“Shake More, Nod Less.”
a chapter from PLAN D: on the eve of (План D накануне)
by Noam Venevetinov
translated from the Russian by Max Lawton
ABOUT THE BOOK
Imagine a world in which Gravity’s Rainbow and Ulysses are studied in middle school, and Infinite Jest––in elementary school; in such a world, a certain person decides to write an amusing adventure novel with an instructive ending, but it’s not as corny as it might typically be in the school curriculum; he takes all the literary devices that already look complicated from an earthling’s point of view, and squares them––perhaps even cubes them!
The six-hundred-year history of the New Castles family and its influence on world events wouldn’t be a simple one even if it were presented in linear fashion, but, here, the author tears it into small pieces, blends it thoroughly, building a composition that cannot be understood upon a first (second, third, etc.) reading, thus offering the reader the opportunity of literally working as a historian, examining these scattered pages, as if they’d been randomly collated into five large folders, to establish the time and place of action, the connection between fragmented documents, and the logic of the characters’ actions.
Venevetinov reinforces this fractalized composition with fractalized syntax, filling the sentences with plugged-in, unrelated constructions, from clause to clause to clause, sometimes stretching the explanation for some fact out to an entire page, arranging sentence-lists in which valuable information is hidden away for the researcher to find. And this is, perhaps, its simplest and most comprehensible method, for, more generally, Plan D: on the eve of is characterized by a method of phrasal construction in which you have to carefully reassemble and restore the order of words so as to, at the very least, figure out who stood upon whom––and where.
This is a big data novel, the reading of which demands all of the reader’s resources. Not a book you’d take on vacation, but a book you take a vacation from.
Never before in Russian literature has there been such reckless literary hardcore, so demanding, but also so rewarding of readerly labor (if the labor is brought to bear in the proper quantity). Very rarely does an author allow himself to be more difficult than the reader can digest––but Noam Venevetinov has turned out to be the most difficult OF ALL.
BEGINNING OF EXCERPT
They were flying on a VC-54C “Sacred Cow,” it’d recently been Roosevelt’s, everything was still saturated with him––at least the bedroom and the wheelchair hoist were. He rode it halfway to Atsugi, where he was required to exchange a handful of words with Douglas MacArthur, who was walking naked to the waist along the shore of Chigasaki––mined in certain places––looking at the ocean, but never touching its waters.
The world reposed down below, already almost brought to a halt, such was its aspect after all the capitulations. No one running toward the people opposite, the planet had lain down to catch its breath, shifting its orbit ever so slightly, and, if it felt like this over the ocean, then what sort of quietude would suck them in over Eurasia? The closer they got to Europe, the higher the risk of a tailspin grew, over the places where despisers and activists were waiting for the trial to begin. These people lived on indifference alone, they’ll catch that which is close to the ground, they’ll run by way of inertia, they’ll hurl it onto the belly, if there’s a chassis, wrapped up inside itself or sheared clean, laying a message into several floors by way of a symbolic gesture, which is to say the most obvious one, which is to say they won’t be flying out of here in the near future.
Already in Nuremberg, Truman asked to stop on the square before the Tugendbrunnen, both got out––an unspoken intention of taking a drink, but saw that the water hadn’t been changed out for a long time, it was cloudy, they spun around and returned to the automobile.
They arrived on time for the first hearing, the discovery of the people’s dissatisfaction with them at a separate entrance manifested itself in a whistle, anathema, putrid parsnips, how many they managed to launch in an arc over the course of a short but wondrous moment of passage from the limousine to the doors, through the Schutzmanns and “MR.” Both intentionally moved beyond the reach of the guards’ direct access, which played into the hand of the misanthropes, in whose ranks were contained the whole human world of kitchens, slums, and skyscrapers.
In the courtroom, everything was arranged in a gloomy and oppressive style so as to discourage the urge to consult. Though they were military men, both of them had their preferences set very much against this, which was perhaps why they hadn’t immediately figured out what this prism oversaturated with varnish and wood was. Barely parted curtains in the gloomy spirit of antiquity, plus meekness in the even gloomier spirit of the justice that is internal vigilance. The last time they’d searched out the truth here had been in 1806, when Napoleon’s decision to hand Nuremberg over to Bavaria was being contested. A balcony ran along three sides of the perimeter and square windows were cut into the joints of the cladding and whitewash, out of which the lenses of movie cameras protruded. Off in the distance, gloomy black-haired officials were seated in the corners, there were microphones on the tables in front of them, control panels too. The parquetry was strewn over with thousands of wires, they seemed rather alien to this ancient hall. The furniture had been whimsically arranged, the tables facing each other with their flanks to the tribunal, just like the chairs before them, some perpendicularly, nails beaten into their ends, telephones having been hastily hung from the nails.
Both involuntarily retracted their claws when faced with the gazes of so many pairs of eyes that exuded hatred. When he posed the question, the presiding officers answered that these were mainly students and auditors from law faculties, for whom practical experience was indispensable as they begin to outwardly unstitch so much of the ether with their pens, perhaps it would turn out that they were conductors, however, for this reason alone, one should not consider them to be reporters, of whom, by pre-approved arrangement, only the most elite pinch would be admitted to the trial.
They hadn’t managed to resurrect the image of the lawyer across the table in their gloomy abysses, the classical North American one––more generally, everything connected with this trial, with its advent and appearance, with the preparations made for it, in the context of a society to which information and agreements were presented, was thus a model of perception, filtering and interpretation of information accepted in the historical community as recognizing and affirming the surrounding world, but not based, and that was the issue, on previous societal experience––the horns almost drowned in an undercut combed back, wavy and shiny with gel, he smiles benevolently with porcelain teeth, gulps down some “Parker,” pulls it from the ear––his own, the client’s––from the fly of the presiding judge, he pretends to be armor-piercingly, the leather of his boots in motion, as if they were only whimsically curved screens, where passions are broadcast in terrariums––digestion, a leather folder with a zipper on the teeth, into which the archives of practice are placed––how he was pincered by two Red Army Kalmyks––all American presidents will later dream of this, fulfilling all the duties of bailiffs, they were recruited and trained to do everything with an unflappable visage, fifty-four pure-blooded Oirats.
The second was put behind bars, the foreigner to this hall, all somehow set up the day before. The bars emphasized that there were no noble people left, which, from a single look, no one trepidates any longer. When the bars were palpated and the farcical train soaked into the dust on the dormer windows, the silence was broken by his objections, his eyes looking rather big because of his lenses.
“How dare you? What is this BS––‘conferring on the spot’? OK? No…what I’m asking is whether, in your estimation, this is OK?”
In the late autumn of ‘43, outside a building on the corner of 21st Avenue and Virginia Avenue, Mrs. O’Leary was waiting for him wearing casual business attire, even though it was already cold, a haze thick as a beef patty hovering over the Potomac each morning. The air was suffused with the feeling of death at the hands of a state power, flying bits of matter from the intellectual history coming into being right then, if you don’t maintain a certain daily boldness, then you might do a lotta harm to god only knows how many people. And not a single thought of Mr. O’Leary.
Here, she follows him hurriedly, slightly behind and to the right.
“The candidates shall arrive by eleven.”
“All of them?”
“All six of them?”
“Where shall we meet?”
“Yesterday, you said you’d meet them one at a time.”
“On the contrary, I’ll first accept them all at once, with two of them to be eliminated. Prepare a decent meeting room. What’s next?”
“Lunch with Minister Stimson at 1:00pm.”
“What question might he ask?”
“I’m not quite sure, but I heard that, once upon a time, he spent his honeymoon in the Philippines, perhaps––”
“At two, an activism known to you, aimed at the highest category of supply, and not at––”
“A meeting with Union Minière.”
“At what time?”
“That depends on at what time the analysis of the State Department reaction ends.”
“We winch in the circle of those who are aware of our affairs.”
“A meeting with DuPont.”
“With that brood of maniacs who stop at nothing in the interests of their own profits?”
“With your permission, General, you also––”
“A briefing on human capabilities with the staff of the Chicago Lab.”
“Wait for Roosevelt’s call for a minimum of forty minutes.”
“And today’s what––Thursday again?”
“A gas-diffusion-method breathing session with the Committee.”
