Summary – Chapter Ten, ‘Recurrent Secrets, 1791-1943’, Chapter Eleven, ‘A Parade, A Death, A Proposition, 1804-1969’, and A Letter (from Alex to Jonathan)
The narrative stays with Brod and it is related that she writes in her diary. She avoids mirrors ‘and lifts a powerful telescope to find herself’. She looks into the sky and back again into a narrow house. She sees a worn woman washing dishes. She then focuses on a photograph of a girl with her mother. In another room, she sees paper with handwriting that looks like hers – and it says ‘This is me with Augustine, February 21, 1943’. She looks through the wall of the attic and sees a boy and girl and sees he is reading The Book of Antecedents to her. She reads along as they read and reads of ‘The First Rape of Brod D’ and learns this happens on the 18th March 1804 on the 13th Trachimday Festival. At this time, Sofiowka rapes her.
In Chapter Eleven, we are told how Brod has been proposed to by everyone in Trachimbrod (at least once) by the time of her 12th birthday. There is a description of her dressing as a mermaid, as the Float Queen, for the 13th annual festival.
The floats pass and they are covered in butterflies. As part of the ceremony, she throws sacks in the river and the men dive in after them. We are told that Jonathan’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather retrieves the sack of 18 gold coins, which is half a year’s salary, and he says he is Shalom from Kolki.
That night, people make urgent love and astronauts, we are told, can see the glow of people making love from space. When Brod returns home that night, she shouts for Yankel and finds him curled up in the fetal position in the library and is clutching a slip of paper. He dies with the paper in one hand and the abacus bead in another and this is before he can tell her he is not her father or that he has the recurring dream of having eternal life with her.
She takes the note from his hand and sees that it is in a child’s handwriting and says ‘everything for Brod’. She sees the Kolker at the window and tells him to go away. He says he will not do this without her. Yankel then jerks in rigor mortis and knocks over the lamp. She says to the Kolker that he must do something for her.
The narrative then shifts to Jonathan’s grandmother and she is telling his mother (aged 21) to hurry. She is the age he is now. His grandmother and mother watch the moon landing together. They cry and neither hear the astronaut whisper, ‘I see something’ as he gazes over the ‘lunar horizon’ at the tiny village of Trachimbrod.
In a letter from Alex to Jonathan, dated 28 October 1997, Alex thanks him for sending another copy of the photograph of Augustine. He also says he has made the changes that Jonathan wanted and tells him that his grandfather has been crying and looking at this photograph and has heard him say Augustine’s name.
Analysis – Chapter Ten, ‘Recurrent Secrets, 1791-1943’, Chapter Eleven, ‘A Parade, A Death, A Proposition, 1804-1969’, and A Letter (from Alex to Jonathan)
In Chapters Ten and Eleven, the connections between the past, present and future are shown through the astronauts seeing the light of couples making love in Trachimbrod and in the story of Brod looking through a telescope and seeing the future narrative that tells of her rape. The linearity of time is collapsed as the past and future are folded together.
The influence of the past on the present is also a predominant concern in the letter from Alex to Jonathan. The description of his grandfather crying and looking at the photograph of Augustine also establishes how there is a mystery still to be solved about what he did during the war.