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Anja Mugerli

anja-mugerli

Anja Mugerli, born in 1984, is a Slovenian writer. She graduated with a degree in Slovenian Studies and has a master’s in performance studies and creative writing. Her debut, the short prose collection Zeleni fotelj (Green Armchair), was published in 2015 and in 2017, her first novel, entitled Spovin, was nominated for the Novel of the Year Award in Slovenia. Her writing is subtle, with great psychological insight into the protagonists of her stories. Recently, the film rights to her first novel were sold and she was featured at the 2019 First Novel Festival in Kiel, Germany. She also writes plays, two of which have won awards at an international competition in Italy. She lives in Nova Gorica, on the border of Slovenia and Italy. She is fluent in English, Spanish and Italian.

 

  • EUPL Year: 
    2021
  • EUPL Country: 

Winning Book

Čebelja družina (Bee Family)

The seven short stories in 'Bee Family' are linked by rituals, ancient customs and traditions of Slovenian culture, which are transposed into a different context or a contemporary setting, where they take on a new role and shape. The theme of family is in the foreground: we read about an unrealised family, a family brought together and separated by the circumstances of life, a family that could become real in another setting. All the stories are set in the present, with the exception of the title story, which is set at a specific historical time, and yet they seem timeless because of the presence of ritual and their atmosphere. The author’s virtuoso use of language entangles us in a world we do not know, although we live in it. In reading these stories, we constantly cross borders – linguistic, cultural, political, geographical – as well as those between reality and the unconscious.

cebelja-družina

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Cankarjeva založba

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Excerpt

Jabolkosnedka

Po stopnišču se kotalijo predmeti. Eno izmed jabolk obstane tik pred mojim pragom. Bosa stopim na hodnik in na stopnicah zagledam zelo staro žensko, s hrbtom sloni na umazani steni in plitvo diha. Na moje vprašanje, ali je v redu, me le prebode s temnim pogledom. V spominu brskam med obrazi sosed in jo skušam uvrstiti v pravo stanovanje, a neuspešno. Nerodno jo poprimem pod roko in ji pomagam na noge. Peljem jo v svoje stanovanje in posedem na stol, v katerega sem še pred minuto strmela, kot da bom samo s pogledom dosegla, da se bo na njem materializiralo točno določeno človeško bitje. Zdaj pa na njem sedi starka. Zemljevid gub mehča njen pogled in temna koža na obrazu priča o življenju na soncu in vetru. Vrnem se na hodnik, kjer po stopnicah poberem raztresene stvari. Čisto na vrh vrečke položim obtolčena jabolka.

»Gniti bodo začela,« reče z globokim, rahlo hrapavim glasom.

»Boste kozarec vode?«

S pogledom mi sledi v kuhinjo, kjer na štedilniku stojita krožnika, pokrita s pokrovkama. »Jabolko bi.«

Lično pogrnjeno mizo podrem kot hišico iz kart. Namesto zloščenega pribora in kristalnih kozarcev na prt položim krožnik, nož in rdeče jabolko. V nosnice mi sili vonj ugaslih sveč. Pomislim, da bi prižgala luč na stropu, saj starka najverjetneje ne vidi prav dobro, a nato si premislim in pustim prižgano le malo svetilko na omari. Sedem ji nasproti. Senci, ki padata na steno, me spomnita na sence v šotoru ciganke, h kateri sem kot dekle prišla po odgovore o svojem očetu, na žensko z barvno ruto na glavi, ki je na mizo med naju položila svoje roke in zahtevala, naj ji v desno položim denar, v levo pa svojo dlan. Starka reže jabolko na krhlje in drugega za drugim poje in jaz napol pričakujem, da mi bo s pomočjo jabolka odgovorila na vsa vprašanja, ki so se mi porodila v zadnjih dveh urah. A zgodi se samo to, da iz vrečke vzame novo jabolko in ga začne jesti, vmes pa se ustavi le toliko, da me vpraša, ali bi ga morda želela tudi jaz. Sediva za mizo in jeva sočne, bledo rumene krhlje, rjave na mestih, kjer so na jabolku zaradi padca nastale udrtine.

