Excerpts from Launch Double Issue I & II, Autumn/Winter 2002

     Editor's Note
     Readings & Events

Current Issue


Where Do We Come From...? 
Launch Double Issue I & II, Autumn/Winter 2002

Eighteen writers - from Nobel nominees to relative newcomers on the international stage - join in a search for origins. Childhood games, the horrors of war and arts of love, geographies of the imagination... their responses are as varied as Enlargement Europe itself.

Features: Romanian Women Poets and a photo-essay, Romanian Trains.

Some highlights: 

  • Zilahy and Velickovic on the end of the former Yugoslavia; 
  • new prose poem from Kaplinski; 
  • Prokopiev and Tar: scenes from village life; 
  • extracts from Belsevica's bestselling autobiographical novel;
  • contemporary love stories from Poland, Bulgaria, FRY.

In this issue: Vizma Belsevica, Cevat Çapan, Magda Carneci, Natasza Goerke, Georgi Gospodinov, Ioana Ieronim, Jaan Kaplinski, Vojislav Karanovic, Iosif Kiraly, Marija Knezevic, Diana Manole, Aleksandar Prokopiev, Milan Richter, Ondrej Stefanko, Sándor Tar, Nenad Velickovic, Tomas Venclova, Péter Zilahy.

ISSN 1478-5005 
226pp. October 2002


Aleksandar Prokopiev (Macedonia)

Ethica Anthropofagon

1. Always be hungry! Then you'll become like each other.

2. Treat him or her like a pancake. Smear with honey, cherry jam, peanut butter, chocolate. Taste as s/he wants to be tasted.

3. Give him or her a little metal box, decorated with your initials, containing your index finger without a ring or your ear with an earring. S/he will be enormously satisfied by this gesture, as if you'd given the last rose or a new time-travel machine.

4. Be gourmands. In every mouthful find something of yourself. Chew sincerely and you become necessary to each other.

5. Imagine! Searching for food really is as exciting as eating. Be falcon and chick, wolf and lamb, lioness and stag. The role of prey will change with the weather: when it's hot you'll be the victim; when it's rainy, she will be.

6. Improve appearances! Use lace, velvet, silk or mohair: inspired by the refinement of French hedonists. Their deepest drive is to bring together spring water and ripe cheese; decay and pink skin fresh from the bath. The smell of incense could be as brutal as a god biting into an over-ripe pear.

7. Make jokes! Write a suicide note and put it in an envelope. Next, ravenously eat a miniature marzipan replica of yourself (or it could be made of jelly or blancmange). Then, nonchalantly, rip open the envelope and read your testament: "I donate my body and soul to culinary progress."

8. Romance dies on an empty stomach. But to be stuffed is banal, makes you lethargic and punctures fantasies. Every day tickle your appetite but never overfill your stomach. Always be hungry!


Translated by the author with Fiona Sampson

Ioana Ieronim (Romania)

To Clara

a day suspended like a miracle between seasons
a sparrow clinging with thin feet to a branch

- an error attracts you -

drawn by its irresistible gravity
you're going to bruise yourself against life (so they tell you)
against the void

Translated by the author

Magda Carneci (Romania)

Flashgun. Snap. Slow Developing

We lay stretched out on beds, immaculate white surfaces
          on which somebody had strewn photographs helter-skelter
snapshots of us        false, sensual photos
          strewn carelessly on couches           on beds                on the floor,
          we lay where we were thrown, looking out the windows at the city
they kept taking photos of us        every second           heaps of photos       as we lay
          at rest on beds, looking out the window and discussing
beauty          in heaps             this great happening surrounding us

they were continually photographing our dull, dirty room,
          the beds, immaculate white surfaces, the stubbed-out cigarette butts
dropped on the floor           in heaps       and we were so tired                       continuously photographed
         reclining among wet and glossy rivers                  of photos.

I asked them     whether everything looked beautiful to them    whether beauty
         existed everywhere     in the heaps     in this hodgepodge
              of sprawled bodies and white beds            cigarette butts               the dull, dirty room
looking out the window      they laughed                and changed a used roll
        for fresh film    finer grained, more sensitive      everything could be
could have been beautiful      so beautiful      the dull, dark room              the cigarettes
        beds      wastepaper basket      rain spouts      the great happening
the gutters along the streets    remote suburbs      higgledy-piggledy, isolated
       the scrap heaps     dirt     are all photogenic  virtual negatives that look so good in pictures.

