Fyodor Dostoevsky Demons translations
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Demons
1872
Fyodor Dostoevsky


Бесы
1872
Фёдор Достое́вский

Приступая к описанию недавних и столь странных событий, происшедших в нашем, доселе ничем не отличавшемся городе, я принужден, по неумению моему, начать несколько издалека, а именно некоторыми биографическими подробностями о талантливом и многочтимом Степане Трофимовиче Верховенском. Пусть эти подробности послужат лишь введением к предлагаемой хронике, а самая история, которую я намерен описывать, еще впереди.

Скажу прямо: Степан Трофимович постоянно играл между нами некоторую особую и, так сказать, гражданскую роль и любил эту роль до страсти, — так даже, что, мне кажется, без нее и прожить не мог. Не то чтоб уж я его приравнивал к актеру на театре: сохрани боже, тем более что сам его уважаю. Тут всё могло быть делом привычки, или, лучше сказать, беспрерывной и благородной склонности, с детских лет, к приятной мечте о красивой гражданской своей постановке. Он, например, чрезвычайно любил свое положение «гонимого» и, так сказать, «ссыльного». В этих обоих словечках есть своего рода классический блеск, соблазнивший его раз навсегда, и, возвышая его потом постепенно в собственном мнении, в продолжение столь многих лет, довел его наконец до некоторого весьма высокого и приятного для самолюбия пьедестала. В одном сатирическом английском романе прошлого столетия некто Гулливер, возвратясь из страны лилипутов, где люди были всего в какие-нибудь два вершка росту, до того приучился считать себя между ними великаном, что, и ходя по улицам Лондона, невольно кричал прохожим и экипажам, чтоб они пред ним сворачивали и остерегались, чтоб он как-нибудь их не раздавил, воображая, что он всё еще великан, а они маленькие. За это смеялись над ним и бранили его, а грубые кучера даже стегали великана кнутьями; но справедливо ли? Чего не может сделать привычка? Привычка привела почти к тому же и Степана Трофимовича, но еще в более невинном и безобидном виде, если можно так выразиться, потому что прекраснейший был человек.

Я даже так думаю, что под конец его все и везде позабыли; но уже никак ведь нельзя сказать, что и прежде совсем не знали. Бесспорно, что и он некоторое время принадлежал к знаменитой плеяде иных прославленных деятелей нашего прошедшего поколения, и одно время, — впрочем, всего только одну самую маленькую минуточку, — его имя многими тогдашними торопившимися людьми произносились чуть не наряду с именами Чаадаева, Белинского, Грановского и только что начинавшего тогда за границей Герцена. Но деятельность Степана Трофимовича окончилась почти в ту же минуту, как и началась, — так сказать от «вихря сошедшихся обстоятельств». И что же? Не только «вихря», но даже и «обстоятельств» совсем потом не оказалось, по крайней мере в этом случае. Я только теперь, на днях, узнал, к величайшему моему удивлению, но зато уже в совершенной достоверности, что Степан Трофимович проживал между нами, в нашей губернии, не только не в ссылке, как принято было у нас думать, но даже и под присмотром никогда не находился. Какова же после этого сила собственного воображения! Он искренно сам верил всю свою жизнь, что в некоторых сферах его постоянно опасаются, что шаги его беспрерывно известны и сочтены и что каждый из трех сменившихся у нас в последние двадцать лет губернаторов, въезжая править губернией, уже привозил с собою некоторую особую и хлопотливую о нем мысль, внушенную ему свыше и прежде всего, при сдаче губернии. Уверь кто-нибудь тогда честнейшего Степана Трофимовича неопровержимыми доказательствами, что ему вовсе нечего опасаться, и он бы непременно обиделся. А между тем это был ведь человек умнейший и даровитейший, человек, так сказать, даже науки, хотя, впрочем, в науке... ну, одним словом, в науке он сделал не так много и, кажется, совсем ничего. Но ведь с людьми науки у нас на Руси это сплошь да рядом случается.

