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Daniil Kharms: Selected Prose
[Kalindov]Kalindov was standing on tiptoe and peering at me straight in the face. I found this unpleasant. I turned aside but Kalindov ran round me and was again peering at me straight in the face. I tried shielding myself from Kalindov with a newspaper. But Kalindov outwitted me: he set my newspaper alight and, when it flared up, I dropped it on the floor and Kalindov again began peering at me straight in she face. Slowly retreating, I repaired behind the cupboard and there, for a few moments, I enjoyed a break from the importunate stares of Kalindov. But my break was not prolonged: Kalindov crawled up to the cupboard on all fours and peered up at me from below. My patience ran out; I screwed up my eyes and booted Kalindov in the face.When I opened my eyes, Kalindov was standing in front of me, his mug bloodied and mouth lacerated, peering at me straight in the face as before.
Five Unfinished NarrativesDear Yakov Semyonovich,1. A certain man, having taken a run, struck his head against a smithy with such force that the blacksmith put aside the sledge-hammer which he was holding, took off his leather apron and, having smoothed his hair with his palm, went out on to the street to see what had happened. 2. Then the smith spotted the man sitting on the ground. The man was sitting on the ground and holding his head. 3. — What happened? — asked the smith. — Ooh! — said the man. 4. The smith went a bit closer to the man. 5. We discontinue the narrative about the smith and the unknown man and begin a new narrative about four friends and a harem. 6. Once upon a time there were four harem fanatics. They considered it rather pleasant to have eight women at a time each. They would gather of an evening and debate harem life. They drank wine; they drank themselves blind drunk; they collapsed under the table; they puked up. It was disgusting to look at them. They bit each other on the leg. They bandied obscenities at each other. They crawled about on their bellies. 7. We discontinue the story about them and begin a new story about beer. 8. There was a barrel of beer and next to it sat a philosopher who contended: — This barrel is full of beer; the beer is fermenting and strengthening. And I in my mind ferment along the starry summits and strengthen my spirit. Beer is a drink flowing in space; I also am a drink, flowing in time. 9. When beer is enclosed in a barrel, it has nowhere to flow. Time will stop and I will stand up. 10. But if time does not stop, then my flow is immutable. 11. No, it’s better to let the beer flow freely, for it’s contrary to the laws of nature for it to stand still. — And with these words the philosopher turned on the tap in the barrel and the beer poured out over the floor. 12. We have related enough about beer; now we shall relate about a drum. 13. A philosopher beat a drum and shouted: — I am making a philosophical noise! This noise is of no use to anyone, it even annoys everyone. But if it annoys everyone, that means it is not of this world. And if it’s not of this world, then it’s from another world. And if it is from another world, then I shall keep making it. 14. The philosopher made his noise for a long time. But we shall leave this noisy story and turn to the following quiet story about trees. 15. A philosopher went for a walk under some trees and remained silent, because inspiration had deserted him.
[Koka Briansky]Act IKOKA BRIANSKY I’m getting married today.MOTHER What?KOKA BRIANSKY I’m getting married today!MOTHER What?KOKA BRIANSKY I said I’m getting married today.MOTHER What did you say?KOKA BRIANSKY To-day — ma-rried!MOTHER Ma? What’s ma?KOKA BRIANSKY Ma-rri-age!MOTHER Idge? What’s this idge?KOKA BRIANSKY Not idge, but ma-rri-age!MOTHER What do you mean, not idge?KOKA BRIANSKY Yes, not idge, that’s all!MOTHER What?KOKA BRIANSKY Yes, not idge. Do you understand! Not idge!MOTHER You’re on about that idge again. I don’t know what idge’s got to do with.KOKA BRIANSKY Oh blow you! Ma and idge! What’s up with you? Don’t you realise yourself that saying just ma is senseless.MOTHER What did you say?KOKA BRIANSKY Ma, I said, is senseless!MOTHER Sle?KOKA BRIANSKY What on earth is all this! How can you possibly manage to catch only bits of words, and only the most absurd bits at that: sle! Why sle in particular?MOTHER There you go again — sle.KOKA BRIANSKY throttles his MOTHER. Enter his fiancee MARUSIA.
[Aleksey Tolstoy]Ol’ga Forsh went up to Aleksey Tolstoy and did something. Aleksey Tolstoy also did something.At this point Konstantin Fedin and Valentin Stenich leapt outside and got down to looking for a suitable stone. They didn’t find a stone but they found a spade. Konstantin Fedin cracked Ol’ga Forsh one across the chops with this spade.Then Aleksey Tolstoy stripped naked and, going out on to the Fontanka, began to neigh like a horse. Everyone said: — There goes a major contemporary writer, neighing. — And nobody touched Aleksey Tolstoy.
The story was written on the occasion of the first Congress of the Union of Soviet Writers and perhaps symbolically depicts the events. The mentioned persons are all known Soviet literary figures of the 1930x.
