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GoetheInstitute

16/09/2008

Ingo Schulz's novel "Adam and Evelyn" - an excerpt

Excerpt:

1
DARK ROOM


Suddenly they were there: the women. They appeared out of nowhere, clad in his dresses, trousers, skirts, blouses and coats. Sometimes it was as if they were emerging from the white or as if they had simply materialised, as if they had finally broken through the surface and shown themselves. He just had to tip the tray of developing fluid slightly; that was all he had to do. First there was nothing and then something; all of a sudden it was there. Yet there was no grasping the moment between nothing and something, just as if it didn't exist.

The large sheet slipped into the tray. Adam flipped it with the plastic tongs, pressed it down, turned it anew, stared at the white – and then gazed enraptured at a picture of a woman in a long dress, leaving one shoulder free and winding around her voluptuous body in a spiral, as if a miracle had occurred, as if he had compelled a ghost to reveal its form.

Adam held the photo up briefly with the tongs. The black surface of the background was now lighter, but the dress and armpit had lost none of their contours. He picked up his cigar from the rim of the ashtray, drew on it and blew the smoke across the wet picture, before submerging it into the stop bath and from there into the tray with the fixer.

The squeak of the garden gate unsettled him. He heard footsteps getting louder, up three stairs, even the dull sound of the shopping bag thudding against the front door as she opened it.

'Adam, are you in?'

'Yes!' he called, just loud enough for her to hear him.

'Here!' Her heels walked above his head as he breathed on the negative, cleaned it with a chamois leather and put it back into the enlarger. He focused the picture and switched off the machine's light. In the kitchen, the tap was turned on and off again. The steps returned; she was suddenly hopping on one leg, taking her sandals off. The empty bottles in the basket behind the cellar door clinked.

'Adam?'

'Mmh.' He took a sheet of paper out of the packet, 18 by 24, and inserted it into the frame.

Step by step, Evelyn came down. Her fingers would be dusty again because she was feeling her way along the low ceiling so as not to bump her head.

Again, he picked up his cigar and took several draws on it, until he was entirely swathed in smoke.
He set the timer to fifteen seconds and pressed the large square button – the light went on again and the timer started buzzing.

As if stirring something, Adam moved an aluminium spoon, hammered flat, above the woman's head, pulled it back as quick as a cat, stretched out his fingers, which threw a shadow on the woman as if they were splashing in the water, and took them back again before the light went out and the buzzing fell silent.

'Pooh! It stinks in here. Man, Adam, do you have to smoke in here as well?!'

Adam placed the paper in the developer with the tongs. He didn't like being bothered when he was working on his photos. He wouldn't even tolerate a radio down here.

Evelyn, half a head taller than Adam even barefoot, felt her way over to him and touched his shoulder. 'I thought you were making us something to eat?'

'In this heat? I was mowing the lawn all afternoon.'

'I've got to go.'

The woman in the long dress appeared again on the white paper. Adam was annoyed to see that she was obviously pulling in her stomach. He even thought he could tell by her smile that she was holding her breath. But perhaps he was wrong. With the tongs, he dipped the photo into the stop bath and removed it from there into the fixer. Then he took a new sheet out of the packet, folded it in half and tore it in two along the edge of the table. He put the other half back into the packet.

'What are you eating there?' he asked.

'Close your eyes. No peeking.'

'Have they been washed?'

'Yes, I'm not going to poison you,' said Evelyn, popping a grape into his mouth.

'Where did you get them?'

'From Kretschmann's. The old man handed me an extra bag, I didn't even know what was in it.'

The enlarger light went on.

'What shall I say to Mrs. Gabriel?'

'Put her off for a bit.'

'But I have to tell her something today. If they give me leave in August I have to take it.'

'The woman's crazy. We'll go when we want to.'

The light went out.

'We wanted to go in August. You said August, and Pepi said August would be better too. People with no kids never get time off in August. And the visa will expire.'

'It's not a visa.'
'Never mind what the thing's called. We applied for August.'

