4th August 1995
Croatia backed by NATO has launched its Operation Storm against the Serbian rebels.
‘It’s Saint Bartholomew today, and Saint Roch tomorrow.’ I opened the glass door still in my nightgown and barefoot, it’s very hot these days, even here, in this old house just a few hundred metres from the lake. A scorching end of August, oddly so, after a cool and rainy month of July, but he is wearing a thick, heavy woollen jacket almost down to his knees, and blue corduroy trousers, socks and closed-toe shoes. He is still as tall as in the past, but bent over and much thinner after the operation on his heart. His clothes drop loosely on him.
‘It’s Saint Bartholomew today, and Saint Roch tomorrow.’ It’s eight o’clock, and he must have already been by earlier this morning, because on the door handle, when I came into the kitchen half an hour ago, there was a yellow flower, like the ones that grow spontaneously along the footpath. Thank goodness, this means that today he hasn’t picked anything in the vegetable garden, where he often steals an iris or a daffodil or an orange reed, annoying the neighbours who plant them and don’t dare complain.
On Saint Bernard’s day he brought me a beautiful sunflower. ‘It’s Saint Bernard today, Pius X tomorrow’. He doesn’t say ‘Saint Pius X’, just ‘Pius X’ and smiles as a partner in crime. He still has really bushy and glowing grey crew cut hair, and even though his wife looks after him just as she did before, when he was a renowned architect and very hard to please as far as low-key stylishness is concerned, he looks run-down and happy, like someone who has come to terms with the world and is even able to master it thanks to the calendar saints.
This madness of his is kind – made up of flowers, fruit and vegetables, of words which had never come out of his mouth before and are now uttered with childish openness. ‘It’s Saint Tecla today,’ he seems to have said at the end of September last year, when he bumped into one of the people living in the old house under the arbour, a friend and colleague of his in the old days. ‘Tecla that’s who’s got big tits,’ he added in his dialect with a dreamy look, and then continued his walk, dragging his feet on the grass, with his hands buckled behind his back. Who knows where Tecla’s big tits popped out from, who knows whose faces and bodies the saints’ names bring up from the depths of time.
By Anna Ruchat
Translated by Roseanne Rogosin
Anna Ruchat was born in Zurich. She has translated a number of writers from German into Italian and has published novels, short stories, and poetry. She also teaches at the Municipal School for Interpreters and Translators in Milan. Since 2002 she has been in charge of the Foundation dedicated to the poet Franco Beltrametti.
Photo of Anna Ruchat © Germana Carbognani