Sunday, November 18, 2007

Anti-Danube: Chapter VII

In Which Mountains Vanish as My Troubles Do Not

I settled onto the floor of the leprous cell and ran my bloated, rubbery hands over the first page of the League of the Wives of Bohdan Naxajlo file.

"Real paper," I whistled to myself. So unlike the impacted cobweb and acorn paste on which my collection of essays had been printed. The whole run of "The Waters Have Burst" was eaten by a squirrel, but I endure.

Naxajlo - what bewilderment that name evokes, and not least phonetic! Rarely uttered aloud except within the stag-heavy walls of the NAKRO senior officers' club, it refers to the the scion of a prewar corsetry empire who joined the Communists as Minister of Church Expropriation before failing to return from a solidarity visit to the militant milliners of Marrakech.

Since then Naxajlo has been an umbrella tip embedded in the pimply thigh of Socialism, elusive yet inevitable in his wrecking of Five-Year Plans, folk festivals and visits by unfocused Western playwrights alike.

Linked variously to the Latto faction of the Democratic Rhomboid, the Continuity Langerites and the Shutak List (Renewal), Naxajlo's sabotage has been impish in subtlety and often indistinguishable from Party policy itself.

The doyen of Ruthenian poets, Vaclav Futon, once told me "When you travel to foreign literary conferences and announce yourself to be a Ruthenian, you are asked two questions. The first is 'Please will you hang up my coat?' and the second - 'Do you know Bohdan Naxajlo?' To answer either in the affirmative is to invite a lifetime of crude dentistry in a forced logging camp - as Murdo Bartkiw, the gumless timber bard of Colony 49 might testify if he officially existed anymore."

Naxajlo nonetheless danced across international borders and First Secretaries' saunas like Hrindöl, the spring-heeled otter of Carpathian legend.

I pushed back my sagging brow and began to read.

The file presented evidence that Naxajlo relied on a network of agents, safe houses, midnight feasts and dewy embonpoints throughout the People's Democratic and Popular Republic, and all supplied by this aforementioned League.

It is said that sailors have a wife in every port, when it is more likely that they have been fobbed off with a barbary ape in a gingham frock as was my cousin Pilcho during his national service, but Naxajlo did seem to have eased his way between the swampy sheets of beldames in all the provincial centres and capital districts of Ruthenia. And this was achieved through a combination of hosiery from the family stockpile and what the report called "Belgian practices".

These "wives" were not susceptible to the same methods of persuasion that NAKRO applied to dissidents, Quakers and festival-goers who crossed its path, and this was for the bald dialectical reason that they were without exception the spouses, daughters, sisters, or mothers (and in one diverting case all four) of Party leaders.

I can recall only one occasion when I felt sorry for the organs of state security, and that was when the Vanguard Youth League's International Division allowed a Cuban five-year-old to win the competition to design NAKRO winter uniforms. This looked worse, whatever the weather. But how was I expected to help?

Then a sudden chill ran down my spine. I glanced at my hand, which had abruptly turned raw and hairy, like a badly-shaved spider. To my horror, it was also numb. In panic I slammed a night pot down on it, and my ears echoed to a howl of pain.

I understood through the power of rational deduction that the hand was not mine. The application of logic and experience told me that the fist now pounding the pot around my beret was its twin. Subsequent monosyllabic explanations, embellished with blasphemy and vigorous physical gestures, introduced their owner as one Agent Kafka.

It was he who told me that Bohdan Naxajlo had now exceeded himself. One of our mountains was missing.


Gorilla Bananas said...

I tried googling "Naxajlo" and the only links I got were to this very blog. Fame awaits you Dr Boyo. You are without doubt the world's leading authority on this remarkable man (if man indeed he be). Were you aware of the large expat blogging community in Belgium? I am going to ask Daphne Wayne-Bough about 'Belgian practices'. I suspect the old tart has been up to all kinds of hanky-panky without telling us.

No Good Boyo said...

I imagine most references to him would be in the Rutheno-Cyrillic script used in that benighted land. Or in the Gothic runes that the man himself prefers. For Ruthenians, as for Baudelaire, Belgium is a land of tantalising promise, like interwar Shanghai, and I hope Mme Daphne can enlighten us without recourse to diagrams or wild gesticulation.

M C Ward said...

Your narrative flows like the liquid soiling a cachaceiro's inner thigh. Congratulations once again!

PS Is that picture really you on Mme de Boyo's thang?

Daphne Wayne-Bough said...

Don't know about Baudelaire, but Rimbaud and Verlaine spent a few months here in Brussels shooting and buggering each other on alternate nights, annoying the next door neighbours Marx and Engels (nice couple),and generally behaving like the Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton of the 19th century.

The small Ruthenian community here spend their time loafing about the Grand'Place smoking cheroots and plotting the takeover of the country. The way things are going they may well be in with a chance. Nobody else seems to want to do it.

For your information GB I am not an old tart. I am officially 39. I did have a Ruthenian lodger once. Cheeky sod still owes me two weeks rent and buggered off with my garlic crusher.

No Good Boyo said...

mc, that's an image that will stay with me for some time. Thanks. And you can get cachaca down Waitrose now. I believe the pic at Mrs Boyo's site is me, but then I have little recall of our holiday. Mrs Boyo is including it in an installation called "Scenes From Cypriot Shoeshops". The title is part of a larger scheme of hers to ressurect Polari as an means by which people worldwide can share their disdain for me.

Mme Wayne-Bough, you bring back recollections of Leo DiCaprio as Rimbaud in an unintentionally hilarious film about the two iambic inverts. It's Sly Stallone's part and that's that.

The Ruthenian diaspora is small and rank, like the country itself. I think your garlic crusher is in their Museum of Modern Technology in Depravnyk, where it is labelled "A Tool of Jews".

Sir Lewis Napier once said you could fit the entire Belarussian nationalist movement on one medium-sized sofa. Durango Delchev, Communist Ruthenia's first Minister of Prevention, said he fitted the entire Ruthenian democratic movement in one medium-sized prison van. "No food, no clothes, no arms," was his proud explanation (40 Latiw Borotby Proti Spravedlyvost'ji, Zhakhiv, 1986).