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Колкото до Шотландеца
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978-954-529-747-2
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Pages
212
Published
01 February 2010

As for Highlander

In this novel Rositsa Tasheva remains loyal to her attachment to the subtle smile, to the irony and when necessary – the open sarcasm. The main character of this novel is a charming loser who has strange conceptions about life and living. He always has various plans but never accomplishes them. Everybody calls him Highlander. Highlander is the nickname of a painter who stopped painting 20 years ago. Apart from not painting, he manages to carry out several other things in his life: he gets married, he seeks a suitable job, he dreams of words, he haunts his favourite pubs and tries to sell a painting. Otherwise he needs nothing, but money and love.

Benny, the journalist, who is also a linguist and Bulgarophobe, Sonya, the pharmacologist, who also paints on silken scarves, Stephen the Social and his prehistoric car, Dr. Pesheva and her stingy husband all march along with the Highlander through the book’s pages. There is also an academic, a professor, a flying cat, a sailing dog, a teenage girl and a student as well as prime-ministers, members of parliament, politicians, cops and all kinds of fauna to complete the picture of present-day Bulgaria. This mixture is described with the inherent for the author elegant sense of humour, well known by the reading public from her first two books and highly appreciated by all, whom cherish a hearty laugh.

About the Author
Rositsa  Tasheva

The Bulgarian writer Rositsa Tasheva has three books to her credit and they have already established her as one of the most talented humorists in the country. She was born in Sofia, where she graduated from an English Language High School and then – from the French Philology Department at Sofia University. She has been on the staff of the “Sofia Press” Agency, the French Embassy in Sofia and the Bulgarian Embassy in Paris. Presently she is working as an editor at the Colibri publishing house.

After her experience in Paris she wrote the book “Of Diplomats and Men” (1998) in which the life of Bulgarian diplomats during the first years of democracy is described with a subtle sense of humour. Actually diplomats from many countries have recognized their mirror-images in it. Her next book – “Domestic Apocalypse” (2000) – is a story about the everyday life of a typical and also untypical, but definitely weird family. The book enjoyed enormous success and raised many sincere laughs from readers who have shared the same silly scenes and situations of domestic apocalypse. The novel “As for the Highlander” (2010) describes with a smile and sympathy one year in the life of a painter suffering from a lifelong crisis – looser with a heart of gold and a knack for easy living.

Rositsa Tasheva is one of the best Bulgarian translators from the French. More than 50 books of Balzac, Maupassant, Flaubert, Céline, Albert Cohen, San Antonio, Jean Jeunet, Kundera, Cioran and many others have appeared under her translating pen. She has been given The Prize of the Union of Translators in Bulgaria three times – in 1985, 1996 and 2006.

Excerpt

Part One
IN WHICH WE BEGIN

1. SCOTTIE AND SOME OF THE OTHERS
They called him Scottie, because his grandfather came from Gabrovo, a town widely known for its historical links with Aberdeen. Scottie’s grandfather had been born in Gabrovo but had lived all his life in Knyazhevo. From the moment he arrived there he had tried to dispel all unwanted attempts to call him Gabbi, but was perfectly willing to be adopted, without the slightest hesitation or spiritual torment, into the noble clan of Sean Connery, whom no one had ever heard of at that time. That’s all that is known about the grandfather who passed the name down to his son and from there to his grandson.
*   *   *
Scottie was an artist somewhere in his forties. He had long hair and was well known for his legendary generosity. Despite this he liked his nickname, as much as he liked himself. Scottie liked to say that whenever he looked at himself in the mirror in the mornings, it pleased him to see how handsome he was. He used to say it years before Andrei Konchalovski unwittingly and involuntarily copied the words in the first line of his autobiography.
Scottie let his hair grow long after his national service in the army, declaring he would only cut it when democracy came to Bulgaria. By saying this, he unwittingly and involuntarily joined the ranks of Fidel Castro and his beard, whose revolutionary biography (Fidel’s revolutionary biography) he had omitted to read. When democracy finally came to Bulgaria, Scottie refused to acknowledge it and made a second declaration that it wasn't democracy and that he would wait for the real one before cutting his hair.

