Kramberger with Monkey, Ch. 10 (Mandrake Pizdamonavić, assassin extraordinaire?)

Chapter Ten

The Travels of Mandrake

 

Since he maneuvered his way into this book in such a way that the trained eye could hardly miss him, it might be of some interest if we follow Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s movements over the years preceding and following the one in question, 1992. But first let it be noted that Mandrake is a corruption of the Greek Mandraki, and Pizdamonavić of the Bulgarian Pesdamulov. Mandrake Pizdamonović was that rare creature, the Greco-Bulgar. Some of his movements and suspected activities make a great deal more sense in this light. Where there is a degree of uncertainty we have omitted mention of the assassination. But if we can place Mandrake Pizdamonavić in the vicinity on the day of an assassination we include it on our list. The temporal cut-off points are only arbitrary to the degree that they stray from June of 1992, when Kramberger was shot and it has been established beyond doubt that two days prior to the killing, Pizdamonavić landed at Brnik airport, spent that night in Ljubljana, the next in Maribor, and on the day of the shooting, late in the afternoon, crossed the Austrian border and stayed in a hotel in Vienna before dipping under the radar of documentable vigilance. So we begin in 1986, though we could easily have gone back a few years or started with the veritable spree of 1988. Please keep in mind that Mandrake Pizdamonavić is a warm weather suspected assassin. If the event occurred in the winter months—see Chico Mendes–indeed in late fall or early spring, then it happened near the equator.

In 1986, Olof Palme,

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the Swedish Prime Minister, was shot twice in the stomach while walking down the street with his wife, who was shot once in the back and survived to identify a patsy who was convicted but later acquitted on appeal. The killing took place on February 28 in Stockholm. Profiles of Pizdamonavić, who was without question in Stockholm on that day, as well as the next, in Oslo the week before, and soon on his island home in the Aegean, suggest that it was the horrible weather and light conditions of this experience, or let us in the interests of fairness say this ‘visit’, that led to his refusal to operate in cold weather conditions. Palme’s loud and confrontational expressionism on the international stage would have naturally provided many enemies, so it is not worth the time to speculate as to who would have hired an assassin.

No assassinations in 1987 can be linked to the presence of Mandrake Pizdamonavić, but 1988 was a fecund year. Mandrake arrived in Paris in mid-March and spent at least two months there. Interestingly, Dulcie September

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of the ANC, who was shot five times by a pistol with a silencer on March 31, was without question ordered dead by the South African government, which was a constant target of Olaf Palme’s recriminations. Sometime in June, Pizdamonavić returned to Greece, where William Nordeen

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of the United States was blown up on June 28 while driving outside Athens, ostensibly by the revolutionary 17 November group. Military attaché to the American Embassy, Nordeen was said to have been killed to exert pressure on the U.S. to remove its military presence from Greece. Given Mandrake’s Greek bloodlines and the fact that he makes his home in Greece, one can make the connection that he was somehow involved. However, as he lived in Greece, he would be implicated in any assassination in Greece, wouldn’t he? No clear evidence is helpful. He arrived in Piraeus by ferry on June 25 and left by ferry on July 3. One message uncovered during the investigation questioned the reason for moving up the date of the assassination, so it is interesting that by July 5 Pizdamonavić was in Brazzaville, Congo. Yes, that Brazzaville. No one has ever been able to pin down the date of the assassination of Pierre Anga,

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rebel captain, and rumors that President Sassou-Nguesso personally cut off his penis and stuffed it in Anga’s dead mouth remain rumors. Not even the precise day of death can be determined. We know that Anga was on the run and was caught by someone and killed by someone. We know that Mandrake Pizdamonavić was in Brazzaville, for a while appeared not to have been, and certainly was when he flew out on July 27. In December, Pizdamonavić was in Rio de Janeiro. In December/January, he celebrated the new year in Sao Paulo. On December 22, Chico Mendes

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was killed. The obvious ranchers were rounded up and a couple were convicted and sentenced, but unreliable witnesses—that is, disgruntled employees of the rainforest-eating giant corporation Cargill, which habitually disgruntles employees—have claimed that even back then Cargill, the rainforest-eating giant corporation, had its eyes on Amazonian profits that could only accrue in a sort of correlation to the recession of the Amazon forests.

