Text file version

Words in [ ] are those I could'nt find or was unsure how to translate.
My comments/questions are in { }.

1.

Man is created that he may learn wisdom.
Abraham Ibn Ezra

In vain!

In vain, the Las Vegas motels offered Mita Petrovic "beds of kings and queens." In vain the fatal brunette Linda Lu and the voluptuous blond Melinda May proposed that they come to his room "completely naked." In vain the statues at "Caesar's Palace" spoke, the volcanoes erupted in front of "Mirages," and the laser projected spirits shimmered at "Tropicana." Among the numerous songs of the Las Vegas sirens, Mita Petrovic went his own way like a deaf man.

What did Mita Petrovic look like?

Petrovic looked like a Latin American dictator. His glasses had tinted lenses and he drove a car with tinted windows. With his strenuous and constant smile, Mita eminded one of Groucho Marx. He explained to the workers at the "Flamingo Hilton" he explained how he once taught mathematics in Belgrade and encourages them to call him "professor."

All Americans were the same to Mita Petrovic; he didn't know Edgar Allen Poe from Al Capone. Nothing could escape this scorn. Mita felt that the city of Las Vegas, and America in general, tragically lacks the central organization principle which would be established by someone very wise; someone, he said, a lot like himself.

"Everyone wants to speak his mind. Everyone lives it up in his own way!" was the verdict of the emigrant who shouted the truth in the face of the most luminous city in the world.

2.

Meanwhile...

Meanwhile, in Belgrade, Mita's son Velimir was sharing an apartment with a girl with violet eyes by the name of Ksenija. Velimir and Ksenija lived on George Washington Street in a building that was shaken by the passing trams. In the evening their window was lit by a Japanese lantern as big as the moon. One December evening Ksenija tapped the lantern in a way so that the lights began to chase the shadows from the corners, making the whole room appear to sway.

"How do you like it in the swaying world?" cackled Ksenija.

My world sways even without that," answered Velimir.

Her violet eyes looked at him with sudden severity.

"Why?"

"Because the times we live in are swinging. And also because you scorn a man who is close to me--my father."

Ksenija frowned stubbornly and tapped the lantern again.

"Don't bother me with your father, the peasants, or with your stories about the peeeeople."

Ksenija pronounced "people" through her nose.

"My father has some good traits," Velimir interjected.

Ksenija looked at him as though for the first time.

"Such as?"

"A certain gentle warmth, good looks, physical strength..." Velimir stopped enumerating and asked peacefully, "Ksenija, why don't you try to act with a little love towards our people...maybe?

Ksenija looked at him with astonishment:

"How can one love livestock?"

"You're just anti-primitivist," Velimir said slowly. "But you don't know that the opposite of primitivism is snobbishness and that the two are equally cursed. If one is manifest in my eye, the other is manifest in yours.

Velimir plucked a hair from his beard. His chestnut eyes testing the exotic tone of his wife's.

Ksenija Mano-Zisi was a postmodern architect. She really loved her city. On the wall hung an enlarged photo of the Belgrade post office designed by the architect Momir Korunovic. The brick of the Fourth Flavian legion was like a paper weight, the stable center of Belgrade. She told Velimir that many kinds of bricks make up the foundations of the building, where the emperor [Jovian] was born. In Roman times, Ksenija informed her husband, Belgrade villas were heated with steam. Roman villas had gardens and altars and they were situated in places where today are Holy synods. Slaves who worked in these villas were buried in clay pots under today's Revolutionary Boulevard.

Velimir answered that in Nis, in a city where he was born, the obscure [Jovian] wasn't born but personally Constantine, the most significant ruler of the Roman Empire, the man who founded Constantinople and brought Christianity to the East and West.

As soon as Velimir mentioned Nis, Ksenija grimaced in nausea. In her picture of the world, Belgrade was a magical city hung by golden threads, attached to the center of the heavens. Ksenija believed that as soon as a person left Belgrade, peasants began to hunt him with boomerangs and that he would live in misery near some vampiric village, on which it wasn't worth wasting words. Ksenija loved to wander Belgrade for blocks with her drawings and "repair" facades, adding [erkere], cupolas, foreign columns and plaster ornamentations to them. She believed that Belgrade would need to conclude its long-term conversation with the most distinguished domestic and foreign sculptors in Europe: in parks, train stations, fountains and in niches of building facades.

