--------


     Russian literature seems always able  to bring forth a crop of  new and
interesting  writers who are experimenting  somewhere at  the  frontiers  of
literary  style,  language or story.  Among our contemporaries,  we think of
Andrey  Sinyavsky (alias 'Abram Tertz'), Vasiliy Aksyonov, Sasha Sokolov and
Yevgeniy Popov, along with the women  writers who  emerged  under glasnost',
during the last Soviet years: Lyudmila Petrushevskaya,  Tatyana Tolstaya and
others.  But alongside the  new writers, we  continue to rediscover the old.
Mikhail Bulgakov and  Andrey Platonov, unexpected jewels from the  Stalinist
period, only came  to prominence  decades  after their own span. Discoveries
from the 'Silver Age' period (roughly the 1890s to 1917) are still coming or
returning to  light.  Neglected  figures  from  even  further back  are  now
achieving or recovering a belated but deserved readership (Vladimir Odoevsky
from the  Romantic  period,  Vsevolod Garshin from later  in the  nineteenth
century). Another  fascinating  figure,  the  contemporary  of Bulgakov  and
Platonov, but  with a  peculiar  resonance  for  the modern, or  indeed  the
post-modern, world is Daniil Kharms.
     'Daniil Kharms' was the  main,  and subsequently the sole,  pen-name of
Daniil Ivanovich Yuvachov. The  son of a St. Petersburg political, religious
and literary  figure,  Daniil  was  to  achieve limited local  renown  as  a
Leningrad  avant-garde eccentric and  a writer of children's stories  in the
1920s and 30s. Among other pseudonyms, he had employed 'Daniil  Dandan'  and
'Kharms-Shardam'. The  predilection for 'Kharms' is  thought to  derive from
appreciation  of the tension between the English words  'charms' and 'harms'
(plus the German Charme; indeed, there is an actual German surname 'Harms'),
but  may  also owe  something to  a similarity in  sound to  Sherlock Holmes
(pronounced 'Kholms' in Russian), a figure of fascination to Kharms.
     From  1925  Kharms  began  to  appear  at  poetry  readings  and  other
avant-garde activities,  gained membership  of the Leningrad  section of the
All-Russian Union of Poets (from 1926), one  of the many predecessors to the
eventual Union of Soviet Writers, and published two poems in anthologies  in
1926 and 1927. Almost unbelievably, these were the only 'adult' works Kharms
was able to  publish in his lifetime.  In 1927 Kharms joined together with a
number  of like-minded  experimental  writers, including his talented friend
and close  associate  Aleksandr  Vvedensky  (1900-1941) and  the  major poet
Nikolay Zabolotsky (1903-1958), to  form the  literary and artistic grouping
Oberiu (the acronym of the 'Association of Real Art').
     Representing something of  a  union  between  Futurist  aesthetics  and
Formalist approaches,  the Oberiut considered themselves  a 'left  flank' of
the literary  avant-garde.  Their publicity  antics,  including  a  roof-top
appearance  by  Kharms,  caused  minor  sensations  and  they  succeeded  in
presenting a highly  unconventional  theatrical evening entitled 'Three Left
Hours'  in 1928,  which  included  the  performance  of Kharms's  Kafkaesque
absurdist  drama 'Yelizaveta Bam'. Among the  Oberiu catch-phrases were 'Art
is a cupboard' (Kharms normally made his theatrical entrances inside or on a
wardrobe) and  'Poems  aren't  pies;  we  aren't herring'.  However,  in the
Stalinising years of the late  1920s, the time for propagating  experimental
modernist art had  passed.  The rising Soviet neo-bourgeoisie were not to be
shocked:  tolerance  of  any  such frivolities  was  plummeting  and hostile
journalistic attention ensured  the hurried disbandment of  the Oberiu group
after a number of further appearances.
     Kharms and Vvedensky evidently felt it wiser to  allow themselves to be
drawn into the realm  of children's literature,  writing for publications of
the children's  publishing  house  Detgiz,  known  fondly  as  the  'Marshak
Academy',  run by  the redoubtable  children's  writer  (and  bowdleriser of
Robbie  Burns),  Samuil  Marshak,  and  involving  the  playwright  Yevgeniy
Shvarts.  By  1940  Kharms  had  published  eleven  children's   books   and
contributed  regularly  to  the  magazines 'The Hedgehog' and  'The Siskin'.
However,  even in  this  field  of literary  activity,  anything out  of the
ordinary  was  not  safe. Kharms, in  his  'playful' approach to  children's
writing, utilised a number of Oberiu-type devices. The  Oberiu  approach had
been denounced in a Leningrad paper in 1930 as 'reactionary sleight-of-hand'
and, at the end  of  1931, Kharms  and Vvedensky  were arrested,  accused of
'distracting  the  people  from  the  building  of  socialism  by  means  of
trans-sense verses' and exiled to Kursk. However the exile was fairly brief,
the  times  being  what  Akhmatova  described  as  'relatively  vegetarian'.
Nevertheless, little work was to be had thereafter; Kharms was in and out of
favour  at  Detgiz and  periods  of near  starvation  followed.  Kharms  and
Vvedensky (the latter had moved  to the Ukraine in the mid-30s: see Kharms's
letter to him) survived the main purges  of the 1930s. However, the outbreak
of war brought new dangers: Kharms was arrested in Leningrad in August 1941,
while  Vvedensky's  arrest  took  place  the  following  month  in  Kharkov.
Vvedensky died in  December of that year and  Kharms (it seems of starvation
in prison hospital) in February 1942. Both were subsequently 'rehabilitated'
during the Khrushchev 'Thaw'. Most of their adult writings had  to await the
Gorbachev period for  publication in Russia. Both starvation and arrest were
anticipated in  a number  of Kharms's  writings.  Hunger  and  poverty  were
constant  companions;  indeed, Kharms can lay  claim to  being  the  poet of
hunger (not for nothing did he take strongly to Knut Hamsun's novel of  that
name),  as  the following  translation  of  an unrhyming but  rhythmic verse
fragment shows:

     This is how hunger begins:
     The morning you wake, feeling lively,
     Then begins the weakness,
     Then begins the boredom;
     Then comes the loss
     Of the power of quick reason,
     Then comes the calmness
     And then begins the horror.

     On his general situation in life, Kharms wrote the following quatram in
1937:

     We've had it now in life's realm,
     Of all hope we are now bereft.
     Gone are dreams of happiness,
     Destitution is all that's left.

     The arrest of Kharms came,  reportedly, when the caretaker of the block
of flats  in which he lived called him down, in his bedroom slippers, 'for a
few minutes'. He was apparently charged with spreading defeatist propaganda;
there  is evidence that, even in those times, he managed to clear himself of
this charge, possibly by feigning insanity.
     Kharms had been  a marked man since his first arrest in 1931 and he was
probably  lucky  to escape  disaster  when  he  landed  in  trouble  over  a
children's poem in  1937  (about  a  man who  went  out to  buy  tobacco and
disappeared). In addition, his first wife, Ester Rusakova, was a member of a
well-known  old  emigre  revolutionary  family, subsequently  purged;  it is
intriguing to recall that Kharms had been, for several years, Viktor Serge's
brother-in-law.

        ___

     By the 1930s, Kharms  was concentrating  more on prose. In  addition to
his  only  then  publishable  works, his children's  stories  and  verse, he
evolved  ('for  his drawer') his own idiosyncratic brands of short prose and
dramatic fragment.
     Theoretical, philosophical  and  even  mathematical  pieces  were  also
penned,  as  well as diaries, notebooks and a sizeable  body  of poetry. The
boundaries between genre are  fluid with Kharms, as are distinctions between
fragment  and  whole, finished  and  unfinished  states.  Most  of  Kharms's
manuscripts  were preserved after his  arrest by his friend, the philosopher
Yakov Semyonovich Druskin, until they could be safely handed on or deposited
in libraries. It will come  as no surprise to readers  with the most cursory
inkling of Soviet literary conditions in the 1930s that these  writings were
then totally  unpublishable -- and  indeed that  their author is unlikely to
have even contemplated trying to publish  them. What is much more surprising
is that they were written at all. From 1962  the children's  works of Kharms
began  to be reprinted in the Soviet Union. Isolated first publications of a
few of his short humourous pieces for adults followed slowly thereafter,  as
did mentions of Kharms in memoirs. Only when Gorbachev's policy of glasnost'
took  real effect though, from 1987, did the  flood begin, including a major
book-length collection in  1988.  Abroad,  an  awareness of  Kharms and  the
Oberiuts began to surface in  the late 1960s, both in Eastern Europe,  where
publication was often  easier,  and in the West, where a first collection in
Russian appeared in 1974. In 1978 an annotated, but discontinuous, collected
works of Kharms began  to appear, published in Bremen by the Verlag K-Presse
(appropriately  enough,  the  'Kafka Press'),  edited from  Leningrad.  Four
volumes (the poetic  opus)  have appeared to  date. It  is probably  safe to
assume that virtually all of Kharms's surviving works have now appeared. The
most recent 'find' is a selection of rather mild erotica, largely clinically
voyeuristic and  olfactory  in  nature, which suitably counterpoints certain
tendencies already noticeable  in  some of Kharms's more mainstream writing.
The English or American reader may have come across some of Kharms's work in
the  anthologies published  from 1971  by George  Gibian  (see p.  226).  In
addition, scholarly literature  on  the  Oberiuts  is  growing  fast. Kharms
translations  have  appeared in  German  and  Italian,  while  the  Yugoslav
director Slobodan Pesic has  made a surrealistic  film,  called  'The Kharms
Case'.  In Russia Oberiu evenings and Kharms 'mono-spectaculars' have become
commonplace and Moscow News (back in 1988, in its Russian and English issues
alike) was proclaiming Kharms 'an international  figure'. In the present age
of post-modernist fragmentation, Kharms's time has surely come.

        ___

     On the assumption  that Kharms's published oeuvre may  now be  more  or
less complete (and  this may still be a big assumption to make: only in 1992
his puppet  play, The  Shardam Circus,  was published  for the  first time),
overall  assessments  of his  achievement begin  to  assume  some  validity.
Definitive texts from archival sources  have,  in  some  instances, replaced
dubious  sources.  We  now  know the  intended  order  and  content  of  the
'Incidents' cycle, here presented as a complete entity for the first time in
English. Many  of the later examples  of Kharms's  prose  have  only come to
light recently,  as have notebooks and letters. The prose miniature has long
been a genre more commonly found in Russian literature than elsewhere. Among
the disparate  examples  that come to  mind (many  of them  by  authors very
different from  Kharms) we may  mention,  from  the  nineteenth century: the
feuilletons of writers such  as Dostoevsky, the prose  poems of Turgenev and
the shortest works by Garshin and  Chekhov; and,  from the  twentieth, short
pieces by Zamyatin, Olesha and Zoshchenko and, more recently, the aphoristic
writings  of Abram  Tertz and  the prose poems  of  Solzhenitsyn. In spirit,
Kharms  clearly belongs to a tradition of double-edged humour extending from
the  word-play and  irrelevancy  of  Gogol  and the  jaundiced mentality  of
Dostoevsky's 'underground' anti-heroes  to  the intertextual parody of Tertz
and the  satirical absurd of Voinovich.  Kharms  has clear  affinities  with
certain  of the experimental  Soviet writings  that sprang from  a  Futurist
Formalist  base  in the 1920s. In a verse  and  prose sequence entitled 'The
Sabre' (Sablya of 1929), Kharms  singles out for  special admiration Goethe,
Blake, Lomonosov, Gogol, Kozma  Prutkov and Khlebnikov.  In a diary entry of
1937, he lists as his 'favourite writers': Gogol, Prutkov,  Meyrink, Hamsun,
Edward Lear and  Lewis Carroll. Such listings are revealing  in  determining
Kharms's  pedigree.  On  a  general  European  level,  Kharms   had  obvious
affinities with  the various modernist,  Dadaist, surrealist, absurdist  and
other avant-garde movements.  Borges  wrote brief masterpieces  in a  rather
different  vein. Arguably, Kafka and Beckett provide closer parallels, while
Hamsun and  Meyrink  furnished  Kharms  with  certain  motifs.  Some of  the
post-modernist  and minimalist writings of  very recent decades are  perhaps
closer than anything else.
     'The  Old Woman', a  story reaching almost epic proportions by Kharms's
standards,  has  strong  claims  to  be  regarded  as  his   masterpiece.  A
deceptively multilayered story,  this work looks simultaneously  back to the
Petersburg  tradition   of  Russian   story-telling  and  forward   to   the
meta-fictional  devices  of   our   post-war  era.   'Incidents'  signals  a
neo-romantic concern with  the  relationship between  the  fragment and  the
whole (observable too in the theoretical pieces) and, now in  its 'complete'
form, it  has begun  to  attract critical  interpretation  as  an entity  in
itself. The  'assorted  stories',  arranged  chronologically,  indicate  the
development  of  Kharms's idiosyncratic preoccupations over the  decade from
the early 1930s.  'Yelizaveta Bam' represents Kharms's  contribution  to the
theatre  of the absurd. The remaining 'non-fictional and assorted  writings'
give an idea of Kharms's excursions into other forms of writing.
     If  Kharms still  seems somehow  different from all  previous models or
comparisons, or more startling, this is perhaps  most  readily explained  by
his constant adoption, at various levels, of what  might be termed a poetics
of extremism. Take, for example, his brevity: not for nothing did he note in
his  diary that 'garrulity is  the mother of mediocrity'. If certain stories
included here  (especially some  from 'Incidents')  seem  texts  of  concise
inconsequentiality,  there  remain  others which incommode the  printer even
less: consider, for instance, the following:

     "An old man was scratching his head with both hands. In places where he
couldn't reach with  both hands, he  scratched himself  with one,  but very,
very fast. And while he was doing it he blinked rapidly."

     Another feature  of  Kharmsian extremism  resides in his uncompromising
quest for  the means to undermine his  own stories, or  to facilitate  their
self-destruction: there are numerous  examples  of this in the  texts  which
follow.
     Kharms, then, turns his surgical glance on both the extraordinary world
of Stalin's Russia and on representation, past and present, in story-telling
and other  artistic forms.  He thus  operates, typically, against  a precise
Leningrad  background. He reflects aspects of Soviet  life and its  literary
forms, passing sardonic and  despairing  comment  on the period  in which he
lived. He also ventures, ludicrously, into historical  areas, parodying  the
ways in which respected worthies, such as Pushkin, Gogol and Ivan Susanin (a
patriotic hero of 1612) were currently being glorified in print.  Certain of
Kharms's miniatures seem  strangely  anticipatory  of  modern  trends:  'The
Lecture'  could  almost  have  been  set  in  politically  correct  America,
'Myshin's Triumph' smacks of London's cardboard city, and 'On an Approach to
Immortality' would fascinate Kundera.

     The most striking feature,  for many readers, will be the recurrence of
Kharms's strange and disturbing obsessions: with falling, accidents, chance,
sudden death, victimisation and  all forms of apparently mindless  violence.
These again are often carried to extremes, or toyed with in a bizarre manner
which could scarcely be unintentional. Frequently there appears little or no
difference between Kharms's avowedly fictional works and his other writings.
In his notebooks can be found such passages as:

     "I  don't  like  children,  old  men,  old  women  and  the  reasonable
middle-aged. To poison children -- that would be harsh. But, hell, something
needs  to  be  done  with  them! . . .  I  respect  only young,  robust  and
splendiferous  women.  The  remaining  representatives of  the human  race I
regard  suspiciously. Old  women who are  repositories  of reasonable  ideas
ought to be lassoed . .  . Which is the more  agreeable  sight: an old woman
clad in just  a shift, or  a young man completely naked? And which,  in that
state,  is the less permissible in  public?  .  .  . What's  so great  about
flowers? You get a significantly  better  smell  from between women's  legs.
Both are pure nature, so no one dare be outraged at my words."

     How far into  the cheek  the tongue may go is often far from clear: the
degree  of  identification  with  narrator  position  in  Kharms  is  always
problematic. The Kharmsian obsessions, too, carry  over  into his  notebooks
and diaries:

     "On falling into  filth, there is only  one thing for a man to do: just
fall, without looking round.  The important  thing  is  just to do this with
style and energy."

     At times the implications might seem sinister, as in the following note
from 1940, which  could equally be a sketch for a story, or even, as we have
seen, be a mini-story in itself:

     "One man was pursuing another when the latter, who was running away, in
his turn, pursued a third  man who, not  sensing the chase  behind  him, was
simply walking at a brisk pace along the pavement."

     Sometimes, a  diary  entry  is indeed indistinguishable  from a  Kharms
miniature:

     "I used to know  a  certain watchman who was interested  only in vices.
Then his interests narrowed, and he began to be interested only in one vice.
And so, when he discovered a specialisation of  his own within this vice and
began to interest himself only in this one specialisation, he felt himself a
man again. Confidence built up, erudition was  required, neighbouring fields
had to be looked into and the man started to develop. This watchman became a
genius."

     Other entries  rather more predictably affirm what might be supposed to
be his philosophy:

     "I  am interested  only in  'nonsense'; only  in  that  which makes  no
practical sense. I am interested in life only in its absurd manifestation."

     This last remark was written in 1937, at the height of the purges.
     Some or all of this may be  approachable, or even explainable, in terms
of psychology, of communication theory, of theory  of humour, or indeed with
reference to the nature of surrounding reality: in times of extremity, it is
the  times  themselves  which  seem  more  absurd than  any absurd  artistic
invention. For that matter, these Kharmsian 'incidents' (on which term, more
below) have their  ancestry in a multitude of genres and  models: the fable,
the  parable, the fairy tale,  the  children's  story,  the philosophical or
dramatic dialogue, the comic monologue, carnival, the cartoon and the silent
movie.  All of  these  seem to be present somewhere in Kharms, in compressed
form  and  devoid of  explanation,  context  and  other standard  trappings.
Kharms, indeed, seems to serve  up, transform or abort the bare bones of the
sub-plots, plot segments and timeless authorial devices of world literature,
from  the  narratives of antiquity,  to classic  European  fiction,  to  the
wordplay,  plot-play and  metafictions characteristic of the postmodern era:
from  Satyricon to Cervantes to Calvino. In the modern idiom, theatre of the
absurd and  theatre of cruelty apart, Kharms's  fictions  anticipate in some
primeval way  almost everything from  the animated  screenplay and the strip
cartoon  to the video-nasty. Kharms  offers a skeletal terseness, as opposed
to  the comprehensive  vacuousness on  offer  from many a more  conventional
literary form. Once again, it is  the environment in which  he wrote that is
the  most striking  thing  of  all.  Kharms,  the black  miniaturist, is  an
exponent not so much of the modernist 'end of the Word' (in a Joycean sense)
as of a post-modernist, minimalist and infantilist  'end of the Story' (in a
sense perhaps most analogous to Beckett). Such a  trend  is usually taken to
be   a  post   war,   nuclear-age  cultural   phenomenon,   exemplified   by
fragmentation, breakdown  and  the impulse  to  self-destruct.  However, the
Holocaust and Hiroshima  may well have felt imminent in the Leningrad of the
bleak 1930s.

