prose

Stefan Bošković: Excerpt from Slap

Stefan Bošković was born in 1983 in Podgorica, Montenegro. He's published five collections of short stories: Na samrti (2014) (On One’s Deathbed), My Favorite Things (2014), Transparente životinje (2014) (Transparent Animals), Transkripcija (2015) (Transcription), and Romeo i Glok (2015) (Romeo and Glok). His debut novel, Šamaranje (2014) (Slap) won the award for best unpublished manuscript in Montenegro in 2013. He has published multiple theater scripts and screenplays for TV and feature-length films, documentaries and short films. Bošković is a co-founder of the Alternative Theater of an Active Company (ATAK) and the founder of The Boka Art and Film Festival and the multimedia festival, Besac festa.

The protagonist in Bošković’s novel, Slap, explores his insatiable need for sex, consumption of pornography, the tedium of his job and his ultimatley unfulfilling relationships. He skates the fine line between these challenges and realities of his life, probing questions of love, sex and closeness and searching for the point at which they coalesce, if they ever do. Bošković really challenges taboos with his text: at one point the protagonist, a drama professor, gives his students the homework assignment of imagining Othello as a porn movie. Will Firth’s new English translation gives an English-speaking audience the chance to experience one of Montenegro’s most interesting new voices.

Read an excerpt from Bošković’s novel, Slap, below.
Translation by Will Firth.



 

 

My name is Maksim Grahovac, I’m 30 years old. I naively believed that pornography ought to liberate us, disarm our fears, push back the boundaries of perversion, and reduce ignorance and backwardness, in the ocean of nudity. This was possible, I think, but pornography had no intention of changing its form. It only reproduced itself according to the same model. New stars, so many toys and aids, too many categories, dicks, orgies, public fucking—all this was discharged onto the human race, causing an overload, and it kept accumulating by the freight car, in a line without end. The consequences were blatantly evident: impotence, repulsion at the bodies of real-life partners, masturbation in front of the screen, the notion of beautiful bodies, eyes, and laughter, the loss of any conception of the size of a penis, the complete annihilation of fantasy, and the killing of the idea of any sexual act you can’t already type into a search engine. Instead of a healthy process of preparation, elaboration, and conclusion, which once churned around in our heads, you get a finished product, usually with the gleam of scented lubricant.

I was sitting at the computer table and staring into the Samsung 9½-inch screen, from which the glaring whiteness of the empty paper lit up the whole of the smallish room. I got up and paced around for a few minutes. That was a ritual I always observed before I began writing. To most people it probably looked like an action caused by nervousness, which it sometimes was. I simply got used to it and stuck to the habit, just like after several hours of continuous work I had to go to the toilet and masturbate, since that reduced the tension that arose in the course of writing in the evening.

I was at the beginning of a new erotic story for Porno Journal from Kiev and was already pressed for time. I first had to finish the story, and then send it to my friend Sonja from the Institute for Foreign Languages for her to translate it into Russian. The erotic stories I wrote for the Ukrainian magazine were each several pages long and dealt with trends in pornography and popular actors of the international porn industry. They weren’t essays, observations, critiques, or analyses, but full-blooded erotic stories, whose heroes were active porn stars, assigned to different characters but called by their real names. Alexis Texas had to be Alexis Texas, regardless of her character being a fat-assed medieval princess. With this concept, the written form had one function over and above video material: I had the key of a time machine, in which I could transport porn veterans and beginners from the nether chambers straight into the present, placing them among today’s porn elite. Coupling Jordan Ash and Jenna Jameson seemed as exotic as it would be harsh to see snowflake Jynx Maze wantonly impaling herself on the stallion-sized tool of the legendary John Holmes. Fascinating, isn’t it? The magazine’s public relations manager, Mr. Kolya Fedoseyev, contacted me and suggested an idea for improving their already high-quality pornographic magazine. Then he accepted one of the things I proposed—that, for a meager fee, I write stories for the monthly. Contentwise, they had to go far beyond all clichés. It was expressly stated that the stories needed to have an extra something. Not only in the sense of a zany narrative, but also in the quality of the story, the creation of complex characters and relations. This would be my tenth story, but for days I’d been unable to come up with an idea for the forthcoming issue, in which, following an agreed sequence, I had to deal with Brazilians, in a broad sense, and definitely a few black-purple dicks.