“What––they’re coming here?”
“No, they’ll be waiting for you there.”
“Put down a question mark. Next.”
“A communication session with Szilard regarding the removal of the heat from the reactor.”
“A thirty-minute striking-out of the phrase ‘plutonium plant’ from all official papers.”
“We’ve come to the conclusion that issues of secrecy do not allow us to entrust this to a third party.”
“Yes, that’s quite correct.”
“Then atomic-physics testing.”
“Merely atomic or elementary atomic?”
“For you, physics both atomic and elementary.”
“Put down two question marks.”
“Here, you also have a debate on thermal equilibrium marked down.”
“On precisely thermal equilibrium? Because it seems to me that I recently held forth about global equilibrium––I just can’t remember where.”
“Yes, thermal––that’s correct. Apparently also dealing with the current project.”
“It’s indispensable to calculate at what percentage the bomb’s creation is estimated for today and right here is precisely the window for that.”
“And today’s what––Thursday again?”
“And what shall I be doing while waiting for Roosevelt’s call.”
“Either watching the phone or trying to solve the Latin Square––it depends on your mood.”
“Oh, the Latin Square! I seem to recall that a fantastic opening Go move was encrypted in the last one.”
“Shall I free up some time?”
“What––does such a possibility exist?”
“Speaking frankly, General, I can cancel any item, depending on orders from on high, we’re quite autonomous here, as I’ve already underlined, well, perhaps not as regards Mr. Stimson…”
“Painstaking searches through the southwestern segment of the country.”
“As you might imagine, I’ll need to be in Washington tonight.”
“Usually, a map’s sufficient for this sort of search.”
“And what am I…gosh dang it! And what are we looking for there?”
“The ideal location for a nuclear laboratory.”
“Will we have to move there?”
“If we want to, but, if you want to know what I think, we have everything here and are able to run things just fantastically.”
“Run things? You’re talking about running things from your eternally dank reef––there, everyone just runs around looking for something to eat.”
“I beg your pardon, but everything is perfectly managed from here, the relevant ministries, and, again––”
“Enough. What’s next? No––hold on. Is this somehow recorded?”
“Already explored and rejected or recognized as promising prospective areas?”
“What was there last time?”
“The eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada––that’s where the southern line of the Pacific Railway lies.”
“What’s the verdict?”
“And why’s that?”
“Abundant snowfalls won’t allow for year-round construction, communication by air is most difficult, in addition to which, it’d represent a possible expansion of the circle of people who are aware of the project’s substance.”
“Enough––to hell with the eastern slope. Next.”
“A discussion of the issue of the closing of the Los Alamos boarding school.”
“And what exactly is the problem there?”
“They might well be dragged off to trial, also the students might well blab all our secrets of the first order to whomever they come across in such a way that the circle becomes more or less unmanageable.”
“Oh Lord in Heaven…I’m supposed to deal with that too?”
“It’s within the precise contours of your duties, as I’m obliged to state.”
“And what did this school do to put our panties into a twist? This…this boarding house!”
“It stands upon the territory of the plot of land chosen for the laboratory.”
“Which means that we’ve already selected this damnable lot?”
“It’d seem so.”
“Mrs. O’Leary, are you more or less in possession of your faculties? To put it generally, you’re an administrator of what level?”
“I don’t understand what that has to do with anything.”
“What we’re looking for on this poop-colored map every day––please explain!”
“Oh! So that’s what you mean…really…well, here, you see…perhaps, you’ll want it to be––”
“How would I possibly want it to be?”
“Marked down, General.”
“Marked down? Well, OK. However…Well, OK. What, as you were saying, comes next?”
“The development of a plan as to how to start a smallish squabble between Westinghouse and General Electric.”
“What sort of squabble?”
“For our contracts.”
“And they’re what––friends?”
“No, but they don’t hate each other enough.”
“Really? I wonder where such kindness could come from in the midst of war…OK, put an exclamation point next to it. Next.”
“Next comes Oppenheimer.”
“In what sense does Oppenheimer come next?”
“Well, in this one––Robert Oppenheimer, of whom you’ve recently dreamed.”
“I didn’t dream of him! Where’d you get that idea from?”
“Well, however you please, but he’s now marked down for you during your waking hours.”
“He’ll be coming here?”
“Yes––and I don’t suppose he’ll be coming alone.”
“And, in the final estimation, how did we assess our readiness to meet with this Oppenheimer?”
“It’s very average, I’m obliged to state. His arguments are too unswayable. We make the bomb so that Hitler isn’t the only one who has the bomb, and if Hitler’s suddenly defeated by the Russians or God knows who else and we no longer need the bomb, well, an expression figured into it about the lifting of fingers––in the negative sense.”
“That he wouldn’t lift a finger––that’s what you mean to say?”
“Alright, then. Put down three question marks and two exclamation points after his name.”
“Alright, then, after that, a brainstorming session on the topic of whether people who are not Nobel Prize laureates are qualified to work with us.”
“Well, yes, that’d somehow be illogical, we’ll really take that question by storm, then, as for Oppenheimer, he can also go…on the other hand, is he a laureate of the prize?”
“Not yet…but at any moment…you understand.”
“OK, don’t change anything––next.”
“Training for speeches on radio or television with the goal of repelling possible attacks on the loyalty of various candidates holding various posts.”
“Oh Lord. Well, that’s not so soon, is it? So far, we don’t have that many posts.”
“Not so soon, that’s right.”
“Then strike it out with a solid line––no, hold on, strike it out with a dotted line, if we can deal with the laureates quickly enough, then I’ll train.”
“I’ll allow myself to remark that you’re unlikely to deal with them all that quickly, Richtmyer will be coming in on the heels of the Nobel people.”
“And who’s that?”
“I’m not really sure––some academic, it’d seem.”
“Academic? Are you kidding me?”
“A professor of physics, it’d seem, Arthur Compton would know.”
“By the way, it’s been a long time since Compton’s figured into our plans.”
“Well, just now, a meeting was scheduled with him on the subject of the amount of material.”
“He insists, he said that he’ll bring someone with him even more beastly than those gloomy Hungarians.”
“Remind me, back then, you and I came to the shared, as it were, conviction that these substances are always dangerous, and not only when they’re divvied up like the damned, isn’t that so?”
“Even more than that––deathly dangerous.”
“Good. It’s quite a thing to manage all this from a distance, isn’t it, Mrs. O’Leary?”
“Stands to reason.”
“OK. Think about where we’ll apply all this once we’ve invented it. That all?”
“In general terms, but not in those particular general terms that we discussed on Monday.”
“Mrs. O’Leary! You’re even more beastly than those folks at the Pentagon when you ask them to do a little bit of research. OK, what’s our situation with the reactor location?”
“The experimental reactor?”
“What else––are we planning another one? Do you want to get smashed by three kilos of plutonium a day all at once? We’ve gotta watch our step with you, huh? Still?”
“No, I mean…well, the Argonne forest is an unsuitable option, in my view, um, if you want to know my opinion. It’d be like a pig playing poker.”
“Leave behind all those little Irish jokes of yours. What about the gift for the anniversary?”
“In what sense––for whom? What––you didn’t write it down? But you remember everything to do with those pigs…OK, enough…. But, in that case, what’s our situation with the reactor beneath the western rostrum?”
The defendants were assigned translators into Russian and French, who were accustomed to working simultaneously, whoever was faster fed a certain degree of bile to his colleague. Forty-year-olds, unmarried, wearing thick horn-rimmed spectacles, bald, combing the remains of their hair across their heads.
The presiding judge referred to a clause in the International Military Tribunal’s charter, then continued.
In the first row of armchairs, beautiful and gloomy, heavily carved under lacquer mixed with lampblack, and with gargoyle heads and manticores at the ends of the armrests, glossy human shadows sketched their own outlines. When he began to look for his place, he shuddered, awaiting reprisals, he grimaced, froze, began to look more carefully, he realized that all seats were occupied, became confused, tried to gather his thoughts, which, at that moment, were, at least to some extent, focused on possible consequences, then did what they’d constrained him to do: he asked where he was meant to go.