        ___

     Finally,  a word  on  terminology  and  arrangement.  Many of  Kharms's
stories,  even beyond the cycle of that name, have been  dubbed 'incidents'.
The slightly wider  term 'incidences' could equally be used. Kharms, between
1933  and 1937, engaged on  a cycle of short  prose  pieces which  he called
Sluchai. The  common  Russian noun  sluchay  (masculine,  singular)  may  be
translated,  according  to context, by a variety of English words: case (cf.
the  Italian   translation  of  Kharms,  entitled  Casi),  event,  incident,
occurrence, opportunity, occasion  or chance.  Commentators  have  at  times
labelled  the  Kharmsian  generic  innovation: Mini-stories,  Happenings  or
Cases. 'Mini-stories' is of course descriptive, rather than a translation of
sluchai,  just  as,  say,   'Black  Miniatures'   would  be  interpretative;
'Happenings' and  'Cases', I  feel,  are  open to other possible objections.
Hence the term 'Incidents', as used here. Pieces which  had not been given a
title by Kharms have generally been called by their first words.
     That, as Kharms would say, is all (vsyo!). Now read on!

--------


     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.

             1930

--------


     Dear 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.

             1931

--------


     Act I
     KOKA 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.

             1933

--------


     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.

             1934

     * 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.

--------


     The 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

--------


     Here'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 explanations
     At 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

--------


     Everyone 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  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.

             1934

--------


     -- 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.

             1934?

--------


     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 nearly
have 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.

             1934-37

--------


     Aleksey  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 barricades
     We will all zoom!
     For freedom
     We 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 barricades
     We will all zoom!
     For freedom
     We 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.

             1934-36

--------


     Abram  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.

             1935

--------


     Once  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.

             1935

--------


     A 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.

             1935

--------


     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.

             1935

--------


     Natasha  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.

             1936

--------


     Once 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.

             1936

--------


     Masha  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.
     --- But what are we going to do with this dead woman? -- said the sales
assistant from the fruit section, pointing at Masha.
     -- Good  gracious  me -- said the manager --  we've  made a mess of the
whole thing! Well, what in fact are we going to do with the dead woman?
     -- And  who's  going  to  sit at the cash  till?  --  asked  the  sales
assistant.
     The  manager  clutched  his  head  with  both  hands.  He  sent  apples
scattering along the counter with his knee and  said: --  What's happened is
monstrous!
     -- Monstrous! -- echoed the sales assistants in chorus.
     Suddenly the manager scratched his moustache  and said: --  Ha, ha, I'm
not so easily nonplussed. We'll  seat  the dead  woman  behind the till, and
perhaps the public won't realise who's sitting there.
     They seated the dead woman  at the cash desk, stuck a cigarette between
her teeth  to  give  her  a  greater resemblance  to  the  living,  and  for
additional verisimilitude gave her the mushroom to hold in her hands.
     The dead woman  sat there looking quite alive, except  that  her facial
colouring  was very  green,  and  one  eye  was  open,  while the  other was
completely closed.
     -- Never mind -- said the manager -- she'll do.
     And the public was already knocking at the  doors, highly agitated that
the  shop had  not been  opened. In particular, one  matriarchal figure in a
silk coat was shouting her head off: she was  shaking her purse and aiming a
back  heel  kick at the door-handle. And behind  the matriarchal figure some
old woman with a pillowcase  on her  head was shouting and swearing, calling
the manager of the co-operative store a stingy old swine.
     The manager  opened the  doors and  admitted  the  public.  The  public
charged straight to the meat section, and then to where the sugar and pepper
were sold.  But the old woman made straight for the fish section, and on the
way glanced at the cashier and stopped.
     -- Good Lord -- she said -- Holy goats!
     And  the  matriarchal figure  in  the silk coat had  already been round
every  section, and  was rushing to the cash  desk. But  no  sooner  had she
glimpsed  the cashier then  she  stopped dead, stood  in  silence  and  just
looked.  And  the sales assistants  also  stayed  silent anal  looked at the
manager. And the  manager peered out from behind the counter, waiting to see
what would happen next.
     The matriarchal figure in the silk coat  turned to the sales assistants
and said: -- Who's that you've got sitting behind the cash till?
     And the sales assistants stayed  silent, as  they didn't  know what  to
say.
     The manager also stayed silent.
     At this point people came running from all  sides. Already  there was a
crowd on the  street. Caretakers from nearby  houses appeared  on the scene.
Whistles were heard blowing. In a word, an absolute scandal.
     The  crowd was prepared to stand there  outside the store until evening
at least. But someone said that old women were plummeting out of a window on
Ozerny Pereulok. Then the crowd outside the store thinned out, because a lot
of people went over to Ozerny Pereulok.

             1936

--------


     I used to be a very wise old man.
     Now I am not quite right; you may consider me even not to exist at all.
But the time was when any one  of  you would  have  come to me and, whatever
burden may have oppressed  a person, whatever sins  may  have  tormented his
thoughts, I would have embraced  him and said: -- My  son, take comfort, for
no burden is oppressing you and I see no  bodily sins in you -- and he would
scamper away from me in happiness and joy.
     I was  great and strong. People who  met me on the street  would shy to
one side and I would pass through a crowd like a flat iron.
     My feet would often be  kissed, but I didn't protest: I knew I deserved
it. why deprive  people of the  pleasure  of honouring me?  I myself,  being
extraordinarily lithe of body, even tried to kiss myself on my own  foot.  I
sat  on a bench,  got hold of my right foot and  pulled it up  to my face. I
managed to kiss  the big  toe. I  was  happy. I understood  the happiness of
others.
     Everyone  worshipped me!  And not only  people, but even  beasts, while
even various insects crawled  before me and wagged  their  tails.  And cats!
They  simply adored me  and,  somehow  or  other gripping each other's paws,
would run in front of me whenever I was on the staircase.
     At that  time I was  indeed very wise and understood  everything. There
was  not a thing  that  would nonplus me. Just  a  minute's  exertion of  my
colossal mind  and  the most complicated  question  would be resolved in the
simplest possible manner. I was even taken to the Brain Institute  and shown
off  to the learned professors.  They  measured my mind by  electricity  and
simply boggled. -- We have never seen anything like it -- they said.
     I  was  married but rarely saw my  wife.  She was  afraid  of  me:  the
enormity of my  mind overwhelmed her.  She did not so much live, as tremble;
and if  I as  much as  looked at  her, she would  begin to  hiccup. We lived
together for a  long time,  but then  I think she  disappeared somewhere.  I
don't remember exactly.
     Memory -- that's a strange thing altogether.  How hard remembering  is,
and how easy forgetting That's how it often is: you memorise one thing,  and
then remember something entirely different. Or: you  memorise something with
some difficulty, but very thoroughly, and then  you can't remember anything.
That also happens. I would advise everyone to work a bit on their memory.
     I always believed in fair  play  and never beat  anyone  for no reason,
because,  when you are  beating someone, you always  go a  bit daft  and you
might overdo it. Children, for example, should never be  beaten with a knife
or with anything made of iron, but  women -- the opposite: they shouldn't be
kicked. Animals -- they, it is said, have more endurance. But I have carried
out experiments in this line and I know that this is not always the case.
     Thanks to my litheness, I was able to do things which no one else could
do. For  example, I managed to  retrieve by  hand from  an extremely sinuous
sewage  pipe  my brother's  earring, which  had  accidently  fallen there. I
could, for example, hide in a comparatively small basket and put the  lid on
myself.
     Yes, certainly, I was phenomenal!
     My brother was my complete opposite: in the first place, he was  taller
and, secondly, more stupid.
     He and I were never very friendly. Although, however, we were friendly,
even very.  I've got  something  wrong here: to be exact, he and  I were not
friendly and were always on bad terms. And this is how we got crossed. I was
standing beside a shop: they were issuing sugar there, and I was standing in
the  queue, trying not to listen to  what  was being  said around  me. I had
slight toothache and was  not in the greatest of  moods. It  was  very  cold
outside, because everyone was  standing  in quilted fur coats and they  were
still freezing. I was also standing in a quilted fur, but I was not freezing
myself, though my hands were freezing because I had to keep  taking them out
of my pockets to adjust the suitcase I was holding between my knees, so that
it didn't go missing. Suddenly someone struck me on the back. I  flew into a
state  of  indescribable  indignation  and,  quick  as lightning,  began  to
consider how to punish the offender. During this time, I was struck a second
time on the back. I pricked up my ears, but  decided against turning my head
and pretended that I hadn't  noticed. I just,  to be on the safe  side, took
the suitcase in my hand. Seven minutes passed and I was struck on the back a
third time. At this I turned round and saw in front of me a tall middle-aged
man in a rather shabby, but still quite good, military fur coat.
     -- What do you want from me? -- I asked him in strict and even slightly
metallic voice.
     -- And you, why don't you turn when you're called? -- he said.
     I had begun to think over the content of his words when he again opened
his mouth  and  said: --  What's wrong with you? Don't  you recognise me  or
something? I'm your brother.
     I again began to think over  his  words when  he again opened his mouth
and said: -- Just listen, brother mine. I'm four roubles short for the sugar
and it's a nuisance to have to leave the queue. Lend me five and I'll settle
up  with  you later. --  I started to ponder why my brother should  be  four
roubles short, but he grabbed hold of my sleeve and said: --  Well, so then,
are you going to lend your own brother some money? --  and with these  words
he  undid my quilted fur  for  me  himself,  got into my inside  pocket  and
reached my purse.
     -- Here  we are -- he said. -- I'm taking  a loan of a certain sum, and
your  purse, look, here it is,  I'm putting back in  your  coat. --  And  he
shoved my purse into the outer pocket of my fur.
     I  was of course surprised at meeting my brother so unexpectedly. For a
while I was silent, and  then I asked him: --  But where have you been until
now?
     -- There -- replied my brother, waving in some direction or other.
     I started thinking over  where  this 'there'  might  be, but my brother
nudged me in the side and said: --  Look,  they've started letting us in  to
the shop.
     We went together as far as the shop doors, but inside the shop I proved
to be on my own, without my brother. Just for a moment, I jumped out  of the
queue and looked through the door on to the street. But there was no sign of
my brother.
     When I again wanted to take my place in the queue, they wouldn't let me
in and even pushed  me gradually out on to the street. Holding back my anger
at such bad manners,  I went off home. At home I  discovered that my brother
had  taken  all the money  from  my purse. At this  stage I  got  absolutely
furious with my brother, and since then he and I have never made it up.
     I lived alone and  granted admittance only to  those who came to me for
advice.  But there were many  of  these and it turned out that I knew  peace
neither by day nor by night. Sometimes I would get so tired that I would lie
down on the floor and rest. I would lie on the floor  until I got cold; then
I would jump up and start running  round the room, to  warm up. Then I would
again sit down on the bench and give advice to all in need of it.
     They  would come in  to  me one  after the  other,  sometimes not  even
opening the doors.  I used  to enjoy looking at their excruciating faces.  I
would talk to them, hardly able to stop myself laughing.
     Once I couldn't  contain myself and burst  out laughing. They rushed in
horror to escape -- some through the door, some through the window, and some
straight through the walls.
     Left on my own, I drew myself up to my full majestic height,  opened my
mouth and said: -- Prin tim pram.
     But at this point something in  me cracked and, since  then, you  might
consider that I am no more.

             1936-38

--------


     YERMOLAYEV I have  been at Blinov's and he  gave  me a demonstration of
his  strength.  I've never seen anything  like it. The strength  of  a  wild
animal! It was awful to behold.  Blinov lifted  up a writing table, swung it
about and tossed it all of four metres away from him.
     DOCTOR It would be interesting to research this  phenomenon. Such facts
are known  to science, but the reasons for it are not understood. Where such
muscular strength comes from, scientists are not yet able to  say. Introduce
me to Blinov. I'll give him a research pill.
     YERMOLAYEV  What sort of a  pill is it that you are  intending to  give
Blinov?
     DOCTOR Pill? I don't intend to give him a pill.
     YERMOLAYEV But  you only  just said yourself that you were intending to
give him a pill.
     DOCTOR No, no. you are mistaken. I didn't mention a pill.
     YERMOLAYEV Well, excuse me, but I heard you mention a pill.
     DOCTOR No.
     YERMOLAYEV What do you mean -- no?
     DOCTOR I didn't say that.
     YERMOLAYEV Who didn't say it?
     DOCTOR You didn't say it.
     YERMOLAYEV What didn't I say?
     DOCTOR You, it seems to me, didn't finish saying something.
     YERMOLAYEV I don't understand. What didn't I finish saying?
     DOCTOR Your speech pattern is very typical. You swallow your words, you
don't complete the utterance of your initial thought, you hurry and then you
stutter.
     YERMOLAYEV When did I stutter? I speak quite fluently.
     DOCTOR  Ah,  but  that's where you're wrong.  Do you  see? You're  even
starting  to come out in red blotches from the tension. Your  hands  haven't
gone cold yet?
     YERMOLAYEV No, but so what?
     DOCTOR  Yes,  that was  my supposition.  I think  you're already having
trouble  breathing. You'd  better  sit down,  before  you fall  down. That's
right. Now have a rest.
     YERMOLAYEV But what for?
     DOCTOR Shh! Don't strain your  vocal chords. Now I'm going to alleviate
your fate.
     YERMOLAYEV Doctor! You frighten me.
     DOCTOR My dear friend! I want to help you. Here, take this. Swallow it!
     YERMOLAYEV Oh. Ooh! What a vile, disgustingly  sweet taste!  What is it
you've given me?
     DOCTOR Nothing, it's all right. Calm down. It's a sure remedy.
     YERMOLAYEV I'm hot and everything seems to be turning green.
     DOCTOR Yes, that's right, my dear friend. In a minute, you'll die.
     YERMOLAYEV What are you saying?  Doctor! Oh! I can't! Doctor! What have
you given me? Oh, Doctor!
     DOCTOR You have swallowed the research pill.
     YERMOLAYEV Save me. Oh. Save  me. Oh. Let me breathe.  Oh. Save...  oh.
Breathe...
     DOCTOR He's  gone  quiet.  And he's not breathing. That means he's dead
already. He has  died, not finding  on earth the answers  to  his questions.
Yes, we physicians must comprehensively research the phenomenon of death.

             1937

--------


     Philosopher!
     1. I am writing to you in reply to your letter, which you are intending
to write to me in reply to my letter which I wrote to you.
     2. A certain violinist bought  himself a magnet and was taking it home.
On the way  some  hooligans attacked the violinist and  knocked his cap off.
The wind caught his cap and carried it along the street.
     3. The violinist put his magnet down and ran off after his cap. The cap
landed in a puddle of nitric acid, where it decomposed.
     4.  And the hooligans had,  by that  time, grabbed the magnet and  made
off.
     5. The  violinist returned home without his  coat  and without his cap,
because  the  cap had  decomposed  in  the  nitric  acid and the  violinist,
distressed by the loss of his cap, had forgotten his coat on the tram.
     6. The conductor of the tram in question took the coat to a second-hand
shop and there he exchanged it for some sour cream, groats and tomatoes.
     7. The conductor's father-in-law stuffed  himself on  the tomatoes  and
died. The  conductor's  father-in-law's body was  placed  in the morgue, but
then things got mixed up and, instead of the conductor's father-in-law, they
buried some old woman.
     8.  On  the  old  woman's  grave they  placed  a  white post  with  the
inscription: 'Anton Sergeyevich Kondrat'ev'.
     9. Eleven years later, this post fell down, eaten through by worms. And
the cemetery watchman  sawed the  post into four pieces and burned it in his
stove.  And the cemetery  watchman's wife cooked cauliflower soup over  this
fire.
     10. But, when  the soup  was just ready, the  clock  fell off  the wall
right into the  saucepan full  of soup. They got the clock out of  the soup,
but these had been bedbugs in the clock and now they were  in the soup. They
gave the soup to Timofey the beggar.
     11. Timofey the beggar ate the soup, bugs and all, and told Nikolay the
beggar of the cemetery watchman's generosity.
     12. The next day  Nikolay  the beggar went to the cemetery watchman and
started asking him  for alms. But  the cemetery watchman didn't give Nikolay
the beggar anything and chased him away.
     13. Nikolay the beggar took  this very badly and burned down  the house
of the cemetery watchman.
     14. The fire went  from the house to the church  and  the church burned
down.
     15. A lengthy investigation took place, but the cause of the fire could
not be established.
     16. On the spot where the church had stood they built a club and on the
club's opening day a concert was arranged  at which  performed the violinist
who, fourteen years before, had lost his coat.
     17. And amid  the audience there sat the son  of one of those hooligans
who, fourteen years before, had knocked the cap off this violinist.
     18. After the concert they travelled home in the same tram. But, in the
tram which was following theirs, the tram-driver was that very conductor who
had once sold the violinist's coat at the second-hand shop.
     19. And  so  there  they are,  travelling  across the city in the  late
evening: in front are the violinist and the hooligan's son, and behind  them
the tram-driver and former conductor.
     20. They travel on and are not aware of what  the connection is between
them and this they will never learn until their dying day.

             1937

     * This letter was addressed to Yakov Semyonovich Druskin.

--------


     Sen'ka bashed  Fed'ka across  the  chops  and  hid  under the  chest of
drawers.
     Fed'ka got Sen'ka out from under the chest of drawers  with a poker and
tore off his right ear.
     Sen'ka  slipped through  Fed'ka's hands and, holding his  torn-off ear,
ran off to the neighbours.
     But Fed'ka caught up with Sen'ka and coshed him over the  head with the
sugar-basin.
     Sen'ka collapsed and, seemingly, died.
     Then  Fed'ka  packed  his  things  in  a  suitcase  and  went  away  to
Vladivostok.
     In Vladivostok Fed'ka became  a tailor; strictly  speaking, he  was not
exactly  a  tailor,  because he  made  only  ladies' underwear,  principally
drawers and brassieres. The ladies  had no inhibitions with Fed'ka; right in
front of him they would hitch up  their skirts and Fed'ka  would  take their
measurements.
     Fed'ka, as one might say, didn't half see some sights.

     Fed'ka was a nasty character.
     Fed'ka was the murderer of Sen'ka.
     Fed'ka was a lecherous devil.
     Fed'ka was a glutton, because  every  evening  he ate a dozen  cutlets.
Fed'ka grow such  a belly on him, that he made himself a  corset and took to
wearing it.
     Fed'ka was an unscrupulous man: he  took money from children he met  in
the street, he tripped up old men and he terrorised old women by raising his
hand to  them and,  when a frightened old  woman  shied to  one side, Fed'ka
would pretend that he had only raised his hand to scratch his head.
     It  ended when  Nikolay went up to Fed'ka, bashed  him across the chops
and hid under a cupboard.
     Fed'ka got Nikolay out with a poker from under the cupboard and  ripped
open his mouth.
     Nikolay ran  off with his  ripped  mouth to the neighbours, but  Fed'ka
caught up with him and clubbed him with  a beer  mug. Nikolay  collapsed and
died.
     Fed'ka gathered his things and went away from Vladivostok.

             Written in two devices, by 21 November 1937

--------


     Andrey Andreyevich thought up a story like this one.
     In an old castle  there lived a prince,  who was a terrible boozer. But
the wife of  this  prince,  on the contrary, didn't even drink tea, she only
drank water and  milk. While her husband  drank vodka and wine,  but  didn't
drink  milk. Though, in fact, his wife, to  tell the truth, also drank vodka
but  kept it quiet. But her husband was  quite shameless  and didn't keep it
quiet.
     -- I don't drink milk, I drink vodka! -- he always said. While his wife
on the quiet, from under her apron, pulled out a jar and -- glug! -- she was
drinking away.
     Her husband, the prince, says: -- You could have given me some.
     But his wife, the princess, says: --  No, there's little enough for me.
Shoo!
     -- As for you, -- says the prince -- call yourself  a lady! -- And with
these words, wallop, and his wife's on the floor! The wife, her whole kisser
smashed in, lies on the floor crying. And the prince  wrapped himself in his
cloak and went to his quarters in the tower, where his cages stood. He  bred
fowls there, you see. And so the  prince arrived in the tower  and there the
chickens were squawking, wanting food. one chicken even began to neigh.
     -- As for you  -- said the prince -- you chauntecleer! Shut up,  before
you get your teeth bashed  in! -- The chicken doesn't  understand a word and
just carries on neighing. So, in the end then, we've got a chicken  making a
racket  in the  tower, and  tile prince,  then, offing and  blinding and his
wife, then, downstairs lying on the floor -- in a word, a complete Sodom.
     That's the sort of story Andrey  Andreyevich would think up. Even  just
from this story  you can tell  that Andrey  Andreyevich  is a major  talent.
Andrey Andreyevich is a very clever man. Very clever and very fine!