 

 

* * *

 

 

I visited Cetinje two days a week. I was employed as an assistant lecturer for film and TV screenplay at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts. I had been working in that job for two years, for minimum pay, hoping that a certain number of years of service would get me a better position and, after a while, an apartment of my own, because the time and the years I’d spent in my father’s apartment had long since erased all the good moments, bringing only restlessness and chronic dissatisfaction, which didn’t even result in an argument or squabble anymore, but in a kind of forced acknowledgement and pseudo agreement, which both he and I knew was a good way for us to part in comparative peace each day. In addition to my father’s apartment, I also went almost every night to the single-room apartment my uncle left me in his will. There I nurtured and watered my sex life, but I couldn’t move into that tiny space. It was too cramped. Too much food and too much pussy for one room. It would be unsavory for me to go to the fridge and make myself a sandwich in the same place where I’d been boring into someone’s ass just three minutes earlier. I simply never managed to combine those two omnipresent types of appetite. An apartment with two or three rooms would have solved all the problems, and I sincerely hoped I would be able to afford it with my assistant lecturer’s pay sooner or later. Other things at the Faculty didn’t interest me much.

I taught several study groups, each made up of five or six students. The good thing about these workshops was that I didn’t have to yell or shout down anyone, I didn’t have to talk much, except to confirm or disapprove, by nodding or shaking my head. Often I didn’t even have to listen. There was a lecturer above me, whose opinion on any subject, valid or not, always nullified mine, and those were established rules that could never be changed, nor did anyone ever try to. Relations were crystal clear from the word go, and I had no trouble with that. But I did have an issue with untalented young people, who also happened to be ugly; at least they had a world of their own, and they fielded that slogan as their strongest argument. What they couldn’t grasp was that, even in their rigidly fenced-off world, they remained untalented and ugly. My tragedy would certainly have been lessened by some cute little hussy turning up, but it was mostly uggos who registered for the entrance exams at the Department of Directing and Dramaturgy—intimidated, eloquent, uneducated trolls. Everyone moved along the same trajectory in the course of their education, without any derailments, for generations and generations. Lecturers would amiably pave them the path to their degrees because they wanted obedient robots. I didn’t feel any pity or sympathy, although I’d traveled that tedious road myself. I just badly wanted to fuck someone from one of the groups. But there was no one. The conceited artistes knew how to talk about and discuss sex, but that neither fulfilled nor amused me because they were so odious. Therefore, in the breaks, I had to go down two levels to sit in the hall in front of the gymnasium where the female actors trained. They rolled on the floor, spreading their legs in worn-out, black leotards. They did the splits, bridges, cartwheels, and other trivial acrobatics, all day long. Seeing that turned me on. When it was time for a major break, I would go to the lecturers’ toilet upstairs and jerk off.

That day I had more serious work, so I didn’t manage to visit the princesses’ palace on the first floor, nor my ceramic masturbatory shrine. The first versions of the scripts were being read out. I almost died of boredom. Scripting was drudgery. While the students were at the stage of sequencing the scenes or elaborating them, my concentration still existed to an extent. But as soon as it was time for the dialogues, an inexplicable ennui would come over me. You can teach a student to use the language of film, to develop a story, to arrange scenes and sequences, to construct characters, and to introduce and exit them from scripts, but you’ll never teach them to write a dialogue. We gave some orientation, but it was completely useless. Few of them were able to write a passable dialogue. As soon as they got down to work, they would screw up the story entirely. “Hope springs eternal,” or “But I love you!” They were so laden with commonplaces that my head started to ache with a vengeance. I gave them a hand signal that I was going out to finish my cigarette.

