Man Meets Monkey
Kramberger, Ivan, was fond of saying—even when he was still in Germany—that we have in common with monkeys 99% of our genetic structure. The truth is that we have about 98% in common with chimps and bonobos, but probably a mere 93% with his capuchin. He also used to say that nothing is more pathetic than a man who believes his own lies, once in reference to the Croat Tuđman. Yet it is true that in Koper, on that same hot day in August when he watched the sunset from the promenade, he was selling his books and chatting up the body politic when his monkey, Ančka by name, slipped away without Ivan noticing. In the middle of a sentence to a misguided student of management, Kramberger broke off suddenly—»My monkey! Where’s the countessa?« He ran his hands through his Rasputin hair and looked about in panic, his eyes enormous and wild. Where do you even begin to look for a runaway monkey? Trees, he thought, you look in the trees. But they were in Tito Square, where there are no trees, just a palace, a loggia, a church, and a building with a plaque on it that commemorates fallen partisans who couldn’t get back up. Arteries ran from the square in every direction. Ančka had never run away before—would she return? Yes, she would. Before Kramberger could decide what measures to take, up came the contessa from the lane that runs past the Pretor’s Palace, brandishing a bottle of borovničevec. “I had been discussing the good and bad of various Slovene liquors with a peasant down from the kras in town on civic matters, and had expressed my preference for borovničevec, often considered a ladies drink, as the peasant pointed out. And Ančka subsequently took off and stole a bottle for me.”
And when he told this story he would recognize in the eyes of many listeners that look elicited by the pathetic figure who comes to believe his own lies. These were the same kind of people who, rather than suspecting this revenant gastarbeiter of incipient demagoguery, considered his idealism too naïve to merit their sympathy.
Meanwhile, stirring an espresso at a table behind the arches of the loggia, observing the spectacle, Kramberger, his books, and the crowd that never entirely dissipated until Kramberger packed up and took the count for a stroll down to the promenade via Garibaldijeva—so that he passed quite close to this observer and probably noticed his thick moustaches and perhaps even the innate menace that often kept even waitresses at bay—was a man named Mandrake Pizdamonavić—a pseudonym, naturally, or one would hope.
On a bench along the promenade Kramberger was joined by an admirer, a pensioner who had worked at the shipyard in Izola, who asked where he’d gotten his monkey. First Kramberger told the old guy that 99% of our genetic structure is identical to that of the monkey. Then he said, “I went to a pet shop in Bremen and this little fellow was the only monkey in the shop who took an immediate liking to me.” He watched the old man turn this over in his mind, imagining this extraordinary pet store in Bremen with its array of exotic animals, including monkeys. In Koper at the time you couldn’t even buy a tortoise. Finally he added, “Of course, he was the only monkey they had.” Ivan Kramberger was not without a sense of humor.
The Travels of Mandrake
Since he maneuvered his way into this book in such a way that the trained eye could hardly miss him, it might be of some interest if we follow Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s movements over the years preceding and following the one in question, 1992. But first let it be noted that Mandrake is a corruption of the Greek Mandraki, and Pizdamonavić of the Bulgarian Pesdamulov. Mandrake Pizdamonović was that rare creature, the Greco-Bulgar. Some of his movements and suspected activities make a great deal more sense in this light. Where there is a degree of uncertainty we have omitted mention of the assassination. But if we can place Mandrake Pizdamonavić in the vicinity on the day of an assassination we include it on our list. The temporal cut-off points are only arbitrary to the degree that they stray from June of 1992, when Kramberger was shot and it has been established beyond doubt that two days prior to the killing, Pizdamonavić landed at Brnik airport, spent that night in Ljubljana, the next in Maribor, and on the day of the shooting, late in the afternoon, crossed the Austrian border and stayed in a hotel in Vienna before dipping under the radar of documentable vigilance. So we begin in 1986, though we could easily have gone back a few years or started with the veritable spree of 1988. Please keep in mind that Mandrake Pizdamonavić is a warm weather suspected assassin. If the event occurred in the winter months—see Chico Mendes–indeed in late fall or early spring, then it happened near the equator.
