A Portrait by the Artist as a Young Man
Mono Petra is a renowned Bulgarian artist. He is famous for a few breakthroughs in the art galleries of the West. In Bulgaria, the latter still causes suspiciousness, admiration but also outspoken malice. He is famous for one more thing too. Till he turned 42 he had hardly written down anything longer than his signature on a picture. And he is the son of the poet Petar Manolov. But maybe just for that reason. However, his world-renowned father departed from this world exactly a year ago /February 2016/. All of a sudden, a few days ago, almost at the anniversary of the Poet’s death, the Artist embarked on writing short stories. They became a hit across social networks in no time. The first story dates back to the time when he and his parents were political exiles /not refugees/ in Paris before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Written without any claims for literary sophistication, it is still funny and kindhearted and endows integrity to a small Parisian circle – a bunch of foreign students for whom it was most important then to become part of the French society which had offered them hospitality. What is the narrative about though? It’s about a Portrait, about the artist as a very young man and, oh yeah - about Paris. So, like in the lines of Wilde – a portrait, but not one of the artist; it’s rather a portrait by the artist himself. Let me introduce to you Mono Petra, the narrator:
What a funny story crossed my mind about a classmate of mine from Reunion, but I won’t tell it to you as you will accuse me of racism. :) Well, let it be so! :)
I was enrolled to intensive French classes in Paris in 1989, so as to be able to continue my secondary education at a French school. On the first school day I entered and found something new for me. A classroom crowded with nationalities. The teacher was surely a French Jew, called Leon who retained resemblance to Einstein without much effort, but was beaten at chess by all nations over and over again. Since it was hard to communicate, we went up against each other in chessboard contests in those years.
There was a Portuguese girl in my class, whose name fails me, but I remember that part of her right hand was missing bitten off by a shark, and a beautiful Polish girl whom everyone wondered how to chat up. Generally, I had the most chances due to the Russian, which I had a proper knowledge of, but I was aware that if I addressed her in Russian, things would go wrong - she was a political emigrant just like me. I also remember Ahmed, a very cool guy who was a fervent Muslim and who prayed three times a day! When Ivona /as the Polish girl was called/ drew his attention to that, he resorted to praying twice a day. And when Marie from Venezuela invited us to her place, the rug vanished, like magic, and was replaced by copious amounts of gel. But this is not a story about all these cool specimens. It’s rather one about my best friend from this bunch called Ghost Busters. A dark midjet from Reunion, named after the American film. Busters was an incredible specimen who by waving his hands and making hilarious mimics kept trying to tell me stories about all sea turtles he was familiar with.
Six months passed and he made the first step to strengthen our pantomime friendship by inviting me for a visit to meet his family. I entered a narrow space around Pigalle Square which was also the whereabouts of our school. And imagine what I came across: happy men and women who were greeting me like we had known each other all our lives. We sat around the table and communicated cheerfully, mimed, pantomimed - a wonderful night. I was happy and so were they. Then the time came when I got tired and started to look around the interior - gold, silver and colorful fabrics till I noticed a sequence of pictures of all their family, put up neatly in massive frames on the wall. The midgets followed my gaze and started joggling each other for a good reason. They had put up before the picture of the oldest member of the family, already dead, a portrait of a real monkey /a grinning Reunion male monkey in all its splendor/ and here comes the funniest thing – how could one possibly ask these nice people without speaking their language why there was a monkey at the beginning of the long genealogy line. And there they started beating their chests, touching their noses and ears and laughing which was accompanied by enormous amounts of spicy dishes and much, much glee. Whatever I write more to that, it would be fancy, hence I shall stop here with this story.
In the second part I’m going to tell you what it is like to do an exam in French, narrating an interesting daily event which happened to me in France.