The bailiffs brought in an old wooden chair with traces of extravasation removed by household chemicals and rusty clamps for arms, legs and neck, a chair, which, again, from the point of view of economizing one’s own efforts, and despite an attempt to see all things anew and in their own details, and not as types and genuses, well, the chair immediately called forth thoughts about sects and secret societies.
“Are you kidding me? It’s got no wheels,” coming around from the back and examining it.
In response, he referred to a subparagraph of the protocol of the UN General Assembly, an article in the judicial code of the Trondheim Fjords, verse 24 of the Book of Genesis, and a point from the precedent fixed during the arrest of Sarah Clois, which he wasn’t able to dredge up on the move, even given his own judicial past. The analogy with the Salem case struck him and did away with some of his courage, the very idea that––just think!—they were trying to defeat him with their own weapons––this somehow fettered him.
“I hope you don’t intend on putting me into that,” Truman finally squeezed out, having involuntarily felt everyone’s quite gloomy disposition toward him.
“Of course not, this isn’t the Oval Office, the tribunal couldn’t possibly make such a decision.”
“Your Stalin would force me into it,” lowering himself down with a forced laugh.
All five clamps closed with a soft kiss, the springs catapulted almost soundlessly, but also irresistibly. Several bits of rust fell once they touched flesh. He became engorged with blood, all of his limbs twitching, one of which, the left leg, remained out of the shackles, sitting down into the chair, he didn’t place it properly against the leg, and now a dustily-waxed black boot soared up to the enemies’ testicles, then fell, exposing the naked shin, overgrown with blonde hair. The socks were too short and, it seemed, not even from the same set.
”What’s the matter, what’s the matter?” the chairman instantly shouted. “What––you didn’t turn off the mechanisms?”
The interpreters, pushing each other away, tried to open the stocks, and a dozen Kalmyks with indifferent faces immediately ran into the hall, lining up in front of the tribunal, then sitting in rank upon the ambo, eclipsing the pediment’s carved panels.
“What’s the matter––I ordered that this chair be brought into working order.”
They remained silent, expressing their readiness to fulfill their duties straightaway, to, generally speaking, attach anything to anything else––anything in the whole universe.
“This hearing is adjourned until clarification, mind you, the tribunal knows how to uncover all circumstances,” the presiding judge announced, exchanging glances with the others; only Mr. Randolph looked sour, perhaps he’d voted for Truman last time.
The Tribunal stood up, everyone in the hall stood up. The tribunal withdrew, the prosecutors disappeared imperceptibly in their wake, students and auditors of law faculties rushed to give interviews, followed by the Kalmyks, of whom only two remained frozen at the cage, not having received the order to escort him away. The translators and stenographers also left, the crowded gallery for mysterious guests was empty, by definition they had to have a special status, to neglect the trial in the neighboring room and pass the approval of the American side: who are they anyways? The False Dmitry Prokhorov stuck his head out of the door behind the judges’ stand and beckoned to the Red Army men. Once they’d left, the artificial light in the hall was extinguished, leaving only reflected patches pouring through the narrow chinks between the curtains, but, at night, these also disappeared. The defendants suspected that they could be eavesdropped on, for which reason this piece of theater was put on, for which reason they quickly agreed not to discuss anything.
The crowd awaiting them, people who were hardly indifferent even immediately in the wake of all this, sons of Europe and Asia who’d been brought to Nuremberg not by travel voucher, they came here, not looking around or at each other, sailing past the ruins and standing between them in queues, at checkpoints saturated with barbarism and bureaucracy, allowing themselves only plaintive faces, spending the night under the stars on the steppe, after two hundred kilometers of hajj, the light barely enucleated their gaunt figures any longer, for some time now they’ve been a step away from holiness, a zombified locomotion, with a single passion, running through the shallows, changing snowshoes at post-horse stations, then they were changed out, in which case they gave up their own, there was a special symbolism in the way they rolled down the slopes, the legend of this part of the Alps, the total dampening of echoes and seismic effects, the underground river carried bodies floating on their backs past the bent willows and into the tunnel, eyes open, hands folded over the chest, unbuttoned overcoats slowly flowing into the elements at the level of the waters warmed by the sun’s rays, representatives of small nations and nationalities, not even taken into account by the Red Cross, silently sharing beetroot, mating against the incarnation of the very substance of evil, the mouthpieces of this outpost of the Milky Way, in which no one had yet blown up in such spectacular fashion, disappointed, but endlessly aligned, gradually dispersed toward midnight.
Adjoining the Palace of Justice was a four-story prison building, at its end there was an opening that the British soldiers had recently covered over with two overlapping membranes of canvas stained with blood and dirt. Shortly after midnight, von Neurath’s head appeared through that opening, he looked agitatedly around the yard, then climbed out. Immediately behind him appeared the indifferent Göring in an army blanket, followed by von Ribbentrop, followed by Hess, followed by Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, and Rosenberg, followed by Frank, followed by Frick, followed by Funk and Schacht. They lined up in a column, one at a time, bent their arms at the elbows, got ready to jog. But then Karl Doenitz clambered out, caught sight of his colleagues, and waved his hand back inside. Raeder immediately jumped out from behind him, followed by von Schirach, Sauckel, Jodl, von Papen, Seyss-Inquart, Speer, and Fritsche. Only Streicher remained in his cell, realizing that the table, though it was screwed to the floor, paper, pencil, tobacco, toiletries, and family photographs upon it, already over-generous for their gang––the perfect as the enemy of the good.
A second column formed up near the first, waiting for orders from Göring. It was November, it was dog-cold, they were promised that packages with clothes and documents would be waiting for them in Partyland, beneath an arrow that’d once indicated where to look for Hitler. He raised his hand, but then the spotlight shone onto them from all sides, and, with it, as if attached to the rays’ bullets, unrestrained laughter, the very laughter, it was explained, with which jesters contemptuously baptized executioners during torture and before execution, disassembled into sounds by Aristotle. This is salvation, a flurry, gravity from the bowels, from the essence of human organisms. The whole of Nuremberg, so filled up on the occasion of the tribunals’ opening, laughed, Nuremberg in hysterics, the temporary abolition of moderation, the memory of the dead, of the fact that there’re ruins all around and, tomorrow morning, you’ll have to use a shovel to fill up wheelbarrows with broken bricks….
A barrel of shit, installed in a baby carriage that’d taken more than a hundred wounded away from the Seelow Heights, it circumnavigated the people, and shells flew ceaselessly at the defendants, feces mixed with Portland cement, better than wet snow, better than your average pebbles; Keitel realized that, if they didn’t start eating it now, they’d drown, it’s strange no one was panicking all that much. After a while, a net flew up from under their feet, and a crane boom creaked in the darkness to the right and above them. Condensed and spitting, they soared, they were a single being, the apparatus of the Reich, inferior, but without problems involving the true visage. From a great height, they were thrown back into the yard, then jerked back up, then released once more. Did the people like it? It was very much to their taste, the pressure of their laughter wasn’t declining at all. Potholes under the heels, an active and, at the same time, benumbed state, and what if they’re to be used again, eclipsing the mind with atonement?, devaluing everything that they’d achieved that night. The sleeves of their jackets are covered in shit that’s knitting, and it looks like it’ll cover over their hangovers tomorrow.
A bunch of mixed Nazis were pressed into heaps by bulldozers in such a way that their bones cracked, but no cube came out of it. Then one moved to the open hatch, a successfully constructed mechanism, a window invisible at other times, whoever knew about it always came back with thoughts, this little thing possessed the precision of a perfect rose of engineering, under the wall of the prison, a little more, then end to end with the place where the plane of the courtyard changed and flew off in an unobstructed direction.
Once the tribunal had taken its seats the next morning, at the reluctant order of the presiding officer, the bailiffs lifted him up with long blacksmith tongs behind the collar of his jacket, and, the tongs steaming, thrust gauze omentums soaked in potassium permanganate between the limbs and the outline of the shackles. NO2 had dragged several wires into the cage at night and gnawed them through.
“So far, this is all that’s in our power,” said the chairman. “We could’ve broken it, but we won’t. This is antique, so appreciate the position we’ve afforded you in this trial, it isn’t subject to any sort of breaking, you shall endure until we find a craftsman.”