Он воротился из-за границы и блеснул в виде лектора на кафедре университета уже в самом конце сороковых годов. Успел же прочесть всего только несколько лекций, и, кажется, об аравитянах; успел тоже защитить блестящую диссертацию о возникавшем было гражданском и ганзеатическом значении немецкого городка Ганау, в эпоху между 1413 и 1428 годами, а вместе с тем и о тех особенных и неясных причинах, почему значение это вовсе не состоялось. Диссертация эта ловко и больно уколола тогдашних славянофилов и разом доставила ему между ними многочисленных и разъяренных врагов. Потом — впрочем, уже после потери кафедры — он успел напечатать (так сказать, в виде отместки и чтоб указать, кого они потеряли) в ежемесячном и прогрессивном журнале, переводившем из Диккенса и проповедовавшем Жорж Занда, начало одного глубочайшего исследования — кажется, о причинах необычайного нравственного благородства каких-то рыцарей в какую-то эпоху или что-то в этом роде. По крайней мере проводилась какая-то высшая и необыкновенно благородная мысль. Говорили потом, что продолжение исследования было поспешно запрещено и что даже прогрессивный журнал пострадал за напечатанную первую половину. Очень могло это быть, потому что чего тогда не было? Но в данном случае вероятнее, что ничего не было и что автор сам поленился докончить исследование. Прекратил же он свои лекции об аравитянах потому, что перехвачено было как-то и кем-то (очевидно, из ретроградных врагов его) письмо к кому-то с изложением каких-то «обстоятельств», вследствие чего кто-то потребовал от него каких-то объяснений. Не знаю, верно ли, но утверждали еще, что в Петербурге было отыскано в то же самое время какое-то громадное, противоестественное и противогосударственное общество, человек в тринадцать, и чуть не потрясшее здание. Говорили, что будто бы они собирались переводить самого Фурье. Как нарочно, в то же самое время в Москве схвачена была и поэма Степана Трофимовича, написанная им еще лет шесть до сего, в Берлине, в самой первой его молодости, и ходившая по рукам, в списках, между двумя любителями и у одного студента. Эта поэма лежит теперь и у меня в столе; я получил ее, не далее как прошлого года, в собственноручном, весьма недавнем списке, от самого Степана Трофимовича, с его надписью и в великолепном красном сафьянном переплете. Впрочем, она не без поэзии и даже не без некоторого таланта; странная, но тогда (то есть, вернее, в тридцатых годах) в этом роде часто пописывали. Рассказать же сюжет затрудняюсь, ибо, по правде, ничего в нем не понимаю. Это какая-то аллегория, в лирико-драматической форме и напоминающая вторую часть «Фауста». Сцена открывается хором женщин, потом хором мужчин, потом каких-то сил, и в конце всего хором душ, еще не живших, но которым очень бы хотелось пожить. Все эти хоры поют о чем-то очень неопределенном, большею частию о чьем-то проклятии, но с оттенком высшего юмора. Но сцена вдруг переменяется, и наступает какой-то «Праздник жизни», на котором поют даже насекомые, является черепаха с какими-то латинскими сакраментальными словами, и даже, если припомню, пропел о чем-то один минерал, то есть предмет уже вовсе неодушевленный. Вообще же все поют беспрерывно, а если разговаривают, то как-то неопределенно бранятся, но опять-таки с оттенком высшего значения. Наконец, сцена опять переменяется, и является дикое место, а между утесами бродит один цивилизованный молодой человек, который срывает и сосет какие-то травы, и на вопрос феи: зачем он сосет эти травы? — ответствует, что он, чувствуя в себе избыток жизни, ищет забвения и находит его в соке этих трав; но что главное желание его — поскорее потерять ум (желание, может быть, и излишнее). Затем вдруг въезжает неописанной красоты юноша на черном коне, и за ним следует ужасное множество всех народов. Юноша изображает собою смерть, а все народы ее жаждут. И, наконец, уже в самой последней сцене вдруг появляется Вавилонская башня, и какие-то атлеты ее наконец достраивают с песней новой надежды, и когда уже достраивают до самого верху, то обладатель, положим хоть Олимпа, убегает в комическом виде, и догадавшееся человечество, завладев его местом, тотчас же начинает новую жизнь с новым проникновением вещей. Ну, вот эту-то поэму и нашли тогда опасною. Я в прошлом году предлагал Степану Трофимовичу ее напечатать, за совершенною ее, в наше время, невинностью, но он отклонил предложение с видимым неудовольствием. Мнение о совершенной невинности ему не понравилось, и я даже приписываю тому некоторую холодность его со мной, продолжавшуюся целых два месяца. И что же? Вдруг, и почти тогда же, как я предлагал напечатать здесь, — печатают нашу поэму там, то есть за границей, в одном из революционных сборников, и совершенно без ведома Степана Трофимовича. Он был сначала испуган, бросился к губернатору и написал благороднейшее оправдательное письмо в Петербург, читал мне его два раза, но не отправил, не зная, кому адресовать. Одним словом, волновался целый месяц; но я убежден, что в таинственных изгибах своего сердца был польщен необыкновенно. Он чуть не спал с экземпляром доставленного ему сборника, а днем прятал его под тюфяк и даже не пускал женщину перестилать постель, и хоть ждал каждый день откуда-то какой-то телеграммы, но смотрел свысока. Телеграммы никакой не пришло. Тогда же он и со мной примирился, что и свидетельствует о чрезвычайной доброте его тихого и незлопамятного сердца.

