Pubblichiamo alcuni stralci in traduzione inglese del romanzo THE MARK - IL BERSAGLIO dell'autore Macedone Blaze Minevski. Pubblicato nel 2007 a Skopje e poi in Serbia, Russia ed prossimamente in Armenia, è stato nominato miglior romanzo dell'anno 2007.
Storia dall'impianto solo apparentemente statico è un riflessione sul senso della vita, la religione e la letteratura. Sulle opposte rive di un fiume durante la guerra Balcanica due cecchini si fronteggiano e si tengono l'un l'altro sotto tiro. L'io narrante si rivolge con quello che in realtà è un lungo monologo mentale al suo nemico, che è l'opposto di ciò che lui. Riconosce infatti nel suo mirino il volto di una donna, mussulmana a cui lui dà il nome fittizio della protagonista di un'antica ballata, Doruntina. Le narra così, con la consapevolezza che il primo a sparare sarà il primo a uccidere, la propria vita e i propri amori: tre donne che si sovrappongono nella sua memoria a tre figure della letteratura mondiale: Anna Karenina, Natasha Rostova e Madame Bovary. Con uno stile caratterizzato dall'uso di figure retoriche e stilemi tipici poesia il romanzo riflette sull'assurdità della guerra e pone già dalle prime pagine un interrogativo quanto mai attuale: i due protagonisti sono l'uno contro l'altro in un paesaggio primaverile, sulle rive di un fiume coperte di fiori e farfalle, uno squarcio di Paradiso: ma quale paradiso? Quello cristiano o quello musulmano? E se è il medesimo perché i due si fronteggiano e di combattono come fa l'io-narrante con i suoi amici di un tempo?
Alle molte domande sollevate dal romanzo attraverso flashback e citazioni dai tre romanzi le cui eroine si sostituiscono alle donne amate dal protagonista narrante, risponde il secco suono di uno sparo.
Segue un'intervista dell'autore a Dalkey Archive Press
BLAZE MINEVKSI - THE MARK
The sun is standing over the ruined fortress, as I turn my sniper rifle across the river, and there I see her; she’s also looking straight at me; she had me in her sight long before I discovered her. She could’ve killed me any time she wanted, I think, gasping for air in the grass that rises in front of me like murky water; my heart skips inside my camouflage shirt, though I think it’s a grasshopper. I see her in my optical sight, clear as a prom picture; she’s watching me too. She has a big blue eye, like the sky over the fortress; I even see the thin layer of moisture in the corner of her eye, as I realise that she has been looking at me for a while without blinking. When I take aim, I close my left eye; she keeps hers open, even though she can’t see me with it, she’s too far away. I see her blonde hair, which falls away into the primroses, as if there is no end in sight. I can’t tell where it ends and where they begin:
- You could have killed me before I could find you in the primroses, I say, the primroses, I tell you, and you blink with your eye as if to confirm, as if you are reading my lips. I can see that you are holding your finger on the trigger, I say, your finger, I tell you, just as I am holding mine now; I’m sure you can hit me just as easily as I could strike you. I know that you can see me as if I’m right there in front of you, while the sun glimmers over the ruined fortress and wonders in disbelief. Time also passes through our eyes as something alien, as something past, I say, past, I tell you, and you are even smirking, looking straight through my long vowels. I speak softly, of course, or maybe I’m just opening my mouth, watching how the left corner of your lips is slightly trembling, as if you understand, as if you feel sorry for me: I will call you Doruntina, I say, while you look at me through your optical sight and can read your name from the movement of my lips. Your hair is full of yellow petals, as if primroses are growing from you and everywhere around you, even in the air, it seems to me; I’ll call you Doruntina, I repeat a little bit louder, letter by letter, while you smile again, blinking with your left eye, this means you agree, I say, you agree, I tell you. Only now do I hear the babble of the stream passing down by me, and also of the stream that springs from the fortress and flows by you on its way to the same place in the river between us, beneath us. Listening to the babble, suddenly, as if in a dream, I become a story telling itself, , because life, I say, life, I tell you is that which is told,.
