No one knows more, no one knows it anymore

(Ad vocem Martin Leidenfrost:

"The Dead Female in the River. The Unsolved Case of Denisa Š.")


A major moment of emotion while reading when, on New Year's eve, not even the moment of intoxicating joy materializes: in the Slovak Roma-village. A car, but no gasoline. No gas station. The car then dies. The new year begins. On the top of a dirt mount a gypsy ignites tiny firecrackers, "pathetic fireworks, fizzlers almost all of them." At this point, I am bursting into tears, here, of all places. The people are worn out, they burn up, are burnt out, even before - except with brandy - they could burn, and still, they must expend themselves. Yet, they can't buy anything for themselves. They serve the rich of "the West" (that isn't even the West, at least not from their perspective, however what can be seen from there doesn't count. It's enough to know that those over there wont come to us and certainly they shall not stay, except and of course only as long as it takes to clean up our shit, in every sense of the word), no, not as meal, they are supposed to be glad when they get something to eat and a little money for their backbreaking work.

The obscenity, the concealment of women's labor, to nurse, to nurture, to nourish, doesn't turn up in GDP stats, especially not if foreigners, obviously "under the table", do the work. We entrust them with our cast-offs, the very old, the helpless, the sick ones. For those, these foreign women throw themselves into the market place, however, in reality they are being tossed around like our play money which doesn't have any real value but that which we ourselves inscribed onto the plastic coins, funny money therefore, from the very beginning, thrown in front of us so that they can, for once, afford something in their shoddy homeland, realize modest goals, the same as here: a small house, perhaps with a yard, a nice vacation.

But all people are not the same, and these human tokens, that are flung at us: Their assignment is, with full commitment, rotating with a second woman, to take care, that's common practice, of the Herr Primar, the aged chief physician of the clinic, for example in Upper Austria, that doesn't lie higher than Austria but obviously right in the middle; on one of these many gaming tables the wheel is always being turned, and the Slovakian nurses are being used for the worn out, needy people among us, one spends oneself for the other, the other spends of and for oneself, these women have no value for all intents and purposes but only that which they have for us. These coins can only be exchanged at our counters. Not all people are the same, they are merely like us. Only those are like us who, in fact, we were once too, like the Herr Primar, Denisa's employer. The others, we are not, the working machines, even if they studied incidentally and obtained a master's degree (like Denisa, for example). We always take in two and two, who alternate their low-cost in-home-care service. They are Europe's play money, for the Herr Primar and other politicians who have families too, and no one has fun. But it must be. There is no other way. However, when any of these young women (most often the caretakers are older, the young ones can't take it) is a certain Denisa Šoltísová, you don't have to remember her name because she no longer exists (when she existed then only with regard to her blessed acts for the Herr Primar) is found in the river, - naked and dead -, where she has been lying for days, with external and internal marks of violence on and inside of her body, then, well, what then? Only at that moment, one finds out about it, when a newspaper article or a book is written about her. It was murder, Ingeborg Bachmann wrote as her last sentence in "Malina". It is always murder, but murder needs a victim and a perpetrator, and obviously neither really matters to the police in Upper Austria. The case could not and cannot be solved. We really took great pains, but regrettably, some things cannot be resolved or explained.

A being, destined to serve us and as such defined (already as a woman made to serve, as a foreigner predestined to serve us, and then to disappear possibly without a sound. Not necessarily in the river, dressed in thong and undershirt, this wouldn't have been necessary, she could have disappeared in the usual way, she didn't need to lie in the water for days, she could have left, simply gone away without having to come back as a revenant by way of an author who writes about her, to haunt us after her death and hang around amongst us. Now that the next 24-hour caretaker is already waiting for the spin of the washing machine's wheel of fortune of soiled diapers, in whose odor some have to sleep because they cannot get another room in the house.) Thus she is waiting for our esteemed family members: an attractive young woman who could serve us in quite a different way, even if we would have to force her. Such a being naked drowned amongst us in the icy cold river. The Upper Austrian police found out nothing. No one else finds out anything either, only a few find it interesting. The neighbor woman didn't find it strange when in the dead of winter, the young Slovak woman dressed in thong and undershirt ran through the streets. Maybe they are like that. That's how it is. Maybe that's what they do at home, and maybe that's why they also do it here where we live, right next door, during their servant-life with us. Denisa should be glad that she landed a job with the nice Herr Primar, an honored member of our community. She could have had it worse.

The brutality and, at the same time, casual mystery of her death, which subsequently made a lot about the young nurse worth writing down after all, hurls this discarded life (anyhow, trash is often ditched into the river where it cannot be seen) that was in our power and deteriorated possibly as a result thereof, one doesn't know, back at us, at the controllers of power and our power-cronies in the province. No one wants to know too many details, only the author Martin Leidenfrost, but he hears too much in order to understand. Power doesn't have to learn anything because it already knows everything, and the others don't have to know anything. Knowledge is only appropriate if one is privileged to obtain it. Power has the ability to abrogate the right, and thus the right of the annulled one, who, already devalued by us through granting value only with respect to us, does not belong to us, has expired.

The dead woman is released from our, and everyone else's, control. Although we cannot allow that anything is taken away from us, we can handle it just fine that a young woman was taken from our midst. People are plentiful, especially "there" where the others live, and naturally, those are different people. Not like us. We can find out a lot about the death of this foreigner, but we are not able to know anything because we don't want to know anything. Since no one wants to know anything. Power is more than violence but violence works too. Suffocation due to drowning, bruising on the forearms bears witness to the mechanical force by another person, through grabbing and pressing of the forearms with the hands of another person. Subcutaneous bruises on the upper part of both thighs (well, where do these come from? Who used mechanical force there, of all places?) Then, medicine that the victim had never taken, as all state in accord, and of which several are not even available here. Well. The victim is gone now. What's the secretive river for? And power is untruthfulness since every other truth must be destroyed as soon as it comes out. But naturally, everything else is being destroyed as well. We take no chances. We have no chances.

These Slovak women serve us by keeping our aged family members alive, and therefore they serve us in something else that we are able to determine as well. Denisa, though, will not get her life back, not by a long shot. We are keeping that, not even as collateral, since with it we can't buy anything for ourselves.

Rendered into English by Margarete Lamb-Faffelberger

Denisa Šoltísová

15.5.2009 / 29.5.2009 - revised 2.6.2009

erschienen am 14.3.2009 in Die Presse (Wien)


No one knows more, no one knows it anymore © 2009 Elfriede Jelinek


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