Franz Kafka

Monday, May 25, 2015

"Nostalgia," by Vincenzo Cardarelli; "Nostalgia," by Vincenzo Cardarelli, English version, translated by LiteraryJoint

The fresco of Velia Velcha, one of the masterpieces of Etruria's funeral art. Velia Velcha, as pictured on the right wall of Orcus I, ca. 325 BC.


High on cliffs 
beaten by winds,
is a leafy cemetery:
a Christian oasis in Tatar's Etruria.
Down there is the gorgeous
young woman of the Velchas, (*)
who still lives in the Tomb of the Orcus.
It is the gentle bed
of the Girl
just nearby.
Legions of dead descended
into that ancient earth where I hoped
to sleep one day and grow roots.
Oh, to be able to bury
in the silent city
together with myself the fable
of my life!
Not to be else than a corroded stone,
a name that is canceled,
and sleep without memory in the womb
of the homeland as if I had never
been separated from it.
Yet in the extreme gasp
I might be deluded.
I will die when and where
the fate wants.
Perhaps, better befits the vagrant,
who left the fatherly dwelling fall behind,
to be dispersed.
And that to his tantalized bones remains
the yearning, the desire of return.
From the collection "Poesie," 1949

   (*) The Tomb of Orcus (Italian: Tomba dell'Orco), sometimes called the Tomb of Murina (Italian: Tomba dei Murina), is a 4th-century BC Etruscan hypogeum (burial chamber) in Tarquinia, Italy. Discovered in 1868, it displays Hellenistic influences in its remarkable murals, which include the portrait of Velia Velcha, an Etruscan noblewoman, and the only known pictorial representation of the demon Tuchulcha. In general, the murals are noted for their depiction of death, evil, and unhappiness.
    Because the tomb was built in two sections at two stages, it is sometimes referred to as the Tombs of Orcus I and II; it is believed to have belonged to the Murina family, an offshoot of the Etruscan Spurinnae. The foundation is inscribed with the following enigmatic phrase:

From "Vincenzo Cardarelli: The Forgotten amongst the Great. A Collection of the Best Poems by Vincenzo Cardarelli, Translated in English," available as e-book on Amazon Kindle, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touchon NOOK Bookon Koboand as printed, traditional edition through Lulu.



Alto su rupe,
battuto dai venti,
un cimitero frondeggia:
cristiana oasi nel Tartaro etrusco.
Là sotto è la fanciulla
bellissima dei Velcha,
che vive ancora nella Tomba dell’Orco.
E’ il giaciglio gentile
della Pulzella
poco discosto.
Legioni di morti calarono
in quell’antica terra ove sperai
dormire un giorno e rimetter radici.
Oh poter seppellire
nella città silente
insiem con me la favola
di mia vita!
Non esser più che una pietra corrosa,
un nome cancellato,
e riposar senza memoria in grembo
alla terra natia come se mai
me ne fossi scostato.
Ma nel sospiro estremo
sarò forse deluso.
Io morrò dove e quando
il fato vorrà.
Meglio forse al randagio
che lasciò il patrio asilo
cader per via conviene, esser disperso.
E resti all’ossa inappagate il fremito,
il desio del ritorno.

Dalla raccolta "Poesie," 1949

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"The Duel and Other Stories," by Anton Chekhov, full text, full version, "The Duel and Other Stories," English translation by Constance Garnett

Stamp of Russia, Anton Chekhov, 2010. Русский: Антон Павлович Чехов (1860-1904) — гениальный русский писатель.