'It's valid until the tenth of September.'

Adam pulled the paper through the tray and turned it twice.

'Wow, she's hot,' said Evelyn when the woman in the trouser suit appeared, pressing her hands against her back and thrusting her breasts out.

'Is there any post?' asked Adam.

'No,' said Evelyn. 'Why don't we take the train?'

'I don't want to be tied to one place. It's boring without a car. Have you got any more?'

Evelyn stuck the rest of the grapes in his mouth and wiped her wet hands on her jeans. 'And what shall I tell Gabriel?'

'At least a week, tell her to give us a week.'

'But then August will be as good as over.'

'You can turn the light on,' he said when he had laid the test shot in the fixer. He went over to the square washbasin, in which several more photos were floating, fished one out and hung it on the line with the others.

'Who's that?'

'Lilli.'

'What's her real name?'

'Renate Horn, from Markkleeberg. Can I have some more?'

'You'll have to go upstairs. And this one?'

'You know her, that's Desdemona.'

'Who?'

'You know, Albrecht from the polyclinic, the gynaecologist.'

'The one with the Algerian boyfriend?'

'She hasn't got an Algerian boyfriend. You even shook hands with her. I made that for her,' Adam pointed to a photo on the line, 'in June.'

'Hey…' Evelyn moved up close to the photo. 'Has she got my shoes on? Those are my shoes!'

'What?'

'They're mine, look, the point, the scratch, hey, are you crazy?'

'They're all awful with shoes, they turn up in great big clodhoppers, it messes everything up, it was just for half a minute…'

'I don't want your women to wear my shoes. And I don't want you to take their pictures in the garden, and certainly not in the living room!'

'It was so hot upstairs.'

'I don't want you to!' Evelyn looked more closely at the other photos. 'Shall we go the day after tomorrow?'

'We'll go as soon as the car comes.'

'You've been saying that for three weeks.'

'I rang up. What do you expect me to do?'

'We'll end up not going at all, I bet.'

'You'll lose.' Adam took one photo after the next out of the water and hung them up. 'You'll lose that bet, I guarantee.'

'We'll never get another visa. They wouldn't even give us one now. You have to be at least fifty now, Gabriel says.'

'Gabriel, Gabriel. She talks a lot of hot air.'

'I like this one. Is it red?'

'Blue, silk.'

'Why don't you take colour photos?'

'She got someone to bring her the silk over, and this…' Adam held up a photo of a young woman in a short skirt and a loose-fitting blouse.

'Really pricey, this stuff is, even in the West, but you can't even feel it on your skin, it's so fine.'

Adam crumpled up a wet photo and threw it in the bin.

'What are you doing?'

'That one was no good.'

'Why not?'

'Too dark.'

Evelyn reached into the bin.

'The background's full of black holes,' said Adam.

'Is that Lilli?'

'Right.'

Evelyn threw the photo back and went out into the other room to the shelves of preserved fruit.

'We've still got so much of this stuff. D'you want pears or apples?'

'Are there any quinces left? Close the door!'

Adam switched off the light and waited for the door to fall shut.

'From '85, if this is a five,' Evelyn called from outside.

'Doesn't matter.' Adam pulled the leftover half-sheet out of the packet, placed it under the enlarger, chose a new negative, focused and pressed the timer button. He hummed along in tune to its buzzing.

'D'you want a bowl as well?'

'Later.'

'Are you going to the museum today?'

'Have they started the tours again already?'

'Yes, and I'll miss them all again.'

'I can't go either, I've got a fitting,' said Adam.

There was silence for a moment. He slid the sheet into the fluid, pressing it down. The light switch in the other room clacked off.

'Evi?'

He heard the empty bottles clinking again.

'Evi!' he called and started to go after her, but the next moment bent lower over the tray, as if he wanted to make quite sure the woman now appearing there, smiling and with her arms spread wide, was really looking at him.

*

Translation: Katy Derbyshire
Copyright Berlin Verlag
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