“Karoshi” from Sabotage by Jeff Schinker

“Karoshi” from Sabotage by Jeff Schinker

Du kënns zou der an denks, et kéint net méiglech sinn. Et fillt sech un, wéi wann s de aus enger anerer Welt gerappt gi wiers, eng Aart Neigebuert, e bësse sou, wéi wann een am Karmasbüro déi falsch Destinatioun gebucht hätt an als Insekt oder soss eppes Krabbeleges erëmgebuer gi wier.

Du läis an dengem Bett. Eng Luucht, gefiltert duerch deng zouen Aendeckelen, buert sech e Wee bis an däi Gehir. Stéi op, seet deng Frëndin. Hatt seet et op seng léif, duuss Aart a Weis, an awer kënnt et der vir wéi eng Aggressioun. D’Analeps, vun deem, wat war, éier s du ageschlof bass, stellt sech zesummen, e bësse wéi ee Puzzle vu 5.000 Stécker, deen ee mat vill Méi an aus enger grousser, luxuriéiser Langweil zesummegesat hätt.

Enger Langweil, déi a Proportiounen der grousser luxuriéiser Wunneng, an där se sech verbreet, entsprécht. An déi de westleche Bierger mat topege Beschäftegunge muss fëllen, fir déi vill Fräizäit, déi e sech erkaaft huet, net mat ellene Gedanken un d’Stierflechkeet vun allem, un d’permanent Verrenne vun der Zäit, un de Verfallsdatum, deen op de Këschte vun eise Kierpere pecht wéi eng Etikett, déi d’Konfektiounsgréisst ugëtt, verbréngen ze mussen.

Du denks un déi 5.000 Stécker, déi ee mat vill Méi zesummegesat huet, fir duerno awer just e banaalt Motiv do leien ze hunn, eng Blumm, eng Kou op enger Wiss, eng pastoral Landschaft vun enger ästhetescher Banalitéit, déi engem de Mo ëmdréit. Du denks un ee Puzzle, wou een d’Resultat net schonns op der Këscht géif reproduzéiert gesinn, an deen duerno Albdreem oder pornéis Saachen duerstelle géif, eppes Grujeleges, wat dech féckt, zum Beispill, a fënns d’Iddi dovunner zimlech flott.

Gëschter konns du nees net schlofen. Du louchs, wéi sou oft, am Bett, deng Gedanken hu gekreest, a wat s du der méi bewosst gi bass, dass deng Gedanke kreesen, wat s de méi ugefaangen hues, doriwwer nozedenken, dass deng Gedanke kreesen, wouropshin s du der d’Fro gestallt hues, wisou se dat dann iwwerhaapt maachen, ob dat eng Manifestatioun vun enger onzefriddener Existenz wier, an där ee permanent misst Bilan passéiere loossen iwwert de verstrachenen Dag. An am Géigesaz zu denger Frëndin, wat ëmmer – du hues knapps d’Zäit, d’Luucht auszemaachen – schonn déi roueg, rhythmesch delikat Ootmung– bal eng Berceuse eigentlech – vum Schlofenden unhëlt, läis du do a stells dir d’Fro, wéi et dann haut mam Schlof wäert ausgesinn. Eng Fro, déi, du hues et an Internetforen nogesicht, eigentlech scho fatal ass, wa se bis am Kapp opgedaucht ass. Mä wéi verhënnere mer, dass sech gewësse Gedanken, wéi en opdränglechen Noper – du denks un den John Goodman am Barton Fink –, an eise Kapp alueden?

Wéi verhënnere mer, wa mer wëssen, dass déi Ge danke schiedlech sinn, hiert alldeeglecht Opkräizen an eisem Kapp, e bësse wéi den Aarbechtskolleg, deen s de net kanns ausstoen, mä mat deem s du moies de Rhyth mus an d’Frequenz vum Kaffisichegoe beim eenzegen Automat um Stack deels? Den Automat kanns de wiesselen. Mä de Kolleg bleift.

Genee esou verhält et sech mat de Gedanken, déi engem am Kapp kreesen. Egal wou s de hileefs an dir bannendran, si dauche spéider oder fréier op. Oder, wa mer schonn dobäi sinn, Biller ze sammelen, wéi deemools, du waars an enger Molresidenz, an engem Workshop, zu Berlin, et war Spéitsummer, an du, deen eng panesch Angscht virun Harespelen huet, waars natierlech déi Persoun, déi sech am meeschte Gedanke gemaach huet iwwert de Fait, dass d’Residenz bei engem Séi louch, d’Fënster an dengem Zëmmer net gutt ofgedicht war an dass erstaunlech vill Läiche vun där schwaarzgieler Pescht um Teppech vum Gang erëmlouchen, bal wéi eng vun deenen onverständleche Konschtinstallatiounen, déi verschiddener vun denge Kollegen op Expoe presentéier ren a fir déi s de – du weis et net, mee et gesäit een et sécherlech an dengem Gesiicht agemeesselt – nëmme Veruechtung empfënns.

A wéi du bis eemol sech ee vun de Béischten an dengem Zëmmer verflunn hat, konnts de just nach un den onerwënschte Matbewunner denken, an dat, obschonn deng Frëndin dir um Telefon sot, du solls einfach vergiessen, dass d’Insekt do wier, et wier d’Enn vum Summer an de Béischt wier, wat eigentlech plausibel war, just erakomm, fir a Rou an a Fridden z’agoniséieren, an deng Frëndin huet et hikritt, deen eeklege Parasit, deen der nach gëschter déi hallef Int, déi s de am Béiergaart wollts genéissen, mat senger krabbeleger, giereger, pickeger Präsenz versaut huet, bal empathesch a senger Einsamkeet duerzestellen.

Mä du war d’mentaalt Bild nees virun dir, eng sechs Béischte beweege sech daper a wéi an Zäitlupp duerch déi brong Zooss an d’Richtung vun der doudeger, krupseger Int, du hëls däi ganze Mutt zesummen a mat denger Forschett aus a splécks ee vun de grujelege Monsteren an zwee, ewéi ee Ritter vum Ronnen Dësch kënns du der ee Momentvir, an d’Erënnerung dorun huet all d’Berouegungsversich vun denger Frëndin nees am Keim erstécke gelooss, an du hues weider panikéiert, obwuel d’Déier reegungslos op engem Rido gepecht huet a wuel iwwerhaapt net wëlles hat, sech an dëser Partie “Existenz” nach eemol ze beweegen. Genee esou verhält et sech mat de Gedanken, déi dech owes, wann s du bis am Bett läis, picken.

Mä elo bass de waakreg, oder zumindest an engem Zoustand, deen net méi ganz de Schlofzoustand ass, an du wonners dech, dass schonn nees eng Myriad u Gedanken an dengem Kapp ronderëmkreesen, obwuel s du weess, dass de eigentlech nach bal schléifs, an deng Frëndin seet der, du misst elo wierklech opstoen, dir misst iech op de Wee maachen, an d’mental Projektioun vun deem ganzen Hygiènesritual, deen sech tëschent dem Opstoen an dem Aus-dem-Haus-Goen erstreckt, dat ganzt Geduschs an Zänngewäschs a Gekämms an d’Apake vun de Saachen, déi fir den Dag, deen usteet, néideg sinn, all dat dreift der esou eng Flemm an, dass du am léifsten direkt nees zréck an d’Bett wéilts, just dass der afält, dass de d’Bett jo nach guer net verlooss hues, wat nees eng nei Well vu Flemm an dir ausléist.

Endlech méchs du d’Aen op. Et ass 6 Auer 35. Seet däin Handy. Dat ze realiséieren, mécht dech rosen, an du notz déi Roserei, fir opzestoen, d’un coup, wéi de Fransous seet. A wa mer scho bei de Fransouse sinn, sees du dir, da muss ee bedenken, dass ee vun de Bekannteste vun hinnen, de René Descartes, deemools wéinst dem fréien Opstoen ëmkomm ass, hie war de Precepteur vum Christine de Suède an déi Moss huet dach net eeschtlech ëmmer wëllen um fënnef an der Nuecht opstoen, oder esou eppes an deem Dréi, esou genee weess de dat och net méi, an dat elo nozegooglen ass der och ze ustrengend, deng Ae sinn nach ganz verblatzt vum Schlof an du gesäis alles ganz verschwommen, total mautsch op alle Fall, d’Christine de Suède, an de Ren, bah, deen huet dat einfach net gepackt, huet sech erkaalt, a fort war en, ee vun de wichtegste Philosophen, sou wäert et dir och eemol goen, also net dass du ee wichtegen Denker wiers, loin de là, mä du wäerts da wéinstens an engem Geste, vläicht och an engem eenzegen – dee vum Ofliewen –, de grousse René begleeden. A wärend s de Richtung Buedzëmmer gees, denks de dir, dass eng Welt, an där d’Mënschheet fräiwëlleg um 6 Auer 35 opsteet, ganz einfach versot huet.

Du sees der, fir d’honnertst wuel, an hues nees den existenzialistesche Metaphysiker virun Aen oder zumindest a Gedanken, dass et Leit gëtt, déi einfach net dofir gemaach sinn, fréi opzestoen. Du has deemools eng Studie gelies, du weess net méi wou, mä du zitéiers se zanterhier, verbal no bausse, mä och bannen an dengem endlosen, granzege Monolog, deen s de mat dir selwer féiers, immens dacks, op alle Fall hate se an där Studie beluecht, dass d’Leit onofhängeg vun der Baussewelt an hire Verflichtungen ëmmer hirem interne Schlofrhythmus noginn. An anere Wierder: Et gëtt Leit, déi gären a gutt fréi opstinn, a Leit, déi dat net hikréien. An déi lescht Kategorie gëtt vun der éischter dominéiert.

