Killer Grass- The man and the letter. by Alissa Foulmouth
Killer Grass is hailed by public and critics as the most interesting voice of Moldavian literature and has recently achieved international notoriety and commercial success after his works have been translated to English and sold at a reduced price. His name is mentioned every year as candidate for the Nobel Prize, but always in the wrong discipline although during the 1974 ceremony he snatched the medal from the perplexed Biology laureate’s hands and would have get away hadn’t the other man been faster than him.
This are excerpts of the interview soon to be published in the literary quarterly magazine Letters & Loathing that I write, publish and distribute personally. It took place in Killer Grass’ beautiful home in the Moldavian countryside. The sanctuary where he writes his novels and essays is located in a charming quiet valley on the Carpathian mountains. His charming little house is perched on the slopes of a bigger house that belongs to a local landowner who lets the author live there because has a superstitious fear of his yellow teeth. In Moldavian folklore people with yellowish rotten teeth is said to be able to transform you in a hair dryer.
I received an invitation sent by his faithful secretary Mrs. Alma Sukker who has been with him since he discovered that he couldn’t tie up his shoes without help. The interview took the form of a relaxed informal chat by the fireplace sipping an excellent and aromatic coffee that the author himself grows in the basement of his house during his free time. Later on the evening the interview took the form of a turmoil and a hurriedly visit to dispensary when my socks caught fire on the fireplace and a too enthusiastic Alma tried to extinguish my legs with a broom resulting in a fractured tibia.
Killer Grass is a lean and energetic man nearing his nineties but with his mind still lucid and aware of his surroundings, to probe that point he repeatedly peeks under my skirt. He wears a checkered shirt under a thick woolen jersey, a bow tie and has forgotten to put his pants on. His underpants are white with a pattern of yellow smileys matching his slippers. His face is elongated with coarse skin framed by wild white hair shaped as a beard from hears down and like the satellite photo of a high pressures front hears up. The tiny blue eyes behind his thick lenses tell of a life devoted to reading and intellectual pursuits and are honest and wise. The right eye looks the more honest but seems as if the burden of wisdom has found better accommodation on the left, despite the fact that the pupil was lost in a hunting accident when Mr. Grass was mistaken by a wild turkey and shoot.
The preliminary chat reveals me a warm, charming and intelligent man with a great sense of humor and significant tendency to spit when pronouncing a diphthong. He bursts into laughs a number of times while I tell a literary anecdote about how James Joyce almost had his penis severed by a piano lid. Every time he laughs I have to salvage his false teeth out my coffee cup and once they fly out the window and, dependable as always, Mrs. Alma has to wrestle the dog in the backyard to retrieve them.
When I see that the venerable master is starting to doze off and that saliva begins to slip down his chin I decide to start the interview with a lighthearted question.
Q: Let me ask you first a question that is not related to literature but that I hope you won’t mind me asking. How many books do you have to sell to buy a place like this? Three?
A: Very funny. I didn’t bought this heap. It has belonged to my family for generations but after the war I had my parents sent to a mental institution because none of the could understand any of my books and because that way I could move to the first floor from my room in the attic. I hated my room in the attic, some magpies nest there and drive my insane by picking in my head while I sleep. For years as child I had nightmares in which magpies ate my genitals and forced me to attend hair dressing lessons.
Q: That sounds familiar.
A: Of course it does, my first poetry dealt exclusively with magpies. I see you have read my books. I never I imagined you could actually read. I am impressed young man.
Q: Thanks sir, but actually I am young lady. My name is Alissa Foulmouth. I told you several times before.
A: I know, I know, don’t you worry my child. I always wanted to be a woman myself.
Q: Okay. Let’s go back to your childhood. We all know that your early writings deal with the issue of magpies. But let me ask you. How and when did you decided that you wanted to be a writer?
A: As a child I always wanted to be an obstetrician. I used to practice with cows. But one day I found a dusty letter in a corner of the dinning room. I was mesmerized although I couldn’t understand what it meant. I told my parents I wanted to learn how to read and they untied me and let me go to school. Later I found out that letter I was so fascinated with was just a plain capital K, I think it fell from my father’s tome of Kafka’s complete works, but there was so many K’s on the volume that I gave up finding if any was missing.
Q: You just mentioned Kafka. Some critics have compared A Trial, your last novel with Kafka’s work, specially with The Trial, because the only difference is that your book has far more orthographic mistakes. Are you a great admirer of the immortal genius from Prague?
Q: I mean Kafka. Do you like Kafka?
