The interview

The interview

A Story by Haim Kadman
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Some correspondent of a local paper, phoned him at the beginning of the week. Which paper was it he could not remember, and the name of that young female escaped him and he could not recall it, while she was still at the other end of the line.

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The warm sunrays thawed the morning frost for two hours already, but Joab Katz was well tucked in his blanket yet – and in apathy and helplessness just as well.

The flowing life outside, the usual morning sounds woke him up. Opening a pair of eye slits in his broad and wrinkled face he kept on lying without the slightest stir, watching absent mindedly the fleeting sun rays that sneaked through the bedroom’s shutters, dancing on the opposite wall. Turning on his side and moving his heavy frame, he sent forth a groping hand towards the other end of the wide double bed. All alone was he in his four-room apartment, and alone did he lie each night in his bed since his wife’s tragic death.

 

It happened about a year ago, in one of those hot summer evenings, as she returned home after paying a visit to one of her many female friends.

 

While getting off the bus her ankle was suddenly trapped as the bus rear door closed up. She hit the asphalt road with her forehead, must have lost her consciousness right away; and was trailing alongside the moving bus for several yards with her head bouncing on the road, till the shrieks of the terror stricken passers-by stopped the bus.

 

Although she was still alive when an ambulance crew picked her up, she did not regain consciousness, and died on the way to the nearest hospital.

 

A widower that’s what I’m…’ He reminded himself amazed still, as if it took place just yesterday. Yet every morning as soon as he got up, he was groping in vain for her warm and soft body.

 

Was it a tragic fate, a terrible disaster that befell him, or was it a stroke of unexpected good luck…? He simply could not decide yet, the truth was he did not dare to – loneliness was so bitter and harsh to bear.

 

Although he was rather famous at his time, a well-known artist, a real celebrity as a matter of fact; he did not loaf within the bohemian circles, and gaudy love affairs he did not have.

 

A thoughtful smile that turned slowly into a grimace, distorted his old wrinkled face.

‘A famous artist…’ He muttered aloud with scorn.

Was not he the highest above all? The high priest of the fine arts in his time, whose words were their only law!?!  Was not he the pioneer who led them all, as if they were blindfolded! He was the torchbearer, the living symbol of the Avant-garde! Alive, in his prime still he was cast away, doomed to oblivion…   

 

I’m as good as dead, that’s what I’m! “Al d’ataft atafuch”… (for having slain you have been slain yourself). He kept on muttering.

 

But did he ever “slay” with his tongue or with his pen any of his many colleagues, pupils, adherents, while he ruled that untamed herd, when his words were sacred!?!

 

How easily did they topple him down, those ungrateful scoundrels! The public followed them suit, erasing his memory from their conscious; as if he never existed. Didn’t they hang from his fingers like puppets on strings, while he made them carry out all he wanted and wished for? Incredible, simply incredible!

 

These thoughts, which he has almost forgotten with the passing years, returned to haunt again on his wife’s open grave; when he met a few of his old colleagues, and several ex pupils of his, who came to give his wife her last honor and pay their condolences. Some of them were spiteful enough to visit him in his apartment, during the seven days of mourning.

Shocked as he was after he had to identify his late wife’s battered corpse before her burial. To avoid them he clinged to his relatives, and except a few mute hand shakes he managed to ignore them. So embittered was he. 

 

His only consolation were his grandchildren, who came to visit him with their proud parents every weekend. His eldest daughter had two young boys and his son had a small daughter.

 

Thus, every Saturday his apartment was filled up with life and cheerfulness. Although he was almost exhausted at the end of each of their visits, while playing with the little ones; yet he yearned for their visits six days a week.

 

Their parents, his children as a matter of fact, they too preferred to ignore his artistic achievements, particularly after his downfall.

 

His late wife on the other hand, criticized his creative work and her criticism was the real reason behind his fruitful creativity during his reigning era. After his downfall she changed her views and did her best to encourage him, to his surprise – it brought them closer to one another, but it did not stir his inspiration.

 

He was already too frustrated, and now when she was not there anymore, he hardly did anything at all.

