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Authors: Marguerite Duras

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She waits. The Jew is still looking at her. He says:

“The dogs are David's. I'm giving them to him.”

Sabana recoils. They look at one another.

“You will tell Gringo,” says Abahn. “Write, ‘The Jew has left his dogs to David.'”

The Jew rises, goes to the table and takes a blank sheet of paper, writes.

He finishes writing. He says:

“They will be happy.”

She does not answer. Unmoving, she listens to them. She is regarding them.

“You have to explain to Gringo,” says Abahn. “Tell him that David wanted the dogs of the Jew.”

Slowly she turns back to the darkened park, stands there, gazing out. She says:

“Gringo won't listen. He won't read.”

It seems they do not understand.

“You have to tell him that David's desire was stronger than life, stronger than death,” says the Jew.

“It was a desire Gringo could not see,” says Abahn, “but you saw it, Sabana. That David is a hunter. That he had the desire. That he should let David take the dogs.”

“Because that name: David,” says the Jew, “is the name of a hunter.”

She says:

“These dogs are forbidden in Staadt. I found out.”

They do not answer. They seem not to have heard. They seem to have forgotten Sabana. They talk among themselves.

“Dogs by the million,” says the Jew.

Something breaks in the Jew's voice. What suddenly entered his voice?

“Jew dogs,” says Abahn.

“Useless,” says the Jew.

“Blameless,” says Abahn.

“Happy,” says the Jew.

Silence.

The sound of crying. They turn.

Sabana is crying.

Silence.

She says:

“I want the gas chamber. I want to die.”

She cries out.

“Get me out of here. I want to leave.”

They do not answer her.

•

“W
hich forest?”
asks Abahn.

Tears fall from Sabina's eyes. She thinks on it.

“The forest.”

“You don't know what's beyond here,” says Abahn. “Where is the forest?”

She searches her thoughts.

“Where, I don't know. We have to talk about it.”

“The wild forest,” says the Jew.

“Yes,” she says, pausing. “Where is it?”

“Deep within Staadt,” says the Jew.

She isn't crying anymore. She looks at the Jews once more. Her gaze has become somber again, somber and blue.

“The forest is in David's mind as well,” says the Jew.

She looks over at him slumbering.

“In David's head,” she says.

They fall silent.

“You are in the forest,” says the Jew. “You are in the head of David.”

“Far away,” says Abahn. “You see something.”

She searches for a long time.

“I don't see another David,” she says. “I see a Jew.”

“There are Jews in the forest,” says Abahn.

A sob, sudden, brief, stifled, all at once.

“They know it, just like David.”

“You know it for David,” says the Jew.

She is silent. For a long while she looks at the bare walls of the house of the Jew.

“The forest is in the house of the Jew,” she says.

“Yes.”

“In the body of the Jew, in his dogs,” says Abahn.

Sabana's gaze unfocuses.

“In Prague, in the fields of the dead.”

“Yes, like that. Prague is also Staadt,” says Abahn.

“And the fields of the dead are in the house of the Jew.”

“Yes.”

“In an adjoining forest.”

“In the forest,” says the Jew.

•

T
hey are
all silent, separate from one another.

She is listening to the noise of Staadt. Everything is quiet.

She listens again, this time her eyes closed.

“You said something?” she asks the Jew.

“No.”

“I heard. Someone speak.”

He doesn't answer. She speaks to Abahn: “Someone said: treason. The treason of Jews.”

“No,” says the Jew. “No one said anything.”

“Nobody spoke,” says Abahn.

Suddenly a cacophony of barking from the dogs outside.

“In the barking of dogs I hear voices,” says Sabana.

The dogs fall silent.

“They're quiet now,” says the Jew.

“Listen,” says Abahn. “No one is talking, there's no noise.”

She listens: all is quiet.