Robert Maguire
2008


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As I embark on a description of the very strange events that recently occurred in our town, which until then had not been notable for anything, I am compelled, owing to my lack of experience, to begin in a rather roundabout way, namely, with a few biographical details concerning the talented and much-esteemed Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky. Let these details serve merely as an introduction to my proposed chronicle, whereas the story itself that I intend to tell is yet to come.
I’ll say it straight out: Stepan Trofimovich was constantly playing a certain special role among us, one that might be called civic, and he passionately loved this role, so much so that I even think he could not have gone on living without it. It’s not that I’m putting him on the same level with a stage actor, by no means: God forbid, the more so as I myself have great respect for him. It could all have been a question of habit, or rather, of a constant and high—minded tendency, from childhood on, to indulge in pleasant daydreams about the fine figure he would cut as a citizen of our town. For example, he was inordinately fond of his position as a man who was ‘persecuted’ and, so to speak, ‘exiled’. Both these little words have a kind of classical lustre to them, which had proved enduringly seductive to him, and, with the passage of so many years, had gradually raised him in his own opinion of himself and finally placed him on a pedestal that was very lofty and gratifying to his self—esteem. In a certain English satirical novel of the last century, one Gulliver, on returning from the land of the Lilliputians, where the people stood no more than about four inches tall, had become so accustomed to regarding himself as a giant among them that, while walking through the streets of London, he could not keep from shouting to passers—by and carriages to get out of his way and take care that he didn’t crush them, imagining that he was still a giant and they were small. For this they jeered at him and abused him, and cmde coachmen gave the giant a taste of their whips. But was that just? What is habit not capable of? Habit had brought Stepan Trofimovich to almost the same position too, but in a more innocent and inoffensive way, if one can put it like that, because he was a splendid human being.
I’m even of the opinion that towards the end he had been forgotten everywhere and by everyone; but one certainly can’t really say that he was not altogether unknown before that. There’s no gainsaying that for some time he too was a member of the distinguished pleiad of some of the celebrated figures of our generation just past — albeit for only the very briefest of moments — and that his name was uttered by many of the impetuous people of that time in practically the same breath with the names of Chaadayev, Belinsky, Granovsky and Herzen, who was only then beginning his career abroad. But Stepan Trofimovich’s activity ended almost the very moment it began, because of a ‘whirlwind of concurrent circumstances’, so to speak. And what do you know? It later turned out that there was not only no ‘whirlwind’ but not even any ‘circumstances’, at least in his case. Only recently, just a few days ago, I learned, to my utter astonishment, yet from a completely reliable source, that Stepan Trofimovich had been living among us, in our province, not only not in exile, as we had been accustomed to think, but had never even been under surveillance. Such is the power of one’s own imagination! He himself sincerely believed, as long as he lived, that in certain circles he was constantly feared, that every step he took was invariably known and noted, and that each of our three successive governors over the past twenty years, on arriving to take charge of the province, had already brought with him some particular and disturbing notion of Stepan Trofimovich, which had been communicated from on high as the first order of business during the transition of power. If anyone had then adduced irrefutable proof by way of assuring Stepan Trofimovich, the soul of honour, that he had absolutely nothing to fear, he would certainly have taken offence. And yet he was actually a most intelligent and gifted man, even a man, one might say, of learning, although, come to think of it, in learning... well, in a word, he didn’t accomplish so much in the area of learning, and, it would seem, nothing at all. But after all, this happens pretty often with people of learning in this Rus of ours.


Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
1994


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In setting our to describe the recent and very strange events that took place in our town, hitherto not remarkable for anything, I am forced, for want of skill, to begin somewhat far back—namely, with some biographical details concerning the talented and much esteemed Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky. Let these details serve merely as an introduction to the chronicle presented here, while the story itself, which I am intending to relate, still lies ahead.
I will say straight off: Stepan Trofimovich constantly played a certain special and, so to speak, civic role among us, and loved this role to the point of passion—so much so that it even seems to me he would have been unable to live without it. Not that I equate him with a stage actor: God forbid, particularly as I happen to respect him. It could all have been a matter of habit, or, better, of a ceaseless and noble disposition, from childhood on, towards a pleasant dream of his beautiful civic stance. He was, for example, greatly enamored of his position as a “persecuted” man and, so to speak, an “exile.”' There is a sort of classical luster to these two little words that seduced him once and for all, and, later raising him gradually in his own estimation over the course of so many years, brought him finally to some sort of pedestal, rather lofty and gratifying to his vanity. In A satirical English novel of the last century, a certain Gulliver, having returned from the land of the Lilliputians, where people were only some three inches tall, had grown so accustomed to considering himself a giant among them that even when walking in the streets of London, he could not help shout- ing at passers-by and carriages to move aside and take care that he not somehow crush them, imagining that he was still a giant and they were little. For which people laughed at him and abused him, and rude Coachmen even struck the giant with their whips—but was that fair? What will habit not do to a man? Habit brought Stepan Trofimovich to much the same thing, but in a still more innocent and inoffensive form, if one may put it so, for he was a most excellent man.
I even think that towards the end he was forgotten by everyone everywhere; but it is by no means possible to say that he had been completely unknown earlier as well. It is unquestionable that he, too, belonged for a while to the famous pleiad of some renowned figures of our previous generation, and for a time—though only for one brief little moment—his name was uttered by many hurrying people of that day almost on a par with the names of Chaadaev, Belinsky, Granovsky, and Herzen, who was just beginning abroad.’ But Stepan Trofimovich’s activity ended almost the moment it began—due, so to speak, to a “whirlwind of concurrent circumstances.” And just think! It even any “circumstances,” at least not on that occasion. Just the other day I learned, to my great surprise, but now with perfect certainty, that Stepan Trofimovich had lived among us, in our province, not only not in exile, as we used to think, but that he had never even been under surveillance. Such, then, is the power of one’s own imagination! He himself sincerely believed all his life that he was a cause of constant apprehension in certain spheres, that his steps were ceaselessly known and numbered, and that each of the three governors who succeeded one another over the past twenty years, in coming to rule our province, brought along a certain special and worrisome idea of him, inspired from above and before all, upon taking over the province. Had some- one then convinced the most honest Stepan Trofimovich, on irrefutable evidence, that he had nothing at all to fear, he would no doubt have been offended. And yet he was such an intelligent man, such a gifted man, even, so to speak, a scholar—though as a scholar, however . . . well, in a word, he did very little as a scholar, nothing at all, apparently. But with scholars here in Russia that is ever and always the case.


