Login   Sign Up 


Stephen Magic

by Bergkamp 

Posted: 24 February 2004
Word Count: 579
Summary: Second instalment. Please bear inmind that this is First Draft. Feedback welcome!

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced


Benno Jacob is sitting at a table outside a café on the north side of the town square in Jastrebarsko. Although he looks much younger, I can tell that it is him. I recognise his impassive stance, his faraway stare. His clothes seem shabby; a shapeless suit, old fashioned, ill-fitting. He is much too slight. His hands are partly hidden by the sleeeves and the scruffy cuffs of his shirt. The trousers are too short, however, they show his bare ankles. His shoes are clogs, heavy and large. They look too big to allow him to walk comfortably. He surveys his surroundings as if he is taking in the details to examine more closely at a later date.

Benno had come to Jastebarsko with his mother, Rosa, as a child, from Trieste. His father was an Italian Jew, but no one had ever seen him. Benno Jacob and his mother haad arrived together, alone, and settled here and he had attended the same school as my father. He had the reputation of being a loner. His mother had died when I was a child. My picture of her is a collage made up of glimpses of him from my memory, and what I have been told. I am no longer sure where my own memory of her ends and what others have told me begins.

My picture of her is that she was tall. Always in a greeen dress. She had long brown hair. In my mind it is wavy. Her eyes are blue. But she must have been an old woman when I knew her. She would have had grey hair. So, whose memories are these?

Perhaps her son, Benno, was not a loner. Maybe this is what I have heard and accepted. But, whenever I see himm he is alone. A young man like my father was during the thirties and forties – before Tito. Before Yugoslavia. When Croatia had been a country. That is how my father and grandmother refered to that time. They never mention the Pavelic regime, the war. Only that the maps were differnet then, that they showed our borders.

Benno Jacob was already living here then. I cannot be sure if he ever lived elsewhere in the Balkans. All I know is that he lived in Jastrebarsko as a boy, as a young man, and later in the early 1990’s. he worked fort he government in the local records office. I imagine that he waas the person who people went to in order to register the births, marriages and deaths in the region.

I see him sitting upright. His right arm is resting on the table beside him. His left hand clasps his knee. He looks across the square at the women hanging from the makeshift gallows among the trees that are bunched together in the middle of the square. Urine drips from their bare feet. Flies dart about, panic-striken. The dusty earth heaves gently, then shudders, breathing its last. The ground is sticky underfoot in places. Pools of bloodgurgle under the eye of the sun. In the distance a rainbow streches and flexes its bow towards heaven.

Sometimes I see Benno Jacob standing on the banks of the Kupa. He is looking into the water. There are dead fish floating past. Their eyes stare back at him. He is young-looking then, too. But it is definitely him. His hair is black, not thin and grey as it was later.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Nell at 15:17 on 24 February 2004  Report this post
Bergkamp, I remember the first part of this, which I found strange and intriguing. The narrator must be Stephen Magic, as it's taken from the papers found by the first narrator in the prologue. This has a quiet sure feel; it's simply told, yet there is something compelling about the writing and the events you've described. It's always difficult to make constructive suggestions on a novel without reading the whole thing, one needs the full picture in order to see if any part of it needs reworking, and this is a short piece. I can only say that I'm still intrigued and want to read on. You've somehow captured a strong feeling of another time and place here, almost like a work that's been translated; slightly alien, not English. (A good thing as Stephen's from Poland I believe.)

Quite a few typos in this, although you did say it was an early draft, still, it would have been even better without them, and did you know you've left your email address at the top?

I'd like to see more of this, how far are you into it?

Best, Nell.

Bergkamp at 15:46 on 24 February 2004  Report this post
Thank you Nell. The reason that I am posting such small chunks at the moment is that I am just adding the bits as I originally I showed the work as it unfolded, to my editor. She has given me feedback, but I am determined not to get side-tracked by the editing process at this stage. I want to finish the first draft and then get going with the second draft, with the 'launch pad' of the feedback from her, as well as the group here.

I have written about 10,000 words. The main cgharacte is Croatian, not Polish, BTW.

Thanks for taking the trouble to read it.


Ralph at 18:24 on 24 February 2004  Report this post
Hi Nick

There's some very fine writing here, and in the earlier piece. As Nell says, only short bites. Really quite tantalising...

There's a very dream-like quality to this section. I think in part that comes from the conflict between Benno's appearance and his actual age. But also the way you describe things so elegantly, and with such turns in narrative. This passage starts out as a calm afternoon scene in a village square, and the sudden introductrion of the women hanging from the gallows threw my completely (I'm guessing this was your intention...)

I'd love to read this in context, to see how and why these things are happening. In a way, though, the fact that Stephen is suffering memory loss means this might not happen, and I think that works too...

I'm guessing this is a subject you're very close to - there's certainly some sure detail and some powerful imagery. It's also an area I'm doing some research on at the moment and, although I doubt that I'm anywhere near as qualified to write about it as you are, if you do want to exchange any information feel free to mail me and discuss it.

Hope it's all going really well. Looking forward to reading more.



Bergkamp at 09:47 on 25 February 2004  Report this post
Dear Ralph,

Thank you very much for your generous comments on my work.

As a matter of fact I have no connection with the Balkans whatsoever. I have never even visited ther egion, although I hope to later this year to visit some of the places I am writing about. Funnily enough, I have found that not having a connection with the place the novel is set is quite liberating.
What sort of research are you doing? I would be very interested in hearing about it. Also, I am a real Francophone - which part of France do you live in. I think that I really should try and set some future work in France, just as an excuse to visit theat beautiful, wonderful place!


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .