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    #1

    On the run, part eight

    Would you please take a look at the eighth part of my short story and correct my mistakes.

    In the morning, I received 70 marks from the camp administration to buy toiletries and razors. Miroslav offered to show me the city and help me to buy these things. We boarded a tram without buying tickets, and I was afraid the ticket inspectors would turn up and give us fines, but he said, “Don’t be childish. I’ve been here for more than five months and I never got caught.”
    “But what if they stop you and demand a ticket?”
    “I pretend I understand nothing, and jump out at the next stop. Don’t worry. Nobody is going to run after you. Sit down and relax, man.”

    I did as he told me, sat in a comfortable seat, and looked out the perfect clean window. The rush hour was behind us, and the tram was half-full. People were mostly silent, and those who conversed, did it quietly. The floor was polished, and without a trace of dirt or dust. I breathed in the distinct scents of women’s perfumes, and thought how different this tram was from public transport in my homeland, where busses and trams were often dirty and smelled of sweat, garlic and slivovitz. We got off after a few minutes and went into a supermarket where you could chose between dozens of different toothpastes, shampoos and shower gels. My eyes wandered from one article to another, and I became dizzy from such an excess of products. The streets were lined with large shop windows offering all kinds of exclusive wares and services, people in socialist countries could only dream of. Behind the thick panes of glass stood the shiny Japanese motorcycles, large TVs, dark stereos with powerful loudspeakers, classical and electronic music instruments and photo and film cameras. The decadent West was blooming while the progressive East stagnated in its ideological quagmire and without a way out in sight.

    We came to the main square, and in the middle of it was a brown pyramid, a few meters high, which drew all attention to itself. The golden inscription on one of its sides read that margrave Karl Wilhelm laid the first foundation stone of his new residence and of this city on the 17th of June 1715. On the opposite side, I could read the date of his death. The pyramid was his tomb. “Let’s go and visit his palace,” Miroslav said. After a short walk, in front of us stood a pale-yellow, a baroque-style palace, serene and magnificent and its beauty and form. I had never before seen a palace, except on TV, and now I was stunned. The large, manicured, front lawn was lined on both sides by the statues in white stone representing characters from the Greek and Roman mythology. But my knowledge of mythology was scarce, and I could not tell which was which. Under one of them, a black woman was singing a ballad in English. Her deep, powerful voice rose and floated above the ground as if carried on a current of air. Her male companion was standing a few meters away, and with a video camera filmed her performance. A group of tourists stopped and stood still, captivated by her voice. When she finished, a man came up and asked her is he could get her autograph. The woman was embarrassed. “But I’m not a professional singer,” she said. “Madam, you sing much better than hundreds of singers I’ve heard in my life,” he said.
    Miroslav and I walked on, viewing all the sides of the palace and its surroundings. He asked me if I was hungry, and when I answered I was hungry like a wolf, he said he was going to treat me with a hamburger. I had seen McDonald’s only in films and TV series, made in the West. I saw people munching at the buns with meat and vegetables inside them and often talking at the same time, but I knew nothing about it. I saw it not as food, but as a prop, almost ubiquitous in the American films.

    I was mildly disappointed when we went inside. I sat in a plastic chair at the plastic table while Miroslav ordered our food at the cash desk. Behind it suspended from the ceiling, hung enlarged pictures of burgers and their names. You had to look up at them as if they were portraits of saints. The personnel were dressed in blue uniforms and wore funny little hats. Miroslav returned with a plastic tray and our burgers and chips in the white little bags with a red McDonald’s sign. We drank Coca Cola from the red paper cups. I bite into the bun, chewed it, and was not impressed with the taste. It felt artificial, a laboratory product rather than natural food. Miroslav asked me if I liked it, and I told him I was not impressed. We in Yugoslavia had much better food. Our grilled dishes were renowned. This burger was like a Hollywood movie. As soon as it is finished, you feel nothing. “You’ll get used to it, and love it, just as I do,” he said. But I was not convinced.
    TO BE CONTINUED

  1. Eckaslike's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: On the run, part eight

    Hello Bassim,

    Quote Originally Posted by Bassim View Post
    In the morning, I received 70 marks from the camp administration to buy toiletries and razors. Miroslav offered to show me the city and help me to buy these those things. We boarded a tram without buying tickets, and I was afraid the ticket inspectors would turn up and give us fines, but he said, “Don’t be childish. I’ve been here for more than five months and I've never got been caught.” to which I replied “But what if they stop you and demand a ticket?”, and he explained “I pretend I understand nothing, and jump out at the next stop. Don’t worry. Nobody is going to run after you. Sit down and relax, man.”

