Paul Lascaux

Crime novels from Bern, Switzerland

 

 

Introduction to Paul Lascaux

„It seems that there is a fair, if not overwhelming, market for short fiction in European newspapers. Because of this, many of the authors who write for them have mastered the difficult art of the short-short story. ‚Fire Works', translated from his collection Europa stirbt, is a paradigm of the form in a thousand words."

Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg, editors of „The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories. Third Annual Collection", 640 pages, New York 2002

 

 

 

Short biography

 

Pseudonym of Paul Ott. Born in 1955, he grew up in Goldach on the shores of Lake Constance and in St. Gallen, Switzerland and has lived in Berne since 1974. During the past twentyfive years, besides various journalistic articles for different newspapers and magazines, he has published several literary works.

Paul Lascaux has worked for more than twenty years on crime novels and on crime short stories, set in the city of Berne and the neighbouring villages and countryside in Canton Berne.

 

Publications

 

writing as Paul Lascaux

„Seitensprung“, in: Jeff Maxian/Erich Weidinger (Hrsg.): „Mords-Zillertal“ (Gmeiner Verlag 2012)

„Sennentuntschi reloaded“, in: Wolfgang Kemmer: Mordhöfe (Jokers 2009)

„Feuerwasser“ (Gmeiner Verlag 2009)

„Nibelungengold“, in: Ina Coelen (Hrsg.): „Todschick. Mode und Morde am Tatort Niederrhein“ (Leporello Verlag 2009)

„Ruhewald“, in: Barbara Grieshaber/Siegmund Kopitzki (Hrsg.): „Gefährliche Nachbarn“ (Band Hegau, Gmeiner Verlag 2009)

„Wursthimmel“ (Gmeiner Verlag 2008)

„Der letzte Elfmeter“, in: „90 Minuten“ (SWIPS, SBVV, Buchzentrum 2008)

„Das Krokodil. Der Büro-Krimi“ (zwei Teile eines Stafettenkrimis, hrsg. Paul Ott)

„Salztränen“ (Gmeiner Verlag 2008)

„Langsame Bewegungen“, in: Sabina Naber (Hrsg.): „Tödliche Elf“ (EchoMedia 2008)

„Der den Speer führt“, in: Paul Ott (Hrsg.): „TatortSchweiz 2. 23 kriminelle Geschichten aus der viersprachigen Schweiz“ (Limmat Verlag 2007)

„Zufällige Berührungen“, in: Barbara Grieshaber, Siegmund Kopitzki (Hrsg.): „Tod am Bodensee“ (Gmeiner Verlag 2007)

„Der Flaschenboden“, in: Wolfgang Kemmer (Hg.): „Happy Birthday, Mister Holmes! Neue Fälle für den Meisterdetektiv“ (Jokers 2007)

„Die Eselei auf der Madenburg“, in: Angela Esser (Hrsg.): „Tatort Deutsche Weinstrasse“ (Grafit Verlag 2007)

„Fuhrwerke Wagner“, in: Paul Ott (Hrsg.): „Bodensee-Blues“ (Gmeiner Verlag 2007)

„Fuhrwerke Wagner“, in: Paul Ott (Hrsg.): „Bodensee-Blues“ (Gmeiner Verlag 2007)

„Das Frühstück der toten Seelen“ (Lascaux/Spielberg/Slupetzky/Lifka/Gebert/Przybilka)), in: Christina Bacher: Art in Crime (Daedalus 2006)

„Röstigraben-Blues“, in: Marita & Jürgen Alberts (Hg.): Arsen und Kartöffelchen (kbv 2006)

„Gott und Teufel“. in: Kurt Stadelmann (Hrsg.): „Bestseller der Nation. Das Buch zum Telefonbuch“ (Chronos Verlag 2005)

„Wilhelm Tell am Niederrhein“, in: Ina Coelen (Hrsg.): „Mords-Feste“ (Leporello Verlag 2005)

"Schachmatt in Ostermundigen", in: Paul Ott (Hrsg.): "TatortSchweiz. 18 kriminelle Geschichten" (Limmat Verlag 2005)

„Uedem: Das Schweigen der Kühe“, in: „Mord am Niederrhein“ (Grafit Verlag 2004)