In 1986, Olof Palme, the Swedish Prime Minister, was shot in the spine while walking down the street with his wife, who was shot once in the back and survived to identify a patsy who was convicted but later acquitted on appeal. The killing took place on February 28 in Stockholm. Profiles of Pizdamonavić, who was without question in Stockholm on that day, as well as the next, in Oslo the week before, and soon on his island home in the Aegean, suggest that it was the horrible weather and light conditions of this experience, or let us in the interests of fairness say this ‘visit,’ that led to his refusal to operate in cold weather conditions. Palme’s loud and confrontational expressionism on the international stage would have naturally provided many enemies, so it is not worth the time to speculate as to who would have hired an assassin.
No assassinations in 1987 can be linked to the presence of Mandrake Pizdamonavić, but 1988 was a fecund year. Mandrake arrived in Paris in mid-March and spent at least two months there. Interestingly, Dulcie September of the ANC, who was shot five times by a pistol with a silencer on March 31, was without question ordered dead by the South African government, which was a constant target of Olaf Palme’s recriminations. Sometime in June, Pizdamonavić returned to Greece, where William Nordeen of the United States was blown up on June 28 while driving outside Athens, ostensibly by the revolutionary 17 November group. Military attaché to the American Embassy, Nordeen was said to have been killed to exert pressure on the U.S. to remove its military presence from Greece. Given Mandrake’s Greek bloodlines and the fact that he makes his home in Greece, one can make the connection that he was somehow involved. However, as he lived in Greece, he would be implicated in any assassination in Greece, wouldn’t he? No clear evidence is helpful. He arrived in Piraeus by ferry on June 25 and left by ferry on July 3. One message uncovered during the investigation questioned the reason for moving up the date of the assassination, so it is interesting that by July 5 Pizdamonavić was in Brazzaville, Congo. Yes, that Brazzaville. No one has ever been able to pin down the date of the assassination of Pierre Anga, rebel captain, and rumors that President Sassou-Nguesso personally cut off his penis and stuffed it in Anga’s dead mouth remain rumors. Not even the precise day of death can be determined. We know that Anga was on the run and was caught by someone and killed by someone. We know that Mandrake Pizdamonavić was in Brazzaville, for a while appeared not to have been, and certainly was when he flew out on July 27. In December, Pizdamonavić was in Rio de Janeiro. In December/January, he celebrated the new year in Sao Paulo. On December 22, Chico Mendes was killed. The obvious ranchers were rounded up and a couple were convicted and sentenced, but unreliable witnesses—that is, disgruntled employees of the rainforest-eating giant corporation Cargill, which habitually disgruntles employees—have claimed that even back then Cargill, the rainforest-eating giant corporation, had its eyes on Amazonian profits that could only accrue in a sort of correlation to the recession of the Amazon forests.
Organizer, assassin, or both? That’s one of the unanswered questions about Mandrake Pizdamonavić. Though he can be connected to no assassinations in 1989, he spent several weeks that year in Tehran and was in Berne, Switzerland, by April 19, 1990, and Geneva by April 23, the day before prominent anti-clerical Iranian dissident Kazem Rajavi was gunned down—machine gunned down—by two men in Coppet, a suburb of Geneva where Rajavi lived. Witnesses described the killers in such a way as to rule out Pizdamonavić’s direct involvement. In all fairness it must be noted that Pizdamonavić flew to Zurich directly from Washington, D.C., and the death of Rajavi has been used as an anti-Iranian government propaganda tool by the ruling cabal in the United States.