D’Fréiopstoer, wann ee se da sou nennen dierf, hunn hiren Imperium imposéiert. Mat dem lächerleche Virwand, dem Rhythmus vum Dagesliicht plus ou moins nozegoen – woumat se den Nuetseile méi oder wéineger ënnerstellen, dass déi just eng Band vu Faulenzer sinn, déi de ganze léiwen Dag op hirer décker Panz leien. Dobäi ass et dach objektiv gesinn topeg, déi Momenter vum Dag, wou d’Luucht do ass, an engem Bürosgebai ze verbréngen. Dat huet wuel fréier Sënn erginn, wéi mer nach bal all op de Felder geschafft hunn. Dass kengem déi Antinomie opgefall ass, dass keen eppes dogéint ënnerhëlt, obwuel ech sécher sinn dass, wann een all d’Gejéimers an d’Flemm, déi sech moies op dësem Planéit tëschent sechs a siwen Auer moies manifestéieren – also elo an enger eenzeger Zäitzon, dat misst schonn duergoen –, zesummenhëlt, een e Geräisch géif produzéieren, dat duerch Muerch a Schank geet a sech am ganze Weltall breetmécht, dass keen do eppes ännert, dat weist dach, dass mer all just aarmséileg Sklave sinn.

Wat elo mech ubelaangt (ech halen elo op mat deem du, dat war just een narrativen Trick) ech si Moler, oder probéieren et ze sinn. Wat ech maachen, ass Folgendes: Ech huelen ëmmer nees kleng Jobs vu siwen, aacht Méint un, Congé parentalen, déi ech ersetzen, CDDen. Heiansdo kréien ech mäi Vertrag verlängert, da muss ech kucken, dass se mech éierewéi entloossen. Dat ass net schwéier, ech sinn a méi fréien, méi naive Momenter vu mengem Liewen oft genuch entlooss ginn, vu Kollegen a vu Partner, aus Spideeler an aus Schoulen, ech weess schonns, wéi een dat hikritt. Duerno sinn ech am Chômage.

Dat ass sozial verpönt, mä dat ass mer egal. Soulaang ech net vu menger Konscht ka liewen, liewen ech – deelweis – vum Staat. Dofir muss ech mëttlerweil awer all Dag op d’Aarbechtsamt goen. An do pointéieren. Fir dass se gesinn, dass ech waakreg sinn. Fir dass se bewise kréien, dass ech probéieren, mech an d’Logik vum Aarbechtsmarché z’integréieren. Déi numol seet: Stéi fréi op! Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund. L’avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt. An ähnlech idiotesch Spréch. Wéi ee mierkt: all Sprooch huet do een Equivalent. Hei fänkt et schonn un, d’Indoktrinéieren. Virun zéng Joer war et nach eemol d’Woch, an zéng Joer do virdru war et eemol de Mount. Lo ass et all Dag. Bass d’emol ze spéit, kriss de kee Goss méi.

Mir verloossen esou lues d’Appartement. Et ass Wanter, e puer Flacken danze verschlof an der Loft, hu siichtlech genee esou wéineg Loscht, sech iergendwou néierzesetzen ewéi ech, den Auto ass gefruer, eng ganz Couche Frascht verkleet e wéi een dubiéise Kaddospabeier.

No e puer Minutte freneteschem Krazen, e bëssen, wéi wa mer am Gaang wieren, ee risegt Hausdéier, soe mer mol een Hauswal, ze bueden an ze schruppen, seet meng Frëndin, dass dat Ganzt hei awer wierklech dat Allerlescht wier. Dofir hunn ech hatt gär. Hatt wierkt manner granzeg wéi ech, dee sech ëmmer iwwert alles opreegt. Mä u sech ass eis Weltusiicht déiselwecht. An de groussen Zich, zumindest. Mä wat wëll ee méi? Ee Fragment Weltusiicht deelen. Dat ass scho vill. En gros hu mir dat Nämmlecht festgestallt, gi mer vun deselwechte Prämissen aus. Just eis Conclusioune sinn anescht. Ech fannen d’Welt dowéinst schäiss, hatt net. Vläicht sinn ech ze usprochsvoll, vläicht ass hatt ze tolerant, ‘t ass am Endeffekt och egal. Hatt fënnt alles nëmmen hallef esou wëll. Ech, ech ginn einfach just wëll.

Mir sinn endlech op der Strooss. Et kënnt mer vir, wéi wann et eng Pilgerfahrt wier. Ech muss bal laachen. All Moien eng endlos Stonn am Beruffsverkéier stoen, fir an d’Kierch vum Neoliberalismus ze jauwen, an do bei de Geeschtlechen eemol op d’Knéien ze falen, ëm Pardon ze bieden, dass ech aarme Geescht nach ëmmer d’Léier net verhalen hunn. Duerno drécken ech hinnen den Excel-Psalm vu mengen alldeegleche Beméiungen, eng nei Schaff ze fannen, an de Grapp. Um Wee bis dohi féieren ech d’Jen op d’Aarbecht. Mer sinn allen zwee immens midd a schwätzen net vill. Iwwerall ronderëm eis ee Mier vu Luuchten, rout, orange, wäiss, an heiansdo och een zimlech ellent Gréng, wärend sech am Himmel esou lues eng onbestëmmtten Iddi vun engem Sonnenopgank, een abstrakten, bal net definéierten Ufank vum Dag schei breetmécht. Eng ganz Prozessioun u metallene Wiesen, déi sech mat vill Kaméidi an Ofgaser Richtung Stad beweegen, ewéi ee grousst, endlost Déier, eng Aart Schlaang, wann ee wëll, ee Fabelwiesen aus Aluminium, Stol an Damp, eppes, wat eis all verbënnt, eppes, wat eis all gläich mécht, eppes, wat eis all erdréckt a lues a lues opfrësst.

Mäi Placeur léisst sech alt nees gutt Zäit. Ech kucken ëmmer, fir deen Éischten ze sinn, deen drukënnt, probéieren, soubal d’Gebai d’Dieren opmécht, mech eranzestierzen. Dat ass net esou einfach, well et der vill sinn, déi dat selwecht wëlles hunn, esou dass een am Triichter, an deem sech d’Mënschendrauf usammelt an zesummepecht wéi fiichten, gemuelene Kaffi an engem Filter, e bësse mam Ielebou spille muss – ech maachen dat immens gär –, fir den Asi am Jogging oder de Spiisser mat der Mapp z’iwwerhuelen an deen Éischten ze sinn, dee sech en Ticket kann zéien.

Virdrun hunn ech gesinn, wéi en aus sengem Büro erausgestiermt ass a gemaach huet, ewéi wann hien dréngendst iergendee Pabeier misst fotokopéieren. A Wierklechkeet huet e just drop gewaart, dass de Kaffi duerchlafe géif – hie kritt et net hin, sech deem ganze Misär un Aarbechtslosen ze stellen, ouni ëmmer nees säin hëlleflose Bléck an déi schwaarz Flëssegkeet falen ze loossen, wéi wann e sech esou ofschierme kéint, wéi wann en dora kéint Gebuergenheet fanne vun eis Chômeuren.

Wéi wann en dora kéint liesen, wie vun eis geschwënn eng Job-Offer géif kréien. A wien am Géigesaz nach an e puer Méint de Waardesall ewéi eng gro, flemmseg, verdréchent Bürosplanz dierf dekoréieren.

Wéi e mech dunn an de Büro rifft, wërft e mer ee strengen, rosene Bléck zou a rëselt mat engem Blat Pabeier, vun deem en ufänkt, ofzeliesen. Et war eng Ried op Franséisch.

Monsieur le Président-Directeur général, chers collègues,

Je sais que la tradition exige que j’exprime, au cours de ce discours, ma gratitude d’appartenir enfin et officiellement et potentiellement à tout jamais à votre service. Permettez-moi néanmoins de vous dire que là ne sera pas mon propos aujourd’hui. J’aimerais au contraire vous dire que la boîte dans laquelle je bosse, je la vois un peu comme un enclos à vaches ou une cage à poules. Pendant des années, vous sucez mon énergie vitale en pétrissant mon pis pour en faire jaillir le liquide séminal de mon inspiration, quand vous n’attendez pas que je vous ponde des idées comme la poule son oeuf. Et, au bout d’un certain temps passé à faire bonne mine à mauvais jeu, à essuyer les regards ternes qui m’accueillent chaque jour, à endurer la terrible absence d’humour qui taraude cette boîte, après de loyales années jalonnées par quelques augmentations de salaire pas très fameuses et quelques ringards cadeaux d’entreprise – une montre en argent, qui ne fait que m’enjoindre implicitement à enfin venir à l’heure à mon travail, vous me mènerez à l’abattoir de la retraite, cette ultime salle d’attente où vous vous attendrez à ce que je regarde ma montre en argent frappée du logo de l’entreprise pour me rendre compte du gâchis que fut mon existence ? Comme si c’était à vous de décider, de choisir à ma place le divertissement pascalien qui, tous les jours, est censé me distraire de la certitude de ma mort et de la mort de ceux que j’aime, de me divertir de la faucheuse ? Et si je préférais, pour ne pas penser à la mort, plutôt donc que de travailler encore et encore, me bourrer la gueule ? Mais me la bourrer quotidiennement, et sévèrement ? Ou si mon idée du divertissement, c’était de collectionner des timbres, d’élever des moutons, de faire le tour du monde par ordre alphabétique des villes, de battre le record du monde du temps passé assis aux chiottes, de m’enfermer dans un cloître et de m’y taper des religieuses, ou encore, oui, de vous envoyer chier? Mais royalement, majestueusement ? Alors, voilà, avec cette missive, je vous envoie chier.

