Red Danube
172 pages

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Holocaust survivor Zoltan "Zoli" Gluck goes from a childhood in rural Hungary, through the horrors of World War II, to a New York City art dealer with a gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He follows this unlikely career path to the 1987 ArtExpo at the Javits Center where he reunites with a painter who was in a concentration camp with him as a child. Their rekindled friendship propels Zoli into an unintentional investigation of their shared past. Through an odyssey that spans decades and crosses continents, Zoli uncovers a betrayal that occurred on the day they were both liberated from the concentration camp Mauthausen, and finds peace in the answers he didn't know he needed to hear in a place he never thought he'd see again. 

Based on actual events, Red Danube is told over a lifetime where the past and present coexist in a swirl of allegories that reflect issues we continue to face. Influenced equally by the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Philip Roth, and Bela Tarr, David Gluck takes an individualized approach to exploring themes of war, the Holocaust, and the effects of the diaspora on all generations involved. 



Publié par
Date de parution 14 juillet 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780578934938
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0650€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Copyright © 2020 by DaviP Gluck
All rights reserveP. ublisheP in the UniteP States by the First Hungarian Literary Society ress. No part of this book may be reproPuceP or useP in any manner without written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of quotations in a book review.
ISBN: 978-0-578-70182-0
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, busin esses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the product of the author’s im agination or used in a fictitious manner. Dates may be accurate, names may be similar , but any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25
For Dad. Never forget.
Thd Zoltan Gluck, Zoli to thosee sight of produce piled high and on display carrie closest to him, into a past full of color: a romanticized youth, before the pain. By the mid-‘80s, the stone fruits of his childhood were accompanied by all manner of out-of-season and wildly imported products. Ligh t zigzagged though corridors of steel and concrete, fell onto the thin sliver of Fa irway’s storefront, the morning’s calm shaking to the rattle of the cardboard-boxed bounty that slid from truck to subterranean storage over a metal conveyer. Like no other market on the Upper West Side, tucked between Gristedes and a Love’s Discount Pharmacy, i t presented the smells and colors of Zoli’s childhood in Eastern Europe in their new and forever anachronistic setting. Zoli carried plastic bags across the concrete plate au of New York City; a smile creased lines in his cheeks, exposed teeth yellowed by adolescent malnutrition and chipped through military service. His bright blue e yes were wide and present. Salt and pepper hair caught the cross-breeze of miles travel ed as histories remained fastened to the soles of his feet, and in each free moment. He moved on, mind ever-adrift to a time when famili es gathered to harvest the rewards of their labor. He could still see them. Th e fragrances were fresh in his nostrils, sharp on his tongue. Townsfolk congregated to sell plums, peaches, and a pricots; to barter and buy goods and services; farm-animal-produced milk, meat and cheeses; garlic and bunches of whole dried paprika on display; the harv est filled the air with the sweet smell of country living, available for the right pr ice. He was there, saw the handful that hauled their bounty out of town on horseback and by the carriage-full, caravans of abundance. He drowned in the expanse, waves of grassland that united the distant hills of his childhood, verdant terrain disturbed only by the or chards and farms that defined the region. He saw the