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Gaustine by Georgi Gospodinov

translated by Magdalena Levy and Alexis Levitin


Half a year went by, and around Christmas, among the usual pile of standard postcards from relatives and friends, I saw to my surprise Gaustine’s handwriting. He had sent me a postcard again, this time with a picture of a round table laden with walnuts, dried fruit, corn, garlic, red peppers and a buklitsa—a wooden wine container-- in the middle. The edges were decorated with delicate Secession-like ornaments. On its back Gaustine wished me a Happy New Year 1930 in his unique handwriting, hoping that it would be a good year for my family and me. Still daring to call myself yours, G. I felt bad. If that was a game, it was lasting too long and was beginning to verge on insanity. We were celebrating the coming of 1991, if I could be positive about anything. I went to the other room and asked my wife which New Year we were celebrating, in fact. She gave me a peculiar look, as if implying that my jokes weren’t always successful. Well, I thought, it might have begun as a game, as a kind of a vague Utopia, and it might well be that later on Gaustine had gotten so stuck that he couldn’t or wouldn’t get out. Maybe life in the thirties felt more comfortable than in the nineties. However, I couldn’t afford such a luxury. Again, I didn’t reply. He, too, didn’t write me any more. Neither for the following New Year’s Eve, nor for the one after. The whole story faded away bit by bit and if it weren’t for the few letters that I still have, most probably I wouldn’t believe it myself, let alone tell it now. But fate arranged otherwise. Only a month ago, on August 1st, 2000 already, I got a new letter from Gaustine. I had a bad feeling about it and was in no hurry to open it up. I determined that it had been over ten years since his last postcard. I wondered whether he had come to his senses after all those years. I opened the envelope only in the evening. There were just a few lines inside. I will convey them word for word.

I am sorry for disturbing you after such a long time. But you can see what is happening around us. You read newspapers and having your nose for politics, you must have long ago anticipated the massacre at our door. The Germans are concentrating armies at the Polish border. I haven’t mentioned before that my mother was Jewish (remember what happened in Austria last year, and what about the “Kristallnacht” in Germany?), nothing can stop that idiot. I have made my decision and have done what needed to be done, so that I can leave for Poland tomorrow morning and enlist as a volunteer. One shouldn’t live like this any more.

P.S. My father might prove right with that name.

Goodbye for now.

Your Gaustine – Garibaldi.

July 28th, 1939

Today is September 1st.



Gospodinov, Georgi. "Gaustine" from And Other Stories. Translated by Alexis Levitin. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, forthcoming July 2007. 

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Per Contra Spring 2007