A: Oh, yes, indeed of course. I love him. I always leave some scraps for good old Kafka. He is getting old now. Like me. But I still enjoy to have him in my lap on a cold night and stroke his penis until he…
Q: What? Your dog’s name is Kafka? Isn’t a that a coincidence?
A: I don’t know about that but I had a cat before called Schiller. He never produced a single decent poem. He could only write about sardines and his calligraphy was hideous.
Q: I feel like we are losing track here. Let’s back to your childhood. Tell me about your parents. Did they encouraged you as a child to follow your dream of becoming a writer?
A: Well my father did, he was a man of letters. He had worked as typesetter all his life, he was specialized in questions marks. One of his designs was praised in a local farmer’s journal. My mother was another story. Her sister had married a Czech that claimed to be writer but he stabbed her with his fountain pen in their wedding night and ran away with her cattle. My mother hated writers since then.
Q: How sad. But your parents sent you college, is that right?
A: I think so. I don’t remember that period so well. I remember the University, it was a collection of large buildings with tables inside and young people reading and taking notes. There was some older people too. Curiously enough they stood up most of time and spoke incessantly. Those where different times and women were not admitted in the University.
Q: But you met your first love during that period, isn’t that true?
A: Oh yes, I remember that part very well. I met her in the Medicine Faculty. She was so beautiful and young… she was also the first woman I ever saw naked. Actually she was naked the first time I saw her. I think that is why I fell in love with her. She was lying on a table in the anatomy ward. I though she was sleeping and I tried to awake her with a bucket of water but then I realized she was dead so I had sex with her. She seemed indifferent but I had the best time of my life. I took her with me to my room in the boarding house and we started living together until the landlady complained of bad smell to the police. She was an old hag and I think she was jealous. She always had a crush on me, but she looked too much like my own mother. And I had certainly enough with my own mother. Anyway they took her away, not my mother, my corpse girlfriend, and I tried to kill myself by drinking from my ink well but only got my tongue black.
Q: You didn’t die and you wrote your first book instead. Sweet Putrefaction was banned and labeled necrophilic pornography. The volumes were requisitioned and burnt.
A: Yes, that’s exactly what happened. But do you know what?
Q: No, what?
A: What what?
Q: You were telling us about your corpse girlfriend. Please continue.
A: Oh, yes, of course. Do you think I am senile? Yes, Linda. Well I never knew her real name but I always called her Linda.
Q: Then the war came and you joined the resistance underground and tried to keep writing. I can imagine those were really hard times. Tell our readers about it.
A: Yes. It was difficult for all of us but for me it was worse. I remember one night I wrote a particularly lovely sonnet while waiting for a troops transport we had ambushed. We were hiding on a ditch by the train track and it was pitch black. It was raining and the ditch flooded. Do you have any idea of how difficult is to write in the dark submerged in mud to your neck? When I got home I couldn’t understand a single word I have scribbled on damp paper. And to top it off we had blown a transport of swine. We mistook their snouts protruding between the cart planks by machine gun muzzles. It was a fiasco. They found a dead pig impaled in the lighting rod at the top an Orthodox church three kilometers away.
Q: But your experiences as a freedom fighter became the source of your next book A Death in the Mud that became your first published novel. Is that correct?
A: Yes and no. Death in the Mud was based in experiences of that period but they were not mine. I took them from a comrade’s rucksack. He was my friend and died in my arms after a particularly nauseating breakfast. Women were not allowed in the resistance either, and we were all terrible cooks. He had no further use for his experiences so I put them to good use in my book, but I left outside any reference to him to avoid problems with the law.
Q: Very wise. What happened when the war was over?
A: The country was in ruins and the only thing I did well besides writing was bombing. It is the only short of professional training you get in guerrilla fighting. My comrades never left me have a gun because they said I was crazy. I couldn’t find a job because there was nothing to blow left in a country already in ruins. I had to come back to my parents and stay with them. I blowed up some cows to stay in shape but I knew that what I really wanted was to write.
Q: Then you went to Paris and wrote your existentialist masterpiece about the war The Dead Don’t Sweat. Tell us about your Parisian days.
A: France and Paris in particular were a bizarre place. Everybody spoke a strange language called French and I couldn’t understand a single word. I locked up myself in my rented room for three years. The landlady would slip omelettes and crepes under my door and siphon French wine through the key hole. After three years of isolation listening to the radio I felt confident I had mastered the French language and decided to leave my room. Understand my disappointment when I find out that I had been listening to the BBC’s international broadcast service and could speak only English, albeit with French accent, probably due to my diet.
