In 1986 (in the first phase of the Gorbachev era), Caroline, a young East German girl, goes to the Soviet Union to spend a year there studying Russian. After a number of mysterious things have happened which prepare her for the encounter, she meets an attractive and strange Russian, Ivan Yossifovich Bessmertny. During a theatre play, his spirit passes into her. From then on, he is with her wherever she is, taking shape from time to time, first as a Russian, then as an American, and in the end as a West German. He interrupts the narrative through comments from the point of view of someone standing in the future (in a style frequently adopted by West German and United German newspapers and journals when dealing with East German history).
In Russia, Caroline falls in love with Jackie, a student from Laos. She has to fight for this love against several forces, in particular the rules and laws of the socialist countries. They are personified in some of her fellow students, officers and policemen who try to keep them apart. Still in a way believing in the superiority of socialism, Caroline finds herself breaking its rules (she illegally enters the Soviet Union to meet Jackie, is caught and sent back) and at the same time defending it against its own officials.
Their love ends abruptly when Jackie writes her a letter saying that he is not able to be faithful to her.
Caroline takes part in the 1989 demonstrations from the beginning. The demonstrations reach their turning point. The few people who started them when it was dangerous to do so move to the background as the masses take over. The main aim changes from freedom of expression to joining the West in order to get Western living standards. At one demonstration Caroline finds that the chant „We are the people!“ (meaning: we, and not them) has changed into: „We are one people!“ She begins to sense the direction East Germany is moving in. At that point, Bessmertny takes shape again, this time talking with an American accent. He explains to her that it is impossible for East Germany or any country to leave the Soviet Block and not join the West. Caroline passionately tries to convince him that a third way is possible. In this atmosphere of passion and the feeling of something new coming into being, she seduces him and conceives a child.
After the boy, Jonas, is born and Germany is reunited, Caroline finds herself in the position of a single mother (Bessmertny has disappeared) in a capitalist society – a status that is financially much harder than it used to be under socialism. She moves in with her first love, Joschka, who is still in love with her. Unemployment springs up suddenly in East Germany. The (West German) company Joschka is working for cancels his job in East Germany and offers him one in Frankfurt, which he feels he must take. Caroline decides not to move with him as she finds the atmosphere in West Germany alien and, being a woman with a small child, she cannot see a chance of finding a job. She stays by herself.
While looking for a job, she meets a number of her former fellow-students: Renate, who had started a career in the Party in East Germany, now appears as the boss of a translation company and turns down Caroline’s application. Simone, another former Party member who never made friends with Caroline because of the ideological gap between them, now becomes her closest friend. When Claudia loses her teaching job, and her boyfriend, like Joschka, is moved to West Germany, the two women start dreaming of opening their own business.
The novel ends with a description of Caroline going to the supermarket to buy bread and wine for the guests at Jonas’ first birthday. As she is not yet used to Western merchandizing, she returns with two enormous bags full of food. She finds a letter from Jackie telling her he still loves her, that he wrote that last letter only because there was no chance for them to get together and that he wanted her to hate him rather than to suffer.
She empties her bags and finds she has forgotten to buy bread.
This book is not a „pure“ novel, and it is not meant to be one. Elements of the surreal or of the report prevent it from being one. The reason for this is that I found myself unable to describe things happening in Russia (and in East Germany around 1989) without using surrealistic means. However, there is not one scene or description in the book that has not an authentic background. The passages describing life in Russia are detailed and truthful descriptions of my experiences in 1986/87 during my year there.
I found it important to show how the events of 1989 in the Eastern Block originated in Russia, and how the East and the West were and still are connected with each other more closely than the West tends to think. The image of a devil-like but not unsympathetic figure has a long tradition in Russian literature. I used it to emphasize the connection: Russia-America-Germany, to make things plausible that are not plausible in reality, and of course because of its capacity for comical elements. The image of a child conceived by the devil at the point when a „new Germany“ is conceived is another of the indirect statements made possible by the use of this figure.