rows of trees planted in antiqui ty that reached out over the horizon. Fruit that hung heavy off innumerable branches pain ted the hillside in a wash of color that marked the seasons. The villages that pocked t he great field did much the same; born in service of the land, they were equally susc eptible to the shifting conditions of the world around them. “They annexed Austria.” He still heard the whispers that travelled across borders so long ago, details of the Nuremberg Laws and the man y nights of broken glass that followed. “We’re next,” was the collective conclusi on of Jews and gypsies on the ever-redefined borders of Eastern Europe. Common ground, as logic dictated. “Who will save us? The Soviets? They’re just as savage. We’re damned either way,” they’d spit
in wretched agreement. Zoli shook recollection. He knew times had changed, but the effects of his youth remained: Deadbolts locked against invasion clanked open from the outside. Zoli let himself into his spacious riverside apartment and l ocked the door behind him. Elevated above the tree line of the adjacent park, sunlight danced in off the Hudson. Lost illuminants reached out across the living room and long gallery hall. Zoli hung his black overcoat on a hook, began unpacking groceries in the soft reflective light. Calloused hands, rough palms, torn up fingers squee zed stone fruit, and prompted sense-memory. Viscid resin, concentrated juice, tacky to the touc h and released by the slightest move, enveloped young hands and arms; ripe globules thick with pulp and sucrose sailed through the air, sloshed into baskets left b y the foot of a mature plum tree picked clean. Fallen leaves sprinkled the landscape with d eep purples and marked each of nine-year-old Zoli’s steps with a satisfying crackl e. He searched through dirt, blue eyes darting between branches and mulch to find every la st imperfect plum. He was happy with the ones that had long lost their peels, oozin g beneath topsoil, attracting bugs and rodents. “GET THE ONES NO ONE WANTS,” was yelled from afar a nd rippled through decades to live firmly in Zoli’s recollections. Remembrances interrupted, he turned toward footstep s, peered past a library of rarely opened books, across a collection of Hungari an paintings and porcelain that made their way across the Atlantic. He cracked a sm ile at the sight of his only son approaching. “Danny-kem,” he whispered in an accent weathered by experience. “I told you, you didn’t have to come with me.” “I know.” Danny, short and husky, was in Bugle Boy cargo pants and a striped polo shirt, face broken out, red and irritated; a body b uilt for the fields primped and styled to popular standards, hair gelled to perfection agains t the force of his natural curls in a dance of perpetual pubescent imbalance. “I just wan ted to make sure you make it, Pops.” “Danny, come on. Vhy vouldn’t I?” Zoli answered. Th ey spoke in a hush through the morning light. His wife Julika and mother-in-law, D anny’s live-in-grandmother, remained asleep while he sliced fruit for their cereal. He h ad rolled the sleeves of his sharp Pierre Cardin dress shirt in order to get banana into his son’s bowl. “You get all… you know…” The thought of his dad sca red or uncomfortable snatched his ability to finish his sentence. The we ight of his father’s past, the family history, bunched up in Danny’s shoulders, tightened his posture. He just sat quietly, eyes bloodshot as he considered the cumulative horr or of his legacy, collecting the anxiety that had always been married to it. Zoli got it. “Business is business.” Danny chewed and swallowed, was slow to continue. “ He knew you and your brother...” His long corrected Hungarian accent res urfaced as he went on, “Your brother, János? Right?” He made it a point to get the name right, repeated himself, over accentuated the strongyaand Slavicshsounds that bookended his late uncle’s name: “János.” “Yes… Jenő.” Zoli used the name most colloquial, th e one he used as a child. “Think this guy knows what happened to him?” Danny asked.
