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LITERARY MAGAZINE

THE

N째 3 Spring 2014

MentEUR

The Menteur, Spring, 2014

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Inside 4 | CITIZEN TRUTHS: Strangers in Paris 9 | OPINION: Just a Cuppa Tea 14 | INTERVIEW: Artist Eimear Friers 19 | FICTION: Honey by Joe Baldwin Moth of Gion by Laurence Sullivan 31 | POETRY: Eight Young Poets

The Menteurs Editor in Chief . Kadidja Naief Art Director . Kaitlin Meisse Assistant Art Director . Adwait Singh Fiction Editor . Lara Horton Poetry Editor . Alyssia MacAlister Opinion Editor . Alex Hugh Interview Editors . Cat Hollinshead, Christine Stadler Managing Editor . David Van Roon Canterbury Coordinator . Mary Girerd Copy Editor . Pauline McGonagle PR . Ellie Clampin, Caitlin Duerler Illustrations by Kadidja Naief (unless otherwise stated)

Published and produced in association with the University of Kent Visit us on: thementeur.com For submissions and enquiries: editors@thementeur.com 2

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Dear Reader, Months passed since we’ve last seen you, but it is a wonderful occasion: April marks the first anniversary of The Menteur! And as we all know, with age comes not only wisdom, but also change. A new editorial team has taken on the challenge to continue last year’s wonderful efforts of bringing out fresh and original content. Split between Canterbury and Paris, we strived to stay true to the idea of giving voice to young writers and artists who are still finding their way in the world. In keeping with our core philosophy inspired by Albert Camus, we believe that not only fiction, but art in all its forms can be the lie through which truth is told. To honour Paris, The Menteur’s birthplace, we put a lovely Parisian on the cover. Regard him as a cousin of The New Yorker. His monocle allows him to see all kinds of things! How the world ticks. Look at him. He is delighted. Take him as your everyday liar peering through his monocle. He is a pure construction of stereotypes, yet he is looking for truth. Perhaps this issue may be something for you to look at closely. See if you can find something for yourself in it. This spring, we have a collection of all sorts: a look at strangers in Paris, an exploration on a cuppa tea, layered answers of a painter, young women voicing their desires...and then some strong poetry, too: there’s a jumper and a white lie, spinning cups and the slowing down of time, a box of stale cookies and the ABC’s, broken silence and a girl who knooOOOoows. We hope you enjoy our beautiful spring issue – perhaps even with a nice cuppa – and revel in the lies splashed within these pages. On behalf of all of us here on staff in Canterbury and Paris, thank you for reading and don’t forget your monocle!

The Menteurs

photo by Hei Yang Lau

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Strangers in Paris Our editors set out through the boulevards to photograph and talk to the people of Paris. Photographs and Interviews by Hei Yang Lau and Kadidja Naief

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Photo by Hei Yang Lau

“I’m a lawyer and she’s my auditor. I found her cute, so I asked her for her number, et voilà.”

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HYL

HYL

“We’ve known each other since we were 11! We are both called Jenny and we were born only two days apart. We’re going to have a big party for our birthday, so we can dress up posh!”

“Will you come with me to buy a balloon?” KN

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What advice would you give to your 16 year-old self? “To be aware of people who are overly polite. Not to trust them immediately. People often seem nice when they can actually be the complete opposite.”


Photo by Hei Yang Lau

At the Chinese New Year Parade: “Move the dragons!”

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Where are you from? “Morocco.” Do you miss it sometimes? “Of course. Especially the ocean. There’s no ocean like that in Paris.” “And the fish! Delicious fish everywhere.” “My family. I miss my family.” “It’s his first year here. We’ve been here for five and eight years each. But he’s new.” HYL

“We have the same interests, but very different personalities.” HYL

“Sometimes we get so lost in ourselves, we forget to think. You need to step outside yourself and use your senses. I tell my music students to always listen. But really, it’s for everyone. Listen. Breathe. And think.”

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The Menteur’s Opinion by Alyssia MacAlister

When it comes to the perfect cup of tea, one must be clear: there is no such thing, only preference.

Just a Cuppa Tea

Drawing by Alyssia MacAlister

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“A

h, hello, there! Come in… How are you? Please, sit down. Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?” This is how conventional conversation begins when one arrives in the generic British household. Now, one must specify that all references to tea amongst these musings shall be of black tea, for to comment on other varieties (green, white, those stews they call ‘fruit teas’) would lead all remarks to be twice as long as they ought to be. The offering of tea (and coffee, if one is so inclined) has been part of the procedure of home-welcoming since the late 18th/early 19th centuries, when tea became more widely available. Before then, only the privileged could afford not only the tea, but the accessories of teamaking. It is not out of politeness or concern for a guest’s wellbeing that the British welcome is an offer of a brew of tea. It is a hereditary custom that is ingrained through repetition, a catechism of sorts, from childhood. Perhaps it was originally a way of showing off.

