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Authors: Mikhail Bulgakov

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Notes on the Cuff and Other Stories

BOOK: Notes on the Cuff and Other Stories
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Notes
On
the Cuff

 

 

Mikhail
Bulgakov

 

 

 

Translated by K.M. Cook-
Horujy

English
translation copyright
Raduga
Publishers 1990

Moscow

 

To the long-suffering writers of
Russia
who rove o'er land and sea

CONTENTS

PART
ONE

1

2.

WHAT
WE GONNA DO?

3.

THE
ICON-LAMP

4.

AND
HERE IT IS—THE SUB-SECTION

5.

GENTLEMAN-OF-THE-BEDCHAMBER
PUSHKIN

6.

THE
BRONZE COLLAR

7.

THE
BOYS IN THE BOX

8.

A
THROUGH WIND

9.

THE
INCIDENT WITH THE GREAT WRITERS

10.

A
FOOT-BINDING AND A BLACK MOUSE

11.

NO
WORSE THAN KNUT HAMSUN

12.

MUST
RUN. MUST RUN!

13.

14.

GOING
HOME

PART
TWO

THE
MOSCOW ABYSS. TWANVLAM

I'M
TOP MAN AFTER GORKY

I
PLUG IN ASS LIT

THE
FIRST SWALLOWS

WE
WORK UP STEAM

AN
UNEXPECTED NIGHTMARE

FULL
SPEED AHEAD

CASH!
CASH!

ON
HOW TO EAT

STORM.
SNOW

Commentaries
to NOTES OFF THE CUFF:

 

 

PART ONE

 

 

1

 

An editor of the deceased
Russkoye
Slovo
,
in gaiters and with a cigar,
snatched the telegram off the desk and read it through swiftly from beginning
to end with a practised professional eye. •

One hand automatically jotted down "two
columns", while the lips unexpectedly rounded and whistled "Phew-
ew
!"

He paused for a moment. Then abruptly tore off a sheet
of notepaper and scribbled:

 

Tiflis
is forty miles
away,

Who can sell me
a car today?

 

"Short
feuilleton" at the top, "Long primer" at the side and
"Rook" at the bottom.

Suddenly he muttered like Dickens's Jingle:

"Uh-huh! Uh-huh! I guessed as much.
Might have to beat it.
Never mind! I've got six thousand
lire in
Rome
.
Credito
Italiano
.
What?
Six... And actually I'm an Italian officer! Yes, sir!
Finita
la
comedia
!"

And with another whistle he pushed back his cap and
hurried out of the door — telegram and feuilleton in hand.

"Stop!"
I yelled, coming to my senses.
"Stop!
What
Credito
?
Finita ?
What?
Catastrophe?"

But he had vanished.

I was about to run after him... but then shrugged my
shoulders, frowned limply and sank onto the divan. What was bothering me? The
Credito ,
whatever it was?
The
commotion?
No, it wasn't that... Ah, yes. My head! It was aching like
billyho
.
The second day running.
First a strange chill ran down my spine. Then just the opposite: my body felt
all hot and dry, and my forehead unpleasantly clammy. My temples were
throbbing. I'd caught cold. That wretched February fog! But I mustn't get ill!
I just mustn't get ill!

 

*

 

Everything's unfamiliar, but I must have got used to it
over the last six weeks. How good it feels after the fog.
At
home.
The cliff and the sea in the golden frame.
The books in the bookcase.
The carpet on the sofa is
too rough for comfort and the cushion's terribly hard. But I wouldn't get up
for anything. I feel so lazy!
Can't be bothered to lift a
hand.
I've spent half an hour thinking I must stretch it out to get the
aspirin powder on the chair, but even that's too much trouble.

"Pop the thermometer in,
Misha
!"

"Oh, I couldn't bear to! I haven't got a temperature
anyway!"

 

*

 

Oh, my goodness, my goodness, my
goo-oodness
!
Thirty-eight point nine ... could it be typhus?
No, of course
not.
Where from? But what if it
is
typhus! Anything you like, only not now! That would be awful. It's nothing.
Hypochondria.
I've just got a cold.
Influenza.
I'll take an aspirin tonight and be as right as rain tomorrow!

 

*

 

Thirty-nine point five!

"It isn't typhus, is it, Doctor? Not typhus? I
think it's just influenza? Eh? The fog..."

