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Home Zoshchenko's Feuilleton A Psychological History - translation

A Psychological History - translation


A Psychological History

A very interesting psychological history happened this week.

A certain acquaintance of ours, the locksmith Vasiliy Antonovich K. (we will not mention his last name here), conceived of divorcing his wife.

He had lived with her for something like three or four years, and he decided that it was enough. Or else, you see, he started to get bored with her company. Well, generally he cooled towards her. Fell out of love with her.

And so, y’know, he picks up his friend Fedya T., drops by a tavern with him after work, drinks a couple of beers and consults with him. He chats with Fedya about the present question – how to do it: to immediately tell his wife, you know, I’m divorcing you, or to prepare her so it won’t come as a shock. Or, maybe, simply stop by the Civil Registry Office and request a notification letter, so as not to appropriate for himself various bourgeois scenes, womanly shrieks and so on and so forth.

His friend says:

“It’s best of all to come home and immediately tell her point-blank, no matter what happens. Otherwise you’ll drag out the trouble and only worry yourself. Go now and lay it out. Only," he says, "of course, this business isn’t easy. At such moments, some spouses mostly go berserk and the devil knows what they’re liable to do. Others faint dead away. A third portion, the most stupid, hurl vitriol.  So," he says, "I don’t particularly envy you. But you simply must go. And I’ll go with you. I’ll wait for you at the door. In the event that you need my help, you can call on me.”

And so they go, the two of them, to the apartment.

They walk up to his, that is the locksmith’s, building and climb up the stairs.

They are climbing up the stairs and suddenly meet the wife, this same ill-fated locksmith’s wife, Anna Nikolaevna, Anya.

They are climbing up the stairs, and she is running down. She is running down quickly in her yellow shoes. So very chic, curvy-haired,1 hot-blooded and cute.

The locksmith, of course, stops and looks at her in surprise. And she lightly blushes and, y’know, wants to walk further. The locksmith asks:

“You," he says, "where are you going?”

“I," she says, "am going… about my own business.”

“About what business? What business do you have?”

“And I," she says, "do not intend to answer you.”

Then they begin to converse stormily, and she says to him:

“Here," she says, "here it is, Vasiliy Antonovich. I’ve long wanted to tell you: Your character bores me, and I’m thinking of divorcing you.”

The locksmith was stupefied.

“Get divorced, how?”

“Here’s how," she says.  "You’re bored with my company, and as for me," she says, "I don’t have much interest in you either. I’ve long restrained myself from talking about it, but now I’m definitely glad that I said it. I’m divorcing you!”

The locksmith seizes her by the hands. He exclaims:

“Oh, that’s it! You surely have lovers! You’ve ensnared me in your love. Anya," he says, "Anyechka!”

His friend Fedya T. winks at him: what are you, a fool, you wanted to get divorced yourself, and now you’re doing an about face?

And the locksmith exclaims:

“Anyechka, think about it a bit! Don’t divorce me!”

And he embraces her, and takes off her hat, and every minute takes her by the hand.

And Fedya T. stands there rattled and doesn’t believe his own eyes.

After that Fedya threw up his hands and left. So how the avowal on the staircase ended is unknown. It is only known that the locksmith did not divorce his wife and, it seems, does not intend to get divorced. On the contrary, after work the locksmith runs straight home, not stopping at the bar.

How to understand this incident? What is the point here? Why did the locksmith suddenly change his mind? Aren’t there base feelings here? Isn’t there a bourgeois inclination? Isn’t there possessiveness?

The author, weary from his literary work, cannot immediately sort out this complicated psychological conundrum. Let the readers sort it out themselves! It’s not possible to spoon-feed them everything. And so, take a turn with it yourself!


1Translators’ note: The Russian завитая can be translated as “curly” (-haired), “wavy” (-haired), or “permed,” with the last being its typical conversational meaning.  We translated it as “curvy-haired” to combine these meanings.