Me and Kaminski Page 0,1

. . with his insights, no, badly researched insights into lives of important, no, prominent, no, that’s even worse. I thought for a moment . . . historical personalities, has come up with another one. To call his just-published biography of the artist, no, painter Georges Braque a failure would probably be to overpraise a book that . . . I stuck the pencil between my teeth. Now I needed something really to the point. I pictured Bahring’s face when he read the article, but that didn’t give me any ideas either. This was less fun than I’d thought it would be.

I was probably just tired. I rubbed my chin, the stubble felt unpleasant, I simply had to get a shave. I put down the pencil and leaned my head against the windowpane. It was starting to rain. Drops were hitting the glass and streaming in the opposite direction from the one we were traveling in. I blinked, the rain got heavier, the raindrops seemed to make little exploded puddles full of faces, eyes, and mouths. I closed my eyes, and while I listened to the drumming of the water, I dozed off: for a few moments, I didn’t know where I was; I felt I was floating through the huge emptiness of space. I opened my eyes: the glass was covered with a film of water, and trees were bowed under the force of the rain. I closed my notepad and put it away. Then I noticed the book the man in front of me was reading: Picasso’s Last Years by Hans Bahring. I didn’t like this. I had the feeling I was being mocked somehow.

“Lousy weather,” I said.

He looked up for a moment.

“Not very good, is it?” I pointed to Bahring’s hash-up.

“I find it interesting,” he said.

“That’s because you’re not an expert.”

“That’ll be why,” he said, and turned the page.

I leaned my head against the neck rest, my back was still hurting from the night in the train. I took out my cigarettes. The rain was easing up, and the first mountains were becoming visible through the haze. I used my lips to pull a cigarette out of the pack. As I clicked the lighter, I flashed on Kaminski’s Still Life of Fire and Mirror: a flickering dazzle of bright colors out of which a lancelike flame came leaping, as if it were trying to shoot clear of the canvas. What year? I didn’t know. I had to prepare better.

“This is a nonsmoking carriage.”


The man didn’t look up, just pointed to the sign on the window.

“Just a couple of quick puffs!”

“This is a nonsmoking carriage,” he said again.

I dropped the cigarette and ground it out with my foot, clenching my teeth with fury. Okay, if that’s how he wanted it, I wouldn’t talk to him. I pulled out Komenev’s Some Thoughts on Kaminski, a badly printed paperback with an unattractive thicket of footnotes. It had stopped raining, blue sky could be seen through gashes in the clouds. I was still very tired, but I couldn’t allow myself to go to sleep again, I was going to have to get off any time now.

Very shortly afterward, I was wandering shivering through the main hall of a station, a cigarette in my mouth and a paper cup of steaming coffee in my hand. In the toilet I switched on my shaver, it didn’t work. God—no current here either. The bookstore had a revolving paperback holder outside: Bahring’s Rembrandt, Bahring’s Picasso, and of course the window display had a pile of hardcover copies of Georges Braque, or the Discovery of the Cube. In a drugstore I bought two throwaway razors and a tube of shaving cream. The local train was almost empty, the upholstered seats were soft, I leaned into them and immediately closed my eyes.

When I woke again, there was a young woman sitting opposite me, with red hair, full lips, and long, narrow hands. I looked at her, she pretended not to notice. I waited. When her eyes crossed mine, I smiled. She looked out the window. But then she hastily smoothed back her hair, she was having trouble concealing her nervousness. I looked at her and smiled. After a minute or two, she stood up, took her purse, and left the carriage.

Silly creature, I thought. Most likely she was waiting for me in the dining car, but so what, I had no desire to get up and follow her. The heat was sticky now: the haze was making