Why Does The Child Boil In Polenta?

excerpt Mother and I were working in a chocolate factory. My mother's husband was not allowed to work. He had to leave the country regularly and apply for asylum again and again. He and my mother always talked about how to make some money. We wanted to steal chocolate from the factory and sell it. But we were not allowed to tell my aunt; she and her husband had changed a lot; at ten in the evening we had to tiptoe through the house so as not to disturb the neighbors. Mother modified some of her circus costumes and sold them to Gogo-Girls. But we still have all my costumes from the Pepita period. After you recover, you may appear on stage again, Mother used to say. They're all at your feet! What these Gogo-Girls do you've known for a long time! All I want is to play in movies, I said to Frau Schnyder. She pulled a worried face. Then you've got at least to go to an actors' school. Or else we won't get any money from Immigrants' Assistance. Frau Schnyder entered me for the admission exam at the actors' school. Mother took her bag of photos and told them, in a few languages and with large gestures, how talented I was. I felt like in a circus parade. I did the bed scene from Pepita and The Merry Widow. But I didn't have to take my clothes off. For the classical part, Frau Schnyder worked with me on Saint Johanna. Before the scenes, the teachers rehearsed with us. All the students stood in a circle, moved like animals and made noises. I did a split, danced the flamenco, and sang a Raffaela Carra song. Then everyone had to read from a book and tell what they'd read in their own words. My head felt like a rattling box. I'd barely uttered a word when my brain spilled out. The commission head called each student separately for the closing discussion. The teachers were sitting behind a desk and they were very tall, their heads reached the ceiling. The mouth of the commission head opened. Words came out of it. Then I heard: We're sorry, but this is not a circus. 2 Before seeing my father for the last time, he was making a movie in which he played God. Mother played God's grandmother and I played his guardian angel. I'm wearing my white lace dress, white knee-high socks and black patent-leather shoes. My fingers are rosy under my nails, my cheeks are flushed. ANGELS ALWAYS HAVE ROSY CHEEKS, SAYS FATHER, BECAUSE THEY SPEND A LOT OF TIME IN FRESH AIR. In the role of God, Father is wearing his old, black tails. Mother has wrapped herself in a shawl, like old peasant women from Romania, and put on her flowery gown made from curtain cloth. At the beginning of the film, Father shows up as Circus Manager in a red tailcoat. In Grandma's garden, who lives in the countryside, there is a tree, he says, under which it always rains. Then Father appears as God sitting under the tree. GOD IS SAD. HE IS PLAYING A HUNGARIAN TUNE ON THE VIOLIN! Grandma sits at the window and beckons, she cooked polenta for God. A violin song is so sad that the fields, the flowers and the trees in the garden grieve. The Circus Manager appears and says that the fence, the window, the door and even the polenta begin to cry. Grandma nods and says a sentence that cannot be heard, because she is in the house. Then Boxi runs in the field. It's got pink angel's wings in its mouth and it poops ringlets by a bush, from behind which I turn up. I put on the wings and I hop along Boxi to the rain tree. The rain is pouring down from a watering can. The angel and Boxi are dancing to God's sad song. But God does not want to enjoy it. The Circus Manager shows up and says: "out of love for the poor, God eats polenta." He is a stranger himself, wandering from one country to another. He is sad. A long journey lies ahead of him again. Grandma is crying. Boxi is fawning, curling its tail between its legs and pricking its ears. The guardian angel hops on. GUARDIAN ANGELS ARE NEVER SAD, SAYS THE CIRCUS MANAGER, THAT IS WHY THEY ARE HERE, TO BRING JOY. In the next scene, God, Grandma and the guardian angel sit at table together and eat the farewell polenta. In the final scene, Grandma stands on the doorstep waving her hand. THE END Translated from the German into Romanian by Nora IUGA Polirom, 2002  Aglaja VETERANYI was born in Bucharest to a family of circus artists who traveled to many countries until they finally settled in Switzerland. The novel, largely autobiographic, was translated into many languages, awarded prestigious prizes, and put on stage in Zurich and Bucharest. Although a fecund poet and founder of theatrical companies, severe depression drove her to commit suicide.

by Aglaja Veteranyi (1962-2002)