„Beruf und Berufung“, in: Ingrid G. Schmitz/Ina Coelen (Hrsg.): „Mörderische Mitarbeiter. Kollegiale Kriminalgeschichten“ (Scherz Verlag 2003)

„Ein Glas Rotwein für meinen Kater“, in: Angela Esser (Hrsg.): „Weinleichen. Von mörderischen Winzern und tödlichen Kellermeistern“ (Scherz Verlag 2003)

"Das Jungfrauensterben", in: Paul Ott (Hrsg.): "Mords-Lüste. Erotische Kriminalgeschichten" (Scherz Verlag 2003) - "The Dying of Virgins"

"Die Gemeindepräsidentin" - Theaterstück - "The Chairwoman of the Municipal Council" - A Play (Uraufführung/first performance: Hoftheater Erlach, 2002)

"Europa stirbt. Kriminelle Geschichten" (Verlag der Criminale 2001) - "Europe is dying, Crime short stories"

"Das Brandopfer", in: Paul Ott (Hrsg.): "Im Morgenrot. Die besten Kriminalgeschichten aus der Schweiz" (Scherz Verlag 2001) - "The Burnt-Offering", in: "In the Dawn. The best crime short stories from Switzerland"

"Der Lückenbüsser. Ein Internet-Krimi" (Verlag der Criminale 2000) - "Holding the Fort. An Internet Crime Novel"

"Kelten-Blues" (orte-krimi 1998) - "Celtic Blues"

"Totentanz, Kriminelle Geschichten" (orte-krimi 1996) - "Dance of the Dead, Crime short stories"

"Un-Zyt-Glogge", in: Peter Zeindler Publ.: "Banken, Blut und Berge" (rororo thriller 3158, "Banks, Blood and Mountains"

"Der Teufelstrommler" (orte-krimi 1990) - "The Devil's Drummer"

"Arbeit am Skelett" (orte-krimi 1987) - "Work on the Skeleton"

None of these works has yet been translated into English.

 

writing as Paul Ott

Paul Ott (Hrsg.): „Gefährliche Nachbarn“ (Band Schweiz, Gmeiner Verlag 2009)

Paul Ott (Hrsg.): „Das Krokodil. Der Büro-Krimi“

Paul Ott (Hrsg.): „TatortSchweiz 2. 23 kriminelle Geschichten aus der viersprachigen Schweiz“ (Limmat Verlag 2007)

Paul Ott/Kurt Stadelmann (Hrsg.): Stefan Brockhoff: „Musik im Totengässlein“ (Schweizer Texte, Neue Folge, Band 25: Chronos Verlag 2007)

Paul Ott: „Wie viel Wirklichkeit erträgt der Kriminalroman?“, in: Edgar Marsch (Hg.): „Im Fadenkreuz. Der Neuere Schweizer Kriminalroman“ (Chronos Verlag 2007)

Paul Ott (Hrsg.): „Bodensee-Blues“ (Gmeiner Verlag 2007)

Paul Ott: „Die Welt von unten“. In: Lurker Grand: „Hot Love. Swiss Punk & Wave 1976-1980“ (Edition Patrick Frey 2006)

Paul Ott/Kurt Stadelmann (Hrsg.): Jodocus Donatus Hubertus Temme: „Der Studentenmord in Zürich. Criminalgeschichte“ (Schweizer Texte, Neue Folge, Band 23: Chronos Verlag 2006)

Paul Ott: "Mord im Alpenglühen. Der Schweizer Kriminalroman - Geschichte und Gegenwart" (NordPark Verlag 2005)

Paul Ott (Hrsg.): "TatortSchweiz. 18 kriminelle Geschichten" (Limmat Verlag 2005)

"Orchideen und Holunder" (Broschüre Hotel Kulm Arosa 2004)

Paul Ott, Fritz von Gunten (Hrsg.): "Gotthelf lesen. Auf dem Weg zum Original" (h. e. p.-Verlag 2004) - "Reading Gotthelf. The search for the original"

"Die Käserei auf der Alptraumweide", in: Paul Ott, Fritz von Gunten (Hrsg.): "Gotthelf lesen. Auf dem Weg zum Original" (h. e. p.-Verlag 2004) - "The dairy on the alp of nightmares, in: Reading Gotthelf. The search for the original"