Tea as a spark for literary battles

Such delicate battles were waged by women of all ranks of society. It was much simpler for urban gentlemen, for tea was introduced to coffee houses as ‘the China drink’ long before it reached the homes of the many. Until the marriage of the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, to Charles II, however, tea was a curiosity. It was her who made the consumption of tea fashionable (and heavily taxed). From then on all ladies had to follow suit. The trend never faded. Thus, we reach Austen. A New Historicist argument is that Jane Austen’s works are a theatrical construction of space and props. A reader can break down a scene in Sense and Sensibility into (a) persons,

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(b) location, (c) props, and then (d) action. For example, in Chapter 26, Elinor shares an unfortunate journey to London with Marianne and Mrs Jennings. This sets up (a), the people involved in the chapter. The scene is set in the description of the house (b), where even the silks of the previous tenant (c) are pointed out. This funnels down into the situation of afternoon tea and a reference to ‘tea-things’, while the action (d) unfolds: in this case, Marianne’s fretting over her wait to see Willoughby. However, it is difficult to find any elaboration on ‘tea-things’ as more than side-props in Sense and Sensibility or any other of Austen’s novels. Rather, they are an accessory, a tool, for the social catalyst, which is to sit in the same room as one’s social peers and discuss political and social affairs – i.e. gossip. In fact, all the drama seems to occur after taking tea: characters play cards (an attempt to liven the spirits of bored men?), sing, dance, worry and have reserved yet emotional standoffs in a way only the British could. Which is

why when reading Austen, one should get quite excited when tea is mentioned.

Tea-things?

So a comment on ‘tea-things’ should be glossed over by the reader surely? No. ‘Tea-things’ refers to a tea set which is made up of cups and saucers, or bowls (depending on the period), a creamer, a sugar bowl, strainers, a teapot, a kettle and teaspoons. Not to mention the water, sugar, milk or cream, and the tea itself. There is a lot of paraphernalia to traditional tea drinking, regardless of the culture. The objects alter, but the act and the importance


behind drinking tea with others remains the same.

A History of Tea: An exploitation

Yet, there is an element of distaste to the British tea party, which originates from the Elizabethan trade ethos and colonialism. Every aspect of drinking tea in the Age of British Empire was an act of exploitation. The finest porcelain of the crockery in Austen’s lifetime would have been shipped from China – hence, the synonym. And its production is not to be taken lightly. Porcelain has to be fired in kilns at an excess of 1,200 degrees centigrade and (considering this is pre-Industrial Revolution) kilns could hold tens of thousands of pieces of porcelain. The paste was mixed from kaolin and sometimes bone-ash, then hand-formed. Kilns had to be kept hot, the wares had to be transported from workshop to kiln to workshop again, and the porcelain had to be painted. In

addition, the raw materials had to be sourced and mined. None of this was done by Europeans. Yet it was the white merchant trader and factory owner who made the most profit, and then the British Government, who taxed the import. Tea caddies went through a similar process, though with wood. Then there is the silverware that came from Sheffield steel-works, where children were the light infantry of the labour force. Sugar was cultivated in the Americas by slaves taken or descended from those taken from Africa. Even the milk and water were fetched by servants completely dependent on their employers, since their pay was so little and their families often lived in dwellings owned by the estate or manor they worked for. And one has not even mentioned the tea! Of which plantations emerged from hillside and terrace, figure headed by a colonialist, who could employ a village of people to tend to such an enterprise. Thus, dependency shifted from self-sufficiency to cash-crop economics. This was a favourite strategy of the East India Company,

who, with the help of botanist Robert Fortune, successfully brought tea from China to India in the 1840s. In short, a free citizen of Great Britain could not stir a cup of hot, pigmented, flavoured water without exploiting persons from every habitable corner of the British Empire.

Tea Today: Is it really fair?

It cannot be argued that in our globalised world a hot beverage is without exploitation either. Transnational corporations (TNCs) merely sugar-coat and white-wash their dealings with tea and coffee producers. In Britain those TNCs are PG Tips, Tetley, Twinings, and Nestlé amongst others. Those are just the ones found on the supermarket shelf. In 2012, nearly three million bags (60kg) of coffee were consumed in the United Kingdom (International Coffee Organisation) and by six o’clock in the evening over one hundred and twenty-five million British cups of tea are made daily (UK Tea Council). The other controllers of hot liquid consumption are the chain stores. With the billions of cups of tea and coffee drunk all over the world, an elite group controls swathes of land between the Tropics in order to cultivate leaves and beans. It should be noted that this is where the rainforest is supposed to be. There has been less of it in recent years. Many will get upset about this fact. They will sign World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and AVAAZ.org petitions. They will buy Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance stamped products. But the product itself has to be grown somewhere. The product still needs to be shipped, which (no matter how one tries to stretch the issue) still burns fossil fuels. The farmer or cultivator of the

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raw product still gets paid a relative pittance compared to the British minimum wage. And if the crop fails for any reason at all, they are still at a massive loss. The TNC will not save them for no product at all. All the while the global population is growing, producing more tea and coffee lovers. TNCs will expand to supply to the demand. Yet, the worrier, the petition signer, will still get thirsty. They sit down in the comfort of their home, or a Starbucks, to a nice, even perfect, hot cup of tea or coffee.