The Duel and Other Stories


Translated by Constance Garnett

It was eight o'clock in the morning—the time when the officers, the local officials, and the visitors usually took their morning dip in the sea after the hot, stifling night, and then went into the pavilion to drink tea or coffee. Ivan Andreitch Laevsky, a thin, fair young man of twenty-eight, wearing the cap of a clerk in the Ministry of Finance and with slippers on his feet, coming down to bathe, found a number of acquaintances on the beach, and among them his friend Samoylenko, the army doctor.
With his big cropped head, short neck, his red face, his big nose, his shaggy black eyebrows and grey whiskers, his stout puffy figure and his hoarse military bass, this Samoylenko made on every newcomer the unpleasant impression of a gruff bully; but two or three days after making his acquaintance, one began to think his face extraordinarily good-natured, kind, and even handsome. In spite of his clumsiness and rough manner, he was a peaceable man, of infinite kindliness and goodness of heart, always ready to be of use. He was on familiar terms with every one in the town, lent every one money, doctored every one, made matches, patched up quarrels, arranged picnics at which he cooked shashlik and an awfully good soup of grey mullets. He was always looking after other people's affairs and trying to interest some one on their behalf, and was always delighted about something. The general opinion about him was that he was without faults of character. He had only two weaknesses: he was ashamed of his own good nature, and tried to disguise it by a surly expression and an assumed gruffness; and he liked his assistants and his soldiers to call him "Your Excellency," although he was only a civil councillor.
"Answer one question for me, Alexandr Daviditch," Laevsky began, when both he and Samoylenko were in the water up to their shoulders. "Suppose you had loved a woman and had been living with her for two or three years, and then left off caring for her, as one does, and began to feel that you had nothing in common with her. How would you behave in that case?"
"It's very simple. 'You go where you please, madam'—and that would be the end of it."
"It's easy to say that! But if she has nowhere to go? A woman with no friends or relations, without a farthing, who can't work . . ."
"Well? Five hundred roubles down or an allowance of twenty-five roubles a month—and nothing more. It's very simple."
"Even supposing you have five hundred roubles and can pay twenty-five roubles a month, the woman I am speaking of is an educated woman and proud. Could you really bring yourself to offer her money? And how would you do it?"
Samoylenko was going to answer, but at that moment a big wave covered them both, then broke on the beach and rolled back noisily over the shingle. The friends got out and began dressing.
"Of course, it is difficult to live with a woman if you don't love her," said Samoylenko, shaking the sand out of his boots. "But one must look at the thing humanely, Vanya. If it were my case, I should never show a sign that I did not love her, and I should go on living with her till I died."
He was at once ashamed of his own words; he pulled himself up and said:
"But for aught I care, there might be no females at all. Let them all go to the devil!"
The friends dressed and went into the pavilion. There Samoylenko was quite at home, and even had a special cup and saucer. Every morning they brought him on a tray a cup of coffee, a tall cut glass of iced water, and a tiny glass of brandy. He would first drink the brandy, then the hot coffee, then the iced water, and this must have been very nice, for after drinking it his eyes looked moist with pleasure, he would stroke his whiskers with both hands, and say, looking at the sea:
"A wonderfully magnificent view!"
After a long night spent in cheerless, unprofitable thoughts which prevented him from sleeping, and seemed to intensify the darkness and sultriness of the night, Laevsky felt listless and shattered. He felt no better for the bathe and the coffee.
"Let us go on with our talk, Alexandr Daviditch," he said. "I won't make a secret of it; I'll speak to you openly as to a friend. Things are in a bad way with Nadyezhda Fyodorovna and me . . . a very bad way! Forgive me for forcing my private affairs upon you, but I must speak out."
Samoylenko, who had a misgiving of what he was going to speak about, dropped his eyes and drummed with his fingers on the table.
"I've lived with her for two years and have ceased to love her," Laevsky went on; "or, rather, I realised that I never had felt any love for her. . . . These two years have been a mistake."
It was Laevsky's habit as he talked to gaze attentively at the pink palms of his hands, to bite his nails, or to pinch his cuffs. And he did so now.
"I know very well you can't help me," he said. "But I tell you, because unsuccessful and superfluous people like me find their salvation in talking. I have to generalise about everything I do. I'm bound to look for an explanation and justification of my absurd existence in somebody else's theories, in literary types—in the idea that we, upper-class Russians, are degenerating, for instance, and so on. Last night, for example, I comforted myself by thinking all the time: 'Ah, how true Tolstoy is, how mercilessly true!' And that did me good. Yes, really, brother, he is a great writer, say what you like!"
Samoylenko, who had never read Tolstoy and was intending to do so every day of his life, was a little embarrassed, and said:
"Yes, all other authors write from imagination, but he writes straight from nature."