             1938

--------


     They call  me the Capuchin. For that I'll  tear the ears off whomsoever
it may  be  necessary,  but meanwhile  I  get  no  peace  from  the fame  of
Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  Why did he have to  know everything? How  to swaddle
infants  and how to give young girls in marriage  I would also  like to know
everything. In fact I do know everything, except that I am not so sure of my
theories. About infants, I certainly know that they should not  be  swaddled
at all -- they should be obliterated. For  this I would  establish a central
pit in the city and would throw the infants into it. And so that  the stench
of decomposition  should not come from the  pit, it  could  be flooded every
week with quicklime. Into the same pit I would also stick all Alsatian dogs.
Now,  about  giving young  girls in  marriage. That,  in my  view,  is  even
simpler: I  would establish a public hall where,  say, once a month  all the
youth would  assemble. All of them  between  seventeen and thirty-five would
have  to  strip naked  and parade  up and down  the hall. If  anyone fancied
someone,  then that pail  would go  off into a corner and there examine each
other in detail. I forgot  to say that they  would all  have to have  a card
hanging from the neck with their name,  surname and address. Then, a  letter
could be sent to whomever was to someone's taste, to  set up a more intimate
acquaintance.  Should any  old man or  woman  intervene in these matters,  I
would propose  killing  them with an axe and dragging them off  to  the same
place as the infants -- to the central pit.
     I would have written more of the knowledge within me, but unfortunately
I have  to go to the shop for tobacco. When walking  on the street, I always
take with me a thick knotty stick. I take  it with me in order to batter any
infants who may get  under  my feet.  That must  be why they  called  me the
Capuchin. But just you wait, you swine, I'll skin your ears yet!

             1938

--------


     Serov, an  artist, went to the Obvodny Canal. Why did he go  there?  To
buy some india rubber. What did he want india rubber  for? To make himself a
rubber band. And what did he want a rubber band for? In order to stretch it.
That's what  for.  And what  else? This is what else: the  artist Serov  had
broken  his  clock. The clock had been  going well,  but he picked it up and
broke it. What else? Nothing else. Nothing,  this is it, in a nutshell! Keep
your filthy snout out when it's not needed!  And may the  lord have mercy on
us!
     Once there lived an old woman. She lived and lived, until she got burnt
up in her stove. Served her right, too! The  artist  Serov, at least, was of
that opinion...
     Huh! I would write some  more,  but the ink-pot has  suddenly gone  and
disappeared.

             1938

--------


     I  had  raised  dust.  Children  were  running after me,  tearing their
clothing. Old men and old women  fell  from roofs.  I whistled, I roared, my
teeth chattered  and I clattered like  an iron bar. Lacerated children raced
after me and, falling behind,  broke  their thin legs in  their awful haste.
Old men and old women were skipping around me. I rushed on! Filthy, rachitic
children,  looking like toadstools, got tangled  under my feet.  Running was
hard going. I  kept remembering things and once I even  almost fell into the
soft mush of old men and women floundering  on the ground. I jumped, snapped
a few heads off toadstools and trod on the belly of a thin old woman, who at
this emitted a loud crunch and softly  muttered: -- They've worn me out.  --
Not looking back, I ran on further. Now under my feet was a clean and smooth
pavement. Occasional streetlamps lit my way. I ran up to the bath-house. The
welcoming  bath-house flickered in  front of me and  the  cosy but  stifling
bathhouse  steam  was  already  in  my nostrils,  ears  and  mouth.  Without
undressing, I ran straight  through  the changing-room, then  past the taps,
the tubs and  the planks, to the shelf. A  hot white cloud  surrounds me,  I
hear a weak but insistent sound. I seem to be lying down.
     And at this point, a mighty relaxation stopped my heart.

             1939

--------


     A  shortish gent with a pebble  in his  eye went  up  to  the door of a
tobacconist's shop  and stopped. His  black  polished  shoes  gleamed on the
stone step leading up to the tobacconist's. The  toe-caps of his shoes  were
directed at the inside of  the shop. Two more steps and the  gentleman would
have disappeared through the door. But for some reason he  dilly-dallied, as
though purposely to position his head under the brick which was falling from
the roof. The gentleman  had even taken off  his hat, baring his bald skull,
and thus the  brick  struck the gentleman right on his  bare head, broke the
cranium and embedded itself in his brain.  The gentleman didn't fall. No, he
merely staggered a  bit from the  terrible  blow, pulled a handkerchief from
his pocket, used it  to wipe his face,  which  was all gooey from blood  and
brains,  and, turning towards the crowd, which had instantly gathered around
the  gentleman, he said: -- Don't worry, ladies and gents: I've  already had
the vaccination. You can see  -- I've got  a  protruding pebble in my  right
eye. That  was also once quite an incident.  I've already got used  to that.
Now everything's just fine and dandy!
     And with these words  the  gentleman  replaced his  hat  and  went  off
somewhere  into  the  margins,  leaving   the  troubled  crowd  in  complete
bewilderment.

             1939-40

--------


     There was a house, full of old  women. The old women lounged around the
house all  day  and  swatted  flies  with  paper  bags.  There were  in  all
thirty-six old women in this house. The most vigourous old woman, by surname
Yufleva, ordered  the  other old  women about. She would nib any disobedient
old woman on the back of  the shoulders  or trip her up,  and she would fall
and smash her face. One old woman called Zvyakina, punished by Yufleva, fell
so disastrously that she broke both her jaws. The doctor had to be sent for.
He arrived, put on  his white coat  and, having examined Zvyakina, said that
she was too old  for there being  any  possibility of  counting on her  jaws
mending. Then the doctor asked to be given a hammer, a chisel,  pincers  and
rope. The old women drifted  round the house for ages and, not  knowing what
pincers and  a chisel  look like, they  brought the  doctor everything  that
seemed  to them anything like  tools. The doctor cursed for a long  time but
finally, having received all the objects he had demanded,  asked everyone to
withdraw.  The  old  women, burning  with  curiosity,  withdrew  with  great
displeasure. When the old women, amid swearing and grumbling, had hocked out
of the room, the doctor locked the door behind them and went up to Zvyakina.
     -- Now  then -- said  the doctor and, having grabbed Zvyakina, tied her
tightly with the rope. Then the doctor,  paying  no  attention to  the  loud
cries and wailing  of Zvyakina, placed the chisel to her jaw-bone and struck
the chisel hard with  the hammer. Zvyakina  began howling  in a hoarse bass.
Having shattered Zvyakina's jaw with the  chisel,  the  doctor  grabbed  the
pincers and, having engaged Zvyakina's jaws, tore them out. Zvyakina howled,
shouted and wheezed, covered in blood. And  the doctor  dropped the  pincers
and Zvyakina's torn jaw-bones, took off his white  coat, wiped his hands off
it and, going over to the door,  opened it.  The old women  tumbled into the
room  with  a scream and  stared goggle-eyed,  some at Zvyakina, some at the
blood-stained  bits  lying about on  the floor. The doctor  pushed  his  way
between the old women  and went out. The old women rushed over to  Zvyakina.
Zvyakina faded  in  volume and,  obviously, was  in  the  process  of dying.
Yufleva  stood  right there,  looking at Zvyakina and nibbling at  sunflower
seeds. The old  woman Byashechina said:  -- So, Yufleva, even you and I will
snuff it some day.
     Yufleva kicked at Byashechina, but the latter jumped aside in time.
     -- Come on girls!  -- said Byashechina. -- Why hang around here?  Let's
leave Yufleva and Zvyakina to romp around, and we'll go and swat flies.
     And the old women moved off out of the room.
     Yufleva, continuing  to  bite  into her sunflower seeds,  stood in  the
middle  of the room and looked at Zvyakina. Zvyakina  had faded away and lay
there motionless. Perhaps she had died.
     However, with this  the  author  is finishing  his narrative, since  he
cannot find his ink-pot.

             1940

--------


     Pushkov said: -- Woman is the workbench of love.
     And he immediately received a clout across the gob.
     -- What's that for? -- asked Pushkov.
     But, not getting any  answer to his question, he continued:  -- This is
what I think: a  woman should be tackled from below. Women really like  this
and only pretend that they don't like it.
     At this point Pushkov was again struck across the gob.
     -- But what  on earth  is this,  comrades! If  that's the way it  is, I
won't carry on speaking -- said Pushkov.
     But,  after waiting about a quarter  of a minute,  he  continued: --  A
woman is so built that she is all soft and damp.
     At this point Pushkov was again struck across the gob. Pushkov tried to
pretend that he hadn't  noticed this  and went  on: --  If you  just sniff a
woman...
     But at this point  Pushkov was so slammed across the gob that he caught
hold of his cheek  and said:  --  Comrades,  under  these  conditions  it is
absolutely impossible to  deliver a lecture. If  this happens again, I shall
discontinue.
     Pushkov waited for  a quarter of a minute and then  continued: --  Now,
where were we? Ah, yes. That was  it.  A woman loves to look at herself. She
sits down in front of the mirror completely naked...
     At this word, Pushkov again received a clout across the gob.
     -- Naked -- repeated Pushkov.
     Smack! -- he was weighed into right across the gob.
     -- Naked! -- yelled Pushkov.
     Smack! -- he received a clout across the gob.
     --  Naked! A naked woman! A nude tart! --  Pushkov kept yelling. Smack!
Smack! Smack! -- Pushkov took it across the gob.
     -- A nude tart with a ladle in her hands! -- yelled Pushkov.
     Smack! Smack! -- the blows rained down on Pushkov.
     -- A tart's bum-hole! -- yelled Pushkov, dodging the blows.  --  A nude
nun!
     But  at this  point  Pushkov was struck  with such force that  he  lost
consciousness and crumpled to the floor as though pole-axed.

             1940

--------


     They said to Myshin: -- Hey, Myshin, get up!
     Myshin said: -- I won't get up -- and continued lying on the floor.
     Then Kalugin  came up  to  Myshin and  said:  -- If you don't  get  up,
Myshin, I will make you get up.
     -- No -- said Myshin, continuing to lie on the floor.
     Selizneva  went up  to Myshin and  said: --  Myshin,  you are  for ever
sprawling about the floor in the  corridor and you interfere with us walking
backwards and forwards.
     --  I  have been interfering  and I shall keep  on interfering  -- said
Myshin.
     -- Well, you know  -- said Korshunov,  but Kalugin interrupted him  and
said:
     -- What's the point  of carrying on  long  conversations about it! Call
the militia!
     They called for the militia and called out a militiaman.
     The militiaman arrived after half an hour with the caretaker.
     -- What's going on here? -- asked the militiaman.
     -- How do you like this! -- said Korshunov, but Kalugin interrupted him
and said:
     -- This is the situation. This citizen lies here  on the floor  all the
time and interferes with us walking along the corridor.  We've tried telling
him this and that...
     But  at this point Kalugin was interrupted by  Selizneva, who said:  --
We've asked him to go away, but he doesn't go away.
     -- Yes -- said Korshunov.
     The militiaman went up to Myshin.
     -- You, citizen, why are you lying here? -- asked the militiaman.
     -- I'm resting -- said Myshin.
     -- Resting here is not good enough,  citizen -- said the militiaman. --
Where do you live, citizen?
     -- Here -- said Myshin.
     -- Where's your room? -- asked the militiaman.
     -- He's  registered  in our flat,  but he doesn't have  a room  -- said
Kalugin.
     -- Wait a  minute, citizen --  said the militiaman --  I'll have a word
with him now. Citizen, where do you sleep?
     -- Here -- said Myshin.
     -- Allow me to -- said Korshunov, but Kalugin interrupted him and said:
     -- He doesn't even have a bed and he sprawls right on the bare floor.
     --  They've been  complaining  about  him for a  long time -- said  the
caretaker.
     --  It's absolutely  impossible to  walk  along  the corridor  --  said
Selizneva -- I  can't keep stepping over a man for ever.  And  he sticks out
his  legs on purpose, and  he sticks out his hands,  and he lies on his back
and looks up. I come back tired from work, I need a rest.
     -- And I can add  --  said  Korshunov, but  Kalugin interrupted him and
said:
     -- He lies here at night, as well. Everyone trips over him in the dark.
I tore my blanket because of him.
     Selizneva said: -- He's always got tin-tacks and things falling  out of
his pocket. It's impossible to  walk barefooted down the corridor, or before
you know where you are -- you put your foot on something.
     --  They wanted to  set him  alight with kerosene the other day -- said
the caretaker.
     --  We  did  pour kerosene  over  him  -- said Korshunov,  but  Kalugin
interrupted him and said:
     -- We  only poured kerosene over him to scare him, but we weren't going
to set light to him.
     -- Oh no, I  wouldn't have a man burned alive in  my  presence --  said
Selizneva.
     -- But why  is this citizen  lying in  the  corridor? -- the militiaman
suddenly asked.
     --  That's  a  fine  how  do  you do!  -- said Korshunov,  but  Kalugin
interrupted him and said:
     -- Well, because he  hasn't got any other living space:  here's where I
live, in this room, and she's in that one, and that one's his, and so Myshin
lives here, in the corridor.
     -- That's not good enough -- said the militiaman. -- Everyone should be
lying in their own living space.
     -- But he hasn't got any other living space, except in  the corridor --
said Kalugin.
     -- That's just it -- said Korshunov.
     -- And so he goes on lying here -- said Selizneva.
     --  That's  not good  enough  --  said  the  militiaman  and went away,
together with the caretaker.
     Korshunov leaped over to Myshin.
     -- What about it? -- he yelled. -- How did you like that, then?
     -- Wait -- said Kalugin. And,  going up to Myshin, he said: --  Did you
hear what the militiaman said? Get up from the floor!
     -- I won't get up -- said Myshin, continuing to lie there on the floor.
     -- Now he will deliberately  and furthermore and for ever keep on lying
there -- said Selizneva.
     -- Definitely -- said Kalugin with some irritation.
     And Korshunov said: -- I don't doubt it. Parfaitement!

             1940

--------


     Two men fell from a roof. They both fell from the roof of a five-storey
newly erected building. Seemingly a school. They had moved down the  roof in
a sitting position to the very edge and at that point started to fall. Their
fall was noticed first of  all  by Ida  Markovna.  She  was standing at  her
window in the building opposite and was blowing her nose into a tumbler. And
suddenly she caught sight  of someone starting to fall from  the roof of the
building  opposite. Peering out, Ida Markovna saw what was an entire twosome
starting to fall at once.  Completely losing her head, Ida Markovna tore off
her shift and hurriedly began to rub the  misted-over windowpane, the better
to make out who was falling from the roof out there. However, twigging that,
perhaps, those falling might, from their vantage  point, be able to  glimpse
her  naked -- and  goodness only knew what they  might think of  her  -- Ida
Markovna  jumped back  from the window and  hid behind the wicker tripod  on
which there had at one time stood a pot plant.
     At this  juncture, those  falling from the roof were sighted by another
personage who lived  in the same building  as Ida Markovna, only two  floors
below. This personage was also called Ida Markovna. She happened at the time
to be sitting with her feet up on the window-sill and was sewing a button on
her  slipper.  Looking out of the window,  she  had  caught sight  of  those
falling  from  the roof.  Ida  Markovna  yelped and,  leaping  up  from  the
window-sill,  hastily began opening  the window, so as to get  a better view
when those falling from the  roof should strike the ground.  But the  window
would not open. Ida Markovna remembered that she had nailed  the window from
beneath and rushed to the stove,  in which she kept her tools: four hammers,
a chisel and pincers. Grabbing the pincers, Ida Markovna again ran up to the
window and pulled out  the nail. Now the window  was easily flung  open. Ida
Markovna leaned out of the window and saw those who had fallen from the roof
whistling towards the ground.
     On the street  a  smallish  crowd had already  gathered. Whistles  were
already blowing and a  diminutive militiaman was unhurriedly approaching the
location  of  the anticipated  event. A  big-nosed caretaker bustled  about,
shoving people and explaining that those falling  from  the roof could smite
the heads  of  those gathered below. By this time, both Ida Markovnas -- the
one in a  dress and the  other naked -- having leaned out  of their windows,
were squealing and kicking their  legs about. And so,  finally,  arms spread
and eyes agape, those who had fallen from the roof struck the ground.
     Just as on occasion  we,  falling  from  heights  we have attained, may
strike the dreary cage of our future.

             Written over four days. Finished 17 October 1940

--------


     Perechin sat on a drawing pin and, from  this moment,  his life changed
abruptly.  From  a contemplative, quiet man Perechin turned into a downright
scoundrel. He grew  himself a moustache and  henceforth trimmed it extremely
untidily, in such a way that the one side of his moustache was always longer
than the other. And so  his moustache came to  grow somehow askew. It became
impossible to look at Perechin. What is more, he would give a repulsive wink
of  the  eye and  twitch his  cheek. For a  certain time  Perechin  confined
himself to petty and reprehensible tricks:  he told tales, denounced people,
and cheated  tram conductors by paying  them his fare  in  the very smallest
copper coin and each time two or three kopecks short.

             1940

--------


     Pronin said: -- You have very beautiful stockings.
     Irina Mazer said: -- Do you like my stockings?
     Pronin said: -- Oh yes. Very much. --  And he made a grab at them  with
his hand.
     Irina said: -- But why do you like my stockings?
     Pronin said: -- They are very smooth.
     Irina lifted her skirt and said: -- And do you see how high they go?
     Pronin said: -- Oh yes, I do.
     Irina said: -- But here they come to an end. Up here it's bare leg.
     -- Oh, and what leg! -- said Pronin.
     -- I've got  very thick legs -- said Irina. -- And I'm very wide in the
hips.
     -- Show me -- said Pronin.
     -- I can't -- said Irina. -- I've no knickers on.
     Pronin got down on his knees in front or her.
     Irina said: -- What are you kneeling for?
     Pronin  kissed  her  on the  leg, a little above the stocking  top, and
said: -- That's what for.
     Irina said: -- Why are you lifting my  skirt even  higher? I've already
told you I've no knickers on.
     But Pronin lifted her skirt all the same and said: -- Never mind, never
mind.
     -- What do you mean, never mind? -- said Irina.
     But  at  this juncture someone was  knocking at the door. Irina briskly
pulled down her skirt and Pronin  got up from the floor and went over to the
window.
     -- Who's there? -- asked Irina through the door.
     -- Open the door -- said a sharp voice.
     Irina opened the door and into the room came a man in a black coat  and
high boots. Behind him came a pair of soldiers of the lowest rank, rifles at
the ready,  and behind them came the caretaker. The lower ranks stood by the
door, while the man in the black  coat went  up to Irina Mazer and said:  --
Your name?
     -- Mazer -- said Irina.
     -- Your name? -- asked the man in the black coat, turning to Pronin .
     Pronin said: -- My name is Pronin.
     -- Do you have a weapon? -- asked the man in the black coat.
     -- No -- said Pronin.
     -- Sit  down here -- said the man in the black coat, indicating a chair
to Pronin.
     Pronin sat down.
     -- And you  -- said the man in the black coat, turning to Irina, -- put
your coat on. You'll have to come for a ride with us.
     -- What for? -- asked Irina.
     The man in the black coat did not reply.
     -- I'll need to change -- said Irina.
     -- No -- said the man in the black coat.
     -- But there's something else I need to put on -- said Irina.  -- No --
said the man in the black coat.
     Irina put on her fur coat in silence.
     -- Good-bye, then -- she said to Pronin.
     -- Conversations are not allowed -- said the man in the black coat.
     -- Do I come with you as well? -- asked Pronin.
     -- Yes -- said the man in the black coat.  --  Get your coat on. Pronin
stood up, took his coat and  hat down from the peg, put them on and said: --
Well, I'm ready. -- Let's go -- said the man in the black coat.
     The lower ranks and the caretaker stamped their feet.
     They all went out into the corridor.
     The man in the black coat locked the door of Irina's room and sealed it
with two brown seals.
     -- Outside -- he said.
     And they all went out of the flat, loudly slamming the outside door.

