Mikhail Artsybashev: Woodblock

Life, strong and persistent, like the growth of a century-old oak tree, was all around. From each almost invisible bug, eagerly crawling somewhere up a stalk, it breathed of solid self-knowledge, of something wise, serious and essential. A political exile, a student named Verigin, still a very young man, with dry and broad shoulders, behind which protruded a muzzle of a gun, wearing high boots and a faded pink shirt, was walking alone through the forest, taking long steps, watching and listening out for everything. Blonde thick hair curled from underneath his student cap. His grey eyes looked confidently straightforward, but by the way he peered into the green thicket and how he tried not to stray from the barely seen track, which disappeared in places behind the bushes, it was evident he was a stranger in this forest, unaware of it and unconsciously afraid of its green depths. Verigin stopped at an opening to a large meadow. There was so much sun and the grass was so bright, it was joyous and painful at the same time to look at. Thousands of blue, red and yellow flowers emerged from the dense lush greenery. White butterflies, as though crazed from the sun and the heat, danced over the flowers and right above opened the boundless depth of the melting and glittering sky, over which sailed the dazzling white and curly distant blissful clouds. The track seemed to have drowned in this green paradise, and on the other side in that same solid wall was the dark entangled and impenetrable forest with thousands of green eyes looking closely and uncannily at the lonely man who had. Translated by Maria Aprelenko, RT

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