Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ten Shades of Kindness: 1.

Work it, teddy! “Striptease. The third Open Championship in the Urals.” The interesting thing about this ad – which I didn’t pay any attention to when I took the picture – is that the striptease championship will take place in ‘Gold Club’, where I have worked. Two days with my students singing Swedish traditional Christmas songs in December last year… Or what did you think, comrades?

During two days my internet didn’t work. Life in Russia is full of surprises. The first day was difficult for me, but the second day turned out blissful, calm and relaxed. And I thought to myself that if my paycheck wasn’t immediately connected to the internet then I would probably use it much more seldom than I do. On Monday I was quite unexpectedly given work to do, a translation that had to be done within a couple of hours. It was the most boring text one can imagine – about some appliance concerning different screws used when broken bones are put back together again in difficult operations. As quickly as I had done it I repressed all my memories of ever having translated it. I earned 2000 rubles for my translation. Pretty good. The spring semester is slowly coming to end, the winter in the Urals is also about to be wrapped up and I took a long walk with my friend Anya today. We had the most interesting conversation about culture, history, literature, philosophy and relationships between men and women. She is one of the few people I know that can follow me when I go off into the deep end of my analysis of the current condition of the world we live in today. She is very smart and a writer and so we have much in common. Plus we have read much of the same books and think alike, or maybe not always think alike, but what we have in common is that we both think a lot. Some would say too much, but let’s not get into what ‘some’ say as that more often than not is the silliest things.

In my last post I wrote a little bit about my latest work of fiction – a novella called “Ten Shades of Kindness”. Back then I was rather appalled by what I had produced, and saw no prospect in the tale what so ever. Since then it has been read both by Anya, and by my good friend Annie in California, and both of them greeted me with very surprising comments in favor of me continuing the novella. That’s why I have chosen to publish it here on my blog, though not all of it at once, as it is rather long [longer than I would’ve wanted it to be, but one cannot always be the God of one’s creation], but in small sections. The novella is divided into ten smaller sections, which will not surprise anyone as it goes by the name of “Ten Shades of Kindness” [Anya suggested I would shorten it to “Seven” because that’s a better number, but that would mean cutting the 20th century short of a few decades, something that would be unforgivable]. I haven’t finished it yet, yesterday I stopped on the 8th shade of kindness, which means some might change in the earlier shades, but at the current moment I am okay with what has been written so far. After all, this story came to me one morning, without being asked to do so, and I can only what is in my power as a writer. Am I pleased with it? Yes. What is it about? About kindness. And since it is about kindness, then nothing that is not ‘kind’ will not be allowed any room in the novella. Even though I am open to all kinds of comments, suggestions and criticism, you must first know, comrades, that I am not trying to disclaim the cruelty of our past century, what I’m trying to do is only switch the focus a tad in the opposite direction. My plan is to post all of the novella here over the next month. Enjoy.


Shortly after the war began – one month into my fourth year as a student at the Medical Academy – I was arrested. Many others with me faced a similar destiny at around the same time. I was 22 years old and lived with my parents in an apartment in the center of our city. One October night I was arrested and accused of being a member of a secret student organization – only when they handed me the documents with my sentence two months later did I find out the name of this ‘secret student organization’. I had never heard of it before, yet – apparently – I was not only a member, but one if its founders. I spent three months in a female prison before the prison was taken over by the country we were at war with. After this all the prisoners were relocated by train to a camp far out in the countryside. I had never been there before.

It was an early, cold and grey morning in March when the train stopped at the station. The doors opened and we were told to get off. Other trains constantly kept arriving to the station with incessant large streams of people from other prisons. Both male and female prisoners were mixed with each on the station, everywhere pushed and shoved from one side to the other by large groups of five or ten officers in dark green uniforms, shouting messages sometimes to us, sometimes between each other. We were led out of the station – it was a small town train station consisting of but one tiny two-storey dark red brick building – and told to walk down the muddy main street, passing by empty small wooden houses, until the enormous crowd was stopped on what seemed to be a large square in front of tall steel gates, around which were concrete walls with barbed wire on top. We waited there an endless damp morning. I was surrounded by huge amounts of different people, all dressed in dissimilar kinds of prison ware – grey, light blue, blue, light grey, black and all these never-ending brown coats – of different ages and backgrounds and – quite possibly – sentences, as stated in their documents, consisting of no more than a little piece of yellowish paper. I could hardly find enough room around me to stand up straight by myself. All the time I was jostled in one direction or another. Either I got an arm in my side, or someone shouted something to someone else over my head, and unremittingly people were stepping all over my feet until they went numb and I didn’t feel them anymore.

I fell backwards, and as I was falling I thought to myself – of course I would have to die trampled to death on a cold day in March…

Yet I didn’t fall. The person standing behind me caught me, or not caught me exactly, but allowed for me to land with my head against his chest, falling with my back against his stomach. He caught a hold of me by putting his large hands on my shoulders, pressing me tighter to himself, thus sheltering me from constantly being hit or pushed by strangers around us. I tried to turn around slightly to look up at him and catch a glimpse of his face, but for a long while this was impossible as there was not enough room to make even the slightest movement. Not until much later – perhaps a whole hour passed – did I succeed in looking up at him. I saw that his face was much higher up above me than I had previously thought. He smiled down at me. I didn’t understand. He put his right arm around me, across my chest, right below my neck, as he protected me from the others with his left arm.

When it started to rain he opened up his brown coat and invited me to hide inside of it. After this I didn’t see anything of what was still going on outside. I only heard the voices, the screams, the ceaseless steps of boots against the filthy, mud-covered ground beneath us… But I wasn’t listening anymore. Inside his coat it was warm and safe and smelled of male sweat and road dirt. There was a slight, yet distinct, smell of strong, bitter coffee coming from his dark blue prison shirt. I remember that smell better than I remember any other of smells of the war.

It was already dark outside when he opened up his coat and revealed to me that we had made it all the way up to the camp gates. It was still raining. Ahead of us were but a few female prisoners, behind us no more than twenty men, out of which most seemed to be injured soldiers, holding themselves up on walking sticks made out of tree branches or other wood items. Soon it was my turn. I handed over my documents – a torn piece of paper on which were written my number, name and sentence – to the officer standing by the gate. He looked at it swiftly, not paying attention to anything else but my number. He directed me to the left, where there was a rather short line of women going into a one-storey barrack made out of raw wood. I entered the camp, and turned around just as the officer gave back the paper to the kind stranger.

He directed his steps to the right, to another barrack – which looked just the same as mine – into which an almost identical line was going. Only that line was made up of men.

1 comment:

Annelie said...

Det är bra att tänka mycket, då utnyttjar du ditt potential. Funderandet och tankar om ting är fundamentalt. Och alltid bra att ägna tid åt det goda samtalet, am I right?

Jupp, du måste ha levt i en håla ett tag, för i Sverige står det om Svininfluensan varannan dag i nyheterna. Jag misstänker att USA gör det till ett större hot än vad det verkligen är. That's how they roll.

Vad bra att vädret börjar gå åt rätt håll även i Ryssland nu. Här i Sverige var det idag 20-22 grader i skuggan. Supervarmt. Särskilt när man spenderar 1,5 timme i en redan varm bil varje dag. Då blir det tufft.

Jupp, 8 test tycker jag också är mycket överdrivet, men idag klarade jag iaf av ett till. Fick 63 poäng av 70 vilket jag tyckte var mycket bra. Kanske hoppar jag på nästa test redan ikväll, får se om jag har ork.

Lycka till med din novell. Det jag har läst verkar lovande.
Inga mer strippande nallar på din blogg, that thing gives me Kram :D