The Great Noon. The church of Lamaria, Ushguli. Hefty Svanetian men, lined up for the dance, snake their way around the shrine, each with his hands on the hips of the man in front, humping him. Children chase after, throwing dung and spitting at them and at one another, with yells of “Spit on you, Lamaria! Spit!” The whole procession is led by a bearded man, with a long hooked nose and bulging eyes; he has a clay tablet hanging on his chest bearing the inscription “Erectus”; his trousers are pulled down and shirt lifted; beneath his hairy, wobbling belly, he holds a red cockerel in both hands, swinging it from side to side… Erectus struts around, thrusting like the others, now and then calling out “You eat your mother’s shit! You eat your mother’s shit! Yes-you-do-you-do-you-DO! Shamballa!” And the others answer: “Fecundity Fuckundity! Fuxtrot Foxtrot!” Beside them, a cluster of white-scarved women have tied some goats to a stake on an altar-like mound, and are kneeling before them; the goats urinate, and the women open their mouths under the stream of urine and gulp it down greedily; when they swallow the salty urine they wipe their lips on the edge of their headscarves and whisper, “Share the salt, mon cher, Jimsher! Share the salt, mon cher!” – “Spit on you, Lamaria! Spit!” clamour the dung-covered children – “You eat your mother’s shit! You eat your mother’s shit! Yes-you-do-you-do-you-DO! Shamballa!” shouts Erectus – “Fecundity Fuckundity! Fuxtrot Foxtrot!” chant the dancers… And suddenly a wave of fear overwhelms the scene – in the distance, at the bottom of Shkhara Mountain, they spot a gigantic flame-coloured fox, bounding powerfully towards them: its eyes flash, between crystal fangs a scarlet tongue… It comes running, thundering, shooting glances left and right… and then it stops – teeth bared, panting, sniffing the air with quivering nostrils… Gradually its face expands to fill the whole image, it moves closer and closer, then all at once a shock races through it and it croaks: “Get up, Shakro, we’re in Kislovodsk!”…
“Get up, Shakro, we’re in Kislovodsk!” heard Shakro Karmeli, still bleary with sleep. He slid his hand under the blanket and scratched his balls. He felt his cock, which was rock-hard; fully charged while he slept, It was up already! The latent work of the dream, in the words of Herr Professor Freud… and then there’s the mingling and interaction of physiological juices which occurs during sleep, thereby generating such an erotic energy upon awakening, thought Shakro, stretching… As he stretched, the cock seized hold of him: “Get up, Shakro, we’re in Kislovodsk!” said the cock to its owner. No, he was not in Kislovodsk, he was in Tbilisi, on Sergiev Street, number 2, a one-room apartment with its communal kitchen and bathroom connecting him to the other tenants of this world; the stench of boiled cabbage and the classical Georgian toilet with all its faecal attributes… It was Nadya who was in Kislovodsk, Nadezhda Dashkova, Shakro Karmeli’s former mistress, who claimed she was the youngest daughter of the governor-general of the Caucasus, the Grand Duke Ilarion Ivanovich Vorontsov-Dashkov. She went there to earn her living – she worked as a waitress in the resort’s main dining hall. And there you have what is left of that supreme governorship, with all its trimmings and ladies in waiting, ha ha… But then again, Shakro Karmeli himself is an ex-prince, ladies and gentlemen, and an ex-officer – first an ensign, later a lieutenant – and, by the way, an ex-deserter as well: for a short while he found himself mixed up in Europe’s great war, but the moment he was slightly wounded he managed to get away, and then there was that revolution, and the rest is history. And the rest of that history is that today Shakro Karmeli is an employee of Tbilisi’s foremost and peerless cab firm – he’s a coachman, albeit motorised… Thus the trajectory of Shakro’s destiny runs parallel to that of Nadya’s. But still, what could be finer than a Russian woman?!
He pulled off the blanket and gazed down at his erect cock: the Primordial, the Ur-organ, the true Alpha, whereas the balls are rounded like Omega: Alpha and Omega! The Beginning and the End! A part (cock) which comprehends the whole (Shakro) and a whole (Shakro) which is consummated in the part (cock) by means of mysterious dialectics! It was his Other… No – the Ego and his Own, as Max Stirner would put it… The sexual charge of the morning put Shakro in the mood for such witticisms. Meanwhile his thoughts were haunted by the naked flesh of the Russian woman… ‘The style of the age is in sensuality and sensuality is in nakedness,’ asserted Shakro, as if carelessly tossing this insight to one of today’s coffeehouse intellectuals, to some prattling aesthete… Then he sat up in bed and leant against the pillow, scratching his hairy thigh. His wound grinned up at him – a scrap of Teutonic steel left over from the war.
In the meantime the cock, the conductor’s baton, with one bewitching motion aroused Shakro’s inner orchestra, and a wave of horniness surged through his body like a crescendo in a Beethoven piano concerto. No, not just a cock, but a young engineer from a metallurgy plant, standing in front of the mirror, freshly shaved… Not just a cock, but Tatlin’s tower, the monument to the Third International… A genuine Roman Roland – Jean-Christophe – the subtlest of literary works!
This excerpt from Caucasian Foxtrot was translated from Georgian during a literary translation workshop in Tbilisi organised by the Georgian National Book Center and Writers’ Centre Norwich, with support from the British Council. The translators were Lela Abdushelishvili, Natalia Bukia-Peters, Charlotte Marsden and Adham Smart, with workshop leader Daniel Hahn and author Zurab Karumidze.