, weltanschauungs ne’er to be as before.
Dwarf or monkey be ye be?
I be exhausted with midge mirth that strength of swallowing insult gassed in me and blew as a fructivourous fart, a new ardence. Amends if necessary.
Nay, tis good for the goonery of me gang. Ha! Fructivorous indeed, I shall not insult thee. Sordzwiller, Vexmani, eradicate eructification and be gone. Now, mitey midge, may we proceed forth ahead ravnostly? If I be clarified ye be calamitously, nay, callously, crapped upon by Earitable Erazem. Story. Clap clap.
Aye, most downtroddenly donned a dingbat and shitshat, tossed here, tossed there, wrastling wroom and wolf’s lair, cookpot steamed and buttocks reamed, anglegrinded by hound (wolf) and nightly bound (Babić), slapt round, face forced in shit on ground, ‘Toss me the midge, ha ha, dropped him’ til bones be sore and bruise galore—subtile jokery, nothing more. Ha! I have a plan. Yet only one man needs pay for this midi-evil play.
Might I intrude a word regarding this lord of a turd? Hast he a kennel of cattle, a den of deer, a goatroom of goats? How does he feed us, us besieging unfortunate hapless harriers, bravely bearing the barriestmost of barriers, castle on high above gorge before cave, get him the Veen’s said, make of him a slave or cadaver, take him take him, no what or no matter. Tis done, said I in my ignoble ignorammy, my army is strong and my fire is flammy. Yet a day’s march we make this castle to take and chagrin is our meet when we find wherein is he in. Bombs and bazoodles, brimstones and brass, yet Erazem laughs and says kiss my ass. A fondness developed, I grant, him for me yet not without oppositely. A turdstuffer yes, a violent turk, but what of this besiegement, what the fuck will work? As a man, is he, is he different from me?
About that we will see.
Nay, Dwarf, you are safe if I can trust thee. Pray answer.
High above, in the forest, a wind starts like a mad fart and blows down to the sea, from alpinic cold through Vipava vallee. Up here we are under unsuspecting are ye, up here we are still under some high forestry. Centuries pass, millenia flee, the Roman the Goth the Venezian armees, til you and your men and all stick to vallee whilst the autochthon and local live as previously, in cave mouth, on hilltop, and if necessary, in alpinic slope in time of hungree.
Riddle me not, for I may not patient be. Riddle me not, I am unlettered, you see.
A cave is a hole and a hole is a cave, but a hole in its whole is not a cave if you brave the ascent to top where wild animal roam free—until they meet arrows of Erazem whilst trying to flee (and full of fleas they be). You see? A vast panoply of game, a wild menagerie. Where? Up there? (Iforgot bear.) Don’t look you won’t see, but the forest is vast, believe you in me. Yet Erazem is clever, the most clever of men, eventually Ravbar will kindle his ken, so here we have the dwarf: a purpose for me! A narrower crevasse, further in, further in, and here’s his story: ‘When I was a child I chased after a viper what wouldst flee until lodged deep in a cleft, hissing and pissing and hoping I’d left, but a stick I grabbed and poked that vipee, poked him stoked him to bring him to me, but he hissed and he pissed and I skewered him straight, when I figured his brain defect for him it was late. So you see dwarfly dicker, what I need of thee, to explore every crevasse to find one enough agape to allow an escape from this perpetual fartaround with Ravbar and his Triestineree.’ Otto II, wolf one, nibbled me foot to foot eating cheese, Lazar, wolf two, sniffed and gnawed my well stuffed, overpawed codpiece, nearing that flare of flesh that is reason to be, if crawling with fleas. Yet, lord, it is true escape is possiblee, escape thirteen kilometers to Vipava vallee, the river it runs, it runs I suspect from Erazem’s folly, it runs thirteen kilos underground, don’t you see, but midge is my size, and dwarf is my fate, and cleft after cleft Erazem would send me up viperlyate, til lodged under Nanos, til crevassed and harassed as his childhood viper, to poked by stick after stick as if neither human nor beast, no more of a man that burnt pig at a feast—and that is not tossed in to engrabulate the tale, for many a night I slept or did not suspended over a pail—cookpot, really, a holy for my family, cookpot, the symbol of janissary—but that’s another tale. The time is nigh for Erazem shall send me up high, up high methinks to die. Do you see?
O Frigidus Midgidus, I feel for thee, but nought make it nought, for I have but one enduree: to reduce Erazem to obediencey.