Organizer, assassin, or both? That’s one of the unanswered questions about Mandrake Pizdamonavić. Though he can be connected to no assassinations in 1989, he spent several weeks that year in Tehran and was in Berne, Switzerland, by April 19, 1990, and Geneva by April 23, the day before prominent anti-clerical Iranian dissident Kazem Rajavi

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was gunned down—machine gunned down—by two men in Coppet, a suburb of Geneva where Rajavi lived. Witnesses described the killers in such a way as to rule out Pizdamonavić’s direct involvement. In all fairness it must be noted that Pizdamonavić flew to Zurich directly from Washington, D.C., and the death of Rajavi has been used as an anti-Iranian government propaganda tool by the ruling cabal in the United States.

Champions of privatization such as the American business government would have approved of the next coincidence here taken note of, the death of Detlev Rohwedder

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in Dusseldorf, picked off by a sniper while under heavy guard, standing unconcerned near a window at his house on April 1, 1991. Rohwedder was in charge of the privatization of East Germany, so to speak, and many thought he was not only dragging his feet, but positively entrenching them in an attempt to obstruct the process in order to eventually implement some kind of passé worker controlled environment in factories and such. While if any of the suspicions regarding Mandrake Pizdamonavić is actually true a visit to the city that was home to the famous Dusseldorf killer, Peter Kuerten,

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would not be unthinkable, the timing and duration of the visit make one curious. March 31 arrival, April 2 departure. And one could suppose that a visit to Chicago, the city associated with Al Capone all over the world, might also be in order. Sure enough, Pizdamonavić was there on May 21st, when Ioan Culianu,

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a professor at the University of Chicago was knifed to death in a bathroom in a campus building. An authority on mysticism, magic, Gnostics, and an altogether mysterious mind and man, his death has been blamed on the Romanian secret service, the theory being that he was critical of the economic policies (privatization again) of the new, post Ceausescu, regime. Speculation involving Mandrake Pizdamonavić begins with his chosen pseudonym and suggest a personal motive, as does the intimate nature of the assassination. Oddly, that same night, a Mexican poet who called himself by the Aztec moniker Zenzontli,

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and his bizarre work ‘anti-regime’ and pulled such wild stunts as imitating a crow for an entire three minute rendition of a poem, cawing out Shaft! over and over, was found hanging in his hotel room in the Loop that same night, time of death some hours later than Culianu’s, name of hotel Blackburne, which is where Mandrake Pizdamonavić happened to be registered at the time. In July, Pizdamonivić was all over the Low Countries, and was missing from Brussels on the day that Andre Cools,

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minister of the Walloons and member of the socialist party that was implicated in a scandal involving an Italian helicopter manufacturer, was killed, July 18. On July 20th, he was in Paris, where there is reason to believe he stayed, more or less, until August 9th, when he flew to Milan. On August 7th, Shapour Bakhtiar,

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former Prime Minister of Iran (Iran again) and leader of Iranian exiles, was murdered at his house in a Paris suburb, allegedly with the complicity of the French secret service. And of course we know that soon after the plane landed in Milano Pizdamonavić was drinking coffee on the Slovene coast, keeping his eye on Kramberger. Breaking ranks with time to follow up on a connection, if there is one kind of person the French secret service would want dead it would be an Algerian, and in 1995 just such a creature, Abdelbaki Sahraoui

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was killed in Paris during one of Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s many stays there—on July 11. The assassination was claimed by an Islamic Militant Group supposedly, in what journalists covering the event, including Todd Fullmer, consider a forged letter so poorly concocted as to all but eliminate the French secret service even though such a combination of assassination and misattribution would be right up their rue.

Moving back now, in 1994 (nothing terribly suspicious in 1993), the Georgian politician Giorgi Chanturia

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was gunned down by a lot of people while he was in his car. It happened in December, and it is doubtful that Mandrake Pizdamonavić was there, but, strangely, irrefutable proofs have him in Tbilisi from May that year at least until early September. Otherwise, in this case, big fucking deal.

