Sunday, 17 February 2013

Fyodor Sologub: The joining of souls

In vexation, Sonpolev paced up and down the study room. He stopped in front of a wall and began to speak. In our days, there are many people who carry on long conversations with a wall – a truly interesting company! And a reliable one at that. Sonpolev was saying: “We can only hate something with such agonizing hate, something that is very close to us. But what is the secret behind this diabolic closeness? Which demon, and using which evil spells, linked our souls? Souls that are so unlike each other! Mine, that is of a person with a stirring life and an aim towards soothing, and his soul, a soul of a big-mouthed youngster, cunning like a conspirator and sluggish like a coward. And why does his character portray this strange discrepancy to his outside appearance? Who had stolen the most necessary, the best part of the soul, from this sucker?” He spoke quietly, almost mumbling. Then loudly, annoyed, cried out: “Who did this? A human being or its enemy?” He heard a strange response: “I did” Somebody had yelled this in a sharp, high-pitched voice. As though rusty steel ringed out brusquely, albeit dimly. Sonpolev nervously flinched. He looked around. There was nobody else in the room. He sat down in a chair, sullenly examined the table, buried in books and papers, and waited. Waited for something. The waiting became awful. He said out loud: “Why are you hiding? If you started talking, you should come out. Tell me what you wanted to say. What do you need to say?” He listened. His nerves were so strained it seemed that the slightest noise would astound him, like archangel's trumpet. And suddenly, laughter. Sharp, rusty-metal laughter. As if the spring of a clockwork toy began to uncoil, and it trembled and rang in the calm silence of the evening. Sonpolev pressed his palms against his temples. He leaned against the table. Listened out. The laughter faded with mechanical slickness. It was obvious that it was coming from somewhere close, as if straight from under the table. Sonpolev waited. Eyes strained, he looked at the bronze inkpot and asked in mockery: “Ink cadaver, is that your laughter?” A sharp voice, unlike the dark murmur of ghosts, answered with the same mocking tone: “No, you're mistaken, and are rather unfunny. I'm not the ink. Don't you know what the sticky voice of ink cadavers sound like? Are you are a bad observer?” And again laughter, again the rusty spring rang, and uncoiled. Sonpolev said: “I don't know who you are, and how can I know that! Because I don't see you. I only think that you are the same as your entire fraternity: you are always next to us, you poke us and bring us anguish and cast other evil spells, and you don't dare to show yourself.” The springy voice replied: “That is why I came – to talk to you. I just love to talk to ones like you – the halves.”
Translated by Maria Aprelenko, RT

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