Lucian Dan Teodorovici – Goose Chase
It's best to discover the way the others live whilst in the company of a respected authority figure. In Lucian Dan Teodorovici's Goose Chase, the narrator, a young boy, is introduced to the other from his Romanian childhood, the gypsies, by his grandfather, when the two go off in search of their missing geese. There's blood and violence, and the cheapness of life seems evident – but the returned hand-squeeze from his grandfather reassures, and all is well. You're just visiting, child. It's not real for you as soon as you go back home.
It's real for the gypsies, though. Teodorovici's story is crafted into two sections, the first a somewhat farcical exposition of ordinary Romanian life, when the most dramatic part of the day concerns the marking of geese with phalluses; the second journeys deep into the gypsy enclave, utterly different to what the narrator understands as normal. The force of the immediate, sharp, physical, confrontational second part is greatly enhanced by the slap-dash first section, a neat juxtaposition which serves both parts of the story well.
In a nutshell, the narrator's grandfather is down seven geese, and he suspects (as does the narrator) that the gypsies are involved. Never mind; being apprehensive of gypsies is for the other families, not theirs:
...back then it seemed the gypsies somehow lived in another world. Even the militia didn't pay them any mind...My grandfather wasn't afraid, though, and this was because he had many friends among the gypsies, what with him being a conductor on the train and all. Chief conductor, even, as he used to say.
Together they travel, a seasoned adventurer leading his protege. A high-flown concept perhaps, but it reaches to the heart of the matter – the gypsies are other, they are separate and distinct and unknown. To see them is not to learn them, but it is to take notice.
In the child narrator's normal world, geese are painted, sometimes with phalluses, but everyone has enough to eat and the conceits of polite life are upheld. In the gypsy world, which remains foreign and strange, blood and viscera are immediate and omnipresent, and it seems to the boy that life is treated less sacredly here.
He went into the yard, dragging me behind him. In the yard, instead of a dog, there was a rather skinny pig, which was rooting with its snout under the doorframe. The door was crooked, hanging from a single hinge, and the pig kept thrusting its snout under, and the door was rattling around as though about to fall off at any moment...Then my grandfather knocked at that door which was barely hanging from its hinge, and I thought it was sure to fall off. It didn't fall off; it opened. And in the doorway appeared a gypsy with wisps of white hair poking out from under his hat.
The grandfather and the boy talk with the “old Gypsy”, who seems to possess a certain authority. The narrator remains scared, his available frames of reference and experience utterly useless in the face of a distinct cultural difference. The old Gypsy hawks and spits and appears nonchalant in the face of incredibly casual violence. The sounds of a beating is heard, and then its results. Most everything seems blood-stained. Violence and the threat of violence hang palpably in the air, oppressing.
Teodorovici's story doesn't have much beyond it's theme, which is that of the outsider visiting a strange unknown. It's a strong theme, but the author doesn't do much with it. The narrator is a child; necessarily his capacity for understanding is limited. But the perspective of the narration is that of the older, adult narrator remembering his childhood – which means that reflection should occur, but it doesn't. Instead, it's all simply presented, and we are left to discover its meaning for ourselves. An author shouldn't, of course, hold the reader's hand more than is necessary to assist in understanding, but a deeper idea than “Gypsy's are odd” needs to be presented.
Goose Chase by Lucian Dan Teodorovici is a short story from the Dalkey Archive Press' anthology, Best European Fiction 2011
Other stories from the Dalkey Archive Press' anthology, Best European Fiction 2011, include:
---United Kingdom: Welsh: Roberts, Wiliam Owen - The Professionals
---United Kingdom: British: Mantel, Hilary - The Heart Fails Without Warning
---Turkish: Üldes, Ersan - Professional Behaviour
---Swiss: Stefan, Verena - Doe a Deer
---Spanish: Catalan: Ibarz, Mercé - Nela and the Virgins
---Spanish: Castilian: Vila-Matas, Enrique - Far From Here
---Slovenian: Jančar, Drago - The Prophecy
---Serbian: Arsenijević, Vladimir - One Minute: Dumbo's Death
---Russian: Gelasimov, Andre - The Evil Eye
---Romanian: Teodorovici, Lucian Dan - Goose Chase
---Portuguese: Tavares, Gonçalo M. - Six Tales
---Polish: Tokarczuk, Olga - The Ugliest Woman in the World
---Norwegian: Grytten, Frode - Hotel by a Railroad
---Netherlands: Uphoff, Manon - Desire
---Montenegrin: Spahić, Ognjen - Raymond is No Longer with Us – Carver is Dead
---Moldovan: Ciocan, Iulian - Auntie Frosea
---Macedonian: Minevski, Blaže - Academician Sisoye's Inaugural Speech
---Lithuanian: Kalinauskaitė, Danutė - Just Things
---Lichtensteiner: Sprenger, Stefan - Dust
---Latvian: Ikstena, Nora - Elza Kuga's Old-Age Dementia
---Italian: Candida, Marco - Dream Diary
---Irish: Barry, Kevin - Doctor Sot
---Irish: Dhuibhne, Éilís Ní - Trespasses
---Icelandic: Eiríksdóttir, Kristín - Holes in People
---Hungarian: Krasznahorkai, László - The Bill
---German: Schulze, Ingo - Oranges and Angel
Index of Best European Fiction 2010 under review
Index of Best European Fiction 2012 under review
Index of short stories under review
David J Single