“Does that mean it won’t be dealt with until lunch?”
With all his disadvantages, he knew how to rebuild and adapt to circumstances. The scale of the trap they’d fallen into was still difficult to assess, but everything that’d happened so far spoke in favor of serious preparation, implicating both intellectual and volitional moments, and the desire for the onset of consequences, in addition to everything else, this was by no means a formal structure, moreover, they were intertwined and helped to strengthen each other; everything seemed to increase this desire to punish them, it was the root cause of the whole conspiracy.
“You shall be given lunch at the end of the session, or, otherwise, should the tribunal deem it necessary to break for lunch. Yesterday, the situation went somewhat outside of the procedural framework and you were left here due to confusion amongst the bailiffs.”
“You’ll be held responsible…”
“Once we’ve figured this out, we can begin.”
“No, we can’t,” NO2 objected from behind bars.
“Put behind bars” is another pre-formed mental assessment regarding America.
“And why’s that?”
“We’ve actually grown used to eating more often than once every twenty hours. The last time we were immobilized so protractedly was in our mother’s womb. Don’t you think we need to offer some relief to our, erm, nature?”
“Oh, which means everything is the same with your people over there? Sorry, I didn’t know.”
Neubau signaled to the bailiffs, they led him out, handing him over to his colleagues through the door, then returned, taking him by the armpits, and, dragging him across the parquetry by his hind legs in an extremely awkward and uncomfortable way, pulling the wires and, finally, rolling over them.
Judging by Anatoly Baskakov’s speech, he was the judge/spokesperson, NO1 and NO2 were accused of not mentioning the atomic bomb and its possible release onto civilians in the Potsdam Declaration of July 26th, 1945, in which Japan was ordered to surrender, of developing an order to “launch a nuclear strike any day after August 3rd––as soon as weather permits,” of recognizing and mentioning in official statements that the air energy they’d be launching from the skies would wreak havoc like no other ever witnessed on this planet, and of realizing that the number of victims could possibly reach one million. On August 6th and 9th, in, respectively, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, equating the military personnel, military depots and factories to the human lives of several generations, and we must remember that each is a dysanic world, they dropped them, by which means they exterminated and infected with radiation two hundred thousand people. In the given indictment, a sizable number of moires and nuances were not openly admitted to, for example, the need to drop a second bomb before the consequences of dropping the first had been comprehended, and no subjunctive motive was voiced, which is easier to imagine than the last six years––that the bomb was actually created by Germany, then dropped on either London or Moscow, which assumption ended with the question: would this act be added to the list of Nazi crimes considered in the neighboring building, would the responsible persons be hanged for this or given the Nobel Peace Prize, considering that Japan had capitulated? Finally, he said that the examination prescribed by the London “Unprecedented Accords” had been carried out with regard to the case.
An expert who didn’t know where to wade, went in after all, an enthusiast. He fancied himself a taxon of retribution. For a long time, he’d crept along the wreckage, which began immediately outside of the jeep from which he’d been dropped off, then, they said, basically, orient yourself by way of drilled pencils, locks, and the shadows of the architecture now protruding. American pilots cackled at the airfield, tighter toward the runway, they stood embracing, threw a coin at the wall and played it over again and again. You can see about ten Buddhas in the heap on the left, they’re none too poorly preserved, apparently, the wave came right with the drop from the plane. In many places, assorted signs protruded from the ashes with the inscriptions: “We now live in Chugokum” “Iuoo, where are you, baby?”, “The Jesuit mission has moved.” Two women crossed paths with the spectrum effect upon the seared bodies, they were simply walking in a given direction. Chunks of rough skin etched with lines––three new hexagrams of the Book of Changes, sixty-fifth, sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh: “The need to suffer,” “Now, it’s definitely the end,” and “Exhaustion of thoughts.” All exhibits had disappeared from the Museum of Science and Industry, as well as any memory thereof. Masses were celebrated at a diameter of three kilometers from the epicenter, but no closer. Far from the Castle, far from Asano Park, far from the Red Cross Hospital. Chunks of Victor Hugo’s books in Japanese, mats on which no one would ever fall asleep again, passivity and resignation. Singed figures push the boat into the water. By the stops, a special frequency of mortality can be traced, more beastly than in Salaspils, where, at the very least and after themselves, they sowed everything with lupine, but, here, the situation’s different, the expert reflected, here, they’d been in charge before the arrival. At the moment before the explosion itself, what were you doing among all these hillocks and sleeves of Ota, among the hospitals working at their final limit, on our six islands, more sturdy than ever, under the canopy of the mountains, under the breeze from the Inland Sea, under the influence of the constantly renewed air-raid alerts upon your souls, near to and inside of our ancient mansions with their tiled pagodas, among the still-irregular outlines of firebreaks, among dilapidated gas tanks and eternal parks, over a network of thin water pipes connecting private ponds, among all the various missions that we’ve taken on, among bridges, through the rivers and through the minds, among the children’s voices, which were mainly heard bearing an interrogative intonation, among the steep banks, among delicate, so much so that only we can muster it, mutual assistance, among punts and bicycles, among the roar of the destruction of our own houses, among the mixture of wooden frames and glass walls, among exemplary rice fields, among placebo bomb shelters, among already almost completely wasted time? I reviewed my diet, standing before the screen; I rearranged the pots from the top shelf onto the bottom, I thought: maybe they won’t be banged on in case of something or another; I looked out the window at my compatriots who’d become Jesuits, idealists; I was very seriously preoccupied with the question, why precisely “Mr.” and “Mrs.”?; I poured peanuts into the children’s hands; I wrote down the conclusion––is suicide in a water reservoir a noble enough death to arrange for a farewell ceremony; I thought whether to run to the tram or calmly walk and wait for the next one; I wondered whether it’d be possible to go to the city today, I looked for the answer in the morning paper; I shelled peas for soup to be made for the Methodist Church; I tried out my two-wheeled wheelbarrow, filled to the brim with Bibles; I finished cooking seaweed for breakfast; I waited for the appearance of the American meteorologist with binoculars; I woke up on bales of private-clinic linens; I twisted tubes of wormwood for cauterization, they really explode between one’s fingers; I prepared for death in a hospital bed; I finished baking the sixteenth rice cake, but I needed thirty-four more; I suddenly comprehended that, overnight, the most valuable thing for me had become something else, not that which it’d been yesterday; I pounded an old kimono from the attic with sticks; I leafed through an album of photographs of 19th-century Singapore; I can’t remember; I pulled food out of the pantry to cook a whole day of meals for the whole family; I was reflecting on digging another pond in my rock garden, standing by the open window, when suddenly I saw a white flash.
NO2 wished to add his diary to the case file, he’d taken it with him to Nuremberg, this was where he’d write down black thoughts and perverted impressions from the day he’d just lived through. To his question as to what order he’d violate if he were to include it, the presiding officer replied that it’d be a global one, that the tribunal hadn’t been informed which of the records were relevant to the consideration of this act of inhumanity. Immediately straying somewhat, he explained that, from his macabre collection, it would be records from immediately after Potsdam, at the point when private consultations with the country’s leadership had almost driven him crazy, that would be most useful for the case.
“That would affect even the order of the Nuremberg guard service,” the chairman snapped, refusing to satisfy the petition.
Arguing with himself about all this, he even began to think about whether Truman was faking these extraordinary torments––simulating them––which was to say, in reality, they didn’t exist at all, or perhaps they were greatly exaggerated, for he didn’t even go on a hunger strike, didn’t stonewall the meetings with a deliberate silence, and didn’t call upon his subordinate to do the same.
“Have you read the expert opinion, copies of which were provided to you in advance?”
“I read as much as I could.”
One translator held out the papers, the second shined a lamp onto them, waiting for the spiders to attack, those primordial inhabitants of the hall, every now and then directing the light into the wrong place.
“Not quite,” with a hint of challenge in his tone.
“The conclusions, then,” the students stood at attention, sticking sharp tips into clean, lined sheets.
“Allow me to first call to the court the expert who wrote the report and ask him some questions,” in a tone that suggested he’d carefully considered this line of defense.
“Oh, so you still haven’t made peace? Well, that would be tenable.”