Merci.

Bon, ech mengen, Dir wësst, ewéi d’Ried weidergeet, seet mäi Placeur dunn, an engem immens strengen Toun, e bësse wéi ee Schoulmeeschter, deen e klengen Däbbes beim Fëmmen am Haff erwëscht huet oder a sengem Schoulsak ee Pornosheft fonnt an et direkt an zerrappte Pabeierslinguinien an d’Poubelle gepucht huet. Esou an net anescht héiert sech säin Toun un. Kloer weess ech, wéi d’Ried weidergeet. Schliisslech hunn ech se geschriwwen. A jorelaang geschlaff. All Kéiers, wann de Betrib um Punkt ass, mer wéinst menger gudder Leeschtung een CDI wëllen ze proposéieren, droen ech dëse Bréif vir. D’Resultat léisst net op sech waarden. Ee rosenen Heini vun de Ressources humaines stierzt sech op mech, rappt mer de Pabeier aus der Hand. Licenciement immédiat. Oder besser nach: keng Kontraktverlängerung. An ech kann nees an de Chômage an hunn erëm Zäit fir meng Konscht.

Se ass gelongen, nee?, soen ech dunn, e bëssen houfreg.

D’Luucht a sengem Büro dréit mat der Sonn, déi uerg dréckt, een erbaarmungslose Kampf aus. Mä mat der Sonn leet ee sech net esou liicht un. D’Sonn ass den Chuck Norris vun der Beliichtung. No an no ass se verbleecht, d’onnatierlech Bürosluucht an déi ellen, giel Flecken, déi se widder d’Mauer geschmass huet. Mäi Placeur steet op, geet bei d’Ridoen, dréit un enger dënner Staang, bis dass déi eenzel gro Sträifen d’Fënster ganz verdecken an d’Luucht verschlécken. Duerch déi vill Schietzone gesäit de Raum op eemol wéi ausgebrannt aus, äschfaarwe wierkt en, mat e puer Plaze vun engem blatzegen Orange, wéi e Feier, dat lues a lues de Geescht opgëtt.

Dir wësst, wat dat fir Iech bedeite wäert? Dat doten ass eng zolidd Fraude. Dir hutt Iech ganz absichtlech vun Ärer Aarbechtsplaz verweise gelooss, fir elo hei nees um Geldkrunn vum Pappa Staat suckelen ze kommen. Mir hunn Är kleng Strategie scho méi laang duerchkuckt. Dir stitt net eréischt säit gëschter op eiser rouder Lëscht. Eis huet just nach de Beweis gefeelt. Mä elo hu mer en.

Nees fuchtelt e mat sengem topege Pabeier, a sengen Ae glënnert et op eemol, wéi wann en owes no der Schaff mam Stärenhimmel wéilt rivaliséieren, en ass wéi besiess.

An ech soen Iech eppes, mäi léiwen Här. Net nëmme kritt der de Krunn direkt zougedréint, neen, dir musst eis och nach bis op de leschten Zantim rem-bour-séieren (dobäi huet hien, wéi hien et bestëmmt doheem virum Spigel scho geprouft huet, op säi Pult geklappt a säin Hochzäitsrank ass stënterlech – hie war wuel net méi immens frou mat senger Fra – op der Iwwerfläch vum Büro opge schruppt), wat mir Iech bis elo verséiert hunn. Soss kënnt eisen Dierwiechter a pléckt sech, wat et bei Iech an der Wunneng ze plécke gëtt. Kuerz: Dir sidd geféckt! An ech, ech ka mer e ganz uerdentleche Bonus erwaarden.

Hien ass esou frou, ech hat mer bal erwaart, e géif elo all Ament an d’Hänn klappen. Hien huet ewéi eng Fonctionnaire-Versioun vum Sherlock Holmes gewierkt – keng Drogen, kee Wuertwitz, just kal Berechnung. Dout langweileg, am Fong.

Eng Frechheet, wat Dir do sot. Dat do huet en Nospill!

Zut, ech hat dat mam Holmes wuel ee puer Decibel ze haart geduecht.

Wann ech betruechten, wéi Dir mat Äre Chômeuren ëmgitt, kéint ee bal mengen, Dir hätt d’Virspill léiwer?

Dir kënnt hei zielen, wat Der wëllt, Dir kënnt hei Är ganz Argumentatiounspalett opdëschen, Är… Säi Saz gëtt vun engem Gierksen ofgebrach, well ech hie mat senger Krawatt gepaakt hunn, wärend ech selwer anscheinend net genuch vu mengem Geste erstaunt sinn, fir him dëst net och nach u seng domm Gladder ze brëllen:

Lauschter mir emol gutt no, Fissi. Ech kéint der elo effektiv eng vu mengen elegant formuléierte Rieden dohileeën. Mech an der Zooss vu menger eegener Rhetorik bueden, de Jus, an deem meng Iddie mijotéiert hunn, genësserlech schmaachen, meng Zong a mengem Palais ronderëmdréine wéi ee Monarch, deen nervös seng Ronnen dréint, an no an no mäin Haass un denger Zuucht an en elegante, verbale Kostüm stiechen. Mä ‘t ass sauwaarm an dengem Büro, an ech hunn doheem eng Toile, déi op mech waart. Mir ass eppes opgefall heibannen. Normalerweis huet all Büro, egal wéi trist en ausgesäit, minimal Elementer vu graphescher Dekoratioun. Eng Billerrumm, an där Bouwen a Meedercher topeg grinsen, fir dem Client ze weisen, ewéi ee gudde Familljepapp een dach ass.

Pousteren, oft bleech Ofdréck vu Konschtgeschichtsklassiker. Regaler mat Bicher dran. Ee Kaktus, Tulpen, soss ee Geblimmels, dat no alem Plastik sténkt. Bei dir fënnt een näischt dovunner. Däi Bic ass schwaarz, däi Blocnotes ass wäiss, déi eenzeg Nuance Gro ass déi al Këscht vun dengem Computerschierm. Esouguer op denger Kaffistaass ass kee Motiv. Si ass wäiss. Wat dat bedeit? D’Conclusioun schenken ech der. Dréi du roueg de Krunn vum Pappa Staat zou. Ech ginn heem zeechnen. Ech molen däin aarm- séilege Büro, an deng aarmséileg Binett, an esouguer dee leschte Konschtbanaus wäert verstoen, wat ech domat wëll ausdrécken, och wann et mer op de Su geet, dass mäi Wierk iwwerhaapt eppes soll ausdrécken – wann ech eppes ausdrécken, dann ass et een Uebst oder een Torschong.

Mat deene Wierder hunn ech mech dovugemaach. Den Tableau, vun deem ech dem Placeur verzielt hunn, deen hunn ech effektiv gemoolt. An der Nuecht, wéi ech et gewinnt sinn. En ass net grad esou gutt ginn, wéi ech mer et erhofft hat. Mä fir eng éischt Aarbecht mat Spraydouse war et guer net emol esou schlecht. ‘t muss een och bedenken, dass ech op enger kleesperer klenger Träppche stoung an dass d’Stroosseluucht mer och net immens vill gehollef huet – kleng Kreesser huet se op der Fassad vum grousse Gebai ausgemoolt, ewéi eng zerrappte Leinwand, dobäi wollt ech d’ganz Mauer bedecken, woufir déi kleng Leeder natierlech och net ganz duergaange wier. Mä Opmierksamkeet krut ech der nawell. Natierlech wouss ten se direkt, wien et war. Ech hat ënnerschriwwen. Ech ënnerschreiwen aus Prinzip ëmmer. An elo sëtzen ech genee do, wou ech hiwollt. Am Prisong. Ech krut esouguer eng Eenzelzell ausgehandelt. Hei kann ech nees a Rou molen. Just d’Jen, dat vermëssen ech.

Jeff Schinker (1985, Luxembourg) earned a Master’s degree in comparative literature in Paris. He has worked as the editor of the cultural pages for the Luxembourg daily newspaper Tageblatt since 2017. He published his first novell, Retrouvailles, in 2015. Sabotage is his second novel, which includes stories in French, Luxembourgish, English, and German. His multi-lingual work reflective of a neo-liberal society was shortlisted for the Servais Prize for Literature, the Lëtzbuerger Buchpräis, and the European Union Prize for Literature. In addition to novels, he is a playwright. Most recently, he wrote a play titled Bouneschlupp which addressed racism in Luxembourg. Since 2014, Schinker has organized, hosted, and participated in Désœuvrés—Works in Progress, a lecture series. In 2016 and 2023, he was the laureate of the writer’s residency at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin.

