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Absolvo Te

Georgi Bardarov 



War always returns, sooner or later, but always!


If you save a life, you have saved the whole world, but if you stamp out a life, have you then killed the whole world? You look at him, the guy’s laughing, thinks himself important. A measured, accurate kick at full force is enough to pull the grinning mask off his face. So he squeals like a pig chased for slaughter, so he looks up at you from below with the incomprehension of an animal caught in a trap. That’s the time for the second kick. Equally measured to the head. Flies backwards, glasses broken, smeared make-up and snot, tears and blood flow. Then two powerful kicks to the torso. You don’t need any more. He’s finished, even if they put him back together in the hospital, you’ve snapped him in two, he’ll always bear the stamp of fear within himself. Lord, it’s so easy. You look, some old woman is walking the street, chewing a cold snack with her false teeth, sunk into life, as though she’ll live a hundred years. She doesn’t need much. Just a hefty punch to the noggin is enough. Then you retreat to a safe distance and watch how around her lifeless body, concerned folk crowd around her, who will forget her, drink beer and watch a match, as we forget all lessons in life, thinking only of ourselves. And you’re whistling and you continue on your way, because a tasty supper and interesting match on the TV is awaiting you. It’s so easy. Some young boy is running in the street, licking an ice cream, aiming his catapult at street cats and pigeons, he thinks himself great and mighty. You aim carefully, stick a bullet into the chamber. A bullet, produced from several alloys, passed through the hands of a dozen ordinary slaves of the system. One pours out the metal, another turns the handle of the rolling machine, a third picks it off the production line along with thousands more identical bullets, destined to sow death, a fourth lot, most probably women, who’ve given birth and life, arrange it into cardboard boxes, into the dark warehouses of some vast arms company, never touched by the sun, full of dust and rats, thereafter a sour duffer, over fifty, with piles, divorced and lonely, who from the morning has been dreaming of a wank and a cold beer, dispatches it to shops in dozens of towns, from where dozens of men who feel nothing will buy it, will load it into their guns and will sow death with the same indifference with which they service their wives at night. So that’s the way, you’ve popped it into the chamber and you aim at the forehead of the carefree boy who suspects nothing and who at this instant has taken aim at some sparrow, who’s pecking at crumbs, suspecting nothing. You lightly squeeze the trigger, it’s that easy. The bullet leaves a round black hole in the reddening margin of the boy’s forehead, he’s collapsed in the street dust, while the sparrow has flown off into the blue sky and you go to drink beer in some pub and watch the never ending Derby – Barcelona-Real. It’s so easy to destroy a human existence. It’s so easy to destroy a world. Often there’s no need for kicks and bullets, it’s enough to say just a few words, to destroy it. It’s so easy.


And it’s so difficult, endlessly difficult, to save one guy, one life, one microcosm, which for the billions of ape-lookalikes on this planet means nothing, but for you is more than anything. For you it’s the whole world!
If some day, Lord God, you can forgive us…
Life smells of lavender
Fourth of February 1973
“Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip have left tens of Palestinians dead, world news agencies have announced. Among the victims were civilians as well as Hamas fighters. A forty-five-year-old woman has died, and her twelve-year-old daughter. The latest attacks are in answer to a Palestinian attack on a school bus, carried out earlier this week, in which two people were wounded.


A savage murder has shocked Chicago. A man burst into a small neighbourhood garden, shot two guys, and with a knife finished off another three, amongst whom were two young women, one nine months pregnant. The victims of the savage crime were friends, who every Sunday kept a tradition to meet up in the garden and drink beer. What’s known about the attacker is that he was their neighbour. Financial difficulties and the threat of losing his home are the attacker’s supposed motives.


In Miagi, Japan, a township in the northeast region of the country, a sixty-year-old man carried out a ritualistic suicide  in front of the school where he had worked as a doorman for forty years, after the director publicly shamed him as being an unnecessary burden on the school. Today the weather will be rainy throughout the whole day, with expected breaks in the clouds and light winds from the north-west in the afternoon. The temperatures…”
“Eliav, Eliav, stop that radio, take the sandwiches and get going, your brother will miss the school bus and you’ll be late for work! Are you listening to me, Eliav, it’s past eight! ”


The youth, who was munching his breakfast in the small kitchen, stretched, stopped the radio, jumped up and drank the glass of milk on the move.




The alarm clock quietly rang. 6.06! On the flashing display the date 06.02.1973 was also lit. The man in the bed rubbed his eyes. He hadn’t slept for twenty-four hours. He got up, dropping his hairy feet to the floor, seeking his slippers. He listened to her measured breathing from the other half of the bed. She’d dozed off not more than half an hour earlier. The predawn light seeped through the closed curtains. The man stood up and quietly left. He went to the dark kitchen. He felt for the hotplate cable and plugged it in. He put the coffee pot on, poured the water, put in two spoonfuls of coffee and waited. Deep carved furrows stood out on his suntanned face. He lost himself. He heard the whistling at the last moment. He pulled at the coffee pot. He burnt himself. He swore softly. It was too late: the coffee was now seething on the now red hotplate. Spreading the smell of burnt wheat. The man switched off the hotplate. He poured the coffee into a metal jug and went to the bathroom. He put the jug on the rusty galvanized boiler, leaning against the basin. He filled a metal bowl with water, put it under the dirty cracked mirror, level with his eyes. He soaped his bristly stubble and began to slowly scrape it with a razor, worn out from long use.  He left long pink stripes on his face, like a skier making tracks on the snow-covered mountain. He remembered the only time when he’d seen snow, he was up in the north with Sabigah, not long after they’d married. His face twitched, the razor countered. He yelped. A thin scarlet runnel cut across the virgin white snow. He leant on the basin and looked into the mirror. He stayed like this for more than a minute, without moving. The blood ran down his chin and throat. One drop escaped and dripped into the cracked basin. Above the toilet there was a scrap of newspaper. He took it, wiped the blood, sipped his coffee and restarted the ritual. He dipped the razor into the metal bowl, drank up the coffee and continued with the next scrape. In the mirror eyes were reflected, deep and black as olives. He finished, wiped himself with the rough yellow towel, which hung from the back of the rotting door. He returned to the bedroom. She was now awake. She lifted herself a little.


