فصل 11

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فصل 11

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  • زمان مطالعه 4 دقیقه
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CHAPTER 11

Ivan Splits in Two

The woods on the opposite bank of the river, still lit up by the May sun an hour earlier, turned dull, smeary, and dissolved.

Water fell down in a solid sheet outside the window. In the sky, threads flashed every moment, the sky kept bursting open, and the patient’s room was flooded with a tremulous, frightening light.

Ivan quietly wept, sitting on his bed and looking out at the muddy river boiling with bubbles. At every clap of thunder, he cried out pitifully and buried his face in his hands. Pages covered with Ivan’s writing lay about on the floor. They had been blown down by the wind that flew into the room before the storm began.

The poet’s attempts to write a statement concerning the terrible consultant had gone nowhere. As soon as he got the pencil stub and paper from the fat attendant, whose name was Praskovya Fyodorovna, he rubbed his hands in a business-like way and hastily settled himself at the little table. The beginning came out quite glibly.

To the police. From Massolit member Ivan Nikolaevich Homeless. A statement. Yesterday evening I came to the Patriarch’s Ponds with the deceased M. A. Berlioz …‘

And right there the poet got confused, mainly owing to the word ‘deceased’. Some nonsensicality emerged at once: what’s this - came with the deceased? The deceased don’t go anywhere! Really, for all he knew, they might take him for a madman!

Having reflected thus, Ivan Nikolaevich began to correct what he had written. What came out this time was: ‘… with M. A. Berlioz, subsequently deceased…’ This did not satisfy the author either. He had to have recourse to a third redaction, which proved still worse than the first two: ‘Berlioz, who fell under the tram-car …’ — and that namesake composer, unknown to anyone, was also dangling here, so he had to put in: ‘not the composer…’

After suffering over these two Berliozes, Ivan crossed it all out and decided to begin right off with something very strong, in order to attract the reader’s attention at once, so he wrote that a cat had got on a tram-car, and then went back to the episode with the severed head. The head and the consultant’s prediction led him to the thought of Pontius Pilate, and for greater conviction Ivan decided to tell the whole story of the procurator in full, from the moment he walked out in his white cloak with blood-red lining to the colonnade of Herod’s palace.

Ivan worked assiduously, crossing out what he had written, putting in new words, and even attempted to draw Pontius Pilate and then a cat standing on its hind legs. But the drawings did not help, and the further it went, the more confusing and incomprehensible the poet’s statement became.

By the time the frightening cloud with smoking edges appeared from far off and covered the woods, and the wind began to blow, Ivan felt that he was strengthless, that he would never be able to manage with the statement, and he would not pick up the scattered pages, and he wept quietly and bitterly. The good-natured nurse Praskovya Fyodorovna visited the poet during the storm, became alarmed on seeing him weeping, closed the blinds so that the lightning would not frighten the patient, picked up the pages from the floor, and ran with them for the doctor.

He came, gave Ivan an injection in the arm, and assured him that he would not weep any more, that everything would pass now, everything would change, everything would be forgotten.

The doctor proved right. Soon the woods across the river became as before. It was outlined to the last tree under the sky, which cleared to its former perfect blue, and the river grew calm. Anguish had begun to leave Ivan right after the injection, and now the poet lay calmly and looked at the rainbow that stretched across the sky.

So it went till evening, and he did not even notice how the rainbow melted away, how the sky saddened and faded, how the woods turned black.

Having drunk some hot milk, Ivan lay down again and marvelled himself at how changed his thinking was. The accursed, demonic cat somehow softened in his memory, the severed head did not frighten him any more, and, abandoning all thought of it, Ivan began to reflect that, essentially, it was not so bad in the clinic, that Stravinsky was a clever man and a famous one, and it was quite pleasant to deal with him. Besides, the evening air was sweet and fresh after the storm.

The house of sorrow was falling asleep. In quiet corridors the frosted white lights went out, and in their place, according to regulations, faint blue night-lights were lit, and the careful steps of attendants were heard more and more rarely on the rubber matting of the corridor outside the door.

Now Ivan lay in sweet languor, glancing at the lamp under its shade, shedding a softened light from the ceiling, then at the moon rising behind the black woods, and conversed with himself.

‘Why, actually, did I get so excited about Berlioz falling under a tram-car?’ the poet reasoned. ‘In the final analysis, let him sink! What am I, in fact, his chum or in-law? If we air the question properly, it turns out that, in essence, I really did not even know the deceased. What, indeed, did I know about him? Nothing except that he was bald and terribly eloquent. And furthermore, citizens,’ Ivan continued his speech, addressing someone or other, ‘let’s sort this out: why, tell me, did I get furious at this mysterious consultant, magician and professor with the black and empty eye? Why all this absurd chase after him in underpants and with a candle in my hand, and then those wild shenanigans in the restaurant?’

‘Uh-uh-uh!’ the former Ivan suddenly said sternly somewhere, either inside or over his ear, to the new Ivan. ‘He did know beforehand that Berlioz’s head would be cut off, didn’t he? How could I not get excited?’

‘What are we talking about, comrades?’ the new Ivan objected to the old, former Ivan. That things are not quite proper here, even a child can understand. He’s a one-hundred-per-cent outstanding and mysterious person! But that’s the most interesting thing! The man was personally acquainted with Pontius Pilate, what could be more interesting than that? And, instead of raising a stupid rumpus at the Ponds, wouldn’t it have been more intelligent to question him politely about what happened further on with Pilate and his prisoner Ha-Nozri? And I started devil knows what! A major occurrence, really — a magazine editor gets run over! And so, what, is the magazine going to shut down for that? Well, what can be done about it? Man is mortal and, as has rightly been said, unexpectedly mortal. Well, may he rest in peace! Well, so there’ll be another editor, and maybe even more eloquent than the previous one!‘

After dozing for a while, the new Ivan asked the old Ivan sarcastically:

‘And what does it make me, in that case?’

‘A fool!’ a bass voice said distinctly somewhere, a voice not belonging to either of the Ivans and extremely like the bass of the consultant.

Ivan, for some reason not offended by the word ‘fool’, but even pleasantly surprised at it, smiled and drowsily grew quiet. Sleep was stealing over Ivan, and he was already picturing a palm tree on its elephant’s leg, and a cat passing by - not scary, but merry — and, in short, sleep was just about to come over Ivan, when the grille suddenly moved noiselessly aside, and a mysterious figure appeared on the balcony, hiding from the moonlight, and shook its finger at Ivan.

Not frightened in the least, Ivan sat up in bed and saw that there was a man on the balcony. And this man, pressing a finger to his lips, whispered:

‘Shhh!…’

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