Thanks to the Acid Rain by Itxaro Borda, translated from the author’s French translation by Clayton McKee

Thanks to the Acid Rain by Itxaro Borda, translated from the author’s French translation by Clayton McKee

When I get to the Erratzü Farm, no one will tell me how to live, what to think, how or to whom or with whom to speak, or even what topics to discuss. I will go back to speaking the Souletin dialect that I had learned three decades ago. In the depths of my solitude when I played with the idea, a ray of light grabbed my neurons. I felt happy. Syntactical rules became falcons. The irony of sentences sliced like a sharpened knife and the string of phonemes stepped on the paw prints of the bears of Sainte Engrâce. Joana Garralda, my fiancée, used her own dialect from the Salazar Valley, paying tribute to the discernible diversity of the Basque language.

Phaedra Out-Take #2 started. I took Les Guérillères by Monique Wittig in my hands. This novel that I loved so much gave me the chills. I read it all the time as if I didn’t have any other books. I appreciated the energy that emerged from its pages, the sting of the words, the calls for reclaiming, and this invigorating epic that opened little by little.  As soon as I felt lost, I returned to this book hoping that it would show me the right path.

I was going to keep Proust, Dostoyevsky, Woolf, and Rimbaud. I’ll find the rest on the Internet, or even at the public library in Tardets. The versions of my books didn’t have any valor, except sentimental. You could use them as fuel for a fire in the middle of winter if you really needed to. Truthfully, I didn’t give much thought about all this during my investigations when I found myself in front of the monumental libraries of my clients. They had books bound in leather with the names of authors chiseled in golden letters. I didn’t envy them though. Not at all, actually.  I won’t have time to read in Erratzü anyway…

I was on unemployment when Joana called to invite me to live with her. The street cleaning company in Bayonne sent all of us, Karim, Dédé, and me, packing. Since we were all getting close to our sixties, we were old, incapable, and not well-liked by management. We were going to suffer, waiting for retirement. Since getting elected, President Macron has changed the rules to be able to collect unemployment. He had gotten rid of the taxes on the rich and their fortunes, and he reduced the duration of benefits for the neediest people. That’s good justice. Two birds, one stone. Bravo, Manü!

Improvement, impossible…

Thanks to Tangerine Dream’s melodies, the heartbeat of the electronic music accompanied the sound of my future tea’s boiling water. I remembered that Dédé, Karim, and I had cried the last time we went around to collect the trash. We stoically tolerated the foul odor of consumer society’s trashcans. The smells clung to our skin and made us want to vomit. We finished our vacations by vomiting in each other’s arms, hoping to find some comfort.  In Joana Garralda’s house, at least I would be far from all of this. You can see the summit of the Madeleine from her kitchen. There is also a large entryway and three large bedrooms. Each one of us would have our own room and we could have friends over for a weekend, if we still had any.

It goes without saying that there is a garden with a small apple tree planted alongside the western hedges. That’s where I will go to dig and work instead of listening to music or reading pornographic literature. I will also have a house with a garden. I will achieve the lifelong dream of the average Basque. I won’t mess this up.

“Yes, Joana. I’m going to come…”

“When will you get here?”

“I don’t know. Next month, let’s say.”

“I’ll get your room ready…”

I put down my phone and repeated: “Great, great”. Just like that, I was getting ready energetically for my move to Erratzü. I look at the photos that Joana sent me on my cellphone again. The farm was in overall good shape. In addition to the garden, there was an oven to bake bread in a woodshed. I was going to love it there, of course, I was going to love the life that my dear Joana prepared for me. It would be a simple life, or at least one without more than everything that I would need.  What did I need deep down outside of a bit of love, a warm home, and the cold sunlight of the morning?

I toss the works of Maria Mercé Marçal and Marguerite Duras in a box along with Xora and Fargo DVDs, three external hard drives that held all my memories, and the camera that I used during my investigations. Suddenly, between Dune and Hyperion, I saw the black notebook from my last investigation. I didn’t dare pick it up because I’d failed my duty to bring the people responsible for Martin d’Otsabide’s suicide to justice. I was washed up. I should’ve just confessed to it myself. Exactly a few days ago on a street in Bayonne, I walked past Martin’s widow who was dressed in black, crushed by a deep sadness, and staring at the ground.

I approached her to say hello. She took a step back. She refused to take my hand and, while sobbing, she wished me a good day. She was busy, but she gave me some upsetting news anyway:

“It’s not easy to get back on your feet, you know… No, you don’t know because you run away at the first sign of a problem… Sorry. I don’t want to be mean. It just slipped out…”

“Don’t worry about it, I tell her. It’s not a big deal. I’m used to it. I don’t always get to finish my investigations because there is often something that doesn’t add up. Beliefs, suspicions, power games, or even intrinsic conditions can block…”

She melted into the bustling crowd. I followed the curved line of this collapsed life with my eyes until she completely disappeared. Everything related to Martin’s suicide suddenly rushes back. A few years back, his story and his cheese production cooperative GaztaKoop, whose launch he funded, started off fine. The farmers of the region gathered to better produce and sell their sheep’s milk. The shareholders of the project had built an enormous building in the desert domain of Basagaitz. They hired employees and a director who they paid the same wage as bosses in the private sector.

GaztaKoop was the model of economic development for the press and Basque society. They conducted an aggressive sales policy. The farmers went from store to store selling their cheeses, butters, and different dairy products to clients in the various towns. But after some time, depending on the rumors, we learned that GaztaKoop was a money pit, that it was close to going bankrupt, and that the legally responsible parties were the cooperative farmers themselves. Like the images of ancient biblical paradise, the serpent is biting its own tail.

Stormy general assemblies were called. Farmers were opposing farmers. All this because of one brilliant idea proposed by management: everyone should go to the bank and take out a loan in their name to replenish the company’s accounts. Martin believed in the future of GaztaKoop when he was heading to the bank to open a line of credit for fifty thousand euros. The bank obviously accepted the request since this helped the bank get richer. He had tears in his eyes as he signed because he felt trapped. Furthermore, it had been two years since the cooperative had paid him for his milk production, and the company would certainly never pay him because there was little hope that the financial situation would get better.

Martin’s widow had told me that this was a tough time for them. It seemed like no one was listening to them and no one understood them because no one was talking about the GaztaKoop scandal. There was no mention on the radio nor in the pages of the agricultural union’s newspapers. On the road to hell, they marched in silence and in secret. The Basque world, our world, she told me as if to stress something important, was always ready to mobilize when an injustice occurred. If a dairy farm in Béarn or in France acted this way, we would blow up the news and we would spread the information everywhere. But here, in addition to the operating debts, the farmer members were required to take on the fees themselves to cover the costs of the whole cooperative.

After just two years, following an eventful general meeting, the cooperative incited them to take out another loan. So, some farmers abandoned ship. But many, like Martin, decided to stay trusting and faithful. Martin then fell to the depths of a deep, dark pit. Yet at the same time, he didn’t look highly upon the farmers who left GaztaKoop in order to go to more established dairy farms and who didn’t pay their shares. They were traitors and ball-less cowards… Martin’s widow remembered that he sometimes used vulgar words. It was worse when he was chatting with one of his comrades of misfortune and the cheap wines of Europe heated their spirits.

The woman, broken by pain, was like a replay of Sisyphus’s parable because by calling me, she wanted me to prove the guilt of those in charge of GaztaKoop in her husband’s suicide. Then, she would go to court where, one day, the trial of these guilty parties would begin. Like Sisyphus, each farmer thought that by taking out loan after loan and not taking a monthly salary they were fetching their stone from the bottom of the deep well. But as soon as they got to the top, the stone slipped through their fingers just to fall back into the deep, endless well. It goes without saying that throughout my investigation, I had not found anything that clearly indicated who was guilty. Or very little anyway. There was a general code of silence surrounding this company.

The Basque world had secrets that would never be revealed. They were mentioned in hushed tones. Most often, they were kept quiet, just in case. It was incredible because people were generally up to date with what was going on. If the question was asked directly, suddenly no one knew a thing.

“You’re just nosy…”

“What happened exactly?”

“I won’t tell you. You know, it’s between us.”

I didn’t like when the person I was talking to treated me like a child. It seemed to me that they ignored the fact that I was an adult. I only used the childish language in Basque with babies and with my mom. This language, used one-sidedly, discouraged me, but I kept asking questions without ever being able to shed light on the mystery. That’s what happened during my volunteer investigation for Martin’s widow. The doors closed in front of me, except for the farmers who had deserted GaztaKoop. The second I said the name of the cheese shop, the farmers got heated and chains of curses ravaged their pale lips. I wasn’t able to control the tsunami of anger. I jotted down their statements and distanced myself from them while thanking them at the same time. I wrote down the structure of what could be a scam without it being completely obvious. It was already that.

I asked for a meeting with the director of the cooperative. He answered me with a loud no on the other end of the line, adding that if I kept asking strange questions, I’d have a few things coming and that I’d end up in court. The threats of this man, who was charming, as it so happens, when he appeared in the newspapers, scared me. It didn’t seem like he felt responsible for Martin’s death. I ended up with nothing except notebook pages that I blackened out with a restless pencil despite numerous attempts to gather information. I wasn’t very proud of myself when I found myself in front of the widow with empty hands:

“I led an investigation, but nothing certain came out of it. Even if I have suspicions, that’s all I have. No one wanted to accept being responsible for Martin’s suicide, which is understandable…”

“I knew you wouldn’t succeed… You have no nerve. You didn’t look where you had to. If only you were more daring…”

“I would’ve ended up in court… One of those powerful people would have accused me of having defamed their reputation and I can’t end up in prison right now!”