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

"The cloak" (or "The Overcoat"), a Short Story by Nikolai Gogol, Full Text English Version, English Translation. Nikolai Gogol's "The cloak" (or "The Overcoat", Russian: Шинель) and the original Russian text (Cyrillic)

"The Overcoat" (sometimes translated as "The Cloak", Russian: Шинель), Cover by Igor Grabar, 1890s

"We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat" 
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский

The Cloack

Original Russian (Cyrillic text) 
In the department of--but it is better not to mention the department.
There is nothing more irritable than departments, regiments, courts of
justice, and, in a word, every branch of public service. Each individual
attached to them nowadays thinks all society insulted in his person.
Quite recently a complaint was received from a justice of the peace, in
which he plainly demonstrated that all the imperial institutions were
going to the dogs, and that the Czar's sacred name was being taken in
vain; and in proof he appended to the complaint a romance in which the
justice of the peace is made to appear about once every ten lines,
and sometimes in a drunken condition. Therefore, in order to avoid all
unpleasantness, it will be better to describe the department in question
only as a certain department.

So, in a certain department there was a certain official--not a very
high one, it must be allowed--short of stature, somewhat pock-marked,
red-haired, and short-sighted, with a bald forehead, wrinkled cheeks,
and a complexion of the kind known as sanguine. The St. Petersburg
climate was responsible for this. As for his official status, he was
what is called a perpetual titular councillor, over which, as is well
known, some writers make merry, and crack their jokes, obeying the
praiseworthy custom of attacking those who cannot bite back.

His family name was Bashmatchkin. This name is evidently derived from
"bashmak" (shoe); but when, at what time, and in what manner, is not
known. His father and grandfather, and all the Bashmatchkins, always
wore boots, which only had new heels two or three times a year. His name
was Akakiy Akakievitch. It may strike the reader as rather singular
and far-fetched, but he may rest assured that it was by no means
far-fetched, and that the circumstances were such that it would have
been impossible to give him any other.

This is how it came about.

Akakiy Akakievitch was born, if my memory fails me not, in the evening
of the 23rd of March. His mother, the wife of a Government official
and a very fine woman, made all due arrangements for having the child
baptised. She was lying on the bed opposite the door; on her right
stood the godfather, Ivan Ivanovitch Eroshkin, a most estimable man,
who served as presiding officer of the senate, while the godmother, Anna
Semenovna Byelobrushkova, the wife of an officer of the quarter, and
a woman of rare virtues. They offered the mother her choice of three
names, Mokiya, Sossiya, or that the child should be called after the
martyr Khozdazat. "No," said the good woman, "all those names are poor."
In order to please her they opened the calendar to another place;
three more names appeared, Triphiliy, Dula, and Varakhasiy. "This is
a judgment," said the old woman. "What names! I truly never heard the
like. Varada or Varukh might have been borne, but not Triphiliy and
Varakhasiy!" They turned to another page and found Pavsikakhiy and
Vakhtisiy. "Now I see," said the old woman, "that it is plainly fate.
And since such is the case, it will be better to name him after his
father. His father's name was Akakiy, so let his son's be Akakiy too."
In this manner he became Akakiy Akakievitch. They christened the child,
whereat he wept and made a grimace, as though he foresaw that he was to
be a titular councillor.

In this manner did it all come about. We have mentioned it in order that
the reader might see for himself that it was a case of necessity, and
that it was utterly impossible to give him any other name. When and how
he entered the department, and who appointed him, no one could remember.
However much the directors and chiefs of all kinds were changed, he
was always to be seen in the same place, the same attitude, the same
occupation; so that it was afterwards affirmed that he had been born
in undress uniform with a bald head. No respect was shown him in the
department. The porter not only did not rise from his seat when he
passed, but never even glanced at him, any more than if a fly had flown
through the reception-room. His superiors treated him in coolly despotic
fashion. Some sub-chief would thrust a paper under his nose without
so much as saying, "Copy," or "Here's a nice interesting affair," or
anything else agreeable, as is customary amongst well-bred officials.
And he took it, looking only at the paper and not observing who handed
it to him, or whether he had the right to do so; simply took it, and set
about copying it.