A perfect cuppa

Now, one must make amends. When it comes to the perfect cup of tea one must be clear: there is no such thing, only preference. George Orwell had his own notion of perfect in A Nice Cup of Tea, where he explains in great detail how, in his opinion, a nice cup of tea should be made. It must be expressed that by today’s standards such a process is quite convoluted. All of Austen’s ‘tea-things’ are required and they must be of specific making, such as Indian (not Chinese) tea and a china or earthenware pot is necessary if the brew is to be half-decent. In total, water passes from three different vessels, is poured off, shaken and stirred. There are no corners that can be cut, so each of the eleven rules Orwell gives is ‘golden’. One does not have the time it seems, nowadays, to take on such a process. Even if we visit a sentimental tearoom we do not expect such a ritual. Rather just that there is a teapot and cups, preferably with flowers on. However, do not take Orwell’s short essay as pure jest or light-heartedness. He most definitely had one form of agenda or another, even if it might have only been to educate the world on how to make tea perfectly. On review of these thoughts they seem quite disgruntled, and yes, they are. It is quite troubling that the

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global notion of British tea-drinking is quirky and civilised. One does not really want to be hassled by all these utterances of exploitation, tradition, superfluity and commercialism when one sips an Earl Grey, Assam, Darjeeling, Lapsang Souchong… Builder’s Tea… The hot beverage one takes cannot be read as stereotype, as what one drinks is loaded with history and the average drinker just does not realise all that has gone previously to get the scorched, stained water to their lips. For it takes conquest, exploitation and destruction. As the celebrated racist Joseph Conrad wrote in Heart of Darkness: “…it is not a pretty thing to look into it too much.” And so one’s common reaction to the question, ‘Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?’ is, ‘Yeah, OK.’ And the host will promptly shuffle off to the kitchen to boil a kettle and take out some mugs. They will toss a tea bag or coffee granules in and pour the hot water, which, if one lives in an urban area, is full of limescale. They might splash in some milk and sugar, depending. Finally, they will rattle a spoon round in the liquid (or even use their fingers) and remove the unnecessary. And there it is: a brew for you.

M


Even if we visit a sentimental tearoom we do not expect such a ritual. Rather just that there is a teapot and cups, preferably with flowers on.

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Painting in Layers an interview with By Christine Stadler and Cat Hollinshead

Eimear Friers

Eimear Friers is a young Irish artist from Belfast, who is currently residing in Paris for a short term. Just recently, her paintings have been exhibited in the Millennium Court Arts Centre in Portadown, Northern Ireland. Our editors Christine Stadler and Cat Hollinshead interviewed Eimear, and discovered more about her playful yet dreamlike art.

C

ould you tell us about the roots of your art? What led you to becoming an artist, or indeed to having that ambition? There are artists in my dad’s family and my dad is actually a great caricaturist. Art has always been present and encouraged throughout my life. It was my favourite subject at school and I knew I wanted to study an artrelated subject at university. I studied a design course – Visual Communication – at the Glasgow School of Art, but changed to Fine Art after my first year. My focus was on painting. It completely changed how I perceive the world and how I think. I can’t unlearn this perception and so I feel the need to keep doing art. It has become almost a way of life for me. Tell us about your favourite artists. My favourites change, but I have been looking at Billy Childish and Van Gogh the past few months. “Starry Starry Night” is a favourite work of mine. Van Gogh and Bonnard are definitely artists who have influenced me.

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I particularly like them for their handling of the paint and the visual experience you get from looking at their works. Other favourites of mine are Phillip Guston, Joan Mitchell, Tim Stoner, Lynette Yiadom Boakye and Milena Dragicevic. You seem to prefer oil paint as a medium. What do you like about working with it and what possibilities do you feel this opens to you? I do love working in oil, both on canvas and on board. Painting in oil is liberating; you can repeatedly wipe away what you have painted, so there is room for experimenting through trial and error. In fact, I often experiment with accidents that happen during the painting process. Oil paint is also good for layering. I can play with the thickness or the thinness of the paint. There are so many different combinations of chemicals and colours you can play with and the effects and textures these have are diverse. You can really get to know it and come up with


your own unique solutions. It suits my work because of the slow drying time, which is why I prefer oil to acrylic. It takes me a long time to complete a painting. What kind of audience do you want to reach with your art? I don’t think my paintings are everyone’s cup of tea. I suppose I want people to take time to look at them, take in details and really scrutinise the surface, the physicality of the paint. This is why I’d prefer the audience to see them in the ‘flesh’ because seeing a print to me does not give you the same experience as seeing an original painting. The audience should respond to the material. Can you tell us about one of your works? “Rods Watercolour” is a painting based on a small watercolour I found at my parents’ house. I was attracted to it because of its romanticised, even surreal atmosphere, the murky colour palette and the aged look of the paper it was done on. It has something otherworldly and meditative about it and somehow seems to transport you to another headspace. I wanted to emphasise these qualities and hopefully transport the viewer to the same

kind of otherworldly atmosphere that I experience when I look at the watercolour. How would you describe your artistic style? My style is certainly informed by the artists I mentioned; that is to say, I think it is important to be both quite expressive and intuitive with the paint, so that the material qualities of a painting are as important as the depicted subject, or even surpass it. My subjects hover between the real and the imaginary, with varying degrees from painting to painting. Where do you draw your inspiration from? I get inspired by the work of other artists, but also things I see on the street. Old documentary footage, old science books, antiques, outdated films, outdated graphics, not forgetting old photos, especially ones I find in my house. Various Irish myths and legends, but on the other hand, also popular advertising, children’s cartoons like Dr Seuss, or music videos. In short, anything visual can serve as inspiring material to me! I am definitely interested in both the look and the physicality of material that might be considered ‘outdated’. Anything you can hold in your

“The ass is a reference to an etching by Goya. It is painting a self portrait because I am making a bit of a joke at myself – am I an ass for being an artist? I wanted to paint something quite light-hearted. It was liberating for me. I realised you can paint anything you want.”