             1940

--------


     An  old man set out to go into the woods, although he didn't  know what
for. Then he came back and said:
     -- Hey, old woman, you!
     The old woman fell straight  down. Since then, the  hares are white  in
winter.

--------


     Anton  Mikhailovich  spat,  said  'ugh', spat again,  again said 'ugh',
again  spat, again said 'ugh' and walked away. And to hell with  him. I'd do
better to talk about Il'ya Pavlovich.
     Il'ya Pavlovich was born in 1893 in Constantinople.
     When he  was still a small boy, he was taken  to Petersburg and hero he
went to the German school on  Kirochnaya Street. Then he worked in some shop
or other, then he did  something else and at the beginning of the revolution
he emigrated abroad. Well and to hell  with him. I'd do better to talk about
Anna Ignat'evna.
     But to talk about Anna Ignat'evna is not so very  simple.  In the first
place I  don't  know anything about her  and  in the second place I have now
fallen  off my chair and forgotten what I had intended to say. I'd do better
to talk about myself.
     I am on the  tall side, quite intelligent, I'm a flashy dresser with  a
bit of taste, I  don't drink,  I  don't go to the races, but I do chase  the
ladies.  And the ladies don't avoid me. They even like it when I muck around
with them.  Serafima  Izmailovna has  often invited  me  round  and  Zinaida
Yakovlevna also used to say that she was always pleased to see me. But there
did occur between me and Marina Pavlovna an amusing incident which I want to
tell you about. It  was a completely ordinary incident, but all  the same an
amusing one for, thanks to me, Marina  Pavlovna went  absolutely bald,  like
the palm  of  your  hand. It  happened like  this:  once I arrived at Marina
Pavlovna's and bang! -- she went bald. And that's all there is to it.

             1941

--------


     Without  boasting, I  can tell you  that, when Volodya struck me across
the ear and spat in  my face,  I really got him, so that he won't forget it.
It was only after  that that  I hit him with his primus  and  it was evening
when I hit him with the iron. So he didn't die straight  away  by any means.
This doesn't prove that  I cut his leg off as early as the afternoon. He was
still  alive  then. Whereas Andryusha I  killed simply  from inertia,  and I
can't  hold myself  responsible for that.  Why  did Andryusha and Yelizaveta
Antonovna fall into my hands anyway? They had no business springing out from
behind  the door. I am  being accused of bloodthirstiness;  they say I drank
blood, but that is not true: I licked up the pools of blood and stains -- it
is a man's natural urge to wipe  out the traces of even the most  trivial of
crimes.  And  also I did not rape Yelizaveta Antonovna. In the first  place,
she  was no  longer a virgin; and secondly  I  was having  dealings  with  a
corpse, so she has no cause for complaint. What about the fact that she just
happened to have to give  birth? Well, I  did  pull out the infant. The fact
that he was not long for this world anyway, well that's really not my fault.
I  didn't  tear his head  off; it  was his thin neck  that did that.  He was
simply not  created for this life. It's true that I stomped  their dog to  a
pulp around the floor, but it's really cynical to accuse me of murdering the
dog when in the immediate  vicinity, it might be said, three human lives had
been  obliterated. The infant I don't count.  Well,  all right then,  in all
this (I can agree with you) it is possible to  discern a  degree of severity
on my part. But to consider it a crime that I squatted down and defecated on
my victims -- that is really, if  you'll excuse me, absurd. Defecation is an
urge  of nature and  consequently  can  in no sense be criminal. All  things
considered,  I  do understand the misgivings  of my defence counsel, but all
the same I am hoping for a complete acquittal.

             1940

--------


     Now I will describe  how I was born, how  I  grew  up and how the first
signs of genius were discovered in  me. I was  born twice.  This is  how  it
happened.
     My  Dad got  married to my Mum in 1902, but my parents brought  me into
the world only at  the end  of 1905, because  Dad was adamant that his child
should be born at New Year. Dad calculated that conception had to take place
on the  first of April and only on that day did he get round my Mum with the
proposition of conceiving a child.
     My Dad got round my  Mum on the first of April 1903. Mum  had long been
awaiting this moment and was terribly thrilled. But Dad, as it seems, was in
a very playful mood  and could not restrain himself,  saying to  Mum: 'April
Fool!'.
     Mum was absolutely furious and didn't allow Dad anywhere near  her that
day. There was nothing for it but to wait until the following year.
     On the  first of April 1904,  Dad again started getting  round Mum with
the  same  proposition.  But  Mum,  remembering  what had  happened the year
before, said  that  she  had no  further desire  to be  left  in that stupid
position and again would not allow Dad near her. It  didn't matter  how much
noise Dad created, it got him nowhere.
     And only a year later did my Dad manage to have his way with my Mum and
beget me.
     And so my conception took place on the first of April 1905.
     However, all Dad's  calculations broke down because I turned out  to be
premature and was born four months before my time.
     Dad created such a fuss that the midwife who had delivered  me lost her
head and started to shove me back in, from where I had only just emerged.
     An  acquaintance of ours  who was in  attendance,  a  student from  the
military medical academy, declared that  shoving me back in would  not work.
However,  the student's  words  notwithstanding, they  still  shoved me  and
shoved me back, for all they were worth.
     At this point a fearful commotion broke out.
     The progenetrix yells: -- Give me my baby!
     And the response comes: -- Your baby -- they tell her -- is inside you.
     -- What! -- yells the progenetrix. -- How can my baby be inside me when
I have just given birth to him!
     -- But -- they say to the progenetrix -- mightn't you be mistaken?
     -- What! -- yells the progenetrix -- mistaken? How can I be mistaken! I
saw the baby myself, he was lying here on a sheet only just now!
     -- That is  true --  they  tell  the progenetrix  --  but  perhaps he's
crawled off somewhere. -- In a word, they themselves don't know what to tell
the progenetrix.
     And the progenetrix is still making a noise and demanding her baby.
     There  was  nothing  for it,  but  to call  an experienced  doctor. The
experienced doctor examined the progenetrix and threw up his hands; however,
he thought it all out and gave the progenetrix a good dose of English salts,
and by this means I saw the light of day for the second time.
     At this  juncture,  Dad  again started creating  a  fuss,  saying that,
surely, this couldn't be  called a birth, that this, surely, couldn't yet be
called a human being, but  rather a semifoetus, and that it  ought to either
be shoved back again or put into a incubator.
     And so they put me into an incubator.

             1935

--------


     I sat in  the  incubator  for four months.  I  remember only  that  the
incubator was made of glass,  was transparent and had  a  thermometer. I sat
inside the incubator  on cotton wool.  I  don't remember anything else about
it.
     After four months they took me out  of the incubator. They did this, as
it happens, on the first of January 1906.
     By this means, I was to all intents and purposes born for a third time.
     But it was the first of January that was counted as my birthday.

             1935

     * Note: Daniil Kharms was  in fact born on 17 December (Old Style) / 25
December (New Style), 1905.

--------


     1.
     Once I arrived at Gosizdat <publishing house> and there in Gosizdat met
Yevgeny  L'vovich  Shvarts  who,  as  always,  was  badly  dressed but  with
pretention to something.
     Catching sight of me, Shvarts began to crack jokes but also, as always,
unsuccessfully.
     I cracked jokes significantly  more successfully and  soon, with regard
to intellectual relations, put Shvarts squarely on his back.
     Everyone around  envied my wit, but they  could do  nothing about it as
they literally killed  themselves  laughing. In particular Nina Vladimirovna
Gernet and David Yefimych Rakhmilovich, who called himself Eugene because of
the sound of it, used to kill themselves laughing.
     Seeing  that his jokes didn't work with me, Shvarts  started to  change
his tone and in the end, cursing  me up and  down, declared that everyone in
Tiflis knows Zabolotsky and hardly anyone knows me.
     At this point I  lost my temper and said that  I was more  historically
important than  Shvarts and Zabolotsky, that I  shall  leave a  radiant mark
upon history, while they will quickly be forgotten.
     Having got the feel  of  my  magnitude and my major world significance,
Shvarts gradually began to palpitate and invited me round for dinner.
     2.
     I decided to mess up the party, and that's what I'm going to do.
     I'll  start  with  Valentina  Yefimovna.  This  inhospitable  personage
invites us round and instead of a meal she puts on the table some awful sour
stuff.  I enjoy eating  and I know what's what  when  it  comes to food. You
can't fool me  with sour muck! I  even go into restaurants  on occasions and
see what sort of food they have  there.  And  I  cannot  stand it when  this
particularity of my character is not recognized.
     Now I'll move on to Leonid Savel'evich Lipavsky. He didn't  shrink from
telling me in my face that every month he composes ten thoughts.
     In the first place, he's lying. He doesn't compose ten, it's less.
     And secondly, I think up more. I haven't counted up how many I think up
in a month, but it must be more than he does...
     And I, for  example,  don't throw  it  in everyone's  face that I, say,
possess a colossal mind. I have quite sufficient evidence to consider myself
a great man. Yes and, at any rate, I do consider myself such.
     That is why it  is insulting and painful for  me to find  myself  among
people who are inferior to  me in terms of mind, insight and talent, and not
to feel that I am accorded the respect that is fully my due.
     Why, oh why am I better than everyone else?
     3.
     Now  I have  understood everything: Leonid Savel'evich  is a German. He
even  has German habits. Look at the way he eats.  Well, he's a pure German,
that's all there is to it! Even by his legs you can tell that he's a German.
     Without boasting at all, I am able to say that I  am very observant and
witty.
     So, for example, if you  take Leonid Savel'evich, Yuri Berzin and Vol'f
Erlikh and  line  them all up  together on the pavement, then you could well
call them: major, minor and minimus.
     In my view that's witty, because it's moderately funny.
     And  all the same, Leonid Savel'evich is a German!  I really  must tell
him this when I see him.
     I don't consider myself an especially intelligent person, but  all  the
same  I have  to say that I'm more intelligent  than all  the rest.  Perhaps
there's someone more intelligent than  me on Mars, but I don't know about on
Earth.
     For instance, they say that  Oleinikov is very intelligent.  And  in my
view  he  is intelligent,  but not very. He discovered, for example, that if
you write a '6' and turn it upside down, then you get a '9'. And in my  view
that's just stupid.
     Leonid Savel'evich is absolutely right when he says that someone's mind
is their worth. And if there is no mind, that means there is no worth. Yakov
Semyonovich argues with  Leonid Savel'evich and  says that someone's mind is
their weakness. And in my view that's already a paradox. Why ever should the
mind  be a weakness? Not  at all.  Rather, it's  a  stronghold.  I think so,
anyway.
     We often get together at Leonid Savel'evich's and talk about  this.  If
an argument breaks out, then I always turn out the winner of the argument. I
myself don't know why.
     Everyone  regards  me  with a  certain  astonishment  for  some reason.
Whatever I do, everyone finds it astonishing.
     I don't even make any effort. Everything seems to work out of  its  own
accord.
     Zabolotsky said some time  that  I was born  to govern the  spheres. He
must have been joking. No such idea has ever entered my head.
     In the Writers' Union I am considered an angel, for some reason.
     Listen, my friends! In fact you shouldn't  bend the knee before me like
that. I am just the same as all of you, only better.
     4.
     I have heard the phrase: 'Seize the moment'. It's easily said, but hard
to do. In my view, it's a meaningless expression. And really, you can't call
for the impossible.
     I say this with complete certainty, because I have tested everything on
myself. I have grabbed at the moment but not managed  to seize it  and  have
merely broken my watch. Now I know that it's impossible.
     it's also impossible to 'seize the epoch', because it's the same as the
moment, only a bit more so.
     It's another  matter if you say:  'Document  what is happening  at this
moment'... That is quite another matter.
     So, for  example: one, two, three!  Nothing happened!  And  so  I  have
documented a moment in which nothing happened.
     I told  Zabolotsky about this. He was very  taken by  this and sat  the
whole  day counting: one,  two,  three!  And  made  notes  that nothing  had
happened.
     Shvarts  caught Zabolotsky at  this activity. And Shvarts  also took an
interest in this original means of  documenting  what  was  happening in our
epoch, since an epoch is formed out of moments.
     But I  beg to draw your attention to the fact that once again I was the
prime   mover  of  this  method.  Me  again!   Me  everywhere!  It's  simply
astonishing!
     What comes with difficulty to others comes easily to me!
     I  can even fly. But I'm not going to tell you about that because, come
what may, nobody will believe it.
     5.
     Whenever two people are playing chess, it always  seems  to me that one
is fooling the other. Especially if they are playing for money.
     In general, I find any kind of playing for money  disgusting.  I forbid
gambling in my presence.
     And as for card players, I would have them executed. That would be  the
best method of getting to grips with games of chance.
     Instead of  playing card games, it would be better if  people would get
together and read each other a bit of ethics.
     Though ethics is rather boring. Womanizing is more fun.
     Women  have always interested me. Women's legs  have always excited me,
especially above the knee.
     Many people consider women to be depraved creatures. But not me! On the
contrary, I even consider them to be somehow quite pleasant.
     A plumpish young woman! What's depraved about her? She's  not  depraved
at all!
     Children are another matter. They are usually said to  be innocent. And
I consider that  they  might well be innocent, but  anyway  they are  highly
loathsome,  especially  when they  are dancing. I  always make an exit  from
anywhere where there are children.
     Leonid Savel'evich  also  doesn't like children.  And  it  was  me  who
inspired him with such ideas.
     ... Generally  speaking, everything  that  Leonid  Savel'evich says has
already been said some time earlier by me.
     And that doesn't only go for Leonid Savel'evich.
     Everyone is only too pleased to pick up even scraps of my ideas. I even
find this funny.
     For example,  Oleinikov ran up to me yesterday, saying that  he had got
into a complete muddle over questions of existence. I gave him some  sort of
advice  and discharged him. He went  off delighted with  me  and in his very
best mood.
     People see me as a means of support,  they repeat  my  words,  they are
astonished by my actions, but they don't pay me money.
     Foolish people! Bring me money, the more  the better,  and you will see
how pleased that will make me.
     6.
     Now I'll say a few words about Aleksandr Ivanovich.1
     He's  a wind-bag and a card player.  But what  I value  him  for is his
obedience to me.
     By day and by night he dances attendance on me, just waiting for a hint
from me of some command. I  have only to proffer such  a  hint and Aleksandr
Ivanovich flies like the wind to carry out  my  wish. For this I bought  him
some shoes and said: -- There you are, wear them! And so he wears them.
     Whenever  Aleksandr Ivanovich arrives at Gosizdat, they all  laugh  and
say to each other that Aleksandr Ivanovich has come for his money.
     Konstantin Ignat'evich Drovatsky hides under  the table. I say  this in
an allegorical sense.
     More than anything, Aleksandr Ivanovich loves macaroni.
     He always eats it with  ground rusks  and he gobbles up almost  a whole
kilo, and perhaps even much more.
     Having  eaten his  macaroni, Aleksandr Ivanovich says he feels sick and
lies down on the divan. Sometimes the macaroni comes back up.
     Aleksandr  Ivanovich  doesn't  eat meat  and  he  doesn't  like  women.
Although sometimes he likes them. Apparently, even very often.
     But the  women  whom Aleksandr  Ivanovich  likes, to my taste,  are all
ugly, and therefore we shall consider that they are not even women at all.
     If I  say a thing,  that  means it's correct. I don't advise anyone  to
argue with me, as they will  just be  made a fool of, because I get the last
word with everyone.
     And it's  no use you bandying words with me. That's already been tried.
I've seen  them all off! Never mind that I look as though I can barely talk,
but when I get going, there's no stopping me.
     Once I got going at the Lipavskys and that was that! I talked them  all
to death! Then I went off to the Zabolotskys and talked everyone's head  off
there. Then I went  to  the  Shvartses and talked everyone's head off there.
Then I arrived home and talked half the night away again there!

             1930s

     1 A. I. Vvedensky was a close friend of D. Kharms.

--------


     I love sensual women and not passionate ones. A passionate woman closes
her eyes, moans and shouts and the enjoyment of a passionate woman is blind.
A passionate woman writhes about,  grabs  you with her hands without looking
where, clasps you,  kisses you, even  bites  you  and hurries  to reach  her
climax as soon as she can. She has no time  to display her sexual organs, no
time to examine, touch with the hand and kiss your sexual organs,  she is in
such a hurry to slake her passion. Having slaked her passion, the passionate
woman will fall asleep.  The sexual organs of a passionate woman  are dry. A
passionate woman is always in some way or another mannish.
     The sensual woman is always feminine.
     Her contours are rounded and abundant.
     The sensual woman rarely  reaches a  blind passion. She savours  sexual
enjoyment.  The  sensual  woman  is always a woman and even in an  unaroused
state her sexual organs are  moist. She has to wear a bandage  on her sexual
organs, so as not to soak them with moisture.
     When she takes the  bandage  off  in the evening, the bandage is so wet
that it can be squeezed out.
     Thanks to such  an  abundance of juices, the sexual organs of a sensual
woman give  off  a slight, pleasant smell which  increases strongly when the
sensual woman is aroused. Then the juice  from her sexual organs is secreted
in a syrupy stream.
     A sensual woman likes you to examine her sexual organs.

             early 1930s

--------


     But the  artist  sat the  nude model on the table  and moved  her  legs
apart. The girl hardly resisted and merely covered her face with her hands.
     Amonova and  Strakhova said that first the girl should  have been taken
off to the  bathroom and  washed  between  her legs, as any whiff of such an
aroma was simply  repulsive. The girl wanted to jump up but the  artist held
her back  and  asked her to  take no notice  and sit there,  just  as he had
placed her. The girl, not knowing what she was supposed to do, sat back down
again. The artist  and his female colleagues took their respective seats and
began sketching the nude model. Petrova  said that the nude model was a very
seductive woman, but Strakhova  and Amonova said  that she was  rather plump
and indecent.  Zolotogromov said that this was what made her seductive,  but
Strakhova said that this was simply repulsive, and not at all seductive.
     --  Look --  said Strakhova -- ugh!  It's  pouring out of her on to the
table cloth.  What is there seductive about that, when I can sniff the smell
off her from here.
     Petrova said that this  only  showed  her  feminine strength.  Abel'far
blushed and agreed. Amonova said she  had seen nothing like it, that you get
to the highest point of arousal and it still wouldn't secrete like this girl
did. Petrova  said that, faced  with that, one could get aroused oneself and
that Zolotogromov must already be aroused.
     Zolotogromov  agreed  that the girl was  having quite an effect on him.
Abel'far sat there red in the face and she was breathing heavily.
     --  However,  the air in this  room  is  becoming  unbearable  --  said
Strakhova. Abel'far fidgeted on her chair and  then leapt up and went out of
the room.
     -- There -- said Petrova -- you see the result of female seductiveness.
It even acts on the ladies. Abel'far  has gone off to put herself to rights.
I can feel that I will soon have to do the same thing.
     --  That --  said  Amonova  --  only shows the advantage  we thin women
possess. Everything with us  is  always  as  it should  be. But both you and
Abel'far are splendiferous ladies and  you have to keep yourselves very much
in check.
     --  Yet -- said Zolotogromov -- splendiferousness and a certain lack of
bodily hygiene are what is to be particularly valued in a woman.