»Upam, da nisem komu zasedla mesta.«

Kdor je šou, je zgubu stou, se domislim fraze iz otroštva. Zgoščenka se je že zdavnaj odvrtela, hrana je mrzla, v zraku visi kiselkasto-sladki vonj po jabolkih. »Danes imava obletnico. Matevž se je najbrž zadržal na vajah, kot po navadi. Dirigent je. Vodi simfonični orkester. Čez tri mesece se bova poročila – upam …« Zasmejim se svoji besedi. »Veliko potuje,« dodam, kot bi hotela razložiti.

»Tudi moj mož je veliko potoval, v beznice vseh vrst. Nekoč sem ga zaklenila ven iz stanovanja. Zaleglo je za nekaj mesecev, potem se je vrnil na stara pota.«

Njena kratka zgodba me čisto razoroži in iznenada se zavem svojih bosih nog in neudobnosti oprijete obleke. Starka s pogledom roma od mojih čevljev s peto, ki pozabljeni ležijo na tleh, do skladovnice knjig in slovarjev na pisalni mizi, ki mi služi kot delovni prostor.

»Ko ni popival, sva to vedno počela,« s pogledom obstane na meni, »sedela takole za mizo in jedla jabolka. Oba sva bila jabolkosneda. Ko sva enkrat začela, nisva mogla nehati. Bilo je kot katarza. Zadnji košček je zmeraj prihranil zame. Po tistem je bilo nekaj časa vse v redu, le da to ni bilo res.«

S težavo se postavi na noge. Vztrajam, da ji nesem vrečko. S počasnimi koraki se prebijava po stopnicah, vse do zadnjega, petega nadstropja, do vrat, navpično nad mojimi, poleg vhoda na strešno teraso, in si na kratko zaželiva lahko noč.

 

Ponoči me prebudi Matevževo odklepanje vhodnih vrat. Prižgem lučko na nočni omarici in sedem. Mimogrede si slečem spodnjice in jih zatlačim pod blazino. Matevž vstopi in se začne takoj opravičevati, ljubica, sem te prebudil, oprosti mi, vaje so se spet zavlekle … Opravičila dežujejo po spalnici tako kot oblačila, ki jih slači. Hodim za njim in pobiram pulover, srajco, hlače, dišeče po mešanici znoja, parfuma in tobaka. »… ne razume, da hočem popolnost … Mozarta preprosto ne moreš igrat samo napol … imel kaj besede, bi se on že zdavnaj pobral!« Skozi šumenje vode lovim delčke njegovih stavkov in jih skušam zlepiti v celoto. Je spet jezen na violončelista ali govori morda o koncertnem mojstru, s katerim sta si ves čas v laseh?

»Zamenjati bi ga moral, to drži kot pribito.« Pred mano obstane popolnoma gol in z mokrimi lasmi. Želim mu povedati o svojem dnevu, o urah, ki sem jih preživela ob tekstu, ki ga prevajam, o tem, kako sem ga čakala, tako kot že tolikokrat prej, in kako me je kljub temu, da se je njegovo zamujanje spremenilo v stalnico, vmes zaskrbelo. Hočem mu povedati o nenavadnem srečanju na stopnišču, in to z enako vnemo in lahkotnostjo, s kakršno mi on vsak dan pripoveduje o svojih stvareh. A besede se mi zataknejo v grlu, kot bi jih tam ustavil košček pojedenega jabolka, in še preden trenutek mine, me Matevž poleže na posteljo in mi dvigne spalno srajco. Z jezikom potuje po mojem telesu, skoraj se že prepustim, potem pa mokra konica njegovega jezika ošvrkne moj popek in iz mojega trebuha izgine vsa mehkoba. Jabolkosnedka. Šele ko se ustavi in me začudeno pogleda, se zavem, da sem besedo res izgovorila. Umaknem se na vrh postelje, čisto do vzglavja.