On Phenomena and ExistencesThe artist Michelangelo sits down on a heap of bricks and, propping his head in his hands, begins to think. Suddenly a cockerel walks past and looks at the artist Michelangelo with his round, golden eyes. Looks, but doesn’t blink. At this point, the artist Michelangelo raises his head and sees the cockerel. The cockerel does not lower his gaze, doesn’t blink and doesn’t move his tail. The artist Michelangelo looks down and is aware of something in his eye. The artist Michelangelo rubs his eyes with his hands. And the cockerel isn’t standing there any more, isn’t standing there, but is walking away, walking away behind the shed, behind the shed to the poultry-run, to the poultry-run towards his hens.And the artist Michelangelo gets up from the heap of bricks, shakes the red brick dust from his trousers, throws aside his belt and goes off to his wife.The artist Michelangelo’s wife, by the way, is extremely long, all of two rooms in length.On the way, the artist Michelangelo meets Komarov, grasps him by the hand and shouts: — Look! . . .Komarov looks and sees a sphere— What’s that? — whispers Komarov.And from the sky comes a roar: — It’s a sphere.— What sort of a sphere is it? — whispers Komarov.And from the sky, the roar: — A smooth-surfaced sphere!Komarov and the artist Michelangelo sit down on the grass and they are seated on the grass like mushrooms. They hold each other’s hands and look up at the sky. And in the sky appears the outline of a huge spoon. What on earth is that? No one knows. People run about and lock themselves into their houses. They lock their doors and their windows. But will that really help? Much good it does them! It will not help.I remember in 1884 an ordinary comet the size of a steamer appearing in the sky. It was very frightening. But now — a spoon! Some phenomenon for a comet!Lock your windows and doors!Can that really help? You can’t barricade yourself with planks against a celestial phenomenon.Nikolay Ivanovich Stupin lives in our house. He has a theory that everything is smoke. But in my view not everything is smoke. Maybe even there’s no smoke at all. Maybe there’s really nothing. There’s one category only. Or maybe there’s no category at all. It’s hard to say.It is said that a certain celebrated artist scrutinised a cockerel. He scrutinised it and scrutinised it and came to the conclusion that the cockerel did not exist.The artist told his friend this, and his friend just laughed. How, he said, doesn’t it exist, he said, when it’s standing right here and I, he said, am clearly observing it.And the great artist thereupon hung his head and, retaining the same posture in which he stood, sat down on a pile of bricks.That’s all.
Daniil Dandan, 18 September 1931
On Phenomena and ExistencesHere’s a bottle of vodka, of the lethal spirit variety. And beside it you see Nikolay Ivanovich Serpukhov.From the bottle rise spirituous fumes. Look at the way Nikolay Ivanovich Serpukhov is breathing them in through his nose. Mark how he licks his lips and how he screws up his eyes. Evidently he is particularly partial to it and, in the main, that’s because it’s that lethal spirit variety.But take note of the fact that behind Nikolay Ivanovich’s back there is nothing. It’s not that there isn’t a cupboard there, or a chest of drawers, or at any rate some such object: but there is absolutely nothing there, not even air. Believe it or not, as you please, but behind Nikolay Ivanovich’s back there is not even an airless expanse or, as they say, universal ether. To put it bluntly, there’s nothing.This is, of course, utterly inconceivable.But we don’t give a damn about that, as we are only interested in the vodka and Nikolay Ivanovich Serpukhov.And so Nikolay Ivanovich takes the bottle of vodka in his hand and puts it to his nose. Nikolay Ivanovich sniffs it and moves his mouth like a rabbit.Now the time has come to say that, not only behind Nikolay Ivanovich’s back, but before him too — as it were, in front of his chest — and all the way round him, there is noticing. A complete absence of any kind of existence, or, as the old witticism goes, an absence of any kind of presence.However, let us interest ourselves only in the vodka and Nikolay Ivanovich. Just imagine, Nikolay Ivanovich peers into the bottle of vodka, then he puts it to his lips, tips back the bottle bottom end up, and knocks it back -just imagine it, the whole bottle.Nifty! Nikolay Ivanovich knocked back his vodka and looked blank. Nifty, all right! How could he!And now this is what we have to say: as a matter of fact, not only behind Nikolay Ivanovich’s back, nor merely in front and all around him, but also even inside Nikolay Ivanovich here was nothing, nothing existed.Of course, it could all be as we have just said, and yet Nikolay Ivanovich himself could in these circumstances still be in a delightful state of existence. This is, of course, true. But, as a matter of fact, the whole thing is that Nikolay Ivanovich didn’t exist and doesn’t exist. That’s exactly the whole thing.You may ask: and what about the bottle of vodka? In particular, where did the vodka go, if a non-existent Nikolay Ivanovich drank it? Let’s say that the bottle remained. Where, then, is the vodka? There it was and, suddenly, there it isn’t. We know Nikolay Ivanovich doesn’t exist, you say. So, what’s the explanationsAt this stage, we ourselves become lost in conjecture.But, anyway, what are we talking about? Surely we said that inside, as well as outside, Nikolay Ivanovich nothing exists. So if, both inside and outside, nothing exists, then that means that the bottle as well doesn’t exist. Isn’t that it?But, on the other hand, take note of the following: if we are saying that nothing exists either inside or outside, then the question arises: inside and outside of what? Something evidently, all the same, does exist? Or perhaps doesn’t exist. In which case, why do we keep saying ‘inside’ and ‘outside’?No, here we have patently reached an impasse. And we ourselves don’t know what to say.Goodbye for now.
