5.12.2009

Summer Reading

I'm reading another contemporary Russian novel, something I try to do at least twice every summer (I read a good one this winter too).  This time it's Vladimir Sorokin's 2002 novel, Ice.  This excerpt seemed to have some bearing on the ongoing conversation around here lately; I reproduce it without comment:
"Then this guy followed me into the apartment.  Handcuffed me.  A woman came in.  They hammered two spike things into the wall.  And strung me up with a rope.  They crucified me, goddamnit, on the wall, like Christ.  So.  And then... it was... very strange... they opened a sort of... it was like a safe... and there was this weird hammer in it... an odd, archaic sort of form... with a handle made from a branch... very crude.  But the hammerhead wasn't steel or wood, it was ice.  Ice.  I don't know whether it was artificial or real, but it was ice.  And then--picture this--the broad starts slamming my chest with this hammer.  She keeps saying, 'Talk to me with your heart, tell me with your heart.'  But... it was so strange!  They taped my mouth shut!  With packing tape.  I'm mooing, she's bashing me.  With all her fucking strength, man.  So, this ice splinters and flies around the room.  She's pounding me and talking all this bullshit.  It hurt like hell, went straight through me.  I've never felt pain like that.  Even when my meniscus went out.  So.  They're banging and banging me.  Then I just lost consciousness."
He took a swallow from the glass.
Savva listened.
"Sav, this all sounds like nonsense.  Or a dream.  But--here, take a look..." He unbuttoned his shirt to show the huge bruise on his chest.  "That's not a dream."
Savva stretched out a pudgy hand.  He touched it.
"Does it hurt?"
"A bit... when you press it.  My head hurts.  And my neck."
"Drink, Borya, relax."
"And you?"
"I... I have to go in early tomorrow, that is, today."
Borenboim emptied the glass of whisky.  Savva poured some more right away.
"But the most interesting part was after.  I wake up and I'm sitting in a Jacuzzi.  There are two women with me.  The water's bubbling.  And these women start patting me gently and telling me some nonsense about a brotherhood, that we're all brothers and sisters--talking about sincerity, frankness, and so on.  It turns out that they'd been hit in the chest with the same kind of hammer, they showed me the scars.  Actual scars.  And they were pounded until they spoke with their hearts.  They said all of us in this fucking brotherhood have our own names.  Their names were Var, Mar, I don't remember.  And my name--is Mokho.  You get it?"
"What?"
"Mokho!"
"Mokho?" Savva looked at him with small, weak-sighted eyes.
"My name is Mokho!" Borenboim shouted and began laughing.  He leaned against the back of the stainless-steel chair.  Clutched at his chest.  Winced.  Swayed.

No comments: