Diasirmos ( Disparagement )
by George-Icaros Babassakis
The following text consists of excerpts from the novel Diarismos, part of the Chaos trilogy to be published by Estia, Athens. The character Markoulis is a fictional reference to Yorgos V. Makris
Fuck, yes, I remember it now! (Velis). Remember what? (Yannopoulos). The story, Manos. I asked you if you remembered it and then I forgot what the story was and I was trying to see whether you remembered it. (Velis). So, what story is that? (Yannopoulos). The story about Markoulis and Kazazis. (Velis).
Yes, the story about Markoulis and Kazazis, okay, but (Yannopoulos coughs, drinks a sip of Irish, lights a Players, drinks one more sip, continues) which one?
The story (Velis lights a Gitanes, drinks a sip of Irish, looks at the chandelier, the record player, the bookcase of Yannopoulos before finally turning his gaze back to its former position, namely into his friend’s eyes) with the car, the accident at dawn, after a night’s drinking, the hospital…
… (Yannopoulos takes over, with a faint smile)… the bandages, the taxi, the collapse on a bench outside the Academy…
… (Velis:) the sun burning, that fucker of a sun, the sickly sun, as Kazazis wrote…
… the sickliness from the sun, to be precise, Nikos… (Manos)
… the sun that fries and dries you (Nikos)…
… a fuck is no match for a good jerk-off, eh? (Manos)…
… hey, hold your fire… I just thought I’d make a pun (Nikos)
… (Manos:) so here they are both under the scorching sun bandaged, sobered up, hung-over, in pain, pissed off, with the effect of inebriation gone and their tolerance all but gone, no women today, writing is out of the question, idle despite their important work, what can you do about it, one step ahead and two backwards, they shake their heads, the sun is relentless, that fucking sun of Camus, Kazazis turns to Markoulis and says, Do you think we should join up, Yorgos? Markoulis stares at Kazazis questioningly and says, Join up to what, Nikos? Kazazis says. Well, how can I put it, find something permanent to do, a job, an occupation, a kind of set working hours, to join up, that’s how I’d put it, Yorgos. Markoulis thinks about it, Markoulis contemplates it while the sun is fucking them, that old fucker the sun, and finally Markoulis says, Nikos, I got it, listen, we’ll go and find Dodos, tell him we want to join up, as you put it so aptly, and he knows what to do, he’ll take care of it, he’ll fit us in…(excerpt from a chapter)[ … ]
They get to the NTO office, says Manos to Nikos. And they ask to see the Director General, says Manos to Nikos.
Manos takes up the thread ~ he says:
The secretary (you must picture a setting from a black & white comedy of the Golden Decade, with Lambros Konstantaras and the works!), to the musical accompaniment of some piece of well-played domestic jazz and with a brilliant smile, asks who wants to see him, slightly non- plussed (for all her smile) since Markoulis and Kazazis are bandaged, sun-stroked, fed-up, disgusted (if not also manacled); in short, they are a right mess. Still, she smiles at them, a professional twitch (because it’s stupid to talk about professional conduct in Greece-the-Diamond-on- the-Ring-of-Earth in the sixties, n’est-ce pas?), a brilliant smile, asks them to wait, opens the double sliding doors (they never used intercoms and things back then – even if they had them, they never used such gadgets), and says to Dodos, to Director General Mr Theodoros Bakopoulos, two gentlemen are here to see you. What gentlemen? asks Dodos. Wounded gentlemen, says The Smile. How do you mean wounded? asks Dodos. Slightly wounded, elaborates The Smile. Don’t do this, Filitsa! It’s a bad enough day as it is. Tell me, what are these gentlemen’s names and what is it they want! snaps Dodos. Quite right, sir, I’ll just enquire and get back to you. She walks out, enquires and returns. They introduced themselves as Messrs Markoulis and Kazazis, sir, and they asked me to tell you that they want to join up. What!!! Oh-la-la!!! cries a suddenly cheerful Bakopoulos who happens to have an unbounded admiration for Markoulis and Kazazis, for both their lifestyles and for Kazazis’s work (because only Kazazis has produced anything so far, whereas Markoulis merely envisions a magnificent work and has only presented some morsels of this great work, and so on). Show them in at once, he tells Filitsa, and see that we are NOT disturbed by ANYONE, this is an IMPORTANT MEETING, no interruptions at all, is that clear Filitsa? Yes, sir. Just a minute, don’t go, listen, call Mr Alekos, you know, and tell him to prepare a generous, rich assortment of snacks for two, for four – nice, well-made, he knows – and the attendant ouzo drinks and so on, and tell him also to be on the alert for urgent refuelling, is this clear Filitsa, my child? Very good, and as I told you: NO ONE, I repeat NO ONE, is to disturb us!