They began to cogitate on where to get him from now. Patrols of Kalmyks came out to inspect the building, equipped with a verbal portrait. Accustomed to the interiors of the country’s councils, its institutions either penitentiary or intermediaries on the way thereto, they’d hardly thought about America before, but now, being in Europe, they were involuntarily saturated with trends. The West, as is well known, is decaying, but they also detected and recorded propaganda as such. In the barracks, quietly, feeling almost like the intelligentsia, they discussed this in such a way that they understood––that everything was a little more complicated, they saw it with the world, and the stuffing of the temple of justice during the search for an expert was not completely disgusting to them, even though the capitalists had built it.
Half an hour later it turned out that the expert hadn’t entered the building today, Baskakov had thought to send Prokhorov to ask the superintendent.
A break was announced at the session, so the Kalmyks went into the depths of Nuremberg with guidebooks. Two watched as a motorized rifle division rolled up to the National Museum, while the gatekeeper silently held out his hand for tickets. They laughed, but he remained unshakeable––said that he didn’t care who’d liberated Europe. There was a kind of deep heat in this gesture, a reflection of the very trauma that’d been experienced by the German people, whose national trait still remained absolute order.
While they were searching for the expert, NO1 was taken to the lavatory, both ate broth with garlic rolls, the tribunal retired to drink tea and cognac and eat Zwerg meringues.
After the break, a man in a yellow rubber camouflage cloak with a hood and a solid mask appeared. His appearance had been solemnly arranged, it was now he who was the face of the holiday, conspicuous and significant, possessing both terminal and instrumental value, a somewhat underdeveloped divine scourge. Well, now the case’ll get moving, his appearance alone seemed to suggest. The plan didn’t work, he intended to start the interrogation with the uncrowning of his identity, which now looked less cleverly conceived and achievable as a function of the mask.
“I demand confirmation of his identity,” he declared anyway, both interpreters shouting out their interpretations as soon as possible, each expecting the same from the opposite side.
“This man wasn’t afraid to risk his life, inspecting the area that you and your relatives poisoned for several generations to come, he took all the rings from his wife, hurling them forward with ribbons from Hatsukaichi to Kure, did you see his hermetic suit too?”
Sweat developed into its own world beneath the camouflage cloak, he thought about it, standing in the corridor, very close. Both sides swung open, and he appeared all sideways, his head downcast, then he turned it and moved toward the podium like an automaton, with choppy movements, he jumped into the middle of the clearing, stretching out his right arm, upon landing he rolled forward, squelching making itself heard beneath his chlamys. Truman almost broke his neck, monitoring the electorate’s reaction to this appearance.
“When you arrived at the site…”
…the carved gates of the temple against the background of hills with terraces transmogrified into steps, in front of beams and a rolled altar, the snake of a brick wall cut off as if by pneumatic scissors, I-beams, wheeled structures, mounds topped with split khanivs were exposed everywhere, lost people with naked torsos, they’ve got white gloves and matching turbans under the caps, collecting something dear to them in carts, books upside down spines split wherever climaxes or dialogues are, logs in the bark, magpies, sheets of tin, put together by the whirlwind of the construction of the gutted biomes of the design of the first drafts of Nagasaki, nothing’s reflected as a whole, every standing building is now a temple, they’re scattered here and there in the shadow of the same hills, truncated or split megaliths before them, upon the remains of Shintoism, which departed instantly, all souls as if blown away, the pilot bears the first bomb he’s ever borne in his life, it’s difficult to say whether he’s proud, the core––halls and gates, a wisteria squeezed in somewhere, a cherry tree somewhere, an archival palace somewhere, but, now, they’re not of a warm color, but a warm radiation, aerial photography broken into footprints of the Christian God, fatter than one might’ve imagined beyond the ocean, skeletons of motor cabs with the raised wings of their hoods, lines of force sparkle beneath the fields of their skulls, their eye sockets are the same, draped over with blackness, the block serves as both the well and clotheslines, it’s controlled from a hut upon an uneven foundation, where the child shields his face both from the sun and the gazes coming in from the road, cylinders are halved into buckets, the underside of the carpets are scribbled with Genji’s love-based martyrology, the tram car without window-glass frozen in a whirlwind of ash, frozen at the distance of its shaking, removal during travel, radioactive nuclides are located between dust particles and concrete sediment, deadly building dust, paranoid structure, a factory of visions of a transition to a qualitatively new state, everything made blurry by a stream from on high, bilirubin, umbra, chandeliers, irises, Fraunhofer lines, everything one needs in order to breathe, thermoregulation and deposition of blood, conditions––dermis, scales, nails, steam; lips’ red rim, destroyed innervation…
“…for inspection, what was the condition of the property that you examined, where was it located, and what did it look like?”
“What are you––crazy?” The presiding officer exclaimed without giving an answer (with a gesture). “Care to go into more detail?”
“Well, there’s no jury.”
“In just a sec, I’m gonna regain the gift of speech and incinerate you with a little thing in my pocket; my primogenitor was an alchemist.”
“I first made a helicopter inspection of the area,” he replied in a fairly young man’s voice. “That was Hiroshima. I can’t understand the exact meaning of the word ‘property.’ Whose property do you mean? If you’ve used the word intentionally, you’ve raised the question of ownership.”
“Consider it removed from the meat of the question,” conferring on the spot, casually and even with some pleasure in his voice, as if things had fallen into what was, for him, a comfortable rut.
“Everything happened in Japan, in the city of Hiroshima, it looked bad, namely: the trees were devoid of branches and foliage, the sticks had been kinda driven into the ground in many places, small buildings were mostly pulverized into dust, large buildings’ window-openings were sharply outlined, most of them also transmogrified into ruins. Everything poisoned by radiation, the people incinerated and irradiated. But the dome of the exhibition center of the Hiroshima Chamber of Commerce and Industry remained almost whole …”
“Based on what you could record while surveying, might you offer the conclusion that these objects were lying where they were at the time of explosion, or had anything been removed?”
“Dick to nose.”
“You’ve been called here to answer questions––not to spout vulgarities.”
“Yes, I’m pulling it out now.”
“I submit that a fine be imposed upon the expert.”
“Conferring on the spot: rejected. You, I suppose, thought that we’d set up a separate meeting to chew that over? This isn’t exactly Kafka. Next question––and, in the future, keep in mind that if the answer doesn’t suit you, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t given.”
“The objects you were exploring, had they been brought from some other site, or were they simply lying around?”
“The world lay all around, and I was in hell after a hellish invasion.”
“One might suppose that it wouldn’t be too bad in hell after an experience like that––an experience in hell, after all.”
Groves chuckled approvingly.
“Conferring on the spot, the tribunal applies the previously agreed-upon sanctions.”
“Come on, I’ve also been a judge for four years––and I don’t even have a law degree.”
The bailiffs picked up the chair with NO1 in it and carried him out of the hall, stumbled over the wires on the threshold, then, still chained up, he flew with sharp nose and high forehead into the typesetting board, glasses cracked, two adjacent triangles flew out of ‘em, but, before returning them to their frames, the Kalmyk put his little finger with brilliant green around the nail into the resulting hole and wiggled it.
“Have you got any questions for the expert?”
“Yes, we do. Why did you include the broken windows in addition to the cracked in the inventory of damage––especially given that the Bomb Explosion Act drawn up by the Japanese government in a certain location doesn’t contain this?”
“The expert has the right to draw a conclusion based on his dissenting opinion.”
“What conclusion did you draw from the report?”
“I drew no conclusions from the act.”
“What norm or methodological documents mandatory for execution tacitly allowed for the approval of the form of the act?”
“Hobbes’s Leviathan and a few others I won’t go into now.”
“Have you analyzed any documents related to the bombing?”
“The study was carried out on the basis of the questions posed. There are no primary documents in the source data or in the physical sources thereof, which would otherwise be referred to so as to respond to the questions posed to the expert for elucidation. The expert, determining the degree of destruction and the degree of Machiavellianism at play––and, in this case, they’re in direct subordination to one another––first of all takes into account the total weight of this or that circumstance relative to the position in the orbit of which this circumstance is considered.”
“Could any of the injuries you described in your report have been caused by the city authorities’ improper maintenance of the city?”
