Herman Koch


The table talk two bourgeois families can open a dirty secret SHOULD Dutch writer’s novel, published in the publishing house «ABC»

I do not know who first complained to the Director of the school or the students parents. Be that as it may, one day, I was called on the carpet. The director, a man of the old school, was a rare instance by today’s standards: the head with a side parting, crowning brown suit «herringbone».

I’ve heard complaints about the content of the lessons of history, he said. inviting me to sit on the only chair in front of his desk.

From whom? director gave me a look. Above his head hung a map of the Netherlands.

Currently it is not so important. he said.

It is about …

Children are usually very little care, but parents love drip on the brain superiors.

Paul, we are talking about. what you said about the victims of the Second World War. Correct me if I am wrong to put it. I leaned back, at least tried to lean back: it was a hard straight-backed chair, ns invite to a free postures.

You are quite dismissive things about these victims, the director continued.

You even hinted that they themselves are to blame. The director looked at the piece of paper under his nose.

It says … he began, but paused, shook his head, took off his glasses and pressed two fingers nose.

Understand. Paul, complaining indeed parents. Parents are always complaining. As a rule, business and jigger is ns. Do I have to attend physical education classes during menstruation? Whether sold in the cafeteria apples? And similar nonsense. It rarely comes to the content of the lessons themselves. But now I have come. And it undermines the credibility of our school. For all of us it would be better if you just stick to the curriculum. I suddenly felt a slight tingling in the neck.

And what, in fact, I deviated from the curriculum? I asked quietly.

It says here … director leaf rustled again.

Why do not you tell me yourself? Paul, how do you put it in the classroom?

11ichego this out of the ordinary, I did not say. I suggested to them to solve simple arithmetic tasks. What accounts for hundreds of scoundrels honest citizens? How many fathers yelling at their kids? How many idiots stinks from the mouth? How many idlers lifetime complain. that they allegedly wronged?

Look around, I said. How many of your classmates, you would not want to see more of this class it tomorrow? Think of your relatives. annoying uncle with his idle chatter on birthdays, his son nerd, beating his own cat. Think of how relieved you would have experienced (and not just you. But also your whole family), if that bore his son and stepped on a mine and died under the bombs. Would have disappeared from the earth. A Now imagine the countless victims of the past are still wars, I do not mean only the Second World War, I often cite se as an example, because this war produces students the greatest impression, and think of the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands dead, completely worthless people. Even purely from the point of view of statistics all the dead could not be heroes polls. Therefore injustice is. that scoundrels are ranked on a par with the characters to the list of innocent victims. What are their names, too, are engraved on the war memorial. I stopped to catch my breath. How well do I know this director? He allowed me to talk, but what is indicated? A that if he had long ago decided to fire me?

Paul … He put on his glasses again and stared at the edge of the table.

Can I ask you a personal question? I did not answer.

Paul, maybe you’re tired? I asked the director.

I mean to teach. Do not get me wrong, I’m nothing you do not blame, sooner or later it happens to all of us. At some point we are going to class as hard labor. And we think about the meaninglessness of our Russia. I shrugged and sighed.

I also experienced a similar moment in his life. When still he was a teacher. It is an unpleasant sensation. Completely cuts the ground from under the feet. It destroys all ideals. Maybe you are now experiencing something like that, Paul? Do you still believe in what you are doing?

I always put students at the forefront, I answered truthfully. I always tried to instill in them at least some interest in my subject matter, based primarily on their own experience. I rubbed them the confidence cheaper bikes. I remembered the time when he was a high school student. That interested me. The director smiled and leaned back in his chair. It was he who could afford it, and I was forced to sit but toe the line, like some schoolboy.

When he was my learning from the lessons of history I especially remember the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, I said.

Alexander the Great. Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Hannibal, the Trojan mine transition Hannibal’s elephants across the Alps, naval battles, gladiator fights, chariot races, high-profile murders and suicides, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, as well as the beauty of the temples, arenas and amphitheatres, frescoes, baths, mosaics, timeless beauty, still inspires us to go on holiday on the Mediterranean Sea, not in Manchester or time. However, with the advent of Christianity, ancient culture slowly began to wither. In the end, I was even glad that the so-called barbarians took all destroyed. And then life is a long time stopped, I, too, remember. Middle Ages disgusting period ko1da, except for a few bloody sieges, almost nothing happened. Finally, the history of the Netherlands! Eighty Years’ War remember how in my heart I was hoping to win the Spaniards. Chance began to dawn, when William of Orange was killed, but religious fanatics have the same victory. And on the «Low Countries» long darkness fell. I remember even as a history teacher from year to year, fed us with promises to talk about World War II. «World War II, we will pass!» In the sixth grade, «he said. But in the sixth we have not advanced beyond Wilhelm I and the separation of Belgium from the Netherlands. We talked a bit about the trench war, but the First World, except for the fact of mass destruction of human life, we suggest the melancholy. 11am not enough action. Later, I had heard that the Second World War and remained outside the school curriculum. The most interesting period of the last fifteen centuries, including the Netherlands, where from the time of departure of the Romans up until 1940 there is nothing significant. Well, anyone associated with the Netherlands in other countries? With Rembrandt. With Van Gogh. With artists. The only Dutch historical figure, get in, so to speak, into the international arena, is Anne Frank. The director has once again shifted the papers on his desk and began flipping something. It is «something» was vaguely familiar to me. It lay in a transparent folder where the students are usually piled their work.

Last Name «…» you says anything. Paul? I asked the director. He called the name of a student in my class. I omit this (surname not intentional. Even then, I decided to forget it. I got it. I nodded.

Do you still remember what you said to her?