    I did as he told me, sat in a comfortable seat, and looked out of the perfectly clean window. The rush hour was behind us, and the tram was half-full. People were mostly silent, and those who conversed spoke, did it so quietly. The floor was polished, and without a trace of dirt or dust. I breathed in the distinct scents of women’s perfumes, and thought how different this tram was from public transport in my homeland, where busses and trams were often dirty and smelled of sweat, garlic and slivovitz. We got off after a few minutes and went into a supermarket where you could chose between dozens of different toothpastes, shampoos and shower gels. My eyes wandered from one article to another, and until I became dizzy from such an excess of products. The streets were lined with large shop windows offering all kinds of exclusive wares and services, that people in socialist countries could only dream of. Behind the thick panes of glass stood the shiny Japanese motorcycles, large TVs, dark stereos with powerful loudspeakers, classical and electronic music instruments and photographic and film cine-cameras. The decadent West was blooming [booming or blossoming work slightly better here depending on what you want to say] while the progressive[?] East stagnated in its ideological quagmire and without a way out in sight.

    We came to the main square, and in the middle of it was a brown pyramid, a few meters high, which drew all attention to itself. The golden inscription on one of its sides read that mMargrave Karl Wilhelm laid the first foundation stone of his new residence, and of this city, on the 17th of June 1715. On the opposite side, I could read the date of his death. The pyramid was his tomb. “Let’s go and visit his palace,” Miroslav said. After a short walk, in front of us stood a pale-yellow,a baroque-style palace, serene and magnificent and in its beauty and form. I had never before seen a palace before, except on TV, and now I was stunned. The large, manicured, front lawn was lined on both sides by the statues in white stone representing characters from the Greek and Roman mythology. But my knowledge of mythology was scarce, and I could not tell which was which. Under one of them, a black woman was singing a ballad in English. Her deep, powerful voice rose and floated above the ground as if carried on a current of air. Her male companion was standing a few meters away, and with a video camera filmed her performance with a cine-camera. A group of tourists stopped and stood still, captivated by her voice. When she finished, a man came up and asked her is if he could get her autograph. The woman was embarrassed. “But I’m not a professional singer,” she said. “Madam, you sing much better than hundreds of singers I’ve heard in my life,” he said.

    Miroslav and I walked on, viewing all the sides of the palace and its surroundings. He asked me if I was hungry, and when I answered I was as hungry as like a wolf, he said he was going to treat me with a hamburger. I had only seen McDonald’s only in films and TV series, made in the West. I saw people munching at the buns with meat and vegetables inside them, and often talking at the same time, but I knew nothing about it. I saw it not didn't see it as food, but as a prop, almost ubiquitous in the American films.

    I was mildly disappointed when we went inside. I sat in a plastic chair at the plastic table while Miroslav ordered our food at the cash desk. Behind it suspended from the ceiling, hung enlarged pictures of burgers and their names. You had to look up at them as if they were portraits the icons of saints. The personnel employees were dressed in blue uniforms and wore funny little hats. Miroslav returned with a plastic tray and our burgers and chips in the white little bags with a red McDonald’s sign. We drank Coca Cola from the red waxed paper cups. I bite into the bun, chewed it, and was not unimpressed with the taste. It felt artificial, a laboratory product rather than natural food. Miroslav asked me if I liked it, and I told him I was not impressed that I did not. We iIn Yugoslavia we had much better food. Our grilled dishes were renowned. This burger was like a Hollywood movie. As soon as it is was finished, you feel felt nothing. “You’ll get used to it, and love it, just as I do,” he said. But I was not convinced.
    TO BE CONTINUED
    Yet another very good piece of writing.

    Many of the changes I have made are due to style, and the way English flows, rather than because what you had written was necessarily wrong.

    1. I don't think "progressive" quite works in the second paragraph, although I think I know what you mean. Are you saying that the East was more intellectually advanced? If that is the case I would use the word "intellectual". I would then use the adjective "booming" to describe the West.
    This would then become:

    "The decadent West was booming while the intellectual East stagnated in its ideological quagmire, without a way out in sight."

    You then have the two highlighted phrases which completely contrast with each other, and I think they work really well.

    2. I have noticed that many Slavic learners of English tend to write sentences which start, or contain formations such as:
    "I had never before now noticed that she was so beautiful."

    To the English speaker's ear this seems a little odd, although perfectly understandable, and I presume it is because of the way Slavic languages work.

    In English we most often try to keep the main verbs together at the start of a sentence, rather than split them with phrases which provide further information. So I would naturally use:

    "I had never noticed before now that she was so beautiful."