All Paintings by Eimear Friers

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hand. However, the internet is a huge source of my visual material too. It’s easy to feel slightly overwhelmed by it though. What about inspiration from dreams? “Man and Sheep,” for example, seems very surreal. Dreams are definitely a source of inspiration as well. “Man and Sheep” certainly has a dream-like quality to it, like a lot of my paintings. In fact, it is based on a photograph from a book called ‘Ireland: A Terrible Beauty’ by Leon and Jill Uris. This book was printed in the 1970s and mythologises the concept of ‘Irishness’ to a comical extent. It romanticises the conflict in Northern Ireland and is an interesting piece of politically charged literature, full of great images. The photo I used for ‘Man and Sheep’ was a man playing an accordion. I also think my Irish identity plays an important part in my work, surfacing more with the perspective I have as I am working away from Belfast. But lastly, real-life events also inform my art. “Burnt Toaster” was the result of a fire in my flat, which did some damage to the toaster, amongst other things. How did you find your particular style and in what ways would you say is your art different from that of other contemporary artists? I don’t really know how to answer this. ‘Contemporary art’ is indefinable. I suppose I see myself as being traditional because I’m interested in craft. For me the term ‘contemporary art’ is an exclusive and politically loaded idea. What role do you think an artist should have in society? This ties in with my thoughts on contemporary art. I believe artists should do their work for reasons other than money and that art ultimately should be enhancing, educational, or even life-affirming for those people engaging with it. How do you handle both success and negative criticism? I appreciate feedback of any kind, whether positive or

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negative. Art is so subjective; I know some people may not take my work seriously and probably see it as naive and self-indulgent! To be honest, if everyone loved my paintings, I would be worried. You are currently on a term abroad in Paris. How is this stay beneficial to your art? Being in Paris is going to enhance my practice majorly! The course exposes us to such a wide range of art works and there are so many galleries I can just go and explore. I have free access to world-class museums, such as the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. I particularly like the range of works by Van Gogh and Manet that I can visit. I genuinely shed a tear every time I see art by Van Gogh, the emotion is just so palpable and powerful in his work. He shows me that you don’t need to work on a large scale for effective painting. As for Manet, I am so familiar with the face of his Olympia, that I feel we are friends by now. I took a sneaky picture of a painting by Manet with the intention of studying it at home. I then realized that a photo of the surface is not at all sufficient. You need to be able to see the original threedimensional object and experience its aura and texture. I like this fact, as it confirms my idea that the original hand-crafted artefact does possess a special aura, or exists in a specific space in time. This aura is lost in mechanical representation, that is, photographs. I suppose this assumes a certain position, maybe a very idealistic one. I want to find a way to articulate these things in my future work. At the moment I am mainly planning things in my head, however. You could say I am letting things ‘stew’. I will need perspective before I can make extensive work about being here. Finally, do you have a piece of advice for budding artists? Do what you enjoy and don’t feel restricted. Carry a little sketch pad with you, draw as much as you can. Make an effort to look at work you hate or that repels you and then suss out why. M


Photo by Kadidja Naief

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Honey By Joe Baldwin

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H

enry Thompson is an ordinary man with a desire for freedom. He sits at a table in a restaurant. There is a low hum of conversation, sharply dressed waiters asking the customers what they would like, a couple to his right having a screaming argument in a whisper. He listens in for a moment, hearing about how she never comes home early and how he’s sitting at home doing nothing – nothing? Aren’t you looking after your children? And then the conversation is too close to the bone for Henry and he stops listening. He drinks from his glass, feeling the sharp red wine on his tongue. It does nothing to stop the pounding of his heart, the sweat on his brow and the feeling he should just go home and stop all this nonsense. There is a flash of light as a car blazes past in the impenetrable blackness outside. A woman walks into the restaurant, heads to the bar. The barman takes her in with a single look. A blood red dress to match her lipstick. Her eyes are dark brown, and the barman gets lost in them for a moment, like a rabbit in a hole. She is showing some cleavage, and after he serves her he notices that her dress leaves her back exposed. He wants to stroke the soft, tanned flesh, now drifting away from him. The lady stands by a pillar, watching Henry and sipping her drink. He is a rather unexceptional man, dressed in a cheap-looking suit that doesn’t quite fit him. He must have bought it years ago, when he was a younger man. She knows Henry quite well even though they have never spoken. She has seen thousands of men just like him: bored, limp, lifeless on the surface, eking out an existence in suburbia that revolves around getting up when it’s still dark, unsatisfactory sex once a week, maybe every two weeks and checking the kids’ homework even though he barely understands it. But deep within men such as Henry were desires that would make an ordinary person blush. Not her though. She approaches his table. Tonight is the culmination of months of text messages and email conversations carried out in secret. “Henry?” she says, her voice soft. He gets up, knocking the chair so that it rocks a little. “Yes! Hello! Are you Miss Garret?” “Please. Call me Alicia.” She brushes her hand on his shoulder, drawing him in early. He stiffens at her touch. He registers it then, a good start. They sit down and order, Henry staring at his menu as if it were the most important thing on earth. She looks around the restaurant, at the dim lighting, and listens to the soft, Tesco bargain bin classical music coming from the speakers, which keep crackling. After the waiter has taken their order they are left alone. “Do you come here often?” she asks. “No,” he replies. “I’ve never been before. The menu looks good.” “Is that all?” she says, batting her eyelids at him and leaning slightly forwards so that he can see inside her dress. He giggles, a high pitched sound like a rat