The excerpts enclosed are from various parts of the book.
Chapter 17 describes Caroline’s train journey from Middle Asia to Moscow in winter.
She has spent some days with a Kasakh friend in Alma-Ata and made a trip into the nearby mountains (during which Bessmertny kept appearing). After that, she has travelled through Tashkent and Samarkand by herself and without official permission to visit these towns. Being a woman on her own, in this part of the world, and not being allowed to stay in hotels she found travelling very dangerous, and she nearly has got raped and suffered from a lack of sleep and from a sickness due to the foreign food. It is in this situation that chapter 17 starts.
Chapter 28 describes from Caroline’s point of view the beginnings of the demonstrations in autumn 1989 that led to the breakdown of East Germany.
The epilogue gives a short report on the difficulties that Caroline has to face in the freshly united Germany. She has been brought up in a country where women, especially single mothers, were more emancipated and had more chances than in the country she is in now, although it is the same country. She has fought the old East German system, but it has turned into something that she has not wished for. The conflict described here stands for the conflict of many East German women after 1989.
in which the birth of a community takes place
The journey from Tashkent to Moscow lasted five days and four nights.
Caroline had a place in an “obshtshi vagon”, that is a carriage in which there are no doors or walls between the compartments. Each of the open compartments is formed by six beds. Four beds are situated in a right angle to the direction of the train, two below and two above, on either sides of a window. The other two beds are fixed to the wall alongside the train, next to the opposite window.
Caroline had an upper bed. The lower bed opposite was occupied by a lively and skinny granny. In spite of the cold of the winter, she was wearing a flowered summer dress. As soon as she came in, she started to chat with every passenger she could reach.
The danger was over. Caroline curled under her still slightly damp sheets and slept and slept and slept…
When she awoke it was a bright day. She blinked in the sunlight, which was shining into her bed.
“Dyewushka, you haven’t been sleeping for a week, have you?” it came from below. “Come, come, help yourself, you need a breakfast badly, I reckon. Hey, deshurnyi1,” she called the man who was balancing four tea glasses in their silver covers through the carriage, “bring us a cup of tea, please!”
After Caroline had dropped from her bed and been to the bathroom, she sat next to the wiry granny on her bed. Opposite them, a man with a half-bald head sat on his bed, looking in front of himself dreamily. The little table was folded out. It was covered with a greasy newspaper with some pieces of bread, three tomatoes and some bits of smoked fish on it.
“Help yourself, help yourself, dochka2. You are hungry, aren’t you? It’s humble, my food, but take some! I couldn’t make myself a big lunchbox. I’ve run away from home. To the quack she wanted to send me, my Tanyushka! She’s worked it out nicely. But I’ve escaped her. I want to go to Moscow, to see a specialist. I don’t let any charlatan dig around in my guts! And so I picked a moment when my little daughter did not watch. I couldn’t even change my dress. She has locked all my warm clothes up, the little dove, she knew that I’d run away. But I’ve been cunning. Have been putting money aside all the time, bit by bit, a rouble here, a couple of kopecks there. I’ve saved it; Marya, I’ve said to myself, you never know when it could come in handy. A nice little sum it is now, and I can just use it!” She blinked at Caroline cunningly.
“And that’s why I don’t have a big feast. I took what was there. Have some of it, dochka!” With a resolute movement, she gripped a piece of bread and a piece of fish and put it into Caroline’s hand. Caroline had to eat, if she wanted to or not. The man opposite watched the food gradually disappear in her body, causing an enormous uproar in her stomach. It was her first solid food for a couple of days.
She looked around furtively. The grandma really had got no luggage, apart from a little nylon bag.
Caroline took the bread, fruit and chicken Olga had given her out of her backpack, unwrapped it from the plastic bag and the newspaper, and put it on the table next to the bread and the fish.
“Help yourselves,” she asked the others. The sad man shook his head sadly, thanking her politely.
