Ms. Kathe Telingator, the long-time producer of Stories on Stage, has chosen "Buying Lenin" as part of a program for the Chicago Humanities Festival. The theme of the festival this year is "Laughter," while the program is appropriately titled "The Cultural Translation of Laughter." BL will be read by a professional actor along with stories from Kafka and Chekhov... and as if this is not enough, the story will be introduced by none other than Aleksandar Hemon - only one my favorite writers. I like his stories so much I'm even willing to overlook the fact that Mr. Hemon is a Liverpool supporter (I'd call him a scouser, but he comes from Bosnia). Anyway, the reading falls on a Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009.
I was reading Mr. Hemon's latest collection when this news arrived. There is a story in there called "Everything" in which the young narrator is sent to the town of Murska Sobota to purchase a freezer chest for his family. "There arrives a time in the life of every family," his father says at a family meeting, "when it becomes ready to acquire a large freezer chest."
I was ten when we acquired our freezer chest, I think in 1992, eight years after Mr. Hemon's story takes place (we lived, after all, in Bulgaria). For one year the freezer sat in my room, between my desk and the wardrobe, unplugged, obstructing my indoor games of basketball with a tennis ball. It was a fine freezer, my grandfather had used connections to get it, but for a year we had nothing to freeze in it.
I'm sure that now, as I type this, that same freezer is buzzing ten thousand miles away from me. I'm sure that in its bottom drawer there is a box of Darko ice cream I bought two summers ago, awfully frost-bitten now, a box my mom should have long thrown away. But she throws nothing of mine away. For a month after I leave she does not wash my blanket, my pillowcase, my sheets. She keeps my books wherever I drop them, that is, everywhere...