“Are you off?”
“Yes, it’s time.”
She lifted herself up a little more, stretched out a white bony arm and put it round his shoulder. “I’m scared, Nabil. I’m really scared!”
“Everything will be OK, you’ll see.” In turn, he put his hairy hand over hers.
“I’m really scared, Nabil, really…”
Moisture invaded her eyes, but she controlled herself and didn’t cry.
“Everything will be sorted out, Sabigah, I promise you, everything will be OK. I’ll take care!”


He stood up, embraced her lightly, kissed her forehead and with quick steps, left the room, the flat, the block…


Outside the February morning buffeted him with its cold. There was a building site close by them and the wind blew up, building rubbish, scraps of plastic, grey dust and ash from a bin, at which the watchmen had warmed themselves and boiled up tea all through the night. Ash! The smell, with which his whole life had been sucked out. A rattling bus appeared in the distance, where the horizon grew rosy from the quickening sun. It reached the stop and with a painful screech the doors opened. Nabil sat on the last seat. There were a few more sleepy wretches on this early February morning. Sunk in their own thoughts, each looked out of the bus windows, covered in a film of black soot. Nabil Nazer, thirty-three-year-old teacher of history and geography at the Jeddah school, Palestine, was alone


Absolutely alone.
With the scent of blossoming cherries
Fifteenth of November 1944
The train pulled out with a painful screeching on the rails. A sharp noise, hurtful to the senses. After a hundred metres it stopped. A huge sigh flowed out in the wagon. Actually dozens of sighs, converging into one, full of some desperate hope. But in a few minutes the train started off again and quickly gained speed and sank into a harmonic, measured clattering. Dozens of men, women and children were crammed into this cattle wagon, jammed against each other. They had no other choice. Young, old ugly, beautiful, thin, fat, with and without spectacles, with and without moustaches with one single thing in common between them – fear! Monstrous inhuman fear.
Through the gaps in the wagon slats seeped the sticky November cold, mixed with damp. The man succeeded with a little pushing and cunning to make it to the gaps in the doors separating the wagon from the outside world. Here the cold was stronger, the wind sharper and more penetrating, but air was coming in. Horrible, ominous, but nevertheless the air of the free world. The man peered with one eye through the gaps. In the dark outside demolished houses flew by, trees, roads, bridges, rivers. Here and there were lights too. Through the off-white clouds in the sky the ragged sickle of the moon was swimming.
The man next to him, thin, tall, with glasses and sparse beard, nudged his shoulder.
“Have you got any?”
“Yes I squirreled a few away, while they were searching me, they forgot the cap.”
He slipped off his cap and from the lining drew out two roll-ups, gave him one, took out a match. The men around them, squashed up against each other, vast angry glances. One grunted something.
“Got one, somehow kept from the damp…”
The man turned into the wagon’s interior, used the tails of his jacket as cover, lit one cigarette and handed it over, then the other one and turned back again to the gap and the world outside.
“What do you think, where are they taking us?”
“Auschwitz, most likely…”
“I’ve heard different things about there. Some say it’s just a labour camp, you work and wait for the end of the war.”
“Forget it!”
“Have you seen anyone who’s come back from there?”
“There’s no coming back from there.”
“I’ve heard they cremate folk in gas chambers. They can’t cremate so many people. Right? That’s nonsense.”
“I don’t know, we’ll see… I don’t want to guess.”
“Teodor!” The man held out his hand.
“Max. Max Shevchenko.”
“I’m a musician, a musician from Zagreb. I play violin in the philharmonic. Well I used to play…and you?”
“I’m from the Ukraine, but I grew up in Czechoslovakia. I was a student and basketball player.”
“Do you play?”
“Yes I played before the war for Dukla Prague. I was very good, the greatest hope in Czech basketball, I dreamed of the Olympics, but everything went…”
“Do you think that sometime…”
“Don’t even mention it… I don’t think anything, I don’t want to think. I can’t think.”
“Are you afraid?”


Their cigarettes went out in amazing synchronicity in one and same second. They passed through some dark city, fallen quiet in the horror of the war. Nothing betrayed the presence of any life in it. And even so the walls of these houses surely contained people. Frightened, exhausted by the war, hungry, but free nevertheless.


Afraid? Was he afraid?  O-o-o yes! He was so very scared that he could take an oath on how he could feel fear grab his throat and squeeze from the left.



– Translated Excerpt  from Absolvo Te – Georgi Bardarov 
– Translation: Christopher Buxton