Scottie lived in Lozenets, where his parents, may they rest in peace, had bought an apartment, and he rented out his grandfathers' house in Knyazhevo to tenants which provide him with drinking money. The apartment in Lozenets was bought years ago, when Lozenets didn’t resemble modern-day Lozenets. Scottie lived on "Krasto Sarafov St.", once known as "Oak Street” at a time when on the other side of it there was a water melon plantation and a cherry orchard. Scottie couldn’t remember these times, however the fact remained: there once used to be a water melon plantation and a cherry orchard. The water melon plantation had once belonged to Scottie's grandfather and no one knew why someone from Knyazhevo had bought a plantation in Lozenets. But this was not particularly important, since when communism came, his land was confiscated to make way for apartment blocks. The cherry orchard belonged to a Russian woman, whom the local children remembered as the very embodiment of capitalist evil.
The house in Knyazhevo had two stories and before renting it out, Scottie liked to hide the odd bottle behind the plant pots on the spiral staircase and used to surprise himself when he found a bottle just at the moment when he needed a drink. You could say that he spent his entire life in a state of constant surprise. That, however, was a relatively short period in his life.
Scottie was one of those artists who had given up painting long ago. The walls of his apartment in Lozenets were adorned with paintings from his last, post-modern period, which has expired at least twenty years ago. Apart from not painting, there were other things that Scottie did in his life.
1. He got married. He liked to get married.
2. He looked for work. There’s not much that can be said about this, but what there is to be said, will be said later.
3. He had very interesting dreams. He often dreamed of words. One morning he woke up with the words "structural configuration" echoing through his head, and spent a long time wondering what the configuration was and where was his structure. He once dreamed of Todor Zhivkov getting out of his shiny Mercedes and entering his favourite (Scottie’s favourite) bar in Knyazhevo, and devouring five portions of tripe soup and a plate of tomatoes and rice. Everyone in the bar had watched him in total amazement, while Scottie said to himself: “Hasn’t he eaten since 1989?”
4. He went to his favourite bar in Knyazhevo on the day when he collected the rent. He visited his other favourite bars on the other days of the month.

The bar in Knyazhevo was run by a man called Sotir, who was famous for his kind heart that ofen moved him to give drinks for free. Instead of money he would accept all manner of objects, so gradually his bar had come to resemble a pawn shop. Underneath the bar itself, he had a pile of four of five woollen scarves, a dozen or so disposable lighters, a couple of long dried-out Parker pens, briefcases, a silver cigarette case, a camera and a kilogram of cheese in a plastic bag, not to mention a pile of passports. To be fair, the cheese which a generous client had exchanged for a fifty gram glass of brandy only spent a night underneath the bar. Until Sotir sold it on to his clients in the form of bar snacks.
There were five tables inside the bar, and outside on the pavement there was a "Stop" sign, which one night mysteriously disappeared. It was there and then it was gone, as if it had never existed. There wasn’t even a hole left in the pavement. The next morning the sign appeared lying horizontal in front of the bar, just at a convenient height to rest your feet on. No one expressed any surprise, despite the assumption that it couldn't have happened by itself. It was the disappearance of the hole that was most surprising.
Sotir’s bar was famous for the unforgettable drunken wake after the death of Stoyu Firewood, the tartar of the Knyazhevo drunkards. Every year by the grace of God, in late autumn, Stoyu would come into the bar and declare in a loud voice: "I’m going to buy firewood”. He would declare it as if to emphasise that the money in his pocket was indeed for firewood, and not for drinking. And because he said it at least three times every autumn, his fellow drinkers had learnt the phrase off-by-heart and gave him the nickname, Stoyu Firewood. The locals unanimously considered him if not their tartar, then as first amongst equals, since he managed to drink the firewood money in one session.
A few months prior to the time in which the present action is set, Stoyu, as he was sitting there getting drunk, slumped over the table. Since this wasn’t the first time it had happened to him, his companion sitting opposite him, and slightly less drunk, said out loud: “I’ll just take his cigarettes, he doesn’t need them while he’s asleep”, and when he had firmly established that Stoyu was truly deserving of his nickname, i.e. that he was as stiff as firewood, came to the logical conclusion: “He's got absolutely no need for them”. Then they called for the ambulance and did what they could for him. His funeral was held two days later, and afterwards they gathered in the bar, where they drank and sang so heartily that his fame is still ringing through the surrounding hills.
No one in Sotir’s bar was shocked by the fact that someone had taken Stoyu’s cigarettes; they liked to take a thing or two from each other. It was a tradition. When he served their drinks, Sotir would always warn them: “Watch your drinks.” And he was quite right to do so, since there was always someone who didn’t have any money just waiting for the man next to him to be distracted by something, and drink his pastis.
Sotir was famous for his phenomenal ignorance. He was convinced that on the 6th September, in some year or other, Knyazhevo was united with Eastern Romania. Perhaps his very incorrect opinion was due not so much to his ignorance but to his just as famous local Knyazhevo patriotism. For Sotir, Knyazhevo was not just the centre of Sofia, but the metropolis of the entire western hemisphere. (Sotir was convinced that he lived in the western hemisphere).
We now arrive at the fifth thing that Scottie did.

