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From Geometric Regional Novel.

The new law is being posted on all barn walls. Striking hammers drive the nails through the paper made from reeds into the wood. When the points of the nails pierce the paper at the edges, the white fibers rustle. There's a hissing before the nail, hit by the hammer blow, penetrates the barn wood. You can see billposters' hands holding hammers; they position the nails before hitting them, standing on one leg in front of the wooden brown walls, the other leg raised, pulled up, so that the kneecap presses the lower edge of the poster against the wall, as they drive the first nail through one of the two upper corners of the notice into the wood, they then stand on both legs in front of it, pressing one of their arms against the not-yet-fastened upper edge of the paper to make sure that the sheet hangs straight, comparing the border of the top section of the poster with the line of the barn roof's overhang; only then is a second nail driven through the other upper corner; then the billposter takes two steps back so that he can visually assess, with a critical eye, the potential public effect of the announcement on the barn wall; then he steps back up to the wall, takes two more nails out of the pouch lying at his feet and drives them through the two lower corners of the official notice into the barn wood; while he is doing this, you can usually find him in a stooped or half-bowed position, his bottom covered by the billposter's uniform trousers material, swaying back and forth to the rhythm of the blows, to the left and to the right.

Billposters are usually full-bearded people with wire-rimmed glasses, various types of physician's bags, climbing boots, woolen kneesocks, knickers, knapsacks with strapped-on ice axes, felt hats with pheasant, grouse, partridge, or chicken feathers and mountain climber's gear pinned on, who turn up in the remotest parts of the land, are greeted happily by the children because they often give them bent nails, crumpled paper scraps, stretched-out rubber kneebands, discarded rusty hinges in various sizes, torn suspenders, broken-off pieces of barbed wire, and many other things, but have to watch out that the posters they carry rolled up under their arms aren't stolen.

When barn walls aren't available, he nails the announcement on trees, pigsties, benches, farmhouses, grain silos, or chalets; if, in the last case, he happens to disturb a dairymaid, waking her from her sleep if it's early, she awakened by the hammering opens the window right away, waves, and gives a friendly smile.

The New Law:

For reasons of security it will henceforth be prohibited to walk through forests and along tree-lined roads in order to protect the population from the black men who hide so well in the shadows of the trees that sometimes they can hardly be distinguished from the darkness of the tree-lined roads. It is the intention of judicial authorities that the people, who from now on will move only in the open countryside, can be immediately discovered and categorized by the personnel, geodesists, surveyors, constables, soldiers, and their assistants, who are responsible for their sector of observation; people who come across the h o r i z o n into their sector of observation can quickly be plotted, registered, and classified, two or three times; prior to the time of the new law, despite all deliberate efforts, such thoroughness was never possible, indeed, sometimes not enforceable at all, because the people almost always walked through forests and along tree-lined roads and, for this reason, were, unfortunately, quite often confused with those hiding in the shadows of the trees; but in order to insure that the divisive dissatisfaction this had caused in many segments of the population would be avoided in the future, the new law was passed and ratified as quickly as possible and herewith goes immediately into effect; people who comply will have no further reason for dissatisfaction, those who do not comply, however, will continue to suffer the consequences of breaking the law. Where it is necessary to walk through forests and along tree-lined roads because there is no open countryside yet and the traffic routes have trees beside them, the roads will be precisely designated and specified; personnel will be posted at the beginning and end of each forest lane or tree-lined road and, if the road is very long, at stations along the way; any number of inspections can be undertaken, whose technical and statistical data will serve the republic for the general improvement of the social conditions in the land and, in so doing, are desirable. Where the forests begin, tables are set up, stakes driven into the meadows, wooden surfaces put on top; whoever wishes to walk through the forest goes to one of the tables, where an official standing behind the table or sitting on a tree stump hands him two forms which are to be filled out and handed over for examination before starting the journey; both forms are then signed, one is stuck in a file, the other is to be taken along and handed over to the other official at the end of the woods. Both forms, differently colored, contain the following, identical questions, which are to be answered truthfully:

