Issue #86

Spring 2023

Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský

by Ewald Murrer

translated by G.S. Evans

(relating eight cases of the Slovak-, and sometimes Hungarian-, speaking Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský, as told by the Czech-speaking poet and writer Ewald Murrer and translated into English by the English-speaking translator G.S. Evans)

The Case of the Multiple Murders

Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský, a specialist
in simple assignments,
swings his walking staff back and forth and grumbles under his breath:
"A multiple murder,
one corpse in Kočiš's meadow
two corpses by the Geranium hut
three in the Pit of Shadows
I'm afraid to think what will happen in the Bone Houses
No, this is not for me."

A black blowe sits on a telegraph pole
and crows.
"A pokolba az egésszel,"*
answers the inspector.


*To the devil with all that


The Night Case

Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský is off-duty,
lying under a checkered blanket in his bed and gazing into the darkness.
Outside the window, a full moon.
Out of somewhere, a black figure rises from the stove,
having just materialized itself there.
The bed is heard to creak, and the inspector's voice resonates into the silence:
"Turn on your other side, Satan,
while you may have decided to lie on the same bed with me,
I don't want to look at your face!'
The horned one turns to the wall.
„Aludj, sátán, aludjál,
aludj, ingó-bingó, kicsi rózsa bimbó!“*
Silent night embraces everything.


*Sleep, Satan, be asleep,
sleep, gracefully swaying rosebud!


The Case of the Mysterious Light

Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský watched the red light with revulsion
as it glowed ghostily in the garden of the house of the Ladies Council.
"This will-o'-the-wisp gives the appearance of being arousing,
but it soon sets fire to bushes, trees and large groves,
it turned both the gazebo and the shady pergola into ashes.
Along the whole of the garden it leaves behind certain fiery crumbs and icicles.
And because of this creature I can't sleep at home,
while far, far away there is a bed of silk and muslin,
into which I could be nestling myself!"
The inspector observed the goings-on of the mysterious light for the third night,
armed with a bucket of water and a prayer book.
"Bloody dolt, te légnemű, piros gazember!*
How do I catch you?
You don't even have hands onto which I can put


*you incorporeal red scoundrel!


The Case at the Wedding

Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský looked at the veil spinning in the eddy
in the murky river under the gray bridge,
from whose arches dripped muddied drops of water.
The guards on the boat poked long poles into the river.
"Poor, wretched bride, she was only a wife for a few hours,
and immediately such disagreement, such contradictions,
such a matrimonial courtship is fatal."
The inspector contemplated the current for a moment,
while a four-tiered wedding cake floated down the river.
"Arguments are the spice of a relationship
and it seems that in this case it was the hot pepper."
He kicked a myrtle wreath from the muddy bank:
"Well, I guess the groom's next wedding will be better.
Ismétlés a tudás anyja..."*


*Repetition is the mother of wisdom


The Case with the Dragon

Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský, a specialist in simple tasks,
tapped his pen and glumly began to write a report.
Outside the window a heavy snow fell, the stove was smoking.

"Such an inferior ink!" he muttered to himself.
"The dossier all a splotch, the pen so clumsy,
it's not a pen, it's some kind of bludgeon or something.
And it is even splintering – damned work!”

For a while he looked at the way it was snowing outside, composing the words in his head.
"How was everything today?" He kept humming.
"A paper kite came down from the clouds, a hideous beast,
gave me goosebumps all over.
Such a case, I'm not up to it, az ördög bújjon belé!"*

The pen scratched along the paper, off in the distance an owl hooted pessimistically.


*May the devil do it!


The Case on Rye Island

Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský gazed at the flatlands of Rye Island,
from horizon to horizon the spikelets of rye rippled, the sun beat down.
Several bustards were sitting on a small shrub.
The stout birds let out some disagreeable screeches,
to which the camels, tied together in a long row by ropes,
replied by grunting and braying.
"And what about these creatures plodding along like they were the damned?"
Ujlaky-Férfinský asked himself.
"Where is these animals' camel driver?
Look, he lies here in the rye, such a drunkard!
Idióta, kong a feje az ürességtől."*
On closer inspection, however, the inspector found
that the guy was not only drunk, but dead.
To the camels it was all the same, they continued on through the countryside,
serenely and deliberately, as though they were not even from this world.
"A vezér halott, de a karaván halad!"**


* The idiot, his head is ringing with emptiness.
**The leader is dead, but the caravan goes on!


The Case of the Escaping Delinquent

Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský sat in the office of the train dispatcher,
looking outside through the yellowed curtain
while intently tapping into the telegraph:
"The hulking locomotive enters the station, on the platform it is all topsy-turvy,
in the cabin a curly-haired angel blows steam into the organ.
In the wagons there are animals – lions, tigers, hippos, elephants.
In the wagons there are clowns and acrobats in lace.
But the one we're looking for isn't anywhere..."

In the room it was damp,
from the radio sounded the words of a song:
"Ha én páva volnék, páva módra járnék..."*

"A páva az páva,"** Ujlaky-Férfinský said, and stirred his coffee.


*If I were a peacock, I would walk like a peacock...
**A peacock is a peacock


The Case in the Garden

While answering the question, Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský
looked his commanding officer directly in the eyes,
"No, nothing moved anywhere,
just a butterfly that flew from the lilac tree,
two more that flew from the arborvitae,
from the privet shrub flew a bee, from the laurel a blue bottle fly,
from the flowering quince a large green bottle fly,
from the spindle tree a mosquito, from the barberry a wasp,
from the jasmine a ladybug, from the Japanese umbrella-pine a rose beetle,
from the cypress a May bug,
from the juniper something strange, long and leggy..."
The commander looked at the inspector with such a look,
as though it were not Ujlaky-Férfinský standing before him,
but yet another kind of monstrosity.

"És a cseresznyfáról lerepült egy seregélyraj,"* added the inspector.


*And from the cherry tree, flew a flock of starlings

Author Bio


NOTE: In the original Czech text, Anna Mlynek Maximová helped with the Slovak passages, and Eszter Honti with the Hungarian.

Ewald Murrer has had eighteen volumes of poetry and prose published in the Czech Republic over the past thirty years. One of them, Noční četba [Night Reading], won the Magnesia Litera (the most prestigious literary prize in the country) in 2020. In addition, his work has appeared in anthologies and journals internationally, and two volumes of his work, The Diary of Mr. Pinke and Dreams at the End of the Night, have been published in translation by Twisted Spoon Press. An excerpt from his The Diary of Mr. Pinke appeared in Issue 2 of The Cafe Irreal, and his story “End of the Circle” appeared in Issue 5. “Detective Inspector Ujlaky-Férfinský” [Komisař Ujlaky-Férfinský] first appeared in the Czech bi-weekly Tvar in 2022, and will be included in the collection Vulturnus: Večerem hvízdá tiché vzlykání, to be published later this year by the Malvern publishing house.

G.S. Evans is the coeditor of The Cafe Irreal. Three of his fantastical works, including Po stopách kyberkrále [In search of the Cyberking], have been published in book form in the Czech Republic; his fiction and essays have appeared in various Czech journals, including Host, Labyrint, Listy, A2, Tvar, H_Aluze and Analogon; his translations of the work of the Czech writer Arnošt Lustig have appeared in The Kenyon Review, New England Review, and New Orleans Review. His translation of the inter-war avant-garde theorist Karel Teige’s book The Marketplace of Art was recently published by Rab-Rab Press.