Novel, Cartea Romaneasca, 2013, 184 pages
Cristina, herself still a child, is forced to become a “mother” responsible for two younger siblings while their parents are abroad working for the “long money”. The world of a contemporary Moldovan village, peopled mainly by children and the elderly, is viewed from the perspective of this twelve year old girl. In a world in crisis, a world adrift, the children learn the hard way how to survive as they wait for the fulfilment of their only dream: for their parents to come home. But their parents don’t come home even when they are conjured to do so through pagan magical rituals. The abandoned children comfort themselves with the vague memories of normal family life, imitating the mannerisms of adults before their time. Cristina tells the story of a land of adult children, of cruelty and tenderness, of pain and consolation, despair and hope. With the novel Kinderland Liliana Corobca consolidates her position as a confessor to the helpless, the resigned victims of peacetime, whose voices are heard by no one else.
The tick was glued to the child’s belly, close to the navel, sucking his blood. Frightened more by her brother’s screams than by that black dot, the girl ran off to fetch help. It would have been normal for the screams to bring if not half the village running then at least the whole neighbourhood, but nobody came. She could have pulled out the tick for him, but what if the head was left stuck inside and another even bigger one developed or, God forbid, what if it burrowed all the way in, where nobody would be able to get it out, and went on living there, meaning her younger brother would die, sucked dry by a tick?
At first, the third child, the youngest brother, who was often beaten or wronged by the other, watched the spectacle with a certain amount of satisfaction. He kept circling his older brother, trying to see what was making him cry and howl so urgently. He looked all around, up and down, to see whether he ought to join in the wailing, but he couldn’t find anything. Dan’s hitched up shirt and his belly bared to the sun made no impression on him; they didn’t frighten him at all. And nor was he impressed by the black dot that his brother was fretting over so tragically, as he couldn’t comprehend how such a large, strapping brother could be afraid of such a little black insect clinging to his belly. The younger brother then made off.
The girl ran into the road. She could call her neighbours, but they wouldn’t be at home at that hour. The grandmother of a girl from her school lived down the road, but she wouldn’t be at home either, and anyway her eyesight wasn’t good enough to be able remove the tick, head and all. The girl set off down the road, in search of the right person. At uncle Vasile’s house she called out, but there was no answer, apart from the fact that all the dogs in the neighbourhood started barking. At the outcry set up by all the dogs, there was no movement inside the houses, no door or gate slammed, nobody came outside to see who was shouting and why. Normally, when you shouted from the road, everybody heard and there would be at least one who would answer, to say that person you were looking for wasn’t at home, that he was in his vineyard, at his godfather’s or wherever. At the end of the road she espied a mother washing clothes in her yard. She didn’t know what her name was. She burst through the gate and the woman gave her a questioning look.
In the meantime, the youngest brother had brought the other brother his favourite toy. The brother with the tick ignored him. Toys were the last thing he was in the mood for.
Marcel remembered the lovely apple he had found the day before and hidden so that he could have it all to himself, without having to share it with his siblings. The neighbours’ apple tree had borne fruit that year and an apple or two sometimes fell on their side of the fence. They were summer apples, with sweet rosy flesh. On seeing the apple, Dan waved his hand as if to say: what is your apple compared with my pain! And then, in brotherly solidarity, Marcel began to whine too.
A cart came to a stop by the well. The driver drew a pail of water, drank, and then moistened the horse’s muzzle. He looked at the girl, who was staring at him fixedly. He was tall, thin, ugly, all but toothless, with sparse grizzled hair and large lop ears; he could have played the rôle of the Grim Reaper, if he had had a scythe in his cart. The horse was thin too, once grey, but being unwashed it was now a greenish earthy colour, and it had long yellow teeth, as if to make up for its master’s lack.
Translated by Alistair Ian Blyth