5. Occasionally he would look for clients to sell his paintings to. During these periods, which if we are to be honest never lasted very long, he told everyone he met that he was very busy selling his paintings, because that's how he made his living after all. Which was a complete lie with a pretty ragged tail – Scottie lived off his Knyazhevo rent. When he ran out of money, he sold something, but not one of his paintings.
*   *   *
We shall now leave Scottie for a while, and cross over to the other side of Tsar Boris' park, to a district which recently changed its indecent name of “Lenin” for “Yavorov”, to meet some of the other heroes of our story.
We could in fact have begun our story thus: After a long and tedious winter, during which people wandered nervously around their heated apartments, occasionally exclaiming: “Won’t this winter ever end?”, while others heavily dressed in their apartments with central heating switched off whispered: “Won’t this winter ever end?", the temperatures suddenly rose and blossom appeared on the trees, and birds started chirruping in the branches.
According to Sofia the pharmacist, whom people called Sonya for short, one of these birds was a nightingale. Only a nightingale in love could sing like that all night long, she claimed. According to Benny, the journalist from block one, the nightingale wasn't in love, it just wanted sex. (He actually used a much more colourful word, but I shall save it for the moment. It’s still early.)
“If I was him”, Benny said as he was buying a newspaper, “I’d take a flight to the park. It’s just over there.”
“The park's just full of nightingales”, Sonya replied sarcastically and took his money.
(Benny had given the same reply one golden day in autumn while walking through the park with Scottie admiring the falling leaves, and Scottie was explaining to him that if you come meet a bear you have to lay down on your front, cover your eyes and hide under the leaves. That way the bear wouldn’t eat you. “The park's just full of bears", Benny replied. And he was right. Not a single bear to be seen. Not even the bronze bear which had once adorned the fountain next to the lake with lilies, had withstood the onslaught of democracy).
Before democracy, Sonya has worked in the pharmacy on “Ivan Asen” street, just next to the “Miziya” bar. After democracy, she rented out one of the garages in block two and opened up her own pharmacy. That might sound an easy thing to do, but it wasn't since it required a huge quantity of documents, running around all the various institutions and about three thousand five hundred levs in fees, not counting bribes.
Apart from medicines, Sonya sold newspapers; a dozen or so copies of "Duma" every day, combined with "Third Age", a few copies of "Trud" and one copy of "Blyasak", as well as few books published by “Colibri” – two or three every month. She sometimes sold potatoes, and during the months before Christmas she stocked up on cabbage. As a result of her profession, Sonya knew the various illnesses of all the locals in the region, the newspapers helped her orient herself in the political views of her customers, and thanks to her inborn curiosity and listening skills, she found out everything else.
Sonya was born on the 31st December – a fact for which she was never able to forgive her mother. She claimed she was born prematurely and that if her mother had just held on a little longer, she would have been a year younger and would have been born on the national day of Cuba.
(There you are – Cuba appears once again in our story.)
As for Aunty Rita, she was famous for his anxiousness.
*   *   *
At this moment and without any particular connection, I recall Albert Cohen. Albert Cohen wrote “Nailcruncher". I know because I translated it myself. When we decided to publish “Nailcruncher”, the publisher told me that no one would buy a book with a title like that. And the editor told me that no one would buy a book by an author with a name like that. They were both right. Almost no one bought one of the most marvellous books of the 20th century. But because of the recession, and not because of the title in which there was no suggestion of a thriller, and not because of the name of the author, whom hardly anyone would have associated with our own Albert Cohen.
When we decided to publish “The House of the Spirits”, I asked Tinka (you’ll learn who Tinka is later on) whether she knew who Salvador Allende was. She had no idea.
Scottie who was young at heart but no so young in age, had at least heard of Fidel Castro, even though he didn't know why he had a beard.
Talking of which, I sometimes wonder where knowledge goes to. And I’ve come to the conclusion that we live in a temporal hole. We buried ourselves in the hole, while Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende walked over us, as well as one or two Cohen, and the entire period of capitalism passed us by, apart from its mafia, whom we managed to cling on to. It’s as though knowledge is floating in the air, somewhere above us, and the only time we looked up, was when the gangsters were passing by.
After reading all that, you might thing that I know everything there is to know about Castro, Allende, Cohen and untamed capitalism. I might claim that that was exactly the sort of impression I intended to leave. Everyone wants to appear knowledgeable. Some people even are. For example, there was Tony the tax driver, who Scottie liked to drive him, since Tony charged him less that the going rate. Scottie also knew that he wasn’t the only customer he gave such inexplicable discount to, and often wondered how this completely untypical taxi driver made a living, and couldn't come up with a reasonable answer. Tony knew everything there was to know about everything.
Scottie never even tried to argue with him, except when it came to music. (We’ll talk more about music in one of the next chapters). He sometimes asked him questions for the purposes of educating himself. He once asked him:
“Anton, when you hear about someone, that he’s a thirty-four year old Ukrainian billionaire, don’t you think you’ll never sell Kremikovtsi steelworks to him?"
“Why not?”, said Tony and started off on one of those long, well-informed explanations, during which Scottie cursed himself for asking the question.
Apart from knowing everything there was to know about Kremikovtsi, German Second World War aircraft, and the swift family of birds, Tony was profoundly disillusioned with the country and claimed that he had personal accounts to settle with it. Not that he ever got round to it.
In “Nailcruncher” Albert Cohen writes: “Ah, why can’t I write a book in which I don’t have to follow the action – I would tell endless fearless stories completely unconnected with each other.”
I support wholeheartedly this unattainable delusion. Unattainable, because you need action to follow and you need facts to organise. What a pity. What I want to do most is just let myself flow in the stream of consciousness. I would love to be in search of forgotten time.

