Elizabeth Kostova Foundation

INITIATION, An excerpt from a novel in progress

Prophecies work in reverse. I see them only now. How the heat lightning flashed across my bedroom through the night, cutting my dreams short and sending me spinning in place, face squashed every which way into the mattress though the light persisted blue-electric on the insides of my eyelids. How I woke to my mother reciting my full name, Katherine Leland Katherine Leland Katherine Leland you've done it again, her anger so loud I heard it all the way from the basement, where I found her clutching a t-shirt splotched with ink, the washing machine's mouth gaping open and smelling of burning.

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 11:20
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WAITING FOR THE ELECTRICITY, An excerpt from a novel

In the beginning, when God was distributing the land to all the nations, we Georgians missed the meeting. The next morning we looked around and realized we were homeless. "Hey!" we shouted to God. "What about our land?"

"Where were you last night?" He asked. "You missed the meeting. I already gave away all the land."

"We were drinking!" we cried out. "We were toasting Your name!"

God was so pleased with us that He gave us the land He was saving for Himself. That’s why we are supposed to relax and enjoy the beauty of God’s earth.

Tue, 04/04/2017 - 06:45
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YEAR OF WOMEN, An excerpt from a novel

There's a minibus going everywhere, I swear. Even in the shittiest little towns, six to eight people get dropped off every two hours. I couldn't imagine what anyone else wanted in Stefan Voda, unless they somehow had jobs and still wanted to live there.

It was picturesque, like Grigorievca, with tin-cutout wells and weathered gingerbread on the houses and gates. Some fluffy yellow dogs with curly tails were scuffling around by someone's fence. I remembered how no young people stayed in the village and wondered if they all – the girls, anyway – ended up like Cristina.

Tue, 01/03/2017 - 12:56
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THE INHERITANCE OF HOPE, An excerpt from a short story

Some folks like to warn that money can’t buy happiness, but I figure it’s hope that holds real worth. Twelve days before emigrating from Będzin, Poland, to the hilled landscape of Oregon in 1943, my great-grandpa Alistair made a single, significant purchase. With the last of his savings he bought a ring for his wife, Kazia. It was forged by a goldsmith who claimed he could weave the couple’s aspirations right into the metal, preserving their visions for the future as neatly as life sealed in amber. Sometimes, that’s all you can do with misery such as theirs – manipulate it, melt it down.

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 15:16
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THE MIRACLE OF ST ELIZABETH, An excerpt from the novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman

This being a crucial period of my life, a period of serious decision making, just as I sit there, all of a sudden – bang! Here it comes! Another decision! So I decide to put an end to the tormenting cycle (no more isolation, no more cheese sandwiches, no more insomnia and gossip magazines).

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:07
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NOT TONIGHT, An excerpt from a work in progress

Tonight, there are no lovers walking down the park alleys. There are no kings in the castles, and the princesses die alone – they have no frogs or peas. Tonight, the inkpots are empty, and the words are uncountable. Tonight, all shouts are muffled by unbearable silence. Tonight, the barefoot do not find shoes, and the anthills are too few, too small, and too far away to save lost wanderers. Tonight, children sob softly, mothers behave unreasonably, and fathers – they remain unknown.

Thu, 09/08/2016 - 11:31
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THE INSTRUMENTARIUM MODEL OF THE CITY, An excerpt from a short story

I used to think that I was Leno's main passion, then that I could be Leno's main passion, displacing the City from his heart and mind, and even from the pages he wrote. But that was "before" and it was short-lived. Rather quickly, I realized that it was the exits, these invisible, unattainable points, that inspired his desire. None of them could be found on my body or person. We both realized this early on. But Leno held on to me: he wanted me by his side, nevertheless. I did not spend much time pouring over the letter.