 

‘But what am I doing in bed still!’ He exclaimed scolding himself. ‘It’s Thursday, isn’t it? It’s the day of the appointed interview!’ He kept muttering aloud, sat up at the edge of his bed quite energetically, and threw his legs towards the floor.

 

‘Oh my back, my back!’ He groaned raising his voice with much self-pity, clutching his waist with both his hands.

 

In a few seconds he braced up gradually, sneaked his feet into his slippers and rose up, somewhat crouched; but he managed to straighten up slowly in a few more seconds, put on his gown and left the bedroom. Strolling in his flat between the bathroom and the kitchen, he stretched up his old bones a bit.

 

Some correspondent of a local paper, phoned him at the beginning of the week. Which paper was it he could not remember, and the name of that young female escaped him and he could not recall it, while she was still at the other end of the line.

 

He did not bother to know who she was, so excited and furious at the same time was he. He almost hung up right away. His blood was rushing to his head.

A local paper… Rage, scorn and humiliation fogged his troubled mind.  Articles about his works, photographed and illustrated; his opinions, his theories, every hiccup, every belch of his appeared in the country’s leading papers long before she was born; and if he exaggerates and she is not that young, well then, she must have been wrapped in her nappies at least at that time.

Anyhow, near the end of that phone parley he changed his mind, and though half of what she said he did not grasp – he accepted her offer. He invited her to his apartment. Was it his comeback, his hour of salvation?

Well, of course not! That is what Katz thought; he was not the type that would deceive himself. But yet, against his own will the few words over the phone, did spark off some old almost forgotten hopes – and on that same night he hardly slept.

He was testing lately some new ideas on a PC with a graphic program. A gift his son bought him just recently. The incredibly immense range of possibilities overwhelmed him, to reach some mode of using it right away, or even in the near future was simply impossible as far as Joab Katz was concerned. After the first wave of enthusiasm, he got tired of the “magic box” and kept away from the room that served him as his studio. A cleaner, some middle-aged woman or a man, were sent to his apartment once a week, to clean it. A manpower agency sent them, and changed them time and again, simply because he annoyed them with his suspicions and bad treatment.  But most of his time was passed in loafing to and fro in his apartment, pursuing shadows of the past; having long and arduous discussions, aloud, with the old and famous masters; praising the very few which he was ready to accept as his equals, and arguing bitterly with the rest, finding faults in their master pieces, and pouring scorn on those he loathed.

But this morning after having a bite of toast and coffee for breakfast, he decided to go out, expose his face to the rare autumn sun, stroll in the neighborhood in search of ideas and inspiration. The excitement that phone call and the coming interview caused him, brought along with it a wave of sudden energy; but as energy resources at that late age dwindle rather fast, he returned home after a very short journey. He needed a rest badly and in fact, dozed off as soon as he stretched himself on the living room’s sofa, covered in a light blanket.        

 

When his door’s bell rang, he woke up with a start, wondering who could it be. Night was falling outside while he was stretched on his sofa fully dressed, covered up to his chin with a light blanket – scared to death. When the bell rang again he jumped to his feet, as if he was some thirty years younger.

‘Just a moment, I’m coming!’ He cried out in a shaky voice, and switched on the living room’s lights. He was suddenly terribly cold and tired still. Putting on his coat in haste he braced himself and made his way to his front door. A few paces way he slowed down hesitantly and proceeded on cautiously, sneaking on as noiseless as he could, till he reached the door. Leaning on it with both his hands, he brought his right eye as nearly as possible to the spyhole, in a futile effort to identify his guest. He was short sighted ever since his childhood, and his old age enhanced his difficulties; thus, the dark silhouette that stood on the other side under the harsh blinding light looked to him as a long thin dark line, that kept changing its shape, each time he brought his eye closer or drew back from the spyhole.

‘Who is it?’ He called out in despair almost, surrendering in his shaky cry doubts and suspicions. The continuous encounter with his own limits in his daily life frustrated him deeply and enhanced his old age anxieties, which were forced upon him by the tragic death of his wife.

‘It’s me Bracha don’t you remember, the “Town’s Talk” reporter. Come-on open up!’

