The Birds of Manhattan: Benedek Totth

August 14, 2017

 

 

ZiN's writer-in-residence for August of 2017 is Benedek Totth. Benedek  was born in 1977 in Kaposvár, Hungary. Working as a translator from English speaking literatures Benedek has translated novels by influential authors like Cormac McCarthy, Aldous Huxley, Chuck Palahniuk and Hunter S. Thompson. He was the editor of József Attila Circle’s World Literature Series. Benedek's first novel, DEAD HEAT (original: "Holtverseny") was published in 2014 by Hungary's leading publishing house Magvető Kiadó. It is a story about four teenagers who live a life of sex, drugs and violence; it is a car accident in which they kill and old man that will change their lives forever. In 2015 the novel won the Margó Award for the best debut novel of the year in Hungary. Translation rights are sold to Slovakia (Zeleny Kocur) and France (Actes Sud). The English language rights are sold to Biblioasis, Canada. His second novel "The War after the Last War", a post-apocalyptic distopia is due to be published this Autumn.

 

The text that follows is is a piece Benedek wrote for an anthology dedicated to the late Hungarian photographer Barna Burger. The book will be published this Autumn and it's a collaboration of more than twenty writers each of whom wrote a chapter on one of the world cities that Burger captured with his camera. Benedek chose to write about New York which he visited in December of 2016.  "The Birds of Manhattan" Benedek wrote in Hungarian, but during his stay in Ližnjan he translated it into English. Here we also bring you our Croatian translation of the text in English.

 

Gost svratišta u kolovozu 2017. jest Benedek Totth, mađarski književnik koji je za svoj prvi roman "Holtverseny" iz 2014. dobio nagradu Margó za najbolji debitantski roman. Benedek je i prevoditelj s engleskog, a na mađarski jezik preveo je djela autora kao što su:  Cormac McCarthy, Aldous Huxley, Chuck Palahniuk i Hunter S. Thompson.

 

Donosimo tekst "Ptice Manhattna" koji je Benedek napisao na materinskom mađarskom, a zatim ga za vrijeme boravka u Ližnjanu preveo na engleski. Riječ je o proznoj cjelini, zapravo dijelu antologije posvećene preminulom mađarskom fotografu Barni Burgeru. Knjiga je kolaboracija dvadesetak pisaca od kojih je svaki napisao poglavlje posvećeno jednom gradu koji je Burger ovjekovječio svojom kamerom. Benedek piše poglavlje o New Yorku gdje je boravio u prosincu 2016. Sama antologija bit će objavljena u jesen ove godine. 

 

 

 

 

The Birds of Manhattan


 

“Here you are again. All messed up and no place to go.” 
― Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City


 

You’ve been in the air for so long you don’t even care if you fall. While landing the engine of your plane swallows a seagull, or some other small bird of passage. It is not clear what kind of bird it is even though the captain explains the situation at great length after the aircraft bumps on the tarmac. They kill methodically the birds around the runways of the airport but landing is still dangerous. You came here to kill too. You shoot everything with you camera.

 

It’s daytime, you’re standing in the window of a Manhattan flat. You play God, watching the birds from above. There are no noises, only the TV is buzzing in the living room, a nature film or a cooking show. You don’t watch the news. There are no news anymore. Deep down somewhere a falcon hunts pigeons but flies too close to the walls of glass. In the windows of the opposite skyscraper clouds the shape of brains are swimming and somewhere in the distance an airplane flies. You’re imagining the flames, the bodies falling out of the windows, the enormous skull emerging from the smoke, the dust, the melted metal and glass.

 

It’s night. A homeless man is standing in front of you. You don’t see him coming. Almost knock him over. He begs for money, he begs for some change. From the cut-off fingers of his black gloves frozen black stumps stick out. You don’t talk to him, just look in his eyes, and you know that he was born here, he has never left the city, he’s going to die here. And he’s going to born here again. You pull down the zipper of your jacket and reach into your pocket. The man steps back. He wants to show you that he’s not intending to rob you. Or he’s scared that you want to shoot him. He doesn’t know that you don’t have a weapon. And even if you have, you cannot kill with it. Or if you could, you wouldn’t kill him. You give him the change, take a photo of him and leave. You don’t care about him being grateful.

 

At the foot of an enclosed skyscraper Japanese tourists take selfies with policemen armed to the teeth. You fight your way through the crowd, waiting to be shot at by a trigger of a happy policeman but you escape unscathed. A dead bird is lying on the pavement, you kick it to the gutter. A feather sticks to the toe of your shoe. It trembles lightly in the breeze as the metro passes under you.

 

You haven’t slept for three days, the city doesn’t let you sleep. The city that never sleeps. It’s always nighttime. It’s always daytime. As if someone has removed time from this place, and has left only pictures and voices. You’re here for a week or a month, you cannot tell. You’re looking for places where you don’t know anybody, where no one knows you. You move in to a new motel every third days. You’re looking for rooms where prime numbers meet. 59th Street and Third Avenue. 37th Street and Seventh Avenue. 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue. It’s impossible to get lost in the matrix but you feel like being nowhere.

 

Now your window looks out on a backyard. On the fire escape of the house in front of you black and white waitresses are smoking. You light a cigarette to feel something. You exhale the smoke into the gray air. There’s nothing left inside you. Now your window looks out on a crossroads. There’s a tripod on the pavement with a camera. Someone has just left it there. A blank look. Staring at the crowd. No one tries to avoid it. They don’t even notice it.