Paul Ott (Hrsg.): "Mords-Lüste. Erotische Kriminalgeschichten" (Scherz Verlag 2003) - "Murder - Lust. Erotic Crime Short Stories"

Paul Ott/Hartmut Simon/Daniel Haudenschild: "Deutsch. Schreiben - Lesen und Verstehen - Sprechen - Grammatik" - " German. Writing - reading and understanding - speaking - grammar" (h.e.p. verlag, 4. Auflage 2008)

Paul Ott (Hrsg.): "Im Morgenrot. Die besten Kriminalgeschichten aus der Schweiz" (Scherz Verlag 2001) - "In the dawn. The best crime short stories from Switzerland"

Paul Ott / Hollow Skai (Publ.): "Wir waren Helden für einen Tag. Aus deutschsprachigen Punk-Fanzines 1977-1981" (rororo 7682, Reinbek 1983) - "We were Heroes for a Day. From German-language Punk fanzines 1977-1981"

 "Die Behäbigkeit löst sich an den Rändern", in: Humann/Reichelt Publ.: "Eurorock" (rororo 7460, Reinbek 1981) - "Comfort is becoming unstuck"

None of these works has yet been translated into English.

 

translated texts

„The Copyist“ (Lascaux/Spielberg/Slupetzky/Lifka/Gebert/Przybilka), in: Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (Dell Magazines 2006)

Paul Ott: "Le monde d’en bas". In: Lurker Grand: "Hot Love. Swiss Punk & Wave 1976-1980" (Edition Patrick Frey 2006)

Paul Lascaux: „Dieu et Diable“, dans: Kurt Stadelmann (ed.): „Best-seller helvétique. Le livre de l’annuaire téléphonique“ (Chronos Verlag 2005)

Paul Ott: "Murder at Alpine Dusk - The Swiss Crime Fiction Novel". In: XVI. AIEP/IACW Conference 2003

Paul Lascaux: „Fire Works", in: Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg: „The World's Finest Mystery and Crime Stories. Third Annual Collection", 640 pages, New York 2002

Paul Ott: "Het pakijs begint aan de randen te smelten" (Muziekkrant Oor, Amsterdam 1981)

Paul Lascaux: "Zegar na wiezy" (Odra, 5, maj 2000, Wroclaw, Polen) (dt. "Un-Zyt-Glogge")

Concept - organisation - realisation

Literaturkantine Bern: since 1999 about 30 evenings

Mordstage 2001 Bern (initiating and organisation)

Mordstage 2003 Zürich (helping the organisation)

Mordstage 2005 in all Switzerland (organisation)

"Mordsstunde" on behalf of "Cirque des idées" at the Expo.02: 9 evenings at Biel, Murten und Yverdon

some other literary events

Literary exchange Bern - Polen, Bern - Ungarn (on behalf of BSV)

Literary Prize

2011: Spezialpreis der Literaturkommission der Stadt Bern an Paul Ott (Verdienste um den Kriminalroman)

Paul Ott is a member of

AIEP/IACW – International Association of Crime Writers

SYNDIKAT - Autorengruppe deutschsprachige Kriminalliteratur

Autorinnen und Autoren der Schweiz AdS

Berner Schriftstellerinnen und Schriftsteller Verein (im Vorstand 1998-2003)

 

Address

Paul Ott

Kasernenstrasse 39

CH-3013 Bern

++41 31 333 15 68

e-mail: paulott@datacomm.ch

 

Paul Ott

Murder at alpine dusk

The Swiss Crime Fiction Novel

 

Preliminary remark

If we're talking about Swiss Crime Fiction Novels, we usually include only Swiss resident authors of German language. Unfortunately there are only few idom-transgressing links, that's why Swiss-French authors are only marginally known whereas Italian or Roman novels to my knowledge don't even exist.

Some authors work mainly in radio and TV production, almost nobody is in the film industry.

 

The beginnings

The pioneers of Swiss and even German-language crime-story are set similar to erratic blocks in a spring-like alpine landscape. They are loners who adorn the short- scale countryside with vile felony. But the irritation caused is countered by an unflinching detective, a representative of law and order who fights a world where the moral and human values are likely to fall apart in the times before and after World War Two.