Her pleasant and confident voice calmed him down, switching on the lights that flooded the entrance with yellowish glare; he opened up and let her in.

‘Good evening Mr. Katz!’ She beamed at him exposing two rows of white even teeth. ‘I’ve come to interview you, don’t you remember?’ She added with a benign reproof, which suits usually a naughty kid or some good for nothing, whose memory stopped functioning properly long ago.

‘Of course, of course I haven’t forgotten it at all. Please do come in.’ He declared vehemently, lowering his eyes. But as soon as she crossed his threshold he looked her up, measuring eagerly her looks and slim figure. Then, as waking out of a dream he shut the door and hastened to her side, to lead her to his living room.

There were times when he used to slap their rumps and hug them in public, to strengthen his image – to blow up the myth. He had though an affair once, a platonic one. A short episode it was, which he managed to hide from his jealous wife. He used to kiss his female students from time to time, but that was the lot of it. The myth on the other hand, kept expanding at those times. The stories that were told about him… The evil gossip, the countless love affairs that he presumably had…

Well, who knows? That myth might still exist, to this very day! He chuckled to himself with infantile delight. If that’s the case, I might be in need of some provocative act of some sort, during this very meeting; to remind this newborn babe who I am and what I do represent.

Turning to the kitchen after having settled his guest in one of the armchairs, he suddenly recalled:

‘Haven’t you brought a cameraman along?’ He asked with some note of disappointment.

‘Oh the cameraman!’ She called back surprised. She didn’t expect him to remember, or to dare and raise the subject. ‘They’ve changed their mind about it. There was a second session on that certain matter last night – you know them. Well, there’s no need to worry, there’re plenty of your prints in the archives.’

Sulking he went on to the kitchen and came back with a loaded tray, the refreshment he had prepared beforehand.

‘What will you have?’ He asked her bending his old frame before her, bowing to her young and lovely face.

I would surely have a nice and pleasant evening with her. He thought enjoying the glow of her beauty and youth.

‘Thanks grandpa, later on; do me a favor sit down and stop hopping around – at your age…’

Those few words were said with such benevolence, and at the same time with such youthful superiority; as if she was present there just to use him for her own ends; and that indeed was just what she thought, whether he grasped the idea or not it did not make any difference.

He did grasp it of course, he was on his way down the slope and she was on her way up – ascending with zest. That was what she was so eager to emphasize, unconsciously no doubt.

That young generation, how eager and quick they are to push aside, to annul anyone who crosses their way… Disillusioned already, he settled himself heavily opposite his young guest.

‘Well then,’ she opened up. ‘We won’t bother ourselves with biographies and the like, the public knows very well your life story, your past, deeds and so on. I’ve prepared therefore several questions, which I’d like you to answer; we’d rather stick and concentrate on these questions alone. Now, I don’t want you to believe that my interest is limited to your contemporary epoch alone, not at all! The complementary material has been already gathered, and when I’ll finish that job, editing and all, plus the prints, you’ll be quite satisfied with it.

As these were not the words that Katz wished to hear, or rather dreamed of hearing, he hardly listened to her – but he kept watching her face, her moving lips, devouring her good looks with his eyes, adoring her youth.

‘Let’s not waste our time!’ She went on, cutting in straight into his confused thoughts, scattering his dreams. ‘First of all I’d like to know whether you’re still active?’ Holding her writing pad and ready pen in her hands, she watched him with an expectant gaze.                               

‘Of course I’m still active, very much active I’d say!’ He assured her as if he just rose from behind his easel. Using both his hands to support his claim, he broadened her mind in his ultimate deeds, with vigor. ‘I’ve done some experiments in a complicated and sophisticated field; right now, I’m conducting a research with the aim of reaching a definite and the most accurate way to express the incredible progress of our era – a way that would represent my unique approach and my own artistic concepts. But the options are still too many to choose from, I must admit; although I’m just at the beginning of my important findings, I assure you that in a matter of a few months, I’ll come out with an exhibition on that important and astounding issue.’

‘Is that so?’ She wondered smiling. ‘Shouldn’t we continue our meeting in your studio then?’

