Saturday, December 12, 2009

“Dead Souls” beginning

“The gates of the hostelry in the governmental town of N. admitted a smallish fairly elegant britzka on springs, of the sort used by bachelors such as retired colonels, staff-captains, country squires who own about a hundred souls of peasants—in short by all those who are dubbed ‘gentlemen of medium quality.’ Sitting in the britzka was a gentleman whose countenance could not be termed handsome, yet neither was he ill-favored: he was not too stout, nor was he too thin; you could not call him old, just as you could not say that he was still youthful. His arrival produced no stir whatever in the town and was not accompanied by anything unusual; alone two Russian muzhiks who were standing at the door of a dram-shop opposite the inn made certain remarks which however referred more to the carriage than to the person seated therein. ‘Look at the wheel there,’ said one. ‘Now what do you think—would that wheel hold out as far as Moscow if need be, or would it not?’ ‘It would,’ answered the other. ‘And what about Kazan—I think it would not last that far?’ ‘It would not,’—answered the other. Upon this the conversation came to a close. And moreover, as the carriage drove up to the inn, a young man chanced to pass wearing white twill trousers that were very tight and short and a swallow-tail coat with claims to fashion from under which a shirtfront was visible fastened with a Tula bronze pin in the shape of a pistol. The young man turned his head, looked back at the carriage, caught hold of his cap, which the wind was about to blow off, and then went his way.”

translated by Vladimir Nabokov (for “Nikolai Gogol”)

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