“Before you’re given an answer,” the presiding officer intervened, “be aware that I’ve never met with more cynicism in my life.
“There can be no business without cynicism.”
“Other than, perhaps, the Shima Hospital.”
“I ask that this answer be entered into the court record.”
“Everything is put down there, even the vile expression of your physiognomy––all of it without reference to your petitions.”
The stenographers were switched out every twenty-five minutes.
“If the wording of the first question didn’t refer to the fact that the property was damaged or not damaged and you were asked to assess its condition according to the inventory at the time of the examination, would this have significantly affected your conclusions?”
“Could you repeat the question, please?”
“Refer back to the record, please.”
“If the answer doesn’t suit you, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t given.”
“What if I don’t understand the answer?”
“That doesn’t mean it wasn’t given.”
“I beg your pardon,” NO2 suddenly exclaimed, “I haven’t yet seen it…”
The chair with NO1 in it was brought into the hall; his eyes were rolling furiously, so they immediately took him outside once more.
“So,” gaze following him, “I don’t remember an expert being warned about being liable for perjury or being sworn in, he didn’t sign anything at all; therefore, he can tell you just about anything that comes into his head.”
“The expert put down his signature before conducting the examination.”
“OK. How did it happen that all 7,478 objects described by you are completely unsalvageable?”
“As far as I know, they were destroyed by an atomic bomb.”
“So I’ve gathered…but you yourself said that the trunks of trees survived and some kind of dome as well.”
“When an architectural object turns into a symbol, the original purpose is stripped from the previous and, along with it––”
“So what? Isn’t that how it’s meant to be?”
“You’re fucked, kid.”
“Well, well. Tell me why your answer to the second question doesn’t match the question?”
“Go suck a dick.”
“No more questions,” smiling slightly.
“In that case, I’ve got some.”
“You mentioned the connection between the degree of destruction and the degree of treachery, so, as an expert, tell me: does cynicism fall into this defining category?”
“In the sense of a nihilistic attitude toward generally accepted moral norms?”
“No: toward the official dogmas of the dominant ideology.”
“Ethical rituals: cynicism, moral relativism, and moral absolutism––all of that plus the perversion of nature.”
“In such case, could you give an expert assessment regarding NO2’s questions right now, without, of course, the compulsion of your signing anything.”
“Protest, extreme protest.”
“An extreme degree of deviancy. But, really, how would you assess the behavior of the accused in the orbit, as you put it, of the questions he put to you. Although, not even the slightest of positive traits will do much to change his image as a master of evil.”
“I doubt that I can point to something positive in his questions; in those questions, I’d even highlight a novel thread of cynicism, one not yet worked out and confirmed by the expert community.”
“So you hate NO2?”
“I wish him dead with all my heart.”
NO1 was brought into the hall once more, he gave the bailiffs a sign to linger.
“What might you say about him?”
“He’s an awful bastard––stands to reason.”
“Tell me, why the maskcloak? How long have you been in it?”
“Sixty-four days––counting today.”
“And, after sitting in this antique chair for three, NO1 is already complaining. Get him into it.”
The bailiffs sat NO1 down, on their faces, not even the slightest sign of fatigue was discernable.
“So, it protects you from radiation?”
“That’s precisely it.”
“I allow you to embrace NO1.”
“What? Why should I accept?” NO1 grew indignant.
“This is necessary in order to convince you that the expert opinion has well and truly been brought to fruition.”
“I’ve an objection.”
“Enough of that, you didn’t believe it.”
During the bickering, he slowly advanced toward him.
“I did believe.”
“And so what?”
“In such a situation, experimentation becomes meaningless.”
“But what about the fact that you’ve infected hundreds of thousands of people with radiation and they’re now forced to die slowly, also passing on the infection by way of heredity?”
NO1 stuck out his free leg, he went around him. NO2 stared at first, bug-eyed, then squeezed his eyes shut. He embraced him from behind, pressed himself against the other very, very tightly, in this position, he flowed from the flank with small sideways steps, sat down on his lap, pressing himself even closer, then began to stroke his gloved hand.
Yet another session blew up justice in that same place, it didn’t even have the form, albeit a quiet one, of an exchange of views, but the purer form of an exchange of thoughts. Pepton Randolph, no matter how he shook his head and rubbed his temples, both with his eyes shut and with them open, he always had a shadowplay going on inside of him. After this ingenious merging of the members of the tribunal into a single legal mind, the accuser from the USSR was given the floor.
He filled up the podium most wholly, for almost a minute, he carried over reference books, codexes, papers, and photographs, then he looked at the accused, deliberately shaking his head in dismay.
“The first and most general legal problem, which, in my opinion, deserves the attention of the tribunal, is the problem of legality,” looking now at his speech, then at those before him. “The nature of laws and the understanding of law cannot be identical in both national and international contexts…”
For the past few years, he’s been running around with a logic textbook in regard to the theft of US nuclear technology from Germany. Although this was not precisely known, it was a piece of cake to whip up, at least with a headline that gave a vector and what to adjust for. It seemed somewhat strange that, according to the regulations, the accuser’s speech wasn’t slotted in at the end of the trial, but, in this particular case, he was allowed to utter his denunciations three times.
A wheelchair rolled into the hall, a thin, bald old man in a sack-like suit was sitting in it, another old man, this one a little more cheerful, was pushing it. The tribunal was warned that he himself was unlikely to make advances in their direction, which was to say in direct verbal terms, unless he wanted to emphasize something or coming forth from who knows what reflections, the rest of the time the companion would sound out explanations; he’d already done a lot, rolling him through war-torn Europe, betwixt and between.
Not everything, by the way, lay in ruins, some things turned out much improved thanks to the war. For example, the space beneath the floors of rural houses, launch mines, dead ends under cliff-faces. He leapt into a sagging saddle, he didn’t want to, but he knew all the ins and outs, a few waves between ultraviolet and gamma radiation, a few fantasies, through a raid of ruins, gazes and time that, for the most part, had died. At this level, the conclusions involuntarily raised the question: is he not thinking this out to the very end, first trying to see more and more degrees of astonishment in his mind, then automatically? In his view, the operation for the simultaneous demolition of the fascist barriers took too long to prepare for. In the forests and ravines, winches were placed in entirely natural fashion, perpendicular to the road, taken together (which was to say, together with the flag over the Reichstag), this was one common conspiracy, and was it Soviet power?, he thought, no longer feeling his ass as he was hauled past hundreds of thousands of tragedies, often right to the next or cut off, as a rule, by one queue or another. A cart appeared up ahead, by which he knew the circumstances until the moment when the cooper’s grandfather, who’d made its wheels, urinated into the Kaiser’s helmet and drank deep.
They began right away, no one had asked anything yet about how L.K. had made it clear that this hall would accommodate the maximally compressed possible conspiracy of participants in the case.
They did not want this, delaying it until the last, but still had to cross it. Striding from Pennsylvania to Maryland is like stepping from one forest to another, from a crowd of settler ghosts on the verge of rallying and becoming a shining beacon for the whole of Christendom, to a crowd of settler ghosts inclined to punish even cattle for illegal border crossings. Immediately, there came a whistle or something drowned out a strange siren, for example, a struggle between the one responsible for setting it off and the one who doesn’t want to give himself away––to give himself access to what someone else thinks about reality. They stopped, he walked around the chair and tried to catch his gaze: unsuccessfully. Soon, because of a boulder that’d been wedged into the ground, under which Indians simply couldn’t help but gather, moss simply couldn’t help but grow, forming, of course, the twists and faces of Scandinavian runic script, from a fragment of something primordial, which contained material on five or six idols, on three or four steps of the altar, there came two misters with diplomats, brown-leather gloves and cream hats with silk ribbons. One of them held an unlit oil lamp before him, for twilight had certainly come. The siren fell silent, they didn’t betray that they were involved in any way. Their job was, in fact, no more difficult than the productive function of the average American household—to hand the questionnaire to someone crossing the line and see that they filled it out, preferably not in slipshod fashion—beyond the consciousness of the fact that this list of questions said it all. One of the gray rectangles turned out to be an assembled camping table, the other a set of two chairs with legs that didn’t sink into the soil. He tried to find out whether or not L.K. were preparing to participate in the survey, but he showed little sign of anything at all, although his eyes remained open. In the light of the lamp, he proceeded to review, preliminarily translate and assess in accordance with the meaning received of his attitude toward the subject indicated in the paragraph, then develop an answer, then translate the answer, then study how the combination might sound when taken together, then, if necessary, correct it; he worked slowly but carefully, having long ago grown accustomed to respecting the twists and turns of other countries’ actionable narratives, sometimes they resembled an avant-garde movement without a manifesto, and, at others, the sale of a certain action even before you decide whether or not you want to see it, but, most often, they were simply a grand problem in and of themselves, existing, but not influencing anything in particular.