‘Absolutely not!’ Hastened Katz to reject her reasonable suggestion. ‘The time isn’t ripe yet to reveal my experiments, neither to you nor to my closest associates.’

‘I see,’ she said lowering her eyes to her pad. ‘How would define your “unique concepts” in comparison with any other trends in art; or with other artists whether they’re contemporary ones or with the great masters of the past for instance?’

‘I’ve never bothered myself with comparisons, or where do I stand in the contemporary art’s hierarchy. The right answer to that question you can find in the endless art criticism articles, dealing with my work and my achievements alone!’

‘Sorry, but I can’t except it, that’s avoiding my question.’ She scolded him. ‘Just like any other artist, you must have been influenced in some way or another by other trends, by other artists; whether they’re still alive or whether they died centuries ago. There’re surely some who did impress you at the early stages of your career, it isn’t a debasement to admit such a thing.’

She’s decided to have it her own way and that’s it… Concluded to himself Katz glumily. As he was about to have his say in the matter she asked on bluntly:

‘What’s your opinion on Kandinsky for instance?’

‘About Kandinsky, and who is he? Do you mean some member of the “New Horizons”?’ (the first Israeli artists association, that existed during the twenties). 

His young guest burst out in an uncontrollable loud laughter. Katz, who was fascinated by its sweet sounds, ignored the open insult, which was openly expressed in it.

The young reporter’s laughter grew louder and louder, turning gradually into subdued moans, as she was trying her best to stop it. Calming down with much effort she drew a handkerchief from her handbag and wiped her tears that were still flowing down her cheeks.

‘Vasili Kandinsky, the founder of the abstract painting.’ She said in mid fits of renewed laughter. ‘Was this show of ignorance feigned to convince me in its credibility?’

‘Never in my life did I busy myself with the history of art.’ Remarked Katz dryly but deeply embarrassed, ‘…and the reference to that certain Kandinsky isn’t clear to me at all.’

‘All right let’s clear it right away! Kandinsky was a Russian figurative painter who migrated to Germany at the beginning of the century, was among the founder of the “Bauhaus” trend; and as I already said, the founder of the abstract painting. He developed a new theory and had even written a book about it, titled: “line-point-line”. He might have been influenced by Morse for all I care!’ She added sarcastically. ‘What’s interests me in his theory, is the fact that it is almost identical with your unique concepts, which the public was informed of at the sixties; and as he died long before you were born, or if I’m wrong surely before you started to paint – it would be rather hard to prove that he was influenced by your concepts, wouldn’t it?’

An oppressive silence fell upon the cozy living room, quite suddenly.

‘We’d better have a short coffee break right now, and I would be much obliged if you’ll consider carrying on the meeting on a constructive basis; or we had better part in friendly terms as if nothing happened.’Suggested Katz forcing a quick retreat, in a desperate effort to protect his beaten ego.

‘Dear Mr. Katz, you can’t afford such luxury anymore. The establishment ignores your existence, not a single line on you or your works would appear in any paper or magazine. As for the rest of the media, you’re as good as dead, for some time now. Thus, the only option left to you is to evoke some commotion, a controversy issue on our pages. As far as I’ve found up, your skin is hard enough to face the outcome. Many trends and currents in modern art have popped up using such ways and means after all, and if I’m not mistaken, you and your associates used such measures yourselves rather successfully. But let’s get back to the point; there’s no doubt at all that the complete interview with you, would evoke the right echoes in your favor. Thus, you would be able to restore your rightful fame. As for your experiments, I’ll mention it and I’m ready to quote you word for word on that important issue. Well, what do you say?’

‘Alright, I’ll agree on one condition…’ He muttered clearing his throat. ‘I want the Kandinsky issue off record!’

‘Oh, sure, that’s not an issue that would attract the public’s interest. It was just a curious assumption of mine, which I wanted to check and verify.’ She assured him with her sweet and amiable smile.

     

©  Haim Kadman 2009

 


© 2009 Haim Kadman



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Very nice write. Could you please check out my writings? Thanks.

Posted 7 Years Ago



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Added on February 21, 2009

Author

Haim Kadman
Haim Kadman

Petach-Tikva, Israel



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