Part One
IN WHICH WE BEGIN

1. SCOTTIE AND SOME OF THE OTHERS
They called him Scottie, because his grandfather came from Gabrovo, a town widely known for its historical links with Aberdeen. Scottie’s grandfather had been born in Gabrovo but had lived all his life in Knyazhevo. From the moment he arrived there he had tried to dispel all unwanted attempts to call him Gabbi, but was perfectly willing to be adopted, without the slightest hesitation or spiritual torment, into the noble clan of Sean Connery, whom no one had ever heard of at that time. That’s all that is known about the grandfather who passed the name down to his son and from there to his grandson.
*   *   *
Scottie was an artist somewhere in his forties. He had long hair and was well known for his legendary generosity. Despite this he liked his nickname, as much as he liked himself. Scottie liked to say that whenever he looked at himself in the mirror in the mornings, it pleased him to see how handsome he was. He used to say it years before Andrei Konchalovski unwittingly and involuntarily copied the words in the first line of his autobiography.
Scottie let his hair grow long after his national service in the army, declaring he would only cut it when democracy came to Bulgaria. By saying this, he unwittingly and involuntarily joined the ranks of Fidel Castro and his beard, whose revolutionary biography (Fidel’s revolutionary biography) he had omitted to read. When democracy finally came to Bulgaria, Scottie refused to acknowledge it and made a second declaration that it wasn't democracy and that he would wait for the real one before cutting his hair.

Scottie lived in Lozenets, where his parents, may they rest in peace, had bought an apartment, and he rented out his grandfathers' house in Knyazhevo to tenants which provide him with drinking money. The apartment in Lozenets was bought years ago, when Lozenets didn’t resemble modern-day Lozenets. Scottie lived on "Krasto Sarafov St.", once known as "Oak Street” at a time when on the other side of it there was a water melon plantation and a cherry orchard. Scottie couldn’t remember these times, however the fact remained: there once used to be a water melon plantation and a cherry orchard. The water melon plantation had once belonged to Scottie's grandfather and no one knew why someone from Knyazhevo had bought a plantation in Lozenets. But this was not particularly important, since when communism came, his land was confiscated to make way for apartment blocks. The cherry orchard belonged to a Russian woman, whom the local children remembered as the very embodiment of capitalist evil.
The house in Knyazhevo had two stories and before renting it out, Scottie liked to hide the odd bottle behind the plant pots on the spiral staircase and used to surprise himself when he found a bottle just at the moment when he needed a drink. You could say that he spent his entire life in a state of constant surprise. That, however, was a relatively short period in his life.
Scottie was one of those artists who had given up painting long ago. The walls of his apartment in Lozenets were adorned with paintings from his last, post-modern period, which has expired at least twenty years ago. Apart from not painting, there were other things that Scottie did in his life.
1. He got married. He liked to get married.
2. He looked for work. There’s not much that can be said about this, but what there is to be said, will be said later.
3. He had very interesting dreams. He often dreamed of words. One morning he woke up with the words "structural configuration" echoing through his head, and spent a long time wondering what the configuration was and where was his structure. He once dreamed of Todor Zhivkov getting out of his shiny Mercedes and entering his favourite (Scottie’s favourite) bar in Knyazhevo, and devouring five portions of tripe soup and a plate of tomatoes and rice. Everyone in the bar had watched him in total amazement, while Scottie said to himself: “Hasn’t he eaten since 1989?”
4. He went to his favourite bar in Knyazhevo on the day when he collected the rent. He visited his other favourite bars on the other days of the month.