Zoli dared not answer; thinking about it contorted his face, agitated his jovial features. They sat silently, waited for answers wit hin the ever-present aeioum of the city; the traffic, on land and above buildings, ped estrians at street level, distant sirens, the chaos and commotion all melded into a lulling c onstant. “I don’t even know if he vill remembers me, even th ough ve have ze same Hebrew name, Itzchak,” Zoli said as ancient feelings crept up through his spine, locked in his gaze. “I still can’t believe he’s represented by Perry Art Gallery, what are the odds?” Zoli started clearing the table; light bounced off the river, cut shadows into the ceiling, across his face. “OK, let’s go,” Zoli broke the static. “I vant to g et there before they hang ze show.” They stepped out and away from a large brick buildi ng that grew out of an entire city block, joining the light morning motion of Manhatta n: joggers and nannies, a spattering of kids running to Saturday morning sports in the n earby park. “I don’t tink Itzchak vill be there today,” Zoli sa id, almost relieved. “We’ll have to find him…” Danny interjected. “What if he knows something?” Zoli stammered on a thought: “Vhat if it is sometin g I don’t vant to hear?” “You know I got your back.” “I know, Danny, I know,” Zoli’s affect flowed, conn ecting his son to different places and times. “You are so much like my fadher. Did you know Dani…” He emphasized the short-rounded-/ɒ/-sound that growled with an appropriate earthiness , a wash of the old country wrapped up in a longeein his father’s name. “Yes, dad,” Danny asserted. “I know all about your life on the farm. I feel like I lived there, for crying out loud.” “Who ever thought a little farm boy vould end up he re?” Zoli thought out loud. “All ze tragedies...” “All those things had to happen to get you here, Po ps,” Danny interrupted. “Not quite, no vone vanted to drive around vith Mr. Stern and sell his paintings, listen to him talk for days and days. I vas young. I vas a trained carpenter. I vanted to see America, and traveling is in our blood,” Zoli l aughed with his kid. “My fadher travelled to get ze best price at city markets, he’ d travel days, sometimes veeks.” He planted Danny in the middle of his far-reaching leg acy. “Like me vith Mr. Stern, and you vill vith me. It vill be great to have you, kiddo, just this vonce time, till ze doctor says my old heart is strong again.” He stopped to read disa ppointment on his young son’s face; they both knew Danny’s involvement would be permane nt. “I promise you vill have your school vacation back.” Danny’s mind wandered over elevated expectations of the idle time he’d miss with his friends over spring break and of the girls he w ouldn’t get to know better because he was off working with his dad. Zoli noticed. “I vas much younger than you vhen I joined the fami ly business, I remember like yesterday… ve all vorked, but Jenő vas the toughest . He vas something else. I vould vatch him use his strength to load ze family vagon.” His words moved Danny, bent time, and coagulated sp ace: Bushel upon bushel of fruits and vegetables were organized and placed by habit, Jenő’s wide back and broad shoulders on display beneath his work-worn shirt, b iceps flexed, weight-bearing thighs pushed to the task at hand.
Some of the younger girls in town would come to watch him work, giggling at caught glances, obvious affections offending a group of lo cal boys that watched from a distance, side-eyed and malcontent. Jenő felt their glare, turned to lock onto to the s cowls of kids he grew up with, only to catch them spit in his direction. Disrespect met its mark. Jenő stepped to confront them, fists first, when his father stopped midstrid e. “You have work to do, Jenő. Play with your friends later,” Dani told him in their native tongue. Jenő eased up, caught his kid brother Zoli with a p layful shove. They watched their mother holding their baby-sister Magda in her arms while she dragged a couple of bushel baskets into their humble family market, wip ing her hands clean on an already soiled apron. She turned to set out homemade jams a nd cakes, filled bins with animal feed, and rearranged hard-to-find farming essential s that Dani picked up along his travels. “Come on, we’re leaving,” yelled Dani. Irén moved to her husband’s side. Antique brown hai r caught an heirloom breeze, streaked grey. Dani’s most mercurial impulses eased in her presence, tension evaporated from his shoulders as they held each oth er close, eyes half-closed, in a short-lived reprieve. “Hurry back,” a whisper turned stern, “in one piece .” They parted with a kiss. Dani joined long-time fami ly friend Lukács György on the front bench of his wagon. The large gypsy had hair on his entire body thick enough to pierce the canvas clothes on his back. Both he and Dani hunched in their station, tasked to navigate the unsteady road ahead. “Dose vere who my fadher vas friends vith, Jews