Michael R. Katz
1992


By way of an introduction: some details from the biography of the highly esteemed Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky

In setting out to describe the recent and very strange events that occurred in our hitherto completely undistinguished little town, I am compelled by my own lack of talent to begin from some time back, that is, with a few biographical details about the talented and highly esteemed Stepan Tro-fimovich Verkhovensky. Let these details serve merely as an introduction to the present chronicle; the actual story I intend to relate will follow later.

I can state forthwith that Stepan Trofimovich always played a rather special role among us, a civic role so to speak, and he loved this role so passionately that it seems to me he couldn't have existed without it. It's not that I'd compare him to an actor on stage: God forbid, all the more since 1 myself respect him. Perhaps it was all a matter of habit, or, more precisely, his constant and noble tendency since childhood to indulge in pleasant fantasies about his own splendid civic, standing. For example, he enjoyed his position as a 'persecuted' man, even, so to speak, an 'exile' . There's a certain traditional glamour contained in these two little words that had seduced him once and for all, and, over many years, gradually elevated him in his own estimation, and finally placed him on a pedestal that was highly gratifying to his vanity. In an English satirical novel of the last century a certain Gulliver, returning from the land of the Lilliputians where the people were only a few inches tall, had grown so accustomed to thinking of himself as a giant that, as he walked along the streets of London, he kept;. houting at passers-by and carriages to be careful and get out of his way so he wouldn't trample them, imagining that he was still a giant and they were very tiny. People laughed at him and made fun of him, and rough coachmen even slashed him with their whips. But was that fair? What is habit not capable of? Habit had driven Stepan Trofimoyich almost as far as that, but in a more innocent and inoffensive way, if one can put it like that, because he was such a splendid man.

I'm actually inclined to think he was entirely forgotten in the end; on the other hand, it can't be said that he was completely unknown earlier on. There's no doubt that at the time he belonged to our famous galaxy of illustrious men of the last generation; at one time, though only for a brief moment, his name was uttered by many impulsive people of the day almost in the same breath with Chaadaev, Belinsky, Granovsky, and Herzen. (who was then just embarking on his activities abroad). But Stepan Trofimovich's activity ended almost as soon as it began as a result, so to speak, of a 'whirlwind of concurrent circumstances'. And what do you think? It turned out later there had been neither whirlwind' nor 'circumstances', at least not in this instance. Only a few days ago I learned to my great amazement, but from a most reliable source, that Stepan Trofimovich had been living in our province not as an exile, as we'd been to believe; nor had he ever been under police surveillance. Such is the power of imagination! All his life he devoutly believed that in certain spheres he was regarded with apprehension, that his every step was being watched, and that three successive governors in the last twenty years arrived to take over the administration of our province with acertain preconceived notion about him inculcated from above and handed down with their appointment as governor. Had anyone tried to persuade the honourable Stepan Trofimovich with irrefutable evidence that he really had nothing to fear, he would certainly have been highly offended. And yet he was a very intelligent and talented man, even, so to say, a scholar, although, in fact, his scholarship... well, in a word, his scholarship had accomplished very little, in fact, it seems, it had accomplished nothing at all. But then that happens all the time with men of learning in Russia.


