Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anti-Danube: Chapter X

By way of Introduction: Some years have passed since the last chapter of Anti-Danube appeared in English. For previous sections, see here and here.

As this month sees the centenary of the Ruthenian Moonshiners Uprising of 1912 against the Austro-Hungarian Temperance League, it seems appropriate to resume the autobiographical novel shortly after where we left off.

Probationary Agent Yizhak Zhatko (nationality - poet) is having to interrogate Agent Agent Kafka (his real name) over the disruption of a folk concert that they were meant to be guarding. The event was voted the most popular act of sabotage in the People's Popular Democratic Republic of Ruthenia that year, beating even the collision of a steak lorry with a mobile red wine dispenary in the village of Bragg.

Zhatko sets out the chapter in the form of a transcript, which has the virtue of sparing the reader his prose style, but not mine.

Chapter X: In Which Socialism is Threatened by Dissident Reality

(Protocols of the interrogation of Agent Agent Kafka, conducted by Probationary Agent Yizhak Zhatko, at NAKRO Secret Police Chief Headquarters, "The Cellars", Former Castle Jurex, August 199- )

[Zhatko] Well, Agent Agent Kafka, The Organs have asked me to question you about what happened at Zhakhiv Cultural Agitational Facility No.17 the other day.

[Kafka] Was Hungarians.

[Zhatko] So-called Hungarians?

[Kafka] No. This time real Hungarians. Ha ha - Kafka joke.

[Zhatko] Hmm. You may recall that we were observing a concert by former Ruthenian musical-vocal ensembles Kava Break and Izotop.

[Kafka] Kafka focked them!

[Zhatko] Yes, that's true - so much so that we had to requisition the articulated lorry the Central Committee uses to move Comrade First (General-)Secretary K. Novak around, because the musicians' weeping, swollen orbs would not fit through the doors of the prison van, despite quantitative easing with shovels.

[Kafka] They are womanly men! I void myself on the boar that mounted their sister, also on their sister, and on the dung that eased their congress-

[Zhatko, interrupting] The chief medical officer of Depravnik State Penal Isolator Unit agrees that "womanly men" accurately describes the musicians' "transitional state of pelvic alteration". Colonel Nadroth asked me to congratulate you on this surgical breakthrough before the formal interrogation begins, in case you prove unappreciative afterwards.

[Kafka, maudlin] Colonel like distant step-father to me.

[Zhatko] Indeed. Colonel Nadroth was pleased in particular that you achieved this without formal medical training. This will help promote the People's Self-Medication Programme at the forthcoming Party Congress, involving as this does the reorganisation of all hospitals and nursing homes into grain silos.

[Kafka, cheered up] I redouble effort!

[Zhatko] The Colonel and other responsible agencies were also impressed with your dual-use of gardening tools and a type of lizard-

[Kafka, interrupting] - incorrect fact. Was large termites.

[Zhatko] - thank you - and a selection of patriotic forest insects in this protracted and highly invasive procedure, which will encourage the outgoing medical practitioners to surrender their scalpels, kidney dishes and fillings for the People's Popular Armed Forces war-drive prior to their fair trial and execution.

[Kafka] Termite - friend of working man. And of working bear.

[Zhatko] Quite. Colonel Nadroth does note, however, that transitional gender status is "objectively bourgeois", and has therefore asked that "promotion of decadence (non-literary)" should be added to your formal charge sheet if, as it is hoped, you or anyone else confesses to being a monarchist wrecker or otherwise a connoisseur of non-gourd-based music.

[Kafka] Oh.

[Zhatko] Moving back to the evening in question, the alleged concert was attacked by dynasto-deviationists, hyper-nationalists, anarcho-Trotskyites, agraro-revisionists, the Latto faction of the Democratic Rhomboid, Continuity Langerites, the Shutak List (Renewal), so-called Hungary and - as we can testify - some pork tapeworms, under the parasol of the League of the Wives of Dr Bohdan Naxajlo.

[Kafka] Whores!

[Zhatko] Later, perhaps. To continue. The assailants broadcast the former Royalist anthem of the former regime, "Hey Ruteni, masluy mi sztifli!" ("O Ruthenians, Oil My Boots!"), tainted five quarts of slyvovytz with red snapper, left a hornpipe wedged inside Zhakhiv Urban-Rural District Local Party Secretary "Blind" Iancu, and defiled a banner espousing Scientific Socialism with saltpetre and pre-revolutionary orthography.

[Kafka] Blind Iancu's brother, Mad Iancu, countersigned Kafka's first arrest warrant. It was for Kafka's parents. Kafka feel for Blind Iancu.