A story, I say, a story, I tell you, and I can see that you are following me, reading from my lips, and there’s the smile again, while your finger is still pressed on the trigger, just in case: how fast time flies, Doruntina, I say, time, I tell you, and yet nothing changes. If I go down my stream to get to you, your people will get me; if you go down your stream to get to me, my people will get you, I say, and you blink with your left eye, this means you agree. You already know everything, Doruntina, while the river beneath us is flowing unstoppably, that same river, the river that also once took her away like a secret. When I turned around, I could only see her hat skipping on the waves and giggling. The hat was giggling, while the river flowed unstoppably, just like now
Watching you smile sadly with the left corner of your mouth, I think of suggesting that we should wait for the night and then go together down to the river, I say, the river, I tell you, but all of a sudden I feel a strong kick to the heel of my boot, I say, the boot, I tell you, and someone lies down next to me, cursing right behind this cotton thistle, Doruntina You can see now, I say, see, I tell you, that without moving, just with the corner of my left eye, I glimpse the binoculars and the crooked nose of Hothead Hawk.
“What are you waiting for?” he asks. “Shoot!”
Now, what more can I tell you, Doruntina; when I found you in the primroses, I found my life; I say my life, not my death, though it may sound silly. What I want to say is that before I was brought here, to the warzone, the worst had already happened. A great tragedy had happened, something that entirely ruined my career and life, if you could even call it a life. My first and only novel, which I had published right after returning from Iowa, I say, a novel, I tell you, which was loudly hailed as a masterpiece and immediately translated in all neighbouring countries, all of a sudden came crashing down, careened into the abyss, disappeared together with me, Doruntina. All that was left was my name in crimson letters. Later, if I have time, and time is you, I will tell you what happened, what faith befell me. I can see you smiling, see that you read my lips and understand me. I see your powerful sniper rifle in the primroses; it shimmers, laid in your fair hand; it’s resting peacefully on your forearm, tender and slim as a gladiolus. Yet I know that the moment the red spot of the laser sight falls on its target, like a mark on the forehead, then it’s all over, even though the victim may be a whole mile away from you and, of course, completely unaware that he’s sitting in front of you like a photo from a yearbook. You have a powerful sniper sight, Doruntina. I see, I say, I see, I tell you, and I know. I’m sure it’s a Heckler & Koch SG-1, an immaculate killing machine; you just gently pull the trigger and the bullet knows what to do. But you are not pulling the trigger … and still not pulling it, not pulling it at all … Why, Doruntina, what are you waiting for? I ask, opening for a moment my left eye which you see, as you can see; I open mine and you blink a few times with yours and breathe out a sigh into the primroses: the yellow petals shudder as if standing in the rain, as butterflies excited in flight. Behind you, left of the fortress and just above the ruined church of Saint George the Forerunner, brashly towers the minaret of the mosque. Right now I listen, as do you, to the muezzin kneeling in the gallery calling to prayer all those not in the trenches. The imam, I say, the imam, I tell you, or maybe it’s just a loudspeaker. It’s Friday, and noon at that, probably. I guess that very soon all those not staying in the trenches will enter the mosque; they will line up before that semicircular recess in the front wall that everyone has to face, because this is the only way they could be turned towards Mecca, to start murmuring with open palms, touching their ears with their thumbs. They’ll whisper “Allahu Akbar”, if I’m not mistaken they’ll recite their prayers, I say, and then they’ll bow. God is the greatest, but life is all we’ve got and losing it is the greatest loss for any man. Except for me, of course.
Professor Steve Liptoff from the International Writers’ Workshop in Iowa City wanted us to study all religions in order to write a short story on heaven and hell. I can admit, right here and now, that I really like your heaven, and you already know that it is a garden watered by numerous rivers, maybe just like the one that we can see here, if only for a moment we looked down into the bottom of the gorge. But we can’t, because we mustn’t lose our sights, even though both my and your streams flow into the same river, Doruntina, while all around us grow luscious fruits and flowers, just like in heaven. Is this the heaven dreamt of by those with long beards, who go to meet death by our snipers, fighter planes and artillery with joy? Under the shades in paradise, people drink the wine that was forbidden to them on earth: wine that doesn’t intoxicate. The cups are served to them by handsome boys, while seductive black-eyed maidens tend to their every pleasure, I say, pleasure, I tell you, and I can see you smiling while your hair is flickering on your shoulders, like a sly breeze drifting along your tight body.
