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Jurgis Kunčinas ~ Tūla


From the best Lithuanian love story 'Tūla' - in Russian RU

The novel of Lithuanian writer Jurgis Kunčinas
The novel of Lithuanian writer Jurgis Kunčinas "Tūla"
published in Lithuania, Poland, Sweden and Russia


Tūla

The chapter from the novel in translation Elizabeth Novickas

    Speak to me, Tūla, whisper to me; when the illuminated high wall of the Bernardine, as red as it already is, glows redder still; when the Vilnelė boils like lava under all of its little bridges, and most furiously of all right here, next to the Bernardine; when the sparse passersby, spotting the heavy rain cloud, hasten their steps and, looking around fearfully, scurry off to their urban burrows; when the cloud hangs now right nearby–above Bekešas and Panonietis Hill, above the dark red folds of the escarpment–speak and tell me: who now will remind us of the love that clung to us like a infectious disease, never, as it was, bellowed out in the midwinter courtyards, and so never splattered with the city’s dirt–so belated and so useless it was to anyone, useless even to this street prepared for a downpour, to the old clump of trees on the shore, even to the glow lighting up the Bernardine, or that ever approaching cloud, which has stopped now above the drab Bekešas tower–who, come on, say it, who?

    Lithuanian writer Jurgis Kunčinas

    Tell me, Tūla, tell me, because only you can answer these questions hanging like those clouds–only you, because nature in the city is always a bit unreal–too grand or what?–and mute. Not quite a decoration; not a model; not window-dressing; but not nature, either. I told you. Watch, Tūla, I’m coming to your humble abode over the uncovered Vilnelė bridge, under which the blackish-green water with its barely lighter foam eternally boils, I’m coming to your windows, to your eyes, which reflect nothing but the low sky and the Bernardine’s towers, I’m coming to your tissues, to the clarity of your bones, to your primeval nerves, which, when touched, tremble and sound: of the murmur of the wind, the tinkling of water, the rustling of grass; and, bumped a bit harder, they stiffen, and the sounds strengthen–I hear the squeal of a small, unexpectedly frightened animal; the stubbornly explaining voice of a nocturnal bird; I hear the fluttering of wings above my head and I see eyes–the mysterious eyes of a bird of twilight in your face as white as a sheet; your eyes, Tūla, the eyes of a bird and the eyes of a cloud; I come in the moonlight, throwing a heavy shadow on the day that has passed, on the day to come and the night of ours to come, on this city, which has sucked us into its dark womb and spat us out together with the silt, the clay, all sorts of shards and old tools, and old money, too, which has no power in either this world or the next–did we really ever live there? And I throw a broken, twisted shadow on the hill of Bekešas and his warrior Vadušas Panonietis, where that menacing cloud full of storm dust goes on hanging...

    Your abode, Tūla, hung with faded pictures, where bread molds and flocks of gentle animals graze; it’s crammed with boxes and books, art reproductions, all sorts of notes, clothes, little boxes with voices and memories; a dwelling where the plumbing frequently chokes, and hardened wine in the old goblets of the pictures subsides into reddish crystals; I come to your barely open dry lips, beyond which yawns the black space of the mouth–there where your words, the ones uttered slowly, almost by the syllable, are hiding themselves–all of them are important to me alone; speak, Tūla: they rise, after all, from the very depths, from all of the places inside your flat, patient body, worn out by lethargy, suffering, illnesses, and indifference...

    Speak to me, Tūla, tell me and remind me, whisper when I come in the middle of the night, the Old Town dogs whining trustfully as I cut across the ghostly Olandų Street highway and through the damp little yards of Filaretų Street, emerging like a ghost on the Polocko straightway across from the Bernardine graveyard–all this disagreeable little world is linked only to you, Tūla, and the Bernardines, although they’ve been gone a long time now... who says they’re gone? With my footsteps in the slushy snow seemingly drafting a topographic map of this quarter, past the dog market, the pharmacy, the fish and shoe stores, I descend to you, I descend and emerge on the icy shore of the Vilnelė, and the entire old part of the city, lit up by moonlight, really does look like an old city plan, meticulously drawn and colored by some sort of higher being... I’m here now, here, while above Bekešas hill that broad cloud goes on hanging, surely frozen already into a sole, hardened like a gray block of cement–it has now, out of what was once pure drops of rain, turned into a prophet of corporeal disaster; while I go to you, ignoring not just the cold, but the despair, the late hour, the blind man with dark glasses standing by the bridge’s railing; no longer seeing the bridge, I step into the foaming, raging water and, slipping on the polished stones, I clamber up to your, Tūla’s, shore, and it seems to me that a huge lilac bush gleams blue above my head,–I pick them, and in each hand hold a lavender bouquet as fluffy as spotless white clouds–intoxicating, curly, overflowing with life, dripping in silver streams–and, swaying from exhaustion, I go in the white two-hinged door, on which hangs a modest, worm-eaten, blue mail box, and now I am, Tūla, just a few steps away from you, from your husky voice, your body’s fibers, your most secret little corners...