»Čakala sem te.«

Svetlomodri pogled je mrzel kot severno morje. »Saj sem rekel, da mi je žal – ali nisem?« Ravna črta njegovih ustnic se ukrivi in tam se pojavi šegav, neiskren nasmeh. »Odkupil se ti bom.« Njegov poljub na moj vrat je hlasten in moker.

»Če se hočeš odkupit, si vzemi ta vikend prosto. Pojdiva nekam.« Besede, ki so v mojih mislih slišati kot zahteva, na glas zazvenijo kot moledovanje.

»Saj veš, da imamo vaje. Koncert je čez štirinajst dni.«

»Pripravljeni ste, slišala sem vas. Samo še detajli.«

»Samo še detajli?« Odmakne se. »To si rekla, kot da ne bi bilo pomembno.«

Nekaj trdega se odkotali z njegovega jezika in me udari v obraz. »Seveda je. Nisem tako mislila.«

Objamem ga, ga poljubim, potem med njegove ustnice potisnem svoj jezik. Z enim gibom mi dvigne spalno srajco in leže name. Med sunki se mi zdi, da slišim, kako si mrmra Mozarta.

V obredih, ki označujejo prehod iz enega življenjskega cikla v drugega, je najbolje vidno, kako se – na eni strani z očiščenjem, na drugi pa s ponavljanjem – reducira sij nečistosti, ki obdaja bitje v nastajanju in spreminjanju …[1]

Prevedeni odlomek me spomni na obred, ki sem ga imela v otroštvu. Potem ko sva z mamo ostali sami, sva še kakšno leto živeli v stanovanju, polnem očetovih stvari in njegovega vonja, dokler mami nekega dne ni bilo dovolj in je vse skupaj zapakirala v škatle in jih odnesla neznano kam. Ni me vprašala, ali hočem kaj njegovega za spomin, a tega niti nisem hotela. Nisem potrebovala njegovih predmetov, da bi čutila njegovo prisotnost, saj oče zame še zdaleč ni bil spomin. Z mano je bil, ko sem se zjutraj zbudila, popoldne, ko sem odhajala iz šole, in zvečer, ko sem šla spat. Še najbolj pa je bil prisoten, medtem ko sva z mamo jedli za kuhinjsko mizo. Oddala je vse njegove stvari, ni pa se domislila, da bi se znebila tretjega stola v kuhinji. Tako sem med vsakim obrokom strmela v prazni stol in se v mislih pogovarjala z očetom, kot da je zares tam. To sem potrebovala enako kot hrano na svojem krožniku, a še bolj kot to so mi bili pomembni njegovi odgovori, kajti čisto zares sem ga lahko slišala. Stanovanje, v katero sva se naposled preselili, je bilo manjše, z le eno spalnico, ki sem jo dobila jaz, medtem ko si je mama vsak večer raztegnila kavč v dnevni sobi. V kuhinji sta bila samo dva stola. Oče mi ni nikoli več odgovoril, kot bi bil užaljen, da v najinem novem stanovanju ni več prostora zanj, a morda je šlo le za to, da sem tisti prazni stol prerasla. Zdaj pa se mi že nekaj časa zdi, kot da se je prekleti stol vrnil. Matevževe obljube se nalagajo druga na drugo kot jabolčni olupki na kompost, le da jih je že toliko, da se bojim, da se ne bodo nikoli razgradili, temveč bodo kmalu prekrili ves vrt. Vse pogosteje se zalotim, kako mu hočem nekaj reči, a ne najdem pravih besed. Namesto da bi se z njim pogovorila, se vse bolj poglabljam v tekst pred sabo, o katerem razmišljam, tudi ko nisem za svojo delovno mizo. V mislih se selim v druge čase, vidim kresove, s pomočjo katerih naj bi sonce ohranilo svojo moč, in ljudi v maskah, ki poplesujejo sredi gozda. Včasih se zavem šele po tem, ko se znajdem na napačni ulici, in sem ter tja se zgodi, da Matevž presenečeno dvigne pogled, ko stopim v prostor, kot da bi pozabil, da sem še vedno tu.