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squeaking. “You’re very beautiful.” “You flatter me.” “I managed to get out tonight without my wife knowing. She thinks I’m away on a business trip.” He sounds almost boastful, as if to say I’m a man again, out at a restaurant with a beautiful brunette and not a dirty nappy in sight! “That’s good. She was making things very difficult for you.” “I still love her. I just need this weekend. You know, they all threw a party for me the other week? For my 47th. It was hell. All these neighbours turning up and drinking my booze and eating the meat off the barbecue and none of them had anything to say to me. They said happy birthday, but nothing else. God.” He wipes his brow with the napkin. She reaches out and strokes his hand. It feels brittle, like there’s not much flesh on it. “Hey” she says warmly, telling him that she’s noticed him. She isn’t ignoring him. “Don’t think about them tonight. Okay? Tonight it’s just us.” The food arrives and they begin eating, Henry tucking into scallops and Alicia eating a salad. “How’s your food?” he asks. “It’s...lovely.” It’s time to turn up the heat a little. “I’m thrilled to be here,” she says. “We’ve been talking for months and I’ve been dying to meet you.” He grins and his nerves seem to relax a little. He looks as if he’s feeling in control now. She has made herself the vulnerable one. “It’s the same for me. I’ve loved our conversations, and I couldn’t stop thinking about you at night.” “Well,” she says slyly, lowering her head but looking up at him. “Play your cards right and you might get to spend tonight with me.” A smile appears on his face while he’s eating, producing a horrible looking lump in his cheek. “And the night after that?” he says, chewing on the remnants of a scallop. “Cheeky.” She winks at him. “Finish your food.” After the meal is done, they stand outside and smoke. He gives her his jacket and she wraps it around herself. “Thank you, Henry,” she whispers in his ear. Then she kisses him on the cheek, very lightly, and it flushes with crimson like blood flowing from a cut. He looks at his shoes, smiling. “Have you had a good time?” he asks. She nods and smiles at him, taking a drag on the cigarette and then blowing the smoke into the night air. They go on to a club, dancing close to each other in the flashing rainbow of lights, listening to the pounding bass. She can feel his heart competing with the beat. She rests her head on his shoulder and puts her arms around his waist. Slowly, his hands keep inching further down her back. After some time she looks up at him and they agree to leave to find a place to be together. If the driver notices them kissing in the back of the taxi, he doesn’t say anything. Alicia can taste the dead fish and cigarette smoke on Henry’s tongue, but she’s kissing him passionately. His arms are around her waist and she’s caressing his thigh gently. She can hear the sound of other vehicles going by, the drone of lorries, the faint echoes of cars driving past, and Henry’s appreciative groans. The car pulls

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up and they break apart. Henry pulls out some money and hands it to the driver, who takes it wordlessly. They step out of the taxi and enter the little hotel. Alicia notices the grimylooking windows and the mountain of rubbish bags piled near the entrance, one of which has a huge tear with a dirty mattress poking out. Once inside, the receptionist hands them a set of keys with a knowing look on his face, and while climbing the stairs, Alicia feels her heart beating quickly and can’t explain why… The hotel room is dark. The light flickers and a wind howls through the street, making the window rattle. Henry is sleeping. Alicia is wide awake and staring at the ceiling. There is a stain on it, as if something is leaking through from upstairs. Her night’s work is done. Henry has taken the bait, and sometime over the next few weeks she’ll visit his wife and tell her about their night together. She gets up slowly, pulls the covers over Henry and gets dressed. She gathers up her things and leaves, closing the door quietly behind her. The corridor is silent and gloomy. It is not until she gets to the end of it that the lights finally turn on, and they do nothing to penetrate the darkness. In the back of the taxi she stares out of the window. It is the same driver, but he’s silent again, not even curious as to why she has left the hotel so quickly. A light rain has started to fall outside and drops of water trickle down the glass. There are no other cars on the road. Alicia feels like the night around her is filling her up. She feels used, a fantasy for a sad man. She briefly considers not collecting the money and just letting the Thompsons be, but then what was the point of it all? Henry had betrayed his wife and if she didn’t collect the money he would get away with it. She pulls out a mirror and stares at herself in it, wondering if she should get a new job and stop living a life of lies. But money is scarce and she is good at this. As she rests her head on the window, she thinks about how she cannot wait to be home, and herself again. She’ll shower, wash away Henry’s scent, pour herself a glass of wine and read a book. Anything to fill her mind with something other than Henry. Until the next version of him appears and she has to act out the whole charade again.