Finally—well, not finally, but to round off this summary and suggest a future for Mr. Pizdamonavić–in 1996 he was in Sofia on October second when Andrey Lukanov,

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former prime minister, reformer, in bed with several major western business interests, etc., was killed in an assassination on the street much reminiscent of the murder of Olof Palme. Pizdamonavić was in Sofia even more often than he was in Paris, so coincidence is a slippery word, but then again, after 1996 he was often in Sofia and two dozen assassinations in Bulgaria, mostly in Sofia, over the next decade suggest that not all of Mandrake Pizdamonavić’s bullets were spent in Beograd during that time.

Kramberger with Monkey, Chapters 6-9 (while I search for photos to go with Chapter 10)

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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.

Chapter Six

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.

Chapter Seven

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.’

Chapter Eight

Omniscient Disclaimer

 

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.

Chapter Nine

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.

Kramberber with Monkey, Chapters 4 and 5

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Chapter Four

Todd’s Posthumous Cigar

 

It would be the easiest thing in the world to dismiss Todd Fullmer. For one thing, he’s dead. For another, he was not a great writer, never wrote a book, and was beset by a particularly tawdry obsession. In addition, he was often wrong. Though throughout his career he tried to offset his passion for assassination with attention to detail and absolute adherence to absolute facts absolutely known to have been facts, he often was required by his own momentum to forge ahead without any facts at all. In fact, we can see from his one chapter in this book that he considered his own burden of proof to be less weighty than that of the law, and—here’s where the hubris swells its chest—therefore made him more adept at getting at the truth of matters assassinatory. But Todd Fullmer was honest in his way, and probably knew more about assassinations one way or another than anyone in the world. Plus he actually wrote a few pieces worthy of reprinting. The following may well have been his best:

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In the Gaza Strip today, the Israelis assassinated another terrorist, as they call them, someone they tell us was a member of Hamas. I’m not going to give his name, because his name isn’t what strikes me as important. They got him with a missile, in a car, in a car with three other people. Those four died as well as three bystanders. The fact that one bystander was a nine year old girl doesn’t much affect me, because the others were innocent as well. Perhaps even the terrorist was innocent, and his three cohorts. My regular readers will recognize that my fascination with assassinations is of an intensity that renders me apolitical. If it weren’t for assassinations, I would be either without passion or have a passion for something else, probably something morbid. But I like assassinations too much to claim to be outraged at their occurrences. Yet even with assassinations a morality prevails. A target should be chosen and executed and that should be that. A degree of collateral damage is acceptable because no assassination can be perfectly controlled, at least not that of a well-protected high level figure. Jackie Kennedy may well have gotten in the way of a bullet, but she didn’t. She didn’t because as assassinations go, that one was done within the moral confines of assassination. High-powered accurate rifles were used, and all of them were pointed at John F. Kennedy. Surely a mistake could have been made and someone else could have been killed. Someone, as we all know, was badly injured. Jackie could have cracked her skull leaping to safety from the vehicle. Had that happened I would still consider that assassination a moral assassination. Another aspect of assassination morality is that the assassin must undertake a measure of risk. Whoever shot from the grassy knoll risked being spotted by a gutsy bystander or two and wrestled to the ground and apprehended. But the Israelis took no personal chances, and gave no thought to innocent bystanders other than tacitly determining that some of them would die. Yes, plane crash assassinations also premeditate the death of innocent people. The difference is that they are not a matter of state policy. They are rogue acts, and when carried out by states they are rogue state policies. The Israeli assassinations are mainstream state policy. In the Gaza Strip, the victim of the assassination deserves to be named; but here in our publication we refuse to dignify this assassination with a single victim. In fact, I ultimately refuse to call these murders sanctioned by the state of Israel assassinations. Only out of convenience, only to place them out of context of legitimate assassinations do I even discuss them as such. In the Gaza Strip today a missile fired by the Israelis killed seven people. Next week a bomb will go off at a cafeteria in Tel Aviv, but no one in the Gaza Strip will call it an assassination. And I am not an expert in suicide bombings. When it happens, I will remain silent. When the Israelis respond by assassinating a target by missile and killing several more innocent people, I will not repeat this article; instead, I will write a short note: The Israelis assassinated no one today.

 

Being a reporter and not an historian of grand synthetic qualities, Todd Fullmer simply wrote a sort of lamentation. He did not, as we would have, trace the sad decline in assassination techniques from the purely specific, 99% accurate, poison tipped Bulgarian umbrella to the Predator Drone. But that idea is nestled in between his lines, and our hats are off to Mr. Fullmer. As they said about Fidel Castro, give the man a cigar.