“I feel like crying, she tells me softly, when I see that even Martin’s farmer friends didn’t even want to talk to you…”

“Exactly!”

The law of silence is infinite. Wolves won’t eat each other. Monsters organized amongst themselves perfectly, caressing and embracing, so that no one would snitch. That’s not the problem. Everyone is free to do as they wish. But in this case, someone lost their life. With his final breath, he left his flock wandering in the pastures, his wife without a husband, his farm without an heir and with debts. His own debts, and ones that came from others. The neighbors rented the widow’s lands, and the flock was put up for sale in the pages of the union’s newspaper. There was always someone, a predator on the prowl, who waited for a neighbor’s demise to grow, develop, and increase their means of production.

I went to Martin’s funeral. We were at the region’s school of agriculture in the morning. The coffin was put into the ground while a trickle of rainwater was running towards the hole and the villagers were singing at the top of their voices: “Lord Give Eternal Joy to This Lost Soul” and “The Night Comes So Dark”. I spotted the widow. When the cross-bearer accompanied by the priest moved away, I went up to offer her my condolences.

“Come to the wake, she murmured to me, I need to speak with you. Yesterday, I was at the bank and there are some things that I don’t understand. This cursed cemetery isn’t the place to talk about it. I’ll wait for you! Make sure to come!”

“I don’t have a lot of time this evening, but I’ll come tomorrow… I’ll pass by your place… I promise!”

She accepted by lowering her head. On that day, I also felt crushed by a deep sadness. So many farmers commit suicide. A lot of workers do too. I knew some in each of the two categories. I racked my brains telling myself that the work world had become a morbid world. Why didn’t we change jobs when it provoked these mortal evils? Or when the bosses made us suffer this terrible moral harassment? Why? Because we had houses to pay for, SUVs, education, LED televisions that covered an entire wall in the living room, pools… So many things, so many worries. We were chained in like Mehetegi’s unfortunate dog.

The next day as promised, I found myself at the Kako farm in front of a cup of coffee placed on a floral tablecloth by Martin’s widow. I listened to her for a long while then she led me to the sheep pen. I nearly fainted when I saw the noose hanging from the wooden beam. I didn’t interrupt her:

“I’m going to tell you how it happened. On that evening, like every evening, he went to the sheep pen and, even though my husband had been very upset recently, I was lying peacefully in bed. Farmers have a tough job. You wouldn’t understand. But that’s how it is. They don’t have a minute to rest with this ever-present feeling of helplessness hanging over them. There is a false solidarity surrounding them. When everything is going well, they are with you, but when you fall, they surround you and wait for your downfall… On that morning, I was surprised to find myself in an empty bed: did he get up before sunrise? I hurried to the kitchen. No one. I started to shout. No response. I did this until I headed towards the sheep pen… And there, the most horrible sight. My husband, hanging from this wooden beam, his eyes rolled back, open to the void… I called emergency services and then I don’t remember anything after that…”

She caught her breath and swallowed back tears. I was speechless, incredulous.

“The Otsabide police along with the firefighters and the EMTs invaded the sheep pen. The banker called me as soon as he heard about Martin’s passing. He wanted to see me immediately to discuss a troubling circumstance. The body was still warm, and he wanted to talk to me about debts that my husband had incurred to be able to carry out his agricultural work. What nerve! Can you believe it? That’s when he told me that my husband had taken out two loans for GaztaKoop’s accounts in his own name. I went crazy and if I had the strength, I would’ve made him choke on his fake salesman laugh—the laugh of someone who pushes people off the edge into the abyss—but I stayed petrified, nailed to the chair. While leaving the bank, I chatted with Gaston, a neighbor who was involved in this story. He explained to me that this decision was taken during a general meeting to avoid the bankruptcy of the company!”

The widow began to cry. I took her in my arms and between two sobs without positive consequences, she explained to me why she needed my rural detective skills:

“I absolutely need to know who made this violent proposal that led to Martin’s suicide… I hope that you will get more answers than me because they all told me the same thing: members of the cooperative are committed like husband and wife, united for the good and the bad, responsible for individual and collective debts. So, when asked to take out a loan in their own name, a lot of them did!”

“I’m going to try to shed some light on this story…”

I didn’t add another word.

Going through my belongings for my move to Haute-Soule, I found my black notebook that proved that I hadn’t completed my mission. Proof that I didn’t help Martin’s widow get any clarity on the story because all of the doors had been rusted shut, closed like peoples’ mouths. I had led many investigations throughout the last three decades and I remember this one as a dark spot on my record. I really regretted it, especially for the widow. Soon, I’ll be in Erratzü, far from the world and its suffering. I’ll be admiring the glowing sunrises and sunsets alongside Joana Garralda, my lifelong fiancée.

What do I do with this notebook? Throw it away? Keep it?

Itxaro Borda (1959, Bayonne) is a Basque author with a background in agriculture and history. She worked for the French post office for some time. She now lives and works full-time as an author in Bayonne. She began her literary career in 1982 when she founded the literary journal Maiatz with Lucien Etxezaharreta. She won the 2002 Prix Euskadi for her novel 100% basque. She is most known for her series of detective novels with detective Amaia Ezpeldoi, the last of which, Euri zitalari esker / Thanks to the Acid Rain, was published in 2021. In addition to her novels, she has also published many poems.

Clayton McKee (1993, Pennsylvania) is a writer and translator who is currently splitting time between Nice, France, and Pennsylvania. In 2023, he became Director of Trafika Europe after having worked for the journal since 2015. His first full-length translation, The Disappearance of Jim Sullivan by Tanguy Viel,  was published in 2021 by Dalkey Archive Press. In 2022, he became a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles in Comparative Literature. He is currently working on his dissertation focused on literature published in French about the 2011 Tunisian Revolution.

“Karoshi” from Sabotage by Jeff Schinker

“Karoshi” from Sabotage by Jeff Schinker, translated by Alasdair Reinert

You slowly awaken only to suspend your disbelief. It feels as though you were beamed from another world, reincarnated. It is as if some higher power had booked the wrong destination for you at Karma HQ and you were suddenly reborn as an ant or some crawling midget.

You lie in your bed. A beam of light, filtered through your closed eyelids, bores its way into your brain. “Get up,” begs your girlfriend. She says this in a sweet manner, but all you register is jarring noise. The events prior to your deep slumber slowly reveal themselves, the analepsis of which is somewhat akin to painstakingly re-assembling a puzzle made out of 5000 jigsaws, put together to escape some immense, decadent boredom.

It’s a boredom that coincidentally matches the grand apartment in which it now spreads. A boredom which a great chunk of Western society tends to occupy with stupid pastimes, to compensate for the generous leisure time so hardly earned, to avoid thoughts of having to confront one’s own demise, the trickling away of time, the sell-by date that sticks to our bodies like a sweatshop label.

You think about those 5000 pieces that you metaphorically assembled, just to end up with a nondescript image, a flower bouquet, a cow in a field, a pastoral landscape of such aesthetic banality that it makes your stomach churn. You think of that puzzle, where the resolved image isn’t given away on its box, and which eventually resolves into nightmarish imagery or explicit content, some horrible creature that rapes you, for example, the idea of which you rather like.

Yesterday you couldn’t sleep again. Lying in bed as usual, your thoughts stirring, and the more you became aware of your thoughts stirring, the more you began to think about them stirring, at which point you ask yourself why this loop happens, if it were all just a manifestation of an unfulfilling existence, in which you permanently have to keep track of each passing day. And in contrast to your girlfriend, already lost in soothing, rhythmical breathing of truly deep sleep, you lie there and wonder if you will be able to shut off at all tonight. A question that’s sort of fatal as soon as it pops up in your head. But how do we prevent certain thoughts from intruding into our minds, like an unwelcome neighbour, say, like John Goodman’s character in Barton Fink?

How do we avoid their harmful manifestations in our head, much like the work colleague that you despise, and begrudgingly encounter during your breaks at the only coffee vendor at the end of your office corridor, day in and day out? The vendor may be swapped due to malfunction, yet the colleague remains, despite his general annoyance.

The same principle applies to the aforementioned thoughts stirring in your head. Or, while we’re on the subject of images, like the time you were at a painting residency during a workshop in Berlin, it was late summer, and you, who’d always been notoriously afraid of wasps, were the person that was, of course, most acutely aware of the residencies’ location next to a swarming lake, with poorly insulated windows to boot, a disconcerting number of black and yellow corpses lying on the thick carpets of the corridors, bearing resemblance to some of those utterly incomprehensible art installations set up by some of those “creative” friends of yours, and for which, you never show it, but guessing by the twisted look on your face, have only but contempt.

And once one of those creatures came flying into your room, you were entirely preoccupied with this most unwelcome guest that consumed all of your focus, despite your girlfriends’ simple advice on the phone to just ignore the damn thing, because it was already the end of the season and the wasp probably, plausibly even, made its way into your room just to die there in peace and quiet, and she almost succeeded in you feeling empathetic towards the little parasite that only yesterday had ruined your Sunday roast in the beer garden, by greedily circling the leg of duck on your plate.