Q: Then you fell in love for second time. Tell us about it.
A: Her name was Ivonne. I met her one night while taking a stroll on a public park. She was very attractive and the most sensual woman I had ever seen. The women from the Moldavian countryside look, smell and behave like horses. In fact thousands of Moldavian women are saddled by mistake every year. But Ivonne was different, she smelled like roses, had no facial hair and she didn’t seem to mind the only French words I could pronounce correctly were merde and croissant. We drank and I took her to my place and we made love all night. She even let me do things to her that would had made blush Linda. And Linda was dead. It was a total let down when she asked me for thousand francs. I was devastated. Specially because I didn’t have that kind of money. She told me not to worry and asked me if she could make a phone call. I though she was calling a taxi. What a nitwit I was! Next thing I remember I was lying on a hospital bed with seven broken ribs and both my legs fractured. I learned an important lesson that day: never trust a woman that shows interest in somebody like me.
Q: But later you wrote an alluring short poem about her called The Dirty Slut that deals with the subject of lost love and reconciliation.
A: Yes, I wrote that very short poem about Ivonne. I had wanted to write a novel but she insisted to charge me five francs a word so I only could afford the poem. But I had learnt my lesson. I outsmarted her. I wrote the poem in her presence and added the consonants after she left. She said the poem was gibberish but I knew better. Unfortunately I misplaced many of the consonants and my publisher broke my legs again. I decided to come back to my country as soon I recovered.
Q: You came back after all those years. What kind of welcoming did you had ?
A: After the publication of The Dead Don’t Sweat I had become a sort of celebrity here, but my mother still hadn’t get over the fact that I was writer. She still hated writers. She had read my book and didn’t understand anything. She insisted that a saucer pan that figures prominently in the book as a symbol of social injustice was inspired in her and tried to stab me with a spoon as soon as I crossed the door. I survived the attack but I was so traumatized that since then I had to mix the sugar in my coffee with my finger and drink soup directly from the plate, which is one of the reasons I do not get many dinner invitations.
Q: Let’s talk about that. Your detractors say you are a misanthrope. You rarely socialize and when you do you chose to eat under the table and wear a paper bag in your head at all times. Your work pervades a deep contempt for human condition and you were arrested once for inducing and abortion on woman by insisting in giving her directions to a butcher shop when she was requesting medical attention. Tell me, do you hate people?
A: No, definitely no. I like to eat under the table because that way I can peek more comfortably under women’s skirts. It is true, and I had said that many times in my books and also to people that were not even interested in listening to me, that I consider the human species essentially as the failed experiment of God. Many times, when I begin writing a novel I put myself, so to say, in God’s shoes and let me tell you: They are huge! They smell a bit rancid, like Roquefort cheese. But being in God’s shoes is an unique experience. It gives you perspective, and that, for a writer, is priceless. You see humanity as it is: a frantic ants race but more chaotic, more fecund. And then, when I begin writing, I actually become God. I can have my characters to do whatever I want, to think the way I want them to think. If I want them to fall in love I can make that too. I can kill them and I can also bring them back to life, as much times as I want. If I want, I make them to dance without having any music played. Isn’t that being like God?
Q: Well that is some interesting shit Mr.Grass. Can you pass me back the joint?
A: Sure. What was I talking about? Oh. Yes! God. Have you ever realized how the word GOD has only three letters? And how much the words GOOD and GOD look alike? There is something rotten in that. That is why I always distrusted the priests. I felt they were hiding something from us. Behind the paraphernalia of the rite, behind their unctuous smiles, behind the altars there was something that was slowly decaying for an eternity. That slowly decaying matter was us. We have forfeited our souls to them and in the process they became jailers of our conscience. I try to free humankind of that invisible slavery with every word I write, with every letter, with every drag…. Man, this shit is good! Where did you get it Mrs. Foulmouth?
Q but A: A Jamaican guy I met in London. Fucked once.
A: I feel sleepy and I can’t find my goddamn teeth .
A: They are there, under the sofa. There. And you can call me Alli.
Q: Thanks. Would you please show me your tits Mrs. Foulmouth? I mean, would you show me your vagina Alli?
A: I came here for a literary interview, not to fuck with a nonagenarian writer that looks like Montgomery Burns.
Q: I didn’t say anything about fornication. I just wanted to see your genital organs. But now that you mention the subject I can give 200$ cash now and 200$ more tomorrow. With that you can get yourself a nice handbag. What do you say?
A: Make it 500$ and you got yourself a deal.