Daniil Dandan, 18 September 1934
On EquilibriumEveryone now knows how dangerous swallowing stones is. A friend of mine even coined the expression ‘Dan-in-ston’, which means: ‘It’s dangerous to ingest stones.’ And a good thing too. ‘Dan-in-ston’ can be easily remembered and, as required, instantly recalled.He worked, this friend of mine, as a stoker on a steam engine. He travelled either the northern line or to Moscow. He was called Nikolay Ivanovich Serpukhov and he smoked Rocket cigarettes at thirty-five kopecks a packet, and always said that they made him cough less, while those costing five roubles, he says, ‘always make me choke’.And so Nikolay Ivanovich once chanced to get in to the restaurant in the Yevropeyskaya Hotel. Nikolay Ivanovich sat at a table and at the next table some foreigners were sitting munching apples.At this point Nikolay Ivanovich said to himself: — This is interesting — said Nikolay Ivanovich — A man’s life this!Barely had he said this to himself when from out of the blue a Fairy appeared in front of him, saying: — My good man, what do you need?Well, of course, in a restaurant you do get a commotion from which, it may be said, this unknown diminutive lady may have sprung. The foreigners even ceased munching their apples.Nikolay Ivanovich himself rather had the wind up and spoke rather offhandedly, so as to give her the brush-off. — I’m sorry — he said — but I don’t really require anything in particular.— You don’t understand — said the unknown lady — I — she said — am what is called a Fairy. In the merest jiffy I’ll lay on whatever you fancy.Nikolay Ivanovich happened to notice that a citizen in a grey two-piece was listening intently to their conversation. The maitre d’hotel was rushing through the open doors and behind him some other specimen with a cigarette in his mouth.— Bloody hell! — thought Nikolay Ivanovich — there’s no telling what’s going on.And there was indeed no telling what was going on. The maitre d’hotel was leaping around the tables, the foreigners were rolling up the carpets and generally the devil only knew what! They were all doing whatever they felt like!Nikolay Ivanovich ran out to the street and didn’t even pick up his hat from the custody of the cloakroom; he ran out on to Lassalle Street and said to himself: — Dan-in-ston! It’s dangerous to ingest stones — Nothing like this ever really happens, surely!And arriving home, Nikolay Ivanovich told his wife: — Don’t be alarmed, Yekaterina Petrovna, and don’t get worried. Only there’s no equilibrium in the world. It’s just an error of some kilogram and a half over the universe as a whole, but it’s really a surprising thing, Yekaterina Petrovna, totally surprising!And that’s all.
Daniil Dandan, 18 September 1934
[Andrey Semyonovich]Andrey Semyonovich spat into a cup of water. The water immediately turned black. Andrey Semyonovich screwed up his eyes and looked attentively into the cup. The water was very black. Andrey Semyonovich’s heart began to throb.At that moment Andrey Semyonovich’s dog woke up. Andrey Semyonovich went over to the window and began ruminating.Suddenly something big and dark shot past Andrey Semyonovich’s face and flew out of the window. This was Andrey Semyonovich’s dog flying out and it zoomed like a crow on to the roof of the building opposite. Andrey Semyonovich sat down on his haunches and began to howl.Into the room ran Comrade Popugayev. — What’s up with you? Are you ill? — asked Comrade Popugayev.Andrey Semyonovich quietened down and rubbed his eyes with his hands.Comrade Popugayev look a look into the cup which was standing on the table. — What’s this you’ve poured into here? — he asked Andrey Semyonovich.— I don’t know — said Andrey Semyonovich.Popugayev instantly disappeared. The dog flew in through the window again, lay down in its former place and went to sleep.Andrey Semyonovich went over to the table and took a drink from the cup of blackened water. And Andrey Semyonovich’s soul turned lucent.
Rebellion— Drink vinegar, gentlemen — said Shuyev.No one gave him any reply.— Gentlemen! — shouted Shuyev — I propose to you the drinking of vinegar!Makaronov got up from his armchair and said: — I welcome Shuyev’s idea. Let’s drink vinegar.Rastopyakin said: — I shall not be drinking vinegar.At this point a silence set in and everyone began to look at Shuyev. Shuyev sat stony-faced. It was not clear what he was thinking.Three minutes went by. Suchkov smothered a cough. Ryvin scratched his mouth. Kaltayev adjusted his tie. Makaronov jiggled his ears and his nose. And Rastopyakin, slumped against the back of his armchair, was looking as if indifferently into the fireplace.Seven or eight more minutes went by.Ryvin stood up and went out of the room on tiptoe.Kaltayev followed him with his eyes.When the door had closed behind Ryvin, Shuyev said: — So. The rebel has departed. To the devil with the rebel!Everyone looked at each other in surprise, and Rastopyakin raised his head and fixed his gaze on Shuyev.Shuyev said sternly: — He who rebels is a scoundrel!Suchkov cautiously, under the table, shrugged his shoulders.— I am in favour of the drinking of vinegar — Makaronov said quietly and looked expectantly at Shuyev.Rastopyakin hiccupped and, with embarrassment, blushed like a maiden.— Death to the rebels! — shouted Suchkov, baring his blackish teeth.