One of the first crime novels in the true sense of the word is Carl Albert Loosli's (1877-1959) "Die Schattmattbauern" (The farmers of shadowy meadow = approximative translation) which was written in 1926 and published in 1932. For the first time the scene of crime lies in the archaic landscape of the Emmental (Canton of Berne), which has already been of literary interest in the 19th century (Jeremias Gotthelf) and the attraction of which has remained undiminished to our days. One could even assume that, during the past 50 years, there have been as many fictional murders as real ones in the Canton of Berne.

Loosli tells the story of an impoverished farmer, a suspected murderer, who is captured in the mills of justice and finally crushed although his innocence is proven in the end.

Loosli shares the experience of being locked up in an educational establishment with the great godfather of swiss crime fiction Friedrich Glauser (after whom the famous "Glauser Award" of "Das Syndikat" is named - The Syndicate: German crime fiction writers association). Glauser wrote his six novels in the Thirties. All of them are impregnated by his own existence as an eradicated human being, ambulating between suicide attempts and psychiatric care, foreign legion and incapacitation, the ecstasy of cocaine and the longing for true love. Nevertheless - one could say that's why - he wrote outstanding literature.

The failure of Friedrich Glauser is illustrated in "Matto regiert" (Matto rules) where police sergeant Studer, phlegmatic and cigar-smoking, tries to establish order and justice in people's life. "A simple detective was sitting in front of him, an elderly gentleman with no salient features: soft-collar shirt, grey suit, lightly stretched by the slightly corpulent body enclosed. The man's face was pale and thin, a moustache covered the lips so one could never be sure if he was smiling or looking straight. This detective was sitting on his chair, legs apart, forearms on thighs and hands folded…" (Wachtmeister Studer)

Glauser emphasizes athmosphere and thus expands the concept of crime fiction. His sympathy is on the side of the underdogs and he supports them by making the big fish to culprits. Typical and a model for later authors is Glausers abondant use of "Helvetisms" (original Swiss-German expressions in a German text)

Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921-1990) illustrates Glausers concept in his three novels from the Fifties, "Der Richter und sein Henker" 1952 (The Judge and his hangman), "Der Verdacht" 1953 (The suspicion) and "Das Versprechen" 1957 (The pledge), and even expands it with the figure of inspector Bärlach. Dürrenmatt, the faithful atheist and moral cynic models in Bärlach a personality who doesn't fight the bad only in his work, but is engaged in a bet with the devil in his private life, which finally means his extinction. Bärlach unites police sergeant Studer of Glauser with Doctor Faustus of Goethe, which is an enticing combination up to now. In 1985 Dürrenmatt wrote one more novel, "Justiz" (Justice), a dark-bitter attack against the political system and the so-called federal justice.

 

The period of transition in the 80ies

Glauser and Dürrenmatt remain unrivalled and many new authors followed these masters. But there were some who were looking for a way off the beaten track. Often they didn't clearly rely on precision and detail, the main ingredients of big literature beyond local fame.

Between the pioneers and today, there's a line of authors who started writing crime in the 80ies and mostly have been publishing up to now.

Peter Zeindler (*1934) published in 1982 the first in a string of novels featuring Konrad Sembritzki, a retired secret service agent dealing with antiques (in Berne, wherelse ?). Four German crime-fiction awards and a Glauser-award of honour illustrate Zeindlers extraordinary career. That secret-service thrillers aren't worn out today is proven by his "Abschied von Casablanca" (2000) (Farewell to Casablanca).

Alexander Heimann (1937-2003) His debut in 1980 was "Lisi", an anarchic thriller where an elderly man is lead astray by a young girl. Heimanns topics include solitude, the rich details of everyday life and the art of growing old decently. The latter wasn't given to him due to sudden illness. He lived in Berne and won two German crime fiction awards.

Sam Jaun (*1935, lives in Berne and Berlin) got immediate fame in 1983 with "Der Weg zum Glasbrunnen" (The path to the glass-fountain). His novels let the reader peep behind good manners and respectable opinions in the darker areas of provincial life. His work was aknowledged with two Glauser-awards and a German crime fiction award.

Roger Graf gained fame with the figure of Philip Maloney, detective of a radio-feature in the late Chandler-tradition. After tremendous success on radio, the stories were published in the nineties.