 

[1] Povzeto po Cazeneuve: Sociologija obreda v prevodu Nede Pagon

Translated Excerpt

Apple Tooth

Items are rolling down the staircase. One of the apples stops right in front of my doorstep. I step barefoot into the hall and on the stairs I see a very old woman, who is breathing shallowly and with her back against the dirty wall. She answers my question about whether she’s alright with a piercing dark look. I search my memory for neighbours’ faces, trying to place her in the right apartment but I can’t. Clumsily I hold her under the arm and help her to her feet. I guide her into my apartment and sit her on the chair into which I was staring just a minute ago, as if my watching would make a particular human being materialize on it. Now there’s an old lady sitting there. A map of wrinkles softens her look and the darkened skin on her face speaks of life in the sun and wind. I go back to the hall and pick up the scattered things from the stairs. I put the bruised apples right at the top of the bag. 

“They’re going to rot,” she says in a deep, slightly raspy voice.

“Would you like a glass of water?”

Her eyes follow me into the kitchen, where I have two plates with lids over them.

“I would like an apple.”

I rearrange the neatly set table like it’s a house of cards. Instead of polished cutlery and crystal glasses I lay a plate, a knife and a red apple over the tablecloth. The smell of burnt-out candles penetrates my nostrils. I consider turning on the ceiling light, since the old lady probably can’t see too well, but I change my mind and leave only the little light on the cupboard on. I sit down opposite her. The shadows falling against the wall remind me of the shadows in the tent of a gypsy woman, the one I went to as a girl to seek answers about my father, a woman with a colourful headscarf who laid her hands on the table between us and demanded that I slip money into her right one and a palm into her left. The old lady is cutting apple slices and eating them one after another and I am half expecting that with the help of the apple she will answer all the questions that have arisen these past two years. But the only thing that happens is she takes another apple from the bag and starts to eat it, pausing only to ask if I’d like some too. We sit at the table and eat juicy, pale yellow slices with patches of brown from where the fall bruised them.

“I hope I haven’t taken someone else’s place.”

I remember a phrase from childhood: use it or lose it. The CD ended some time ago, the food is cold, and the sour-sweet scent of apples hangs in the air. “Today’s our anniversary. Matevž was probably delayed at rehearsal. He’s a conductor. He conducts a symphonic orchestra. We’re getting married in three months – I hope …” I smile at what I’ve said. “He travels a lot,” I add, as if to explain.

“My husband also used to travel a lot, to all sorts of dives. Once I locked him out of the apartment. That worked for a few months, but then he went back to his old ways.”

Her little tale disarms me completely and suddenly I’m aware of my bare feet and of how uncomfortable my tight dress is. The old lady’s gaze roams from my stilettos lying forgotten on the floor to the pile of books and dictionaries on my desk that serves as my office. 

“When he wasn’t drinking, we did this all the time,” she says, her eyes resting on me. “We’d sit like this at the table and eat apples. We were both apple tooths. Once we got started, we couldn’t stop. It was like a catharsis. He always saved the last slice for me. After that, for a while everything was fine, just that it wasn’t true.”

She struggles to her feet. I insist on carrying her bag. We trudge slowly up the stairs, all the way to the top, fifth floor, to the door that’s vertically above mine, next to the rooftop terrace, and we quickly wish each other good night.