"Yes, yes...
The fog.
Breathe in, please.
Deeper...
That's it!"

"I've got to attend to some very important
business, Doctor. It won't take long. Can I?"

"Are you
crazy!
"

 

*

 

The cliff, the sea, and the sofa are blazing hot. The
pillow's already hot, as soon as I turn it over and put my head on it. Never
mind. I'll stick it out one more night, and leave tomorrow. Leave for good if
necessary! For good! Mustn't let this get me down! It's only influenza.
Nice to be ill and have a temperature.
Forget about
everything. Lie in bed and rest. Only not now, for Heaven's sake! There's no
time for reading in this diabolical chaos... How I long for... What do I long
for? Yes.
Forests and mountains.
Only not these damned
Caucasian ones. But ours, far away...
Melnikov-Pechersky
(1)
.
A hermitage in the snow.
A light in the window and a nice hot steam bath.
Yes,
forests and mountains. I'd give half my kingdom to be sweating in a steam bath.
That would do the trick-Then dive into the snow with nothing on... Forests!
Dense pine forests.
Good for making ships. Peter in a green
caftan
(2)
chopping down trees. What a
fine-sounding stately word — inasmuch! In-as-much!
Forests,
ravines, carpets of pine-needles, a snow-covered hermitage.
And a choir of nuns singing in sweet harmony:

 

Victorious
leader of triumphant hosts!

 

Hang on! What nuns! You won't find any nuns there.
Where are they now, nuns?
Black, white, slender
Vasnetsovian
(3)
nuns?

"Larissa
Leontievna
,
where are the nuns?"

"He's delirious, poor thing!"

"I certainly am not. Not in the slightest. Nuns!
What's the matter, don't you understand? Give me that book.
Over
there, on the third shelf.
Melnikov-Pechersky
..."

"You mustn't read,
Misha
,
dear!"

"What's that? Why not? I'll be up tomorrow! And
go to see
Petrov
. You don't understand. They'll leave
me behind! Leave me behind!"

"Oh, alright then.
Get up if you must! Here's the book."

"Lovely book.
With that old, familiar smell. But the lines are
hopping about all over the place. I remember. They were forging banknotes at
the hermitage,
Romanov
banknotes. What an awful memory
I've got. It was notes, not nuns.

 

Sasha
basher,
tra
-la-la!

 

"Larissa
Leontievna
...
Larochka
! Do you like forests and mountains? I'll get me to
a monastery. Yes, I will!
Some remote hermitage.
With
forest all round and birds twittering, and not a living soul... I'm sick of
this idiotic war! I'll go to
Paris
and write a novel first, then get me to a monastery. Only tell Anna to wake me
up at eight o'clock tomorrow morning. I was supposed to see him yesterday.
Can't you understand?"

"Yes, yes, I understand. Only you must keep
quiet."

 

*

 

Fog.
Hot reddish fog.
Forests,
more forests ... and water trickling slowly from a crevice in a green rock.
A taut crystal thread.
Must crawl up and have a good
drink. That'll do the trick. It's hard crawling over pine-
needles,
they're all sticky and prickly. I open my eyes, and there's just a sheet, no
pine-needles.

"For heaven's sake!
What's the matter with this
sheet.
Have they sprinkled sand on it? I'm thirsty!"

"Yes, yes, I won't be a moment."

"Ugh, it's so warm, what horrid water."

"...Forty point five again!
How
dreadful!"

"...an ice-bag..."

"Doctor!
I insist on being sent to
Paris
rightaway
! I
don't want to stay in
Russia
any longer... If you won't send me, kindly hand me my Brow... Browning!
Larochk
-a-a! Go and fetch it!"

"Yes, yes, we'll fetch it. Only don't get
excited!"

 

*

 

Darkness.
A ray of light.
Darkness ...
a ray of light.
I can't remember for the life of me...

My head! My head! There are no nuns or triumphant
hosts, just demons trumpeting and tearing at my skull with their red-hot hooks.
My he
-ad!

 

*

 

A ray of light... darkness.
A ray ... no, it's gone. Nothing
awful,
just couldn't care less. Head not aching. Darkness and forty-one point one...

 

 

2.
BOOK: Notes on the Cuff and Other Stories
11.45Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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