Let me refill our glasses, in the meantime, says Nikos to Manos. On the record player the last note (note?) sounds of Veteran’s Day Poppy, the last piece on the flip-side of the second record of the twin album Trout Mask Replica. In the sky, as it could be seen from the French window in Maronias Street, Kolonos, some clouds are trying to form as they dance next to the rainbow of gravity. Here on Earth, at this point, as seen from nowhere, Nikos Velis and Manos Yannopoulos remember, while listening to Captain Beefheart, smoking Gitanes (the former) and Players (the latter), and drinking Irish whiskey (both), a story that featured Yorgos Markoulis (= thinker, poet, saintly bum, polyglot master of Nothingness) and Nikos Kazazis (= Poet with a capital P, master of profundity, detective of the ontological riddle and first-class drinker. Social drinker.
And at some point dawn breaks.
Manos lights his nth cigarette, remembers once again to say in a loud, crystal-hoarse voice the phrase You might say that I live like a gilt nothing.
Nikos drinks his nth sip of Irish, contemplates the ceiling with a vague expression and wishes first of all that nothing will happen to the friendship among friends, and also that no doctor, vile or otherwise, will ever ban him and his friends from smoking drinking eating fucking reading writing singing running daydreaming partying…
Remember last year, Nikos? Was that thing with Anna and Lena crazy or what? Nikos Velis hears Manos Yannopoulos say this as he returns from the kitchen.
Yes, alright, it’s true. We did go and asked them to
marry us. Both of them. Together. With flowers, neckties and all mod cons. Nine o’clock in the morning. After the marathon with Beefheart and the story about Markoulis and Kazazis, and a boilerful of Irish whiskey in our bloodstream. We went.
What do you mean, Markoulis and Kazazis? Ah, you mean how did that story end? It ended like this: So they went and asked to join up, fine. Dodos, overjoyed to have his routine interrupted, orders ouzo. Ouzaki, they used to call it then. Let’s have some ouzaki, they’d say. So he says, welcome, boys, I was just thinking…
They start talking about poetry, about this and the other poet, and here is one ouzaki, here’s another, toasting each other and eating snacks and again more ouzaki for hours on end, they get up at dusk, they are thinking of going for an omelette at a good place in Pangrati. Dodos takes them all in the new Audi, they drink some more in Pangrati and then Dodos leaves, he has a lot of work in the morning and why don’t they drop in again anytime they want, yes? Yes! It was great, and then Markoulis and Kazazis try to recall why on earth they had gone to Dodos but it was impossible to remember.
Yes, it was days, even weeks before they finally remembered.
Ah, yes, got it now. It’s just that a plain Anna didn’t ring any bells. They go together: Marianna and Lena. That’s how I remember them. Together.
They lived in Kefalinias Street. A large building. Very Nice. A piano and all. Almost at the corner of Patission. Next door to Au Revoir. I can’t remember whose idea it was. Probably Manos’s. Probably. I was still getting over the paranoia with Olga, I was in no state to come up with such ideas at the time. Unless it was part of the context, you know, as in The Anxiety of Influence and stuff like that, Harold Bloom with chips, since we were talking about that story of Markoulis and Kazazis and how they went to Bakopoulos and asked him to get them a job with NTO, and then I may have come up with the idea of Manos and me also “joining up” in a way, settling down so to speak – you know. I may have dropped something like this by way of contributing to the talk about joining up, I may have said let us join up too, why not? We can’t be bums forever, I am already past thirty and Manos is approaching thirty as well, no, that’s a lie, he is thirty, so I may have said something like that and Manos, instead of stopping me, bringing me to my senses, he took it at face value and, being a clever man, you know how sharp he is, not only agreed but set a specific target, too: Anna and Lena. Don’t they live together, Nikos? Together, Manos. Aren’t they friends, Nikos? They are, Manos. Haven’t we known them for years, Nikos? Decades, even, Manos.
Well, the time has come to go deeper into the relationship, Nikos.
Are you being vulgar, Manos?
No, I am being serious, Nikos. Are you, Manos?
Pour another one, Nikos. I will, Manos. Good man, Nikos.
Shall we chance it, then, Manos? Yes, Nikos. Shall we go and ask them to marry us, Manos? Let’s go, Nikos.
Who gets whom, Manos? How do I know? One gets Anna and the other gets Lena, Nikos. Yes, obviously, Manos, but who gets Anna and who gets Lena? Why are you asking this, Nikos?
What do you mean why I am asking, Manos, shouldn’t we know who’s going to ask whom? No, Nikos, we don’t need to know that and I insist that it does not matter, what matters is that we settle down, what matters is that they are two fine, affectionate, tried-and-tested girls – okay, okay, women, fine – of known quality, with their French and their piano playing, intelligent, fine kids, Nikos, why bother with such details as who gets whom, let’s just get dressed and go ask them to marry us and that’s all there is to it. To get it over with, Nikos.
Yes, to get it over with, Manos. So we went.[ … ]