Stroking his beard, Velimir examined his choices as if for the first time. Ksenija's father was the owner the hotel "Russian Czar." Her great-grandfather, Mr. Fornoski, was a Serbian consul in Bucharest and Guillaume Apollinaire described him in his famous novel "11000 Maces."

"There are some things," Velimir told her, "that you cannot understand because that is the way they are.

"For example?" Ksenija put her hands on her hips in a way that resembled her father.

"For example, that my father is human."

3.

You will depend less on the future if you are prepared to try harder today.
Seneca

Not even after ten years in the American omniscience of Las Vegas philosophy had Mita Petrovic begun to understand English.

"It's a very obstinate language," Mita lamented.

Inspired by Bergson's teachings, Mita relied on intuition. He took credit cards based on what he thought they meant because he wasn't able to read the directions for them. He was fascinated with precise and technical devices; he bought fax machines, cameras, binoculars and kept them unopened at his house. Since he knew little, the philosophe living in Las Vegas relied oh his cleverness and inexhaustible, almost operatic life energy. In Mita's life nothing was regular. [Retke zemljake on je grabio za rukav i molio da mu prevode po lasvegaskim institucijama. - He grabbed a rare countryman grabbed by the sleeve and asked him to translate at a Las Vegas institution.]

Mita, for example, was called by the police because his car was involved in a hit and run.

"It was not!" the philosophe shouted at the police station.

"It wasn't?" the investigator calmly asked. "The owner of the car that was hit wrote down your plate number. In the investigation we established that you car had been scratched.

The philosopher explained and explained and even shed tears at a appropriate times. We will spare you the boring disgraces of the ill-humored translation of his countryman, the investigator's nauseated face informing him that our hero, in spite of his feelings of superiority to other people, had in truth been "swindled." When he left the police station, Mita looked straight at the sun and grinned like Groucho Marx.

4.

Meanwhile...

Meanwhile in Belgrade, Velimir and Ksenija had concluded that all of their acquaintances knew they were at the condemned abortion clinic on Insurrection Street. In the case of Velimir and his beautiful wife, they were at the clinic to shorten the budding lives of twins.

"You know," Ksenija began and then bit her lip.

"Go on, speak..." {is this Velimir speaking?} She touched the palm of Velimir's hand to her cheek.

"You know, the twins which I aborted [ti blizanci koje sam abortirala]{am aborting?} sometimes come into my thoughts. They look at me, they look in a way that's sweet/golden, like Castor and Pollux.

Ksenija closed her eyes and from the corners of them two arrow-like streams issued.

"Please tell me, what kind of thing is that to think? What kind of thing is that to say?"

Velimir tapped her lightly between her eyebrows, [da bore ne bi unakazile njeno jasno celo - a wrinkle wouldn't disfigure her clear forehead]. Afterwards, he pressed Ksenija's head to his chest.

"Just imagine," he said, "if, as the mystics teach, ten worlds exist on a string like kabobs- one world more brilliant than the previous. In a world of ten brilliant worlds, I'd take the farthest...the highest in the world...to love you.

"My love..." Ksenija babbled. "Before I got to know you, I showered as if bathing a corpse.

"Wait while we try something." Velimir got up in a sudden fit of inspiration. He threw his newspapers from the copper kettle and filled it with lukewarm water. He removed Ksenija's socks and slippers and placed her feet in the warm water. Velimir dramatically pulled off his shirt and dried the his wife's feet with it. While he did this, he started to laugh and fell from a squatting position to a sitting position.

"Mita would--die... He'd immediately die if he saw me washing your feet," he roared with laughter.

"Ahhhh!" sighed Ksenija. "Do you feel like Christ now?"

"Oh no, no," Velimir answered with an evil smile. "I have completely different plans."

Velimir had learned from a movie that there was no more erotic way to get a woman in the mood than a foot massage.