             1934-37

     * Zolotogromov is a male surname; all other characters are female.

--------


        A Comedy in Three Parts

     GRANNY  Bobrov (Playing  patience)  Now that's the card. Oh,  it's  all
coming out  topsy-turvy! A king. And where  am I supposed  to put that? Just
when you want one, there's never a five around. Oh, I could do with  a five!
Now it'll be the five. Oh, sod it, another king!
     She flings  the cards  on to the table with such force that a porcelain
vase falls off the table and smashes.
     GRANNY Oh! Oh! My Gawd! These bloody cards! (She crawls under the table
and picks up the pieces). This'll never glue back together again. And it was
a good vase, too. You can't get  them  like that any more. This bit's  right
over there! (Stretches for the piece. BOBROV enters the room).
     BOBROV Granny! Is that you clambering about under the table?
     GRANNY Yes, okay, okay. What do you want?
     BOBROV I just came to ask you: you wouldn't happen to have  a chest  of
tea?
     GRANNY Come on then, give me a hand up from under the table.
     BOBROV What have you  done, dropped  something?  Oh,  you've broken the
vase!
     GRANNY (Mimicking him) You've broken the vase!
     (BOBROV helps GRANNY up. But as soon as he lets go of her, GRANNY  sits
back down on the floor).
     BOBROV Oh, you're down again!
     GRANNY Down, so now what?
     BOBROV Let me help you up (Pulls GRANNY up).
     GRANNY The cards were  going  badly. I tried this and that... But don't
pull me  by the arms, get hold of me under the armpits. All I got, you know,
was king after king. I need a five and all the kings keep turning up.
     BOBROV lets go of GRANNY and GRANNY again sprawls on the floor.
     GRANNY Akh!
     BOBROV Oh, Lord! You're down again.
     GRANNY What are you on about: down, down! What are you after, anyway?
     BOBROV I came to ask if you've a chest of tea.
     GRANNY I know that. You've already  told me. I don't like listening  to
the same tale twenty times. The thing  is: akh, I'm down again! and a  chest
of tea. Well, what are you looking at! Get me up, I'm telling you.
     BOBROV (Pulling  GRANNY  up) I'll  just,  excuse  me,  put  you in  the
armchair.
     GRANNY  You'd do  better to prattle  on  a bit less and pull me up in a
proper fashion.  I  meant  to tell you, and it almost  slipped my  mind: you
know, that door in my bedroom isn't  shutting properly again.  No doubt  you
messed the whole thing up.
     BOBROV No, I put a staple on with fillister-head screws.
     GRANNY Do you think I  know anything about staples and fillister heads?
I don't care about all that. I just want the door to shut.
     BOBROV It doesn't shut  properly because the fillister heads won't stay
in the woodwork.
     GRANNY That'll do, that'll  do. That's your business. I just need to...
Akh! (She again sprawls on the floor).
     BOBROV Oh, Lord!
     GRANNY Have you decided to fling me to the  floor deliberately? Decided
to have a bit of fun? Oh you useless devil! You're just  a useless devil and
you might as well clear off!
     BOBROV  No, Granny,  'onest  injun,  I just  meant to put  you  in  the
armchair.
     GRANNY Did you hear what I said? I told you to clear out! So why aren't
you  going? Well, why aren't  you  going? Do you hear?  Clear off out of it!
Well? Bugger off! (exits BOBROV)
     GRANNY  Off! Go on! Away! Bugger off! Talk  about a reprobate! (Gets up
from the floor and sits in the armchair). And his wife is simply an indecent
madam. The madam walks about absolutely starkers and doesn't  bat an eyelid,
even in front of  me, an old woman.  She  covers her indecent patch with the
palm  of her hand, and that's the way she walks around. And then she touches
bread  with that  hand  at lunchtime. It's  simply  revolting  to watch. She
thinks that if she's young and pretty, then she  can do anything she  likes.
And as  for herself,  the trollop,  she never washes  herself properly  just
where she should  do. I,  she says,  like  a whiff of woman  to come from  a
woman!  And as for me,  as soon  as I see her  coming, I'm straight into the
bathroom with the eau de Cologne to my nose. Perhaps it may be nice for men,
but as for me,  you can  spare me that. The shameless hussy! She goes around
naked  without  the slightest  embarrassment.  And  when  she  sits down she
doesn't even keep her legs together properly, so that everything's on  show.
And  -- there, she's well just  always wet. She's leaking  like that all the
time. If  you  tell  her she should  go and wash  herself, she  will say you
shouldn't wash there too often and she'll take a  handkerchief and just wipe
herself. And you're lucky if it's a handkerchief, because just with her hand
she smears  it  all  over the place. I  never give her  my  hand, as there's
perpetually an indecent smell from her hands. And her breasts  are indecent.
It's true, they  are very fine and bouncy, but they  are so  big that, in my
opinion,  they're  simply  indecent. That's  the  wife that  Foma  found for
himself! How she ever got round him is beyond me.

             1933

--------


        A Tragic Vaudeville in One Act

     LEV MARKOVICH (Bouncing up to the LADY) Let me!
     LADY (Keeping him at arms length) Leave me!
     LEV MARKOVICH (Bumping into her) Let me!
     LADY (Shoving him with her knees) Go away!
     LEV MARKOVICH (Gripping her with his hands) Let's, just once!
     LADY (Shoving him with her knees) Away! Away!
     LEV MARKOVICH Just one thrust!
     LADY (Bellowing) No-o.
     LEV MARKOVICH A thrust! One thrust!
     LADY (Shows the whites of her eyes).
     LEV  MARKOVICH fumbles  around,  reaches with his hand for his tool and
suddenly, as it turns out, he can't find it.
     LEV MARKOVICH  Wait a  minute!  (Feels  himself up  and  down with  his
hands). What the h-hell!
     LADY looks at LEV MARKOVICH with astonishment.
     LEV MARKOVICH Well, that's a damn funny thing!
     LADY What's happened?
     LEV MARKOVICH Hum ... hmm ... (looks around, completely flummoxed).

        (Curtain)

             1934

--------


     --  They  say all the best  tarts are fat-arsed. Gee-ee, I  really like
busty tarts, I love the way they smell.
     Having said this, he started to increase in height and,  upon  reaching
the  ceiling, he  crumbled  into a thousand little  pellets. The yard-keeper
Panteley  came, swept  all these pellets  up  into  his  scoops  in which he
usually  picked  up  the  horse muck,  and  he carried  these  pellets  away
somewhere to the back yard.
     And  the  sun  continued  to  shine  as ever  and splendiferous  ladies
continued to smell just as ravishingly as ever.

             1936

--------


     I didn't go in for blocking up my ears. Everyone  blocked theirs up and
I alone didn't block mine and therefore I alone heard everything. Similarly,
I didn't blindfold myself with a rag, as everyone else did,  and therefore I
saw everything. Yes,  I alone saw and heard everything. But unfortunately  I
didn't understand  anything and, therefore,  what was the  value of me alone
seeing and hearing everything? I couldn't even remember what I had  seen and
heard.  Just  a few fragmentary  recollections,  flourishes  and nonsensical
sounds. There was a tram conductor  who came running through, followed by an
elderly lady with a spade between her lips. Someone said: '... probably from
under her chair...' A naked  Jewish girl spreads  her legs and empties a cup
of milk over  her sexual  organs, the milk  trickles down into a deep dinner
plate. From the plate, the milk  is poured back into the cup and offered  to
me to drink. I take a drink: there is a smell of cheese from the milk...
     The naked Jewish girl is  sitting there  before me with her legs apart,
her sexual organs stained with milk.  She  leans  forward  and looks  at her
sexual organs. From her sexual organs there starts to flow a transparent and
syrupy liquid... I  am going through a big and rather dark yard. In the yard
there lie high, heaped up  piles of firewood. From behind the wood someone's
face is  looking out. I know: it's Limonin following me. He's on  the watch:
to see  whether  I'm going to  visit his wife. I  turn to the  right and  go
through the outside  door on to the street. From the gateway the joyful face
of Limonin is looking out... And now Limonin's wife is offering  me vodka. I
down four  glasses with  a few sardines and start thinking  about the  naked
Jewish girl. Limonin's wife puts her head on my knees. I knock back one more
glass and light up my pipe.
     -- You are so sad today --  Limonin's wife says to me. I tell  her some
nonsense or other and go off to the Jewish girl.

             1940

--------


     1. Do not take offense  at the following argument, for there is nothing
offensive  in it, unless one does not consider that the circle may be spoken
of in a geometrical sense. If I say that the circle describes four identical
radii,  and you  say: not four,  but  one, then we  have a right  to ask one
another: why? But I don't want to talk about that kind of description of the
circle, but of the perfect description of a circle.
     2.  The circle is the most perfect flat figure. I  am not going  to say
why in particular  that  is  so.  But  this fact  arises  of itself  in  our
consciousness in any consideration of flat figures.
     3. Nature is so created that the less noticeable the laws of formation,
the more perfect the thing.
     4. Nature is also so created  that the  more  impenetrable a thing, the
more perfect it is.
     5.  On perfection, I would say the following: perfection in things is a
perfect thing. It is always possible  to study a perfect  thing or, in other
words, in a perfect thing these is  always something not studied. If a thing
should  prove to have  been completely studied, then  it  would cease  to be
perfect, for only that which is incomplete is perfect -- that  is to say the
infinite.
     6. A  point is infinitely small  and thereby attains perfection, but at
the same time it  remains inconceivable. Even the smallest conceivable point
would not be perfect.
     7. A straight line is perfect, for there is no reason for  it not to be
infinitely  long  on  both sides, to  have neither end  nor  beginning,  and
thereby be inconceivable. But by putting  pressure on it  and limiting it on
both sides, we render it conceivable, but at the same time imperfect.
     If you believe this, then think on.
     8. A straight line, broken at one point, forms an angle. But a straight
line which is  broken simultaneously at all its points is called  a curve. A
curve does  not have to be of necessity infinitely long. It may be such that
we  can grasp  it freely at  a  glance  and  yet  at the  same  time  remain
inconceivable and infinite. I am talking about a closed curve,  in which the
beginning and the  end are concealed. And the most  regular,  inconceivable,
infinite and ideal curve will be a circle.

             17 July 1931

--------


     1. Advice to humourous performers
     I  have noticed  that  it  is very important to determine  the point at
which laughter can be induced. If you want the auditorium to laugh, come out
on  to the  stage  and  stand there  in  silence  until  someone bursts  out
laughing. Then wait  a little bit longer until someone else starts laughing,
and in  such a way  that everyone can hear.  However, this laughter must  be
genuine and claqueurs,  in such an instance,  should  not be  used. When all
this  has taken  place, then  the point at which laughter can be induced has
been reached. After  this you  may proceed to your programme  of humour and,
rest assured, success is guaranteed.

     2. Where are several sorts of laughter.
     There is the  average sort of laughter, when the whole hall laughs, but
not at full volume. There is the strong sort of laughter, when just one part
of the hall or another laughs, but at full volume, and the other part of the
hall remains silent as, in this case, the laughter doesn't get to it at all.
The former sort of laughter requires vaudeville delivery  from a  vaudeville
actor, but the latter sort is better. The morons don't have to laugh.

             1933

--------


     1. A world which is not can not be called existing, because it is not.
     2. A world  consisting of something unified, homogeneous and continuous
can not be called  existing, because in such a world there are no parts and,
once there are no parts, there is no whole.
     3. An existing world must be heterogeneous and have parts.
     4. Every two parts are different, because one part will always be  thus
one and the other that one.
     5. If  only this one exists, then that one cannot exist, because, as we
have said, only this exists. But such a this cannot exist, because  if  this
exists it  must be heterogeneous and have parts. And if  it has  parts  that
means it consists of this and that.
     6. If this and that exist, this means that not this and not that exist,
because if not this and not that did not exist, then this and that  would be
unified, homogeneous and continuous and consequently would also not exist.
     7.  We shall call the first  part this and the second part that and the
transition from one to the other we shall call neither this nor that.
     8. We shall call neither this nor that 'the impediment'.
     9.  Thus: the  basis of existence comprises  three  elements: this, the
impediment and that.
     10. We shall express non-existence as zero or  a  unity.  Therefore  we
shall have to express existence by the number three.
     11. Thus: dividing a unitary void into two parts, we get the trinity of
existence.
     12. Or: a unitary  void, experiencing a certain impediment, splits into
parts, which make up the trinity of existence.
     13.  The impediment is  that creator which  creates 'something' out  of
'nothing'.
     14.  If  this  one,  on  its  own,   is  'nothing'  or  a  non-existent
'something', then  the  'impediment' is  also  'nothing'  or a  non-existent
'something'.
     15. By  this  reckoning there  must  be  two  'nothings' or nonexistent
'somethings'.
     16. If there are two 'nothings' or non-existent 'somethings',  then one
of them is the  'impediment'  to the other, breaking  it down into parts and
becoming itself a part of the other.
     17. In the  same way  the other,  being  the  impediment to the  first,
splits it into parts and itself becomes a part of the first.
     18. In this way are created, of their own accord, non-existent parts.
     19.  Three, of their  own accord, non-existent parts  create  the three
basic elements of existence.
     20. The three,  of  their own  accord,  non-existent basic  elements of
existence, all three together, make up a certain existence.
     21. If one of the three basic elements  of  existence should disappear,
then the whole would disappear.  So: should the 'impediment' disappear, then
this one and that one would become unitary and continuous and would cease to
exist.
     22.  The  existence  of  our  universe  generates three  'nothings'  or
separately, on  their  own  account, three non-existent 'somethings': space,
time and something else which is neither time nor space.
     23.  Time, of its essence, is  unitary, homogeneous  and continuous and
thereby does not exist.
     24.  Space, of its essence, is unitary, homogeneous and  continuous and
thereby does not exist.
     25.  But  as  soon  as  space  and  time enter  into a  certain  mutual
relationship they become the impediment, the one of the other, and begin  to
exist.
     26. As they begin to exist, space and  time become mutually  parts, one
of the other.
     27. Time, experiencing the impediment of space, breaks down into parts,
generating the trinity of existence.
     28. A split down and existing, consists of the three  basic elements of
existence: the past, the present and the future .
     29.  The  past,  the  present  and  the  future, as  basic elements  of
existence, always  stood  in inevitable dependence, each on the other. There
cannot be a past without a present and a future, or a present without a past
and a future, or a future without a past and a present.
     30. Examining these  three elements separately, we see that there is no
past  because it has already gone  and  here is no future because it has not
yet come. That means that there remains only one thing -- the 'present'. But
what is the 'present'?
     31. When we are pronouncing this word, the letters  of this word  which
have been pronounced become past  and the unpronounced  letters still lie in
the future. This means that only that sound which is being pronounced now is
'present'.
     32. But  of  course the process of pronouncing this  sound possesses  a
certain length. Consequently, a certain part of this  process  is 'present',
just as the other parts are either  past or future. But the same  thing  too
may be said of this part  of the  process which had seemed to  us to be 'the
present'.
     33. Reflecting in this manner, we see that there is no 'present'.
     34. The present is only the 'impediment' in the transition from past to
future  and  past and  future  appear  to us as  the this  and  that of  the
existence of time.
     35. Thus: the present is the 'impediment' in the existence of time and,
as we said earlier, space serves as the impediment in the existence of time.
     36. By this means: the 'present' of time is space.
     37. There is no space in the  past and the  future,  it being contained
entirely in the 'present'. And the present is space.
     38. And since there is no present, neither is there any space.
     39.  We  have explained  the existence  of time but space,  of its  own
accord, does not yet exist.
     40. In  order  to  explain the existence of  space,  we must  take that
incidence when time performs as the impediment of space.
     41.  Experiencing  the  impediment of  time, space splits  into  parts,
generating the trinity of existence.
     42. Broken down, existing space consists of three elements: there, here
and there.
     43.  In the  transition  from  one  there  to  the  other there, it  is
necessary to overcome the impediment here,  because if it  were  not for the
impediment here, then the one there and the other there would be unitary.
     44. Here is the 'impediment' of existing space. And,  as we said above,
the impediment of existing space is time.
     45. Therefore: the here of space is time.
     46. The here of  space  and the 'present'  of  time  are  the points of
intersection between time and space.
     47. Examining space and time as basic elements in the existence of  the
universe,  we would say:  the universe  expresses  space, time and something
else which is neither time nor space.
     48.  That   'something'  which  is  neither   time  nor  space  is  the
'impediment', which generates the existence of the universe.
     49. This 'something' expresses the impediment between time and space.
     50.  Therefore this 'something' lies  at  the point of intersection  of
time and space.
     51. Consequently this 'something' is to  be found in time at the  point
of the 'present' and in space at the point of the 'here'.
     52. This 'something' which is to be found  at the point of intersection
of space and time generates  a certain  'impediment', separating the  'here'
from the 'present'.
     53.  This  'something', generating the  impediment  and  separating the
'here' from the 'present', creates a  certain existence which we call matter
or energy. (Henceforth we shall provisionally call this simply matter.)
     54.  Thus: the existence of the  universe, as organised by space,  time
and their impediment, is expressed as matter.
     55. Matter testifies to us of time.
     56. Matter testifies to us of space.
     57.  By this  means: the three basic elements of  the  existence of the
universe are perceived by us as time, space and matter.
     58. Time, space and matter,  intersecting one  with another at definite
points and being basic elements in the existence of the universe, generate a
certain node.
     59. We shall call this node -- the Node of the Universe.
     60. When I say of myself: 'I  am', I am placing myself within  the Node
of the Universe.

--------


        On an Approach to Immortality

     It is peculiar to each  person to strive for enjoyment, which is always
either sexual satisfaction, or satiation, or acquisition.
     But only  that which lies  not on the  path to  enjoyment leads towards
immortality. All  systems leading to immortality in the  end come down to  a
single rule: continually  do  that  which you don't feel like doing, because
every person feels like either eating, or satisfying their  sexual feelings,
or acquiring  something, or all of  these  more or less at a stroke.  It  is
interesting  that immortality  is always connected with death and is treated
by various religious systems as eternal enjoyment, or as eternal torment, or
as an eternal absence of enjoyment and torment.