David Magarshack
1953


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Before describing the remarkable events which took place so recently in our town, hitherto not remarkable for anything in particular, I find it necessary, since I am not a skilled writer, to go back a little and with certain biographical details concerning our talented and greatly esteemed Stepan Trofimovich Verkhovensky. I hope these details will serve as an introduction to the social and political chronicle of our town, while the story I have in mind to relate will come later.
Let me say at once that Mr Verkhovensky had always played a rather and, as it were, civic role amongst us and that he loved that role passionately - so much so that I cannot help feeling that he would not have been able to exist without it. Not that I have any intention of comparing him to an actor on the stage - God forbid - particularly as I have the utmost respect for him. Perhaps it was all just a matter of habit, or, better still, it may have been the result of a constant and generous desire from his earliest years of indulging in the agreeable fancy of a famous public figure. For instance, he was very fond of his position as a ‘marked’ man or, as it were, an ‘exile’. There is a sort of classical splendour about those two words that fascinated him and, raising him gradually in his own estimation in the course of years, finally led him to imagine himself as on a high pedestal, a position that was very gratifying to his vanity. In an English satirical novel of the last century a certain Gulliver, on his return fiom the country of the Lilliputians, where all the people were only three or four inches tall had grown so accustomed to look upon himself as a giant that even as he walked in the streets of London he could not help shouting at the carriages and the passers-by to get out of his way and take heed he did not crush them, imagining that they were little and that he was still a giant. But that merely made everybody laugh at him and abuse him, and die uncouth coachmen even belaboured the giant with their whips. But was that fair? What does habit not do to a man! Habit had brought Mr Verkhovensky almost to the same position, though in a more innocent and inoflensive form, if one may put it that way, for he was a most excellent man.


