He was walking quickly through the alley. His eyes were wide open and he stared frantically straight in front of him. A group of people was tossing banana skins in the middle of the street. The walking man hurried past the skins, then suddenly slipped, and fell. The whole crowd started to laugh at him. Furious, the walking man got up. Wild with rage, he began cursing the laughing crowd, “Hey, look at all of you! Blood is flowing in our country and you’re laughing. You should all be ashamed!”
He hurried off, and said to himself, “My God! Will I ever come out of this alley safe and sound? And now the radios will be turned on again. My God! And then the news broadcasts will begin.”
He had taken only a few steps when the radios were turned on in the stores along both sides of the alley. The news about the wounded and the dead began. All the radios spread vicious news about the country. The news coming from all corners cut like a sharp dagger into his heart and broke it in two. The walking man screamed, “All of them are telling lies. All of them have been bought. They have been bribed.”
He stuck his fingers in his ears and set off running. His white clothing had become soiled. The people began laughing at him once again. The walking man hurried out from the crowded alley. Out in the square he moved at the same pace. The newspaper vendors were screaming, “News, news, come and buy the news. Read all about the latest news.” Every newspaper was red with the news of the dead and wounded. On the front page of each newspaper was a map of the country that resembled a big fish. It looked like as if it had been thrown on a dry riverbank during a violent storm. The map had been cut in the middle and divided in two. The walking man did not even look at the newspapermen but proceeded at the same speed and with the same frantic look. Suddenly a newspaperman appeared in front of him. “Come and buy the latest news.” With a heartrending voice he held up the newspaper in the walking man’s face. The walking man looked at the torn map on the front page. It was pierced all over. His eyes filled with tears, he screamed, “Oh, my God, what kind of oppressor has cut this fish to pieces? Look here, one half of it moving in this direction, and the other half in another direction.” The newspaperman burst into laughter, saying, “You madman, this is not a fish, this is the map of our country.” The walking man set off in a hurry and began swearing, “All of these newspapers have been enslaved by money. They are all lying. Their every word has been poisoned. Oh, people, do not read this, it will kill us, drive us crazy, alienate us. Oh, people, the liars will bring about a disaster, deprive us of a nation. Oh, people…!” The people started laughing once more and the walking man quickly ran away.
He left the crowd and went straight home to his room. The room was locked. He put his hand in his pocket for the key. There was a hole in the pocket and his hand went right through. He was filled with anger and looked around him frantically. He found a long solid iron bar with which he bent the padlock. The lock broke. A gentle wave of laughter spread across the walking man’s angry face as he sat down. Everything in the room was in disarray. He gathered all his beloved books, spread out a cloth, and put the books in it. Some newspapers lay in the corner of the room. “All of these have been bought with money” he said angrily. He gnashed his teeth and said, “I will not spare a single one,” and began tearing apart the newspapers. He heard the sound of someone’s footsteps and screamed, “And who could this be? Not even here can they leave me alone. If I didn’t manage to destroy someone’s newspapers in the city, what do others care what I do with my papers? I will destroy my television and smash my radio as well. Those have all been bought with money. Not one of these lying instruments will be spared, I will take my revenge on all of them. I will go up to the hills. A town such as this will not serve me any good, where lies are sold in each and every alley; lies, as truthful as a hen giving milk.”
The television screen crunched as he hit it with a stick. A group of friends arrived at his house:
—Oh, what are you doing? You’ve destroyed the television.
—He is right, it’s worth a lot, also those newspapers that you have torn apart. If that had not happened, you could have used them as covers for your books, added another of his friends.
The walking man became angry and said, “I will not cover my books with lies. I will destroy all of them. They have all been bought with money. I will smash my radio too.” It crunched as the radio was destroyed. “All of it has been bought with money. I will not spare one thing. All of these newspapers are stained by poisonous bullets from Kalashnikovs, bullets fired at our heads. And each and every word of news from these radios and televisions is a poisonous knife that cuts our hearts in two, like that fish. This has been bought with money, the newspapers, the radio, the television, and I will not keep any of them.”
His friend embraced and kissed him. “You have become completely mad. We also say that these things have been bought with money. But why did you have to destroy everything, like a madman with a stick, smashing those things that had been bought with money; it is like setting fire to one’s own money.” The walking man, filled with anger, laughed and said, “You don’t know anything. You are mad. Help me God, they are the ones who are mad, and they call me mad. I don’t have the patience to explain the problem with what you are saying. You have all been maddened by these poisonous lies. Our discussion is over. I have run out of patience and will not bother to explain this again.”
The walking man wrapped his books in the cloth and said loudly, “Good-bye my friends, I will walk away from you now and leave this city in your custody.”
August 28, 2000
From the short story collection The Man Who Went into the Hills (1383/2004-2005).
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