             1939

--------


     28 June 1932. Tsarskoye Selo
     Dear Tamara Aleksandrova and Leonid Savel'evich,

     Thank you for  your wonderful letter. I have re-read it many times  and
learned it  off by  heart.  I  can  be awakened  in  the  night and  I  will
immediately and word-perfectly begin: 'Hello there, Daniil Ivanovich, we are
completely lost without you. Lyonya has  bought  himself some new...' and so
on, and so on.
     I have  read this letter to  all my  acquaintances  in Tsarskoye  Selo.
Everyone likes it very much. Yesterday my friend  Bal'nis came to see me. He
wanted to stay  the night. I read  him your letter six times. He smiled very
broadly, so it was evident that he liked the letter, but he didn't have time
to express a detailed opinion,  for he left without  staying for  the night.
Today I went round to  his place myself  and read the  letter through to him
once more,  so as to enable him to refresh his memory. Then I  asked Bal'nis
for  his opinion. But he broke a leg off one of his chairs and with the  aid
of this leg he chased me out on to the street and furthermore said that if I
turn up once  more with this drivel he will lie my hands  up  and  stuff  my
mouth with muck from the  rubbish  pit. These  were, of  course, on his part
rather rude and  stupid remarks. I,  of course, went away  and took the view
that he quite possibly had  a  bad  cold and  that he was not himself.  From
Bal'nis I went off to Yekaterinskiy Park  and had a go on the rowing  boats.
On the whole lake, apart from me, there were two  or three other boats. And,
by the way, there was a very beautiful girl in one of the boats. And she was
completely  on  her own.  I  turned my  boat (incidentally, you have to  row
carefully when you're  turning a boat, because  the oars  are liable to jump
out  of  the  rowlocks)  and rowed  after the  beauty.  I felt  as  though I
resembled a  Norwegian and I must have cut a fresh and healthy figure in  my
grey jacket and my fluttering tie and, as they say, had quite a whiff of the
sea about me. But near the Orlov Column some hooligans were swimming and, as
I  rowed  past, one  of them just  happened to have to swim  right across my
path. Then another  of them shouted: -- Wait a minute, while this cross-eyed
and sweaty specimen  goes past! -- and pointed at me with his foot. This was
very disagreeable  because the beauty  heard every  word. And since she  was
rowing in front of me and  in a rowing boat, as everyone knows, you sit with
the back of your head towards  your  direction of movement, the beauty could
not only hear, but  she could see the hooligan pointing at me with his foot.
I tried to make out that all this had nothing  to do with me  and started to
look to the side  with a smile on  my face. But there  wasn't a single other
boat around. And at  this point the hooligan  shouted again: -- Now  what do
you think you're looking at? We're talking to you, aren't we? Hey, you,  the
sucker in the cap!
     I set about rowing with might and main, but the  oars kept  jumping out
of the rowlocks and  the boat  only moved slowly. Finally, after an enormous
effort,  I caught up with the beauty and we  got acquainted. She was  called
Yekaterina Pavlovna.  We took back her  boat  and Yekaterina Pavlovna  moved
over to mine. She turned out  to be a  very  witty  conversationalist. I had
decided to dazzle my friends with wit, and so I got out your letter and made
a start on reading  it:  'Hello, there, Daniil  Ivanovich, we are completely
lost without  you.  Lyonya has  bought  himself  some new  ...'  and so  on.
Yekaterina  Pavlovna suggested  that, if we pulled in  to  the  bank, then I
might  see  something. And  I did, I saw Yekaterina Pavlovna making off, and
out of the bushes there  crept a filthy urchin, saying: -- Mister, give us a
ride in yer boat.
     This  evening the  letter came to grief. It  happened like this: I  was
standing  on  the balcony, reading your  letter and eating semolina. At that
moment Auntie called me into  the living room to  help her wind the clock. I
covered the semolina with the  letter and went  into  the room. When  I came
back the letter had absorbed all the semolina into itself and I ate it.
     The weather in Tsarskoye  Selo is  well set: variable cloud, south-west
wind, possible rain.
     This morning an organ-grinder came into our  garden and played a trashy
waltz, filched a hammock and ran away.
     I read a  very  interesting  book about  how one young man fell in love
with a certain young person,  and this young person loved another young man,
and this young man loved another young  person and this  young  person loved
another young man yet again, who loved not her but another young person.
     And suddenly  this young person stumbles down a  trapdoor and fractures
her  spine.  But when she has  completely  recovered from that, she suddenly
catches her death of  cold and dies. Then the young man  who loves  her does
himself in with a revolver shot.  Then the young person who loves this young
man throws herself  under a train.  Then the  young man who loves this young
person climbs  up a  tram pylon from grief and touches the live  wire, dying
from  an electric shock. Then  the young  person  who  loves this young  man
stuffs  herself  with  ground  glass  and  dies  from  perforation  of   the
intestines.  Then  the young man who  loves this young person  runs away  to
America and takes to the drink to such a degree that he sells  his last suit
and,  for the lack  of a suit, he  is obliged to  lie in hospital,  where he
suffers from bedsores, and from these bedsores he dies.
     In a few days I shall be in town. I definitely want to see you. Give my
best wishes to Valentina Yefimovna and Yakov Semyonovich.
     Daniil Kharms

--------


     Dear Nikandr Andreyevich,

     I have  received your letter and  straight away  I realised that it was
from you. At first I thought that it might by chance not be from you, but as
soon  as  I unsealed it I immediately realised it was from you, though I had
been on the point of thinking that it was not from you. I am glad  that you,
long ago now, got married, because when a person gets married  to the one he
wanted to marry,  then this means he has  got what he wanted. I am very glad
you  got married, because when a person marries the one  he wanted to marry,
that means  he has got what he wanted.  Yesterday I received your letter and
immediately thought that this letter was from you, but then  I thought  that
it seemed not  to be from you, but unsealed it  and saw: it  really  is from
you. You did exactly the right thing, writing to me. First you didn't write,
and  then you suddenly wrote, although before that, before  that period when
you didn't  write, you  also used  to write. Immediately as I  received your
letter, I straight away decided that it was from you and,  then,  I was very
glad that you had already got  married.  For, if a person should  feel  like
getting married, then he really has to get married, come what may. Therefore
I am  very glad that you finally got  married to the  very one you wanted to
marry. And you did exactly  the right  thing, writing to me.  I  was greatly
cheered up on  seeing your letter and I even immediately thought it was from
you. It's true,  while I was  unsealing it, the thought did flash across  my
mind that it was not from you, but then, all the same, I decided it was from
you. Thank you for writing. I  am grateful to you for this and very glad for
you. Perhaps  you can't guess why I am so glad for you, but I will  tell you
at once that I am glad for you because  you got married, and to the very one
you wanted to marry. And,  you know,  it is very good to  marry the very one
you want to marry, because then you have got the very thing you wanted. It's
for that  very reason that I am so glad for you. But also I am  glad because
you wrote me a letter. I had even from some distance decided that the letter
was  from you, but as I took it in my hands I then thought: but what if it's
not from  you? But  then I  start to  think: no, of course it's from you.  I
unseal the letter myself and at the same time I think: from you or  not from
you? From you  or not from you? Well, as  I  unsealed  it, then I could see:
it's from  you. I was greatly cheered and decided to  write you  a letter as
well. There's a lot which has  to  be said, but literally there's no time. I
have written what I had time to write  in  this letter and the rest  I shall
write another  time, as now there really  isn't  time at  all. It's  a  good
thing, at least, that you wrote me a letter. Now I know that you got married
a long time ago. I,  from  your previous  letters too, knew that you had got
married and now I see again: it's absolutely true, you have got married. And
I'm very  glad that you got married and wrote me a letter. I straight  away,
as soon as I saw your  letter, decided that you had got married again. Well,
I think it's a good thing that you  have again got married and  written me a
letter about it. Now write to me and tell me who your new wife is and how it
all came about. Say hello from me to your new wife.
     Daniil Kharms

             1933

--------


     ...I don't know the right word to express that strength in you which so
delights me. I usually call it purity.
     I  have been thinking about how beautiful everything  is at first!  How
beautiful primary reality is! The sun and the grass are beautiful, grass and
stone, and water, a bird, a beetle, a fly, and a human being (a kitten and a
key, a comb). But if I were blind and deaf, had lost all  my faculties,  how
could I know all this beauty? everything gone and nothing for me at all. But
I suddenly acquire touch  anti  immediately  almost  the whole world appears
again. I invent  hearing and the world improves significantly. I invent  all
the other faculties and the world gets even  bigger  and better.  The  world
starts to exist  as soon  as  I let it in  to me.  Never  mind its  state of
disorder,  at least  it  exists! However, I started to bring some order into
the world. And that's  when Art appeared. Only at this point did I grasp the
true difference between the sun and a comb but, at the same time, I realised
that they are one and the same.
     Now  my concern is to create  the correct order.  I am  carried away by
this and  only think of  this. I speak about it, try to narrate it, describe
it, sketch it, dance it, construct it. I am  the creator of a world and this
is  the most important thing in me. How can I not think constantly about it!
In  everything I do, I invest the consciousness of being creator of a world.
And I am not making simply some boot, but, first and foremost, I am creating
something new. It  doesn't bother me that the  boot  should  turn  out to be
comfortable, durable and elegant. It's more important that it should contain
that  same  order pertaining in the world  as  a  whole, so that world order
should  not  be the poorer, should not  be  soiled by contact with  skin and
nails, so that, notwithstanding the form of the boot, it should preserve its
own form, should remain the same as it was, should remain pure.
     It is that same purity which permeates all the arts.  When I am writing
poetry, the  most important thing seems to me not the idea, not the content,
and not  the  form, and not the misty conception of 'quality', but something
even  more  misty  and  incomprehensible  to  the  rationalistic  mind,  but
comprehensible to me and, I hope, to you (...) -- it is the purity of order.
     This purity is one and the same -- in the sun, in the grass, in a human
being and in poetry. True art is on a par with primary reality; it creates a
world  and  constitutes the world's  primary reflection. It  is indisputably
real.
     But, my God, what trivialities make up true art! The Divine Comedy is a
great piece of work, but <Pushkin's> lines  'Through the agitated  mists the
moon makes its way' are  no less great. For in both there is the same purity
and consequently an  identical  proximity to reality, that is to independent
existence. That means it is not simply words and thoughts printed  on paper,
but a piece of work which is just as real as the cut-glass  bubble  for  the
ink standing in front of me on the table. These verses seem to have become a
piece of work which could be taken off the paper  and hurled at  the window,
and the window would smash. That's what words can do!
     But, on the  other hand,  how helpless and pitiful these same words can
be!  I  never  read the  newspapers. They are a  fictitious  world, not  the
created one.  Just  pitiful,  down-at-heel  typographical  print  on  rotten
prickly paper.
     Does a person need anything, apart from life and art? I don't think so:
nothing else is needed, as everything genuine is to be found in them.
     I think that purity can be in everything, even in the way a person eats
soup.

             1933

--------


     28 February, 1936
     Dear Liza,

     I  convey  my best  wishes  to  Kirill  on his  birthday and  similarly
congratulate his  parents on successfully fulfilling the plan prescribed for
them by  nature for the  raising  up  to  the  age  of  two years  of  human
offspring, unable  to  walk,  but therefore gradually  beginning  to destroy
everything  around  and  finally,  in attaining  this junior pre-school age,
belabouring across the  head  with  a voltmeter  stolen  from  his  father's
writing  table  his  loving  mother,  who has failed  to  evade  the  highly
skillfully delivered  assaults of her not as yet fully mature child, who  is
planning already in  his  immature skull, having done away with his parents,
to  direct  all  his  most  penetrating  attentions  towards  his  venerable
grandfather and by the same means  demonstrate a mental development allotted
beyond his years, in honour of which, on the 28th of February, will gather a
couple  of  admirers  of  this  indeed  outstanding phenomenon,  among whose
number, to my great chagrin,  I shall  not be able to be, finding myself  at
the  time  in question  under a  certain  pressure, being enraptured  on the
shores of the Gulf of  Finland  by  an ability, innate  since  childhood, of
grabbing a steel  pen and,  having dipped it in an ink-well, in  short sharp
phrases expressing my  profound and at times even  in  a certain way  highly
elevated thoughts.
     Daniil Kharms

--------


     Dear Aleksandr Ivanovich,

     I  have  heard  that  you  are  saving  money  and have  already  saved
thirty-five thousand. What for? Why save money? Why not share what you  have
with those who do not  even have a totally  spare pair  of trousers? I mean,
what is  money? I have studied this question. I possess photographs  of  the
banknotes in widest circulation: to the value  of a  rouble, three, four and
even five roubles. I have heard  of banknotes of an intrinsic worth of up to
30 roubles at  a time! But, as for saving them:  what  for? Well, I am not a
collector. I  have always  despised collectors who  amass  stamps, feathers,
buttons, onions and  so on.  They are  stupid, dull superstitious people.  I
know  for example that  what are called  'numismatists'  -- that's those who
accumulate  coins -- have the superstitious habit of putting  them, have you
ever thought where? Not on the table,  not in a box, but... on their  books!
What do you think of that? Whereas money can be picked  up, taken to a  shop
and exchanged, well...  let's say  for soup (that's a kind of  food), or for
grey-mullet sauce (that's also a kind of foodstuff).
     No, Aleksandr Ivanovich, you are almost as couth a person as I, yet you
save  money and don't  change  it into a range of  other things. Forgive me,
dear Aleksandr Ivanovich, but that  is not  terribly  clever!  You've simply
gone a little stupid living out there in the provinces. There must be no one
to talk to,  even. I'm sending  you my  picture  so that you will be able at
least to see before you a clever, cultivated, intellectual, first-rate face.
     Your friend Daniil Kharms