"My love..." Ksenija repeated and kissed her husband like she wanted to nibble him to the bone.

The dropped to the bed which bordered on so many countries and spaces and dreams. They stayed in that bed until morning, connecting with inexhaustible whispers. The whole world that night became a swaying ocean. Velimir and Ksenija's room was the Noah's Ark of this swaying ocean. In Noah's Ark were two of the last people on earth.

5.

Originality begets originality!
Goethe

The Las Vegas philosopher Mita Petrovic was thrifty. He believed in pinching every penny and tried to eat only free food at the Flamingo Hilton where he worked. Las Vegas hotel dinners were the cheapest in America. For ten dollars at Maxim you could eat like you were at a Serbian wedding. The philosopher neither drank nor gambled, which was good, and he never went anywhere, knew nothing, and in general did not live in that city. In spite of that, he believed that the universe had chosen his path and that in the world's capital he'd received an excellent roll of the dice.

"I have a great sense of direction," he asserted with his Grouch Marx smile. "I was born with it!"

In spite of his sense of direction, Mita didn't know how to find anything in Las Vegas. He blamed that on the [saobracajne table - bus schedules].

"It's not in writing? Illiterates!" he shouted.

Mita grumbled at every intersection, hiding his confusion. Like all people who learn to drive late in life, he drove tense and upright. Experienced drivers said that he "bit the steering wheel." Mita had a high opinion of his own driving talents.

"No one talks about my driving but me! Me!" he said, raising his voice confidently.

In his driving, however, he [presecao] cut people off on the road. After this representation of the decadent West he shouted, "[Mater ti tvoju drogiranu! - Your mother's on drugs].

6.

Meanwhile...

"Where are the roots? What happened those roots?" Velimir began in Belgrade, attempting a serious conversation with Ksenija.

"Which roots?" snapped the violet-eyed woman. "Your father is a personality from an ethnological museum, your father is a character from la commedia dell'arte. You are of the kind which fell from Mars. Now what kind of roots are those?

"[Nikakvog dobra ni tebi], my Ksenija, he doesn't [doneti odnos - bring relations?] according to tradition [po kome] your own is not holy," Velimir said pathetically.

Ksenija became more beautiful as the day went on and in the evening she looked like a goddess. Instead of quarrelling, she took off her sweater, and then her purple shirt. Then she took off her brassiere. She let go of her skirt let it slip to the floor and after that her panties, pushing them down her thighs. She stood in the middle of the room, threw back her head and looked at Velimir with mock seriousness. He looked straight at her, regarding her beauty. Ksenija was as beautiful as the moon on the fourteenth night{is this idiomatic or did I miss a literary reference? - or is it month?}! [U svojoj lepoti bila je strasna kao vojska pod zastavama - Being in the presence of her beauty was like being under the standards of a great army!] Velimir's body grew weak and his heart reached out to her. Ksenija's naked body shined like a lamp. Velimir expected that that radiant body would begin to draw moths towards it. The woman thrilled him so much that Velimir began to stutter. Taking advantage of his stuttering, the nude beauty startled him by asking, "Do you want to present any interesting theories?"

"N-n-n-n-no," Velimir barely got out, stuttering.

"Good," Ksenija said, ignoring him. "Listen, your father's transition from the country to the city took longer than two centuries and he paid the price of modernization. Someone from my family-[ne boj se - don't worry]-paid that price five generations back. Your father, consequently, made an enormous civilizational step, but that didn't make him a pleasant individual. In fact, Mita Petrovic used communism, like a crutch, taking a shortcut from a preindustrial world to virtual reality. I say this considering that he now lives in the "neon fata morgana of Las Vegas." Thank God he doesn't live in Belgrade, because I don't dare [da pomislim za koga bi glasao - imagine who he'd vote for]. In your own love for him, you try to cover up illogical things with kindness. You're a dog on a short leash. That which you love is bound to something repulsive--that's your problem. I only ask that you don't drag me into it.

Her captivating nudity allowed Ksenija to finish this short lecture before her bewitched and helpless husband.

"Well, I love something repulsive," Velimir said, finally ending her power over him. "In attempting to list the repulsive things I love I won't exclude you. [Cincarko!]