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By Laurence Sullivan

Moth of Gion


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ain: by now it was routine. Every evening her ‘sister’, Azami, would kneel behind her, preparing her hair for the evening’s clients, pulling and pushing it into place, far more violently than necessary. They did not talk, they never talked. Mizuki would spend these forty minutes letting her eyes wander around the tiny room. They fell upon the postcard lying atop her vanity, the words of her true sister smudged by her own tears. Chiyo had written about the festival at Niigata, she had asked how Kyoto was and wished Mizuki all the happiness in the world. Mizuki hadn’t replied yet. In one of her few moments alone she had hastily savoured each word, each one as if a small kiss from her sister. It hurt her to look at it and so she searched around for something else to take her mind away from the world. It was a fruitless effort. Resigned to her fate, she allowed her eyes to close and despite the force pushing her head to and fro, she was able to momentarily slip into a waking dream. The Okasan awoke her from her reverie; she had entered the room, the usual austere look upon her face, to observe Mizuki. She nodded. Approval, the next stage could be set. Mizuki raised herself onto her feet to enter the next part of the production. The hadajuban and koshimaki applied directly to her naked skin, the Okasan turning away from the sight of her stomach. Then the juban and finally the kimono; her chrysalis had been adorned. Mizuki moved coldly to the mirror – she didn’t show, not yet. She allowed herself a sigh of relief and a moment to observe the beautiful moth she had become in those few steps. It was the same every evening and it never ceased to amaze her. She permitted herself a smile. Among an otherwise flawless row, a single crooked tooth presented itself, making her look away. Imperfection, she hated it. But worse still, her eyes had found themselves gazing at the woodblock print on the wall. The picture of lovers, a theme she was not prepared to confront. Holding back her tears, she smiled and bowed to both Azami and the Okasan, who returned it with another nod of approval. Mizuki made her way to the front door, slipping into her geta for the walk to the clients’ building, the Honda Corporation, who had asked for her specifically.

As she made her way outside, she felt the cool breeze on her linen-white face. The bright lights of modern Kyoto laid bare before her, attracting the fragile moth to her destiny. She was ready. Eyes turned to follow her graceful promenade to her destination; one of the few feelings she usually relished now had become accusatory, as if they knew her secret. The layers she would customarily curse for weighing her down had become her armour, her shield. Mizuki’s feet now moved of their own accord, allowing her mind momentary respite; it had always been her sanctuary ever since she was a child. ‘Katsuma, I…I have something to tell you.’ Her psyche was swimming with a thousand concurrent thoughts; she was getting hopelessly lost in the stream. ‘I’ll come home, Chiyo, I’m not giving up my dream, it’s just… changed. Mother and father will understand one day, they’ll have to.’ However much she tried, there was no way to stem the tide of misery flowing through her entire being. Salvation. There in front of the little moth stood the ‘Hyotei’ restaurant, its red lanterns billowing in the wind, making her shudder slightly. To her they appeared as the eyes of a demon. “You’re the Geiko from the Yukihana Okiya?” Mizuki nodded sullenly to the spindly woman before her, who had peered around the sliding door on hearing Mizuki’s geta hitting the hard pavement. The woman observed Mizuki through her circular spectacles, as if at a pig for slaughter. Mizuki was immediately reminded of a mole peering its head out from its burrow. “You’re late!” Mizuki nodded again in agreement, “I know, I’m sorry.” The little moth bowed deeply in apologetic respect and quickly fluttered into the restaurant. “That way!” the old woman gestured aggressively to a closed door. The boisterous sounds of drunken men filled the cramped space. It made Mizuki wince. Placing both her hands on the door, Mizuki gently pushed it to one side and without observing her audience, immediately knelt on the floor and moved into a prostrate bow. As she feared, the room was filled solely with men, who all immediately cheered at her appearance. “I am Fujimori Mizuki of the Yukihana Okiya,” she

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said, “I am very pleased to meet all of you.” Another sudden explosion of noise, until the largest of the gathered men, directly opposite Mizuki, raised his hand to usher in a moment of silence. “We are all pleased to make your acquaintance too, Miss. Fujimori. I am Goda Kentaro head of the Kyoto branch of the Honda corporation.” Mizuki let out an involuntary gasp. ‘The head? The Okasan said it was just a performance for shareholders…’ “Something the matter?” Kentaro inquired, a genuine hint of concern in his voice. “No, I am sorry. Please continue with your conversation.” Kentaro laughed raucously, causing his ensemble to follow suit, “Come here, join me, I promise I won’t bite.” Despite her apprehension, Mizuki giggled to please the client and after closing the door behind her, she shuffled to join Kentaro’s side. To her horror, not a moment after she had become settled, the sliding door was quickly reopened. ‘Katsuma!’ The youthful man entered the room vivaciously, staggering slightly, wrestling with his trouser fly, “Sorry! I got distracted by-” Their eyes met across the room and the gentle moth instantly turned to Kentaro. “Ah, scared by our guest, little flower? Fear not, that’s just Katsuma, he’s one of my assistants and a rude one at that. Katsuma there’s a lady present, have some shame, man!” Kentaro’s scolding caused the ensemble to snigger and Katsuma to fall to the floor to express his apologies. It was a few minutes before he dared to look up again. As the evening progressed, Mizuki continued to pour her patrons their saké and laugh politely as Kentaro regaled the collective with his mundane tales. Although she was under constant observation, she would let her eyes flutter as if truly flattered by the men’s compliments, but she would use these precious seconds to glance at Katsuma, just to see him smile. It was the one thing keeping her smiling herself. “Games!” Kentaro suddenly declared and he leapt to his feet. “Janken! We shall play Janken. Katsuma, you shall play with our esteemed guest and I shall form a team with Ando here,” Kentaro exclaimed, indicating a man on his left like an excitable child.

