Compartments

On a strange train journey, in a series of six compartments, a traveller experiences unpredictable encounters, culminating in a meeting of epiphanic power. Through a narrative of dreamlike sharpness Compartments taps into the fears and absurdities, the beauties and mysteries of the unconscious mind, to achieve a consummation both moving and full of hope.

Editions:

  • Polaris (Serbian and English, 2004)
  • Laguna (Serbian, 2005, as a part of the Nemoguće priče 2 omnibus)
  • PS Publishing (English, UK, 2009, as a part of the Impossible Stories II omnibus)
  • Kurodahan Press (English, Japan, 2010)
  • Zavod (Serbian and English, 2009, as a part of the Nemoguće priče / Impossible Stories omnibus)

Polaris Serbian edition Polaris English edition  Laguna Serbian edition impossible-stories-ii_uk


An excerpt, translated from the Serbian by Alice Copple-Tosic:

I ran as fast as my legs would carry me.

The carriage had just pulled away from the buffer at the end of the track. Even though it was still moving slowly, had I been carrying any luggage, particularly anything heavy, I wouldn’t have made it. Luckily, all I was holding was my coat and hat.

I didn’t know how to get onto a moving carriage. Was I first supposed to jump onto the step on the platform of the last car and then grab hold of the handrail, or the other way around? Who knows what I would have done if the back door hadn’t opened just as I caught up to the car. The conductor came out onto the platform.

“Give me your hand!” he shouted.

I stretched out the arm with my coat thrown over it. He grabbed my hand and heaved mightily. The next instant I was standing next to him on the platform.

“Wonderful!” said the conductor with a smile.

“I’m sorry,” I replied, out of breath.

“Come, now! You have no reason to excuse yourself. Quite the contrary. I’m delighted that you joined us. Welcome!”

He patted me lightly on the shoulder. We stood there for several moments without speaking, smiling at each other.

“I’m afraid I don’t have a ticket,” I said contritely.

“The ticket isn’t important. The essential thing is that you made it.”

“I’m extremely grateful to you.”

“Let’s go in,” said the conductor, moving aside to let me enter first.

I went inside the car. He came in after me, closed the door and then locked it. Turning towards me, he held out both his hands.

“Please let me take your coat and hat.”

“Oh,” I said, and gave them to him.

The conductor opened a narrow closet in the wall next to the rear door. It was full of overcoats, fur coats, mackintoshes, capes, ski jackets and windcheaters. The shelf above it held all kinds of hats and caps. There were shawls, gloves and muffs and three or four umbrellas too. He took a wooden hanger and hung my coat on it, then placed my hat on a free spot in the corner of the shelf. Then he bent down and took a pair of slippers with large pink pom-poms out of the lower part of the closet. That’s when I noticed the shoes neatly placed on the floor: they were mostly ordinary shoes of different shapes and sizes, but there were a few pairs of sandals, boots, trainers, galoshes, clogs and thongs.

The conductor put the slippers on the dark-red carpet runner in front of me and then said, still bent over, “Your shoes, if you please.”

I squatted down to untie my shoelaces. I pulled on the slippers as the conductor put my shoes away in the closet. We stood up simultaneously. Suddenly he began to stagger. His hands flew to his forehead and he leaned his back against the closet.

“Aren’t you feeling well?” I asked anxiously.

“No, no, everything’s all right,” he said in a weary voice. “Just a little dizzy spell. It will soon pass.”

The conductor was a tall, broad-shouldered man with bushy eyebrows, and this infirmity seemed unsuited to his size. He soon regained his composure, just as he’d predicted.

“Excuse me.”

“Do you have low blood pressure? I’ve heard that people with low blood pressure feel dizzy when they stand up quickly.”

The conductor’s reply was not immediate. “It’s not from low blood pressure,” he said at last. “Whenever I close the closet, I remember…”

He didn’t finish the sentence. The smile of a moment before turned into a painful frown. I thought I should say something, but didn’t know what.

“All of that has nothing to do with you, of course,” he continued. “Why should you be interested in my feelings? I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest if you told me my past has nothing to do with you and I mustn’t bore you with it.”

“Quite the contrary,” I hastened to assure him. “I would love to hear it, if that will make you feel better…”

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