Nay, he will die, he will die, don’t you see, capture his host, his spectre, his ghost, is but insane fantasy, but capture his corpse, now that I can see. Nay, that I promise thee. Yet the time to act is nigh, for his diet and contumely have combined to block his intestinery. The lord can’t shit, yet shit he much must, and so does he sit for hours on yon pottery.
Yon levo, left, separate so no stinkery, I am surprised you surmised not this cave anatomy.
That? That there? That there is…That there is a…That there is a toity? That there is a toity trap?
Trap indeed. Godspeed bungstuffed tough. Ye shall be buried heavier than yer size merits, fodder for cannons, cannons that ferret yer throne as you sit there alone, pushing and grunting, cursing gravity, groaning and moaning bemoaning your gravidy. The great man hath not shat for a week. Next vacation Erazem will be away for hours, suffering a buffeting from the meat he devours at speed in such haste as if afraid it will waste and yet tis his waist where roast like rest most. Ah, shot on the pot, his kingdom for a turd will be his last word, oh the curses that byzantine cavemaze to the ears of his befeared. Laugh not lest ye be flushed or gorgethrown. Now I leave you, Erazem begrieve you not, just be sure a straight shot. When he goeth to pot a room on same level—there with windows beveled, a flag I will post and the shitter bedeviled, the toity engrevelled and this siege be not, your liege.
Meanwhile, back in the castle…Erazem with intestines did wrassle still with bowels encrusted with last week’s swill, his temper thwarted by philosophy, looking inward he did not see dreck but betrayeree.
Human nature being a thing fickle, a leader who can crap naught, not even a trickle, balls gigantic, his inwardly frantic gastritial pain to subordinates overly plain so that each sought what each could gain if this battle and game was destined to turn out the same as previous imperial hijinkery, they whispered gaseous high stinkery treasonous ass-savings while Babić anglegrinded Baba in the corner.
The dwarf will betray me.
Bruno will deny me.
Anglegrinder Babić will anglegrind to Ravbar and himself be anglegrinded til death does its part.
My kingdom for a turd, he said, and with that word he wandered toward his toiletour fate, his bowels overriding his dwarf-fear. Alas, too late to prevent the shenanigans of that midgety gent who burned a candle in the room of the wolves and place a flag in the window to show Ravbar it was time to let go the cannons.
Meanwhile on the pot, the shit was there but would not descend to ravine as if mere to vex the spleen of the lord of the secret riverrine, Erazem instinctualizing gravity undiscovered yet function not yet a theory debunktual plugs metaphorical dog turds into the nose of a devilish god: My kingdom for a turd! is heard through byzantine passages where linger underlings quiet, afraid even to sing, perhaps the midge wouldst crawl up rectum with trowel to dislodge the blockage in byzantine bowel: O I wouldst rather be blasted from this paradise double-crossed by treacherous nature, stomach betraying, all is lost, for eventual logic leads to giant bag of shit if not soon dislogic…Die, die, I would rather die…Hark, they are at it again, a cannon blasts—when will these men i offer live it up give it up, pain again, breath now shitty, a lord a genius on the pot of self pity—Hark!
And the toity was no more.
Rick Harsch hit the literary scene in 1997 with his cult classic The Driftless Zone, which was followed by Billy Verite and Sleep of the Aborigines (all by Steerforth Press) soon after to form The Driftless Trilogy. Harsch migrated to the Slovene coastal city of Izola in 2001, just as the Driftless books were published in French translation by a French publisher that went out of business a few years later. Rick is also the author of Arjun and the Good Snake (2011, Amalietti & Amalietti), Wandering Stone: the Streets of Old Izola (2017, Mandrac Press), Voices After Evelyn (2018, Maintenance Ends Press), Skulls of Istria (2018, River Boat Books), The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas (2019, River Boat Books) and Walk Like a Duck: A Season of Little League Baseball in Italy (2019, River Boat Books). Rick currently lives in Izola still with his wife and two children.
About the illustrator: Max Talley was born in New York City and lives in Southern California. His fiction and essays have appeared in Fiction Southeast, Del Sol Review, Gravel, Hofstra University – Windmill, Bridge Eight, Litro, and Entropy. Talley’s novel, Yesterday We Forget Tomorrow, was published in 2014, and he is a contributing editor to Santa Barbara Literary Journal.