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Grandmother’s Apples

  • by
Agota Kristof

We run from the priest’s house to the cobbler’s house. His windowpanes are broken; his door is smashed in. Inside, everything has been ransacked. Filthy words are written on the walls.

An old woman is sitting on a bench in front of the house next door. We ask her:

“Has the cobbler gone away?”

“A long time ago, the poor man.”

“He wasn’t among those who went through town today?”

“No, the ones who went today came from somewhere else. In cattle trucks. Him, he was killed here, in his workshop, with his own tools. Don’t worry. God sees everything. He will recognise His Own.

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When we get home, we find Grandmother lying on her back in front of the garden gate, her legs apart, apples scattered all around her.

Grandmother doesn’t move. Her forehead is bleeding. We run to the kitchen, wet a cloth and take the brandy down from the shelf. We put the wet cloth on Grandmother’s forehead and pour brandy into her mouth. After a while she opens her eyes and says:


We pour more brandy into her mouth.

She raises herself up on her elbows and starts shouting:

“Pick up the apples! What are you waiting for, sons a bitch?”

We pick the apples up from the dusty road. We put them in her apron.

The cloth has fallen from Grandmother’s forehead. Blood is trickling into her eyes. She wipes it away with a corner of her shawl.

We ask:

“Are you hurt, Grandmother?”

She sniggers:

“It’ll take more than a blow from a rifle butt to kill me off.”

“What happened, Grandmother?”

“Nothing. I was picking apples. I came to the gate to watch the procession. My apron slipped; the apples fell and rolled into the road. In the middle of the procession. That’s no reason to hit someone.”

“Who hit you Grandmother?”

“Who do you think? You’re not fools! They hit them too. They hit the people in the crowd. But all the same there were some who were able to eat my apples!”

We help Grandmother get up. We take her into the house. She starts peeling the apples to make a compote, but she falls down and we carry her to her bed. We take off her shoes. Her shawl slips off; a completely bald skill appears. We put her shawl back on. We stay by her bedside for a long time, holding her hands and watching her breathe.

This is a chapter from Agota Kristof’s The Notebook trilogy

The stage was prepared for this Time for a Story Time Story using The Partisans.

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