From MĒNESS TEĀTRIS (‘Moon Theatre’) by Ieva Melgalve, introduced and translated by Suzanne McQuade

In Moon Theatre, Ieva Melgalve creates a dark world of actors playing roles in a perpetual soap opera, their lives taking whatever path the mysterious and unseen scriptwriters choose for them. Order in this world is kept by a backstage crew of mimes, AI androids who remain in the wings to keep the actors in line – until one of the mimes begins to gain autonomous thought. Melgalve’s prose is in the vein of great political science fiction writers who weave thrilling and engaging stories while also challenging our own views of the order of our world.

EXTRACT

The silk sheets were as soft as a woman’s skin – like Leonora’s warm, damp skin. The Actor turned to see what had woken him. Without yet opening his eyes, he heard a quiet, buzzing sound, a muffled metallic whisper – whirrrrrrr – and he understood that it wasn’t okay, that it wouldn’t be okay, he’s naked and between silk sheets, he’s awake too early, too late, he’s somewhere he isn’t supposed to be.

After he left Leonora in the hospital Peter had come back to ‘The Land of Plenty’, slid into his double bed and decided that if he could successfully fall asleep, then he could convert everything that had happened into a dream. Or at least not wake up.

But he wasn’t allowed to not wake up. The Actor opened his eyes and drowsily focused on the white skin, on the porcelain-white, smooth face that was much too close to his. Enormous brown plastic eyes with unnatural rainbow-like irises and blank pupils through which he could look deeper into darkness and muteness. Neat, chiselled cheekbones and well-formed lips that were just as indistinguishably white as the rest of the face. That was all. Just a face, the rest was sunk in the dark – but movements allowed him to sense where joints draped in black were moving against the black background of the stage’s ceiling. Whirrrr, the shoulder joint turned in an unnatural angle, a hand gently squeezed the Actor’s shoulder; out of the corner of his eye he saw this palm just as white as the face, and coolness of this touch slowly seeped through the silk.

The Actor felt himself tremble, his teeth chattered, his palms were sweaty. A recently formed erection disappeared as if it had never existed, his testicles shrivelled painfully, trying to roll back into his body, into safety, further away from these porcelain hands. The Actor wanted to do the same, only he knew that he couldn’t let himself show it. He clenched his jaw so that he wouldn’t bite his tongue, and murmured, ‘I’m already awake, I’m awake.’

The mime put his left hand to his lips – hush. The Actor nodded. The mime stepped back, leading the Actor with him, and he wrapped himself in the silk sheets in order to conceal his nakedness.

The mime certainly didn’t care. The Actor couldn’t imagine that this mechanical thing could discern any substantial difference between nakedness and clothing. But he didn’t care. He was still a person, and he wanted to protect himself – even if it was with nothing more than a thin, sweat-soaked sheet. He went with the mime.

By Ieva Melgalve

Translated by Suzanne McQuade


Ieva Melgalve is a popular Latvian writer of fantasy novels, science fiction, plays, and other prose genres. Three of her novels – The Dead Won’t Forgive, Arrow, Star and Laee, and Moon Theatre – were nominated for the Annual Latvian Literary Award.

Suzanne McQuade is a translator, writer, editor and photographer living in Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the translator of Inga Žolude’s novel Warm Earth and short-story collection Solace For Adam’s Tree, as well as short pieces and excerpts from works by Ieva Melgalve, Ilze Jansone, and Elizabete Eglīte.

Photo of Ieva Melgalve by Herta Pugača

Category: April 2018 - Baltic CountriesTranslations

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