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2017/02/24 - 13:43

The Neighbour (transl. Annika Eder)

I am totally responsible for my own business. Two ladies with typewriters
and account books in the outer office, my room with desk, cash-box,
conference table, club chair and telephone, that is everything I work with.
So easy to survey, so easy to carry on. I am very young and business is
going well for me. I don't complain, I don't complain.

Since New Year's the small, empty flat, which I unfortunately hesitated to
rent for such a long time, has been rented by a young man right away. As
well a room with outer office, but besides that a kitchen. -Room and outer
office I could have used well - sometimes my ladies felt a bit overloaded -,
but how would I have used the kitchen? This little worry is to blame that I
didn't rent the flat myself. Now this young man is sitting there. Harras is
his name. What he is actually doing, I don't know. His door reads: "Harras,
bureau". I made inquiries, I've been notified that it is a business similar
to mine. You couldn't necessarily warn of guarantee for credit, since we are
dealing with a young, rising man, whose business may have a good future, but
you couldn't advice to credit either, since there doesn't seem to be any
fortune at the present. The common information you get, if you no one knows
a thing.

Sometimes I meet Harras in the staircase, he always must be in an
extraordinary hurry, he formally scurries past me. I haven't seen him
completely yet, the keys to his office are always sitting ready in his hand.
In the matter of an instant he has opened the door. Like the tail of a rat
he slid in and again I am standing in front of the sign "Harras, bureau",
which I have already read more often than it deserves.

These awfully thin walls, which betray the honest man, but cover the
dishonest! My telephone is attached to the wall that separates me from my
neighbour. But I only emphasise that as a special ironic fact. Even if it
was hung on the opposite wall, you could hear everything in the neighbouring
flat. I gave up saying the names of clients on the phone. But through
characteristic, but unavoidable expressions it doesn't need much cunning to
guess the names. - Sometimes I wriggle, having the receiver close to my ear,
full of restlessness, around the telephone on my tiptoes, but still can't
prevent to reveal secrets.

Through that, my business decisions certainly get unsure, my voice starts
shaking. What is Harras doing while I am on the telephone? If I really
wanted to exaggerate - but you often have to, to make things clear -, I
could say: Harras doesn't need a telephone, he uses mine, he shifted his
sofa near the wall and listens, but I have to - when it rings - run to the
telephone, receive clients' wishes, make difficult decisions, perform great
prepared speeches - but before all during the whole time involuntarily
report to Harras through the wall.

Maybe he doesn't even wait until the end of the call, but rises after the
bit of conversation, which informed him enough about the case, scurries
habitual through the city and before I even dropped the receiver he might
already be busy working against me.

(from the Octave Book D)


Revision: 2011/01/08 - 00:18 - © Mauro Nervi




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