Wednesday, December 5, 2012

grim fairy tales (Ludmilla Petrushevskaya)

excerpt from the story There's Someone in the House by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya from There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales


Kym Hepworth,  Even Without Music

“The woman watches television until she falls asleep. She watches intently, her face pressed to the screen. She immerses herself in its bluish rays, floats off to foreign worlds, becomes frightened, intrigued, heartbroken -- in short, she lives. This is her place, on the couch. And then -- crash! Something just fell in the bedroom.

This time there was an awful racket. It really collapsed, whatever it was. The sound is still echoing through the apartment.

The woman runs into the room and stands there in shock. The shelf with all her records has collapsed. They’ve scattered all over, spread out in a fanlike formation on the unmade sofa bed and on the floor. If someone -- you get three guesses who -- had been sleeping there, she’d have gotten the sharp corner of the shelf right in the skull. . . .

The shelf now lies on the piano -- that’s why it made such a terrible racket, with echoes like in the mountains.

The piano -- that, too, was an adventure. A little girl tried to learn to play it. Her mother insisted, forced her to sit there and practice. Nothing came of it; stubbornness won out in the end, the stubbornness that protects us from the will of others, that defends our right to live our life the way we want. Even if it means life will turn out worse than anyone planned, will turn into a poor life -- but it’ll be one’s own, however it is, even without music, even without talent. Without concerts for the family, maybe -- but also without needless worries that someone else plays the piano better. The mother always worried that other children were more talented than her daughter. The daughter heard this enough times and had her revenge by becoming a total nonentity, a fact that both mother and daughter freely acknowledged.

Kym Hepworth, there was no mother, no daughter

Then it all dissolved, all those family dramas straight out of Turgenev; now all that remained was the piano and the old records that crashed into it. The mother had collected classical music, once. The mother had spent hours discussing her daughter over the phone, spilling her child’s secrets as if they didn’t cost a thing. Now there was no mother, no daughter, no shelf for the records. Just a woman standing in a doorway, awestruck by the scene of destruction that was her bedroom. There could be no more sleeping on that bed -- everything was ruined, soaked through with dust. She had to change the sheets. She had to wash, clean, find a new place for everything -- but where? There was no room.

The woman retreats to the living room, closing the door to the bedroom as if for the last time.”

(Source for quote: There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, published by Penguin Books, New York, NY, ©2009


Francesca Woodman (1958-1981), I could no longer play, I could not play by instinct, Providence, RI, c. 1977

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