“There was no betrayal by Jews,” says Abahn. “There is the betrayal of Gringo. David gave up the Jew in order to have his dogs. But once he has the dogs, he'll give up Gringo. He'll say: Adieu cement, adieu Gringo.”

Sabana turns toward Abahn, meets his eyes and smiles.

“At the risk of overanalyzing David, it's true that in the end you can count on saying adieu to Gringo,” she says. “And then we will find the forest of the Jews?”

“Yes,” says Abahn.

The dogs of the Jew growl, low and soft.

“It's Diane, she's dreaming,” says the Jew.

Sabana once again remembers the park beyond. She points out at the invisible expanse beyond them in the dark, through the panes of glass in the door. She says:

“You said don't be afraid. But of what?”

“Of happiness,” says the Jew.

“Of hunger,” says Abahn.

David opens his eyes. The dogs are still growling. His eyes linger open.

“The word woke him up,” says Abahn.

“Dogs,” says Sabana.

“Hunger,” says the Jew.

The dogs fall silent. They wait. The eyes of David flutter half-open, then suddenly close again. His breath evens out.

She gestures at him, says:

“And for this, you prefer hunger?”

“He prefers nothing, he prefers hunger.”

“It's for that that they kill him.”

“Yes.”

Sabana gestures at David without looking at him. “For that, I prefer death.”

“No,” says the Jew.

They stand apart from one another. Each one alone. Each one looking at David, who is sleeping in the light.

“When they sleep,” says Abahn.

Sabana looks away from David. She turns back to the darkened park.

“He is young still?” asks Abahn.

“Yes, young,” says the Jew.

“When he isn't sleeping, he is a killer-ape,” says Abahn.

“A stonemason,” says the Jew. “A member of the Party.”

“When he is sleeping, who is he?” asks Abahn.

Sabana is silent.

“The child of Sabana,” says the Jew.

She is still there, in front of the door to the park, silent, staring out into the darkness.

•

S
taadt is
the entire darkened park.

The dogs of the Jew howl.

David's hand lifts gently as if pushing away the howls.

They are standing apart from David, their bodies separate.

“You went to start work,” says Sabana. “You came back, you wrote. They saw you writing behind the windows of your house.”

The dogs no longer howl. David has fallen again into sleep.

“I wasn't writing,” says the Jew.

“In the night, at the table, everyone could see you. You wrote on blank paper.”

She turns toward Abahn.

“Every night he walked back and forth in this house. He wrote. In the morning, he slept.”

“I wrote what people said,” says the Jew. “People said nothing.”

Their voices are even, they sound the same.

“You wanted to write only what people said,” says Sabana.

“No,” says the Jew. “Not anymore.”

“And what did people say?”

“Together or alone, they said the same thing.”

“But even so upon returning here you wrote it down.”

The Jew doesn't answer.

They are silent. From all sides, the constant dull pressure of the dark park. The Jew looks out at it through the windows. Sabana seems like she is waiting for something.

“Yes,” says the Jew. “I wrote it.”

They are silent once more.

“Gringo said he comes a little before sunrise?” asks the Jew.

“I don't know,” says Sabana.

Silence. There is some subtle change in their voices.

“Did you think they would say something?” Abahn asks.

“I thought nothing like that,” says the Jew.

“Before coming to Staadt?” asks Sabana.

“I was told there was no point in trying. But I never tried to write what people said.”

The Jew points at something on the table.

“The papers are right there,” he says. “They won't have to look for them.”

“They will burn them,” says Sabana.

“Yes.”

“When they burn them,” says Abahn, “Gringo will say, ‘The Jew has written a secret journal. In this journal he has said how he contacted foreign powers.'”

“Yes,” said the Jew.

“Every time they each speak of the figures in the journal,” says Sabana.

Silence.

“And they won't understand,” says Sabana.

“They won't,” agrees the Jew.

A tight smile stretches across the face of the Jew.

“They will burn your things as well,” says Sabana. “Your furniture, your clothes. They won't leave anything whole. They'll destroy the dogs.”