Champions of privatization such as the American business government would have approved of the next coincidence here taken note of, the death of Detlev Rohwedder in Dusseldorf, picked off by a sniper while under heavy guard, standing unconcerned near a window at his house on April 1, 1991. Rohwedder was in charge of the privatization of East Germany, so to speak, and many thought he was not only dragging his feet, but positively entrenching them in an attempt to obstruct the process in order to eventually implement some kind of passé worker controlled environment in factories and such. While if any of the suspicions regarding Mandrake Pizdamonavić are actually true, a visit to the city that was home to the famous Dusseldorf killer, Peter Kuerten, would not be unthinkable, the timing and duration of the visit make one curious. March 31 arrival, April 2 departure. And one could suppose that a visit to Chicago, the city associated with Al Capone all over the world, might also be in order. Sure enough, Pizdamonavić was there on May 21st, when Ioan Culianu, a professor at the University of Chicago was knifed to death in a bathroom in a campus building. An authority on mysticism, magic, Gnostics, and an altogether mysterious mind and man, his death has been blamed on the Romanian secret service, the theory being that he was critical of the economic policies (privatization again) of the new, post-Ceausescu, regime. Speculation involving Mandrake Pizdamonavić begins with his chosen pseudonym and suggests a personal motive, as does the intimate nature of the assassination. Oddly, that same night, a Mexican poet who fancied the Aztec moniker Zenzontli, and his bizarre work ‘anti-regime’—he pulled such wild stunts as imitating a crow for an entire three minute rendition of a poem, cawing out Shaft! over and over—was found hanging in his hotel room in the Loop that same night, time of death some hours later than Culianu’s, name of hotel Blackburne, which is where Mandrake Pizdamonavić happened to be registered at the time. In July, Pizdamonivić was all over the Low Countries, and was missing from Brussels on the day that Andre Cools, minister of the Walloons and member of the socialist party that was implicated in a scandal involving an Italian helicopter manufacturer, was killed, July 18. On July 20th, he was in Paris, where there is reason to believe he stayed, more or less, until August 9th, when he flew to Milan. On August 7th, Shapour Bakhtiar, former Prime Minister of Iran (Iran again) and leader of Iranian exiles, was murdered at his house in a Paris suburb, allegedly with the complicity of the French secret service. And of course we know that soon after the plane landed in Milano, Pizdamonavić was drinking coffee on the Slovene coast, keeping his eye on Kramberger. Breaking ranks with time to follow up on a connection, if there is one kind of person the French secret service would want dead it would be an Algerian, and in 1995 just such a creature, Abdelbaki Sahraoui was killed in Paris during one of Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s many stays there—on July 11. The assassination was claimed by an Islamic Militant Group supposedly, in what journalists covering the event, including Todd Fullmer, consider a forged letter so poorly concocted as to all but eliminate the French secret service even though such a combination of assassination and misattribution would be right up their rue.
Moving back now, in 1994 (nothing terribly suspicious in 1993), the Georgian politician Giorgi Chanturia was gunned down by a lot of people while he was in his car. It happened in December, and it is doubtful that Mandrake Pizdamonavić was there, but, strangely, irrefutable proofs have him in Tbilisi from May that year at least until early September. Otherwise, in this case, big fucking deal.
Finally—well, not finally, but to round off this summary and suggest a future for Mr. Pizdamonavić—in 1996 he was in Sofia on October second when Andrey Lukanov, former prime minister, reformer, in bed with several major western business interests, etc., was killed in an assassination on the street much reminiscent of the murder of Olof Palme. Pizdamonavić was in Sofia even more often than he was in Paris, so coincidence is a slippery word, but then again, after 1996 he was often in Sofia and two dozen assassinations in Bulgaria, mostly in Sofia, over the next decade suggest that not all of Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s bullets were spent in Beograd during that time.
The First Man, So to Speak
Nothing is everything, but if something were it would be timing. I think those idiots brought this on themselves. All that bullshit about the limits of omniscient narration and then this premature disclosure of the movements of Mandrake Pizdamonavić. There was no need; worse, there was absolutely no use. Stupid move, really stupid. If I speak ill of the dead, so be it. Like Todd Fullmer, who I consider a much more admirable figure than the ‘others’, a truly brilliant and fearless journalist, I won’t flinch from the truth, however ugly it might be, however uncomfortable it might be for me or my readers. That said, I probably should say that of course I am not happy about the way things turned out. But the very fact that I wasn’t with them reflects on the nature of our collaboration, which was coming apart at the seams. As to what happened, I am as mystified as anyone else. The need to visit Germany to verify certain facts about Kramberger’s life there was not absolute, but not altogether absurd. Yet when I heard that their gondola fell a thousand feet into a gorge in the Tyrol, I had to ask myself why the hell they had broken the trip for a little skiing. That wasn’t like us at all. So again we have suspicious circumstances and no answers. When a gondola falls a thousand feet and two dead bodies are found and identified, there is little room for conspiracy. Case fucking closed. But were they directed to go there, for instance instructed to take the Gondola to the top to meet with a source who trusted no one and insisted on meeting in an odd, remote location? I’m terribly sorry about the way things went, I really am, but I have to proceed in the only way possible. After all, this is a novel about the assassination of Ivan Kramberger, not about the authors of a book about Ivan Kramberger. And for now that leaves me, and I am only who I am, or, better said, I am what I am, and I will say what I want to say. So now here’s a little of what I think. First and foremost Fullmer, who has been given short shrift. The blankets of his death bed have been short-sheeted. Easy to dismiss indeed! Just as it’s easy to dismiss the pieces of a puzzle that don’t fit, to back away far enough the picture looks good enough, to keep backing away til you fall off a cliff. I’ve read nothing of Fullmer’s that wasn’t dead accurate. So I’m going to go ahead and print one of his articles that was twice quashed, once by his editor, and then again by omniscient selective narrators. But before I do, I would like to address the greatest smear against him—in Chapter Seven, the accusation that he was Americo-centric, that there was something unusual about his idealization of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. First off, Fullmer was American and writing to an American audience. The Kennedy assassination is one of the great moments in American life. Take that assassination away suddenly and the entire nation would be in a gut-sucking withdrawal that would make quitting cigarettes seem like tossing a candy bar wrapper in the shitcan. But even more important, more admirable, was the way Fullmer took that assassination as the sort of Platonic Ideal assassination, took it into the world as a model by which he and his readers could understand other assassinations. He gave people that assassination, people of all countries, all colors, all religions. Here’s a direct example of the importance of this method. The guy who was convicted of shooting Kramberger, Pijan Lovec, is called the Lee Harvey Oswald of Slovenia, and was thus labeled almost immediately, by the first Slovenes who voiced their doubts about the official version. If there were no Todd Fullmer to clarify how the pieces of any particular assassination fit into the Kennedy paradigm—or how they don’t!—it would be all that much easier to bamboozle the citizens of the world, the whole fucking world! I hope I’ve made my point, because I have something to add here. Some fucking idiots who will not be named, made the decision to contact some subFullmers in America to sort of replace him, to see if it might be helpful to understand how these Americans who don’t buy their government’s bullshit might explain assassinations. One idea was to see if we could get a couple of versions of the Kennedy assassination, so that our readers who don’t know much about it would at least see how it all fell out in the American imagination, so to speak. Sure, everybody knows Oswald was a patsy, but then what happened. Does anyone know? Well, we did make a couple of good contacts, a guy called Skip Obscure, probably a pseudonym, though a diligent search brought out the use of his name in an obscure—pun unavoidable—novel called The Sleep of Aborigines, now out of print. Interestingly, in that ‘novel’ he is portrayed just as we have come to know him. The other man is more suspect. His ‘name’ is Mack Beltch, probably not a pseudonym…okay, definitely not a pseudonym—I checked and he is beyond doubt exactly who he says he is. So we got these two fantastic sources, who know all about American assassinations—Skip himself has read over 40 books about the Kennedy assassination, and more reliably, been obsessed with it for 17 years—and they wrote brief synopses of the Kennedy assassination, gave us permission to use them in this book, and the decision was made by ‘us’ to shelve the essays! Can you believe it? So before I deliver the ‘controversial’ Fullmer piece, I’m going to provide the two essays from our sources.
Editor’s note: I started The Collidescope so that I could give a home to work that is true to itself rather than diluted by the artless concerns of marketing and audience pandering. The aesthetic of the journal reflects my own tastes, of course: writing that tinkers with the mechanics of language, that itemizes etymology, orchestrates melody, writing that is logistically illogical and acts as the ouija board of voiceless dreams. Rick Harsch’s writing embodies all this and more. I never thought that I’d be serializing an amazing novel from an amazing author. I’m both honored and excited. So dear readers, be sure to bookmark The Collidescope and check back every Sunday for new installments of Kramberger with Monkey: A Comedy of Assassination by Rick Harsch.
Let’s start by rewriting the goddamn author bio: Rick Harsch is 60 years old. He was run down and mauled by the literary scene in the late 1990s, his Driftless Trilogy coming out like three gusts from a pistol preceding a flag that says BANG. The pistol is plastic. The flag is tissue. He moved to Slovenia in 2001, 9 days after the attacks on NY and D.C., an innocent man about to find out that condition stretched all the way to naïve. He wrote a lot, but only last year was his fiction welcomed in the US again, with Voices After Evelyn and Skulls of Istria. Everybody says they are great. Not many people have bought them. This year he is getting two books published by River Boat Books, his magnum (finally a magnum) opus, if it is, called The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas, and a travel/sports book called Walk Like a Duck: a Season of Little League Baseball in Italy.
The book being serialized here by the young overmuscled writer George Salis is called Kramberger with Monkey. If you see fit, you can read these short chapters and see how a writer handles extreme adversity, as my fictional mouthpieces keep getting knocked off as the book goes along. It’s especially inconvenient when a death forces me into the second person. I’m used to being fourth. If you have time, please write and tell us whether or not you think the book should be bloodier.