The young officials laughed at and made fun of him, so far as their
official wit permitted; told in his presence various stories concocted
about him, and about his landlady, an old woman of seventy; declared
that she beat him; asked when the wedding was to be; and strewed bits of
paper over his head, calling them snow. But Akakiy Akakievitch answered
not a word, any more than if there had been no one there besides
himself. It even had no effect upon his work: amid all these annoyances
he never made a single mistake in a letter. But if the joking became
wholly unbearable, as when they jogged his hand and prevented his
attending to his work, he would exclaim, "Leave me alone! Why do you
insult me?" And there was something strange in the words and the voice
in which they were uttered. There was in it something which moved to
pity; so much that one young man, a new-comer, who, taking pattern by
the others, had permitted himself to make sport of Akakiy, suddenly
stopped short, as though all about him had undergone a transformation,
and presented itself in a different aspect. Some unseen force repelled
him from the comrades whose acquaintance he had made, on the supposition
that they were well-bred and polite men. Long afterwards, in his gayest
moments, there recurred to his mind the little official with the bald
forehead, with his heart-rending words, "Leave me alone! Why do you
insult me?" In these moving words, other words resounded--"I am thy
brother." And the young man covered his face with his hand; and many a
time afterwards, in the course of his life, shuddered at seeing how
much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness is concealed
beneath delicate, refined worldliness, and even, O God! in that man whom
the world acknowledges as honourable and noble.

It would be difficult to find another man who lived so entirely for his
duties. It is not enough to say that Akakiy laboured with zeal: no,
he laboured with love. In his copying, he found a varied and agreeable
employment. Enjoyment was written on his face: some letters were even
favourites with him; and when he encountered these, he smiled, winked,
and worked with his lips, till it seemed as though each letter might
be read in his face, as his pen traced it. If his pay had been in
proportion to his zeal, he would, perhaps, to his great surprise, have
been made even a councillor of state. But he worked, as his companions,
the wits, put it, like a horse in a mill.

Moreover, it is impossible to say that no attention was paid to him. One
director being a kindly man, and desirous of rewarding him for his long
service, ordered him to be given something more important than mere
copying. So he was ordered to make a report of an already concluded
affair to another department: the duty consisting simply in changing
the heading and altering a few words from the first to the third person.
This caused him so much toil that he broke into a perspiration, rubbed
his forehead, and finally said, "No, give me rather something to copy."
After that they let him copy on forever.

Outside this copying, it appeared that nothing existed for him. He gave
no thought to his clothes: his undress uniform was not green, but a sort
of rusty-meal colour. The collar was low, so that his neck, in spite of
the fact that it was not long, seemed inordinately so as it emerged from
it, like the necks of those plaster cats which wag their heads, and are
carried about upon the heads of scores of image sellers. And something
was always sticking to his uniform, either a bit of hay or some trifle.
Moreover, he had a peculiar knack, as he walked along the street, of
arriving beneath a window just as all sorts of rubbish were being flung
out of it: hence he always bore about on his hat scraps of melon rinds
and other such articles. Never once in his life did he give heed to what
was going on every day in the street; while it is well known that his
young brother officials train the range of their glances till they
can see when any one's trouser straps come undone upon the opposite
sidewalk, which always brings a malicious smile to their faces. But
Akakiy Akakievitch saw in all things the clean, even strokes of his
written lines; and only when a horse thrust his nose, from some unknown
quarter, over his shoulder, and sent a whole gust of wind down his neck
from his nostrils, did he observe that he was not in the middle of a
page, but in the middle of the street.

On reaching home, he sat down at once at the table, supped his cabbage
soup up quickly, and swallowed a bit of beef with onions, never noticing
their taste, and gulping down everything with flies and anything else
which the Lord happened to send at the moment. His stomach filled, he
rose from the table, and copied papers which he had brought home. If
there happened to be none, he took copies for himself, for his own
gratification, especially if the document was noteworthy, not on account
of its style, but of its being addressed to some distinguished person.