and gypsies,” Zoli stated. “Outsiders. Ve had to stick together.” “Wish I got to meet him.” These shared moments bore down on Danny, had his entire life. “All of them. The whole family. The gy psies and everyone.” “Me too, kiddo.” Zoli looked at his son; Jenő’s eye s stared back at him, set his mind awhirl. “I can remember like it vas yesterday.” He fell into a deep stare. “I vas just a little boy… and while my fadher vas away…” He saw Jenő nod, and could feel his presence as the y stood together to watch their father set out on dirt paths that had crumbled in t he wake of one fallen empire after another. “Your Uncle Laci,” pronounced Lŭt-sī and short for Laszlo, “recruited me, had me till our fadher returned.” Laci displayed his inherited strength in the form o f broad shoulders and a stick-straight posture, his intellect pronounced by his w ide forehead and retreating hairline. He balanced a half-full basket of fruit in one arm and a shotgun in the other. The numbers danced through his mind; his pupils darted in addition and subtraction. “Let’s go, kis-Zoli,” Laci said on the move. Kis-Zoli stood still for a moment to consider the e mpty path his father rode off on, the feeling of his return lodged in his broken hear t as he tried to imagine what lay over those hills, beyond the countryside. He dreamt of t he markets his father would visit in cities that rose three stories, lights born of elec tricity, and fitted with indoor plumbing. His daydream was cut short by responsibilities. His already calloused hands dripped
nectar, collected grime and trapped pests; a riot o f bottom-feeders made easy work of the meal, larvae deposited, pulp left bruised and m acerated. His young nails and fingers were destroyed in a testament of work accom plished, an exhaustion well-earned. He hoofed it past bare branches to catch up to Laci, who was prepared to negotiate terms with his littlest brother: “Pull th e cart and I’ll give you a raise. Five percent... total.” Joy swept in as kis-Zoli grabbed hold; he muscled t heir take into the thick of the forest that lined orchards planted before either of them were born. His young muscles strained to their limit as they blazed new trails through historical woodlands. “You know, Felsővadász means beyond the woods, vher e ze trees vonce stood,” Zoli tested his son. “Yes, dad,” Danny said, “I speak Hungarian, remembe r?” “Of course I remember. Now can I finish?” Zoli took a dramatic pause before he continued. “My fadher built something from nothing for ze people up in the woods ven no vone else vould...” “And that’s why we sell paintings door-to-door?” Da nny asked sarcastically, “I don’t get it…” “Yes, it’s vhat ve know, ve gather vhat ve can and hit ze road,” Zoli explained. “I’ll give you five percent like your Uncle Laci gave to me….” “To start.” “Ok,” Zoli smiled as he cinched his overcoat by the lapels, over his loose tie, and examined the alleyway behind the grand old Ansonia. The iconic building had hosted icons Ziegfeld, Toscanini, Stravinsky, Babe Ruth, J ack Dempsey, and Isaac Bashevis Singer—a storied past that was lost on the immigran t. Zoli took the time to inspect the hidden nooks and corners of the old Beaux-Art residential hotel. He scanned gothic shadows that f ell behind the imposing structure, looked for the perfect place to hide from the endle ss storm that lurked behind every corner of his youth, prepared for its return. “Ze woods of my youth vere thick, tangled branches made vay for a clearing...” Zoli colored his speech with photorealism; his accent ad ded texture like brush strokes to his telling. “I vas just a little guy, squatting in a tree vith a shotgun. I tink I vas nine-year-old and ready to shoot while your uncle vorked on his l arge copper pot.” He chuckled as he continued. “He vould always break screws, yell ‘BUL LSHIT!’ for each piece he lost. I vould just vatch. He’d dump basket after basket of that rotting fruit into ze large vat, stirred it all in. I remember the smell, it vas so strong, I had to take my hand off ze gun to cover my nose.” Zoli commented as muscle memory matched the actions of his youth. “It took him years to come up vith a vay to cool the vapors.” He drew plans in the air with a raised finger; Danny stared into the emp ty space as it filled with family history. “His design moved steam through pipes right into ze forest. They ran through dirt, several feet underground, and after all that, ve ag ed ze booze in barrels he made from ze same Magyar Zemplén oak that grew all around us back then. He had this funny little glass that he vould always use.” Zoli pantom imed his way back to when young Laci retrieved the out-of-place stemware from his i nside pocket. Complete with manufacturer’s stamp, it was a relic found in the d usty corner of some long forgotten barn. Laci promptly filled this glass with liquor and enj oyed its contents with a pinkie
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