The crisis of the historicity in the Old World: Cornish waves haven’t washed anything ashore for a long time.
The pilgrims’ demoralizing plans: here, they come true even in winter.
Archaic interrelationships: interpret other people’s chimeras and foreknowledges.
The principle of the dictatorship of the majority: beautifully illustrated by a broken heart.
The Puritans’ high modernism: in which there lies an example from own practice.
School principals defeat church separatists: just don’t say that it’s with the word of God.
A smile in a church remains a grin: a grin in a circus is not quite so abstract.
Uniformity: planting: someone is behind it. I can find out who, for preferential treatment.
Practices of religious coercion: did you come to the president through them?
Shout all the way across the ocean: if it’s to get into the corridor, then one can.
Access to the Crown’s Justice: one needs a paper crown and a wooden gavel.
Moonlight: upon the irises of the unemployed.
Evenings in Paris and Versailles: there seems to be a two-hour time difference?
Lack of a nation’s subjugation: paving stones at the bottom of the sea.
Here’s this line: yes, as if the carriage had skidded.
A symploce of ideologies in the Declaration of Independence: the sudden desire for veal goulash.
The influence of the dead on what is now coming to pass: Phaedrus, Paracelsus, Christ, and, as he realized, George Washington.
What happens if you shut off your mail: you can hardly imagine what. Well, I’m imagining it.
Running: shall be associated with the name of the inventor of the effective-on-the-spot.
Equality of the races?: for the love of God!
Equality? of the races?: real life passes many by.
Cotton bolls: shouts of victory all tangled up in them.
To the south by way of the southeast: are you hinting that a sharp turn soon awaits everyone?
The construction of streets: I’d advise you to immediately provide for central-heating apertures.
Critical distance: debate: eeny-meeny.
Associative vote: come in, John, no, Ebenezer, you wait a while.
View from underneath the wheel of the train: the prairie.
Fiscal Ties: five extras and ten reenactors participate.
Your cherished dream: relates to the earth’s orbit.
“As you’ll understand, the tribunal needs to know everything in its proper order, Abraham gave birth to Isaac, and so on,” Neubau decided to frame everything as an interrogative, he carefully looked at L.K., but he was indifferent to everything except the kaleidoscope, hastening toward a scheme of ever-increasing combination, toward a vision the constituent parts of which have never yet been seen together.
“With the gifts of Ardis, the son of Gig, intended for the Assyrian king Ashurbanapal, in 652 BC, they wormed their way out and first came into the field of vision.”
“Apparently, you’re still talking about your own, but it’s time to talk about ours.”
“… this conspiracy, under which name it was put into the heads of its exponents, as well as ordinary inhabitants, has come into contact with not a few crooks over the last two and a half thousand years.”
“And how did you conclude––you hit the road there in a time machine?” He looked first at Baskakov, who was sitting on the left, then at Randolph, who was sitting on the right.
“… in which is described the attack of the disks on Jin, the annals of Elama and drawings from Babylonia, but this too. Having seen it, he at first grew angry––he reacted to everything in such fashion. However, whatever his reaction may’ve been is completely unimportant, we only fix the displacement-–they began to move around the globe.”
“OK, OK, let’s go––otherwise we won’t be back by five o’clock.”
“… as the plan of the thermae of Caracalla, maps of the progress of the Hunnic raid to the Huai River, the results of the Juran raid on the Tabgaches, the set of St. Benedict’s rules, the circumstances of the death of the Alexandrian Patriarch Evlogiya, the circumstances of the minting of the first copper coins in Japan, the circumstances of the minting of the Andalusian dirhems in 807, the foundation of the soto-shu school by the master Dongshan Liangze, the plans for the Vitebsk castle, the chronicles of the Gelati monastery, the circumstances of Pisa becoming one with Florence, the circumstances of John Cabot reaching Newfoundland, the Spanish colonization of the Isthmus of Panama, the abdication of Ivan IV from the throne and the circumstances of his stay in Alexander Sloboda, Francis Drake’s expedition, which began in 1577, the creation of the Catholic League …”
“Our secretaries shall contact you later.”
The closer to the present, the stronger the pressure from the inside of the eyeballs, all that’s left at the end of each day is dust, the discoveries were no longer remembered, there was a sequence of them. In Germany, they ruined the system, so human-hating, in which life or castration depended on colorful clothespins on the card, although the bonzes thought that, even so, they’ll still get married so’s to have children, but, so effective, that, after two years of functioning, it was no longer necessary to bring the monoliths to delirium. Jurassic Park, Tibetan artifacts, eugenics, striking elements in the form of knightly visors, nothing contradicted anything else.
“… in the 27th year of our era. Liu Xiu then vanquished the Red Eyebrow troops at Henan, and their leader Fan Chu thought, yes, perhaps everything’s already covered over in enough blood, it’s time to weave a towel out of the Milky Way. The Weaver, just think, that’s what he called himself. He was foiled by the Ching sisters, whose names were Chuk and Ni, who came to Fan Chu, attracted by the smell of the burning coffins of the Wang Mang family…”
He raised his hand. He fell silent, circumnavigated the chair, sat down before it, with his back to the tribunal, peering into the other’s face.
“… whose spiritual well-being in all the years of his life was put into doubt, which, of course, could not but affect the drill-routine of his manias, inclinations and the severity of his gaze, which imparted a special shade of strangeness to his already protuberant face, he also decided to pursue the case…”
“Is he a witness in your case?”
“Well, didn’t I just say so?”
The False Dmitry Prokhorov looked intently at L.K., only occasionally shifting his gaze onto the man who’d taken the place of his father.
“… In February of that year, the Spanish Inquisition pronounced a death sentence on all the inhabitants of the Netherlands,” he heard the words I have the honor, real name is Vasily Shalnov.
“I bet the idea was concocted by some Jesuit,” Neubau chuckled.
“… the closest to success, although this individual had only four great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers out of eight possible and only six great-great-grandfathers and great-great-grandmothers out of sixteen.”
“… agreed about the launch even with the peoples of the far north of Asia, alien to powders and poultices, for they had a greater radiance, and various contacts as a function of various bits of nonsense. The preparations lasted for over thirty years. Both were deceived by a Balkan prince from Karageorgievich, throwing up his legs cynically in his own party before being stabbed to death in the forest…”
“Generally speaking, we’ll leap to our rams,” he squinted his eyes at the defendants most terribly, then shook his head almost imperceptibly in that direction, “because I already began to forget about my spree this summer in London. Against the backdrop of world history, it was only so-so, but I thought it was brilliant.”
“… out of which the Nazis drew, he was silent for a long time, not wanting to reveal any identities, until they brought him to the Wolf’s Lair in the vicinity of Rastenburg …”
“Can it really be that your intelligence services didn’t report such a thing by way of the diplomatic line––huh?”
“… knew about the impending assassination, but, for the sake of observing his interests, he informed no one, but, on the contrary, palmed the knight off…”
Solemnly, feeling like a winner, he walks along the tables in the dissecting room, the belts were installed at his special instruction as they were driving from Poland. He traveled in such a way that he always stayed in touch with the cargo, he’d never come across one so obstinate. Iron oxides wrapped around chiseled pillars and hulls, the colors of nascent magma, their arrows and roses resembled henna painting, upon which every twist and turn is thought out, enriched earth in oxidized catavotras, dehydration balances, pierced sheets held by the fact that they’ve grown to some kind of bren inside. Almost a whole (literal) ton of artifacts had been mined, and every gram resists transportation, the visors are lowered for all; by way of the figure, he attempted to determine which of them were women and how equal they were. Did he order it be secretized? I almost spat out my lungs. He comes up onto the dais, orders the light be taken away, then turns on the spotlight, pointing it at everyone, let them believe that he bears the sun, perhaps he soon shall.