[Ivan Yakovlevich Bobov]Ivan Yakovlevich Bobov woke up in the best possible of moods. He looked out from under his blanket and immediately spotted the ceiling. The ceiling was decorated with a large grey stain with greenish edges. If one looked closely at the stain, with one eye, then the stain took on a resemblance to a rhinoceros harnessed to a wheelbarrow, although others held that it looked more like a tram with a giant sitting on top — however, it was possible to detect in this stain even the outlines of some city or other. Ivan Yakovlevich looked at the ceiling, though not at where the stain was, but just like that, at no particular place; while doing so, he smiled and screwed up his eyes. Then he goggled his eyes and raised his eyebrows so high that his forehead folded up like a concertina and would very neatly Slave disappeared altogether if Ivan Yakovlevich had not screwed up his eyes again and suddenly, as though ashamed of something, pulled the blanket back up over his head. He did this so quickly that from under the other end of the blanket Ivan Yakovlevich’s bare feet were exposed and right then a fly settled on the big toe of his left foot. Ivan Yakovlevich moved this toe and the fly flew over and settled on his heel. Then Ivan Yakovlevich grabbed the blanket with both feet; with one foot he hooked the blanket downwards, while he wiggled his other foot and clasped the blanket upwards with it and by this means pulled the blanket down from over his head. ‘Up yours’, said Ivan Yakovlevich and blew out his cheeks. Usually, whenever Ivan Yakovlevich managed to do something or, on the contrary, utterly failed, Ivan Yakovlevich always said ‘up yours’ — of course, not loudly and not at all so that anyone should hear it, but just like that, quietly to himself. And so, having said ‘up yours’, Ivan Yakovlevich sat on the bed and extended an arm to the chair, on which his trousers, shirt and underwear lay. As for trousers, Ivan Yakovlevich loved to wear striped ones. But, at one time, there was really a situation when it was impossible to get striped trousers anywhere. Ivan Yakovlevich tried ‘Leningrad Clothes’, and the department store, and the Passage, and Gostiny Dvor and he had been round all the shops on the Petrograd side. He had even gone over to somewhere on Okhta but didn’t find any striped trousers anywhere. And Ivan Yakovlevich’s old trousers had worn so threadbare that it was gelling impossible to wear’ them. Ivan Yakovlevich sewed them up several times but in the end even this didn’t help any more. Ivan Yakovlevich again went round all the shops and, again not finding striped trousers anywhere, finally decided to buy checked ones. But checked trousers weren’t available anywhere either. Then Ivan Yakovlevich decided to buy himself grey trousers, but he couldn’t find grey ones anywhere either. Neither were black trousers in Ivan Yakovlevich’s size anywhere to be found. Then Ivan Yakovlevich went off to buy blue trousers but, while he had been looking for black ones, both blue and brown ones also ran out. And so, finally, Ivan Yakovlevich just had to buy some green trousers with yellow spots. In the shop it had seemed to Ivan Yakovlevich that the trousers were not of a very bright colour and that the yellow fleck did not offend the eye at all. But, arriving home, Ivan Yakovlevich discovered that one leg was indeed of a decent shade but that the other was nothing short of turquoise and the yellow fleck positively flamed on it. Ivan Yakovlevich tried turning the trousers inside out, but that way round both legs had a propensity to assume a yellow hue embroidered with green peas and were so garish that, well, just to step out on stage in such trousers after a cinematic show would be quite sufficient: the audience would guffaw for half an hour. For two days Ivan Yakovlevich couldn’t bring himself to put on his new trousers, but when his old ones got so torn that even from a distance it could be seen that Ivan Yakovlevich’s underpants were in dire need of mending, there was nothing for it but to sport the new trousers. In his new trousers for the first time, Ivan Yakovlevich went out extremely cautiously. Leaving the doorway, he glanced both ways first and, having convinced himself that there was no one nearby, stepped out on to the street and swiftly strode off in the direction of his office. The first person he met was an apple seller with a big basket on his head. He said nothing on catching sight of Ivan Yakovlevich and only when Ivan Yakovlevich had walked past did he stop and, since his basket would not allow him to turn his head, the apple seller turned his whole person and followed Ivan Yakovlevich with his eyes — and perhaps would have shaken his head if, once again, it had not been for that same basket. Ivan Yakovlevich stepped it out jauntily, considering his encounter with the fruit seller to have been a good omen. He had not seen the tradesman’s manoeuvre and he reassured himself that his trousers were not as startling as all that. There now walked towards Ivan Yakovlevich an office worker of just the same type as he himself, with a briefcase under his arm. The office worker was walking briskly, not bothering to look around him, but rather keeping a close watch underfoot. Drawing level with Ivan Yakovlevich, the office worker stole a glance at Ivan Yakovlevich’s trousers and stopped in his tracks. Ivan Yakovlevich stopped as well. The office worker looked at Ivan Yakovlevich, as did Ivan Yakovlevich at the office worker.— Excuse me — said the office worker — you couldn’t tell me how to get to the . . . national . . . exchange?— To get there you’ll have to go along this footpath … along this footbridge . . . no, I mean, you’ll have to go this way and then that way — said Ivan Yakovlevich.The office worker said thank you and quickly walked away, and Ivan Yakovlevich took a few steps forward but, seeing that now towards him came not a male office worker but a female one, he lowered his head and ran across to the other side of the street. Ivan Yakovlevich arrived at the office with some delay and very bad tempered. Ivan Yakovlevich’s colleagues naturally focused their attention on the green trousers with legs of varying hue but, evidently guessing that this was the cause of his ball temper, they did not trouble him with questions. Ivan Yakovlevich underwent torture for two weeks wearing his green trousers, until one of his colleagues, one Apollon Maksimovich Shilov, suggested to Ivan Yakovlevich that he should buy a pair of striped trousers from Apollon Maksimovich himself which were ostensibly surplus to Apollon Maksimovich’s requirements.
