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Skinny Legs & All

img_2012_03_09_7563b_1600x1200“Η παράλογη συμπεριφορά των ανθρώπων οφείλεται συχνά στην ανικανότητά τους να αντιλαμβάνονται σωστά την πραγματικότητα. Και κάθε φορά που χρησιμοποιούν μια λέξη σλαγκ με γενική και αόριστη σημασία στη θέση των λέξεων που θα περιέγραφαν με ακρίβεια ένα συναίσθημα ή μια κατάσταση, περιορίζεται αυτόματα ο προσανατολισμός τους προς την πραγματικότητα, χάνονται ακόμη περισσότερο, βυθίζονται στα ομιχλώδη έλη της αλλοτρίωσης και της σύγχυσης… Η λέξη «φίνος» λόγου χάρη, έχει ακριβείς εννοιολογικές αποχρώσεις. Φίνος σημαίνει εκλεπτυσμένος, εξευγενισμένος, ραφιναρισμένος. Η λέξη αυτή μας είναι πολύτιμη για να περιγράψουμε ένα άρωμα, ένα λεπτοδουλεμένο τεχνούργημα ή το γούστο κάποιου. Όταν όμως χρησιμοποιείται γενικά και σε ακατάλληλες περιπτώσεις, όπως γίνεται με τη σλαγκ, η ίδια αυτή λέξη αποκρύπτει την αληθή φύση του πράγματος ή του συναισθήματος το οποίο υποτίθεται ότι αντιπροσωπεύει. Μετατρέπεται σε μια λέξη-σφουγγάρι που αν τη στύψεις βγάζεις νοήματα με τους κουβάδες και ποτέ δεν ξέρεις ποιο είναι το σωστό. .. Η σλαγκ χαρακτηρίζεται από μια οικονομία, μια αμεσότητα που είναι οπωσδήποτε ελκυστική. Από την άλλη όμως υποβαθμίζει την εμπειρία διότι την τυποποιεί και τη διαχέει. Κρέμεται ανάμεσα στην ανθρωπότητα και στον πραγματικό κόσμο σαν ένα, ένα πέπλο. Η σλαγκ κάνει τους ανθρώπους περισσότερο ηλίθιους και η ηλιθιότητα τους κάνει τρελούς.”

(Μετάφραση Γιώργος Μπαρουξής)

Lev Peshkov, October 1918

In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson sent 5,500 American soldiers to northern Russia in the last days of World War I.


“It was dusk. Lev Peshkov waited, shivering, in a freight yard in Vladivostok, the ass end of the Trans-Siberian Railway. He wore an army greatcoat over his lieutenant’s uniform, but Siberia was the coldest place he had ever been.

He was furious to be in Russia. He had been lucky to escape, four years ago, and even luckier to marry into a wealthy American family. And now he was back—all because of a girl. What’s wrong with me? he asked himself. Why can’t I be satisfied?
A gate opened, and a cart drawn by a mule came out of the supply dump. Lev jumped onto the seat beside the British soldier who was driving it. “Aye, aye, Sid,” said Lev.
“Wotcher,” said Sid. He was a thin man of about forty with a perpetual cigarette and a prematurely lined face. A Cockney, he spoke English with an accent quite different from that of South Wales or upstate New York. At first Lev had found him hard to understand.
“Have you got the whisky?”
“Nah, just tins of cocoa.”
Lev turned around, leaned into the cart, and pulled back a corner of the tarpaulin. He was almost certain Sid was joking. He saw a cardboard box marked: “Fry’s Chocolate and Cocoa.” He said: “Not much demand for that among the Cossacks.”
“Look underneath.”
Lev moved the box aside and saw a different legend: “Teacher’s Highland Cream—Perfection of Old Scotch Whisky.” He said: “How many?”
“Twelve cases.”
He covered the box. “Better than cocoa.”


“This is the best whisky in the world,” Lev said in Russian. “It comes from a cold country, like Siberia, where the water in the mountain streams is pure melted snow. What a pity it is so expensive.”
Sotnik’s face was expressionless. “How much?”
Lev was not going to let him reopen the bargaining. “The price you agreed to yesterday,” he said. “Payable in gold rubles, nothing else.”
“How many bottles?”
“One hundred and forty-four.”
“Where are they?”
“Nearby.”
“You should be careful. There are thieves in the neighborhood.”
This might have been a warning or a threat: Lev guessed the ambiguity was intentional. “I know about thieves,” he said. “I’m one of them.”
Sotnik looked at his two comrades, then, after a pause, he laughed. They laughed too.
Lev poured another round. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Your whisky is safe—behind the barrel of a gun.” That, too, was ambiguous. It might have been a reassurance or a warning.
“That’s good,” said Sotnik.
Lev drank his whisky, then looked at his watch. “A military police patrol is due in this neighborhood soon,” he lied. “I have to go.”
“One more drink,” said Sotnik.
Lev stood up. “Do you want the whisky?” He let his irritation show. “I can easily sell it to someone else.” This was true. You could always sell liquor.
“I’ll take it.”
“Money on the table.”


Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

Faceless Killers (Wallander #1)Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

“What did the inside of Herdin’s house look like?” Wallander asked.
“Old-fashioned. But clean, tidy. Strangely enough, he uses a microwave to do his cooking. He offered me homemade rolls. He has a big parrot in a cage. The farm is well cared for. The whole place looks neat. No broken-down fences.”
“What make of car does he drive?”
“A red Mercedes.”
“A Mercedes?”
“Yes, a Mercedes.”
“I thought he told us it was hard making ends meet.”
“Well, that Mercedes of his would have set him back 300,000 plus.”
Wallander thought for a moment. “We need to know more about Lars Herdin. Even if he says he has no idea who killed them, he could easily know something without realising it himself.”
“What’s that got to do with the Mercedes?”
“Nothing. I’ve just got a hunch that Herdin is more important to us than he thinks he is. And we might wonder how a farmer today can afford to buy a car for 300,000 kronor. Maybe he has a receipt that says he bought a tractor.”

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