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Chapter Five

Trotsky is Notsky

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Nothing drives a man like the combination of failure and the failure to come to terms with it. There is absolutely no doubt that if Todd Fullmer had lived he would have gotten to the bottom of the Kramberger business. Or at least one of the bottoms. Since we have already mentioned sinkholes, we will say that an assassination is like a karst landscape and the truth is a subterranean labyrinth—the absolute truth is the fresh rainwater that gets lost down in the vast limestone darkness, but there are all these sinkholes that dogged investigators who refuse to accept the official line end up finding whole puddles of trapped truth turning to stink therewithin. Had Todd lived, we would be looking over the fields and seeing the top of his head just clearing the lip of a sinkhole of a story much nearer the truth than the government version.

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What gave Todd his extra drive, what allowed him to pursue the most difficult stories to the deprivation of many of his humane needs—to give a mundane yet resonant example, he once spent three months in a hunting lodge far outside Tomsk without a toothbrush—was his lifelong failure to come to terms with the assassination of Trotsky. To lapse briefly into his lingo, one of the greatest assassinations of all time, one that everybody knows about even if the ice pick is often confused with an axe or vice versa, and especially remarkable to Todd in that it took so long to carry out after the initial order was given—at least thirteen years. The problem was that he just could not figure out what to say about it. His head was alive with ideas, but they were vague ones, little puffs of sarin as opposed to gleaming bullets. The problem was not that everyone knew who carried it out and who ordered it and in a confounding, that little Stalin in all of us sort of way, why; no the problem was something else, and that something else was like what would have happened if Kennedy hadn’t been shot, a meaningless unknown that nonetheless rapaciously drives all else from the mind. It is probably safe to say that if there weren’t so many assassinations to go around during Todd Fullmer’s career he would have wound up on a Manhattan street corner, the same one always, repeating ad infinitum in a semi-distracted, semi-determined manner, ‘Trotsky is notsky, Trotsky is notsky, Trotsky is notsky…

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Kramberger with Monkey, Chapters II and III

 

Chapter Two

The Third Man

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Well, that guy was quickly eliminated, which puts us square in the third person, where we hope for a degree of safety in numbers. He may not have been of much use anyway. His name was Todd Fullmer, and he was a tabloid reporter for an American weekly, called, with admirable something or other, Political Sleeze. He was their assassination correspondent, perhaps the only one of his kind anywhere in the world. He rented an Opel, perhaps the most popular rental car of our time, drove from Ljubljana to Maribor, and then going about 90 kph on a straightaway near Negova the steering went out abruptly and the straightaway curved and he drove, with his learner’s permit—no, with his empty notebook—in his briefcase, head on into a large tree. He was killed instantly, or, if not, after great suffering.

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But what about that empty notebook? This was to be his second visit to Kramberger’s birth and then death place(s). Why would he have brought an empty notebook? He had interviewed dozens of people on his first visit, always with a notebook open, always jotting things down, even though he always had a tape recorder going, a tape recorder he apparently didn’t think to bring along this time, for no tape recorder was found at the scene of the accident. Remarkable negligence in an experienced reporter, wouldn’t you say?

Experts on such matters suggest that though it is easy to doctor, so to speak, an automobile so that it might malfunction at a high speed, there are far better ways to ensure that an accident will occur to deadly effect. What if, say, the steering went out as Fullmer was coming to a stop sign? He might veer off the road into a field and come to a gentle, rolling stop, might he not? One answer to that is that, well, if the accident doesn’t kill him, maybe it could serve as a warning. With such ambiguity of intent it is difficult to call his death an assassination. Then again, it is certainly not fair to call it a warning gone awry. The perpetrator(s) had to have known that his death was a good enough possibility.

Whatever. Todd Fullmer died before he could finish his investigation into the circumstances of Ivan Kramberger’s death, before he could publish his article, which would have been quite a coup in that it would have lumped Slovenia in amongst those countries that solved political inconveniences with assassination, especially that small group of European countries that emerged as new nations or makeovers of nations after, to accept one dividing line, the fall or knocking down of the Berlin Wall.