Even at the hour when the grey St. Petersburg sky had quite dispersed,
and all the official world had eaten or dined, each as he could, in
accordance with the salary he received and his own fancy; when all were
resting from the departmental jar of pens, running to and fro from their
own and other people's indispensable occupations, and from all the work
that an uneasy man makes willingly for himself, rather than what is
necessary; when officials hasten to dedicate to pleasure the time which
is left to them, one bolder than the rest going to the theatre; another,
into the street looking under all the bonnets; another wasting his
evening in compliments to some pretty girl, the star of a small official
circle; another--and this is the common case of all--visiting his
comrades on the fourth or third floor, in two small rooms with an
ante-room or kitchen, and some pretensions to fashion, such as a lamp or
some other trifle which has cost many a sacrifice of dinner or pleasure
trip; in a word, at the hour when all officials disperse among the
contracted quarters of their friends, to play whist, as they sip their
tea from glasses with a kopek's worth of sugar, smoke long pipes, relate
at times some bits of gossip which a Russian man can never, under any
circumstances, refrain from, and, when there is nothing else to talk of,
repeat eternal anecdotes about the commandant to whom they had sent word
that the tails of the horses on the Falconet Monument had been cut off,
when all strive to divert themselves, Akakiy Akakievitch indulged in
no kind of diversion. No one could ever say that he had seen him at any
kind of evening party. Having written to his heart's content, he lay
down to sleep, smiling at the thought of the coming day--of what God
might send him to copy on the morrow.

Thus flowed on the peaceful life of the man, who, with a salary of four
hundred rubles, understood how to be content with his lot; and thus it
would have continued to flow on, perhaps, to extreme old age, were
it not that there are various ills strewn along the path of life for
titular councillors as well as for private, actual, court, and every
other species of councillor, even for those who never give any advice or
take any themselves.

There exists in St. Petersburg a powerful foe of all who receive a
salary of four hundred rubles a year, or thereabouts. This foe is no
other than the Northern cold, although it is said to be very healthy.
At nine o'clock in the morning, at the very hour when the streets are
filled with men bound for the various official departments, it begins to
bestow such powerful and piercing nips on all noses impartially that the
poor officials really do not know what to do with them. At an hour when
the foreheads of even those who occupy exalted positions ache with the
cold, and tears start to their eyes, the poor titular councillors are
sometimes quite unprotected. Their only salvation lies in traversing as
quickly as possible, in their thin little cloaks, five or six streets,
and then warming their feet in the porter's room, and so thawing all
their talents and qualifications for official service, which had become
frozen on the way.

Akakiy Akakievitch had felt for some time that his back and shoulders
suffered with peculiar poignancy, in spite of the fact that he tried
to traverse the distance with all possible speed. He began finally
to wonder whether the fault did not lie in his cloak. He examined it
thoroughly at home, and discovered that in two places, namely, on the
back and shoulders, it had become thin as gauze: the cloth was worn to
such a degree that he could see through it, and the lining had fallen
into pieces. You must know that Akakiy Akakievitch's cloak served as an
object of ridicule to the officials: they even refused it the noble name
of cloak, and called it a cape. In fact, it was of singular make: its
collar diminishing year by year, but serving to patch its other parts.
The patching did not exhibit great skill on the part of the tailor,
and was, in fact, baggy and ugly. Seeing how the matter stood, Akakiy
Akakievitch decided that it would be necessary to take the cloak to
Petrovitch, the tailor, who lived somewhere on the fourth floor up
a dark stair-case, and who, in spite of his having but one eye, and
pock-marks all over his face, busied himself with considerable success
in repairing the trousers and coats of officials and others; that is to
say, when he was sober and not nursing some other scheme in his head.

It is not necessary to say much about this tailor; but, as it is the
custom to have the character of each personage in a novel clearly
defined, there is no help for it, so here is Petrovitch the tailor. At
first he was called only Grigoriy, and was some gentleman's serf; he
commenced calling himself Petrovitch from the time when he received
his free papers, and further began to drink heavily on all holidays,
at first on the great ones, and then on all church festivities without
discrimination, wherever a cross stood in the calendar. On this point he
was faithful to ancestral custom; and when quarrelling with his wife, he
called her a low female and a German. As we have mentioned his wife, it
will be necessary to say a word or two about her. Unfortunately, little
is known of her beyond the fact that Petrovitch has a wife, who wears
a cap and a dress; but cannot lay claim to beauty, at least, no one but
the soldiers of the guard even looked under her cap when they met her.