“He’s got trouble, doesn’t want to eat,” the granny explained to her and added, turning to the man: “Never mind, synochka3, relax, have a little sleep, and everything will be all right.
“But I will take some of your chicken, thank you, my little dove.” She took a chicken leg and started gnawing it swiftly with very few teeth. The skill and the astounding speed of this action woke the interest even of the sad man. With curiosity, he looked at her industriously nibbling mouth.
“Dyevushka,” the granny asked between two mouse bites, “you’re from the Balticum, aren’t you?”
Now I’ll stop lying about where I’m from, Caroline decided. The worst that can happen when they find out that I am travelling around without a visa is that they can send me back to B., and that is where I am going now anyway.
“No, I’m from the GDR.”
“GDR? Oh, my grandson has served there in the army. Must be a nice country. And so clean! But what has brought you here?”
“I came to see some friends.”
“Ah yes, friends. And how is life over there, in Germany? Have you got enough bread?”
“Oh yes. We’ve got enough.”
“You are rich, aren’t you? Richer than we are?”
“Hmm – yes I think so. There is more in the shops.” Much more, she thought with an uneasy feeling that was close to guilt. Why am I feeling guilty? Because I have got more than others?
“And can you travel to West Germany?”
“No – only people with a special permission and pensioners.”
“Pensioners? But they are old, they are tired. Do they still want to travel around?”
“They do. They aren’t that tired.”
The tea arrived. The sad man, who seemed to have followed the conversation, suddenly started moving. He rummaged in a rustling plastic bag and finally produced a bag folded from brown wrapping- paper, the contents of which he poured next to the food on the little table. It was konfety.
Soviet konfety is very tasty and comes out in cubic pieces of about 1 x 1 x 3 centimetres, each wrapped in special paper. Each sort has its own paper and its own name. You will have them with a cup of tea after a meal or with a cup of tea in between meals. Because they are not always and not everywhere available, konfety are often bought in quantities that seem unusual or even frightening for a Westerner. The sad man was not the only person here who was carrying konfety. On a walk through the carriage one would find some konfety lying on most of the little tables next to bread, chicken, and tea. Caroline, too, had two bags folded from brown paper, filled with konfety; one was from Olga and the other, with rarer sorts, from Stepan.
“Help yourselves, please,” said the man and sadly nodded at Caroline and the granny. To Caroline’s surprise, he added: “Let’s introduce. I’m Anatoli Grigoryevich Serykh.”
“My name is Caroline Bauer.”
“I am Marya Antonovna Makarova. Haven’t you got a father’s name?”
“I live without any. That’s what we do in Germany.”
“These konfety,” Anatoli Grigoryevich explained, “are especially tasty. They are from a special shop in Moscow. I personally find that this sort,” he lifted up one of them, “is the most tasty, but it is of course entirely a matter of personal taste. Try it, try it!”
Having delivered this relatively long and committed speech, Anatoli Grigoryevich fell back into silence, which was however not as gloomy as before and enriched with little smacking sounds. They all ate.
The train stopped. Before it started again, a crying woman entered the carriage. She had two gigantic bags, which were carried by two extremely muscular youths. The woman steered them towards the bed over Marya Antonovna’s bed, onto which they lifted the bags as effortlessly as if they were filled with warm air. Having done that, they nodded politely and carried their muscles away. The woman rushed to the window, where she waved goodbye to an old woman who was crying too, and an old, short man standing outside.
On the bed fixed alongside the train opposite the beds of Caroline, the granny, and Anatoli Grigoryevich, another man sat down. He took a chess game and a newspaper casting of a chess game out of his bag, put the pieces onto the board and became absorbed in the game.
The woman fell on the bed next to Anatoli Grigoryevich and sniffed silently.
“There, there,” Marya Antonovna grunted comfortingly, “life consists of many partings. But it hurts every time.” The woman sniffed louder.
“Relax a bit. Have some tea. Where is the deshurny? Hey, synochka,” she called the deshurny, “bring a little cup of tea for the lady!”
