20th December 2022


9 minutes read

András Visky

Arinca, the Lăteşti Camp

translated by Thomas Cooper

20th December 2022

9 minutes read


whore, our mother didn’t know that word, nor did she know the words hooker, hoe, prostitute, prosty, or poon, or rather she knew them all, but they never left her lips, she preferred streetwalkers or working girls, or simply “the girls,” usually just like that, plural, to which she added poor, the poor girls, and she avoided the word fornication, unless she was reading to us from the Bible, because if that word was part of the reading for the day, then it was part of the reading, and she certainly wasn’t going to skip it or use something else instead, and she wasn’t going to replace the reading for the day with some other passage because of one word, we don’t play the lottery with Scripture, our mother said, come what may, nicht vor dem kind didn’t apply to the Bible, just to everything else


the story of Tamar and Onan was up next, perfect timing considering Ferenc’s and István’s ages, and Onan spilled the seed onto the ground, that it raise no successor, our mother read, or in other words Onan masturbated plenty, came straight into the ground, and the sad and humiliated

Tamar could not take her eyes off him,

but then, at the right moment, she dressed as a harlot, went out to the open place by the way to Timnath to strut the street and got knocked up by her father-in-law, the man who had tried to force her to couple with the beast Onan, the rebels know the sweetest pleasures, our mother added, and Tamar outwitted the cowardly men who were bumbling around her, hallelujah


our mother feared for what the words might do to us, and she may have feared the words too, but she did not fear the Bible, and she did not fear what it might do to us, the Good Lord slayed Onan and delivered justice for poor Tamar, back then the Good Lord was still in good shape, mother said, if your dad hadn’t ended up in prison and I had had another daughter, she definitely would have been given the name Tamar


and if she couldn’t avoid it despite her best efforts, and she had to mention that fornicator camp commander Livezeanu’s fornicator eyes or the fornicator writer Goma’s fornicator beard, she used the word fornicator exclusively to refer to men, streetwalkers were not fornicators, she said, and neither were working girls, she knew that better than anyone, as someone who had spent months with the Rákóczi Square streetwalkers in the home for wayward girls in Ráckeve


and Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there, but with us it was the other way around, a Lipovan woman named Arinca came to spend the night with us, not of her own accord, our mother invited her, even urged her, and Arinca hesitated for a long time between our barrack and Goma the writer’s barrack until eventually she gave in to our mother, not our mother, but the Sisters Lídia and Máriamagdolna, who had pleaded with Arinca’s soul until she had ended up with us, had dinner with us, and lain down with us on the straw after evening prayers, not among us, but in front of the little stove, where we had put two bundles of straw for her, and even knotting some of it up into a pillow so that she would have a proper place to lie down, as any human deserves


are you asleep, Arinca?, no, Arinca said, what are you doing?, I’m praying, saintly woman, came the answer,

but we’ve already prayed, our mother said, now I’m saying the obligatory prayers, Arinca said, and she continued,

our mother got up and went over to where she was lying, go to sleep, she said to us, but we did not sleep, we listened to Arinca singing prayers and the rhythmic clink of the vervica that she was twirling in her hands, only Sister Lídia and Sister Mária Magdolna had fallen asleep, but they had already slept peacefully during the day, a pale light was shimmering on their faces, sometimes they woke up suddenly, always at the same time, and they always chanted the song that began Ugly was my heart and dark, Nényu wiped their faces and the napes of their necks with a damp cloth, they were still drunk, but they had vomited up the last drop of rubbing alcohol and bile, no strength left in them to vomit again, at the cool touch of the damp cloth they dutifully fell back asleep with a beatific smile