[Zhatko] Duly noted. But Colonel Nadroth, the Supreme Higher Party Council of Organs, both Iancus and History Itself demand to know how these revanchists managed all of this and yet vanished into the night undetected.

[Kafka] Zhakhiv Public Order Militiamen blind, mad or have no leg. Iancus promote freaks, hope to win State Prize for abolition of local hospital and lunatic asylum, build People's Space Rocket out of salvaged manacles.

[Zhatko] Socialism leaves no room for doubt, Agent Kafka, and Communism will leave no rooms at all. We shall tear down the four walls and outhouses of convention and romp free on the riverbanks of creativity. In the meantime, however, we remain tethered to the leaden buoy of probability, and that suggests that the League of the Wives had someone on the inside of the concert working for them. I fear that Colonel Nadroth hopes it might be you.

[Kafka] Why is?

[Zhatko] The true origins of his suspicions are beyond our feeble, polyester-uniformed reasoning, Kafka, but I do know that Special Agent Tschtjetz is waiting outside the door with a weather balloon, a tub of schmaltz and some fish hooks. He is writing "Kafka" on the balloon in your wife's lipstick, and laughing like a Cossack in a convent bathtub.

[Kafka, animated] Kafka just remember! Have important information about Naxajlovite deviant 6th columnist at concert.

[Zhatko] Excellent! Let me wind-up the recording engine and dust off some fresh shellac...

[Kafka] Regret to inform that this information is for ears of full agent of NAKRO alone. Comrade Probationary Agent Zhatko is only probationary agent, therefore not yet ideologically refined enough to hear details of dissident thought without danger of straying into wrecking mentality. Permission to have report heard by Special Agent Zhloba Tschtjetz!

[Zhatko] Granted, I suppose. [winds open door] Special Agent Tschtjetz, Agent Agent Kafka has a report to make about the Zhakhiv Cultural Agitational Facility No.17 anti-popular reactionary cabal, for your remaining ear only.

[Tschtjetz, wheeling in a trestle of sharpened plumbing attachments and a sack of ammonium] Right, Zhatko, plug this pump in over there and start wrapping the sandpaper-

[Zhatko, interrupting] A field report, Special Agent Tschtjetz, not a confession.

[Tschtjetz] Don't worry, sunshine, it'll be a confession by the time they unwind him from those railings-

[Zhatko, interrupting again] No, it really is a field report. I'll get some ersatz tea, shall I?

[Tschtjetz] Yeah, which will, by the dialectically-approved theories of Lamarck, had better have turned into slyvovytz by the time it gets here, you Carpathian trouser-press! Now, Kafka, what's going on?

[Kafka] Well, comrade... [door closes]

(Six minutes pass)

(Protocols of the interrogation of Probationary Agent Yizhak Zhatko [suspended - literally], conducted by Agent Agent Kafka, Special Agent Zhloba Tschtjetz, Progressive Woodland Ranger Bodjo the Largely-Tamed Bear, a wild boar [unspecified], and NAKRO Chairman Colonel Nadroth, at NAKRO Secret Police Chief Headquarters, "The Cellars", Former Castle Jurex, August 199- )

[Tschtjetz] Well, Traitor Grade III Zhatko, The Organs have received a confidential NAKRO field report that you were the revanchist grouplet that disrupted that concert of Turk-loving danglyboys the other day!

It's not looking good for you, Zhatko. Bodjo here's lonely, and so is Mr Snouty [ed. possibly the wild boar, but could be reference to Tschtjetz's regenerative member, which he usually dubs "Captain Power Eel"]. Now let's see how fast and loud you can confess without the balloon coming out again, shall we?

[Zhatko, with some emotion] Agent Agent Kafka, I don't mind telling you that I feel let down by your behaviour.

[Kafka] Kafka not let Traitor Grade III down, at least not until fish hooks snap.

[Zhatko] Very well, I confess that I, a traitor-

[Tschtjetz] Grade III, dammit - it's important for our key performance indicators this quarter.

[Zhatko] Yes, yes, Grade III - I did knowlingly and with counter-revolution aforethought cause rotten liberalism to damage the fabric of society and a progressive banner sewn by the inmates of the Panda-Eyed Waifs Orphanage, Skargil District.

I also occasioned the performance of the former royalist anthem, misused state reserves of Greek Fire for non-recreational purposes and incited a riot by gum-cheeked peasants.

I deny the charge of tampering with the food, as that's just the way they like it in Zhakhiv.

In mitigation, I would like The Organs to bear in mind that I did stop the performances by the musical-vocal ensembles Kava Break and Izotop.