Werner Schmidli and Hansjörg Schneider put criminal activity into the heart of the city of Basel, Marcus P. Nester and Clemens Klopfenstein blackmailed the Migros (biggest food and non-food retailer in Switzerland).

Paul Lascaux (that is: Paul Ott) channelled his criminal energy into several novels, many short-stories and edited some crime fiction anthologies. Jon Durschei sent clergyman Ambrosius to eastern Switzerland for his investigations. Both publish under an assumed name and have started in 1980 the "orte-krimi" series.

Verena Wyss with accurate language in novels and tales, Milena Moser with her disrespectful murder-counts, Christa Weber with real-life experience enriched by criminal context and Jutta Motz with her unconventional 3-member investigation unit "Three women…", who operates in the international economics management: All of them opened new grounds of crime-fiction from a female/feminist perspective.

Urs Richle dug deep in the personalities of his protagonists, Felix Mettler scored with "Der Keiler" (The wild boar) and Claude Cueni put the swiss crime on TV. Willy Bär discovered the world of sports as scene for thrillers, James Douglas wrote fascinating if not visionary thrillers where even the CIA could detect traces of terrorist activities if they were able to read…

Ulrich Knellwolf has been successful as a priest who writes about murder, Carlo Meier writes crime-fiction for children and young adults, Peter Höner tells stories from Kenia and sharpens the eye of his readers for the unusual. Tim Krohn is a go-between of literary worlds who often includes criminalistic elements in his work. Saro Marretta fascinates pupils with his riddle-crime-stories and Jürg Weibel, capable in various genres, gives the world his "Kind von Madonna"(Child of Madonna).

Each one of these writers deserves further appreciation, which can't be done without exceeding the frame of this report. Their work is represented in the anthology "Banken, Blut und Berge" (Banks, Blood and Mountains), edited in 1995 by Peter Zeindler.

 

The present day

For the last 10 years, about 60 authors have published at least one crime novel. This seems to be in contradiction to the often discussed decrease in bookprinting / publishing. The fact is that fewer and fewer publishers print books by "homegrown" authors because the breakthrough is only possible in the german market which often exceeds the promotional and financial power of smaller companies. This leads to the paradoxical situation that there are more Swiss crime novels in constantly smaller editions.

Nevertheless here are some of the promising newcomers:

Monika Dettwiler deals in historical crime novels. Hans Peter Gansner stirs up swiss mentalities from neighbouring France. Katarina Madovcik and Ruben Mullis are a writer &endash;couple and open the doors of swiss living-rooms for the Russian mafia. The hero of Stephan Poertner creates mayhem in Zurich's "In"-locations. Martin Suter finds evidence of crime in the world of business. Susy Schmid adds the flavour of the grotesque to the scary. Adrian Zschokke combines the eye of the camera operator with the investigations of his overweight private eye.

 

The French speaking authors are marginal and there's no exchange of ideas with the German speaking majority. The better known authors are Jean-Jacques Fiechter (the only one translated into german), Michel Bory, Yvan Dalain, Corinne Jaquet and Daniel Zufferey.

To my knowledge, there's only Jean-Jacques Busino who could cross the Swiss border and work with French publishing houses. His "Romans Noirs" are very popular and his performances with the live-band "Daddy's Arms" are a treat to each literary event.

 

In the whole, there aren't any general tendencies descernible for Switzerland, but recently, there were a few events that might help to facilitate exchange of ideas and support: In 2001 the author of this report founded the "Mordstage" (Murder-days) in Berne, the secret "capital" of the Swiss crime novel. It consisted of public readings by the authors, excursions to scenes of crime and workshops. In addition the anthology "Im Morgenrot" (At dawn), edited by Paul Ott, was released and presented works of 25 different authors. At the national exhibition "Expo.02", the cultural programme included readings of both German and French speaking Swiss authors.

For autumn 2003 the second edition of the "Mordstage"-festival is scheduled and will present 40 authors to the public, this time the location will be Zurich.

These are just the first steps, more ought to be taken to establish the Swiss crime fiction novel as an integral part of Swiss cultural life.

 

Translation: Markus Weisser

Find further information to "Mordstage" and other projects in the net:

www.literatur.li

 

© 2003, Paul Ott. This text may not be reprinted or used in any other way without the written permission by the author.