    For us "I had never noticed" is much more important than "before now" and so it needs to be kept together.

    I'm sure from your level of English that you probably know all this already, and I do realise that you have multiple things to try and balance, and so this is purely a gentle reminder of this point. This is only because the second formation helps to make your writing instantly sound like natural English.


    3.
    I used "cine-camera" because that is the term which came to mind for a hand held film camera of the 1960s. In the first sentence it also helps distinguish between cameras for photos and cameras for moving pictures. In the second it is used for consistency.

    4. "Hungry like a wolf":
    Although this is perfectly understandable it has connotations, to me anyway, of a sort of mad slavering animal and is so almost too intense for the context. It is slightly reminiscent of things being hunted, like people in horror films being hunted by a werewolf.

    For some strange reason, "as hungry as a wolf" seems much less intense, probably because it is encased within the standard and very familiar English phrase structure of, "as ..... as a .....". We have the idiom "as hungry as a horse", but I don't think that conjures up how intensely hungry you were, as I think it implies needing to eat a large quantity. The "wolf" phrase works better in your context, because you want to eat something now and quickly, and it also reminds us of the phrase "to wolf something down".
    Last edited by Eckaslike; 25-Sep-2015 at 16:00. Reason: Typo correction.

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    #3

    Re: On the run, part eight

    Eckaslike,

    Thank you for your time, help and advice.
    Regarding your correction I have to tell you that the words you added to my dialogue "to which I replied" and "he explained" are seen nowadays as redundant. I have read a few books about editing of fiction, and the authors agree that when they see such words in dialogues, they know that the writer is a beginner. For example, in the sentence "she asked curiously," adverb curiously is redundant. In a dialogue, between two persons one should use only "he said or she said" once or twice so that the reader can orientate himself, and then continue the dialogue without " he said or she said." Only occasionally one should use adverbs in a dialogue, for example when a writer wants to emphasise the behaviour and words of a person. The less words one uses the better, especially when it is clear who is speaking. I hope that this information will be usefully to you also.

    Regarding the use of the word "progressive", I understand that I should have used it with quotation marks. My protagonist have grown up in socialism and they taught him since he was a child that socialism was progressive and capitalism was backward and decadent, but now he can see with his own eyes that they had taught him a lie. The word "progressive" is irony.

    In my sentence "Her male companion was standing a few meters away and with a video camera filmed her performance." I have used "a video camera" because the story is from the middle of the 1980's, and at that time video cameras like VHS and Beta were coming on the market. In a previous chapters, I have already mentioned that Tito had been dead for a few years, so that a reader can understand when roughly the story takes place.

  2. Eckaslike's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: On the run, part eight

    Hi Bassim,

    I'm glad that some of the changes were of use.

    What you have written makes perfect sense. I agree that the usage of "he said" etc are often redundant, especially in modern novels, so that is fine. Ignore those bits.

    Similarly, "progressive" in quotation marks as an ironic statement works very well, so of course use that as now I know your intention.

    Finally, ignore my error about "video camera". Because one of the earlier parts I had read mentioned the 1960s and that had incorrectly stuck in my mind. Yes, if it's set in the 1980s at that point then "video camera" is totally appropriate.

    At the moment, I'm still finding out what you do, or don't know. Each time we correspond I realise a bit more about how much you obviously do know!

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    #5

    Re: On the run, part eight

    Eckaslike,
    Thank you for your kind words. I like to read and search for information whenever I can. I am not like the majority of people who read the news and believe that was it. I like to know what was not in the news, what piece of information the editor did not want to publish for some reason. But I have seen that many people do not like to hear the truth, so I mostly keep myself to myself and try to better myself as a human being. And when you are alone, you have to be strong both psychologically and mentally. I am treating my brain as my best friend and asking him what he likes the most. And he tells me that I have to read, write and learn. For example, by correcting my text today and showing me where I made mistakes, and giving me advice, you have made me glad. You have shared a piece of knowledge with me, which is one of the best presents a human being can give to his fellow human. Regarding my English I know mostly what I read in the books of all kinds, reading newspapers and asking teachers different question on this forum. The last time I talked English with someone in person, it was almost two years ago. If I had come to England in 1993 instead of Sweden, I would have certainly spoken perfect English now, and my life would have been different, but I cannot change the past. I can only look at the future and learn something about myself and our world. I think that everyone of us lives in his own reality, and does not want to see that there is another world different than his own. People like to have contact with those who think and behave like themselves and ignore those who think and behave differently. I try to see what is behind a beautiful face, façade or attractive masque. My mind analyses faces, eyes, spoken words and other visual things and tells me which way to take.

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