But then the mental image reappears, as if in slow motion. Six of the flying predators plough through the brown gravy on your plate towards the pièce de résistance, you summon all of your courage and, armed with your fork, crush one of the beasts in two, feeling like one of Arthur’s brave knights for a moment. This memory triggers your panic, however, simultaneously obliterating all the calming attempts of your girlfriend. You continue to panic, although the poor wasp was just stuck to one of the curtains and was never going to play a game of last duel with you. That’s how these thoughts plague you as they sting you at night, just before you try to sleep.

But now you’re awake again, or at least in a twilight state resembling semi-consciousness, and you wonder why your mind is already whirring with thoughts, although you know you’re still slightly asleep, and your girlfriend tells you that you really ought to get up, that we’d better be on our way, and the mental projection of the whole damn hygiene ritual between getting up and leaving the flat, the whole showering and teeth brushing and grooming and packing the daily essentials, all this makes you so depressed, that you’d just prefer to slip straight back into bed, but then you realize that you’re very much still in it, which in turn causes a new wave of despair.

At last, you open your eyes. It’s 6:35 am. According to your cellphone. Realizing this makes you grumpy, and you channel this grumpiness into getting up, d’un coup, as the French tend to say. Speaking of the French, you tell yourself, keep in mind that one of their most famous countrymen, René Descartes, the reason he dropped dead, back in the day, was in no doubt because of his duty to rise very early each morning, being the precept to Queen Christine of Sweden, who would you believe it always chose to get up at 5 in the morning, or thereabouts, you don’t quite remember, and can’t really be bothered to Google it, your eyes still crusty, your surroundings blurry, distorted, you think of this unlikely match, Christine of Sweden and René, well, he just couldn’t cope with the routine, caught a cold, and gone he was, one of the most eminent philosophers, your fate’s going to mirror his, you think, I mean not that you were an important thinker, far from it, but you’d at least equal the great man by way of a gesture, be it a single, fatal one. And while you trod to the bathroom to get cleaned up, you mutter to yourself that a world that voluntarily agrees to get up at 6:35 am has quite simply failed.

You tell yourself, for the hundredth time, whilst thinking of poor old René, at least in memoriam, that there are people who just aren’t made to rise early. You once read a study, can’t quite recall where, but you keep citing it to others ever since, but also inwards to yourself in a never-ending, grumpy monologue, very often, in any case, this study proved that people always follow their internal, circadian rhythm, independently from the external world and its myriad temporal obligations. In other words, there are those who rise well and early and those who don’t or cannot. And the latter are ruthlessly dominated by the former.

The early birds, if we may so call them, have cemented their status and have long since imposed their will on us. Using the ridiculous precept of more or less following the rhythm of daytime hours, by which they more or less implicitly accuse the night owls of being a bunch of lazy bastards who lie on their backside all day. But what the early birds ignore, is that it is objectively absurd to spend the moments of natural daylight inside an office building. That might have made sense in the past when most of us worked in the fields. The fact that no one’s noticed this antinomy, that no one attempts to correct this, although I’m certain that if we added up all the complaining and the moaning on this planet in the morning hours between 6 and 7, in a single time zone, that should do it, an earth-shattering, groaning sound would result, the scale of which would extend well into space. That no one seeks to change this, just proves yet again that we’re all just miserable slaves.

Concerning myself, (I’ll now stop using the second-person pronoun, just a narrative trick of mine), I’m a painter, or trying to become one. My ways of going about it are as follows: I always take on small jobs for 7 or 8 months, parental leaves that I use to replace, for instance, fixed-term contracts. Sometimes they offer to prolong my contract, then I have to find some way for them to fire me. This is a doddle since in earlier, more naive episodes of my life, I’ve often been made to leave or was fired, be it by colleagues and partners, from hospitals and schools. I’m well versed in this. After this, I’m on the dole.

Of course, this is socially frowned upon, but I don’t care. As long as I can’t sustain myself from my art, I will rely, partially, on state welfare. But for this, I have to show up at the job center each day. And check in. So they can at least see that I’m awake. So that they are shown evidence, proof, that I try to integrate into the logic of the labour market. Which of course ushers one to wake up. The early bird catches the worm. L’avenir appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt, and similiar stupid catchphrases. As one can see, every language has its own equivalent. This is precisely where the indoctrination starts. Ten years ago you had to check in once a week, a decade earlier it was once a month. Now it’s every day. Late once, and you can say goodbye to your allowance.

We slowly leave the flat. It’s winter, and a few snowflakes dancing around in the cold air seem to avoid having to settle down anywhere, very much like me I ponder. The car’s frozen, a whole layer of icy dust covering it like some dodgy gift wrap.

After a few minutes of frenetic scratching, a bit as if we were bathing then scrubbing a massive pet, say, a domestic whale, my girlfriend proclaims that this whole early business here really is bollocks. That’s why I love her. She always seems less grumpy than me, who gets agitated about anything and everything. But in essence, our worldview, taken at large, is the same. What could one want more but to share a fragment of another’s worldview? Not much, I gather. Basically, we’ve come to find out the same things, having departed from the same premises. Only our conclusions differ. That’s how I find the world abysmal and she doesn’t. Perhaps I’m too demanding, or perhaps she’s too tolerant; in the end, it doesn’t matter. She takes everything with a grain of salt, whilst I remain bitter and cynical.

We’re finally on the road. It almost seems like a pilgrimage, almost makes me chuckle. Stuck in the commuters’ traffic for an endless hour each morning, in order to pass the gates of the Church of the Latter-Day Neoliberals and fall on my knees before the saints, begging them for forgiveness, that I, poor soul, still haven’t learned the commandments. After which I’m ordered to hand them my Excel-Psalm documenting my daily efforts to find a new job. On my way there, I drop Jen off at her office. We’re both shattered and remain silent for most of the drive. Surrounded by a sea of lights, red, orange, white, and sometimes quite an ugly green thrown in, while the tiniest hint of sunrise shyly peeks through a diffuse sky to announce a new dawn. A whole procession of metallic creatures, loudly ploughing their way into town, polluting everything on their wayside, like a huge, endless animal, a sort of snake, if you will, a fantastical creature made out of aluminum, steel, and smoke, something that connects us all, something that makes us equal, and equally suffocates and devours us.

My job advisor keeps me waiting, as usual. I always try to beat the queue first thing in the morning before the doors open, to be the first one served. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, as everyone else wants the same as me, so that, in this giant funnel in which the mob now settles, sticking together like moist freshly ground coffee in a filter, you end up rubbing elbows, something I almost relish as I try to overtake the antisocial bloke in his stupid jogging trousers or that bore with his briefcase, in order to take pole position at the ticket dispenser.

I’d just seen him, how he stormed out of his office and pretended like he needed to urgently photocopy some document. In reality, he’d only waited for his coffee to be ready, it seemed like he couldn’t face the endless queue of jobseekers without helplessly staring into the black abyss of his coffee mug, as if he could shield himself from us unemployed.

As if, by staring in said liquid, he could predict which one of us would soon receive a job offer. And who on the contrary, will have to rot in the waiting room for another few months, like a drab, under-watered office plant.

As he calls me into his office, he gives me a stern, even angry look, jiggles a piece of paper in front of my nose, and starts reading from it. It was a letter written in French.

Monsieur le Président-Directeur général, chers collègues,

Je sais que la tradition exige que j’exprime, au cours de ce discours, ma gratitude d’appartenir enfin et officiellement et potentiellement à tout jamais à votre service. Permettez-moi néanmoins de vous dire que là ne sera pas mon propos aujourd’hui. J’aimerais au contraire vous dire que la boîte dans laquelle je bosse, je la vois un peu comme un enclos à vaches ou une cage à poules. Pendant des années, vous sucez mon énergie vitale en pétrissant mon pis pour en faire jaillir le liquide séminal de mon inspiration, quand vous n’attendez pas que je vous ponde des idées comme la poule son oeuf. Et, au bout d’un certain temps passé à faire bonne mine à mauvais jeu, à essuyer les regards ternes qui m’accueillent chaque jour, à endurer la terrible absence d’humour qui taraude cette boîte, après de loyales années jalonnées par quelques augmentations de salaire pas très fameuses et quelques ringards cadeaux d’entreprise – une montre en argent, qui ne fait que m’enjoindre implicitement à enfin venir à l’heure à mon travail, vous me mènerez à l’abattoir de la retraite, cette ultime salle d’attente où vous vous attendrez à ce que je regarde ma montre en argent frappée du logo de l’entreprise pour me rendre compte du gâchis que fut mon existence ? Comme si c’était à vous de décider, de choisir à ma place le divertissement pascalien qui, tous les jours, est censé me distraire de la certitude de ma mort et de la mort de ceux que j’aime, de me divertir de la faucheuse ? Et si je préférais, pour ne pas penser à la mort, plutôt donc que de travailler encore et encore, me bourrer la gueule ? Mais me la bourrer quotidiennement, et sévèrement ? Ou si mon idée du divertissement, c’était de collectionner des timbres, d’élever des moutons, de faire le tour du monde par ordre alphabétique des villes, de battre le record du monde du temps passé assis aux chiottes, de m’enfermer dans un cloître et de m’y taper des religieuses, ou encore, oui, de vous envoyer chier? Mais royalement, majestueusement ? Alors, voilà, avec cette missive, je vous envoie chier.

Merci.