Then do all scraps make sense? I asked them         as they went about
        fixing us on film              lying indolently on beds        looking out
the windows    the heaps      crying,     fainting          they laughed and laughed
everything has expression    expression      they answered
        this bare, dirty room          the desolate clouds              the scrap heaps
these are pure expression     of what? of whom?                   I asked
        of expression itself         they answered              putting in a fresh roll of much more
        sensitive film    the whole world is expression         an image
                   an image that’s an eyeful of images    heaps
                              crammed full of these and other images           images upon images
of whom? for whom? I asked again and again    just image
        they said             a boundless image        an immense photograph
and their flashguns kept going off    blinding us      a photo
        in black-and-white or colour? I asked                 letting myself be photographed
continually   not daring to move at all       a photo
        they replied      focusing a new spotlight        a million-watt reflector bulb
        and in its intensity my hands turned pale       translucent

What about us? What about us? I asked    and what about the railway stations
        and planes          the rock-hard pyramids             the heaps upon heaps
of paintings, music, books     the constellations        the teeming cities?
You are -             they said      undeveloped chemical emulsion
        and then they put in a fresh roll                            of even more sensitive film      a
photo of what? I repeated dissolving            - a photo
        of a much bigger photograph.

We stayed    fixed on beds    immaculate wet white surfaces
we stay in the photos and wait          for somebody to come
        to raise us up         to plunge us into the zinc basin      of strong cold acids
        to develop us         to fix us in poses     or expose us    to an even stronger light
a purer light     to fog us          to blind us
and destroy us at last              these dark old negatives
            beauty                the great happening             to save the earth
                                                                                                                         or make it vanish.


Translated by Adam J. Sorkin with the author

Péter Zilahy (Hungary)

from: The Last Window Giraffe Picture Book

In Belgrade, time is measured in faces. After a week I begin to recognize faces. After a year I'd recognize everyone. Everyone who has a face also has time. Watches are worn as ornaments, the hands form an angle to match the mood of the wearer. If I stay on the street, I can't be late. The time of the demonstration can be read from the faces. You look at someone and you know: it's time. Neither of you will get there at the appointed hour, but you meet somewhere else where you wouldn't have met had you been on time. In Belgrade time is no longer measured by the stars. People look each other in the eye. They merry-go-round in the raining confetti. A chain reaction of faces in an activated explosion. Belgrade faces are incendiary, quick to flare up. Invisibility is not an option, the masses of Belgrade are not faceless. Out of any two faces, one is always you. Serzhan is a cheeky grin. The people of Belgrade part with the past cheerfully. The shared naughtiness and mischief. Farting, belching, whistle-blowing, horn-tooting. The old dear standing next to me is shouting her head off. She knows she's free to. Watches have become historically redundant. Down with time which has no face!

The window giraffe was a picture book from which we learned to read when we didn't know how. I could read already, but I had to learn it anyway, because that's what school's for. The window giraffe revealed the world to us in alphabetical order. Everything had its rhyme and reason, both symbolic and everyday. We learned from it that the sun rises in the east, that our hearts are on the left, that the Great October Revolution was in November, and that light comes through the window even when it's closed. The window giraffe was full of seven-headed dragons, fairies, devils and princes, and told us they do not exist. I remember four kinds of dragons that do not exist, and also three princes. Syllable by syllable, the window giraffe taught us to read between the lines. It was taken as much for granted as the teddy-bear on TV before bedtime. Nobody thought of questioning it. The window giraffe was the window giraffe. The window giraffe is my childhood, the changing room, the P.E. class, and growing all the time, an age before a better age, the soft dictatorship, my homework, my innocence, my generation. The window giraffe is a book, and I was one of its characters. Twenty years later, when asked, I realized that the first and last words, the alpha and omega, are window and giraffe.1 Yes. The window is the beginning, light comes through the window, the giraffe is the end of endlessness, surrealism, flaming giraffes, we will live for ever! A lexicon which contains what's been left out.

Paris has its own window giraffe. I saw it on a postcard. It's called the I-fell-tower. Zsófi Brünner sent it after she defected with her parents to France, and was now studying from a French alphabet book. The I-fell-tower has a long neck, four legs, and an awful lot of windows. It is both window and giraffe, and its name sounds good too, excitement and promise in one, the promise of a sudden leap, the final break from a worm's eye view, which the express elevator inside degrades into a question of technology. Zsófi looked a bit like a giraffe herself, except she didn't have a window or an express elevator inside. The express elevator was in my throat when she tip-toed over to my desk on her matchstick legs and let me smell her scented rubber. I spent the whole night in an ecstasy of syllable-practice. The letters came towards me like cats' eyes on a dark road. The next day, Zsófi defected. Our headmaster told us they had to leave unexpectedly. He could have said "cut off in their prime", the way our Party leaders go. The scented rubber left an un-erasable mark on my heart. Later we found out it hadn't been a holiday at all, when she sent the I-fell-tower as a substitute for herself, which was just like the window giraffe, except it made some sense, provided you could read between the lines.

The police are running in the opposite direction, we run past each other. They beat up a couple of passers-by on the other side of the square, then stand around, at a loss. An over-zealous riot policeman rubs out the graffiti of a gallows with his rubber stick. Underneath in red: Slobo, you pig, you will hang!

Translated by the author

1 A.N.: In Hungarian, "window" is ablak, and "giraffe" is zsiráf 
Take my word for it.

return to Orient Express home page