“Here, take some konfety. From the special shop in Moscow,” Anatoli Grigoryevich suggested. The crying woman’s face brightened.
“You have been in the special shop? In Moscow?” She took a piece of konfety. “Yum, my favourite sort. What a coincidence! And in that shop they sometimes have another sort, those, what was the name, wrapped in pink paper, without any pattern, just pink.”
“Ah yes, I know what you mean. What was the name…” Anatoli Grigoryevich replied, who had suddenly become amazingly animated. When the deshurny came to collect the tea glasses, Marya Antonovna ordered another round of tea.
The two young athletes were strolling up and down the aisle, resembling huge animals locked up in a too small cage. On every upper bed they passed, they did a pull-up. They were looking for passengers with huge bags they could lift up, down, in, and out.
Another chess friend had appeared and kept the chess player company, but after two lost games he gave up. Anatoli Grigoryevich left his place by the window and the konfety bags in order to try a game. He seemed to have a real chance, and soon there was an audience, commenting the game in respectfully lowered voices. The game was over after two hours. Anatoli Grigoryevich had lost. Exhausted, he returned to his place next to the sad woman, who had turned into a happy and very talkative woman in the meantime. She had made herself at home and was wearing an apron with a flowered pattern and purple slippers with white pompoms. Her chicken, bread and gurkins had added to the food on the little table.
Out of an enormous bag of konfety, she fed her powerful body and the lively conversation with Anatoli Grigoryevich. Marya Antonovna talked to a woman from another compartment, whom she had engaged into a conversation and who – what a coincidence! – knew somebody in Moscow that she knew, too. Soon the mother and the cousin of the woman came, too. When they heard about Marya Antonovna’s food situation, they went back to their compartment and returned with a chicken leg, some gurkins and konfety.
After a little nap, Caroline tried a game against Grigori Ignatyevich, as the chess friend introduced himself. The game was over after ten minutes, five of which, Caroline supposed, were due to Grigori Ignatyevich’s politeness.
Meanwhile a little girl had turned up in their compartment from somewhere. Marya Antonovna told her a fairy tale. The girl listened with big eyes, her gaze directed somewhere far away. The two athletes came and listened, too.
When Marya Antonovna had finished her fairy-tale, Caroline took her recorder out and played a lullaby for the girl and all the others.
The sun sent its evening light through the left window before it sank into the red dust of the endless steppe. Queues for the toilets formed and dissolved. The carriage went to sleep.
Three days went by, during which Caroline learned that the two athletes were Lithuanians and on their way home from a championship, that the sad and now happy woman had seen her mother in Chimkent and did not know if or when she was going to see her again. Grigori Ignatyevich had by now played a chess game against every passenger who was familiar with the rules of chess, and he had not lost yet. Nobody was willing to play against him any more, and so he became absorbed in one of the famous games of Karpow against Kasparow. Perhaps he was one of them?
When Caroline woke up from her midday nap, Grigori Ignatyevich had a new challenger. He was sitting with his back turned to her, so that she could not see his face.
Oh, she thought, a new passenger or a very bold one. But there was something about him that seemed to be familiar to her. He was wearing a perfectly fitting grey suit. He was slim and very tall even though he was sitting. She only needed to have a look at the slender hand, which, full of grace, was just taking a white tower with a black knight, to tell: it was Ivan Yossifovich Bessmertny.
“How long have those two been playing?” Caroline asked Marya Antonovna, who was informed about everything that was going on in the carriage.
“It must be the third hour already. Grigori Ignatyevich has found, it seems, an equal opponent.”
Grigori Ignatyevich’s face expressed a high degree of concentration. He was frowning, and his left eyebrow twitched from time to time.
The happiness and security that Caroline had been feeling during this journey left her suddenly.
“Checkmate,” she heard the voice familiar to her by now, which this time had a Moscow accent. Grigori Ignatyevich leant back with a moan.
“Will we play a return game after supper?” he asked, exhausted.
