The Fourth Largest In Latvia
English

The Fourth Largest In Latvia

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Description

The Fourth Largest In Latvia Sees "Leading scholar In His field" Viktor Draaks Embarking - contre His Will - is an increasingly desperate and absurd journey through Latvian society.

On the way he encounters Many of the typical habitants of this small but interesting Baltic state: Friendly criminals, the helpful Russian secret service, confused nationalists, bored porn stars, drunk British stag parties, sadistic masseurs, mysterious mushroom pickers, three angry presidents and the charmingly psychotic mayor of a seaside town.

All the while Viktor faces Reviews another threat in the form of Pavel Panchev a Man Who looks poised to usurp His cherished at the top of the international conference Circuit Geopolitical position.

Viktor can make it back à son life of pillow menus and goody bags or is he Destined to Spend the rest de son life eating black bread? Only the Fourth Largest In Latvia will decide His fate ...


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Published by
Published 27 March 2014
Reads 6
EAN13 9789934120558
License: All rights reserved
Language English
Document size 1 MB

Legal information: rental price per page €. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.

© Mike Collier, 2014
© Zane Ernštreite, cover design, 2014
© “Mansards”, 2014
ISBN 978-9934-12-055-8
E-book produced by “Publicētava
Evai
Table of content
FOREWORD THE CAPITAL OF ESTONIA BREAKFAST BACON AN EARLY MISTAKE A MEMORABLE ADDRESS THE CAPITAL OF LATVIA A TRAIN FROM TORŅAKALNS NORTH BY NORTHEAST
THE NON-GUEST HOUSE A THRASHING LIFE AT THE SUMMIT A HERO OF OUR TIME AN INSPECTOR DEPARTS DEEP IN THE WOODS GRETEL’S COTTAGE THE PATRIOT A STIFF UPPER LIP THE STAGS THE HELPFUL MR SMITH AN EXPERT AGAIN THE THIRD LARGEST ROCK THE SECOND LARGEST ROCK SEA SALT A PLAN A NEW DAWN IN V----TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE THE LEAVING OF LATVIA
FOREWORD
I write this at an outside table beside the pond. T here is a cool wind blowing gently through the long grass on the far side of th e water, whispering its intention
to cross over and rustle my papers in a few seconds . A pair of storks circle overhead in the opal blue sky and dragonflies busy themselves along the banks, inspecting reeds and lily pads with none of the sci entific precision of the bees
who are carrying out their more detailed survey of clover and buttercups around
the feet of my table. Behind me, the house is a whited sepulchre on top o f the hill and its sun-drenched, freshly-painted walls reflect the midday heat. Up here there is none of
the dust kicked up by the cars that pass the church down below in the village. I can turn my head in a complete panorama and see tha t rarest of Latvian landscapes: hills. Small hills perhaps but hills ne vertheless, turning the whole
vista into a kind of densely wooded Baltic Cotswold .
Frogs repeat their anonymous approval of the scene in measured tones. And I feel obliged to join in with them: “Thank you .” Yes, thank you to the thousands who bought this book, giving me a modest income for a while. Then
thanks must also go to the people who optioned the story for a film production that seemed unlikely to happen, but somehow did – t hough not before the rights had been sold on again, giving me a bit more much-n eeded cash. It was at that point that I got really lucky, with the surprising invitation to work on the screenplay – which was actually rather easy. When my fellow writers
quit, citing the difficulties of working with me, I was left to finish it off and did so happily, collecting some of the money they would ha ve been paid if they had stuck around.
Anyway, that was the sequence of events that allowe d me to buy this white house on the hilltop behind me and the land around it with its large pond, its bath-house, the ancient oaks, the tumbledown stone barns that have now been repaired, where the rose beds have been rescued fro m the bindweed, and that abandoned old wardrobe was restored to its former g lory and now serves guests who come to visit me. Perhaps one day you will be a mong them and I can thank you in person.
Yes, that is what I will say one day. But right now the passing of another tram within an arm’s length of my window has broken my chain of thought. The
sounds that had been suppressed force their way bac k into my mind and I feel my heart race as a result, causing a feeling of wea kness and nausea. The drunks are reeling and cursing in the backyard and I can hear the junkie from the building next door discussing his next fix in the c ar parked crookedly on the pavement. Somewhere a baby is screaming its unfatho mable, unreasonable midnight demands and through the walls comes the du ll thud of endless euro-techno. It’s a humid night and there is the sickly sweet smell of decomposing
human waste in the air because the flat upstairs do esn’t have a flush toilet, just a hole in a plank that leads to a hole in the ground next to my back door. It’s called a “dry toilet” despite being nothing of the sort.
The house on the hill is real – I have seen it – bu t I can’t afford it. However, the fact that you are still reading gives me some h ope that one day that idyllic Latvian landscape may replace this one, for which, as I have already noted, you will receive my very sincere thanks.