“… to decide the outcome in favor of Germany, as such a course was now inevitable. The group included Sievers himself, although the director of the Ancestral Heritage, Walter Wüst, snatched up the leading role from him. In addition to them, there was Hans Brand, head of the research department for karsts and caves to be used for military purposes, Hermann Löffler, the head of the research department of medieval and modern history, Gustav Behrens, the head of the research department for primitive society, Werner Haarnagel, the head of the research department for artificially inhabited hills, and Alfred Quelmalz, the head of the research department for Indo- Germanic German music, who oversaw the installation of the mirrors…”
“What a bunch of scum: I hope we have them all right here––in the proverbial neighborhood?”
“… not such complicated surveys, they walked through with mine detectors, then poked them with a screwdriver and walked through again––one can already see, as you’ll agree, that it’s rather alarming.”
“Yes, I’d be utterly shocked if a breathless adjutant came running up to me and laid this out.”
“… began to transport it to Rjukan. At the meeting of the society, it was unanimously agreed upon that the more ancient it was, the more suited it was to their purposes. Such shallow people…”
“I sign beneath each and every word.”
“…comparable to the heads of the proto-gods of the military pantheon, which they never managed to find in their own time…”
“They utterly lost their minds.”
“… exclusively on an Ahnenerbian theme; then received approval for further steps. It was Hitler’s moronic desire that ended up being fatal, it could’ve ended with this, but I must continue…”
“Well, I’m not sure whether that’s necessary.”
“… with his breath invents and establishes nuclear technology, at the same time allowing the process to be overseen…”
“I feel us approaching these woe-democrats.”
“… here, they pulled out their lucky ticket, the guy was a New Castle on his mother’s side. One shouldn’t think that molecular wave functions, the theories of electrons and positrons, the Born-Oppenheimer approximation are at all important…”
“Oh, and I suppose that’s what we just happened to think until today.”
“I repeat that it’s not worth it.”
“Only if I hear it from ‘tween your lips again.”
“… even the Bhagavad Gita, but only the fact that the blood of Faustus flows through it…”
“So, speak as if we knew all of them.”
“… they suspected progress on the other side of the ocean, which is made clear by that same letter from Einstein to Roosevelt. Studies that were copied by Germany, which were copied by the USA, and so on, ad infinitum, until the Norwegian partisans passed it on…”
“Does everyone understand everything, guys? The Vikings played a dirty trick.”
“… one of whose agents was Bruno Schulz, drawn in against his will…”
“And who shall dare say that the Jews aren’t heroes?”
He went up to the podium, threw some papers bound with twine over the head of the English prosecutor.
“… so that he appears to be a rooster, a translation in his hands, rejoices in his powder-signboard, feigns being a subject no more and no less, and everyone there at the bottom of the gorge, they ruined everything for ‘em, it was easy enough. As a result, the Americans created…”
“A-ha, so it was them.”
“It was them…them…”
Early morning, rowers come out, look around, cautiously descend toward the river, set oars into locks, energetically row to meet the dawn and din of the awakening city. Soviet soldiers stand guard at the entrance to the Palace of Justice. The Fountain of Virtues had only recently stopped spouting blood. Reporters from dozens of countries clamber up the ruins and look around. They’re waiting for a decision in the next few days, a confirmation in the next few days too––that there’s no provision for an appeal, well, that there were no such provident ones made in London. The rowers haven’t yet gotten into sync, a slight tremor after all that machine-gun fire, though news is heard from both banks, as if it were exchanged by way of Pegnitz, they’re allowed to pass through the water as if it were ice. What the survivors have on the day’s agenda is, if not revenge, then reparation, and these are the corpses of the fascists, wet with their own piss, with broken cervical sections, sacks over their heads, the eyes underneath bulging and to remain ever so, hanged from the gate. Those who were too afraid to wait for the verdict and bit open the capsule are also here, let the children now see how not to do it, which ideologies they’re not to allow themselves to be lured into; bad men, Mommy, but at least Goebbels is good?; no; and Göring?; no; well, I already know all about Hitler; at least you remember that much; but how did they last for so long?; I don’t know, they must’ve believed that, since nature is cruel, this also gave them permission to be so, forgetting Jupiter.
As soon as the what and the how had been reported to them, only then, it seemed, did both of them come to believe in the seriousness of that which was coming to pass, that it would be necessary to bring in troops, hurl more bombs and bulldoze everyone, call MacArthur, his wife, and the driver––to bring the limousine closer to the entrance, prevent this from leaking to the American press, prevent them from being associated with Stalin’s machinations, pop the bunker beneath the White House’s cork, freeze the project of an under-ice base in Greenland, bustle more hastily; now shall you be doomed to shame, the president’s a hangman, this can be used by the Republicans in their next campaign.
A lawyer of Asian aspect entered the vestibule and, with marching stride, holding a bundle of typewritten sheets in outstretched arm, passed by quietly chattering groups in uniforms and jackets, scurrying secretaries, clattering across the parquet with the soles of their heels. From here, it didn’t immediately become clear what doors the trial was going on behind, in fact, behind all of them in here, he reasoned in comparable fashion, entering everywhere, expecting a minimal enfilade and two exits out of the space. Somewhere, American bailiffs in brown trousers with rolled-up bottoms were smoking through a cracked window, in a photo lab, the elderly wife of one of the defendants was basking in a bathtub intended for development, a cigarette was being smoked in a long mouthpiece, eyes half-open, there was an orgy in the spare cafeteria, German women throwing off the shackles of coitus strictly within the internal population, they fucked selflessly, allowing everyone to do everything, they could be upside down for a long time, breathing only through their noses, concrete-reinforcedly holding back the urge to vomit and not possess any more things at all. In the assembly hall, there were wardrobe trunks with a cipher machine, half of them were gutted, and the Kalmyks were scratching their heads, what was there to bind thereto. A stream through the premises: gray hats, brown briefcases and folders with a cellular texture, barmaids rolled out on roller skates with trays, in leggings and with arches on their robes above the butt at the back, glaziers dragged in squares caked with gore, one of the rhinos from the bombed-out zoo was trotting around, then caught in a way that did not provide for self-mutilation––with nets––the Soviet representation appearing everywhere as a group was missing one member and now holding the line and once again counting out one-two, one-two, on the heads too, the lawyer’s assistants at the foot of the stairs were immersed in the trial, one was beating out a long wig and the chalk wafted forth from each blow, not being negated in terms of density, the second rinsing it with a black mass that trailed behind his movements in a tin basin, he himself sat right here with a smashed-in face, holding a frozen chicken in oiled-over paper to his cheek, his knuckles were all torn up, two children’s excursions moved toward each other, entirely made up of orphans, they’re to look at each other in these brief moments of passing each other by, heads turned, speed doubled, newspaper vendors with bags over their shoulders spun down the wide stone railings and, using the momentum that came to be when there was naught beneath the fulcrum, hastened away to glitter out their editorials in the streets of Nuremberg, cleaners pushed dust-collection apparati above themselves upon articulated wheels, rattling loudly, their trajectories were focused not far from the hall, toward the heart of the building, he winched in his circles….
Noam Venevetinov is a Russian writer.
Max Lawton is a translator, writer, and musician. Born in Brussels, Belgium, he received his BA in Russian Literature and Culture from Columbia University and his MPhil from Queen’s College, Oxford, where his dissertation comparing Céline and Dostoevsky is being published by the O.R.E. Max has translated seven books by Vladimir Sorokin for upcoming publication: Blue Lard, The Norm, Their Four Hearts, The Sugar Kremlin, Telluria, Dispatches from the District Committee, and Red Pyramid. Max has written two novels and recently worked on a screenplay that’s being made into a feature film in Russia. Max’s band White Nothing has released a tape, Rhine Maidens and Cut Glass, on London label Pressured Speech Productions. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on phenomenology and the 20th Century novel at Columbia University, where he also teaches Russian.