NUMBER--

SERIAL NUMBER--

DATE--

TIME--

NAME--

DATE OF BIRTH AND PLACE OF BIRTH--

OCCUPATION--

PREVIOUS OCCUPATIONS IF APPLICABLE--

PLACE OF RESIDENCE--

PREVIOUS PLACES OF RESIDENCE IF APPLICABLE--

ADDRESS--

PREVIOUS ADDRESSES IF APPLICABLE--

WHICH OCCUPATIONS DID YOU PURSUE IN WHICH PLACES OF RESIDENCE--

NAME, DATE OF BIRTH, PLACE OF BIRTH, OCCUPATION, PREVIOUS OCCUPATIONS IF APPLICABLE, PLACE OF RESIDENCE, PREVIOUS PLACES OF RESIDENCE IF APPLICABLE, ADDRESS, PREVIOUS ADDRESSES IF APPLICABLE OF YOUR FATHER, OF YOUR MOTHER, OF YOUR BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S), OF YOUR WIFE, OF YOUR CHILDREN, OF YOUR EMPLOYER, OF YOUR FAMILY PHYSICIAN, OF THE EMPLOYER OF YOUR FATHER, OF THE EMPLOYER OF YOUR MOTHER, OF THE EMPLOYER OR EMPLOYERS OF YOUR BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S), OF THE EMPLOYER OF YOUR WIFE, OF THE EMPLOYER OR EMPLOYERS OF YOUR WORKING CHILDREN IF APPLICABLE, OF YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW, OF YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW, OF YOUR BROTHERS-IN-LAW, OF YOUR SISTERS-IN-LAW, OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR FATHER, OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR MOTHER, OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW, OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW, OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR FATHER, OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR MOTHER, OF THE CHILDREN OF YOUR BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S), OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR WIFE, OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR FATHER-IN-LAW, OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW, OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND WIFE, OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND WIFE, OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND WIFE, OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND FATHER-IN-LAW, OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND MOTHER-IN-LAW, OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND FATHER-IN-LAW, OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND MOTHER-IN-LAW, OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND FATHER-IN-LAW, OF THE CHILDREN OF THE BROTHER(S) AND SISTER(S) OF YOUR POSSIBLE SECOND MOTHER-IN-LAW, OF YOUR POSSIBLE THIRD AND OF EVERY OTHER POSSIBLE WIFE AND HER IMMEDIATE RELATIVES AND OF ALL EMPLOYERS AND FAMILY PHYSICIANS OF THOSE NAMED AND THEIR CLOSE RELATIVES AND ACQUAINTANCES AND OF ALL RELATIVES AND ACQUAINTANCES OF THEIR EMPLOYERS AND FAMILY PHYSICIANS NOT LISTED HERE--

ARE YOU AND ALL PERSONS LISTED BY YOU SATISFIED WITH YOUR EMPLOYER (YOUR EMPLOYERS) AND FAMILY PHYSICIAN (FAMILY PHYSICIANS)--

