Sep 19, 2019

Rilke's Ghost

We're trying to clear our desk in anticipation of the line-edit of "Dolly" (the play), and so we've finally managed to put our new short story Rilke's Ghost  up on Amazon. And it's a real story---at least the beginning is true-true. 

The blurb is as follows: 

While visiting the lovely town of Duino on the Adriatic Italian coast, Michael provoked the wraith of the legendary German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, by applying Google-translate to the wordsmith's famed "Duineser Elegien" (Elegies from the Castle of Duino). Now Michael spends the summer in Switzerland, in a chalet only three kilometers away from the grave of the poet. Will Michael be stupid enough to challenge Rilke again, thus unleashing the most sophisticated ghost story of modern history, including an exorcism of serendipitous proportions...?

We'll have two or three posts about this; here's the first one, with the story's opening:

I still see myself sitting there as a boy on the greenly-striped couch of my parents in Berlin, Germany, reading Rilke, Rainer Maria (1875-1926), Bohemian poet, best known for his “Duineser Elegien” (Elegies from the castle of Duino). I read only the first two elegies then, but still, I went with the flow and was impressed.


Chang and I moved to the French Riviera where we rent our house to holiday makers. We got a surprise booking in April and decided to visit Croatia, a new country that isn’t too far away and reasonably cheap. Chang collects countries; he’s never been there. Bonus: on the way we’d have to cross Slovenia, yet another nation missing from his collection. We would drive non-stop the nine hours from Cannes to Croatia but should stay overnight somewhere on the way back, someplace nice. So Chang went on the internet and suggested a town between Venice and Trieste, on the Adriatic coast. A hotel without a view, budget-friendly. “How’s the place called?” I asked. 
“Dunno,” he said. “No, not Dunno, Du-i-no.”
Dui-no…Du-i-no…haven’t we heard of Duino before? On the Adriatic coast? “Chang! Rilke! Duineser Elegien! Chang, we must stay there.” 

Duino is off motorway A4. We descended into a villa town and got lost because budget-friendly hotels are hard to find. There is a ludicrous little beach attached to a harbour of a few fishing boats and a pier doubling as boardwalk; three restaurants, the castle (tower, battlements), and a university, ie, a small building labeled Collegio Sapienza Rainer Maria Rilke with lots of kids milling outside speaking American and a concierge inside who knew the directions to our hotel. 

It was still a bit early in the afternoon, so we would have a nap in the budget-friendly double bed. We should have had a nap, that is, the room was quiet and reasonably dark, save for a distant wailing, a sound like “Oohh, oohh”--a human voice almost that appeared to come from nowhere--“oohh.” Not a typical hotel sound you’d say. And it wasn’t going away. “Oohh.” Impossible to fall sleep. We should complain. We should get up, descend the noisy stairwell and thwack the bell on the reception desk. And, of course, the moment the manager appeared the wailing was gone. 

So we had to explain. “Bizarro,” the receptionist said. “Oohh,” I intoned to give her an idea. “Insolito,” she said and shook her head. “Oohh,” Chang intoned. “Pronto,” she said and answered the telephone.

(To repeat, this really happened; it's true-true)

Green Eyes
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