The following short chapters stand out for their narrative hijinks, but the close reader will note that Kramberger’s monkey is misnamed ‘count Belisarius’ (Ančka, of course, was the real name) in Ch. 9.
Chapter 10 will be posted as soon as I find enough photos to illustrate it.
The Second Man
You weren’t there so you don’t know what happened, but then again neither were you, so yous can talk about it on an equal basis. Added to that, had you been there, you might have been up there, too, leaving only you, which would take us back to me, a sitting duck, exactly what the three of us were trying to avoid.
The flying duck, as you can see, got pretty high up there, especially compared to how far he fell—what would you call it, one neck length? You’ve had an overly exuberant chiropractor move your head pretty far from your torso, but that would still be no more than half the distance his neck stretched.
You saw the police report, which is not a simple piece of paper. Cause of death: suicide. And it didn’t stop there. Likely due to stress. That left little room to record the conversation of the first officers on the scene of the…Catholic crime. You can imagine, though, one cop asked ‘But how’d he get up there?’ Because it’s not so easy to get to the rafters near the midpoint of the ceiling of a gymnasium that doesn’t have a climbing rope, and that’s not what he used to hang himself, was it? No.
And there was no ladder.
But you hear the savvy veteran cop sum it all up: ‘Suicides sometimes go to surprising lengths. Nothing surprises me anymore.’
In Slovene, as you know, there’s no pun in the statement.
In America there’s that great strategy of giving a feller just enough rope he can hang himself.
The main thing is you’re writing this book and you’re half the distance back to the first person, which, again, is precisely where you do not want to be, in part because it might not be you, so before you continue you need to find some new blood, so to speak.
Here We are Alone Again. It’s All so Sad, so Slow…
Here we are alone again. It’s all so sad, so slow…
The great myth of the conspiracy theorist, besides that he is a lunatic, which is fifty fifty, the same as in any given population group, is that he somehow needs the company of the conspiracy, that it comforts him in a perverse sort of way. The truth is that anyone on the assassination conspiracy continuum is likely to be tremendously lonely, for he has been abandoned by truth itself. Compared to losing one’s faith in, say, God, this is a more difficult blow to bear—for it is, indeed, a blow. Imagine rather than losing faith in God, God turned his back on you. This is how the unsolved assassination is felt by a man like Todd Fullmer or anyone who lends the event his time. And this is probably why the Slovenes appear to be rather complacent about Kramberger’s assassination. What could have been the seminal controversial event in a young country’s history instead has become an acknowledged yet unimportant assassination and cover-up that typically the Slovene is not obsessed with. Any number of speculatories can be made, such as the Slovene as Balkan man simply takes such business in stride, or the Slovene as neighbor to Austrian keeps it all inside, drinks too much, then commits suicide. But more likely the apparent individual Slovene reaction is a combination of not being all that eager to allow an event so early in its history as an independent nation to spoil things and the stronger impulse to guard against the loneliness one feels when truth denies us its company. Reading through the Fullmer archives, we come to know a man who is Americo-centric about assassinations, yet increasingly self-aware. To read his articles and not quickly grasp his faith that America is the home of the great assassinations, that for instance the Kennedy assassination is the most important of all time, the most interesting, the most historic, would be impossible. Yet, in his last few years, usually between the lines, sometimes in a stray line or two, he seems to display an understanding that he is in effect imprisoned by his Americo-centrism. His editor, who asked not to be named even though his name can be found easily in the most obvious ways, said that in one of his last conversations with Fullmer that Fullmer expressed his mystification at the relatively slight impact the Kramberger assassination seemed to have made on Slovene life, which he said was at first a great disappointment to him, but was gradually becoming a slippery theme. ‘It’s as if the man simply wasn’t important enough to give a shit about’, he told his editor, ‘yet in my head I know he was flesh and blood like JFK and in my gut I believe he mattered as much, and maybe even more…I just don’t get it.’
