Thursday, February 11, 2010

Barry Callaghan ... author of note

Back from my vacation in the Dominican Republic where I did nothing but eat a lot, drink a lot, sleep a lot, wade a bit and read a bit. Read Barry Callaghan's "Between Trains" a collection of short stories, some of which can stay with you a long time. Callaghan is a graduate of the University of Toronto and I believe he is now a professor at York University, Toronto and most of his writings have names of places within Toronto so familiar and endearing to those of us living here in this city.

From his short story Drei Alter Kockers:

Once a month, between trains, as several of the Kanada crew stretched out on the grass under the chestnut trees and drank watery coffee and vodka, an SS officer; to amuse himself, allowed - under very close guard - two prisoners to play Russian roulette with a Colt .45 the officer had taken from the body of a dead American soldier outside the town of Casino in Italy.

A prisoner who played and came out of the game of roulette alive was given two bottles of vodka on top of his regular ration, and two days off with no work, with nothing to do but drink.

The men who chose to play roulette were usually in a state of exhausted hysteria, feverish in their sleeplessness, or, they had become "Muslimmen" - men who were apathetic and earning to die, or, they were hopelessly drunk.

Jakov had played the game three times, siting corss-legged in front of fellow prisoners, three men who had blown their brains out, the last of his three games played on the evening before the camp was rousted out at dawn with all the prisoners being driven from the camp to begin a forced march double-file on back roads into Germany as the Soviet armoured divisions and infantry advanced out of the east.

Several Kapos were strangled in the night by the marchers, but not Jakov, who remembering how the partisan had snuck up on him in the Warsaw woods - kept close watch on everyone.

Between two snowbound villages, Jakov Przepiorko and Herschel Soibel had trudged through the snow side-by-side. They had hardly looked at each other but Herschel had said, "You're a plump little rat."

Jakov, saying nothing, had fallen back in the line.

In Toronto, Jakov Przepiorko became Jake Piorko. For more than a year, with a fake driver's licence that he'd paid for with a gold tooth, he drove a half-ton delivery truck for Future Chicken, a slaughterhouse on Spadina Avenue. He was the only Jew on the trucks. The other drivers were black.

Meaning of Kapos and Kanada = Kapos prisoners assigned to act as foreman and informers and to work as sorters of belongings from the dead in the Nazi concentration camps. Read more here

Callaghan on looking for stories

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.