    Speak softly, breathe so I can hardly hear it as I fly in through the air vent, opened just barely for the night, clasping both enormous bouquets of lilac, as I now swoop under the vault–a soundless bat–without a sound, without a rustle; all the words of love and despair hermetically sealed within the skull of a tiny, flying, nocturnal beast, careful not to startle the other spirits hiding within your crumpled soul, body, mind, your most secret thoughts, your dignity, tears, your tiny breasts trembling like a ripple in a stream, all of you, Tūla; I fly in, and with my tiny feet clinging to slanting vault of your room I listen to you breathe, to the hoarfrost melting on your alveoli, to the blood turning one more cycle of circulation inside your sleepy body, to you, not realizing it yourself, speaking to the bread molding in the picture, to the boxes full of memories; in the moonlight I see your long bones, pelvic bones, the pearly skull under the short hair; I see how a small, brightly shining bug walks over your stomach, falls into the hollow of your belly button and can’t crawl out of it–that’s how small it is...

    My senses tremble, my nostrils overstrained by the city, but I no longer have any spare exits, I have no spare feelings, no spare parts in my imperfect little bat body; perhaps that’s why my love is so short–so intoxicating and so simple–a love that can neither lose anything any more, nor overcome anything; so, on the ceiling above your shallow pallet, together with the lilacs, I watch over you, I see you, in your dreary sleep, throw your arm aside, how you uncover the trembling realm of the heart, and then, then, entirely unexpectedly, a bluish cluster of lilac with two green leaves falls on your chest–I wave my little leathery wings, and now the lilac falls like rain–in clusters, tufts, twigs: violet, greenish, hardened into clots of blossoms, soft lilacs, you know, the kind that bloom and wilt in the overgrown garden plots outside the city, where farmsteads used to stand–next to the woods, on foundations that are already crumbling...

    The lilac falls, spinning around in the cold air, spreading blossoms over your hair, falling into your unwept tears, sticking to your barely open mouth, winding in strands around your thin neck, darkening on your belly, falling over your bed, the floor, the boxes with dusty reproductions and memories, descending into the pitcher with water left for the night, while other clusters, bouquets, blooms, failing to find a place to settle, spin a bit longer, and then disintegrate into tiny stars, so much like the fantastic creatures in the depths of the sea. And I dive into the darkness and crash painfully into the window–that would never happen to a real bat! I smile and curl my lip, while black blood oozes from the tiny mouse’s snout. No one sees where it drips... And where is that? The black blood drips on your bed, unwillingly soaks through the fabric, and now it’s dripping onto the black porcelain tiles under your immortal pallet, Tūla, Tūla...

    Lying on my back on the ashen window sill, I see the cloud that had fallen on Bekešas hill suddenly stirring and descending, whistling, at an impossible speed straight at the house with a apse on the bank of the Vilnelė, straight at us, at you, Tūla, at me...


Valentinas Ajauskas - Illustrations to the first Lithuanian edition of the novel 'Tūla'   Valentinas Ajauskas - Illustrations to the first Lithuanian edition of the novel 'Tūla'   Valentinas Ajauskas - Illustrations to the first Lithuanian edition of the novel 'Tūla'

Illustrations to the first Lithuanian edition of the novel "Tūla". The artist Valentinas Ajauskas

The literature of the East Europe - the Literature of Baltic - the Literature of Lithuania - writer Jurgis Kunčinas - novel "Tūla" - translator Elizabeth Novickas

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