Презентація роману Олександра Мотиля “Fall River” Alternative Book Press, 2014

February 28, 2015

Роман “Fall River” написано на основі особистих спогадів матері, дядька і тітки. У творі реконструйовано родинну історію, її українське коріння на прикладі особистих доль трьох українських американців, які народилися у Фолл-Рівер, виросли у міжвоєнній Польщі і повернулися до Америки після Другої світової війни.

Олександер Мотиль

Chapter 1

When it comes to how it all began, perhaps one should begin in the eighteenth century with Joannes who married Phelagia Hykawa on February 9, 1785? Or, if lineages convey meaning and therefore demand attention, with Basilius who married Agatha Bobrecki and had six sons, Gregorius, Joannes, Timotheus, Gregorius, Demetrius, and Simeon, as well as three daughters, Xenia, Catharina, and Marianna, who married Gregorius Loik on November 18, 1827 and had three children, Demetrius, Andreas, and Joannes?

Well this is a start, but how does one continue in the nineteenth century? With Gregorius who married Pelagia Kokot and had ten children: Ahaphia, Anna, Demetrius, Helena, Basilius, Michael, Theodosia, Joannes, and the twins Nicolaus and Anna? Or with Michael who married Anastasia Loik and had two? Or with Stephanus who married Ahaphia Szkarupski and had six? Or, perhaps, with Theodorus who married Tatianna Markow and had eight children: Maria, Basilius, Michael, Maria, Xenia, Sophia, and two Anastasias?

Somewhere from within this maze there emerges Joannes (1853-1910) who married Maria Kuzma (1858-1949). And with Joannes and Maria, die fog lifts a bit. They had five sons—Jan (July 8, 1881-June 6, 1949) and Michal (January 1,1883-1947), who lived many years, and Mykola, Evstakhii, and Dmytro, who lost their lives as very young men in Bosnia in die opening days of the Great War—and two daughters, Kateiyna (1886-1961) and Julia (1901-June 3, 1969). And it was Jan, or Ivan as he would also have been called, who married Anna, came to Fall River, and had three children: Mike, Manya, and Stefa. With them, the fog lifts some more: names begin to evoke faces and details emerge as signposts. The landscape, however, remains inalterably bleak, even after die scene shifts to America, die land of boundless opportunity, reckless dreams, and unrestrained optimism.

Regardless of what the church registers say, we know that Fall River is where it all began, don’t we, Mike?

Олександер Мотиль

Flow do we reconstruct die past? The question presupposes die existence of something called the past, but its reality is hardly as obvious as human beings desperate for meaning would like it to be. The past is no tiling to be grasped, no place to be visited, no scroll to be opened, read, analyzed, and comprehended. Where are the memories of die past? On hangers? On clotheslines? In safes? In cardboard suitcases? In photo albums? In pant pockets? In cupboards? Who knows? Not you, Mike, that’s for sure.

What can we remember if we remember nothing? What can we claim to have experienced if we experienced nothing? Well, there are some artifacts: a few letters, two tie clips, nine army medals, one brown twelve-by-sixteen inch leather-bound photo album, twisted bits of dental wiring, and about twenty or thirty documents. It is as if we were blind archaeologists in die midst of harsh terrain. How large is the site? We have no idea. How deep is it? We don’t know. Are the artifacts we discover or, more precisely, the bits and pieces of artifacts we discover—the shards, the buttons, the pointy objects, the rounded surfaces, die rusty nails, the bits of bone—parts of something we can reconstruct, that actually existed? Or are we merely imagining we have approximate notions of what we are doing and supposedly reconstructing?

These bits and pieces of a whole life resemble cat hairs on a black woolen coat or dirty wads of chewing gum on die soles of shoes. Except that even these analogies are inaccurate, Mike. In actuality, we passed each other soundlessly in the night, not even as ships that leave wakes and produce waves and cause die fish to scatter, but as two leaves that fluttered downward at different times and in different places and were then carried off in different directions by gusts of wind. And what, exactly, do these gusts of wind represent? Fate? Destiny? Inevitability? History? God? Do you know, Mike? Of course you don’t. And, as all my failed metaphors attest, neither do I.