In outline. He closed the folder and put it aside.

You put it deuce, and. When she asked why, you said …

Deuce was absolutely fair. I interrupted him. A slipshod work. The works of this quality is better I did not take. The director smiled, but some watery, sour smile.

I must confess that my quality is not very impressed, but talking about something else. ABOUT…

In addition to World War II, I tell them about the post-war history, I interrupted again. Korea. Vietnam, Kuwait, the Middle East, Israel, the Six-Day War, the Fourth Arab-Israeli War. Palestine. All that we go through the lessons. And then I get to work on the State of Israel, which collects oranges and sandals are dancing around the campfire. About cheerful people and other nonsense about the desert, where the flowers bloom again now. While there every day people die and explode buses. Where is the good?

She came to me in tears, Paul.

I would have cried if nakropal such nonsense. The director looked at me. I caught something in his face, which was not noticed before: something detached or rather expressionless. like his suit herringbone. He leaned back in his chair, even deeper than the first time. «He moves away. I thought. Not moving away. I corrected myself, and goodbye. «

Paul, do not say such things to fifteen year-old girl, he said. Now debarred notes sounded in his voice. He did not enter into a discussion with me, he informed me his opinion. Sure that. I asked him at the time, why can not speak of such things, he would have replied: «Because you can not.» I thought about the girl. Its nice but too cheerful face. Merry without cause. ‘Guo was sexless optimism it is the same as in its half-page paper on the subject of collecting oranges.

This lexicon of football fans, not school teachers, the director continued. It does not matter what I said to that girl. It is only indirectly related to the case. Sometimes a break from the language of words, which then we will probably regret. Or no, not sorry. We cut straight from the shoulder, and the sides are carrying our words throughout his life. In my thoughts again floated the image of the girl. When I spoke with her speech, her happy face cracked like a vase. Or the glass from overly powerful sound. I looked at the director and felt like my hand is clenched into a fist. Involuntarily. I did not want to continue this conversation. Our opinions diverged irrevocably. Between us was a gaping chasm. I looked at the director, and imagine my fist is about to crash into his gray face. Knuckle right under your nose, into the cavity between the nostrils and upper lip. How broken teeth, blood flow, and my point of view, finally become clear. But I doubt it. Since it will be decided whether our dispute. It is not necessarily limited to one stroke, I could how to decorate this blank face. But the truth is, my position has long been shaken. From the very first day, when I crossed the threshold of this school, my position was shaky. It remained only to wait. All of my teaching hours were no more than a respite. The question was whether or not vmazat director or not. Turning it this way in the sacrifice. The subject of universal sympathy. I thought about the students who crowded around the window when it comes for the machine «emergency». A she comes, I’m not on the cuffs poskuplyus. Students will be sorry for him.

Paul? said the director, changing nozu in the chair. He felt something. He could smell the roast. He was preparing to repel the first blow. A what. If «fast» does not have time? Do not include a siren, for example, I thought to myself. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. It was necessary to solve something, otherwise the train will leave. I could kill him. Personally, fyaznaya job of work, it is true, but no worse than the gutting game. Turkeys, I corrected myself. I knew that he had a wife and grown children. Perhaps I will do them a favor. It is possible that they, too, have become boring, this lean mug. At the funeral, they will grieve, but then, already at the wake, relief prevail.

Paul? I looked at the director and smiled.

Can I ask you a personal question? he asked.

… You may house all right? At home. I schyudolzhal smile, at the same time thinking about Michel. Michelle was almost four. For murder in the Netherlands will give eight years, I figured. Nonsense. For good behavior and hard work in the prison garden can be in five years to be released. Then Michelle turns nine.

How’s your wife … Carl? Claire, I mentally corrected director. Her name is Claire.

Fine, I said.

A children? Also? Children. Even this could not remember, you fool! Of course, to know everything about everybody is unreal. The whole school knew that a French teacher living with his girlfriend. 11oto mu ns it fit into the stereotypical frame. But the rest? The rest is quite fit. Husband wife had children. Or a child. Michel is now riding a four-wheel bicycle. Beli I am pleased to jail, you’ll miss the moment when he wants to remove the side of the wheel.

Great, I said.

Sometimes suddenly surprised to notice how fast they grow. Director hoisted his elbows PA table and clasped his hands, not knowing that a moment ago was on the verge of death. For Mshpela. For Mnshela I will not dismiss his hands.

Paul. I know that you will probably be unpleasant to hear. But I still say. I encourage you to meet with Wang Dnrenom. School psychologist. And then take a long vacation. To recover. I think you need it. We all at some point have to take a timeout. I felt surprisingly calm. Calmly and tired. No violence ns expected. Storm in anticipation that the waiters are entered into in the cafe chairs, retractable awnings, passed by. At heart, we’re sorry. It is much more interesting to see how the wind tears off roofs from houses, trees turns and lifts them into the air. In the films of tornados, hurricanes and tsunamis, there is something comforting. This, of course, terrible, we all learned to consider it terrible, but a world without violence and disasters (natural and human) would have been unbearable. Now director, unharmed, to come home. No one would have to call the «fast» or the morgue. Voobshe, I knew it from the start. From the moment when he asked about my family. How are things at home? Typically, these questions are asked, when they want to get rid of you. Who cares about my family? Akin to the question «was delicious?». Though actually all to the bulb. Director fairly astonished when I without further wrangling agreed to meet with the school psychologist. And happy. No. I will not allow me just to drive. I got up, letting him know. that I have nothing more to say. At the door, I held out my hand. And he shook it. It shook the hand that would turn his life or simply break it.

I am pleased that … he did not finish the sentence.

… Best wishes to your wife.

Carla, I said. □

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