“As you wish,” Bessmertny chirped charmingly. “Will you please excuse me for a little while?” He got up, bowed lightly towards Grigori Ignatyevich, and came into Caroline’s compartment, which by chance was empty at the moment, apart from Caroline. Marya Antonovna, Anatoli Grigoryevich and the sad happy woman were in other compartments or on the toilet.
“Please, don’t be angry with me because I have come here,” Bessmertny said with a bow. “This is not what I usually do: just turn up, without any special task, just for fun so to say, and with no advance notice on top of that. But the temptation was too strong, you understand.” He smiled charmingly and guiltily.
“This good company in the carriage. Grigori Ignatyevich – an excellent chess player. Chess is one of my passions, you know. And,” he added gloomily, “it’s been a really hard time, running about all the time, climbing snowy mountains in the icy wind, and travel around in uncomfortable, dirty trains. On top of that, the people were repugnant and extraordinarily unsavoury-looking. And, worst of all, almost nothing to eat. It nearly seemed to me that somebody wanted to starve me. To make matters even worse, I was being forced to listen to lullabies every night. On the recorder!!” A heartbreaking moan came out of the depths of his suit. “A musical performance that, by the way, excuse my frankness, has to be improved in many respects. No, as the Germans say, life is not like licking sugar.”
During this speech Bessmertny’s voice had become more and more annoyed, up to the point of sounding weepy in the end. Now he pulled himself together and said decisively: “Please let me play a last chess game with Grigori Ignatyevich before I leave. I promise you not to win.”
He kept his promise. On the next morning, Caroline learned from Grigori Ignatyevich, whose red-rimmed eyes were looking gloomily, that the game lasted four hours and ended in a draw.
“Has Ivan Yossifovich left after the game?” she asked him.
“What Ivan Yossifovich?” he grudged.
“Well, your opponent from last night.”
“Oh, that one. His name is Yossif Adamovich. Yossif Adamovich Cherny,”4 he added respectfully and went back to brooding.
“Excuse me, but did he get out or not?”
“The Devil knows,” Grigori Ignatyevich growled, “got out or not got out, what difference does it make?”
Somewhere in the brown steppe they had been passing for days, somebody said there must be a monument that ought to be visible from the train. Everybody looked out of the window, lively discussing the matter. On the right and on the left of the train there was just steppe. Brown, dry grass stretched from the railway line with the telephone line above up to the horizon. Now and then there was a couple of horses or a single hut. That was all.
A quarter of an hour later, the little girl discovered a grey spot on the horizon, and after a thorough discussion, this spot was commonly accepted as the monument. Everybody went into their departments, some in new groups that had formed during the discussion.
When the train had reached Moscow, there were several new addresses with invitations in Caroline’s notebook, and she had some new souvenirs: a badge from the little girl, the book that Anatoli Grigoryevich had just been reading, and an amber bracelet from the two strong boys, who had become her bodyguards and kept her company during the time until her departure from Moscow.
in which something tremendous comes into being
On the 7th October 1989 big demonstrations took place on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the GDR. As usual, the workers passed the tribune or rostrum, waving upwards with coloured cloths. The coloured cloths were specially made and handed out for the occasion, and were called Winkelemente – ‘things for waving’. After the demonstration, they would be collected again. The enthusiastic greetings were answered with old men’s shaky waving from above.
Large troops of men of the same size dressed in identical brown clothes were passing the old shaky wavers, moving their arms and legs in an identical way. By an identical bending of hundreds of arms towards hundreds of identical hats they were demonstrating their willingness to take care that those old men could continue standing on the tribunes and they themselves could continue making their identical movements beneath the tribunes.
Ulrike and the others had to take part in the demonstrations, each of them marching along with their pupils and making sure the pupils were disciplined.
Not so Caroline. She could now afford to not take part in the demonstrations. Instead, she went to church in the evening. There was going to be an hour of commemoration, she had heard. As usual, she was some minutes late (punctuality is a waste of time, she thought) and to her surprise found the church closed and a message on the door saying: Sorry. The church was overcrowded. The hour of commemoration will be repeated at about 8 p.m. for those who did not get in.