Ascending the staircase which led to Petrovitch's room--which staircase
was all soaked with dish-water, and reeked with the smell of spirits
which affects the eyes, and is an inevitable adjunct to all dark
stairways in St. Petersburg houses--ascending the stairs, Akakiy
Akakievitch pondered how much Petrovitch would ask, and mentally
resolved not to give more than two rubles. The door was open; for the
mistress, in cooking some fish, had raised such a smoke in the kitchen
that not even the beetles were visible. Akakiy Akakievitch passed
through the kitchen unperceived, even by the housewife, and at length
reached a room where he beheld Petrovitch seated on a large unpainted
table, with his legs tucked under him like a Turkish pasha. His feet
were bare, after the fashion of tailors who sit at work; and the first
thing which caught the eye was his thumb, with a deformed nail thick and
strong as a turtle's shell. About Petrovitch's neck hung a skein of silk
and thread, and upon his knees lay some old garment. He had been trying
unsuccessfully for three minutes to thread his needle, and was enraged
at the darkness and even at the thread, growling in a low voice, "It
won't go through, the barbarian! you pricked me, you rascal!"

Akakiy Akakievitch was vexed at arriving at the precise moment when
Petrovitch was angry; he liked to order something of Petrovitch when the
latter was a little downhearted, or, as his wife expressed it, "when
he had settled himself with brandy, the one-eyed devil!" Under such
circumstances, Petrovitch generally came down in his price very readily,
and even bowed and returned thanks. Afterwards, to be sure, his wife
would come, complaining that her husband was drunk, and so had fixed
the price too low; but, if only a ten-kopek piece were added, then the
matter was settled. But now it appeared that Petrovitch was in a sober
condition, and therefore rough, taciturn, and inclined to demand, Satan
only knows what price. Akakiy Akakievitch felt this, and would gladly
have beat a retreat; but he was in for it. Petrovitch screwed up his
one eye very intently at him, and Akakiy Akakievitch involuntarily said:
"How do you do, Petrovitch?"

"I wish you a good morning, sir," said Petrovitch, squinting at Akakiy
Akakievitch's hands, to see what sort of booty he had brought.

"Ah! I--to you, Petrovitch, this--" It must be known that Akakiy
Akakievitch expressed himself chiefly by prepositions, adverbs, and
scraps of phrases which had no meaning whatever. If the matter was a
very difficult one, he had a habit of never completing his sentences; so
that frequently, having begun a phrase with the words, "This, in fact,
is quite--" he forgot to go on, thinking that he had already finished

"What is it?" asked Petrovitch, and with his one eye scanned
Akakievitch's whole uniform from the collar down to the cuffs, the back,
the tails and the button-holes, all of which were well known to him,
since they were his own handiwork. Such is the habit of tailors; it is
the first thing they do on meeting one.

"But I, here, this--Petrovitch--a cloak, cloth--here you see,
everywhere, in different places, it is quite strong--it is a little
dusty, and looks old, but it is new, only here in one place it is a
little--on the back, and here on one of the shoulders, it is a little
worn, yes, here on this shoulder it is a little--do you see? that is
all. And a little work--"

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Die Bäume (The trees,) by Franz Kafka. Die Bäume (The Trees,) translated in English by LiteraryJoint.

Anton Mauve (Dutch, 1838-1888) - “Snow Storm”, Oil on canvas, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio, USA

Die Bäume

Denn wir sind wie Baumstämme im Schnee. Scheinbar liegen sie glatt auf, und mit kleinem Anstoß sollte man sie wegschieben können. Nein, das kann man nicht, denn sie sind fest mit dem Boden verbunden. Aber sieh, sogar das ist nur scheinbar.

The trees

For we are like tree trunks in the snow. Apparently, they lay just resting, and with a little prod one shall be able to push them away. No, one cannot, because they are firmly connected with the ground. But look, even that is just appearance.