This is the prologue to my novel, it's suppposed to be a flash-forward and create interest, but I wonder if it's not a bit confusing. I'm also attempting to build suspense by alternating the narrative of Tel Aviv in the 20s-30s with what is now the final chunk of the novel, that is Nathan and Nora in Naples in 1946, though I'm not very happy about how it's going, it might be more confusing than anything else, actually. But I'm becoming increasingly intrigued by their post- Tel Aviv life (and sort of want to do something with their son as an adult).
Anyway, here goes. As usual it's a self-translation, hence the language might be off at times. Also, this is the event that I'm referring to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldo_Moro#Kidnapping
It's very obvious to Italians with the 1978 association, if I make an English version of the story I'd probably try to make it a bit clearer
The coffeemaker whistles on the stove. The old man places a cup on the oilcloth. In the years, he’s become used to strong coffee. He remembers the silver coffee and teapots of a remote past. Over here, people drink tea only when they’re sick, his wife had told him, decades ago. Don’t expect to find much of it even when rationings will be over.
He is tall, straight, still impeccably dressed.
He unfolds the paper he has bought on the way back from the synagogue. That’s another of the many ironies of his life: that now, in old age, he spends almost every morning in the antechamber of a synagogue, a prayer shawl on his shoulders. In reality, he does it only to have some company, that his wife is no longer here and his son is far away, he thinks, as if to justify himself with the young man he was, spiteful of religious matters.
He is different from the others, from those who in some cases barely knew they were Jewish before the war. Jews like him, from the North, from the East, are generally a vague and imprecise entity.
He glances at the first page of the paper, where there is the picture of a man, sitting in a hunched position, with a gaunt face and the expression of one who knows he is going to face his destiny.
No one speaks of anything else these days. Those who work in commerce worry. The old man is often told that he is lucky to have his son in the United States. He looks away from the paper, stares at the sea out of the window. “And if I told anyone, that I too, once saw a man who’d been kidnapped?” he wonders “Briefly, by chance, because it wasn’t something I was implied into directly. This one was young, but in his eyes, that were blue, there was the same expression.”
Who has ever known? Who did ever tell his story to?
He told his employer, Adriano Orvieto, fabric retailer.
The old man had recently regained his capacity of speech, after about a year of stammering and broken sentences and was indeed finally able to tell someone a story.
They were in the back of the shop, after closing time. “It seems you’ve learned Italian by now, so you can tell me who you really are.”
He stood still , still holding a spool of cotton in his arms. Mr. Orvieto pointed to it and smiled. “What were you telling my client? What was that about a city full of textile factory, that would all start to work together at the sound of a whistle?”
“Yes. And smoke started coming out from all the chimneys. Before the machines, there used to be weavers in the factories.”
“Tell me too. I’ve understood some things on my own already. You have manners, your family must have been well-off. Just look how well-dressed you can be wearing cast-offs. And you haven’t been in a camp. Whatever you have to say won’t get out of here, I won’t talk about it to anyone, even my wife.”
He told his story and Mr. Orvieto kept his promise, because he was a Jew but also a Neapolitan, who knew how to keep secrets and wasn’t much surprised by anything.
The old man survived many. His wife, Mr. Orvieto, and others. For a long time, death was present constantly and he didn’t imagine its possibility in old age, perhaps in sleep, along with white hair and wrinkles, ironed pyjamas and medicine on the night table.
It was not what he imagined during his times with Meir, Meir who will never grow old, will always be forty, and who comes into the old man’s mind, along with other ghosts of the past.
Formerly Known as Murasaki