“Right, I suppose you know how the speech goes on”, says my advisor in a schoolmasterly tone, as if he’d just caught a little rascal smoking in the schoolyard or had found dirty magazines in his rucksack. That’s exactly how his tone is now. Of course, I know how the speech goes on. It was me who wrote it in the first place. And kept refining it over the years. Every time the company is willing to offer me a permanent job due to my performance, I read them this letter. Their reaction is always delivered promptly: an angry HR clerk grabs the letter from my hands, tears it to shreds, and proclaims my immediate redundancy. Or better still, proclaims the non-renewal of my contract, meaning I’m legally allowed unemployment benefits and can thus return to my art.

“Isn’t the letter great?”, I say, more than a little proud.

The artificial lighting in his office seems to violently clash with the sunlight. But to ignore the power of sunlight is perilous. The sun’s sort of the Chuck Norris of lighting. After a while the pale artificial lighting fades and so do the spots it projects unto the four corners of his office. My advisor gets up, walks over to the curtains, pulls on a handle until all the grey blinds have covered the entirety of the window, and swallows up all of the daylight. The room suddenly turns dark, seems almost incinerated, ashen, with only a few spots of a brazen orange not unlike a slowly dimming fire.

“You do realize what this entails? Your little number’s none other than a serious case of fraud. You deliberately made yourself redundant at your job, preferring to turn up here, again and again, to suck at the teet of our benevolent mother state. We’ve sussed out your little scheme for a while now. Not since yesterday have you held a firm place on our red list of fraudsters. We only needed a single other piece of evidence, and here we have it.”

Again he jiggles my letter, his eyes, glinting like the night sky, making him seem almost possessed.

“I’ll tell you what, my dear sir. Not only will we henceforth close the tap on your benefits, but you’ll be obliged to pay us back every last cent we paid out to you.” The way he demonstratively bangs his ringed knuckle on his desk, it seems like he rehearsed this at home in front of his mirror. “Otherwise, you can count on our bailiff to pay a visit to your miserable flat and confiscate what he pleases. In short: you’re fucked. And I’m already looking forward to receiving a hefty bonus.”

He seemed so pleased that I almost expected him to clap his hands any moment. His calculating manner almost resembled a civilian version of Sherlock Holmes, without the drugs and devoid of any caustic wit. Dead boring, to be honest.

“How dare you insult me in this way. There’ll be consequences!”

Shit, I probably shouldn’t have been thinking out loud…

“By the likes of it, the way you treat us unemployed, one would be forgiven to think that you’re the type that prefers foreplay, perhaps?”

“You can try as hard as you may, to woo me with your argumentative chops, your elegghhh….” His sentence was abruptly interrupted by a gasp, as I pulled hard on his ash grey tie and tightened his collar, uncomfortably nearing his choking point.

“Now YOU listen to me, you pratt. I could indeed just serve you one of my elegant ways of speech, smother you with my own prodigious use of language, let you delectably suck at my own brilliant ideas, and use my tongue to spit vitriol at your comfortable, numbing breed. But right here and now it’s just unbearably hot in your office, and I have a few canvases waiting for me at home. Which reminds me, I noticed something. Even the most mundane of offices is graced with some graphic embellishment, a decoration of some sort, perhaps a framed photograph or two of smiling offspring intended to show off the office clerks’ parenting skills.”

“Posters also, often just pale reproductions of the old masters. Bookshelves filled with actual books. I can think of cacti too, tulips, or other flowers, all of them, without exception, reeking of plastic. There’s nothing of the sort here. Your pen is black, your notepad white, broken by the drab grey of your computer screen. Your coffee mug doesn’t even display any notable colour. Just plain white. What does this mean? I’ll let you come to your own conclusion. Go ahead and turn off my welfare tap. I’ll go home and draw. I’ll draw your miserable office, your miserable face, so that even the most uncultivated viewer, say, yourself, will get what I wanted to express, although I generally loathe any attempt to ascribe meaning or expression to my work. The only things I like to express are pieces of fruit or a sneaker, say.”

And with those final words, I disappeared. I actually did complete the painting I threatened the advisor with. At night-time, as is my custom. It didn’t quite turn out the way I wanted. But for my first oeuvre done entirely with spray cans, it turned out pretty ok. You have to bear in mind, that I was sitting on a meager little staircase during the process and that the beam of the nocturnal streetlight didn’t exactly make things easier….projecting weird circles onto the dark wall of the large building, resembling a torn cinema screen. I intended to cover the entire wall, but the little ladder I brought was never going to be up to the task. My painting, however, certainly drew attention. Of course, they knew immediately who it was, given my signature, which I included out of principle. And now I find myself exactly where I wanted. In prison. Even managed to broker a single cell, where I can draw and paint in peace. Only miss Jen, really.

Jeff Schinker (1985, Luxembourg) earned a Master’s degree in comparative literature in Paris. He has worked as the editor of the cultural pages for the Luxembourg daily newspaper Tageblatt since 2017. He published his first novell, Retrouvailles, in 2015. Sabotage is his second novel, which includes stories in French, Luxembourgish, English, and German. His multi-lingual work reflective of a neo-liberal society was shortlisted for the Servais Prize for Literature, the Lëtzbuerger Buchpräis, and the European Union Prize for Literature. In addition to novels, he is a playwright. Most recently, he wrote a play titled Bouneschlupp which addressed racism in Luxembourg. Since 2014, Schinker has organized, hosted, and participated in Désœuvrés—Works in Progress, a lecture series. In 2016 and 2023, he was the laureate of the writer’s residency at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin.

Alasdair Reinert emigrated to Montreal two years ago. He is now occupied with turning a formerly pronounced interest in drawing and painting in oils into a full-time career. Following convention for close to two decades, he worked as an employee for various private and public entities in Luxembourg, as an insurance salesman, teaching assistant, and then civil servant. His gradual reinvention as a visual artist, having studied with current European Masters, has led to group shows in Luxembourg, private commissions, as well as illustrations for the Lëtzebuerger Land weekly newspaper and Jeff Schinker’s novel Ma, vie sous les tentes. Besides this, he’s a regular contributor to TageBlatt daily newspaper, having written music and art reviews for its culture section.

Poems by Olena Duc-Fajfer

Poems by Olena Duc-Fajfer

Сонце
як білий камін
над водом
ретяз колыше
безіменний ден
покріпил нас
порноґрафійом блискучом
з просніня
барвінкового
віщым жытьом
        Віра, Надія, Любов
        Софіі діти
        Дай Боже щесливо
        іщы ден
        єдного сонця

Мій світ
то не чуже слово
то кавальчык простору
в абсолюті
молитва
за помершы душы
якы іщы тліют в земли
зелене світло
будучым вікам
вкоріненым
в архетыпний
образ жытя

Зас я
зас они
так як в дзеркалі
дві стороны
ничыі
з простору вырваны

маестро грат
на штырі рукы
дотык шкла
холодніє на твари
я
ци они
мосты зорваны

ходме далі

yж стоіт
на горбку тота хыжка
што безпечном
про нас мала быти
крыла розпостерат
в ззеленіст
і кличе
фурт кличе
про молитву
котра може єй створити

Повторило ся тото
што николи ся не повтарят
і ріка і вода
лем рокы
все проходят
і не маме себе
лем в собі
образ свій несеме
котрий ся повторит
як станеме
проти себе

нич не речеме
бо вшытко знаме
од все

Ворожба

На долони три свічкы
Лял ся вечетри
в поломін чорнявом
…ворожылам
на пут каменистий
катуляло ся
кожде
лемківскє слово
…пішлам

Автобіографія

ци лем я надвоє
моє
твоє
Чыі імена
в нас вписаны
де моя земля
а де тота што мя родила
кілко поколінь іщы мине
підо мном
надо мном
сохнут травы

ци то лем туга
ци надія

Зачаруваны

пізно уж
білы птахы лишают землю
вірніт наша
пахне пілнічным вітром
ближше пригорний
засмученіст далеку
веретено кроків босых
в лозинах
затисний пальці на перлинці росы
то серце ночы так радіє
в жмени

Нога за ногом

в білым снігу
зас
стaє ся
час
коли неє
пятен
ани тіни
бреханя пса
ретязи бренкоту

Перша борозда протята
напрямом границ
то лем страх
пред поворотом

Сонце

Колиси..
люде ходили
на гору
до сонця ся молити
Тепер…
люде сонце продали
і думают
же легше ім жыти

Olena Duc-Fajfer is a native Lemko literary scholar, art historian, editor, poet. She is the head of the Department of Russian Literature at the Institute of East Slavonic Philology at Jagiellonian University and founder of Lemko philology at the Pedagogical University in Cracow, where she taught Lemko language, culture and literature. Between 2005 and 2014 she served as a representative for Lemkos on the Joint Commission of the Government and National and Ethnic Minorities. Her research interests include literature and ethnicity, ethnic minority literature, minority discourses, intercultural relations, the anthropology of literature, and the revitalization of endangered cultures and languages. She is the author of 250 academic publications, including the monographs Lemko Literature in the Second Half of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century (Kraków 2001). She actively promotes the Lemko language and culture throughout the world.

Poems in Faroese by Kim Simonsen

Poems in Faroese by Kim Simonsen

Hvat hjálpir einum menniskja at vakna ein morgun hesumegin hetta áratúsundið (2013)

Tvær ferðir undir eikitrøunum í Washington Square Park
misti eg vitið av einsemi millum milliónir av gulum bløðum.
Aftan á samanbrotið og hugin til at renna oman á 9th Street
at keypa ein hvítan puddilhund
savnaði eg toftina av mær sjálvum saman.
Roykti eina bláa Gauloises
og keypti ein bakka av jarðberjum,
slitin tók eg L-linjuna til Brooklyn
gjøgnum milliónir av ókendum býarpørtum.
Enn sita gulu bløðini føst undir skónum
sum nýskitnir hundalortar.