Caroline looked around. Several people were going up and down in front of the entrance, by themselves or in small groups, or were just standing around. Caroline felt uncomfortable. Suddenly she understood why. She walked around the church in a circle. Every four metres, she passed a couple of the Dark Gentlemen. She could tell them by the expression of their faces, she did not even need to look at their leather jackets. The expression of their faces was actually not an expression because they expressed nothing. This Nothing was its characteristics. The Nothing in such a multiple form scared Caroline. She had never before been confronted with it in such a massive way. She had never before seen so many of them in one place.
There were police cars waiting in the streets adjacent to the church.
At eight o’clock, the church emptied, and the people scattered as they were told. Caroline went in with the others. Inside, she sensed that everyone else had the same feeling: fear and expectation of whatever was coming. She could read her own emotions in every face. That multiplication of her own feelings made her feel close to the others although most of them were strangers to her, and although nobody had said anything yet.
Later, she would not remember what had been said during the meeting. All she would remember was what she felt: closeness because of fear. The kraken-like embrace by the Nothing-men who were waiting outside. The images of what had happened on Tianmen Square in Peking were present in each of the people. There was the presentiment that something great was approaching and that it would affect all who were here.
At the end of the prayers, the priest’s request: please scatter, go home, do not form a demonstration.
Because a demonstration is just what they are waiting for, his eyes and his tone said. They understood. They were proficient in reading between the lines and hearing between the words.
Go home, the priest said, peacefully, go by yourselves or in small groups. The place and time of the next prayers will be announced. Go in peace.
A peace song was sung. A shiver ran down Caroline’s spine. A revolt inside – peace outside?
The following prayers were held in a larger church. For some weeks, it was big enough to hold the gathering, which was growing week by week.
There was a microphone in front, behind which a long queue formed. The queue consisted of people some of whom had never before talked to a crowd of people. They spoke fluently and without notes. For the first time in their lives, they spoke their true opinions in public.
Pentecost, Caroline imagined, must have been like this. People who did not know each other before talk to each other and have something to say. People who are shy by nature are given the power of speech, or rather: they can show that they have it. People listen to each other, applaud or disagree. The people behind the microphone were not well-educated artists or priests or politicians. They were just people talking about their problems, and that they were doing it was tremendous.
These people had come together in order to listen to each other and to share something with each other. They had neither paid anything nor had anybody forced them to come. They were here voluntarily and for free. They seemed to be in a land that was neither GDR nor FRG.
This was extraordinary. Where had there been anything like that before?
As the weeks passed, despite the first intrustion by the priests, demonstrations did form after the weekly prayers. Was it still possible to prevent a violent confrontation? How was this going to end? When would they make use of their water hoses, which Caroline passed at every demonstration? Who would be hit by the first bullet?
Together with some friends, they sat down and painted their fear onto placards: Keine Gewalt!1
Some months later, when everything was decided, a reputed psychologist from Halle would express the controversial view that this non-violence was one of the reasons why that revolution was not a real revolution, not a revolution that toppled the old rulers and cleared the place for something new.
An interesting position. But only if you look at things after the event. As for Caroline, she was in the middle of it and had to look into the non-faces of the Dark Gentlemen.
The non-faces were present everywhere. The water hoses and police cars were out in the street so that everybody could see them. The army was on alert. Caroline stood on the side of the street with her placard or she walked with the others. The demonstrators were silent. They held on to the burning candles in their hands.
The next thing that happened was the “dialogues”. It meant that the Party leadership gave their functionaries instructions to enter into dialogue with the people. Everywhere, in all cities and villages in the GDR, politically schooled comrades were mixing with the people in order to fulfil their task: to get into a dialogue with the people.