             Late 1930's

--------


        A Tale

          . . . And between them the following conversation takes place.
           Hamsun

     In the courtyard an old  woman  is standing and holding a clock  in her
hands. I walk through, past the old woman, stop and ask her:
     -- What time is it?
     -- Have a look -- the old woman says to me.
     I look and see that there are no hands on the clock.
     -- There are no hands here -- I say.
     The old woman looks at  the clock face and  tells  me:  --  It's now  a
quarter to three.
     -- Oh, so that's what it is. Thank you very much -- I say and go on.
     The old  woman shouts something after  me but I walk on without looking
round. I go out on to the street and walk on the sunny side. The spring  sun
is very pleasant. I walk on, screwing up my eyes and smoking my pipe. On the
corner of Sadovaya I happen to run into Sakerdon Mikhailovich. We say hello,
stop and talk for a long time.  I get fed up with standing on the street and
I  invite Sakerdon Mikhailovich into  a  cellar bar.  We  drink  vodka,  eat
hard-boiled eggs and sprats and then say goodbye, and I walk on alone.
     At this point I  remember that I had forgotten to turn off the electric
oven at home. This is very annoying. I turn round and walk home. The day had
started so well and this was the first misfortune. I ought not to have taken
to the street.
     I get  home,  take off my  jacket,  take  my  watch out of my waistcoat
pocket  and hang  it on  a nail;  then  I lock the door and lie  down on the
couch. I shall recline and try to get to sleep.
     The offensive shouting of urchins can be  heard from the street.  I lie
there, thinking up various means of execution for them.  My favourite one is
to infect them all with tetanus so that  they  suddenly  stop  moving. Their
parents can drag them all home. They will lie in their  beds unable  even to
eat, because their mouths won't open. They will be fed artificially. After a
week the tetanus can pass off,  but the children will be so feeble that they
will have to lie in their beds for a whole  month.  Then they will gradually
start to  recover but I  shall infect them with a second dose of tetanus and
they will all croak.
     I lie on the  couch  with  my eyes open and  I  can't get to  sleep.  I
remember the old woman with the clock whom  I saw today in the yard and feel
pleased  that there were no hands on her  clock. Only the other day  in  the
second-hand shop I saw a  revolting kitchen clock and its hands were made in
the form of a knife and fork.
     Oh, my God! I still haven't turned off the electric oven! I jump up and
turn it off, and then I lie down again on the couch and try to get to sleep.
I close  my eyes. I don't feel sleepy. The spring sun  is shining in through
the window, straight on to me. I start to feel hot. I get up and sit down in
the armchair by the window.
     Now I feel sleepy but I am not going to sleep. I get hold of a piece of
paper and a pen and I am going to write. I feel within me  a terrible power.
I thought it all over as long ago as yesterday. It will be the story about a
miracle worker who is living in our time and who doesn't work  any miracles.
He knows that he is a miracle worker and  that he can perform  any  miracle,
but he doesn't do so. He is thrown out of his flat and he knows that he only
has to wave a finger  and the flat will remain his, but he doesn't  do this;
he submissively moves out of the flat and lives out of town in a shed. He is
capable  of  turning  this  shed into a fine brick house, but  he doesn't do
this; he  carries on living  in the shed and eventually dies, without having
done a single miracle in the whole of his life.
     I just sit and rub my hands with glee. Sakerdon Mikhailovich will burst
with envy. He thinks that I am beyond writing anything of  genius. Now then,
now then, to work! Away with any kind  of sleep and laziness! I shall  write
for eighteen hours straight off!
     I am shaking all over  with impatience. I am not able to think out what
has to  be done: I needed to take a pen and a piece of paper,  but I grabbed
various objects, not at  all those that I needed. I ran about the room: from
the  window to the table, from the table to the oven, from the oven again to
the table, then to the divan and again to the window. I was gasping from the
flame which  was ablaze in  my breast. It's only five o'clock now. The whole
day is ahead, and the evening, and all night is . . .
     I stand in the middle of the room. Whatever am I thinking of? Why, it's
already twenty past  five. I must write. I move the table towards the window
and  sit down at it. A sheet of squared paper is in front  of me, in my hand
is a pen.
     My heart is still beating  too  fast and my hand is shaking. I wait, so
as to calm down a little. I put  down my pen and  fill  my pipe. The sun  is
shining right in my eyes; I squint and light up my pipe.
     And now a crow flies past the  window. I  look out of the  window on to
the street and see a man with an artificial leg walking along the  pavement.
He is knocking loudly with his leg and his stick.
     -- So -- I say to myself, continuing to look out of the window.
     The sun is hiding behind a chimney of the building opposite. The shadow
of the chimney runs along  the roof, flies across the street and falls on my
face. I should take advantage or this shadow and write a few words about the
miracle  worker. I  grab the  pen and  write: 'The miracle worker was on the
tall side.'
     Nothing more can I write. I sit on until I start feeling hungry. Then I
get  up  and  go over to the cupboard where I  keep my provisions; I rummage
there but find  nothing.  A  lump of  sugar  and  nothing  more. Someone  is
knocking at the door.
     -- Who's there?
     No one answers me. I  open the door and see before me the old woman who
in the  morning  had  been standing  in the  yard with the clock.  I am very
surprised and cannot say anything.
     -- So, here I am -- says the old woman and comes into my room.
     I stand by the door and don't know what to do:  should I chase  the old
woman out or, on the contrary, suggest that she sit down? But the old  woman
goes of her  own accord over to my armchair beside the window  and sits down
in it.
     -- Close the door and lock it -- the old woman tells me.
     I close and lock the door.
     -- Kneel -- says the old woman.
     And I get down on my knees.
     But at this point I begin to realise the full absurdity of my position.
Why am I kneeling in front  of some  old woman? And, indeed, why is this old
woman in my  room and  sitting in my favourite armchair? Why hadn't I chased
this old woman out?
     -- Now, listen here -- I say -- what right have you to give  the orders
in my  room, and,  what's more, boss  me about?  I have no wish at all to be
kneeling.
     -- And  you don't have to -- says  the  old woman. -- Now you  must lie
down on your stomach and bury your face in the floor.
     I carried out her bidding straight away . . .
     I see  before  me  accurately traced squares. Discomfort in my shoulder
and in my right hip forces me to change position. I had been lying face down
and now, with great difficulty, I get up on to my  knees.  All my limbs have
gone numb and  will scarcely bend.  I  look  round and see myself in my  own
room, kneeling in the middle of  the floor.  My consciousness and memory are
slowly returning to me. I look  round  the room once more  and  see that  it
looks as though someone is  sitting in the armchair  by the window. It's not
very light in the room, because  it  must be the  white nights  now.  I peer
attentively.  Good Lord! Is  it really that old  woman, still  sitting in my
armchair? I crane my neck round  and have  a look. Yes,  of course, it's the
old woman sitting  there  and her head's drooped on to her chest.  She  must
have fallen asleep.
     I pick myself up and hobble  over towards her. The old woman's head  is
drooping  down on to her chest; her arms are hanging down  the sides  of the
armchair. I feel like grabbing hold of this old woman and shoving her out of
the door.
     -- Listen  -- I say -- you are in my room. I  need to work. I am asking
you to leave.
     The old woman doesn't budge. I bend over and look  the old woman in the
face. Her mouth is half open and from her mouth protrudes a displaced set of
dentures. And suddenly it all becomes clear to me: the old woman has died.
     A terrible feeling of  annoyance comes over me. What did she die in  my
room for? I can't stand dead people. And now, having to mess about with this
carrion, having to  go and talk to  the caretaker and the  house manager, to
explain to  them why this  old woman was found in my  place. I looked at the
old woman with hatred.  But perhaps  she wasn't dead, after all?  I feel her
forehead. Her forehead is cold. Her hand also. Now what am I supposed to do?
     I light up my pipe and sit down on the couch. A mindless fury is rising
up in me.
     -- What a swine! -- I say out loud.
     The dead  old  woman is sitting in my armchair,  like a sack. Her teeth
are sticking out of her mouth. She looks like a dead horse.
     -- What a revolting spectacle -- I say, but I can't cover the old woman
with a newspaper, because anything might go on under the newspaper.
     Movement could be heard through the wall: it's my neighbour getting up,
the engine  driver.  I've quite  enough on my plate without him getting wind
that  I've got  a  dead  old  woman  in my  room!  I  listen  closely  to my
neighbour's footsteps. Why is he so slow? It's half-past five  already! It's
high  time  he went off. My  God! He's making a cup  of  tea! I can hear the
noise  of the primus through the wall. Oh, I wish that blasted engine driver
would hurry up and go!
     I pull my legs up  on to the  couch and lie there. Eight minutes go by,
but my  neighbour's tea is still not ready and the primus is making a noise.
I close my eyes and doze.
     I dream that my neighbour has gone out and I, together with him, go out
on to  the  staircase and I slam the  door  behind me  on its spring lock. I
haven't got the  key and I can't get back into the  flat.  I  shall  have to
knock and wake up  the rest  of the tenants and that is not  a good thing at
all. I  am standing on  the landing thinking what  to do  and suddenly I see
that I have no hands. I incline my head, so as to get  a  better look to see
whether I  have any hands, and I see that  on one side, instead of a hand, a
knife is sticking out and, on the other side, a fork.
     -- So -- I am saying to Sakerdon Mikhailovich, who for  some reason  is
sitting there on a folding chair  -- So, do  you see -- I say to him --  the
sort of hands I have?
     But Sakerdon Mikhailovich sits there in silence and I can see that this
is not the real Sakerdon Mikhailovich, but his clay semblance.
     At this point I wake up and  immediately  realise that I am lying in my
room on the couch and that  by the  window, in the armchair, sits a dead old
woman.
     I quickly turn my head in her direction. The  old woman is not  in  the
armchair. I gaze at the  empty armchair and I am filled with a wild joy. So,
that means all this  was a dream. Except,  where  did it  start?  Did an old
woman come into my room yesterday? Perhaps that was a dream as well?  I came
back yesterday because  I had forgotten  to turn  off the electric oven. But
perhaps that was a dream  as well? In any case,  it's marvelous that I don't
have  a dead old  woman in my  room and that means I won't have to go to the
house manager and bother about the corpse!
     But still, how  long had I been asleep? I looked at my watch: half-past
nine; it must be morning.
     Good Lord! The things that can happen in dreams!
     I lowered my legs from the couch, intending to  stand up, and  suddenly
caught sight of the  dead old woman,  lying  on the floor behind the  table,
beside  the  armchair.  She was lying face up  and her  dentures,  which had
jumped out of her mouth, had one tooth digging into the old woman's nostril.
Her arms were tucked under her torso and were not visible and from under her
disordered skirt protruded bony legs in white, dirty woollen stockings.
     --  What a  swine! -- I  shouted and,  running over to  the  old woman,
kicked her on the chin.
     The set of dentures flew off into the corner. I wanted to kick  the old
woman again,  but was afraid  that marks  would remain on her body and  that
subsequently it might be decided that it was I who had killed her.
     I moved away from the old woman, sat down on the couch and lit my pipe.
Thus twenty minutes went  by.  Now it had become clear to me that, come what
may, the matter  would be put in the  hands  of a criminal investigation and
that in  the bungling which would  follow I would  be accused of murder. The
situation was turning  out  to be serious, and then  there was that kick  as
well.
     I went over to the old woman again, leaned over and started  to examine
her face. There was a small dark  bruise on her chin. No, nothing much could
be made of that. What of it? Perhaps the old woman had bumped into something
when  she was still alive? I calm down a  little and begin pacing  the room,
smoking my pipe and ruminating over my situation.
     I pace up and  down  the room and start feeling a  greater  and greater
hunger.  I  even  start shaking  from  hunger.  Once more I  rummage in  the
cupboard where my provisions are  kept, but I find nothing, except a lump of
sugar.
     I  pull out my wallet and  count my money. Eleven roubles. That means I
can buy myself some ham sausage and bread and still have enough for tobacco.
     I adjust  my tie,  which had got disarranged in the night, pick  up  my
watch, put on  my  jacket, go out into the corridor, painstakingly lock  the
door of  my room, put the key  in  my pocket and  go  out on  to the street.
Before  anything  else I have to  eat something;  then  my thoughts will  be
clearer and then  I'll do something about  this carrion. On the  way to  the
shop, I keep on  thinking:  shouldn't I go and see Sakerdon Mikhailovich and
tell him all  about it and perhaps  together we could soon think out what to
do. But  I turn this  idea  down on the spot,  because there are some things
which one has to do alone, without witnesses.
     There was no ham sausage in the shop and I bought myself half a kilo of
saveloys. There was no tobacco, either. From the shop I went to the bakery.
     There were  a  lot of people in the bakery and there  was a  long queue
waiting  at the cash desk. I immediately frowned but still joined the queue.
The queue moved very slowly and then stopped moving altogether, because some
sort of a row had broken out at the cash desk.
     I pretended  not to  notice anything and stared at the  back of  a nice
young lady who was  standing in the queue in front of me. The young lady was
obviously very inquisitive: she was craning her neck first to  the right and
then to the left and she kept standing on tiptoe, so as to get a better view
of what was happening at the cash desk. Eventually  she  turned  round to me
and said: -- You don't know what's going on there, do you?
     -- I'm afraid I don't -- I answered as drily as possible.
     The  young lady twisted  herself from side to side  and  finally  again
addressed me:
     -- You wouldn't  like to go  up  there  and find out  what's happening,
would you?
     -- I'm afraid it doesn't  concern  me in the slightest  -- I said, even
more drily.
     -- What do you mean, it  doesn't concern you?  --  exclaimed  the young
lady -- you  are being held  up in the  queue yourself because of it, aren't
you?
     I made no reply and merely bowed  slightly. The young lady looked at me
with great attention.
     --  Of course, it's not a man's job to queue for  bread -- she said. --
I'm sorry for you, having to stand here. You must be a bachelor?
     -- Yes,  I  am  a  bachelor  --  I replied,  somewhat  taken aback, but
automatically continuing to answer  somewhat drily, with a slight bow at the
same time.
     The young lady again looked me up and down and suddenly, touching me on
the sleeve, she said: -- Let me get  you what you  need and you can wait for
me outside.
     This threw me completely.
     -- Thank you -- I said. --  It's extremely kind of you  but,  really, I
could do it myself.
     -- No, no -- said  the young lady  -- you  go  outside. What  were  you
intending to buy?
     -- Well, then  -- I said -- I was intending to buy half a kilo of black
bread, only of the round sort, the cheapest one. I prefer it.
     -- Right, well that's fine -- said the young  lady. -- So, go on, then.
I'll buy it and we can settle up afterwards.
     And she even gave me a slight shove under the elbow.
     I went out of the bakery and stood right by the door. The spring sun is
shining right  in my eyes. I light up my pipe. What a delightful young lady!
It's  so rare these days.  I stand  there, my eyes screwed up from the  sun,
smoking my pipe and thinking about the delightful young lady. She has bright
brown eyes, too. She's simply irresistibly pretty!
     -- Do you smoke a  pipe?  -- I hear a voice beside me.  The  delightful
young lady hands me the bread.
     -- Oh, I'm forever grateful to you -- I say, taking the bread.
     -- And  you smoke a pipe!  I  really  like that --  says the delightful
young lady.
     And between us the following conversation takes place.
     She: So, you buy bread yourself?
     I: Not only bread; I buy everything for myself.
     She: And where do you have lunch?
     I: Usually I cook my own lunch. But sometimes I eat in the bar.
     She: Do you like beer, then?
     I: No, I prefer vodka.
     She: I like vodka, too.
     I: You  like vodka? That's wonderful! I'd like to have a drink with you
sometime.
     She: And I'd like to drink vodka with you, too.
     I: Forgive me, but may I ask you something?
     She: (blushing furiously) of course, just ask.
     I: All right then, I will. Do you believe in God?
     She: (surprised) In God? Yes, of course.
     I: And what would you say to us buying  some  vodka now and going to my
place? I live very near here.
     She: (perkily) Well, why not, it's fine by me!
     I: Then let's go.
     We go into a shop and I buy half a litre of vodka. I have no more money
left, except a bit of change. We talk about various things  all the time and
suddenly I remember that in my room on the floor there is a dead old woman.
     I look round at my new acquaintance:  she's standing by the counter and
looking at jars of jam. I gingerly make off  towards  the door and slide out
of the shop. It just  happens that  a tram is stopping opposite the  shop. I
jump on the tram, without even looking to see what  number  it is. I get off
at Mikhailovskaya  Street and walk to Sakerdon Mikhailovich's. I am carrying
a bottle of vodka, saveloys and bread.
     Sakerdon Mikhailovich opened the door to me himself. He was wearing his
dressing-gown, with nothing  on underneath, his Russian boots with  the tops
cut off and his fur hat with the earflaps, but the  earflaps  were turned up
and tied in a bow on top.
     -- Jolly good -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich on seeing that it was me.
     -- I'm not dragging you away from your work? -- I asked.
     -- No, no -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.  -- I wasn't doing anything, I
was just sitting on the floor.
     -- Well, you see -- I  said  to Sakerdon  Mikhailovich  -- I've  popped
round to you with vodka and a bite to  eat.  If  you've no  objection, let's
have a drink.
     -- Fine -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich. -- Come in.
     We sent through to his room. I  opened the bottle of vodka and Sakerdon
Mikhailovich put two glasses and a plate of boiled meat on the table.
     -- I've got some saveloys here -- I said. -- So, how shall we eat them:
raw, or shall we boil them?
     -- We'll put them  on to  boil -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich  and while
they're  cooking we'll drink vodka  with the boiled  meat. It's from a stew,
it's first-class boiled meat!
     Sakerdon Mikhailovich put a saucepan on to heat, on his kerosene stove,
and we sat down to the vodka.
     -- Drinking vodka's good for you -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich, filling
the glasses. -- Mechnikov wrote that vodka's better than bread, and bread is
only straw which rots in our bellies.
     -- Your health! -- said I, clinking glasses with Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     We drank, taking the cold meat as a snack.
     -- It's good -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     But at that moment something in the room gave out a sharp crack.
     -- What's that? -- I asked.
     We  sat  in silence  and listened.  Suddenly  there  was another crack.
Sakerdon  Mikhailovich jumped  up from his  chair  and,  running up  to  the
window, tore down the curtain.
     -- What are you doing? -- I exclaimed.
     But  Sakerdon  Mikhailovich  didn't answer me; he  rushed  over to  the
kerosene stove, grabbed  hold or the saucepan with the curtain and placed it
on the floor.
     --  Devil  take it! -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.  -- I forgot to  put
water in the saucepan and the saucepan's an enamel one, and now the enamel's
come off.
     -- Oh, I see -- I said, nodding.
     We sat down again at the table.
     -- Oh, to the  devil with it -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich -- we'll eat
the saveloys raw.
     -- I'm starving -- I said.
     -- Help yourself  --  said Sakerdon Mikhailovich, pushing the  saveloys
over to me.
     -- The last time I ate was  yesterday,  in the cellar bar with you, and
since then I haven't eaten a thing -- I said.
     -- Yeh, yeh -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- I was writing all the time -- said I.
     -- Bloody  hell!  --  exclaimed Sakerdon Mikhailovich in an exaggerated
tone. -- It's a great thing to see a genius before one.
     -- I should think so! -- said I.
     -- Did you get much done? -- asked Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- Yes -- said I. -- I got through a mass of paper.
     -- To the genius of  our day -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich, lifting his
glass.
     We  drank. Sakerdon Mikhailovich  ate  boiled meat  and I  .  .  .  the
saveloys. Having eaten four saveloys, I lit my pipe and said:
     -- You know, I came to see you, to escape from persecution.
     -- Who was persecuting you? -- asked Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- A lady -- I said.
     But as Sakerdon  Mikhailovich  didn't  ask me anything and  only poured
vodka into his glass in  silence, I went on: -- I met her in the bakery  and
immediately fell in love.
     -- Is she attractive? -- asked Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- Yes -- said I -- just my type.
     We  drank and I continued: -- She agreed  to go to  my  place and drink
vodka. We went into a shop, but I had to make a run for it out  of the shop,
on the quiet.
     -- Didn't you have enough money? -- asked Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- No, I  had just enough money  --  I said -- but I  remembered that I
couldn't let her into my room.
     -- What,  do you mean you  had  another  woman  in your room? --  asked
Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- Yes, if you like, there's another woman in my room -- I said, with a
smile. -- Now I can't let anyone into my room.
     --  Get  married.  Then you can  invite  me to  the reception  --  said
Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- No  --  I  said,  snorting  with laughter.  --  I'm not going to get
married to this woman.
     --  Well  then, marry  that  one  from  the  bakery  --  said  Sakerdon
Mikhailovich.
     -- Why are you so keen to marry me off? -- said I.
     -- So,  what then? -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich, filling the  glasses.
-- Here's to your conquests!
     We  drank.  Clearly, the vodka  was starting to  have its effect on us.
Sakerdon Mikhailovich look off his fur hat with the earflaps and slung it on
to the  bed.  I got up  and paced  around the room,  already  experiencing a
certain amount of head-spinning.
     -- How do you feel about the dead? -- I asked Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- Completely negatively -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.  --  I'm afraid
of them.
     -- Yes, I can't stand  dead people either -- I said. --  Give me a dead
person and, assuming  he's not a relative of mine, I would be  bound to boot
him one.
     -- You shouldn't kick corpses -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- I would give  him a good booting, right in the chops -- said I. -- I
can't stand dead people or children.
     -- Yes, children are vile -- agreed Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- But which do you think are worse: the dead or children? -- I asked.
     -- Children are perhaps worse, they get in our way more often. The dead
at least don't burst into our lives -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- They  do burst in!  -- I shouted and immediately  stopped  speaking.
Sakerdon Mikhailovich looked at me attentively.
     -- Do you want some more vodka? -- he asked.
     -- No -- I said, but, recollecting myself, I added: -- No, thank you, I
don't want any more.
     I came over and sat down again at the table. For a while we are silent.
     -- I want to ask you -- I say finally. -- Do you believe in God?
     A transverse  wrinkle  appears on Sakerdon  Mikhailovich's brow  and he
says: -- There is such a  thing as bad form. It's bad form to ask someone to
lend you fifty roubles if you have noticed him  just  putting two hundred in
his  pocket. It's his business to give you the  money or to refuse;  and the
most convenient and  agreeable  means of refusal is to lie, saying,  that he
hasn't got the money. But you have seen that that person does have the money
and thereby you have deprived him of the possibility of simply and agreeably
refusing. You have  deprived him of the right of  choice and that is a dirty