A KnightAleksey Alekseyevich Alekseyev was a real knight. So, for example, on one occasion, catching sight from a tram of a lady stumbling against a kerbstone and dropping from her bag a glass lampshade for a table-lamp, which promptly smashed, Aleksey Alekseyevich, desiring to help the lady, decided to sacrifice himself and, leaping from the tram at full speed, fell and split open the whole of his phizog on a stone. Another time, seeing a lady who was climbing over a fence catch her skirt on a nail and get stuck there, so that she could move neither backward nor forward, Aleksey Alekseyevich began to get so agitated that, in his agitation, he broke two front teeth with his tongue. In a word, Aleksey Alekseyevich was really the most chivalrous knight, and not only in relation to ladies. With unprecedented ease, Aleksey Alekseyevich could sacrifice his life for his Faith, Tsar and Motherland, as he proved in the year ’14, at the start of the German war, by throwing himself, with the cry ‘For the Motherland!’, on to the street from a second-floor window. By some miracle, Aleksey Alekseyevich remained alive, getting off with only light injuries, and was quickly, as such an uncommonly zealous patriot, dispatched to the front.At the front, Aleksey Alekseyevich distinguished himself with his unprecedentedly elevated feelings and every time he pronounced the words ‘banner’, ‘fanfare’, or even just ‘epaulettes’, down his face there would trickle a tear of emotion.In the year ’16, Aleksey Alekseyevich was wounded in the loins and withdrew from the front.As a first-category invalid, Aleksey Alekseyevich had no longer to serve and, profiting from the time on his hands, committed his patriotic feelings to paper.Once, chatting to Konstantin Lebedev, Aleksey Alekseyevich came out with his favourite utterance — I have suffered for the motherland and wrecked my loins, but I exist by the strength of conviction in my posterior subconscious.— And you’re a fool! — said Konstantin Lebedev. — The highest service to the motherland is rendered only by a Liberal.For some reason, these words became deeply imprinted on the mind of Aleksey Alekseyevich and so, in the year ’17, he was already calling himself a liberal whose loins had suffered for his native land.Aleksey Alekseyevich greeted the Revolution with delight, notwithstanding even the fact that he was deprived of his pension. For a certain time Konstantin Lebedev supplied him with cane-sugar, chocolate, preserved suet and millet groats. But when Konstantin Lebedev suddenly went missing no one knew where, Aleksey Alekseyevich had to take to the streets and ask for charity. At first, Aleksey Alekseyevich would extend his hand and say: — Give charity, for Christ’s sake, to him whose loins have suffered for the motherland. — But this brought no success. Then Aleksey Alekseyevich changed the word ‘motherland’ to the word ‘revolution’. But this too brought no success. Then Aleksey Alekseyevich composed a revolutionary song, and, if he saw on the street a person capable, in Aleksey Alekseyevich’s opinion, of giving alms, he would take a step forward and proudly, with dignity, threw back his head and start singing:
To the barricadesWe will all zoom!For freedomWe will ourselves all maim and doom!And, jauntily tapping his heels in the Polish manner, Aleksey Alekseyevich would extend his hat and say — Alms, please, for Christ’s sake. — This did help and Aleksey Alekseyevich rarely remained without food.Everything was going well, but then, in the year ’22, Aleksey Alekseyevich got to know a certain Ivan Ivanovich Puzyryov, who dealt in Sunflower oil in the Haymarket. Puzyryov invited Aleksey Alekseyevich to a cafe, treated him to real coffee and, himself chomping fancy cakes, expounded to him some sort of complicated enterprise of which Aleksey Alekseyevich understood only that he had to do something, in return for which he would receive from Puzyryov the most costly items of nutrition. Aleksey Alekseyevich agreed and Puzyryov, on the spot, as an incentive, passed him under the table two caddies of tea and a packet of Rajah cigarettes.After this, Aleksey Alekseyevich came to see Puzyryov every morning at the market, and picking up from him some sort of papers with crooked signatures and numerous seals, took a sleigh, if it were winter and if it were summer a cart, and set off as instructed by Puzyryov, to do the rounds of various establishments where, producing the papers, he would receive some sort of boxes, which he would load on to his sleigh or cart, and in the evening take them to Puzyryov at his flat. But once, when Aleksey Alekseyevich had just rolled up in his sleigh at Puzyryov’s flat, two men came up to him, one of whom was in a military great-coat, and asked him: — Is your name Alekseyev? — Then Aleksey Alekseyevich was put into an automobile and taken away to prison.At the interrogation, Aleksey Alekseyevich understood not a thing and just kept saying that he had suffered for his revolutionary motherland. But, despite this, he was sentenced to ten years of exile in his motherland’s northern parts. Having got back in the year ’28 to Leningrad, Aleksey Alekseyevich began to ply his previous trade and, standing up on the corner of Volodarskiy, tossed back his head with dignity, tapped his heel and sang out:
To the barricadesWe will all zoom!For freedomWe will ourselves all maim and doom!But he did not even manage to sing it through twice before he was taken away in a covered vehicle to somewhere in the direction of the Admiralty. His feet never touched the ground.And there we have a short narrative of the life of the valiant knight and patriot, Aleksey Alekseyevich Alekseyev.