Caroline was standing in the market place in the middle of a small group. The group was one of several that had formed around each of the comrades which the town hall had suddenly and unexpectedly cast into the angry crowd. The comrade in the middle of Caroline’s group was talking incessantly and without any notes to read from. Where have all these clever people been, she asked herself. Have they all been in the Moscow embassy, like Comrade Sperling, or were they being fattened elsewhere, being spared for use in times of crisis?
“Of course the Party is changing. Of course we are honest and prepared to talk to you. Have you got any questions or problems? You can approach us any time, as you always could. What questions are there?” The man’s sunglasses reflected the faces around challengingly. His narrow mouth was reduced to a line. One could not see where he was looking.
How can one pin him down? I need something concrete, an argument that he cannot escape.
The elections, Caroline remembered. In the last elections, they had not been content with the more than 90 per cent of the votes they had got anyway, and they had fraudulently claimed over 98 per cent. Opposition groups in different cities had been present when the votes were counted, had collected the results centrally, had summed them up and worked out the end result, and had found out that there was a difference to the official figures.
Ridiculous, she thinks, but you have to start somewhere. In this case, there is evidence. They have infringed their own laws. In other cases, they only infringe humanity and common sense.
“If you call yourself honest, then why have you forged the results of the last elections?” Caroline asked. “You have lied to the people.”
“I would be careful with the words ‘forge’ and ‘lie’,” was the answer, “there is, as you certainly know, statement against statement, and the things some people are accusing us of still have to be proved. We should rather try to find out what the purpose of such a smear campaign is, and who is interested in it and conducting it. In whose interest is it to expose our Party as untrustworthy? In whose interest is it to undermine our reputation? I am very amazed that you…”
A voice rose out of the angry murmur of the crowd. It belonged to Markus, one of Caroline’s friends, a theology student.
“But we are not talking about undermining a reputation,“ he said. “We are talking about the last elections.”
“But of course we are talking about the reputation of the Party, here I must contradict you, Mr… what was your name?”
“Munkert,” Markus replied.
“Yes, Mr Munkert. By the way, we know each other already, we have met before, haven’t we? And you, young lady, seem to be familiar, too… You are Miss Bauer, aren’t you? But back to your question. One should always be careful as to whom one can trust. And one should carefully consider whether one blindly believes some accusation, or whether one should rather check it before making any judgements.”
“We are talking about the last elections,” Markus said with a preaching gesture of both hands, struggling to keep his composure, “why don’t you admit the fraud? How can you hope to be trusted if you don’t admit a fault you made?”
“We are always prepared to admit a mistake we made. Provided we did make it. And we are and have always been trusted by the people. I don’t know what makes you think we are not trusted, Mr Munkert. Perhaps you have…”
You cannot argue with them. They are always right. They talk and they talk, until I do not know what I was about to say, and give up. Even Markus is not able to discuss the matter with this man, and Markus is fairly eloquent. How do they manage always to be on the right side?
“Now you tell me,” a voice in a broad dialect interrupted the elegant torrent of words, “why are you lying, anyway?” It was a young man dressed in building worker’s clothes, who had been listening all the time, standing in the crowd.
“I beg your pardon?” The sunglasses reflected confusion.
Caroline was stunned, too. So was Markus. They looked at each other.
“I don’t quite understand,“ the glasses said. „Could you please clarify what you mean?“
“But it is very easy to understand. You are lying all the time. At the elections, you were lying, and now you are lying again. Why are you lying?”
The comrade looked around, searching help. A restrained grin appeared on the faces around him.
“Well, if you are not able to express yourself more precisely, Mr…”
“I have expressed myself very precisely. I want to know why you are lying,” the building worker insisted. “Why are you lying?”
The man in the glasses nervously turned aside.
“On this level, I am not prepared to talk to you any longer,” he concluded, deftly slipped out of the crowd and disappeared in the town hall.
The crowd applauded. The building worker gave Caroline and Markus a friendly slap on their shoulders so that both began to totter, and said to them: “Let’s give ‘em some bloody dialogue!”