“David's dogs,” says Abahn. “David's forest.”

“Yes.”

Silence. Then Sabana rises, goes toward the door to the park.

“It wasn't interesting, what people were saying in Staadt?”

“It still isn't,” says the Jew.

“So that's interesting to whom?” asks Sabana.

“Everyone,” says the Jew.

“To burn it, then?”

“Sure,” says the Jew, “to look at it, as well.”

“And for the ones who said it all, the people of Staadt?”

“No,” says the Jew.

“It's not interesting for anyone,” says Sabana.

She moans a single word. A brief sob, mournful, low: “David.”

Deep in slumber, David moans at the same time, long, seemingly without end: an unknown dream without a doubt. No one notices the dream.

They are silent.

“There has to be time,” says the Jew.

He points toward David.

“So David can . . . David, David . . .”

He does not finish his sentence.

•

I
t is
Abahn who takes up the charred papers lying on the table. He reads:

“We reached the eighth floor on January 18
th
. The walls were not yet built. The wind blew through. Winter was hard. We drank alcohol at all hours. In the evenings, we were drunk. The Portuguese are not used to it, this cold. Three Portuguese at the
site died. Five of the Africans froze to death in their room. The Greeks aren't used to it either. There was one of them in my room and he coughed all the time. My site is number three. At seven in the morning it was less than 12 degrees. We do less work than we could in the summer, the cold cracks the skin of your hands, the cement you poured into the cracks, gray, the morning, cracked skin. Gringo is the head of site number three. Jeanne taught the Portuguese how to write. Gringo said that site number three creates honor for the Party. He sent a list of our names to the city. We petitioned the city. Gringo wrote out the petitions. He said, ‘The conditions of the Portuguese are unacceptable.' Gringo spoke to the House of the People. He spoke all night to the 22
nd
Congress of the House of the People. We were exhausted that evening. So sleepy. At the end of all this, we carried cement, thirty times ten kilos of it. That's three hundred kilos. Our hands burned from it. From the moment you can't manage anymore you're just like the Portuguese.”

In the silence David cries out. “The dogs!” he calls out in his sleep.

The dogs howl in the dark expanse. A single howl.

“Gringo,” says Sabana.

She doesn't move, she doesn't take her eyes off the Jew.

The dogs fall silent.

David falls back into his fitful sleep.

“They bark at night whenever someone passes by,” says Abahn.

“No,” says Sabana, “they mark the passage of Gringo.”

She listens intently in the direction of the pathway outside. The Jews are not paying attention.

“He's looking at you,” she says.

She is listening with her eyes closed.

“He's alone.”

She listens again in the direction of the road. The Jews are not paying attention.

“He was alone. He's gone now.”

Silence anew.

“Maybe it was someone else,” says Abahn. “Or it was nothing.”

“In Staadt,” Sabana says, “we recognize every sound. Even Gringo walking past. He came to see.”

•

“I
s that
all there was to read?” asks Abahn.

The Jew takes some time to respond. “There were some other things about the working conditions.”

They are silent, the three of them, standing apart from one another, unmoving.

“The dogs aren't barking anymore,” says Sabana.

“We could read,” says the Jew.

“Someone could talk,” says Abahn.

“Or cry,” says Sabana, “for the dogs.”

“They are on the table, under the scorched pages,” says the Jew.

They are, all three of them, caught in the same languor.

“The Realtors Society,” begins Abahn.

He stops. Begins again:

“The Realtors Society was created for three industries. It grew from strong investments. A pharmaceutical company, French. A
German company, cellulose. And an American company, tungsten.”

He pauses. Silence.

“Go on,” says the Jew.

“Yes, go on.”

Abahn goes on, with a growing languor:

“The payout, at this level of investment is a strong 52 percent. The legal percentage of payout has been fixed at 27 percent, the legal fees comprise the 25 percent remaining.”

BOOK: Abahn Sabana David
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