Moving Parts

Moving Parts by Magdalena Tulli

Book: Moving Parts by Magdalena Tulli Read Free Book Online
Authors: Magdalena Tulli
Tags: General Fiction
– let’s say, without even looking at the business card: John Maybe. Nightclubs don’t need excessive talent and are not prepared to pay for it; they’re content when there is a trumpet in the band and it’s played in tune; and if the owner himself sits at a table for no other purpose than to listen to the trumpet solos, he keeps this to himself. In such a way John Maybe will never get the recognition he deserves.
    Lower down, the doorways to the apartments are more imposing: two on each floor, with veneered double doors, handles that inspire respect, and gleaming brass nameplates on which the names of the residents are engraved with great care, once and for all, as if the idea of moving had never occurred to anyone here. From the nameplate it can be learned who the bed linen drying in the attic belongs to. It is the Fojchtmajers’. Sooner or later this name had to reappear in some sentence; all this time it was waiting patiently for its turn. Was the Polish Word publishing house and printing press not mentioned earlier? Its additional specialty could for example have been theatrical posters and programs. It goes without saying that these Fojchtmajers are not and do not wish to be connected in any way with the immaculately uniformed Captain Feuchtmeier of the navy of the Third Reich, also mentioned above, commanderof a gunboat sailing the southern coast of the Baltic. The captain would resent the spelling of their name. But the Fojchtmajers’ name has grown accustomed to its spelling, and it should be believed that the spelling too has grown used to its sound. If the names of the captain and the publisher are juxtaposed here, the reason lies exclusively in the sequence of sentences. So the two names stand opposite one another; the initial F of the one stares at the final r of the other and vice versa, and together they impose on the story a somewhat problematic bipartite symmetry. And neither of them sounds Polish. And each is equally lengthy, and even slightly pleated, like a lowered curtain. Behind one of the curtains a gunboat of the Kriegsmarine pitches in the fog; behind the other is a throng of civilians, perhaps even Jews, half-transparent, with absent expressions. And why them in particular? This question, asked in a firm tone and requiring a response, relates to certain obligations imposed on the content by the two-part symmetry. The images should, for example, remain in equilibrium on both sides of unseen scales, thanks to their obviousness, which would be confirmed by statistics. This principle alas will not be upheld. The narrator does not consider it his responsibility. Evidently this crowd of extras was also in place and fate happened to pick them. Where did they come from? From nowhere. They are at home: They were encamped behind the curtain, in the hallways along which dismantled pieces of scenery are removed for storage after the final performance—the sheets of plywood with the backdrops of various landscapes and interiors in one place, the braces of untreated wood elsewhere. It’s possible that from the very beginning they were somewhere between the lines. At most it might be asked why they remain stubbornly attached to their hooked noses and their sadness. This rhetorical question requires no reply, and doesn’t leave the slightest space for it; but a reply forces itself uninvited into the very middle of the paragraph. It declares that they were given no choice. Existing as a semitransparent crowd and deprived of their own power to be one thing or another, in everything they have to fall in line with the words of the description. They are obliged to make do with the adjectives imposed upon them and, whether they like it or not, fill them with their own existence, as they fill the cars of freight trains that are terrifying to get into, but which it so happens they have to enter. Otherwise it will immediately transpire that their own existence is no longer

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