At night I’m woken up by Matevž unlocking the door. I turn on the light on my bedside table and sit up. I absently slip off my underwear and tuck it under the pillow. Matevž enters and immediately starts apologising, honey, did I wake you?, sorry, rehearsal took longer than… Apologies rain over the bedroom like the clothes he’s shedding. I walk behind him and pick up the pullover, shirt, trousers that smell of a mixture of sweat, perfume and tobacco. “… he doesn’t understand that I want perfection… You simply cannot play Mozart half-heartedly… If I had any say in it, he’d be long gone!” Through the splashing of water I catch snippets of his sentences and try to paste them into a whole. Is he angry with the cellist again or is he talking about the concertmaster he’s always locking horns with?

“I should have replaced him, that’s for sure.” He stands in front of me, completely naked and with wet hair. I want to tell him about my day, the hours spent with the text I’m translating, about how I was waiting for him, just as I have so many times before and about how even though his lateness has become the norm, I was worried. I want to tell him about the unusual encounter on the stairs with the same enthusiasm and lightness with which he tells me about his goings-on. But the words stick in my throat, as if checked by a slice of eaten apple and before the moment passes Matevž lays me down on the bed and lifts up my nightie. His tongue traverses my body, I almost yield to the desire, but suddenly the wet tip of his tongue flicks my belly button and all softness escapes my tummy. Apple tooth. It is only when he stops and looks at me surprised that I realize I’m really saying the words. I move upwards in the bed, to the very top.

“I was waiting for you.”

His light blue gaze is as cold as the North Sea. “I said I’m sorry – didn’t I?” The straight line of his lips bends into a facetious, insincere smile. “I will make it up to you.” His kiss on my neck is greedy and wet.

“If you want to make it up to me, take the weekend off. Let’s go somewhere.” In my mind these words sound like a demand. Uttered aloud they sound like pleading.

“You know we have to rehearse. The concert’s in fourteen days.”

“I’ve heard you, you’re ready. The rest is just details.”

Just details?” He shifts away. “You say that like it’s not important.”

Something hard rolls from his tongue and hits me in the face. “Of course it is. I didn’t mean it like that.”

I hug him, kiss him, then push my tongue between his lips. In one move he lifts my nightie and lies down on me. In between thrusts it seems like I can hear him humming Mozart to himself.

In rites, which mark the transition from one cycle of life to another, it is most visible how – on the one hand, through purification, on the other through repetition – the luminance of impurity, which surrounds a being that is forming and changing, is reduced

The translated excerpt reminds me of a rite I had in my childhood. After my mother and I were left all alone, we’d been living for about a year in the apartment that was still full of my father’s things and his scent until one day my mother had had enough and packed everything into boxes, taking them who knows where. She didn’t ask me whether I wanted to keep anything of his as a souvenir, but in any case I didn’t. I didn’t need his things to feel his presence since my father was far from a memory for me. He was with me when I woke up in the morning, in the afternoon when I was leaving school, and in the evening when I went to bed. He was even more present when my mother and I were eating at the kitchen table. She’d dispensed with all his things but did not think of getting rid of the third chair in the kitchen. And so I would stare into an empty chair during each meal, having conversations in my mind with my father as if he were actually there. I needed this as much as I needed the food on my plate, but more important still were his answers, for I could actually hear him. The apartment we finally moved into was smaller, with only one bedroom, which was mine, while mother pulled out the sofa bed in the living room every evening. There were only two chairs in the kitchen. My father never again answered. It was as if he was offended that there was no longer room for him in our new apartment, or maybe it was only that I’d outgrown that empty chair. But for a while now I’ve felt as if that bloody chair has come back. Matvež’s promises pile up like pieces of apple peel in the compost, only there are so many I’m afraid they’ll never decompose and soon they’ll take over the whole garden. More and more I realize I want to tell him something but I can’t find the right words. Instead of talking to him I bury myself more and more in the text in front of me, thinking about it even when I’m away from my desk. In my thoughts I move to different pasts, I see ritual bonfires meant to help the sun preserve its strength, and masked people dancing in the middle of the forest. Sometimes I don’t realize where I am again until I see I’ve taken a wrong turn, and here and there it happens that Matevž looks up in surprise when I enter a room, as if he’s forgotten I’m still here.

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