The bar in Knyazhevo was run by a man called Sotir, who was famous for his kind heart that ofen moved him to give drinks for free. Instead of money he would accept all manner of objects, so gradually his bar had come to resemble a pawn shop. Underneath the bar itself, he had a pile of four of five woollen scarves, a dozen or so disposable lighters, a couple of long dried-out Parker pens, briefcases, a silver cigarette case, a camera and a kilogram of cheese in a plastic bag, not to mention a pile of passports. To be fair, the cheese which a generous client had exchanged for a fifty gram glass of brandy only spent a night underneath the bar. Until Sotir sold it on to his clients in the form of bar snacks.
There were five tables inside the bar, and outside on the pavement there was a "Stop" sign, which one night mysteriously disappeared. It was there and then it was gone, as if it had never existed. There wasn’t even a hole left in the pavement. The next morning the sign appeared lying horizontal in front of the bar, just at a convenient height to rest your feet on. No one expressed any surprise, despite the assumption that it couldn't have happened by itself. It was the disappearance of the hole that was most surprising.
Sotir’s bar was famous for the unforgettable drunken wake after the death of Stoyu Firewood, the tartar of the Knyazhevo drunkards. Every year by the grace of God, in late autumn, Stoyu would come into the bar and declare in a loud voice: "I’m going to buy firewood”. He would declare it as if to emphasise that the money in his pocket was indeed for firewood, and not for drinking. And because he said it at least three times every autumn, his fellow drinkers had learnt the phrase off-by-heart and gave him the nickname, Stoyu Firewood. The locals unanimously considered him if not their tartar, then as first amongst equals, since he managed to drink the firewood money in one session.
A few months prior to the time in which the present action is set, Stoyu, as he was sitting there getting drunk, slumped over the table. Since this wasn’t the first time it had happened to him, his companion sitting opposite him, and slightly less drunk, said out loud: “I’ll just take his cigarettes, he doesn’t need them while he’s asleep”, and when he had firmly established that Stoyu was truly deserving of his nickname, i.e. that he was as stiff as firewood, came to the logical conclusion: “He's got absolutely no need for them”. Then they called for the ambulance and did what they could for him. His funeral was held two days later, and afterwards they gathered in the bar, where they drank and sang so heartily that his fame is still ringing through the surrounding hills.
No one in Sotir’s bar was shocked by the fact that someone had taken Stoyu’s cigarettes; they liked to take a thing or two from each other. It was a tradition. When he served their drinks, Sotir would always warn them: “Watch your drinks.” And he was quite right to do so, since there was always someone who didn’t have any money just waiting for the man next to him to be distracted by something, and drink his pastis.
Sotir was famous for his phenomenal ignorance. He was convinced that on the 6th September, in some year or other, Knyazhevo was united with Eastern Romania. Perhaps his very incorrect opinion was due not so much to his ignorance but to his just as famous local Knyazhevo patriotism. For Sotir, Knyazhevo was not just the centre of Sofia, but the metropolis of the entire western hemisphere. (Sotir was convinced that he lived in the western hemisphere).
We now arrive at the fifth thing that Scottie did.