At this point, if you were impatient and this was not a novel, we could answer any of your questions with absolute clarity and accuracy. We could even tell you who killed Ivan Kramberger and why. We could tell you what color underwear the assassin is sporting at this very second, what aftershave (hint). However, the cavils are complicating creatures. And though we don’t know why—well, we do, but have to write as if we don’t—but the omniscient narrator has lost a great deal of stature over the centuries. How this came about has nothing to do with any misbehavior on the part of the omniscient narrator, rather springs from the lie woven into the very fabric of his subject combined with the lack of patience of the reader, which is just another way of saying that there are limitations to the form. The Hindu explanation of the lie is commonly summarized in the term maya, which is a word that almost everyone familiar with it misunderstands for reasons and in such a way that is easily understood if one properly understands the term maya. Not to get carried away, but to proceed with such rapidity that a turnabout is possible rather than an about-face, what we are talking about are nama and rupa, name and form, which is to say that which must be in order for us to speak of name and form, yet which disguise the truth that is unity–the calm terrain beneath the ocean of chaos, one might say. There are two possible, honest omniscient narratives. One is the strictly factual account of events, which in the case of our novel about Kramberger could be limited to as little as one page. The other is the infinite novel, the Funes the Memorius version. No thought or act would be left out, yet so many would be included that to end the novel, to omit but one thought, but one distant, apparently insignificant incident that had even the slightest bearing on the subject—say, the way the sun set on the evening of August 23, 1991, when Kramberger stopped playing with his monkey on the promenade in Koper to watch the Adriatic eat fire—would be to render the entire book a sham. Interestingly, this leads the omniscient narrator of today into a sort of complicity with the assassins, all of us relying on what may or may not be called the willing suspension of disbelief.
One more point in this regard, and that’s all. Given that our intention is to refuse the mantle of absolute omniscience, we find it best to leave, to the extent possible, Slovene speculations about the assassination to some mundane interviewer of the future, or end times, for knowing in each case in which way they are imbalanced, and who isn’t imbalanced?, we would face the predicament of whether or not to expose their misconceptions, deceptions, misunderstandings, odd oral tradition folk versions, simplistic guesses, and even nearly perfect diagnoses.
Man Meets Monkey
Kramberger, Ivan, was fond of saying—even when he was still in Germany—that we have in common with monkeys 99% of our genetic structure. The truth is that we have about 98% in common with chimps and bonobos, but probably a mere 93 with his capuchin. He also used to say that nothing is more pathetic than a man who believes his own lies, once in reference to the Croat Tuđman. Yet it is true that in Koper, on that same hot day in August that he watched the sunset from the promenade, he was selling his books and chatting up the body politic when his monkey, Count Belisarius by name, slipped away without Ivan noticing. In the middle of a sentence to a misguided student of management, Kramberger broke off suddenly—»My monkey! Where’s the count?« He ran his hands through his Rasputin hair and looked about in panic, his eyes enormous and wild. Where do you even begin to look for a runaway monkey? Trees, he thought, you look in the trees. But they were in Tito Square, where there are no trees, just a palace, a loggia, a church, and a building with a plaque on it that commemorates fallen partisans who couldn’t get back up. Arteries ran from the square in every direction. Count Belisarius had never run away before—would he return? Yes, he would. Before Kramberger could decide what measures to take, up came Count Belisarius from the lane that runs past the Pretor’s Palace, brandishing a bottle of borovničevec. “I had been discussing the good and bad of various Slovene liquors with a peasant down from the kras in town on civic matters, and had expressed my preference for borovničevec, often considered a ladies drink, as the peasant pointed out. And Count Belisarius subsequently took off and stole a bottle for me.”
And when he told this story he would recognize in the eyes of many listeners that look elicited by the pathetic figure who comes to believe his own lies. These were the same kind of people who, rather than suspecting this revenant gastarbeiter of incipient demagoguery, considered his idealism too naïve to merit their sympathy.
Meanwhile, stirring an espresso at a table behind the arches of the loggia, observing the spectacle, Kramberger, his books, and the crowd that never entirely dissipated until Kramberger packed up and took the count for a stroll down to the promenade via Garibaldijeva—so that he passed quite close to this observer and probably noticed his thick moustaches and perhaps even the innate menace that often kept even waitresses at bay—was a man named Mandrake Pizdamonavić—a pseudonym, naturally.
On a bench along the promenade Kramberger was joined by an admirer, a pensioner who had worked at the shipyard in Izola, who asked where he’d gotten his monkey. First Kramberger told the old guy that 99% of our genetic structure is identical to that of the monkey. Then he said, “I went to a pet shop in Bremen and this little fellow was the only monkey in the shop who took an immediate liking to me.” He watched the old man turn this over in his mind, imagining this extraordinary pet store in Bremen with its array of exotic animals, including monkeys. In Koper at the time you couldn’t even buy a tortoise. Finally he added, “Of course, he was the only monkey they had.” Ivan Kramberger was not without a sense of humor.