trick. It's bad form and quite tactless and asking a person: 'Do you believe
in God?' -- that also is tactless and bad form.
     -- Well -- said I -- I see nothing in common there.
     -- Anal I am making no comparisons -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- Well, all right, then -- I said -- let's leave  it.  Just excuse  me
for putting such an indecent and tactless question.
     -- That's all right -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich. --  I merely refused
to answer you.
     -- I wouldn't have answered either -- said I -- except that it would've
been for a different reason.
     -- And what would that be? -- asked Sakerdon Mikhailovich limply.
     --  You see  --  I  said  -- in  my  view  there are  no  believers  or
non-believers. There  are  only those who wish to believe and those who wish
not to believe.
     -- So, those who wish not to believe already  believe in  something? --
said Sakerdon Mikhailovich.  -- And  those  who wish to  believe already, in
advance, don't believe in anything?
     -- Perhaps that's the way it is -- I said. -- I don't know.
     --  And  in what  do  they  believe or  not believe? In  God?  -- asked
Sakerdon Mikhailovich.
     -- No -- I said -- in immortality.
     -- Then why did you ask me whether I believe in God?
     -- Simply  because  asking: 'Do  you  believe in  immortality?'  sounds
rather stupid -- I said to Sakerdon Mikhailovich and stood up.
     -- What, are you going? -- Sakerdon Mikhailovich asked me.
     -- Yes -- I said -- it's time I was going.
     -- And  what about the vodka? -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich. -- There's
a glass each left, you know.
     -- Well, let's drink it, then -- I said.
     We drank down  the  vodka  and finished  off the  remains of the boiled
meat.
     -- And now I must go -- I said.
     --  Goodbye -- said Sakerdon Mikhailovich, accompanying me  across  the
kitchen and out lo the stairway. -- Thanks for bringing the refreshments.
     -- Thank you -- I said. -- Goodbye.
     And I left.
     Remaining on his own, Sakerdon Mikhailovich cleared the  tables, shoved
the empty  vodka bottle  on top of  the cupboard, put  his  fur cap with the
earflaps  on  again and sat down on  the  floor under the  window.  Sakerdon
Mikhailovich  put his hands behind his back and they could not be  seen. And
from  his disordered  dressing-gown protruded his  bare, bony legs,  shod in
Russian boots with the tops cut off.
     I walked along Nevsky Prospect, weighed down by  my own  thoughts. I'll
now  have to go  to the  house manager  and tell him everything.  And having
dealt with the old woman, I shall stand for entire days by the bakery, until
I encounter  that delightful young lady. Indeed, I have remained in her debt
for the bread, to the tune of forty-eight kopecks. I have a fine pretext for
seeking her out. The vodka  I  had drunk  was still  continuing to  have its
effect  and it  seemed as though  everything was shaping up very nicely  and
straightforwardly.
     On Fontanka I went over to a stall and, on the strength of my remaining
change, I downed a big mug of kvass. The kvass was of poor quality and sour,
and I walked on with a revolting taste in my mouth.
     On the corner of  Liteinaya some drunk or other staggered up and pushed
me. It's a good thing I don't have a revolver: I would have killed him right
here on the spot.
     I walked all the way home, no doubt with a face distorted  with malice.
In any event, almost everyone I passed swung round to look at me.
     I went  into the house manager's  office.  At  the  table sat  a short,
dirty, snub-nosed, one-eyed, tow-headed female and, looking into her make-up
mirror, she was daubing herself with lipstick.
     -- And where's the house manager? -- I asked.
     The girl remained silent, continuing to daub her lips.
     -- Where's the house manager? -- I repeated in a sharp voice.
     -- He'll be here tomorrow, not  today -- replied the dirty, snub-nosed,
one-eyed and tow-haired female.
     I went out on to  the street. On  the  opposite  side,  an invalid  was
walking along on an artificial leg and knocking loudly with his leg and  his
stick. Six urchins were running behind the invalid, mimicking his gait.
     I turned into my main entrance and began to  go up the stairway. On the
first floor  I stopped; a repulsive thought had entered my  head: of course,
the old woman must  have started to decompose. I had  not  shut the windows,
and they  say that with  an open window  the dead decompose all the quicker.
What utter stupidity! And that devil of a house manager won't be there until
tomorrow! I stood in indecision for several minutes and then began to ascend
further.
     I stopped again  beside the door to my flat. Perhaps I should go to the
bakery and wait there  for  the delightful young lady? I could try imploring
her to let me in  to her place for two or three nights. But  at this point I
recollect that she has already  bought  her bread today and  so she won't be
coming to the bakery. And in any case nothing would have come of it.
     I  unlocked the door  and  went into the corridor. At  the  end of  the
corridor a light was on and Mar'ia Vasil'evna,  holding some rag or other in
her  hands, was rubbing  it over with another rag.  Upon  seeing me,  Mar'ia
Vasil'evna cried: -- Shome auld man was ashking for ye!
     -- What old man? -- I asked.
     -- I donch know -- replied Mar'ia Vasil'evna.
     -- When was that? -- I asked.
     -- Donch know zhat, eizher -- said Mar'ia Vasil'evna.
     -- Did you talk to the old man? -- I asked Mar'ia Vasil'evna.
     -- I did -- replied Mar'ia Vasil'evna.
     -- So, how come you don't know when it was? -- said I.
     -- Choo hourzh ago -- said Mar'ia Vasil'evna.
     -- And what did this old man look like? -- I asked.
     --  Donch know zhat, eizher  -- said Mar'ia  Vasil'evna and went off to
the kitchen.
     I went over to my room.
     -- Suppose -- I thought --  the old woman has  disappeared. I shall  go
into any room, and there's no old woman there. Oh my God! Do miracles really
not happen?
     I unlocked the  door and  started to open it slowly.  Perhaps  it  only
seemed that way, but the sickly smell of decomposition in progress hit me in
the face. I looked in through  the half-open door and, for a instant,  froze
on the spot. The old woman  was on all fours, crawling  slowly over  to meet
me.
     I  slammed the door with a yelp, turned the key and leapt across to the
wall opposite.
     Mar'ia Vasil'evna appeared in the corridor.
     -- Were ye calling me? -- she asked.
     I  was  so  shaken that  I  couldn't  reply  and  just  shook  my  head
negatively. Mar'ia Vasil'evna came a bit nearer.
     -- Ye were talking to shomeone -- she said.
     I again shook my head.
     --  Crazhy madman -- said  Mar'ia Vasil'evna and she  again went off to
the kitchen, looking round at me several times on the way.
     -- I can't just  stand here.  I can't just stand here --  I repeated to
myself.  This phrase had formed somewhere within  me. I kept  reiterating it
until it reached my consciousness.
     --  No,  I  can't  just stand here -- I said to myself, but carried  on
standing  there, as though paralysed.  Something horrific had  happened, but
there was now the prospect of  dealing with something  that perhaps was even
more horrific than what had already occurred. My thoughts were spinning in a
vortex and I could see only the malicious eyes of the dead old woman, slowly
crawling towards me on all fours.
     Burst  into the  room and smash the old woman's skull  in! That's  what
needs to be done! I even gave the  place the once-over  and was  relieved to
see a croquet  mallet which, for  some unknown reason, had  been standing in
the corner  of the corridor for  nearly a  year. Grab the mallet, burst into
the room and bang . . . !
     My  shivering  had  not  passed off. I was  standing with my  shoulders
arched  from  an  inner  cold.  My   thoughts  were  jumping   and  jumbled,
backtracking to their point of departure and  again jumping ahead and taking
over new  spheres, and  I stood,  lending an  ear  to my  own thoughts,  and
remaining as though to one side of them, as though not their controller.
     -- The dead -- my own thoughts explained to  me -- are a category to be
reckoned with. A lot of use calling them dead; rather, they should be called
the undead. They need to be watched and watched. Ask  any mortuary watchman.
What do you think he is put there for? Only for one thing: to keep watch, so
that the dead don't crawl all over the place. There can even occur what are,
in  a certain sense, amusing  incidents. One  deceased  crawled  out  of the
mortuary  while the attendant, on  management's orders, was taking his bath,
crawled  into the disinfection  room  and ate  up a  heap  of bed linen. The
disinfectors dished out a damned good thrashing  to the deceased in question
but, as  for the ruined linen, they  had to settle  up for that out of their
own pockets. And another deceased crawled as far  as the maternity  ward and
so frightened  the inmates that one child-bearer produced a premature foetus
on the  spot,  while the  deceased  pounced  smartly  on  the  fruits of the
miscarriage and began to devour it,  champing away vigourously.  And, when a
brave nurse struck the deceased  on the back with  a  stool, he bit the said
nurse on  the leg and she soon died from infection by corpse poisoning. Yes,
indeed, the  dead  are a  category  to be  reckoned with, and with them  you
certainly have to be on the quick side.
     -- Stop! -- said I to my own thoughts. -- You are talking nonsense. The
dead are immobile.
     -- All  right, then -- my  own  thoughts said to me. -- Just you  enter
your room and you'll soon find what you call an immobile dead person.
     An unexpected stubbornness within me began speaking.
     -- All right, I will! -- I replied resolutely to my own thoughts.
     -- Just you try! -- my own thoughts said to me derisively.
     This derision definitively enraged me. I grabbed the croquet mallet and
rushed towards the door.
     -- Hold on a moment! -- my own thoughts yelled at me. But I had already
turned the key and unlocked the door.
     The old  woman was lying in the  doorway, her  face pressed against the
floor.
     Croquet mallet  raised,  I  stood at  the ready. The  old  woman wasn't
moving.
     My  trembling  passed  off  and my thoughts  were  flowing  clearly and
logically. I was in control.
     -- First of all, shut the door! -- I commanded myself.
     I  pulled  the key  from the outer side of the door and put it into the
inner side. I did this with  my left hand, while in my right hand I held the
croquet mallet and the whole time did not take my eyes  off the old woman. I
turned the  key  in the door  and, carefully stepping  over  the old  woman,
stepped out into the middle of the room.
     -- Now you and I will settle  things -- said I.  A plan had occurred to
me,  one  to  which murderers  in  detective  stories  and  reports  in  the
newspapers  usually  resort; I simply  wanted to hide  the  old  woman  in a
suitcase, carry her  off out of town and dump  her in a bog. I knew one such
place.
     I had a suitcase under the couch. I dragged it out and opened it. There
were a few assorted things in  it: several books, an  old felt hat  and some
torn underwear. I unpacked all this on the couch.
     At this moment the outside door slammed loudly and it seemed to me that
the old woman shuddered.
     I immediately jumped up and grabbed the croquet mallet.
     The old woman  is  lying  there  quietly. I am  standing and  listening
intently. It is the  engine driver who has  just  come back; I can  hear him
walking  about  in his  room.  That's him  going along  the corridor  to the
kitchen. If Mar'ia Vasil'evna  tells him all about my madness  it will do no
good.  It's  a  devilish nuisance. I'd  better go along  to the kitchen  and
reassure them by my appearance.
     I again strode over the old woman, placed the mallet right by the door,
so that  on  my return,  without even  entering the room, I could  have  the
mallet in my hands, and went out  into the corridor. Voices came  towards me
from the kitchen, but the words were not audible. I shut the door to my room
behind me and cautiously went  off to the kitchen: I wanted to find out what
Mar'ia  Vasil'evna and the engine driver  were talking about. I passed  down
the corridor quickly and slowed my steps near the kitchen. The engine driver
was speaking; evidently he was talking about something which had happened to
him at work.
     I went in. The engine driver was standing with a towel in his hands and
speaking, while Mar'ia Vasil'evna  was  sitting  on a  stool listening. Upon
seeing me, the engine driver waved at me.
     -- Hello there, hello  there, Matvei Filippovich -- I  said to him  and
went  on through to the bathroom. So  far everything was safe enough. Mar'ia
Vasil'evna was  used  to my strange ways and may  even  have  forgotten this
latest incident.
     Suddenly it  dawned upon me that I had not locked the door. What if the
old woman should crawl out of the room?
     I rushed back but recollected myself  in time  and,  so as not to alarm
the tenants, ambled through the kitchen at a leisurely step.
     Mar'ia Vasil'evna  was  tapping  her  finger  on the  kitchen table and
saying to the engine driver:
     -- Quaite raight. That's quaite raight! I wud have wustled too!
     With  my heart sinking, I went out into  the  corridor  and immediately
breaking very  nearly into a run I dashed down to my room. The old woman, as
before, was lying there quietly, her face pressed to the floor.  The croquet
mallet was standing by the door in the same spot. I picked it up,  went into
the  room ,  and  locked  the  door behind  me with  the key. Yes, there was
definitely  a  whiff of dead body in  the room. I strode over the old woman,
went up to the window and sat down in the armchair. So long as  I don't  get
ill from this so far only weak, but still already  unbearable, smell.  I lit
up my pipe. I felt a touch of nausea and my stomach was aching a bit.
     So, why am I just sitting here? I need to act quickly,  before this old
woman rots completely. But, in  any case, I need  to be  careful shoving her
into the suitcase because, while  we're at it, she  could  take a  nip at my
hand. And, as for dying from corpse poisoning -- no thank you!
     -- Hey, thought -- I  suddenly  exclaimed. -- I'd like to see  what you
would bite me with! Your teeth are over there, anyway!
     I  leaned over in the armchair and looked into the  corner on the other
side of the window where, by my  reckoning, the old woman's set  of dentures
must be. But the false teeth were not there.
     I thought for a bit: perhaps the dead old woman had been crawling about
my  room looking  for her teeth? Perhaps she had  even found them  and stuck
them back into her mouth?
     I  took the product mallet  and poked around in the corner with it. No,
the dentures had gone. Then I pulled out of the cupboard a thick flannelette
sheet and went over to the old woman. The croquet mallet I held at the ready
in my right hand and in my left I held the flannelette sheet.
     This dead old woman was arousing a  squeamish feeling of fear. I raised
her  head with the mallet: her mouth was open, the  eyes rolled upwards and,
on the whole of her chin, where I had landed my  kick, a big dark bruise was
spreading. I looked  into the old woman's  mouth. No, she had not found  her
dentures. I  released  her  head. The  head  dropped and knocked against the
floor.
     Then I spread the flannelette sheet out on the floor and pulled it over
to the  old woman herself. Then with my foot and the croquet mallet I turned
the old woman over by way of her left side on to her back. Now she was lying
on the  sheet.  The old woman's legs were  bent at  the knees and  her fists
clasped to her shoulders. The old woman seemed to be lying on her back, like
a cat,  ready to defend  herself  from a predatory eagle. Quickly, away with
this carrion!
     I rolled the old woman up in the thick sheet and  picked her  up in  my
arms. She turned out  to  be lighter than I had thought. I put her down into
the  suitcase  and  tried  to  close  it.  I  now   expected  all  kinds  of
difficulties,  but the lid closed comparatively easily. I clicked  down  the
locks on the case and straightened up.
     The suitcase is  standing before  me with  a  totally  decorous air, as
though  it contains clothes and books. I took hold of it  by the  handle and
tried  to lift it.  Yes, of course, it was heavy, but not excessively so.  I
could certainly carry it to the tram.
     I looked  at my watch: twenty past five. That's fine. I sat down in the
armchair so as to have a breather and finish smoking my pipe.
     Obviously the saveloys which  I had eaten  today had  been a  bit  off,
since my stomach was  aching more and  more. But  perhaps this was because I
had eaten them raw? But perhaps my stomach-ache was purely nervous.
     I sit there, smoking. And minute after minute goes by.
     The spring sun is shining in through the window  and I screw up my eyes
against its rays. Now it is hiding behind a chimney of the building opposite
and the shadow of the  chimney runs along the roof,  flies across the street
and falls right on my face.  I recall  how yesterday at this same time I was
sitting writing  my  story.  Here  it is:  the squared paper and  on  it the
inscription, in tiny handwriting: 'The miracle worker was on the tall side'.
     I looked out of the window. An invalid was walking along the street  on
an  artificial  leg,  knocking  loudly with  his leg and with a  stick.  Two
workmen, and an old woman with them, were holding their sides,  guffawing at
the invalid's ridiculous gait.
     I got up. It was time! Time to be on my way! Time to take the old woman
off to the bog! I still needed to borrow some money from the engine driver.
     I went out into the corridor and went up to his door.
     -- Matvei Filippovich, are you in? -- I asked.
     -- I'm in -- replied the engine driver.
     -- Excuse me then, Matvei Filippovich, you don't happen to have  plenty
of  money on  you, do you? I  get paid the day after tomorrow.  You couldn't
lend me thirty roubles, could you?
     -- I could  --  said the engine driver. And  I could hear  him jangling
keys as he unlocked some box or other. Then he opened  the door and held out
a new, red thirty-rouble note. -- Thank you very much, Matvei Filippovich --
I said.
     -- That's all right, that's all right -- said the engine driver.
     I stuffed  the money in my pocket and returned to my room. The suitcase
was calmly standing on the same spot.
     -- Now then, on our way, without further ado -- I said to myself.
     I took the suitcase and went out of the room.
     Mar'ia Vasil'evna caught sight of me  with the suitcase and shouted: --
Where are ye off to?
     -- To see my aunt -- said I.
     -- Will ye soon be back? -- asked Mar'ia Vasil'evna.
     -- Yes -- I said. -- I just have to  take some clothes over to my aunt.
I'll be back maybe even today.
     I went out  on to  the street. I got  safely to  the tram, carrying the
suitcase first in my right hand, then in my left.
     I got on to the tram from the front passenger space of the rear car and
began waving the conductress  over, so  that she should  come  and take  the
money  for  my  ticket  and  baggage.  I  didn't  want  to  pass  my  single
thirty-rouble note down the whole car and couldn't bring myself to leave the
suitcase  and myself  walk through to  the conductress. The conductress came
over to me on to the front  platform and declared that she had no change.  I
had to get off at the very first stop.
     I  stood  there  fuming  as I  was waiting  for  the next tram.  I  was
suffering from stomach-ache and a slight shiver in the legs.
     And then suddenly I glimpsed my delightful young lady: she was crossing
the street and not looking in my direction.
     I grabbed the suitcase and rushed after her. I didn't know her name and
couldn't call her. The suitcase was a serious hindrance: I was holding it in
front of me with both hands and pushing at it with my knees and stomach. The
delightful young lady was fairly fleet of foot and I felt that I had no hope
of catching  her. I was  soaked through  with sweat and quite exhausted. The
delightful  young lady turned into  a side-street. When I got to the corner,
she was nowhere to be seen.
     -- That  blasted old woman! -- I  spat, throwing the suitcase down. The
sleeves of my jacket were soaked through with sweat  and they  stuck  to  my
arms.  I sat clown on the suitcase and, pulling out my handkerchief, I wiped
my neck and face with it. Two  urchins stopped  in front  of  me  and  began
looking at me. I  put on  a  calm face and looked attentively at the nearest
gateway, as though waiting  for  someone. The  urchins  were whispering  and
making  rude gestures towards me.  A wild fury smothered me. Oh, may they be
infected with tetanus!
     And so, because  of these  obnoxious  urchins,  I  stand  up, lift  the
suitcase, take it over to the gateway and peer into it. I affect a surprised
face,  get out my watch and shrug my shoulders. The urchins are observing me
from algal. I once more shrug my shoulders and peer into the gateway.
     --  That's strange -- I say  aloud; I take the suitcase and drag it  to
the tram stop.
     I arrived  at the  station at five to  seven. I take a return ticket to
Lis'ii Nos and get on to the train.
     In the carriage, apart from me, there are  two others: one evidently is
a  workman; he  is tired  and is asleep, his  cap  pulled over his eyes. The
other is quite  a young  fellow,  dressed  like a  village dandy: under  his
jacket he  is wearing  a pink  Russian  shirt  and  from underneath  his cap
protrudes  a  curly quiff.  He is smoking a  Russian cigarette, stuck into a
bright green plastic holder.
     I place the suitcase between the seats and sit down. I have such spasms
in my stomach that I clench my fists, so as  not to  groan out loud from the
pain.
     Two militiamen are  leading  some citizen  or other along  the platform
under arrest.  He  is walking with his hands  behind  his  back and his head
drooping.
     The train moves off. I look at my watch: ten past seven.
     Oh, with  what pleasure will I dump this old woman in the bog!  It's  a
pity only that I didn't bring a stick with me, as the old woman is  bound to
need a few shoves.
     The dandy in  the pink shirt keeps looking at me  impudently. I turn my
back on him and look out of the window.
     Horrific seizures are raging in my belly; then I have to grit my teeth,
clench my fists and strain my legs.
     We go through Lanskaya and Novaya Derevnya. Here there's a glitter from
the golden top of the Buddhist pagoda and over there a glimpse of the sea.
     But at this point I jump up and,  forgetting  everything around me, run
off to the toilet with short steps. My consciousness is  being  buffeted and
twisted by a reckless wave . . .
     The train  slackens speed.  We are arriving  at  Lakhta. I  sit  there,
afraid to move, lest I get thrown out of the toilet while at the station.
     -- If only it would hurry up and get moving! Hurry up and get moving!
     The train  moves off and I close my eyes in  ecstasy. Oh, these minutes
are just as sweet as any moments of love! All my powers are straining, but I
know that this will be followed by an awful collapse.
     The train is stopping again. It's Ol'gino. That means  the same torture
again!
     But now  it's a matter of  phantom urges. A cold sweat comes out on  my
brow and a slight coldness flutters around  my heart. I raise myself up  and
for a certain time stand with my head pressed to the wall. The train goes on
and the swaying of the carriage feels quite pleasant to me.
     I gather all my strength and stagger out from the toilet.
     There's no one in  the carriage. The worker  and the dandy in  the pink
shirt obviously got  out at Lakhta, or at Ol'gino. I walk slowly  towards my
window.
     And suddenly I  stop in my tracks and peer dully in front of me. There,
where I had left it, there is  no suitcase. I must have mistaken the window.
I jump over to the next window. No suitcase. I jump backwards  and forwards,
run up and  down the carriage  on both sides, look  under the seats, but the
suitcase is nowhere to be found.
     Indeed, is there any reason to doubt  it? Of course, while I was in the
toilet the suitcase was stolen. That could even have been predicted!
     I am sitting on the seat goggle-eyed and for some reason I remember the
cracking sound of the enamel coming off the  overheated saucepan at Sakerdon
Mikhailovich's.
     -- So what's the outcome? -- I ask myself. -- Now who will believe that
I didn't  kill  the old woman? They'll catch me  this very day, either right
here or in the city at the station, like that citizen who was walking  along
with his head drooping.
     I go out on to  the outside space at the end of the carriage. The train
is coming  in to  Lis'ii Nos. The white  posts  which mark off the track are
flashing past. The train is stopping. The steps down from my carriage do not
reach the ground. I jump down and walk over to the station  office. There is
still half an hour before the train back to town.
     I walk over towards a  little wood. There are juniper bushes  there. No
one will see me behind them. I make for them.
     A big, green caterpillar is crawling over the ground. I drop down on my
knees and touch it with my finger. Powerful and sinewy, it wriggles around a
few times from one side to the other.
     I look round. No one can see  me. A slight shiver runs down my  back. I
incline my head and quietly say:
     -- In the name of the Father and of the  Son and of the Holy Ghost, now
and for ever. Amen.

        ___

     At this juncture I temporarily conclude my manuscript, considering that
it is already quite long drawn out enough as it is.

             (End of May and first half of June, 1939)

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