I walked away a little from the Faculty entrance, fearing that some student might come after me and start talking about their script, about the stuff we’d been hearing like a broken record in class all day and all year. The smoke break made everyone feel someway closer. In such an atmosphere they believed in the possibility of garnering an additional, more forthright, maybe even friendly piece of advice, which they were unable to get at the lectures. That drove me up the wall. I smoked cigarette after cigarette. My thoughts were sluggish. Perhaps these young people and scripts weren’t to blame for the pressure that was splitting my temples. Why should they be? I didn’t give a fucking damn about their scripts and dialogues. The erotic story I still had to write was spinning around in my head, and Mr. Fedoseyev had already mailed me a reminder that I needed to send it for the new issue of Porno Journal by the end of the week. Othello. Othello. Othello. Did I dare? Could I risk taking one of the greatest dramas in the history of literature and transpose it into pure fucking? A well-hung Moor who had come to bang the whole court! The despair, horror, and suffering caused by Iago’s evil would be replaced by what? Othello’s enormous cock! The entire work would be utterly boiled down. Who would the role of Othello be given to? Lexington Steele? Or maybe Mandingo? In their drawers it was a dead heat. Both of them had a massive, fat, 11-inch dong. But Mandingo was faceless—he didn’t have the look of a bold army commander. He lacked that edge. Lex had everything required. Tall, robust, of dignified bearing, and with a piercing gaze. He was definitely the chosen candidate.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Ever since I was nine, I went fishing with my father once a week. He was an old angler. All his life, he was only after the trout in the wild, untamable Platije Canyon, which for both of us represented something more, and more intimate, than just a place to go fishing. We would separate at the very beginning, each went in his own direction, and we would find each other again at the same place after exactly seven hours of fishing. The only thing we would talk about on the drive were the weather forecast for that day, the clearness of the water, the flies, butterflies, and other lures we used, and it was the same that afternoon, too. He would, of course, try to squeeze in a question or two about my job, marriage prospects, and the lives of my friends, but never once did I give him a reply. Sometimes we’d pick mushrooms on the way, which my father would turn into one helluva tasty dish for dinner, and that was it. I had a father who was a master of fishing and a connoisseur of mushrooms, and that was all I wanted to know of him. I knew my absences weighed heavy on him, just as every attempt of his for us to be something more was painful for me. That day I wanted to avoid the rapids. I found a peaceful spot, where the surface of the Morača River looked like a large sheet of green glass. I decided to try it with flies. I cast out several times, but the fish didn’t bite. I sat down on one of the flat rocks and lit a cigarette. I thought about Nina. She was probably sitting in the comfortable armchair of a cosmetics salon and having her toenails French pedicured. I imagined putting them in my mouth. I lifted the rod and cast out once more. It shook. From the intensity of the tug I could tell it was a tiny fish on the hook. I pulled it out with ease. It was no more than one and a half thumbs in length. I held it my hand for a few moments, watching it squirm, and then returned it to the shallow water. The remainder of the fishing day was unsuccessful. Twilight came, the time when trout leap out of the water. They zip about and bite. I was still sitting on the rock, and strained to get up and cast out a few more times. In the end, I packed up the rod and the lures and went back to the car. No sign of my father. He was probably having a field day. I waited another half an hour until it was completely dark, and then he came into view, pushing his way through the dense thickets of undergrowth. He was carrying a willow rod with several large trout dangling from it.

“They were more active in the rapids today,” he said quietly.

We loaded everything into the car and set off back to Podgorica. I glanced at my watch. Nine in the evening. What had Nina been doing? Would I, when we got home, find at least five messages from her, in which she’d write that it had been a long time since she’d enjoyed herself as much as last night, and that she couldn’t imagine a single day more without me at her side? That thought brought a smile to my lips.

We entered the apartment, and I headed straight for my room to check the phone. There were three messages for me. The first was from Sonja: how was the text coming along? I’d forgotten to tell her about the deadline extension. I replied immediately. The second was from Nikola, I ignored it. The third was a notification from my cell phone provider about subscribers who were now available. I didn’t even try to check the numbers, nor did I remember calling anyone. Some fuckup of mine. No message or call from pretty Nina. I started to worry. What should I do? Perhaps she didn’t like our sex? Unlikely, after all we did the next morning. Those sorts of things don’t happen just like that, after the first time together. Perhaps she was appalled by the two tired droplets that oozed from my willy? By the overly detailed story about her divorce? No, we didn’t talk about that in too much detail either. I decided to call her. After a few rings, she answered:

“Hey! Where have you been all day?”
“I had a few commitments. I hope they haven’t amputated your legs?”
She laughed. “No, no, my battery ran out, I’ve only just got home now, believe it or not.” “Super.” That was a load off my mind. “What are you doing tonight? Shall we go out somewhere for a drink?” she asked. “I’d love to—,” I said, “when?”
“In half an hour? Text me where you’ve found a place.” “OK.” “Bye.”
“Bye.”

 

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