Velimir Petrovic, for the first time in many years, though about his wedding. At his wedding Velimir's father, with his famous tactfulness, called him to his side. Then Mita Petrovic, squealing in his peasant voice, said to his son Velimir, "This woman has no luck."

After his father, Velimir's mentor approached him. His mentor shook his silvery mane and whispered to him, "This woman is first-class. God helped her...and God helps he who is with her.

The first disappointment of the first-class woman was that her husband didn't share her contempt for rural Serbia. In fact, Velimir confessed to her that, as a child, he loved to go to the country. In the summer he sat on an iron bed [iznesenom] in the yard with his grandfather. The voices of the crickets sewed the night and his grandfather told him how Marko Kraljevic was imprisoned for seven years in a tower in Istanbul, and how he screamed for three days to shake the whole tower because he heard that his wife remarried, and how the Sultan warned him that he would pound his bones into dust and fire them from a cannon, and how Marko answered , "either kill me or release me," and how...and how...

The peasants were more generous to the child than his relatives in the city. [Gospodstvo majcinih sestara u Subotici sam sto nije ugusilo Velimira - The power of his mother's sisters in Subotica was the only thing that didn't smother Velimir]. On the wall of the dining room hung a portrait of a decorated man, with a high collar and his [zulufima] combed towards his eyes. In this picture blew the smoke of a generation of smokers. The color of the portrait burst in such a way from the young man's face that it looked like he had chosen them. This mummified Subotica uncle had eyes like Siamese cat. These eyes shot over the table giving the child a signal [da ne jede kako treba - that he shouldn't be angry]. Everything between them was off limits. They shouted to everyone, "[Ju, ju]!" When Velimir started smoking at thirteen, this uncle was the only one not horror-stricken. But the [zabradjene] aunts in the country just giggled and said, "Smoke, son, while you are young."

"Only...a little humanity. A little graciousness..." Velimir requested of Ksenija, remembering those cheerful aunts of the country.

"Graciousness towards whom?" removing her hands from her naked [bahanatkinja] so that her breasts [uzbibale], but this had no effect on Velimir. "You noticed that the voices of the people in the city are clear, and those of the peasants invariably nasal. But do you know why they're nasal? It's because they are imitating cows and pigs. Your father and his similar monkeys came to this city and seized my grandfather's hotel . For fifty years anyone primitive and slobbery was persuaded that he was a demi-god. For fifty years they said over an over how everyone "learns from the people." I've had enough of this [seljakomanskog - peasant] terror. I have to learn from your father?! God forgive me." Ksenija rolled her purple eyes.

And you know what, I've been watching the accomplishments of the peasant participants of the uprising in these new Balkan wars for ten years and I think about them like Martin Luther: 'They should be persecuted and slaughtered, peasant dogs, until not one of them is alive.'"

"You're a monster," mouthed Velimir, taken aback.

"Let me be a monster," exclaimed Ksenija, her eyes burning.

Velimir's eyes were as clear as water swimming with trout. He tried to put out the fire in Ksenija's eyes.

"But with what positive merits?" he asked and for the first time since they were married it seemed to him that no brilliant radiance emanated from Ksenija and that around her body, nevertheless, moths did not gather.

"You will, obviously, have to choose between positive merits and your love for me," the naked witch answered and stuck out her perfect hip.

It was just after midnight. The leader, frozen from solitude in a study of the peak of the "Belgradess," exclaimed, "Good morning, dear listeners, and welcome to the fifteenth of February.

7.

The appearance of bread depends on whether or not one is hungry.
Rumi

Taking into consideration Mita Petrovic did not restrain its assembly, it was difficult to reconstruct details of his life. It appears that as a retiree-widower in Belgrade, Mita married a woman who lived in America. She brought him to Las Vegas and the next year kicked him out of her house and kept everything they'd aquired together. The deceived [tulio] sadly, "No one ever gave me anything in my life, they only try to take things away."

Mita, who didn't know English, stayed in Las Vegas. In the scented desert night he drove through the [prizemne - ground?] quarter of the outskirts of Las Vegas.