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Stephani, Claus (Sample Translation)

Blumenkind (Flower Child)

SchirmerGraf Verlag, July 2009, 382 pp.
ISBN: 978-3-86555-067-5

A flower child is a love child.
And a love child is a child born out of a loving relationship.
The Romanians call such a child ‘copil din flori’, meaning flower child. This poetic description probably derives from the fact that such children are often conceived in the summer, in a meadow of flowers. Opinions are of course divergent about whether this is in fact the case. Because the atmosphere in the flowery meadow isn’t enough on its own. Neither are the season and the warm-hearted weather. Emotions and passions are suddenly just there, unsummoned and confusing, and one day they fly away again. And they are like birds that leave no trace in the air. (Unless a flower child comes into the world.) Among the Zipsers – a small ethnic German group on the edge of the Romanian Forest Carpathians – they call it ‘tie wildi Lieb’. But this ‘wild love’ might best be conveyed in contemporary parlance with the term ‘free love’. But ‘wildi Lieb’ evades any such imprisonment, it plays its little game according to its own rules.
But this unusual love story is based on true events. They lead us into distant landscapes – to the Moldau, Bukovina and Marmatia. And the encounters and relationships between different people who had to deny their Jewishness, and had no wish to abandon it, actually occurred. They are a part of current affairs, albeit on the edge of the major events occasionally referred to here. Some names of people and two place names have been changed, to protect the living and keep from harming the memory of those who have had to leave this world.
Because our story here relates the meeting between two people who were alien to each other at first because that was what fate decreed, and who then loved one another because that was what that same incomprehensible fate had arranged. But who actually defines the course of things? And why do they sometimes run in such strange directions? Questions that we are unable to answer. And indeed Baila, one of the two women who appear here, could not find an answer to them. And Maria, her flower child, didn’t even think about it. And Ambros never learned that he too was a flower child*. And his love was not ‘wild’, but only unusual, unique and fateful, one might say.
When Beila swept away the fresh snow in front of her house, she saw the many wolf tracks. They were a dense circle of wide footprints that led around the little farmyard. Strange trails, intertwined, frozen solid and ambiguous. But those feet had gone away again during the night. And all that remained was the mute menace, and that was already familiar. Because time and again it came in the late evening, on silent feet from the nearby forest, which only became slowly visible in the first grey light and watched across. Motionless and indifferent, as if nothing had happened.
In the summer the forest was a friend, familiar and yet mysterious. A friend that one visited gladly and often. They said that it was here, among the old trees, that the many fairy tales dwelt, the ones the people told each other. And there too one sometimes came across strange creatures, fairies and dwarfs, and even the hound of hell or a prikulitsch. That at least was what the women said, the ones who often went out berry-picking.
But in the winter a grey army of wolves lived here, which otherwise, in the warm months, kept hidden somewhere up in the mountains. They came in packs and assembled in a meadow known to the people as Plaiul Scruntar. A distant howling as if from many hoarse throats had, once again, accompanied Beila through a troubled dream. That happened often in winter – the voices of the wolves accompanied one in dreams at night.
But the ones that crept around the farm were quiet. They could not be heard. By moonlight one saw their shadows through the chinks of the shutters. They were big, soundless shadows that brought certain death if you met them outside. As everything was usually firmly locked up, in the end they had to withdraw again. But in the next troubled night they crept around the house again, left their tracks and silent fear.
There were people in the village who thought these shadows were the returning dead. Those dead who find no peace in the afterlife, and who are therefore called the undead, prikulitschen. Sometimes they come back to this world as a prikulitsch, a werewolf. But one could protect oneself against them by making the sign of the cross. All children knew that, when they went to the forest on their own for the first time and met a stray dog. If you showed the prikulitsch the cross, he couldn’t do a thing to you. You first had to stick your finger in your mouth and moisten it with spittle, before you made the sign of a cross.
Jacob once met a prikulitsch. But when he made the sign of the cross with his right hand, three times, as Christians do, nothing happened. The prikulitsch came closer, growling and showing its teeth. They were long and brown, like the teeth of old Nenea Mitru, who constantly smoked a pipe. But then Jacob remembered that in that case Jews had to make the sign of the cross with the little finger of the left hand. And that worked immediately, the prikulitsch ran away wailing. ‘Remember, Beila,’ he had said at the time, ‘things for us aren’t the way they are for the goyim.’
Two years ago something had happened that threw the whole area into uproar. And people still sometimes talk about it. A farmer’s wife had been in the field with her husband. When evening came, they were to go home. Then the husband said he quickly had to do his business and disappeared into the nearby forest. The woman sat down and waited. Suddenly a prikulitsch appeared and wanted to bite her. She tried to defend herself with the sickle. The dog snapped at her leg and pulled out a piece of her katrinţa, a double skirt of the kind Romanian women wear. The woman quickly lashed out and hit it in the head. Now it ran howling away.
After a few minutes the farmer came out of the forest. He had a small wound on his head and was bleeding slightly. He said he had stumbled over a tree-root and injured himself that way. When he spoke, a scrap of cloth fell out of his mouth. But now the poor woman knew her husband was a prikulitsch. She went to the parish priest and cried on his shoulder. He advised her to put a cross under her husband’s pillow at night. She did that, but it didn’t seem to help. Because the man repeatedly went on repeatedly disappearing for about half an hour in the evening, and when he came back there was blood on his mouth.
Word of this soon spread around the village, because some of the residents had noticed the same bloodstains on the farmer’s face. One evening he didn’t come back. The woman waited and prayed through the night, hoping for a miracle. But in the morning the man was found in a country lane. He lay bound on the dusty ground, and in his open mouth there was a big round stone, so that he could no longer bite anyone. A big wooden stake had been driven into his heart, and a cross branded onto his forehead. The coals from the fire in which the iron had been heated could also be seen. They lay there in the dewy grass, scattered and stamped out.
* Romanian-German loan translation, ‘calc lingvistic’ < rum. copil din flori; Ger. Blumenkind, also ‘love token’; Transylv. Saxon. (urban, rare) Blamenkängd; Yiddish. mamser, רעזמאמ < Hebr. meam sar ‘from a foreign people’; Hung. szeremgyerek ‘love child’; ruth./russ. sa’ugolysch, зауголыш ‘conceived around the corner’.


©SchirmerGraf Verlag