 

It’s nighttime. You’re standing in the blazing neon abyss of the deserted Times Square, the pulsing ventricle of the city. You can only see the lights, you’ve already turned off the sound. You’re walking on the streets looking for the story but you get lost in the vast concrete, metal and glass labirynth. As if you were walking in the body of a gigantic creature, an enormous sick organism, the unconscious collective of millions that devours everybody, devours you too.

 

It’s daytime. Or night. You walk on the bridge. You leave the peninsula. You stop halfway through the bridge. You’re watching the seagulls. Elegant white stains. You’re watching Manhattan floating on the black water. Then you throw away your cellphone. You don’t need the pictures anymore. No one has called you in years.

 

 

 

PTICE MANHATTNA

 

„I opet si ovdje. Sav smušen i nemaš kamo.“

― Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City

 

 

Tako si dugo već u zraku da te nije više briga hoćeš li pasti. Dok slijećeš, motor tvog aviona guta jednog galeba ili neku drugu malu pticu. Nije jasno o kojoj se ptici radi iako pilot nadugo i naširoko objašnjava situaciju nakon što zrakoplov zagrebe po asfaltu. Metodično ubijaju ptice oko piste, ali je slijetanje i dalje opasno. I ti si ovamo došao ubijati. Okidač tvoje kamere strijelja sve živo.

 

Dan je, stojiš ispred prozora u svom stanu na Manhattanu. Glumiš boga gledajući ptice s visoka. Nema zvukova, samo televizor zuji u dnevnom boravku, nekakav dokumentarac o prirodi ili kuharski šou. Ne gledaš vijesti. Nema više vijesti. Negdje duboko ispod, sokol lovi goluba leteći preblizu staklenim zidovima. U prozorima nebodera nasuprot plivaju oblaci u obliku mozgova, a negdje u daljini avion prolazi iznad tebe. Zamišljaš plamen, kako tijela ispadaju s okana, ogromna lubanja izranja iz dima, prašina, rastopljeni metal i staklo.

 

Noć je. Beskućnik stoji ispred tebe. Ne vidiš ga kako ti prilazi. Gotovo ga srušiš. Moli za novac, moli za sitniš. Iz razreranih vrhova crnih rukavica njegovi su prsti smrznuti patrljci. Ne razgovaraš s njim, samo ga pogledaš u oči, i znaš da je ovdje rođen, da nikada nije napustio ovaj grad, da će ovdje umrijeti. I da će se ovdje ponovno roditi. Otkopčavaš jaknu i posegneš za džepom. Čovjek ustukne. Želi ti pokazati da nema namjeru opljačkati te. Ili se boji da ćeš ga upucati. Ne zna da nemaš oružje. A i da ga imaš, ne bi ga znao upotrijebiti. Ili da znaš, ne bi mogao ubiti. Daš mu sitno, fotografiraš ga i odlaziš. Ne obazireš se na njegovu zahvalnost.

 

U podnožju zatvorenog nebodera japanski turisti snimaju selfije s policajcima naoružanim do zuba. Probijaš se kroz gomilu očekujući da ćeš biti upucan metkom sretnog policajca, ali uspijevaš pobjeći neokrznut. Mrtva ptica leži na podu, gurneš je u stranu. Pero ostaje zalijepljeno za vrh tvoje cipele. Drhturi na povjetarcu dok podzemna željeznica prolazi ispod tebe.

 

Nisi spavao već tri dana, grad ti ne da. Grad koji nikada ne spava. Uvijek je noć. Uvijek je dan. Kao da je netko iselio vrijeme s ovog mjesta i ostavio samo slike i glasove. Ovdje ostaješ tjedan dana ili možda mjesec, ne znaš. Tražiš mjesta gdje ne znaš nikoga i gdje tebe nitko ne zna. Seliš u novi motel svaka tri dana. Tražiš sobe gdje se susreću prosti brojevi. Pedesetdeveta ulica i Treća avenija. Tridesetsedma ulica i Sedma avenija. Nemoguće je izgubiti se u maxtrixu, ali osjećaš da si nigdje. Sada tvoj prozor gleda na stražnje dvorište.

 

Na požarnom izlazu kuće ispred tebe crna i bijela konobarica puše. I sam pališ cigaretu ne bi li nešto osjetio. Ispuštaš dim u sivilo zraka. Ništa u tebi nije ostalo. Sada tvoj prozor gleda na križanje. Tamo je stalak s kamerom koji je netko postavio. Prazan pogled. Zureći u masu. Nitko ga ne pokušava zaobići. Nitko ga ni ne primjećuje.

 

Noć je. Stojiš u žarkom neonskom ponoru napuštenog Times Squarea, pulsirajućoj žili kucavici grada. Vidiš samo svjetla, zvuk si već ugasio. Šetaš gradom u potrazi za pričom, ali se gubiš u nepreglednom labirintu od betona, metala i stakla. Kao da hodaš tijelom divovske kreature, enormno bolesnog organizma, kolektivne nesvijesti milijuna koja proždire svakoga, proždire i tebe.

 

Dan je. Ili noć. Hodaš mostom. Ostavljaš poluotok. Staješ na pola mosta. Gledaš galebove. Elegantne bijele mrlje. Gledaš Manhattan kako pluta na crnoj vodi. Onda baciš svoj mobitel. Ne trebaju ti više slike. Nitko te nije nazvao godinama već.

 

Translation into Croatian/Prijevod na hrvatski jezik: Natalija Grgorinić i Ognjen Rađen

 

 

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