Constance Garnett
1916


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In undertaking to describe the recent and strange incidents in our town, till lately wrapped in uneventful obscurity, I find myself forced in absence of literary skill to begin my story rather far back, that is to say, with certain biographical details conceming that talented and highly-esteemed gentleman, Stcpan Trofnnovitch Verhovcnsky. I trust that these details may at least serve as an introduction, while my projected story itself will come later.
I will say at once that Stcpan Trofnnovitch had always filled a particular role among us, that of the progressive patriot, so to say, and he was passionately fond of playing the part—so much so that I really believe he could not have existed without it. Not that I would put him on a level with an actor at a theatre, God forbid, for I really have a respect for him. This may all have been the effect of habit, or rather, more exactly of a generous propensity he had from his earliest years for indulging in an agreeable day-dream in which he figured as a picturesque public character. He fondly loved, for instance, his position as a "persecuted" man and, so to speak, an "exile." There is a sort of traditional glamour about those two little words that fascinated him once for all and, exalting him gradually in his own opinion, raised him in the course of years to a lofty pedestal very gratifying to vanity. In an English satire of the last century, Gulliver, returning from the land of the Lilliputians where the people were only three or four inches high, had grown so accustomed to consider himself a giant among them, that as he walked along the streets of London he could not help crying out to carriages and passers-by to be careful and get out of his way for fear he should crush them, imagining that they were little and he was still a giant. He was laughed at and abused for it, zmd rough coachmen even lashed at the giant with their whips. But was that just? What may not be done by habit? Habit had brought Stepan Trofimovitch almost to the same position, but in a more irmocent and inoffensive form, if one may use such expressions, for he was a most excellent man.
I am even inclined to suppose that towards the end he had been entirely forgotten everywhere; but still it cannot be said that his name had never been known. It is beyond question that he had at one time belonged to a certain distinguished constellation of celebrated leaders of the last generation, and at one time—though only for the briefest moment~his name was pronounced by many hasty persons of that day almost as though it were on a level with the names of Tchaadaev, of Byelinsky. of Granovsky, and of Herzen, who had only just begun to write abroad. But Stepan Trofimovitch's activity ceased almost at the moment it began, owing, so to say, to a "vortex of combined circumstances." And would you believe it‘? It tumed out afterwards that there had been no "vortex" and even no "circumstances," at least in that connection. I only learned the other day to my intense amazement,
though on the most impeaechable authority, that Stepan Trofimovitch had lived among us in our province not as an "exile" as we were accustomed to believe, and had never even been under police supervision at all. Such is the force of imagination! All his life he sincerely believed that in certain spheres he was a constant cause of apprehension, that every step he took was watched and noted, and that each one of the three govemors who succeeded one another during twenty years in our province came with special and tmeasy ideas concerning him, which had, by higher powers, been impressed upon each before everything else, on receiving the appointment. Had anyone assured the honest man on the most irrefiitable grounds that he had nothing to be afraid of, he would certainly have been offended. Yet Stepan Trofimovitch was a most intelligent and gifted man, even, so to say, a man of science, though indeed, in science . . . well, in fact he had not done such great things in science. I believe indeed he had done nothing at all. But that's very often the case, of course, with men of science among us in Russia. He came back from abroad and was brilliant in the capacity of lecturer at the university, towards the end of the forties. He only had time to deliver a few lectures, I believe they were about the Arabs; he maintained, too, a brilliant thesis on the political and Hanseatic importance of the Gennan town Hanau, of which there was promise in the epoch between 1413 and 1428, and on the special and obscure reasons why that promise was never fulfilled. This dissertation was a cruel and skilful thrust at the Slavophils of the day, and at once made him numerous zmd irreconcilable enemies among them. Later on— after he had lost his post as lecturer, however—he published (by way of revenge, so to say, and to show them what a man they had lost) in a progressive monthly review, which translated Dickens and advocated the views of George Sand, the beginning of a very profound investigation into the causes, I believe, of the extraordinary moral nobility of certain knights at a certain epoch or something of that nature.
Some lofty and exceptionally noble idea was maintained in it, anyway. It was said afterwards that the continuation was hurriedly forbidden and even that the progressive review had to suffer for having printed the first part. That may very well have been so, for what was not possible in those days? Though, in this case, it is more likely that there was nothing of the kind, and that the author himself was too lazy to conclude his essay. He cut short his lectures on the Arabs because, somehow and by some one (probably one of his reactionary enemies) a letter had been seized giving an account of certain circumstances, in consequence of which some one had demanded an explzmation from him. I don't know whether the story is true, but it was asserted that at the same time there was discovered in Petersburg a vast, unnatural, and illegal conspiracy of thirty people which almost shook society to its foundations. It was said that they were positively on the point of translating Fourier. As though of design a poem of Stepan Trofimovitch's was seized in Moscow at that very time, though it had been written six years before in Berlin in his earliest youth, and manuscript copies had been passed round a circle consisting of two poetical amateurs and one student. This poem is lying now on my table. No longer ago than last year I received a recent copy in his own handwriting from Stepan Trofnnovitch himself, signed by him, and bound in a splendid red leather binding. It is not without poetic merit, however, and even a certain talent. It's strange, but in those days (or to be more exact, in the thirties) people were constantly composing in that style. I find it difficult to describe the subject, for I really do not understand it. It is some sort of an allegory in lyrical-dramatic form, recalling the second part of Faust. The scene opens with a chorus of women, followed by a chorus of men, then a chorus of incorporeal powers of some sort, and at the end of all a chorus of spirits not yet living but very eager to come to life. All these choruses sing about something very indefinite, for the most part about somcbody's curse, but with a tinge of the higher humour. But the scene is suddenly changed. There begins a sort of "festival of life" at which even insects sing, a tortoise comes on the scene with certain sacramental Latin words, and even, if I remember aright, a mineral sings about something that is a quite inanimate object. In fact, they all sing continually, or if they converse, it is simply to abuse one another vaguely, but again with a tinge of higher meaning. At last the scene is changed again; a wildemess appears, and among the rocks there wanders a civilized young man who picks and sucks certain herbs. Asked by a fairy why he sucks these herbs, he answers that, conscious of a superfluity of life in himself, he seeks forgetfulness, and finds it in the juice of these herbs, but that his great desire is to lose his reason at once (a desire possibly superfluous). Then a youth of indescribable beauty rides in on a black steed, and an immense multitude of all nations follow him. The youth represents death, for whom all the peoples are yearning. And finally, in the last scene we are suddenly shown the Tower of Babel, and certain athletes at last finish building it with a song of new hope, and when at length they complete the topmost pinnacle, the lord (of Olympia, let us say) takes flight in a comic fashion, and man, grasping the situation and seizing his place, at once begins a new life with new insight into things. Well, this poem was thought at that time to be dangerous. Last year I proposed to Stepan Trofimoviteh to publish it, on the ground of its perfect harmlessness nowadays, but he declined the suggestion with evident dissatisfaction. My view of its complete harmlessness evidently displeased him, and I even ascribe to it a certain coldness on his part, which lasted two whole months.


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