 

Paul Ott

Kasernenstr. 39

CH-3013 Bern

Switzerland

++41 31 333 15 68

paulott@datacomm.ch

 

 

Paul Lascaux: Fire Works

 

Just after the charwoman emptied the last waste-paper basket, switched off the light and locked the office door behind her, the first flame wriggled and squirmed amongst the paper in the filing cabinet. It stilled its most urgent hunger on the thin card of the folders. The flimsy sheets of the job applications seemed to invite the flame's burning caresses. Its tongue licked at the correspondence and engulfed them within seconds, leaving only flakes of black, crumbling ash in its wake.

It had started at the letter N and had reached the end of the alphabet minutes later. Searching for more food, it flowed out of the cabinet, raced along the plastic cables and, with destructive energy, penetrated the computer. Only then did the alarm, triggered by the acrid smoke of burning wiring, begin to scream and the sprinklers added to the destruction by drowning everything within range, whether damaged or not.

When the fire brigade arrived at the scene they found the offices of Mäder & Co, Employment and Personnel Advisors in a state of utter devastation. None of the records could be saved; the company would have to close down operations for some time to come. A single, singed photo floated on the surface of the ankle-deep water. It showed the face of a woman around forty, whose smile showed a faint trace of bitterness. A fireman took the picture home with him; the eyes reminded him of a famous painting.

"Are enterprise and vision your strong points? Our client - a company in the metal industry near Berne - has reorganized and restructured to suit modern requirements. For a new department in their company we have a vacancy for an

OFFICE MANAGER/ESS FOR FINANCES, CONTROLLING AND PERSONNEL.

Qualifications required: Long-term experience in personnel management, A-level education and additional training in bookkeeping/controlling. Enterprise and innovation, initiative and independence, but also team spirit and flexibility. Age: 25 to 40."

How many times had Laura read adverts for job vacancies, in which people over 40 weren't welcome? She had just celebrated her 42nd birthday and had been presented with a diploma for an advanced training course, which put her qualifications now well up to management level. And yet for months she had been trying to find work. Refusal followed refusal, most of them couched in oh so polite terms, "Unfortunately we must inform you that, on studying the many applications we received, we have selected a candidate more suited to the advertised vacancy. This by no means questions your qualifications bla bla bla..."

Laura threw "The Job Advertiser" angrily into the corner, where it landed with a thud in the kitty litter.

The despair that had been growing deeper each day had begun to leave traces on her face. Laura set about hiding her worry-lines and red-rimmed eyes beneath her makeup - she had an appointment in the afternoon. She had been invited to go for an interview at "Careers For Women" at 5 p.m. The personnel manageress hadn't wanted to give her any false hopes on the telephone, but at least she'd been invited to call. You never knew, maybe something would come of it.

Arriving a few minutes early, Laura sat in the boss's reception room, where a young girl was getting ready to leave, whilst dealing with a telephone call. She was apparently one of those "friendly, purposeful, personable secretaries, capable of working under pressure", who were, if you believed the vacancy columns, so common these days. In Laura's opinion, she seemed just another snotty, superficial and irritable typist, who barred the door to that crucial office beyond.

She had often been stopped by loud-mouthed bimbos and she hated them all for the humiliation she was made to feel. Laura introduced herself whilst, in front of the building, a young kid in a flashy, leased sportscar, bombarded the neighbourhood with annoying techno noise whilst he waited for the typist.

Laura's concentration on the discussion that followed was slowly lost in an uncontrollable fury at the society for whom only youth and a carefree lifestyle counted. Ignorance and arrogance, wherever she looked!

Barby doll left the reception without a parting glance and locked the door behind her. Laura was now imprisoned with a stranger who was making her wait even longer. Laura stood up and tiptoed to the filing cabinet. Opening her handbag, she removed a small vial, unscrewed the lid and quickly placed it between the job applications. Then she sat down again and tried to calm her hammering heart.

When the manageress finally emerged from her office and asked her to enter, she could tell just from the elegantly dressed woman's critical glance that she didn't stand a chance. The woman got quickly to the point. Although she apologized several times and assured Laura that it wasn't her fault, there was simply nothing she could do with women above a certain age, except commiserate with them. They just weren't wanted any more. Other, more pressing values counted these days. But Laura could hear no trace of pity in the other's voice.

