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«The Book of Lies», Agota Kristof

Иллюстрация к книге

В© 1997

The Notebook

Иллюстрация к книге

The first book in the Book of Lies series, В© 1988

Translated by Alan Sheridan

Arrival at Grandmother's

We arrive from the Big Town. We've been traveling all night. Mother's eyes are red. She's carrying a big cardboard box, and the two of us are each carrying a small suitcase containing our clothes, plus Father's big dictionary, which we pass back and forth when our arms get tired.

We walk for a long time. Grandmother's house is far from the station, at the other end of the Little Town. There are no trams, buses, or cars here. Just a few army trucks driving around.

There aren't many people in the streets. The town is very quiet. Our footsteps echo on the pavement; we walk without speaking, Mother in the middle, between the two of us.

When we get to Grandmother's garden gate, Mother says:

"Wait for me here."

We wait for a while, then we go into the garden, walk around the house, and crouch down under a window where we can hear voices. Mother's voice says:

"There's nothing more to eat at home, no bread, no meat, no vegetables, no milk. Nothing. I can't feed them anymore."

Another voice says:

"So you've remembered me. For ten years you didn't give me a thought. You never came. You never wrote."

Mother says:

"You know why. I loved my father."

The other voice says:

"Yes, and now you remember that you also have a mother. You come here and ask me to help you."

Mother says:

"I'm not asking anything for myself. I just want my children to survive this war. The Big Town is being bombed night and day, and there's no food left. All the children are being evacuated to the country, with relatives or with strangers, anywhere."

The other voice says:

"Then send them to strangers, anywhere."

Mother says:

"They're your grandsons."

"My grandsons? I don't even know them. How many are there?"

"Two. Two boys. Twins."

The other voice asks:

"What have you done with the others?"

Mother asks:

"What others?"

"Bitches have four or five puppies at a time. You keep one or two and drown the others."

The other voice laughs loudly. Mother says nothing, and the other voice asks:

"They have a father, at least? You aren't married, as far as I know. I wasn't invited to any wedding."

"I am married. Their father is at the front. I haven't had any news of him for six months."

"Then you can put a cross over him."

The other voice laughs again. Mother starts crying. We go back to the garden gate.

Mother comes out of the house with an old woman.

Mother says to us:

"This is your Grandmother. You'll be staying with her for a while, till the end of the war."

Grandmother says:

"It could last a long time. But I'll put them to work, don't you fret. Food isn't free here either."

Mother says:

"I'll send you money. Their clothes are in the suitcases. And there are sheets and blankets in the box. Be good, you two. I'll write you."

She kisses us and goes away crying.

Grandmother laughs very loudly and says to us:

"Sheets and blankets! White shirts and patent leather shoes! I'll teach you what life is about!"

We stick our tongues out at Grandmother. She laughs even louder and slaps her thighs.

Grandmother's House

Grandmother's house is five minutes' walk from the last houses in the Little Town. After that, there is nothing but the dusty road, soon blocked off by a barrier. It is forbidden to go any further, a soldier is on guard there. He has a machine gun and binoculars, and when it rains, he takes shelter in a sentry box. We know that beyond the barrier, hidden by the trees, there's a secret military base, and beyond the base, the frontier and another country.

Grandmother's house is surrounded by a garden at the bottom of which is a stream, then the forest.

The garden is planted with all sorts of vegetables and fruit trees. In a corner, there's a hutch, a henhouse, a pigsty, and a shed for the goats. We have tried to ride the biggest of the pigs, but it's impossible to stay on.

The vegetables, the fruit, the rabbits, the ducks, and the chickens are sold at market by Grandmother, as well as the hens' and ducks' eggs and the goat cheese. The pigs are sold to the butcher, who pays for them with money, and with hams and smoked sausage too.

There is also a dog to keep away thieves, and a cat to keep away mice and rats. We mustn't give the cat anything to eat so that he's always hungry.

Grandmother also owns a vineyard on the other side of the road.


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