THE CAPITAL OF ESTONIA
CERTAINLY HE WAS IN PAIN, though probably not quite as much pain as his grimace suggested. His cheeks were red and puffed o ut, his brow furrowed, with a light coating of perspiration and his lips disapp eared inwards to be lost in the undergrowth of his beard. His face collapsed in a s econd contortion, such as might be seen in some depiction of an unfortunate p agan being persuaded into the Christian fold by crusading knights with the ai d of red-hot pincers and a large wooden mallet. Then the moment of relief – Viktor Draaks’ bleary e yes opened wide, the lips re-emerged from the tangled forest of facial hair a nd the brow became
becalmed. He let out a long, beatific sigh, the end of which was drowned out by
an unexpected flushing, courtesy of what must have been a sensor somewhere
in the toilet bowl. Such are the features that win a hotel five stars. The rush of water gave Viktor a nasty surprise and he staggered to his feet in Simian pose, legs slightly bent and arms reaching down to pull u p his shorts.
As hotel bathrooms went, this was not a bad one, Vi ktor acknowledged as he peered into the mirror. The bath looked large en ough even for his considerable girth, the floor was warm beneath his feet and the complimentary toiletries had such tiny labels on them that they m ust be expensive. There was even a make-up mirror on a flexible stalk, in which the central glass was surrounded by a circular corona of bright light, li ke a miniature version of the array in an operating theatre. He leaned toward it, gaining a magnified vision of his luxuriant nose hair in the process. He pulled a t a couple of the pioneering follicles but when he realised how painful they wer e to remove this way, quickly abandoned the strategy and faced himself, naked in the full length mirror. At least his flesh still looked elastic, even if th at very quality was being
tested by a fair amount of excess flab. Viktor had been born with a clumsy but
robust frame. He looked stronger than he was, as if somewhere deep within him he should possess the earthy strength of peasant fo rebears. But years of study and an academic career had seen that seed of vigour slowly dry and shrink while the husk looked unchanged. Perhaps it was not yet d ead, but it seemed unlikely it would ever emerge again now that he was into the middle of middle age. Nevertheless there remained something distinctly be arish about Viktor’s
appearance – an irony, as others had noted – and th e impression was reinforced
as he emitted a low-pitched growl and scowled briefly. The growl was a subconscious phenomenon of which he remained unaware, though it certainly had not escaped the notice of o thers. The scowl was to check
his complexion. The wrinkles around his eyes and th e corners of his mouth were quite distinguished, he noted with satisfaction. He felt himself to be a “character” and characters needed a characterful face and a cha racterful presence. Viktor
had both, though like the bearish growl, perhaps hi s idea of his character did not
always tally with the one his acquaintances would w hisper about. He slapped his belly, which was hairy at the sides and bald in the middle as if his navel was a well in a forest clearing. It wo bbled in a troubled manner for a
couple of seconds. Viktor stood on his tiptoes, the n rocked back on his heels. A ripple ran down his belly from top to bottom, then bounced halfway back again. Was he putting on weight? Hard to tell. Different m irrors give different
verdicts and Viktor looked in so many different mir rors in so many different hotels it was impossible to maintain a very precise idea of his own physical appearance. He consoled himself with the thought th at in all probability this was
a particularly unflattering mirror and that he was still a bit puffed up after the flight from Belgrade. He sucked his belly in and st ood in profile. It could have been worse. Air travel always promoted a certain bi liousness and it was inflicted
on him just as frequently as these blasted mirrors. If he ate a little more healthily and took a little more exercise, it could make a great deal of difference. He toyed with the idea in a half-hearted way as he dressed. All it would take was the odd
visit to the swimming pool or an unaccompanied ramb le through the streets of
whichever town he happened to be in.
It would be simple enough to limit oneself to a sin gle glass of wine – two at
most – and opt for the fruit salad instead of the s orbet. He was not a bad-looking
man underneath, and his features possessed a certai n determination that was
preferable to youth or prettiness. Much as he hated to admit it, on the circuit these days appearance seemed to matter more than it did ten or fifteen years ago. The nice-looking speakers increasingly got inv itations to events that their
mental abilities barely merited. On the flight from Belgrade he’d noticed as he read the in-flight magazine that something similar seemed to have happened in t he world of classical music. Flicking through the pages, he had skim-read the bl ather about which were the best restaurants in various destinations, confident that he would visit them all eventually, and had briefly been amused by an adver tisement of hopeless naivety attempting to lure tourists to a Latvian to wn significant only for its gas
terminal but whose smiling mayor suggested would be worth a visit on account