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Within moments an intricately painted folding screen had been brought in and now the two pairs stood either side of it, each couple unable to see the other. “Three, two, one and go!” Kentaro declared and in a flurry of movement the pairs jumped out from behind their particular sides, imitating an old lady and a warrior respectively. “You win,” Kentaro announced, holding himself upright, his fists placed strikingly on his hips, still imitating a warrior. Mizuki, carried away with the sensation of pretending to be someone else, lost her footing and fell back into Katsuma’s arms. “Katsuma – I’m sorry!” Katsuma instantly turned in the opposite direction and placed Mizuki upright again. “No need to apologise. You’re an old lady, instability comes with age.” Kentaro quipped and the entire room burst into rapturous applause and laughter. Katsuma instantly returned to his place, leaving Mizuki to follow him back with her eyes. For the first time that evening she had not even attempted to match the mood of the room. A few more hours passed and the time to depart had come upon the party. Kentaro spent a full five minutes congratulating Mizuki on her talent and beauty. He almost cried with joy when she presented him with her obligatory business card, as if it were a well thought-out gift. As he said his goodbyes, Mizuki bowed politely and then turned swiftly to speak with Katsuma. He was already gone. “Mr.Goda!” Mizuki called after him, making him spin around, his face alight with joy. “Where is Katsuma?” Kentaro’s face fell and another of the businessmen responded, “He left a couple of minutes ago, said he had an emergency.” Mizuki nodded and then turned away from the party. When she looked back up, everyone was gone. Left with no other option, Mizuki bid farewell to the owner and ambled back to the Okiya, her mind devoid of any thought. * “I received a call from Mr. Goda, he was very pleased with your work…,” the Okasan spoke stiffly. She was shuffling through some business cards on the table, not


making eye contact with Mizuki. “I am glad,” Mizuki said, while slowly taking off her geta and placing them delicately on the stone floor. “Well, have you made a decision?” the Okasan inquired, with an even icier tone than usual, giving Mizuki little more than a quick glance. “Okasan…I-” she could feel the tears coming. Her next words felt as though they would be the final crack that would destroy the dam she had maintained for two years. “I can’t do this anymore!” Just as she had imagined tears flowed unashamedly from her face. “What is this madness?” the Okasan demanded, slamming her palm on the table. Mizuki, feeling like a castle that had been liberated after years of siege, stared directly into the Okasan’s eyes. “I won’t give it up! I can’t. I won’t.” The Okasan, as if completely unmoved by this unprecedented scene, returned Mizuki’s burning stare. “Then you give up this life, you go back to Niigata! You Northerners are fit for nothing. So many years of training wasted, what was it all for? What good are you? You’re a disgrace to your whole family, to every Fujimori! I should have picked a pretty Southern girl, not taken a chance on you!” Every muscle in Mizuki’s body screamed at her to slap the Okasan, to make her feel a modicum of the pain she had to endure at the Okiya. She held back and searched the Okasan’s face for some ounce of sympathy or empathy, but it was like staring at a worn statue, devoid of any expression. “I did everything for you,” the Okasan began, her voice freezing over again, “and you throw it all away for a…child.” The moth would hear no more and so flew off into the night, searching for any light to guide her. Everyone she stumbled past was repulsed; she hadn’t considered her appearance. Like some ghoulish demon of Shinto mythology, there were black streaks running down her smudged white face, the two colours jarringly juxtaposed beside each other, like a whirlpool unable to mix. In her frenzy she had not adorned her geta and so was barefoot on the hard pavement, tripping here and there, still blinded by her tears and wailing like a ghost unjustly murdered. She knew she would have to go back.

As Kyoto retired to slumber, the moth was huddled on a bench, beneath a single lantern hanging from a pub. She had blocked out all the advances of the drunken revellers and stayed frozen, staring at the floor for two hours. Then, without a thought she rose up and wandered back to the Okiya dazed and detached. She slowly slid the door to one side and stepped in. The Okasan had not waited for her. On creeping into her room she found Azami already asleep and a letter atop her vanity. ‘Mizuki, I enclose ¥600,000, the last of your pay. I shall not send on your bonus from Mr. Goda when it arrives. I shall keep it as collateral. You shall not hear from me again, I do not expect to find you here in the morning.’ The Okasan had not even signed the paper, but it no longer bothered Mizuki. She merely placed the bills inside her kimono sleeve, wiped away her make-up, slowly and methodically, and then reached down for a pen and paper. The flow of her writing reflected her new found calm, as if, at last, she had sailed into the eye of the storm. Four simple words lay on the page before her, a reply to her beloved sister: ‘Chiyo, I’m coming home.’

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Photo by Adwait Singh

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By Jesse Liam McCormick

Jojo My friend JoJo walks away from me answering my question She walks into the other room saying, “I knooww.” English isn’t her first language—it’s Cantonese She has some interesting inflections, and this one is one of them Her voice goes up halfway through “kno-OOO” And then back down again for the “oowww…” ––she drags out the last of the sound Not quite a question but more like music Her voice gets as close to a laugh as it possibly could without being one There is more to this particular pronunciation of a phrase that I have never before thought about in my life Aside from her roots in a tonal language, and the Doppler effect ––this way of saying those two words is wholly Jojo, and only Jojo Whatever life has been up to before this point has caused her to say it that way One hundred percent of the time she has been focusing one hundred percent of her energy becoming what she is You’ve been productive Jojo ––and it shows You are everything You’re beautiful Jojo and I love you. Now and always Even if I’m not thinking about you I love you. Even if I don’t understand why I love you. Even if I never tell you I love you. Even if I think that I don’t Even if I think that I do I love you. Even that morning in August when I woke up at 10:30 And looked out the window With the same thought I had every morning since June That was 2 years before we met “I knooowww,” she says It’s already raining, and there will be no getting to the supermarket today.

