I can forgive the Macedonian dictionary police everything now, those post-World War II scourers and scrubbers, those nation-building bleachers, those language-sterilising erasers with all their good intentions. Because right here, in front of me, at the 44th International Summer Seminar of Macedonian, Literature and Culture, I hold in my hands – in my hands! – a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of the fourth volume – but how many could there be? – of the old, rare and precious Dictionary of Greasy Words, to translate literally.
And it's full, so full – I should've known, I should've anticipated – of the most wonderfully foul, dirty, but good, Macedonian phrases, idioms, proverbs, blessings, curses, stories, jokes.
They were collected, our young, feminist linguistics lecturer Ilina tells us, from the illiterate but verbose tobacco-growing inhabitants of the Bitola-Prilep region in the late 1800s. But can't you just see them? I can.
The old men, sure, but those head-scarved, cheesy-smelling old women sitting on wooden stools in village squares, slapping their thighs, a cackle always ready in their throats, each singing, “But learned sir, wait! I'm not finished! Don't go! I've got another whole volume inside me alone!”
In my imagination, they are more vivid.
How I thank them, those crones who went before me.
I thank the ethnologist, too, for his troubles, climbing and descending mountains, cracking lenses of spectacles and twisting ankles in order to do this, his important work.
I thank our lecturer Ilina, also, for coming all the way from Skopje at the last minute to replace the distinguished dictionary police descendant who was supposed to teach us this late afternoon.
That long-jowled, baggy-eyed, exhausted anthem-singer, he came down with the flu. For that I thank him too.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
But, most of all, I want to thank the words. For being. For forever remaining not just on the page but always in the body, our bodies, my body, slick and slippery and wet, dripping in fat, leaking with lard and grease, waiting and ever-ready for the slightest chance to shriek with joy and life.
Tamara Lazaroff is a Brisbane-based writer of fiction and creative non-fiction. Her work has been published, performed and broadcast in Australia, New Zealand and the U.K. She is currently working towards the completion of her short story collection, 'Walnuts, Almonds, Nuts & Other Stories'. She also makes zines. In late August, she'll be launching her new zine 'In My Father's Village' at the Zine and Independent Comic Symposium 2017.