A StoryAbram Demyanovich Pentopasov cried out loudly and pressed a handkerchief to his eyes. But it was too late. Ash and soft dust had gummed up Abram Demyanovich’s eyes. From then on Abram Demyanovich’s eyes began to hurt, they were gradually covered over with repulsive scabs, and Abram Demyanovich went blind.As a blind invalid, Abram Demyanovich was given the push from his job and accorded a wretched pittance of thirty-six roubles a month.Quite clearly this sum was insufficient for Abram Demyanovich to live on. A kilo of bread cost a rouble and ten kopecks, and a leek cost forty-eight kopecks at the market.And so the industrial invalid began more and more to concentrate his attention on rubbish bins.It was difficult for a blind man to find the edible scraps among all the peelings and filth.Even finding the rubbish itself in someone else’s yard is not easy. you can’t see it with your eyes, and to ask — Whereabouts here is your rubbish bin? — is somehow a bit awkward.The only way left is to sniff it out.Some rubbish bins reek so much you can smell them a mile away, but others with lids are absolutely impossible to detect.It’s all right if you happen upon a kindly caretaker, but the other sort would so put the wind up you that you’d lose your appetite.Once Abram Demyanovich climbed into someone’s rubbish bin and when he was in there a rat bit him, and he climbed straight back out again. So that day he didn’t eat anything. But then one morning something jumped out of Abram Demyanovich’s right eye.Abram Demyanovich rubbed the eye and suddenly saw daylight. And then something jumped out of his left eye, too, and Abram Demyanovich saw the light.From that day on it was all downhill for Abram Demyanovich.Everywhere Abram Demyanovich was in great demand.In the People’s Committee for Heavy Industry office Abram Demyanovich was a minor sensation.And so Abram Demyanovich became a great man.
An Unexpected Drinking BoutOnce Antonina Alekseyevna struck her husband with her office stamp and imprinted his forehead with stamp-pad ink.The mortally offended Pyotr Leonidovich, Antonina Alekseyevna’s husband, locked himself in the bathroom and wouldn’t let anyone in.However, the residents of the communal flat, having a strong need to get in to where Pyotr Leonidovich was sitting, decided to break down the locked door by force.Seeing that the game was up, Pyotr Leonidovich came out of the bathroom and, going back into his own flat, lay down on the bed.But Antonina Alekseyevna decided to persecute her husband to the limit. She tore up little bits of paper and showered them on to Pyotr Leonidovich who was lying on the bed.The infuriated Pyotr Leonidovich leaped out into the corridor and set about tearing the wallpaper.At this point all the residents ran out and, seeing what the hapless Pyotr Leonidovich was doing, they threw themselves on to him and ripped the waistcoat that he was wearing.Pyotr Leonidovich ran off to the porter’s office.During this time, Antonina Alekseyevna had stripped naked and had hidden in the trunk.Ten minutes later Pyotr Leonidovich returned, followed by the house manager.Not finding his wife in the room, Pyotr Leonidovich with the house manager decided to take advantage of the empty premises in order to down some vodka. Pyotr Leonidovich undertook to run off to the corner for the said beverage.When Pyotr Leonidovich had gone out, Antonina Alekseyevna climbed out of the trunk and appeared before the house manager in a state of nakedness.The shaken house manager leaped from his chair and rushed up to the window, but, seeing the muscular build of the young twenty-six-year-old woman, he suddenly gave way to wild rapture.At this point Pyotr Leonidovich returned witty a litre of vodka.Catching sight of what was afoot in his room, Pyotr Leonidovich knitted his brows.But his spouse Antonina Alekseyevna showed him her office stamp and Pyotr Leonidovich calmed down.Antonina Alekseyevna expressed a desire to participate in the drinking session, but strictly on condition that she maintain her naked state and, to boot, that she sit on the table on which it was proposed to set out the snacks to accompany the vodka. The men sat down on chairs, Antonina Alekseyevna sat on the table and the drinking commenced.It cannot be called hygienic if a naked young woman is sitting on the very table at which people are eating. Moreover Antonina Alekseyevna was a woman of a rather plump build and not all that particular about her bodily cleanliness, so it was a pretty devilish state of affairs.Soon, however, they had all drunk themselves into a stupor and fallen asleep: the men on the floor and Antonina Alekseyevna on the table.And silence was established in the communal flat.