I once again open my left eye, I say, eye, I tell you , and for a second I can see how far away you are when I see you with the one eye, and yet how close you are when I see you with the other. I quickly shut it, frightened by the great distance, and now once again I see you lying in the primroses with the sniper rifle turned towards me. Yes, Doruntina, it’s the newest Heckler, no doubt about it, Heckler, I tell you! I know each part by heart; even in primary school I was obsessed and collected any and all information about guns published in newspapers and weapons periodicals, so much so that I became a member of the shooting club “Phalanx”. I would carve flowers on the target with a sniper rifle. I remember that, with an Italian Beretta, I could carve a small primrose with six bullets at a distance of six hundred metres. Smelling like primroses, at that. A sight to behold. I would look at it through my scope, holding my breath. Hothead Hawk, my captain, also knows how to do this; he was a champion shooter with a small calibre rifle. Yes, a Heckler, Doruntina, a Heckler! Unlike the scope of my Black Arrow, which can magnify you eightfold in my eyes, you can see me magnified tenfold. You can poke me in the eye; you can see that I haven’t shaved for three days; you can see that my nose is swollen like a tomato, either from mosquito or spider bites, doesn’t matter; you can even see the mark in between my brows, I say, mark, I tell you, a scar left from the time when I was all alone and wanted to be marked and punished to catch up with my beloved ones in heaven. I failed to join them in heaven, but I managed to grasp that heaven exists only as a means to understanding life on earth.
Suddenly, the little butterfly that had been supping on the dew of the primroses around you flew through the thistle. This means I’m probably still alive, I tell myself. The bearded man stood up and, waving his machine gun in my direction, sank into the hazelnut grove; he resurfaced the next moment at the eastern wall of the fortress; there is obviously a tunnel leading from the left bank of the river to the interior of the ruins, and ending in the mosque. So, Hothead Hawk has been right all along when he said that you defend the bank with only few snipers, who are constantly being substituted without any noticeable movement on the front line: “They are tying flashlights on dogs at night, and you numbnuts, for fuck’s sake, start shooting at ’em and reveal your positions; that’s why they’re killing you like flies,” he would say, standing over the monument of the unknown hero. I can hear his voice now down in the trench, while you exhale, Doruntina, your sad smile appearing once again in the left corner of your mouth. And it’s such a beautiful day, I say, a beautiful day, I tell you. I hear the babble of the streams, mine and yours; they are cheerfully flowing down beneath my and your trench; if we look down, we’ll see them embrace under the rocks, at the bottom of the gorge. Listen to them kissing, I say, kissing, I tell you, despite everything and despite all; listen to them running like lovers under the willows, to the sea, to the oceans, doesn’t matter, just as long as it is far away from here. Watching you through my scope, my body is banging and burrowing into the ground beneath me, trembling and caving in, my shivers are running around like ants, restlessly rushing in and out of my chest; I don’t know if I’m alive anymore or just narrating as if I’m alive. Still, thank you for this quiet sunset, for the mountain rising behind you, and for the fortress, too; for the sky, for the river, for the hazelnut with the slumping bough like an umbrella, for the butterfly and the primroses with the golden petals and the smell of honey coming across the river in waves with your smile, landing here, Doruntina, I say, here, I tell you, before me and this thistle shaking like a coward with fear. If I am alive, I could make primrose tea; it settles the nerves and heart; it’s great for insomnia. Just imagine a beautiful winter; a small cottage standing in the middle of an empty field, while outside a curious, brooding snow falls. The steam is rising from the tea before us, we are just sitting in silence and watching each other; we live without sensing that we live; the shadows of the falling snowflakes are caressing our faces; you are transparent like the steam ascending from the cup; I don’t dare touch you, because you might disappear if I do. Even though I don’t see this, I have a feeling that a blond-haired man is peering through the window, with a mean goatee that makes him look like a Yankee from the Lincoln era. The snow keeps falling outside; the same brooding snow; the snow falls and all enemies show their own tracks, Doruntina, this thought comes to my mind, I say, their tracks, I tell you, as I gaze at your face flickering above the table. I believe that we are still in love, because that is what the ground beneath us, the sky above our heads, the trees, the snow and that man peering through the window want: I don’t want to have your body; I want your face, which will offer me your body as proof of your love, I think of telling you, but the wolves circling around the house suddenly let out a terrible howl and your face starts to disappear through the beams of the roof. I open the window and I can see a trace in the snow of a face of a man with a mean goatee: Every man ends up in his own forgotten story, I say to myself, a story, I tell myself, as I watch how the snow slowly fills the imprint of the face in the snow. I have your face in the cup; you have my face on the window. We live, without sensing life. I see that you understand me, yet I don’t know what I wanted to say; all I know is that these are confusing times; reality is a memory, memory is reality; the river doesn’t exist in our optical sights, but we share the same heaven and the same hell, because both heaven and hell are states of mind, not physical locations. We live in the memories of the dead, that’s why we don’t sense that we live. Slowly, thus, we evaporate in thin air together with the tea.
Then, at the end, we become just a small fragrant cloud over Iowa.
© Blaze Minevki
Riproduzione vietata. Per tutti i diritti contattare Tempi Irregolari.
