We'll Eat the Cat.
Vienna: Kremayr & Scheriau, 2018.
208 p.; Euro 22,90.
Excerpt: Syria Has a Secret Crush on Poland
We read a book. We read about Peebert's yellow moments. We share our own yellow secrets. Armenia says: One time, at night, my brother confused the wardrobe for the toilet. Armenia's brother laughs and says: I even went right in front of the wardrobe. We laugh along. Armenia's wardrobe and toilet had been in Syria for a hundred years already. We call them Armenia anyway because of their parents' and grandparents' and great-grandparents' memories of a long-lost homeland, and their commemoration of the dead in that homeland, which once existed. Poland says: If you cover the right side of Peebert's face, he looks angry. If you cover the left side of Peebert's face, he looks sad. We cover Peebert's face. Right half, left half, right, left, right, left. Angry, sad, angry, sad. Whoa: it's true! I say: Great observation, Poland! Poland is happy.
And Syria has a secret crush on Poland. For example, if I say: Look around the class. Who's absent today? Poland's absent, says Syria. Poland. Even though Hungary's not there either. But Syria's not in love with Hungary. Syria only has eyes for Poland. Sometimes, Syria cleverly threads his body between the backrest and the seat, slides through gracefully, and shouts: Help, Miss Teacher, help! Then Iraq helps me gently untangle Syria, even although Syria secretly hits Iraq at recess. I say: What can you say if someone gets too close to you? Fifteen arms shoot up. STOPP!
Can I have another piece of paper? asks Kurdistan. But why? I ask. The handwriting's beautiful. Pretty handwriting, I think, is busywork is over the top is The White Ribbon. I've got to quit praising pretty handwriting! Kurdistan says: I need another piece of paper. My father also wants to learn, and I'm going to an appointment with him tomorrow. You're not coming tomorrow? No, says Kurdistan, I'm translating tomorrow for Social Services. We'l miss you, I say. Kurdistan's cheeks light up. One cheek, two cheeks. Kurdistan's cheeks blush red. Ukraine's bright eyes are two different colors. I walk from desk to desk with Ukraine. Ukraine shows each kid his eyes. Ukraine can barely speak a word of German yet, and Syria and Iraq sometimes give him a hard time for it, but nobody except Ukraine and David Bowie has eyes with two different colors. And now that Bowie's gone, Ukraine's the only one left.
But the barbarian woman will never want someone like me. Albin heard that on the radio. Albin listens to the culture station. That's when he learns the most. And the music! One morning when Albin was on the way to a construction site, a guest on the radio said that most men don't mind having a lower-status partner and that most women are looking for a partner of higher status. Albin's status is no higher than anyone else's. Nobody, Albin thinks. Nobody at all is looking for me. But I am actually really satisfied with myself. I think I'm mostly a good person. At least Albin makes an effort to be. Kasimir? Kasimir perches next to the empty coffee cup and snatches the little scraps of paper that Albin has started tearing. A bird can snap something so quickly with its beak. It snaps up scrap after scrap, hops over to the tomato, wraps the tomato in white paper, hops back, repeats. Kasimir, I wanted to use the bathroom! Kasimir pauses.
The new illustrated books are piling up in the entryway. All from the Internet. Condition: Used – very good. Or: Used – good. Or: Used – missing cover. René Magritte is on the nightstand. The way Magritte painted, it was as if you could extract yourself from the world at any moment. I'm still working on it. A quick shower. Slip on shoes. I'l leave the window open for you. Thanks! No problem. Outside the door, the doormat awaits his magic spell. If I didn't have Kasimir... Kasimir props Albin up. And I'l come back today too... And the laundry rack is still on the barbarian's balcony.