5. Occasionally he would look for clients to sell his paintings to. During these periods, which if we are to be honest never lasted very long, he told everyone he met that he was very busy selling his paintings, because that's how he made his living after all. Which was a complete lie with a pretty ragged tail – Scottie lived off his Knyazhevo rent. When he ran out of money, he sold something, but not one of his paintings.
*   *   *
We shall now leave Scottie for a while, and cross over to the other side of Tsar Boris' park, to a district which recently changed its indecent name of “Lenin” for “Yavorov”, to meet some of the other heroes of our story.
We could in fact have begun our story thus: After a long and tedious winter, during which people wandered nervously around their heated apartments, occasionally exclaiming: “Won’t this winter ever end?”, while others heavily dressed in their apartments with central heating switched off whispered: “Won’t this winter ever end?", the temperatures suddenly rose and blossom appeared on the trees, and birds started chirruping in the branches.
According to Sofia the pharmacist, whom people called Sonya for short, one of these birds was a nightingale. Only a nightingale in love could sing like that all night long, she claimed. According to Benny, the journalist from block one, the nightingale wasn't in love, it just wanted sex. (He actually used a much more colourful word, but I shall save it for the moment. It’s still early.)
“If I was him”, Benny said as he was buying a newspaper, “I’d take a flight to the park. It’s just over there.”
“The park's just full of nightingales”, Sonya replied sarcastically and took his money.
(Benny had given the same reply one golden day in autumn while walking through the park with Scottie admiring the falling leaves, and Scottie was explaining to him that if you come meet a bear you have to lay down on your front, cover your eyes and hide under the leaves. That way the bear wouldn’t eat you. “The park's just full of bears", Benny replied. And he was right. Not a single bear to be seen. Not even the bronze bear which had once adorned the fountain next to the lake with lilies, had withstood the onslaught of democracy).
Before democracy, Sonya has worked in the pharmacy on “Ivan Asen” street, just next to the “Miziya” bar. After democracy, she rented out one of the garages in block two and opened up her own pharmacy. That might sound an easy thing to do, but it wasn't since it required a huge quantity of documents, running around all the various institutions and about three thousand five hundred levs in fees, not counting bribes.
Apart from medicines, Sonya sold newspapers; a dozen or so copies of "Duma" every day, combined with "Third Age", a few copies of "Trud" and one copy of "Blyasak", as well as few books published by “Colibri” – two or three every month. She sometimes sold potatoes, and during the months before Christmas she stocked up on cabbage. As a result of her profession, Sonya knew the various illnesses of all the locals in the region, the newspapers helped her orient herself in the political views of her customers, and thanks to her inborn curiosity and listening skills, she found out everything else.
Sonya was born on the 31st December – a fact for which she was never able to forgive her mother. She claimed she was born prematurely and that if her mother had just held on a little longer, she would have been a year younger and would have been born on the national day of Cuba.
(There you are – Cuba appears once again in our story.)
