|Doina Ruşti||Mămica la două albăstrele||Patru bărbaţi plus Aurelius||Cămaşa în carouri||Lizoanca||Fantoma din moară||Zogru||Omuleţul roşu|
at the age of eleven
TREI Publishing House
The Prize of Romanian Academy/2009
I read this horrendous headline in a newspaper: Eleven-year-old prostitute infects entire village with syphilis. Then I saw the same story in all the rest of the press. The girl, who had parents and an average standard of living, was held responsible for almost all the cases of syphilis in her village. The tone of the newspaper articles, the unanimity of the accusations, and the repetition of the same headline from one newspaper to the next determined me to investigate the situation and to write this novel.
In Romania around two hundred cases of child abuse are covered by the media every year. Apart from these cases there are, of course, many others that go unreported. The novel Lizoanca at the age of eleven is based on this factual situation.
The main character, Lizoanca, is a young girl (eleven years old) disgusted at the way her parents treat her. She takes refuge at the edge of the village, together with another three children, and they begin to lead a libertine life, which, in fact, presupposes the complicity of adults. Once the girl is discovered to have syphilis, public opinion treats her as a danger to society. At the same time, a number of events take place at the foreground of which are the abused children that society ignores. Also against this background a number of characters involved in Lizoanca's life recollect their experiences at the age of eleven, a taboo age which during the course of the novel becomes a threshold difficult to cross. It is beyond this age that adult life begins.
“Lizoanca at 11 years” is the story of an abused child, a little girl’s drama that takes a wrong turn in life, because of different factors influence its existence. Lizoanca, a kid of 11 years, from a certain village in Romania, sells herself to anyone that has to offer something to eat, something to dress, a temporary roof or protection. She does so from the age of nine and it seems natural to her. Not the other, but her parents will not / can not provide these things, instead, her father administers a „healthy”beating and not just to her, all her family members get same treatment. So Lizoanca is always on the road and never at school or at home.Her mother is also abused by her husband, she can’t help the girl in any way, even in some moments she agrees with the latter, the only thing worth Lizoanca to return to the right track is a sound beating.The girl does what she does because she has no other alternative, because she got into an entourage of children as her, kids that ran away from home, which shows her the way out of this drama .
Although everyone knows the girl’s situation, nobody is trying to help, not even her tutor who seems to differentiate himself from the rest of the village. The school director seems to agree with the punishment imposed, even in an episode in which Lizoancas father comes to recover the girl from school, she is not shocked by the violent beating applied to the girl, in fact she suggests that her father would do better to punish the girl at home. Nobody supports the girl, no one tries to protect her from the abusive father, no one tries to pull her from that environment.
Everything goes crazy when a friend of Lizoanca is diagnosed as infected with syphilis. From here, the whole village is called to have analysis done and the vast majority of men in the village are tested, the result beeing positive. News reaches the media and many reports get headlines: “A prostitute for 11 years has filled a whole village of syphilis”.
Although the press publishes the case, reporters are not interested in why the girl is pushed to do these things. On the other hand, it seems that almost all the characters that relate to the girl are corrupt, have had a miserable childhood, have encountered all sorts of hardships. In turn, all these characters remember themselves at the age of 11 years, recalling important moments of that period, moments that have marked their life. These events brought major changes in the life of the characters that come into contact with Lizoanca, how they behave now is due to trauma they have lived in a very early age.
This book holds no place for wonderful childhood. No one has had one or has enjoyed it. Child prostitution, alcohol, beating are things on the agenda. Poverty, a full time span of the head, all these factors affect people in certain social categories, like the Lizoanca. Inspired by a real case, Doina Rusti’s book draws an alarm: people, these things.
at the age of eleven
by Doina Ruşti
Excerpt from the book
1. The man’s hand had grasped her by the ear and some tufts of hair, and now he was dragging her through the pales of the fence. But she was struggling with all her might, pressing herself against the concrete post and bawling:
“Fuck you, you ox! You maggoty corpse! What do you want with me? Fuck you and your ma and your pa and the whole lot of you!”
The man smacked her across her livid tear-smeared face, which was jerking about in the hole in the fence, and clouted her with his fist over the top of her head. Then he caught her mouth between his fingers, like in a vice, and at last dragged her half onto the grass in the yard.
“Fuck you and fuck the day you were born! It was I that made you and it’ll be I that kills you, you fucking slut!”
Lizoanca raised her eyes from the grass and glimpsed the sole of his boot, the toecap of which had just punted her, leaving her winded. She couldn’t feel her left jaw, but she knew she was drooling into the blades of couch grass. After that there followed five or six more kicks, and if she played dead she might survive. She shielded her head with her free hand, while trying to free her other from underneath her, and began to count the blows, one-two-three, then the iron hand of her father grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and hauled her up. She opened her eyes and saw the worm-like vein throbbing on his temple. He was unshaven and his eyebrows loured over his gaze:
“Where’ve you been, you damned tart?!” He glanced at her savagely, and Lizoanca cast poisoned darts back at him, which enraged him all the more: two stares born of the most ferocious scorn.
“That’s right, look at me like the good-for-nothing you are! Is that why I fathered you and fed you! Is that why I made you, girl, so that you’d defy me and shit on my word?”
Lizoanca knew that it would be best just to bawl with her head lowered, but she couldn’t – at the back of her throat a dragon’s head had already sprouted, which could hardly wait to dart at her deadly foe and grind him in its molars.
(trans: Alistair Ian Blyth)
Copyright © Doina Ruşti