[Tschtjetz] Your plea for mitigation will be noted, distorted, and used against you on the first episode of "The People's Pillory", a television programme that will replace the courts under the forthcoming "Judiciary Reform (Abolition of Legal System) Bill". Agent Agent Kafka, inform Colonel Nadroth!

[Colonel Nadroth, who is standing behind Tschtjetz, rolls his eyes, perhaps from the smoke curling from his Karbin filter-tip]

Prisoner confessed, Comrade Colonel, and we didn't have to divert electric from village this time. "Economy is Not Just a Swear Word," like Party said.

[Colonel Nadroth] I see. Well, Zhatko, this is a surprise. I thought you might have accused the ultra-nationalist turncoat Slavislav Kodoba, whom we have been holding in that crate over there for this very purpose, but then there's still room for one more inside. Anything else you'd like to confess to? There's space on the back of your file, you know.

[Zhatko] I would further like to bring to the Citizen Colonel's attention that I, a Traitor Grade III (definition - did not destroy personal property of senior officials, owns no livestock), infiltrated the ranks of the NAKRO security police in contravention of Law #13,480 of 1953 "On the Prohibition of Traitors' Infiltration of the Ranks of the NAKRO Security Police".

[Nadroth, looks angrily from Tschtjetz to Kafka, and back again. Then, when this fails to elicit a response, hits both of them with a chair] No! This also means that NAKRO itself violated Law #13,481 of 1953 "On the Prevention of Traitors' Infiltration of the Ranks of the NAKRO Security Police", which states specifically in Article 1 that "NAKRO Security Police Agents are to prevent traitors' infiltration of their ranks, on pain of being demoted from rank of Agent to that of Traitor Grade II (definition - did not damage personal property of senior officials, owns some livestock)". This, like Zhatko right now, cannot stand.

Comrade Zhatko - a cigarette? Oh, yes, lips still don't fit - anyway, NAKRO will have your sentence in the Concert Affair commuted from eventual death to community service, such as checking that the lingerie imported from Gaullist France for the staff of the Central Committee's Physiotherapy Clinic fits properly.

In return, we will cascade the paperwork in the Infiltration Affair to Agent Agent Kafka as part of his Elementary Literacy Course homework. That should keep it away from The Organs, until Control Department Secretary Razvjorstka develops some advanced crayon decryption skills.

There, I think that went rather well. Now, Tschtjetz, please lower Comrade Zhatko, for he has work to do. Under his guidance the workers, peasants and progressive managerial echelons must clench their matted palms into one, six-fingered fist of vengeance against the Naxajlovite Latifundistas, and that calls for further training.

[Zhatko] May I keep the schmaltz, Comrade Colonel? Breakfast seems a long time ago.

[Nadroth, patting him on the nose] You people! Oh, and Tschtjetz - deflate that thing and switch the other stuff off too, would you? But not before giving Bodjo and that boar something to play with. Kafka will do.

[Kafka] (indistinct)


Rod Warner said...

Blimey - and blimey again!

No Good Boyo said...

You have exceeded your quota of blimies by at leas 100%, Comrade Warner. The Organs would like to have a word.

Gyppo Byard said...

Worth waiting for. I particularly liked the understated bitterness with which you alluded to Key Performance Indicators...

No Good Boyo said...

Thanks, Gyppo. I triumphed over KPIs by dropping the odd date a month ahead of the calendar into my work, thereby tightening up those turn-around times. Special Agent Tschtjetz does the same, but with a fan-belt and cheese-grater.

Cambria Politico said...

Can I have further instructions on exactly how to 'void myself on the boar that mounted their sister, also on their sister ...'?
I have someone in mind.

No Good Boyo said...

It's an insult in Ruthenia but a courtship ritual in Bethesda, so mind how you go, Politico.

Gadjo Dilo said...

"Promoter of Decadence (Non-Literary)" is the sort of thing that a poet manqué such as myself should fear may be said about him - though I suppose it's still marginally better than e.g. "Promoter of Nausea (Literary)". Liked the references to schmaltz - somehow make it all a bit cozier. Is Mrs Boyo going to comment on this latest chapter? Her input is always appreciated on these things.

No Good Boyo said...

Lyteraturna Brevshchyna, as you may recall, is the only literary journal with a sports page. It also devotes regular supplements to fat, from schmaltz to salo. Mrs Boyo is considering her response, as usual.

Mrs Boyo said...

Apart from a few infelicities of translation - I would have used "globes" rather than "orbs", thereby conveying the grotesquely distended nature of the musicians' testes - I must acknowledge that this is my husband's most understandable effort in some months. Especially when compared with its successor.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Obviously, Mrs Boyo, you are keeping him on the right kind of beer. The opus made me vividly recall the more wild moments of my own behind-the-iron-... youth.

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