WHERE ARE YOU GOING--

WHAT DO YOU WANT THERE--

WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE--

WHY DON'T YOU STAY HOME IN THE FIRST PLACE--

WHEN DO YOU EXPECT TO ARRIVE WHERE YOU ARE GOING--

WHERE WILL YOU STAY THERE--

WHEN WILL YOU COME BACK--

WILL YOU COME BACK AT ALL--

WHY--

WHY NOT--

HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOU HAVE WITH YOU--

HOW MUCH MONEY ARE YOU BRINGING ALONG IN ADDITION TO THAT WHICH YOU--

ARE NOT LISTING HERE--

WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO LIST HERE THE MONEY WHICH YOU ARE BRINGING--

ALONG IN ADDITION BUT ARE NOT LISTING HERE--

FOR WHAT DO YOU NEED THE MONEY THAT YOU HAVE WITH YOU--

IS IT YOUR INTENTION TO MAKE PURCHASES AT YOUR DESTINATION OR ALONG THE WAY--

WHY--

WHEN--

WHERE--

FROM WHOM--

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BUY--

DO YOU ALSO WANT TO BUY ANYTHING ELSE WHICH YOU ARE NOT, HOWEVER, LISTING HERE--

WHAT--

WHY--

WHEN--

WHERE--

FROM WHOM--

WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO LIST HERE WHAT ELSE YOU ARE BUYING BUT NOT--

LISTING HERE--

WHAT ARE YOUR MONTHLY EARNINGS--

HOW MUCH DO YOU PAY IN TAXES--

HAVE YOU EVADED TAXES IN RECENT TIMES--

WHY--

WHEN--

FOR HOW MUCH DID YOU DEFRAUD THE STATE--

HOW FAST DO YOU WALK--

DO YOU WANT TO REST ALONG THE WAY--

WHY--

WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW OFTEN--

HOW TALL ARE YOU--

HOW MUCH DO YOU WEIGH--

HOW LONG ARE YOUR FEET--

LENGTH OF YOUR STRIDES--

DO YOU FAVOR THE INTRODUCTION OF GENERAL TESTING FOR SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES--

ARE YOU AWARE THAT YOU ARE A BAD PERSON THROUGH AND THROUGH--

OR ARE YOU BY ANY CHANCE OF A DIFFERENT OPINION--

ARE YOU HAPPY IN YOUR OCCUPATION--

WOULD YOU RATHER TAKE UP ANOTHER OCCUPATION--

WHICH--

WHY--

WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO BECOME A WOODCUTTER--

OR WOULD YOU RATHER FIND EMPLOYMENT IN ANOTHER BRANCH OF THE--

LUMBER INDUSTRY--

ARE YOU BY ANY CHANCE SUFFERING FROM VENEREAL DISEASE--

DO YOU HAVE GONORRHEA, SYPHILIS OR SOFT CHANCRE--

ARE YOU UNDER TREATMENT--

DETAILS ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL WHO STUCK YOU WITH THE VENEREAL--

DISEASE--

ARE YOU UNEMPLOYED--

WHY--

DO YOU LIKE FORESTS--

WHY--

DO YOU LIKE TREE-LINED ROADS--

WHY--

DO YOU LIKE TREES IN GENERAL--

WHY--

DO YOU REGARD TREES STANDING ALONE OR IN GROUPS AS ADVANTAGEOUS--

DISADVANTAGEOUS, OR DANGEROUS--

WHY--

HAVE YOU ANSWERED ALL QUESTIONS TRUTHFULLY--

HAVE YOU ANSWERED SOME QUESTIONS FALSELY--

WHICH--

WHY--

WHICH QUESTIONS THAT YOU AREN'T LISTING HERE DID YOU ANSWER--

FALSELY--

WHY--

WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO LIST HERE THOSE QUESTIONS WHICH YOU ANSWERED--

FALSELY BUT AREN'T LISTING HERE THAT YOU ANSWERED THEM FALSELY--

WHY DON'T YOU WANT TO LIST HERE THOSE QUESTIONS WHICH YOU ANSWERED--

FALSELY BUT AREN'T LISTING HERE THAT YOU ANSWERED THEM FALSELY BUT AREN'T LISTING THAT HERE--

OTHER--

FURTHER NOTATIONS--

NOTATIONS BY THE AUTHORIZED OFFICIAL--

REMARKS BY THE AUTHORIZED OFFICIAL--

SIGNATURE OF THE AUTHORIZED OFFICIAL--

SIGNATURE OF THE AUTHORIZED OFFICIAL--

SIGNATURE--

SIGNATURE--

DATE--

TIME--

SERIAL NUMBER--

Before starting the journey the two forms are to be filled out, handed over to the official for inspection and examination; both are signed by him, he sticks one in a file, the other is to be taken along and handed over to the agent at the end of the forest road. Individuals who do not fill out the forms truthfully must pay a fine not to exceed the number in today's date in local currency; for illiterates, there are clerks appointed who sit on tree stumps, hold typewriters in their laps, listen to the dictation of the applicants, and fill out the documents.