Eg særdi fotografin við gamla
hálvtrýssara Rolleiflexmyndatólinum

á Avenue A,

tá eg bað hann fara av helviti til,
sum ein hustlara í East Village.
Í betonghimmalinum
syngja nógv kór av djevlum

vakrar sangir um

menniskjað.

Ert tú føroyingur?

Tú ert ein veruligur føroyingur!

Tú ert ein veruligur føroyingur, ið býr í New York?

Ert tú ein veruligur føroyingur!

Føroyingur?

New York?

Føroyingur!

Hvat so um tú ert skít á gomlum fotomyndum,
um ein skuggi hevur gingið aftan á tær
sum ein smæðin risi,
so er myrkrið í miðjuni
av tíni sál títt egna,
um so sjálvt himmalin
er partur av tyngdarlógini,
so flyta vit okkum
við innari myndatólum
millum tey deyðu
og heilsa gáloysin
grannakonuni, sum doyði í 1989.
Eingin kann ganga aftureftir.
Í morgun var hasin stóri ljósablái
summarfuglurin ein ormvera.

Áir, ið renna millum heimspartar,
eru líkasum streymur,
sum flóð ella fjøra,
ið ikki hugsa um,
hvørja strond tey hava broytt í nátt.
Soleiðis er 
við kensluni,
sum einaferð var,
ið nú er horvin
sum fuglarnir
sum verpa smá grøn egg.
Hon er burtur hvønn morgun
tá vit drekka Neskaffi og síggja,
at reyða vetrarrósan
í urtapottinum í vindeyganum
er farin at spretta.

Lívfrøðiliga samansetingin í einum dropa av sjógvi minnir um blóðið í mínum æðrum (2013)

Mín kalda hond nertur við regnváta
garðin, her luktar av mold,
eg hoyri fuglaveingir.

Eg hugsi um insektini
blámaðkar
virus,
at orðið myrkur
hevur myrk ljóð.

Eg eri virus,
eg eri illgresi,
eg eri tað hýggiskotna.

Eg eri ein,
ið veit,
at um einki annað,
skulu hesi
eta meg
at enda,
sum blaðlúsin
og dreparasnigilin,
ið etur plantuna.

Eg síggi fótaspor frá einari kettu
og finni ein særdan bringureyða í kavanum,
hann hyggur upp á meg við sínum knappanálseygum,
meðan hann bløðir,
eg taki hann upp í hondina
og royni at verma hann,
hann veit
og eg veit,
at hetta var tað.

Hendan morgunin doyði pápi mín.
Ein byrjandi dagur hómast,
um nakrar tímar er ljóst.
Fjallatromin er klødd í kava.
Í gjár skeyt eg eina haru haruppi,
men hon helt á at renna
so eg skeyt hana aftur.
Tá eg fann hana var helvtin
av høvdinum skotið av.

Nú heilsar brimið degnum,
ið kemur sníkjandi.
Myrkrið, ið var, sleppir spakuliga
kvørkratakinum á okkum.

Tað hevur regnað uttan slit í dagavís,
bøurin, havið og himmalin renna saman,
vit eru ein flótandi umskiftandi støða,
nú spíra gulir soppar á doyggjandi eikitrøum,
meðan sólin fer niður
og børkurin er fallin av trøunum.
Eg eri áhugaður í tí ikki-menniskjaliga,
í insektum, í virusum,
í bruna
í øllum
sum lekur
og dryppar millum
okkara porøsu porur.

Eg eti eina blommu
saftin frá henni sproytar inn í munnin.

Ovid sigur í Metamorfosunum:
at einki lívrunnið er varandi,
at heimsins endurnýggjari er náttúran,
at einki í heiminum skal ganga undir,
at alt skal broytast.

Kim Simonsen (1970, Faroe Islands) is a Faroese writer and researcher from the island of Eysturoy. He completed his PhD in Nordic Literature at the University of Roskilde and has authored seven books as well as numerous essays and academic articles. He is the founder and managing editor of Forlagið Eksil, a Faroese press that has published over 20 titles. In 2014, Simonsen won the M.A. Jacobsen Literature Award for his poetry collection Hvat hjálpir einum menniskja at vakna ein morgun hesumegin hetta áratúsundið (What good does it do for a person to wake up one morning this side of the new millennium, forthcoming from Deep Vellum in 2024). His latest poetry collection, Lívfrøðiliga samansetingin í einum dropa av sjógvi minnir um blóðið í mínum æðrum (The biological composition of a drop of seawater is reminiscent of the blood in my veins), was published by Verksmiðjan in 2023.

Poems by Olena Duc-Fajfer

Poems by Olena Duc-Fajfer, translated by Elaine Rusinko and Bogdan Horbal

The sun
like a white stone
on the water
a chain swinging
the nameless day
invigorated us
with shimmering pornography
waking up
from a periwinkle night
into prophetic life
        Vira, Nadia, Liubov
        Sofia’s children
        God grant happiness
        it is still the day
        of a single sun

My world
is not somebody else’s word
it is a piece of space
in the absolute
a prayer
for departed souls
who still molder in the earth
a green light
to future centuries
rooted
in the archetypical
image of life

It’s me again
it’s they again
as in a mirror
two sides
belonging to no one
torn from the absolute

maestro plays
for four hands
the touch of glass
cools on the face
I
or they
bridges torn

let’s go further

it’s already standing
on a hill that house
which was supposed
to be safe for us
it spreads its wings
into the green
and calls
continually calls
for a prayer
that may create it

That which never repeats
was repeated
the river and the water
only the years
pass by
and we don’t have ourselves
only in ourselves
we bear our image
which repeats
as we stand
facing ourselves

we say nothing
for we know everything
for all time

Augury

On my palm three candles
the evening poured
blackness into the flame
I was telling fortunes
onto the stony path
rolled
every
Lemko word
I set off

Autobiography

Schizophrenia
or only me split in two
mine
yours
Whose names
are written in us
where is my land
and where is the one that gave birth to me
how many generations will pass
below me
above me
grasses dry out

is it only yearning
or is it hope

Enchanted

it’s late
white birds leave the earth
our faithfulness
smells like the northern wind
hug tighter
distant sorrow
the spindle of barefoot steps
in the willows
squeeze a drop of dew in your fingers
the heart of night rejoices
in the hollow of the hand

Step after step

in the white snow
again
comes
the hour
when there are no
stains
or shadows
barking of dogs
clanging of chains
The first furrow is stretched
along the boundary
there is only the fear
of returning

Sun

Once…
people went
to the mountain
to pray to the sun
Now…
people have sold the sun
and think
it is easier to live

Olena Duc-Fajfer is a native Lemko literary scholar, art historian, editor, poet. She is the head of the Department of Russian Literature at the Institute of East Slavonic Philology at Jagiellonian University and founder of Lemko philology at the Pedagogical University in Cracow, where she taught Lemko language, culture and literature. Between 2005 and 2014 she served as a representative for Lemkos on the Joint Commission of the Government and National and Ethnic Minorities. Her research interests include literature and ethnicity, ethnic minority literature, minority discourses, intercultural relations, the anthropology of literature, and the revitalization of endangered cultures and languages. She is the author of 250 academic publications, including the monographs Lemko Literature in the Second Half of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century (Kraków 2001). She actively promotes the Lemko language and culture throughout the world.

Bogdan Horbal is a historian, librarian, and curator of Slavic and East European Collections at the New York Public Library. He holds a Ph.D. in history (University of Wrocław, 2005) and an MLS (Queens College, CUNY, 1999). Horbal is interested in the evolution of Lemko people in both Europe and North America. He authored four monographs, including Działalność polityczna Łemków na Łemkowszczyźnie 1918-1921 (1997), Лемківска народна музыка на восковых циліндрах (1901-1913) і американьскых рекордах (1928-1930)/Lemko Folk Music on Wax Cylinders and American Records (1901-1930) (2008 with Walter Maksimovich); Lemko Studies: A Handbook (2010, reprint 2023), and Бортне – Село з Каміня, 2 vols. (2017). He also wrote many articles, including almost 200 entries for the Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture (2002; 2nd rev. and exp. ed. 2005; Ukrainian ed. 2010) and presented papers at numerous conferences.

https://nypl.academia.edu/BogdanHorbal

Elaine Rusinko, professor emerita at the University of Maryland, earned a Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literature from Brown University. She began her scholarly work with articles on modernist Russian poetry. Later, she turned to the culture of her own Carpatho-Rusyn ancestry, publishing translations, articles, a volume of conference presentations, and the first comprehensive English-language history of Rusyn literature, Straddling Borders: Literature and Identity in Subcarpathian Rus’ (2003). More recently, she began to explore the ethnic background of the most famous Rusyn-American, Andy Warhol, with studies that explore his reception in the Rusyn homeland of his parents, his ancestry, his religious background, and his mother. My biography, Andy Warhol’s Mother: Julia Warhola and the Rusyn-American Immigrant Experience, is currently in press at the University of Pittsburgh.

https://umbc.academia.edu/ElaineRusinko

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