Theme for a StoryA certain engineer has made up his mind to build a huge brick wall across Petersburg. He considers how to accomplish this, doesn’t sleep for nights cogitating it. Gradually a group of engineering planners is formed and a plan for the construction of the wall is elaborated. It was decided to build the wall at night, indeed, to build the whole thing in one night, so that it would appear as a surprise to everyone. Workers are summoned. The organisation is under way. The city authorities are sidelined and finally the night arrives when this wall is to be built. The building of the wall is known only to four men. The workers and engineers receive exact instructions as to whom to place where and what to do. Thanks to exact calculation, they succeed in putting up the wall in a single night. On the following day there is consternation in Petersburg. And the inventor of the wall is himself dejected. To what use this wall was to be put, he himself did not know.
[There Once Was a Man . . .]There once was a man whose name was Kuznetsov. He left his house to go to a shop to buy some carpenter’s glue so as to stick a stool.When Kuznetsov was walking past an unfinished house, a brick fell off the top and hit Kuznetsov on the head.Kuznetsov fell, but straight away jumped to his feet and felt over his head. On Kuznetsov’s head a huge lump had come up.Kuznetsov gave the lump a rub and said: — I, citizen Kuznetsov, left the house to go to the shop to . . . to . . . to . . . Oh, what on earth’s happened? I’ve forgotten why I was going to the shop!At this point a second brick fell off the roof and again Kuznetsov was struck on the head.— Akh! — cried Kuznetsov, clutching at his head and feeling a second lump on his head.— A likely story! — said Kuznetsov. — I, citizen Kuznetsov, left the house to go to . . . to go to . . . to go to . . . where was I going!Then a third brick fell from the top on to Kuznetsov’s head. And on Kuznetsov’s head a third lump came up. — Oh heck! — yelled out Kuznetsov, snatching at his head. — I, citizen Kuznetsov, left the . . . left the . . . Left the cellar? No. Left the boozer? Nol Where did I leave?A fourth brick fell from the roof, hit Kuznetsov on the back of the head and a fourth lump came up on Kuznetsov. — Well, now then! — said Kuznetsov, scratching the back of his head. — I . . . I . . . I . . . Who am I ? I seem to have forgotten what my name is … A likely story! Whatever’s my name? Vasily Petukhov? No. Nikolay Sapogov? No. Panteley Rysakov? No. Well, who the hell am I?But then a fifth brick fell off the roof and so struck Kuznetsov on the back of the head that Kuznetsov forgot everything once and for all and, crying ‘Oh, oh, oh!’, ran off down the street.If you wouldn’t mind! If anyone should meet a man in the street with five lumps on his head, please remind him that his name is Kuznetsov and that he has to buy some carpenter’s glue and repair a broken stool.
Father and DaughterNatasha had two sweets. Then she ate one of the sweets and one sweet remained. Natasha placed the sweet on the table in front of her and started crying.Suddenly she has a look and on the table in front of her there lie two sweets again.Natasha ate one sweet and again started crying.Natasha cries and keeps one eye on the table to see whether a second sweet will appear. But a second sweet did not appear.Natasha stopped crying and started to sing. she sang and sang away, and suddenly died.Natasha’s Dad arrived, took Natasha and carried her to the house manager.— Here — says Natasha’s Dad — will you witness the death?The house manager blew on his stamp and applied it to Natasha’s forehead.— Thank you — said Natasha’s Dad and carried Natasha off to the cemetery.But at the cemetery was the watchman Matvei; he always sat by the gate and didn’t let anyone into the cemetery, so that the dead had to be buried right on the street.Dad buried Natasha on the street, removed his cap, placed it on the spot where he had interred Natasha and went off home.He arrived home and Natasha was already sitting there. How come? It’s very simple: she climbed out from under the earth and ran back home.What a thing! Dad was so taken aback that he collapsed and died.Natasha called the house manager, saying to him: — Will you witness a death?The house manager blew on his stamp and applied it to a sheet of paper and then on the same sheet of paper he wrote: ‘This certifies that so and so has actually died.’Natasha took the piece of paper and carried it off to the cemetery for burial. But the watchman Matvei tells Natasha: — I’m not letting you in on any account.Natasha says: — I just want to bury this piece of palmer.And the watchman says: — Don’t even ask. Natasha interred the piece of paper on the street, placed her socks on the spot where she had interred the piece of paper and went off home.She gets home and Dad is already sitting there at home and is already playing against himself on a miniature billiard table with little metal balls.Natasha was surprised but said nothing and went off to her room to grow up.She grew and grew and within four years she had become a grown-up young lady. But Natasha’s Dad had become aged and bent. But they will both remember how they had taken each other for dead and so they will fall on the divan and just laugh. Another time they laugh for about twenty minutes.And their neighbours, as soon as they hear this laughter, immediately put on their coats and go off to the cinema. And one day they went off like that and never came back again. Seemingly, they were run over by a car.
