prose

Marinko Koščec: Excerpt from Searching for the Beginning of a Circle

Marinko Koščec holds a PhD in Literature from the University of Zagreb. He's written seven novels, several of which have won prestigious regional awards. He is a professor of French Literature at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Zagreb. He worked for several years as an editor for the Zagreb publishing house, SySprint. He has translated several French novels, taught workshops on translating and currently teaches novel writing at CeKaPe (the Center for Creative Writing).

The passage below from Koščec’s book, Searching for the Beginning of a Circle, is a domestic scene, an intimate contemplation on the modern way of life that will make you reexamine your relationship with health food and will probably make you laugh as well. In a more serious vein, it may just make you peer beneath the veneer of modern day trends and obsessions to see what lies beneath. As Koščec put it in an interview, explaining the title of his book: “We began from nothing and we’ll become nothing; life journeys are by necessity circular.” (Koščec, Marinko. Interviewed by Ivana Čulić, tportal.hr, 19.1.2017).

Read an excerpt from Koščec’s novel, Searching for the Beginning of a Circle below.
Translation by Vesna Maric



 

 

Searching for the Beginning of a Circle by Marinko Koščec

Clanging of dishes wakes you up. You find Gabi packing up all the aluminium and teflon pots into bin liners.

- We’re not cooking in these poison pots any more.

We, you want to scream, since when do we cook, anyway?! But you bite your tongue since something’s simmering on the stove.

- Millet. Apart from the fact that it contains no gluten, it is alkaline, and therefore anti-carcinogenic. Grains do us enormous harm. Millet is the only grain allowed in this kitchen from now on.

Boldly, she removes packets of tagliatelle, fusilli and farfalle, followed by a whole collection of flour types, wholemeal, organic, exotic, and puts them all in the rubbish bag. Then she starts inspecting the tins, studying the ingredients, shaking her head.

- Pffff… Look at this. Seven different E-numbers.

Into the bin they go. She’s flabbergasted when she paper bag at the back of a cupboard.

- What, have you gone mad?!

White Refined Sugar. You stammer, try to say that you’ve no idea where it came from, that you’ve been using only brown sugar for ages, virgin, unrefined, but she lets you know with a wave of her hand the offence is so serious that any discussion about it is impossible.

- Your demonic sweet tooth is an entirey different conversation. Until then, if it occurs to you to sweeten anything, you can use this.

She produces a glass jar of agave syrup from her shopping bag. Along with an array of products, all wrapped in eco-friendly, environmentally-conscious packaging. You zero in on the price tag on one of them; you break out in a cold sweat.

But this is nothing compared to what happens next. The food cupboard is stocked with new products, each carrying a mystical, luxurious name. This marks the beginning of the Replacement Era.

The flat is emptied of the kind of salt known to ordinary man; it is replaced by Himalayan salt, volcanic salt, followed soon after by a phytoplankton extract. Coconut oil kicks out every other type of fat. Milk is only allowed if it is made of almond or walnut. However, the one time you slip up, you are caught.

- That’s right, be an idiot. I guess you are immune to antibiotics they pump into cows. Saturated fats, the smothering of the digestive system, metabolic corrosion, never heard of it, right? How many times do I have to explain that D-galactose supports inflammation, that casein makes your bones britle, increases cholesterol, causes type I diabetes, arteriosclerosis and multiple sclerosis, that all the statistics support the fact that there is a direct correlation between the amount of milk consumed and the risk of getting prostate cancer?! Are you doing this to spite me?!

And cheese, who needs cheese when you have so many types of tofu? You accept, with relative ease, the exile of all animal protein; you see the unacceptable evil in murdering animals for food. You only miss fish, but fuck it, it’s full of mercury. You reminisce about the bread you once ate, but you now eat only yeast-free bread, made from a mix of potato flour, millet and amaranth.

Breakfast now consists of a variety of green smoothies, made of kale, spinach or watercress, with the addition of ever more subtle ingredients - chia seeds, acai berries, agar, powdered psyllium. You’re grateful because they are tasteless, as opposed to what your every day starts with, a magnesium chloride drink - the struggle is real and of Nitzchean proportions. Then it is time for a detox and a cleanse from parasites: this consists of an alternate intake of wormwood pills, teaspoons of clove oil or black walnut tincture, and a glass of green clay diluted in water. You agree to it all. Except, getting out of bed on the green clay days is rather difficult.