She left the office having achieved nothing. She went to a bar which was on her way home. There, at least, she could talk to men about other subjects - to men who found her attractive no matter what her age was, and who took her mind off "purposeful, personable" secretaries.

Laura heard the wail of the fire engine's siren as she sipped her second dry martini. She smiled and, unusually for her, ordered a third glass.

They found "Careers For Women" burnt to the ground. There was nothing left to save and the soggy pulp of ashes and extinguisher foam stuck to the firemen's boots as they went about their work.

A fireman picked up a charred photograph and took it home with him. Only the top half of the picture was undamaged, the nose, the eyes, forehead and hair. Then he looked into the eyes, recognized them and knew that this would not be the last fire.

 

Translation: Dane Kurth

© 2000 Paul Lascaux

 

 

 

 

Paul Lascaux: Lost Times

 

Like zombies crawled up from the past, bass, distorted guitar and drums rumbled out of the loudspeakers that were attached at the sunburnt wooden balcony. Soon the voice started off, the smoky, rattling organ of the singer who personifies the everlasting revolution.

James was standing in the dried up grass under the parching heat of the summer day. He observed the smoke that went up to the sky in bluish curls from the rolled cigarette between his fingers. And for a short moment he thought it could be a soul.

He laughed at his grotesque idea and turned at the rhyhtm of the bluesy rock music, to which he swung his long hair. They've got thin in the course of the decades, beginnings of a bald head were clearly recognizable. It didn't seem to bother James.

Just as little troubled him that life around him was standing still. His hair fell out. Every morning when he was looking at the mirror he had to admit it. But time was on his side. It took him out of the uncontrollable vertigo of forward raging desires. James was a man of the flower-power-generation. He preserved the essence, the worldly wisdom of his youth. He was the keeper of a tradition.

Mick Jagger intoned the hymn "Time is on my side". This song confirmed James in his seclusion. Only very seldom everyday life broke into his reservation in the form of a letter. Then he got angry when public authority addressed him as "Jakob". He was equally enraged at the impertinence of calling his love "Liliane", while in reality he named her "Lily". Didn't these strangers know any difference between their world of illusion and the real life of an extraordinary couple? Obviously their uniqueness wasn't accepted!

"Time is on my side. You can't run away!" James made a few steps towards the pond below the house, still miraculously full of water. The glittering yellow light and the burning rays of the sun blinded him. He staggered to the edge of the water and stood still. He shielded his eyes as if he wanted to glance at the rimoteness. But there he saw nothing. The dried up meadow bended in a broken angle down to the narrow valley. Beyond it the fog sheltered him like a veil from the present.

In the water of the pond Lily floated, half shoved up on the muddy shore, half sunk at the shallow, two pitiable water lilies as the last witnesses of her life.

How long had she already been lying there? Her blown up belly exposed to the sun, her face hollow in a grey blue, her chest slashed by raging cuts, her long blonde hair caught in streaks of blood. James tried to remember.

"Something happened to me yesterday", the Rolling Stones declared in a merry singsong. It rattled from the speakers, and the sound was that of a scornful laughter from the past. James wiped the sweat from his forehaed. What all did she have to tell him last night?

He could have got over the child of another man. For a long time they didn't make love to each other. But the betrayal of the commen lifetime, of the ecstatic past was unforgiveable! James sat on the dry earth. He had to obey a higher power, to execute an order when he took the carving knive from the drawer, sharpened it at the grindstone and followed Lily on her way to the early morning worship of the sun.

She had deceived him with the present. This thought was repeated in his brain in an unstoppable refrain. To every "deceived" he answered with a stab until he heard the body hit on the water. Then he turned round and put his favorite record on the player.

The replay mechanism took care that the same songs were played incessantly, even when James had collapsed for a long time already and the twilight had softened the heat of the day. At last James, feeling old and tired, got up, waded some paces through the mud of the pondside, his knees gave way and he lay down to his everlasting love, covering her wounded chest with his body. A little later the sun sank blood red like a cut wrist over the thirsty hills.

 

Translation: Dane Kurth

© 2000 Paul Lascaux