The Fate of a Professor’s WifeOnce a certain professor ate something which didn’t agree with him and he began to vomit.His wife came up to him, saying: — What is it?But the professor replied: — It’s nothing. — His wife retreated again.The professor reclined on the divan, had a little lie down, felt rested and went off to work. At work there was a surprise for him: his salary had been docked; instead of 650 roubles, he only had 500. The professor ran hither and thither — but to no avail. The professor went to the Director, and the Director threw hills out. The professor went to the accountant, and the accountant said: — Apply to the Director. — The professor got on a train and went off to Moscow.On the way he suddenly went down with flu. He arrived in Moscow and couldn’t get out on to the platform.They put the professor on a stretcher and carried him off to hospital.The professor lay in hospital no more than four days and then died.The professor’s body was cremated, the ashes were placed in an urn and sent off to his wife.So the professor’s wife was sitting drinking coffee. Suddenly a ring. What’s that? — A parcel for you.The professor’s wife was really pleased; smiling all over her face, she thrust a tip into the postman’s hand and was soon unwrapping the parcel. She looked in the parcel and saw an urn of ashes, with a message: ‘Herewith all that remains of your spouse.’The professor’s wife didn’t understand a thing; she shook the urn, held it up to the light, read the message six times — finally she worked out what was afoot and was terribly upset.The professor’s wife was very upset, cried for three hours and then went off to inter the urn of ashes. She wrapped the urn in a newspaper and took it to the First Five-Year Plan Garden, formerly the Tavricheskiy.The professor’s wife chose the most out-of-the-way path and was just intending to bury the urn, when suddenly a watchman came along.— Hey! — shouted the watchman. — What are you doing here? — The professor’s wife was frightened and said: — I just wanted to catch some frogs in this jar.— Well — said the watchman — that’s all right, only watch it, and keep off the grass.When the watchman had gone, the professor’s wife buried the urn, trod the earth down around it and went off for a stroll round the gardens.In the gardens, she was accosted by some sailor — Come on, let’s go for a little sleep — he said.She replied: — Why should one sleep in the daytime? — But he stuck to his guns: sleep and more sleep.And the professor’s wife really did feel like sleeping.She walked along the streets and she felt sleepy. People were running all around her in blue, or in green — and she just felt sleepy.So she walked and slept. And she dreamed that Lev Tolstoy was coming towards her, holding a chamber-pot in his hands. She asked him: — What’s that, then? — and he pointed to the chamber-pot, saying: — Here, I’ve really done something and now I’m taking it to show the whole world. Let everyone see it — he said.The professor’s wife also had a look and saw that it seemed no longer to be Tolstoy, but a shed, and in the shed was a hen.The professor’s wife tried to catch the hen, but the hen hid under a divan, from which it looked out, now in the form of a rabbit.The professor’s wife crawled under the divan after the rabbit and woke up.She woke and looked around: she really was lying under a divan.The professor’s wife crawled out from under the divan — and saw her own room. And there stood the table with her undrunk coffee. On the table lay the message — Herewith all that remains of your spouse.The professor’s wife shed a few more tears and sat down to drink up her cold coffee.Suddenly a ring. What’s that? Some people walk in and say — Let’s go. — Where? — asked the professor’s wife.— To the lunatic asylum — they reply.The professor’s wife began to shout and to dig in her heels, but the people grabbed her and took her off to the lunatic asylum.And there, on a bunk in a lunatic asylum, sits a completely normal professor’s wife, holding a fishing rod and fishing on the floor for some invisible fish or other.This professor’s wife is merely a pitiful example of how many unfortunates there are in life who do not occupy in life the position that they ought to occupy.
The CashierMasha found a mushroom, picked it and took it to the market. At the market, Masha was hit about the head, and there were further promises that she could be hit about the legs as well. Masha took fright and ran off.Masha ran to the co-operative store and wanted to hide there behind the cash desk. But the manager caught sight of Mashes and said: — What’s that you’ve got in your hands?And Masha said: — A mushroom. The manager said: — Why, you’re a fine one, now! How would you like me to fix you up with a job?— Oh, you won’t fix me up — said Masha. — I’ll fix you up here and now! — said the manager. And he fixed Masha up with a job, turning the handle on the cash till.Masha turned and turned away on the handle on the cash till and suddenly died. The police arrived, drew up a report, and ordered the manager to pay a fine of fifteen roubles.— What’s the fine for? — asked the manager.— For murder — replied the police.The manager took fright, hastily paid the fine and said: — All right, only take this dead cashier out of here straight away.At this point the sales assistant from the fruit section said: — No, wait a minute, you’ve got it wrong, she wasn’t the cashier. She only turned the handle on the cash till. That’s the cashier sitting there.— It’s all the same to us — said the police — we’ve been told to take a cashier out of here, so we’ll take one out.The police started towards the cashier. The cashier thereupon lay down on the floor behind the cash desk and said: — I won’t go.— Why won’t you go, you silly woman? — said the police.— You’re going to bury me alive — said the cashier.The police started to try and lift the cashier up from the floor, but try as they might, they couldn’t lift her, as she was extremely stout.— Grab her by the legs — said the sales assistant from the fruit section.— No — said the manager — this cashier acts as my wife. I must therefore ask you not to expose her from the rear end.— Do you hear? — said the cashier — don’t you dare expose me from the rear end.The police look hold of the cashier under the arms and dragged and heaved her out of the co-operative store.The manager ordered the sales assistants to tidy up the store and get business under way.