The emphasis here should be on the cleanliness of Slovenia, which declared independence, had a clean little war, turned out to be a clean little country, about fifty percent forested, with clean highways, and clean living, striving folk, who were not maniacs like their southern neighbors and ex-partners, nor fascists like their northern neighbors. Slovenia didn’t even have a ‘Gypsy problem’.

Todd Fullmer’s death kept Slovenia clean.

Chapter Three

Literature and Conspiracy in Slovenia

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If the terrain of modern literature were three dimensional, we would drive around it even if it took an extra day. The landscape is littered with above-average unpublished American writers and lesser American writers who are published; these are the side of the road equivalent of plastic bags. There are, of course the occasional great figures, like Antonio Lobo Antunes, standing alone like a cypress; but the wind carries these bags all over the place and the cypress gets spoiled with all these anti-ornaments. We could go on and on with this metaphor—maybe Beckett would be a horny toad blending into the desert and Joyce would be a fantastic, giant pink buttocks, etc.—but I’ll stop at the sinkholes, the virtually unknown great writers, who are not only invisible from the road, but even when you are standing at the very lip of their weedy descent. The bones of Vitomil Zupan are buried in a sinkhole somewhere. Even though his Minuet for Guitar is one of the greatest war novels ever written he is unknown outside of Slovenia. As tragedies go, this kind is very difficult to gauge. Recognition lacks protein and has no affect whatsoever on longevity vis a vis actual life span. Vitomil himself understood this; here is a quotation from Minuet for Guitar: ‘What did Leibniz gain in his last hour from his innocent faith in the orderliness of this world? At any rate my cat is happier than him.’ Perhaps later we will have the opportunity to discuss Zupan’s theory of revolutions. For now it is enough to say that his extraordinary novel’s action comes to an end with the accidental death of the narrator’s comrade in arms, Anton. Celebrating the end of the war, a partisan pounded his Italian automatic on the floor and its magazine spent itself, sending a volley up through the ceiling to where Anton stood waiting to receive his absurd death.

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No study of the modern Slovene novel is complete without some mention of Ciril Kosmać’s A Day in Spring in which the somber tale of a Czech soldier in the same war in the same general region is killed almost identically, though by an English Sten gun, which Kosmać tells us was notorious for going off accidentally. 30 bullets to the head, end of novel.

What are we to make of this coincidence? Maybe nothing. Or maybe we will end this novel with an accidental death by gunfire. But as the prevailing topic is assassination it is incumbent upon us to consider that aspect of the conspiracy known as the cover story. Now in a small, highly literate country such as Slovenia, where the two greatest novels of recent history end with accidental death by gunfire—and neither novel is surreal or absurdist—one cannot help but think that a darn good anodyne for the body politic that loses a politician to assassination would be the cover story best abbreviated ‘Woops’.

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Chapter One

Monkey Business

 

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Where the hell was the monkey when Kramberger was assassinated? There’s the story I really wanted. But nobody knew. Nobody. The man was famous for traveling the country with his jalopy and his books and giving speeches with a monkey on his shoulder. And when he was assassinated the monkey was nowhere to be seen. When Kramberger was killed by a small bore bullet from a distance too great to make sense given all the details of the story, hence we conclude conspiracy, the monkey was absent. What, did he call in sick that day? Conspiracies are one thing, but it’s difficult to approach one from the point of view that a monkey was somehow involved, that maybe the victim’s own monkey was complicit, that at the very least the monkey ‘let it happen’. And so, not given to allowing a preponderance of the absurd in such investigations—let’s say a Latin American ruler spouting off against American interests is handed a tape recorder just before boarding a flight that subsequently blows up, killing all on board: we, not being an actual court of law and thus having less stringent burdens of proof and therefore more effectively arrive at the truth, conclude he was handed a bomb–in fact basing much of our conclusions on the refusal to give the absurd more than its due, we are forced to accept a degree of chance, or, if you like, coincidence. And that puts us flat on the continuum that leads all the way to the official version that a drunken hunter got off a freak shot that just happened to puncture Kramberger’s chest with the precision of a sniper shot rather than zinging off a railing somewhere or chipping a wooden roof slat. It therefore seems incumbent upon me to investigate the circumstances of the missing monkey. Maybe I will only eliminate a possibility; maybe the monkey was up in Graz undergoing dialysis.