If you should meet an authorized official in the forest along the way, you have to let him examine the form you brought along, answer his questions genially, truthfully, joyfully, and without excuses. At the end of the woods the latter form is to be handed over to the agent there.

On the part of the authorities, everything is being done to protect the population from the black men hiding in the shadows of the trees. Despite the new regulation, the population is called upon to be wary, even while traveling on monitored forest roads, because it is suspected that now the black shadows of the trees are disguising themselves in counterfeit or stolen uniforms and molesting, threatening, reviling, abusing, and insulting the people. Parents and those qualified to teach are urged not to let their children and pupils forget the game WHO IS AFRAID OF THE BLACK MAN in the shadows of the forest.

Prior to the time of the new law, many are said to have disappeared in the forests without a trace. Among executive authorities, where there was no explanation for it, the speculation was offered that the black shadows of the trees and everything that was hidden in them were to blame. However, after the time of the new law many people or even more than before are said to have still disappeared in the forests without a trace. Members of the judiciary offered the speculation that only the shadows of the trees are to blame, which now disguise themselves in counterfeit or stolen uniforms and make fools of the law-abiding population.

But voices were also heard to say that those who disappeared in the forests were actually arrested by the executive authorities because statements taken from their forms indicated that they hide behind trees. People who made such claims are later said to have been reported missing in the forests without a trace or else identified, arrested, locked up as members of the forest's shadows and turned over to the courts by agents.

Who are these black men anyway? Do they live in the shadows of the trees or disguise themselves with the darkness of the forests, or how do they so easily portray the twilight in the tree-lined roads? It is reported by the judiciary that these questions can only be answered when the menace is completely eliminated because only thereafter, based on statistical, criminal, philosophical, psychological, mathematical, economical, historical, biological, physical, zoological, medical, psychotherapeutical, botanical, paleontological, parapsychological, chemical, cybernetical, archaeological, sociological, logical, and many other studies, which, of course, are continually under way, but which can only be evaluated, judged, edited, scrutinized, checked, controlled, and classified after the elimination of the menace, can these questions be answered in a way that everyone will be able to understand. Many, who at first speculated publicly that there were no black men at all but supposed they were only the invention of higher authorities and also a carefully planned pretext under which to justify the new law and its effects and consequences, and much more, because in reality there are only the shadows of the trees, in which no one and nothing can any longer hide, are said to have afterwards disappeared in the forests without a trace or else were identified, arrested, locked up, and turned over to the courts by agents on the basis of their black shadows.

According to higher authorities, there are plans to soon disclose new measures of even greater effectiveness: the intention is to cut down all forests, tree-lined roads, and, if necessary, fell trees standing alone in the countryside, because

1. one wishes, once and for all, to rid the population of the threat of the shadows behind the trees as well as those dark elements hiding in them, which then would no longer have any places to hide because there would be no more trees behind which they could hide,

2. should the practical enforcement of the new law become difficult because there are not enough agents available, the aforementioned plan would make enforcing the new law unnecessary,

3. the high rate of unemployment, which exists everywhere in the land and is steadily increasing, thereby would be eliminated by training and hiring all do-nothings as woodcutters or employing them in other branches of wood processing, because the lumber industry would record a boom like none before, because then much more wood than ever would be available for processing.