Here is one fact I do know. It is in a letter from Myrtle, who says she can still remember your singing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” The letter is posted in late 1945 in Augusta, Georgia, and it is written on blue writing paper in a scrawl that conveys a touching childishness and a very nuanced, a very adult despair. If letters could scream, this one would.

Who is this Myrtle? All we know is that she has a husband named Alonzo and lives in Augusta, where your army unit was based. She is—or was—your lover. You had a highly illicit affair and Myrde is terrified of something. She sounds desperate in her letter: she says she’s getting what she deserves. She misses you and wants you, but she also says you should forget her, completely and forever. And then, in her postscript, she says she remembers your-singing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

This is a good-bye letter that is no good-bye letter, Mike, and you know it. Myrtle wants desperately that you write back, maybe even hop the first train going east from California. She wants die doorbell to ring while Alonzo is at die factory. She wants her sweet Mikey boy to appear at die dented screen door, a crooked smile on his face, one eyebrow straight, the other at an angle, and a melody in his heart. She wants her land and gentle Mike to plant a smacker on her hungry lips and place both hands on her round hips and rub his nose against hers.

“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”: How appropriate for you to have sung this song! Myrtle must have cried her eyes out every night. She missed your good hands and supple body. She missed your wry smile. And she knew she would never see you, your hands, your torso, your smile, ever again. She knew you wouldn’t answer that letter. How could she not cry? How could the smoke not get in her eyes?

I have never shaken your hand. I have never felt your kiss on my forehead. I have never even seen you: standing before me, laughing at the far end of a table covered with holiday fare, drinking beer in a garden, dealing cards and downing shots of vodka, firing a rifle, focusing a camera. You do not exist-except on pieces of paper and in a few insignificant things. My tears, when they sometimes come, are senseless, pointless, meaningless, and absurd. If I cry, it is not because I miss you, but because I have never had the opportunity to miss you.

But I do have photographs and I do have documents. They are a start and that is something, even if that is
all they are. So let us go back to Myrtle, who is far wiser and more perspicacious than she could ever have suspected.

Dec. 5, 1945
Dearest Mike,

How are things with you now? Fine I hope. Have you made arrangements for your sisters to come over yet? I hope you will all soon be together. I know it will be a happy day for you.

Mike, I’m sorry I toldyou my troubles. You have enough on your mind as it is. But I couldn’t tell anyone else. I’m afraid to even mention you to Alonzo. I don’t want him to get suspicious. And I had to tell someone, so I told you. Hut I don’t expect you to do anything about it. Just fotget I ever told you anything.

Alonzo has been very sick and is in the veterans hospital at Columbia, S.C. now. He has asthma. Hut I’m sure we will get everything straightened out. So don’t worry about it.

And if you answer my letters send them through Eunice. But be careful what you write. And if you think best—don’t write at all. Because you have a life of your own to live and I’m sure my letters will upset you.

And if you come to Augusta get in touch with Eunice and let her arrange for me to see you. The way things are, now—I’m cfraid for you to come to the house.

And there’s nothingyou can do, ifyou do come to Augusta,you will only get more worried. And I’d cry and make afool of myself. And I’d rather not.

I think it would be easier to just say good bye… and you can try to forget anything ever happened. Goon andfind you a nice girl and settle down. But don’t have 12 kids (just have 11).

Mike, I don’t know what I mean. But I want you to know that I still think you’re a wonderful person. And I don’t blame you for anything I’m only getting what I deserve.

But I want you to be happy always.
So forget Augusta. And the best of luck to you.


PS. I keep remembering you singing “Smoke gets in your eyes.”

So what do you have to say for yourself, Mike? …….

Олександер Мотиль