Arinca did not stop praying, she went over and over the passages, always starting from the bottom and going up, if it sounded like crying, it was crying, if it sounded like laughter, it was laughter, the barrack was filled with Arinca’s Old Russian speech, and after a while, we heard our mother’s voice too, as she tried to follow the throbs of Arinca’s song, and when she fell behind or got confused, Arinca stopped, helped her pronounce the Old Russian words, repeating the more difficult ones with her several times, and then they continued together, two birds, or maybe weasels, rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep


we lay on our backs listening to the two women’s intertwining voices, after a while we couldn’t tell them apart, a long amin spoken twice, a short pause, three clicks of the vervica, gospodi pomiluy, gospodi pomiluy, gospodi pomiluy, clouds billowed on the ceiling above us, and then when they drifted out into the open, golden flakes of stars emerged from the corner of the ceiling, sparkling like the eyes of angels as they chased one another, and after the stars animals filled the ceiling of the barrack, coming in flanks straight from the our father’s golden-blue edition of Brehm, soon the ceiling was covered with thick grass, wolf and lamb, lion and antelope grazed side by side, a black snake slithered between the legs, hurrying somewhere or fleeing, I couldn’t quite tell, leaving shiny black scales in the grass, shedding its skin, the poor thing, and soon noisy starlings and crows covered the ceiling, hurriedly scooping up the scales that had been left behind, but in vain, the animals had already chomped up most of them with the grass, I should sleep, before anything happens, before the black snake returns with renewed strength, I thought, but I couldn’t fall sleep no matter how I tried, though everyone else was asleep around me, Nényu too, Mother too, and Arinca had fallen silent, she was watching the swirling ceiling too, or sleeping with her eyes open, I couldn’t tell


mother had sent the girls to the Burlă well, because word had spread in the colony that Arinca wanted to throw herself into the bitter water, she had been walking around it all morning and gulping down rubbing alcohol from a one-liter bottle, she was very drunk and very happy when the girls found her, clinging to the concrete rim of the well and going round and round, holding the bucket and rhythmically rattling the chain as if it were untied, one more circle, one more, and finished! she said, and then the sight of Sisters Lídia and Máriamagdolna electrified Arinca, be you my witnesses, my angels, that it was I, take the news to the saintly woman and to all the barracks that the water of the Burlă well was sweetened because of me, a miracle came to pass, yes, tell them Arinca’s suffering body dissolved in the bitter water, that her soul ascended from the well to be among the Raskolniki, her true place and where she always longed to be


the saintly woman sends word that you not kill yourself, Arinca,

the saintly woman loves you, come with us, rest with us, this is her message, Sister Lídia told her, and she told us not to let you jump into the well, to weep with you until you have calmed, until you come with us, come, my angels, come, rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep, drink with me, little ones, and your vision shall clear as mine has, clear vision is important, that’s what the rubbing alcohol is for, angels, I stole it this morning from Scarlat of the thread-thin voice, now gospodi pomiluy, drink, little blind one, and you, golden-haired, and at Arinca’s urgings the girls took a gulp from the bottle, and they began circling the well with Arinca, stopping after three rounds, and then came the rattling of the chain and another gospodi pomiluy, then more gulps from the bottle and they set out again, and when the rubbing alcohol had run out, the three of them took the bottle and threw it into the well, vo imya Ottsa i Syna i Svyatogo Duha, Arinca shouted into the well, and she giggled, Lídia és Máriamagdolna saw that the moment had come to take Arinca’s hand and head for our barrack, Ugly was my heart and dark, but Jesus entered it, they sang loudly, stopping when they had to vomit, Arinca patiently waiting for them, gospodi pomiluy, she said every time they vomited, you’ll get used to alcohol, angels, if you get married, then definitely, because if you get married, you can’t do it without alcohol, take note, I’ve had four husbands, and the fifth is not the true one either, though they were all true-believer Raskolniki, except for the fornicator Anghel, I know what I speak of, she said, and they continued on their way, Because I am washed in blooood, my heart my heart now is snow-whiiite.



written by

András Visky

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Issue 03


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translated by

Thomas Cooper

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Arinca, the Lăteşti Camp by András Visky
At Lăteşti Camp, a new arrival, Arinca, develops a reputation for her stormy love life, frequent escapes, and ability to find bodies.