The huge supply of wood which will suddenly build up will be utilized to produce, in advance, barn floors, barns, bay windows, beams, beaters, beds, benches, boards, bolts, bowls, bridges, buoys, carts, chair backs, chairs, chests, closets, coffins, cots, crates, doors, fences, flutes, footbridges, footstools, forks, gallows, gates, halls, houses, huts, lattices, mats, mills, plates, poles, rafts, rings, roofs, shingles, ships, skiffs, slats, spoons, staircases, stalls, steps, sticks, stools, swings, tables, trunks, walls, wheels, paper, anterooms, bedrooms, beer coasters, border crossing gates, bunk beds, chalets, charcoal, customs barriers, dance floors, dining rooms, door frames, door latches, dung pits, floating hotels, gymnasiums, horizontal bars, living rooms, log cabins, matches, piers, playpens, rafters, railroad crossing gates, road barriers, saltshakers, school benches, school compasses, sideboards, slides, table legs, toilet seats, tree supports, wheelbarrows, artificial limbs, balconies, counting houses, credenzas, figures, hinges, parquets, portals, racks, railings, scaffoldings, trays, ax handles, baby carriages, birdhouses, book bindings, broomsticks, children's rooms, children's toys, clothes hooks, clothes trees, corridors, doghouses, gangplanks, hinge pegs, hop poles, knife handles, labor camps, nesting boxes, pepper shakers, plank floors, rack wagons, rocking chairs, rocking horses, scarecrows, shovel handles, storerooms, street barriers, window frames, wastepaper baskets, warning signs, traffic signs, cubbyholes, vestibules, bar ornaments, bookshelves, butter churns, obstacle courses, paprika shakers, pickax handles, radio tables, toy guns, weekend homes, granaries, paneling, seats of government, guillotines, ceiling structures, inn furnishings, lamp shade frames, screwdriver handles, canal pile planking, carpentry workshops, telegraph poles, playground apparatus, riverbank reinforcements, bay windows in seaports, bridges for prospective streets, bay windows for women looking down, bridges for prospective rivers, bridges for prospective canals, scarecrows for prospective nurseries, bridges for prospective streets across prospective streams, rivers, canals, waterways, ravines and the railings bordering them, footbridges across prospective ravines for the prospective necessity of the prospective elimination of the prospective interruption of prospective mountain pasture paths for prospective foxes, chamois, hares, stags, chickens, dogs, cats, horses, deer, cattle, sheep, weasels, nanny goats, squirrels, ibexes, skunks, giraffes, camels, antelopes, dromedaries, elephants, water buffaloes, and much more; the wood still leftover will then be stained with tallow or tarred, kept in storerooms protected from rain, hailstones, snowfall, humidity, and other harmful weather conditions; but there are also many who say the whole land will probably very soon be decorated and paneled with wood.
 every step will be a signal knock beneath the grains and knotholes
 of the wooden boards mounted on top of the ground you will
 hear streams rivers and waterfalls rushing between the cracks
 of the planks later trodden down the water of the marshes will
 rise seep in and the cotton grass will creep upwards


careful planning and the incorporation of cybernetics will guarantee the economic boom in the land,

the marsh marigold will climb up out of knotholes

you see the billposters still traveling through the land, the metal fittings on their knapsacks glisten in the air, their hammers strike the barn walls; log cabins are being built in clearings for the agents, bunk beds for the soldiers; you hear the stakes pushing into the grass, the orders of the higher officials, the sounds of the typewriters among the shrubs,

blueberry pickers startled herbalists chased away

blackberry gatherers plunge from rock ledges

throughout the forests you hear the chopping of the axes, which are leaned against the trunks during the noon break; perhaps fall is coming, yes, that's quite possible,

fall is coming, one fears chestnuts and other fruits that fall from trees, to guard against that one holds his hand above his head or wears a wide-brimmed hat; snipers in trees and hedges have it harder, they are discovered more easily.

Translation by Johannes Vazulik
COPYRIGHT 2007 Review of Contemporary Fiction
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Jonke, Gert
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Excerpt
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:3248
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