Part of the interview for Dalkey Archive Press, 2011
Dalkey Archive Press: Do you see your work as fitting into the traditions of European fiction, or indeed any national or regional tradition?
MINEVSKI: I can say that Macedonian fiction, especially the novel, never had time to follow any European, national, nor regional tradition. Why? Because the first Macedonian novel was written only 60 years ago, therefore we did not have centuries of time for romanticism, realism, modernism and so on. So, in my opinion Macedonian fiction is an alchemic fiction that does not recognize tradition due to not having time. We mix, as in alchemic caldron, romanticism with modernism and postmodernism, fiction with reality, amazing with bizarre, fantasy with reality, tale with history, death with life… At the same time Macedonians have rich narrative tradition, folklore, people’s songs and tales that date back at least ten centuries in time. We have the first short story on the Balkans about the stork man, which has discovered the magic realism long time ago, that actually is our unique space of collective memory and creative hope. That why here nobody is amazed if a men turns into stork, because we know that there is a wonder water that will turn him back into man, if he deserves it of course. In our folk tales dead are never dead enough to be gone forever, not to be able to fight again and again, while the donkeys fly like a helicopters long time before the helicopters are invented or the flying carpet over Macondo is created. You can check actually, that in the cult Latin-American novel ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ the alchemist Melquiades comes from Macedonia. Marquez probably knew about the alchemic core of Macedonia, which is the core of Macedonian fiction. Therefore, my novels and short stories, representing an echo of the story about our stork men, know the meaning of south and north, of west and east, which is maybe enough for a good flight without prejudice.
Dalkey Archive Press: Are there any exciting trends, movement, or schools in contemporary Macedonian fiction? Who do you feel are the overlooked contemporary authors writing in Macedonia who should be more widely read and translated?
MINEVSKI: In my opinion all of the Macedonian fiction is overlooked. It is obscure compared to the world’s literature movements, but at least ten contemporary Macedonian writers deserve international presentation. I can think of around twenty great novels that unfortunately are closed in the cage of our small language space, not having the opportunity to communicate with the rest of the world. On the other hand the publishing capacity in Macedonia is small, around 500 copies for edition, which is even less than some hand written copies in the middle century. If the best Macedonian writers would have the opportunity to reach the readers around the world, Macedonian fiction will leave the darkness and the quietness of its own cage. Macedonian fiction deserves to be revealed, not only for itself, but for the good of the world’s fiction at all.
Dalkey Archive Press: Who are the contemporary European writers from other countries that are writing compelling fiction?
MINEVSKI: Unfortunately, for the readers compelling fiction become writers with short courses in creative writing and eager for fame. I’m talking about the so called ‘bestsellers’, that in the past could only be found as paper romances in the kiosks, but nowadays are entering the bookstores as masterpieces of the literature. In this situation of blistering marketing assault, the real literature and the real worth literature pieces have to find the side entrances. Considering the superior European fiction, starting for example with great Salman Rushdie and Umberto Eco, to Hanif Kureishi, Misel Uelbek and Orhan Pamuk, their translations in Macedonian language usually come very late so we’re forced to read them either in original or translations in other languages.
Dalkey Archive Press: Are there enough publishing outlets in Macedonia for contemporary fiction? Is there a market for literary fiction in Macedonia?
MINEVSKI: There are enough publishers, even too much, but lack quality editions. After the collapse of the big national publishing houses, they were replaced by many small publishers who seem to care only for the donations from the Ministry of culture. They take the money, print certain number of copies paid by the state, and that’s it. They don’t take care of the market, the bookstores and the readers. One of these publishers earns ten times more than the authors for their novels. On the other hand, the fact is that Macedonian book cannot compete on the market, so for now in my country there isn’t one strictly professional writer, no writer who lives from his writing.
Dalkey Archive Press : Do you want your work to be translated? Why or why not?
MINEVSKI: I believe that there isn’t any writer, especially writer who writes in a small language, who doesn’t want his work to be translated. The writer desires reader who doesn’t know him. The writer doesn’t write his letter knowing the address where it will be sent. The writer sends his creation without an address, knowing that one day it will reach the reader he desired. Everything that’s good should be good for everybody. Indeed, if man as god’s creation is no good, then the mistake is not only in the creation.
Dalkey Archive Press: Given a choice, would you prefer a faithful, literal translation of your work or an interpretive re-imagining of it? Why?
MINEVSKI: I prefer good translation, meaning translation that will be faithful to the words and to the idea also. I would choose translation that respects the author, but does not disgrace the translator too. Because the author can always make reference to the original, but the translator to his own translation only.