From STĀSTI (‘Stories’): ‘THE ROAD’ by Inga Žolude, introduced and translated by Suzanne McQuade

Inga Žolude’s Stories are about how we observe ourselves and others, and how we interpret those observations to transform our experiences, both as writers – as many of Žolude’s character are – and as human beings. Žolude’s prose is rich with both outward imagery and inward introspection, creating worlds that are dizzyingly full and philosophical. In ‘The Road’, we meet a writer suffering from writer’s block, hoping to fix both his work and his life while staying at a writer’s residence.

EXTRACT

The next day he headed out on his own. The walk seemed much shorter, no longer impeded by the whims of the child. He walked through a neighbourhood of silent mansions – at that early hour everyone was still asleep – past the nursing home for dementia patients, the abandoned stadium, the large rose garden, and the playground, and sought out the cobblestone path. The cobbles were covered in dew. Everything was quiet and heavy with the wetness that pattered in the leaves and grass. Carver climbed up the hill just as he had yesterday. He pictured the photograph Astija had taken of his back – there he stood, having arrived on his own life’s path up to this point, as if he’d emerged from a tunnel. A tunnel thirty-six years long, in which he had evolved from a babbling lump into a person who had created a new person who in turn would create more new people fifteen or twenty-five years later. Endless tunnels. He has lived up to the expectations of his parents, friends and acquaintances, and ultimately those of critics, and Joyce. And now he’s finally come out of the tunnel and into the light. Mentally, in Astija’s photograph, he turned his face to the lens and looked at his observer – yes, I am just as you see me. There’s been so much. And I don’t know what is yet to come, maybe nothing. But I’m going. And he headed straight down the slope of the road. On the bend where the road turned sharply, Carver stopped and looked back. The street beyond the hill was no longer visible. He went along the middle of the road, the stones were dark and covered with dirt, drenched and slick, here and there the foliage shook almost imperceptibly, drops of dew merging into one large drop and falling. Carver wiped a drop of water from his hair. There began a dense hedge of fir trees, their tops lopped off straight, like a wall. Carver stopped to listen, casting a glance around. For a moment he grew completely uncomfortable. Here in this early morning he was completely alone. Anything could happen, and there was no one with him who could save him from it or join him in it. He couldn’t hear anything. He started to walk again, breathing deeply, and immediately stopped again – he seemed to make out the sound of some sort of motion beyond the hedge. Carver stepped into the patch of grass between the road and the hedge and felt the chill of the dew drenching his shoes. The fir trees had grown into each other, and you couldn’t see anything. He walked along the hedge, looking for a hole to peek through. The hedge was long, the ends of his pants were wet and clung coldly to his ankles. Carver returned to the road and, having walked further, he noticed some of the fir trees desiccated or likely destroyed by the snow and heat. There was all sorts of rubbish hanging in them – beads, faded and stretched neckties, postcards in plastic sleeves, Tibetan prayer flags, fairy lights and carnival masks with peeling faces. For a moment he stared at these decorations and couldn’t imagine who had thought to hang something like that here. He touched one of the neckties and turned it over, the tag was the only thing that wasn’t faded – on it was written ‘100% silk’. He let it go and touched the beads with his fingers.

—Please don’t take anything, said a voice.

By Inga Žolude

Translated by Suzanne McQuade


Inga Žolude is the author of three novels – Warm Earth, Red Children and Santa Biblia, and two short story collections – Stories and Solace for Adam’s Tree, for which she received the European Union Prize for Literature.

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 Inga Žolude by Ģirts Raģelis

Category: April 2018 - Baltic CountriesTranslations

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