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By Claudia Orduz

White Lie

poems approve translation games writing English contemporary poetry Linguistic penances:

Forgive your Colombian accent Carve a foreign repertoire on a Spanish keyboard

Pray for a Lovenglish contemporary dictionary Through the mystery of the word may Writing give you pardon and peace, I absolve your mistakes in the name of Poetry.

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The Menteur, Spring, 2014


By Antonio Nogueras

em de tiempo Eran muy estrechas las escaleras. Subía, con mi prisa natural, y por una puerta lateral, frente a mí apareció ella. Me frenó la marcha con su parsimonia. No quise adelantarla. Calmé el paso, silenció el mundo, la mente, y logré leer en el corazón, unos versos. Como le seguía ganando terreno me detuve en aquella esquina de la escalera, me detuve, a admirar el tiempo tras la ventana.

im of time They were very narrow those stairs. I was going up, On my natural rush, and through a side door, in front of me she appeared. She slowed my march, On her parsimony. I didn’t want to overtake her. My steps calmed, silenced the world, The mind, and I managed to read inside the heart, some verses. As I was catching her up I stopped in that corner of the stairs, I stopped, to admire the weather* through the window.

*Poet’s note: The word “tiempo” in Spanish is very peculiar. It means both, “weather” and “time”, and I translated it as “weather”. This translation, however, takes a lot of meaning away, but I hope this note might help with reading the poem.

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By Zahrah Sheikh

Note Figures rise and dissipate from my cup They run their hands on my skin The liquid scorches cracked lips The heat grips my hand As I wait and listen to the silent humming My mind reclines rolls back and forth Rings mark my progress My hands strain to reach the last The fading heat vibrating through my cup The winds bash at the windows The last parts of amber are bitter A murky face stares through As the cup returns to its previous state Back as it was once found As you see there is a visible presence of God in matter You see You look at me In three breaths In three steps In three movements Hands form a ring I squeeze Tables spin Tea pots jangle They swallow the light They pour out a mixture of earth and water I slip back against my seat Shuffling out the creaks and lines I bring it to my lips once more I see the face at the bottom Once more

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By Ruth Kurowski

Hospital Food A giant box of cookies Sits in the middle of the table. The table is placed in the middle of the people. The people sit in the middle of the room. The room is located in the middle of the hospital. She is the youngest sister, She paints all her pictures in the middle of the page. A bright, candy pink lipstick clings to her lips. She experiments with Varying shades of red Very occasionally. Sometimes nude, flesh tones. But she is most comfortable in the middle. Between two Strong, beautiful women As she cries for the casket, The great man who lies within. At the wake There lie flowers to the left. As night draws in, She walks beside a fiery-haired girl, And she doesn’t like this first taste of life after death.

Standing beside. She wants to rewind to the final goodbye That never was. Pick up that giant box of cookies See if they can’t help But go stale now that They inhabit the corner of the room, no longer In the middle.

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By Charlotte Foister

Break that Silence The dark echoed curt barbaric barking BREAK THAT SILENCE Death begins with the shoes He does not say a word, But his silence was broken by delirium, A cry of terror Groaning and imploring. I have no mother tongue The interpreter translates: Haftling Listen endlessly To plain outspoken words ‘No Sacred Face will help thee here!’ An engine whistles briefly, The constant rhythm of the wheel. They insisted, begging and threatening in many languages. Engines rumbling, Dragging sounds. Arbeit Macht Frei. The woman screaming, The man cursing. Thumping Trampling Unmistakable sound of breaking skulls The racket died down, one or two more scattered shots; whispering. “Look at the fire! Look at the flames!” Who is talking about the crematorium?

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By Pete za-Hûtt

By Helen Seymoure

Alphabet

Jumper

As Bladdered Cadavers Drunkenly Escape Freedom Greets.

I have a jumper It keeps me warm except for When it is too cold

Haggered, It Jolts, Kicks, Lingers. Mirrored? Never. Opaquely Pleased. Quickening Realisation, Synchronised They Understand. Virtual Won’t X-Ray You’re Zombie.

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LIVE AND STUDY IN PARIS, IN ENGLISH Students don’t need to speak fluent French to study at the University of Kent at Paris as all teaching is in English. French lessons are provided before and during the stay in Paris and living in the city helps students to gain valuable language skills and experience.

ATTRACTIVE HISTORIC SURROUNDINGS The University of Kent at Paris is based at Reid Hall, a beautiful 19th century building in the heart of Montparnasse, just minutes by foot from the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Sorbonne, the Latin Quarter and Saint- Germain-des-Prés. With trips to major museums happening most weeks, students really do get to see the best of Paris.

WORLD-LEADING RESEARCH AT THE UK’S EUROPEAN UNIVERSITY We are among the best research-intensive universities in the UK with staff engaged in research of international and world-class standing. Kent has specialist postgraduate centres in Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome as well as long-standing partnerships with over 100 European universities.

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UNIVERSITY OF KENT Menteur, Spring, 2014 ATThe PARIS

To find out more, please visit www.kent.ac.uk/paris To find out more, please visit www.kent.ac.uk/paris

The Menteur: Spring Issue 2014  

Literary magazine published in Paris and Canterbury, in association with the University of Kent.

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