Wed, 06/29/2016 - 11:47
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THE ARTIFICIAL ALBATROSS, An excerpt from a short story

The year we became minimalists was the same year we gave up meat. You decided these things were for one another, and so this is what we did. Some years previous, when we had decided to be two women in love, we were incredible disasters. I had sloppily painted the walls a burnt orange and draped silk scarves atop the lamps, rather than replacing their spent bulbs.

Wed, 06/08/2016 - 13:14
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RAPUNZEL'S TOWERS, A short story

Every morning, between six and seven thirty, thousands of gray-haired Rapunzels rise, gently toss their blankets aside and make their way to the kitchen. Some make breakfast for their grandchildren. Others leave bread crumbs for the pigeons on the balcony. They put coffee-makers or teapots on the stove. Some even turn on the radio. Inside, there's a slight draft. So they wrap their cardigans more tightly around their bodies, and clasp the cup of coffee or tea with lots of sugar with both hands. They feel chilly, they always do, but what else could they close in order to stop the draft?

Mon, 05/09/2016 - 15:13
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THE PLACE, An excerpt from a work in progress

You can enter by the road from the south, the north, the east or even the west, although the west road, unfortunately, is not very good. Actually, even then it was quite bad and annoying to drive on, with lots of potholes; there would often be fallen trees. There is no reason to think that the road is better now. You cannot be sure what to expect, once you manage to get into the city. Even back then, the buildings had almost entirely lost their magnificence and charm, which was reminiscent of a decent past, and suggested a relatively prosperous future.

Mon, 03/07/2016 - 13:38
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GREEN AND GOLD

To my father

 

She has no idea if the time she has left is enough. But the desire is stronger than common sense and she starts piling up pillows to hem in the corner of the huge bed where she can sink fully into her thoughts and find peace at last. In the house time has its own clock, slow and different. She hopes nobody is going to look for her.

She falls asleep before she knows it, carried away by shouts and voices distant as the world outside this room. Everything starts from the beginning like the breaking day.

Mon, 01/04/2016 - 14:25
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DELICATE THUGS, An excerpt from a new novel, entitled Gently, Lovingly, Farmingly

Billy was an old-school hustler. His complexion revealed a few things – a bachelor still living with his 75-year-old mother who provided for him, permanently devoid of work habits, managing the local soccer team on and off in exchange for a puny salary granted by the village mayor as compensation for his active involvement during elections i.e.

Tue, 11/03/2015 - 15:41
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THE INFECTION OF BEING, an excerpt from a novel

Five years of getting up at seven. Suits, dress shirts, blazers and high heels. Hair up in a bun, nails painted nude. Less than ten years ago, I used to dream of it, hoped to build a career some day, saw myself precisely like this – in a large company, with a flashy office, in a prestigious and important position… And the weird thing is, I still like my job. Well, kind of. But more often than not I hate it.

Fri, 09/11/2015 - 16:09
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TRIGGER CUT. THREE ACTS FROM A LIFE, A short story

1.

One evening, two weeks before loan sharks would chase him away into the unknowable depths of Indonesia, Frankie's father sat and sighed at the dinner table. It was the round marble table with a Lazy Susan, stained with sesame and chili oil-spills.

"What's wrong?" Frankie asked, doubled over, hands above his knees. He was breathless and sweaty from running up and down the alleyway, chasing the fat brown dog with the lolling tongue.

Frankie's father sat frowning at his left palm.

Sat, 08/08/2015 - 07:57
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THE COMPUTER PROGRAMMER, An excerpt from a novel

The number of clients I had was growing, and so were my apprehensions about how I was going to manage.

"Hello," the Computer Programmer said and took off his jacket, which looked like an oversized piece of kids' clothing. His red boxers were peeking out over the belt of his jeans. "I've come to you with a specific question."

I felt a sudden urge to explain what a psychotherapist's job was, and that he was neither a fortune-teller nor a TV game show contestant, which is why he couldn't be expected to give answers that were either right or wrong.

Wed, 07/08/2015 - 11:57
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