Kramberger with Monkey

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Within a year of moving to Slovenia, I heard this wild tale about a populist politician who drove around in a Bugatti he built himself, sold books he wrote, and spoke to large crowds with a monkey on his shoulder, and that he was assassinated before the first national election in 1992. His name was Ivan Kramberger, a gasterbeiter made good, having gone to Germany and made a fortune with a patent involving dialysis machines. So upon independence he returned. Great stories abound, but it was the monkey that sealed it. I found an old notebook not long ago with the title Demagogue with Monkey. That was how I first conceived the novel. But I didn’t start until some years later, maybe 2008. I remember I had a couple chapters written when I went one spring night to the balcony and I thought of something for the book and started laughing. I dashed into the next room, where my computer was and typed a quick chapter. That was to be the process for the first half of the book, about a month’s worth, before travel interrupted the process. It was the first novel I wrote directly on computer.

The book a turned into a dark comedy of Balkan, mostly, assassination. A journalist for a sleazy magazine is sent to Europe to write about the assassinations in Minsk. His specialty is assassinations, so he naturally has connections in Beograd and Sofia. He takes the opportunity to stop and visit old pals and informants, even to finally see Sarajevo, the world capitol of assassination, though by the numbers it would be Sofia or Beograd, or by now Moscow or Minsk. But he doesn’t want to go to Minsk. So when an informant in Beograd happens to mention Kramberger’s assassination, he is thrilled–Slovenia has one! He will go to Slovenia (this leads to trouble with his editor who at one point threatens that if this shit keeps up he’ll find himself working for the New York Times!).

The book is told in first, second, and third person, for the narrators are continually getting picked off. But the book does finish, apelike, as it should

The book has been published in Slovene, but has not been available to Englisih readers who did not ask to see the manuscript. That ends now. I will post the book in order, a few chapters here and there. Maybe two or three people will be interested.

Kramberger was born in Negova, Slovenia, and killed by ‘a drunken hunter’ in Jurovski dol, a small village:

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Here is the road to Jurovski dol, in an image that is similar to what I see at the Slovene end of the book:

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In How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler stressed the importance of reviewing the table of contents and letting the mind ask questions, become curious, all for the sake of better comprehension and retention. So I will begin thusly:

Kramberger with Monkey

or

Still Life

By Rick Harsch

Contents

  1. Monkey Business
  2. The Third Man
  3. Literature and Conspiracy in Slovenia
  4. Todd’s Posthumous Cigar
  5. Trotsky is Notsky
  6. The Second Man
  7. Here We are Alone Again…it’s all so Sad, so Slow…
  8. Omniscient Disclaimer
  9. Man Meets Monkey
  10. The Travels of Mandrake
  11. The First Man, So to Speak
  12. Skip Obscure
  13. Mack Beltch
  14. Al Zawahiri Doesn’t Eat Here Anymore
  15. Some Really Secret Monkey Business
  16. Slovenia’s Got One!
  17. The Consequences of Passing up Minsk
  18. Yushchenko’s Face
  19. Birdy Num Num
  20. A Math Title
  21. Anonymous Note: Does This Answer Your Question, Todd?
  22. Chimp Attack Kills Cabbie and Injures Tourists
  23. No, Fuck You
  24. We’re Going to Go with Bugatti
  25. Fullmer Files Fluff
  26. When is Fidel Going to Move out and Get an Apartment of his Own?
  27. Was Constantine a Serb?
  28. Sokollu, Sokollee, Sokollahahahahahaaaaaaaa
  29. A Bone for Numerologists
  30. Smaller Coffins
  31. A Fracas
  32. Green Dragons and Fox Hunts
  1. Did Kramberger Kramp your Style?
  2. Nobody Likes a Master Stylist
  3. He Never Writes, He Never Calls
  4. Wow! What a Fucking Assassination
  5. The Smoking Cigar
  6. Gone Apeshit
  7. Somewhere Valvasorry
  8. Captive Learners
  9. Indaba: Simian Song
  10. Fuck the Polish Swimmer
  11. Bidding is, After All, Bidding
  12. Life Goes On

      Epilogue: Warning?