As for Aunty Rita, she was famous for his anxiousness.
*   *   *
At this moment and without any particular connection, I recall Albert Cohen. Albert Cohen wrote “Nailcruncher". I know because I translated it myself. When we decided to publish “Nailcruncher”, the publisher told me that no one would buy a book with a title like that. And the editor told me that no one would buy a book by an author with a name like that. They were both right. Almost no one bought one of the most marvellous books of the 20th century. But because of the recession, and not because of the title in which there was no suggestion of a thriller, and not because of the name of the author, whom hardly anyone would have associated with our own Albert Cohen.
When we decided to publish “The House of the Spirits”, I asked Tinka (you’ll learn who Tinka is later on) whether she knew who Salvador Allende was. She had no idea.
Scottie who was young at heart but no so young in age, had at least heard of Fidel Castro, even though he didn't know why he had a beard.
Talking of which, I sometimes wonder where knowledge goes to. And I’ve come to the conclusion that we live in a temporal hole. We buried ourselves in the hole, while Fidel Castro and Salvador Allende walked over us, as well as one or two Cohen, and the entire period of capitalism passed us by, apart from its mafia, whom we managed to cling on to. It’s as though knowledge is floating in the air, somewhere above us, and the only time we looked up, was when the gangsters were passing by.
After reading all that, you might thing that I know everything there is to know about Castro, Allende, Cohen and untamed capitalism. I might claim that that was exactly the sort of impression I intended to leave. Everyone wants to appear knowledgeable. Some people even are. For example, there was Tony the tax driver, who Scottie liked to drive him, since Tony charged him less that the going rate. Scottie also knew that he wasn’t the only customer he gave such inexplicable discount to, and often wondered how this completely untypical taxi driver made a living, and couldn't come up with a reasonable answer. Tony knew everything there was to know about everything.
Scottie never even tried to argue with him, except when it came to music. (We’ll talk more about music in one of the next chapters). He sometimes asked him questions for the purposes of educating himself. He once asked him:
“Anton, when you hear about someone, that he’s a thirty-four year old Ukrainian billionaire, don’t you think you’ll never sell Kremikovtsi steelworks to him?"
“Why not?”, said Tony and started off on one of those long, well-informed explanations, during which Scottie cursed himself for asking the question.
Apart from knowing everything there was to know about Kremikovtsi, German Second World War aircraft, and the swift family of birds, Tony was profoundly disillusioned with the country and claimed that he had personal accounts to settle with it. Not that he ever got round to it.
In “Nailcruncher” Albert Cohen writes: “Ah, why can’t I write a book in which I don’t have to follow the action – I would tell endless fearless stories completely unconnected with each other.”
I support wholeheartedly this unattainable delusion. Unattainable, because you need action to follow and you need facts to organise. What a pity. What I want to do most is just let myself flow in the stream of consciousness. I would love to be in search of forgotten time.

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