You also agree to dry brushing. And panting, ha… ha… ha…, to cleanse the lungs. And spinning around with your arms stretched out, because this is how you immerse yourself in the Tibetan Fountain of Youth.

As if receiving the body of Christ, you accept royal jelly and green magma from Gabi’s hand. You embrace the kombucha mushroom as if it were a babe, you gladly take over the preparation of potions from her, dedicated to fermentation as if you were a monk. You say nothing about the fact that this brings back sugar into the house, because the mushroom feeds on it.

You don’t eat food anymore; there are only proteins, carbohydrates, fibres and minerals. Sundays are for timetabling. There is a log to keep track of the intake of vitamins, amino-acids and electrolytes.

Of course, the mother of all calculations is the calorie table. Intake, burnout. Every bite has its own exercise equivalent, an exercise which annuls its calorific value. Gabi does nothing half-heartedly, but her dedication to exercise is second to none. Luckily, you don’t have to follow this regime; that is her own battle, against her personal demons. It is also fortunate that her target is not one of those bodies which look as if it were composed of sausages, but one that, it seems, minimises everything corporeal. She does not go to the gym. The flat becomes a workshop for sublimating the body.

She wakes at four thirty a.m. She hydrates herself with, of course, purified water, and a squeeze of lemon. She meditates transcendentally. She spends fifteen minutes focusing and balancing herself. Greets the sun for half an hour, does downward dog, cobra, frog, wondrous positions. She takes a cold shower. She detoxifies. Does breathing exercises. She gargles sesame oil for fifteen minutes. Spends twenty minutes on the exercise bike. She rolls around on the pilates ball for twenty minutes. Prepares a smoothie. Runs to work, where, as the fisrt person there, takes another shower.

It is getting harder, however, to find acceptable food; there is an ever growing number of banned ingredients. The discovery that solanine, a natural alkaloid which some plants use to defend themselves from pests, can cause acute intoxication in even the smallest doses, means there is a ban on potato, tomato and aubergine. The onion and garlic are out of the picture when it is found they do some funny business with the chakras. Curiosity makes you research this and the results depress you: it is actually believed that they increase sexual desire.

In the summer, you can only ingest foods that cool the body, in winter, those which warm it up. Then there are orders that only seasonal foods can be eaten, which you approve of, at least because it is more affordable. But then there is a more radical proclamation: only locally grown food is allowed. This remains only a noble theory, however, when it is understood what it would mean in practise - basically, a massacre. Then, there is a coup d’etat and raw food takes power. It reigns absolute. It is only possible to eat that which has been scrubbed by a mix of bleach and alcoholic vinegar. You agree without a word. You greet Gabi with an imaginative array of cold vegetable cuts. All is well until the day when, upon returning from a bioenergy seminar, she practically snatches the knife out of your hand.

- Don’t do that!

You were about to cut into a carrot and that would take away its energy. In this house, from now on, things will be consumed only whole, in the integrity of their aura. The seminar bore fruit, you see, and the harvest is bountiful. You will no longer sleep in your bed, because subterranean waters run under it. That’s what the keynote speaker says. Based on Gabi’s drawing, checked by a lead pendulum reading.

- I’m massively affected by the radiations. I’ll need several sessions before all the energies are cleansed.

You congratulate him in your mind in advance. Really, you can see a change in her already: she’s faster, sharper, as if plugged into a higher current. She positively radiates for the following two days and nights. Either because of the sessions or simply because you’re lying on a yoga mat on the wood floor, you’re wide awake all night. After a few seminars, she is able to transmit her energy to others. And you’re careful, as far as possible, not to let a smile slip, not an inkling of cynicism in your tone, all the more because she is warning you.

- I’m doing this mostly for you.

Also, out of gratitude, you put in super-human effort to concentrate while she bio-energises you with her hand, and to feel the warmth in your thigh, a shiver in your chest. But you’re only able to feel this when the hand is the keynote speaker's, and the thigh and chest are hers.

- Hard-core Neanderthal. You're a lost cause.

 

Translation: Vesna Maric

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