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The Old Man (12)

June 8, 2016

On the way home the talk was naturally about Mikhail Fyodorovich. I was surprised that he had married Tatyana Grigoryevna, who was certainly not a match for him. “He was young,” said my aunt. “He fell for a pretty face.” I also regretted that he was not a Russian. The honors graduate stood up for the man he had managed to impress with a favorable opinion of his virtues.

“What do you mean, he isn’t a Russian?” he exclaimed. “I’m convinced he has a strong sense of national pride, but it manifests itself in an idiosyncratic way.”

I smiled. Rostislav continued,

“A neighbor like that is a real find. And Styosha is quite charming.”

“Who is Styosha?”

“Stepanida Andrevna.”

I laughed.

“There, you see?” said Rostislav. “You are too refined. What difference does it make if I called her a familiar name? She wouldn’t have been mad if she’d heard it. She’s not as refined as you are, thank God.”

“But admit it, she puts on more airs.”

“What if she does? She even puts on airs without a hint of affectation or insincerity. It isn’t like the calculated high-society coquetry that’s a sign of spiritual decay. Go ahead and laugh! But you can be sure of it, if I praise a woman, you can count on that woman. There’s nothing false about her. She doesn’t like to put up a facade, that’s the thing.”

“And what, pray tell, was the story you told her that made her blush and cast her eyes down?”

Rostislav smiled at the pleasant memory.

“Nothing much,” he replied. “I just told her a little anecdote.”

“Oh, Rostya,” said Katerina Alexeyevna, “what will I do with you?”

“Nothing, mama,” replied Rostislav, kissing her hand. “If you like I’ll tell you the same anecdote right now…”

“No, no, thank you kindly, there’s no need. You and your anecdotes will be the death of me one of these days.”



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На возвратном пути речь шла, разумеется, о Михаиле Федоровиче. Я удивлялась тому, что он женился на Татьяне Григорьевне, которая ему вовсе не пара. — «Молод был, сказала тетушка; увлекся хорошеньким личиком.» Я жалела и о том, что он не русский. Кандидат заступался за человека, которому он успел внушить выгодное мнение о своих собственных достоинствах.

— Как не русский?… воскликнул он. — Я убежден, что в нем живо чувство национальности, но проявляется в оригинальной форме.

Я улыбнулась; Ростислав продолжал:

— Такое соседство сущая находка. И Стеша очень мила.

— Кто такое Стеша?

— Степанида Андревна.

Я рассмеялась.

— То-то и есть, сказал Ростислав, в тебе нет простоты. Что за беда, что я ее так фамильярно назвал. Она бы сама услышала и не рассердилась. В ней, слава Богу, больше простоты, нежели в вас.

— И больше жеманства, сознайся.

— Что же? она и жеманится в простоте душевной, не во вред чувству. Это не то, что великосветское рассчитанное кокетство, которое обличает душевную порчу. Смейся, смейся! Но, будь уверена, что если я хвалю женщину, то на эту женщину можно надеяться: фальши в ней нет, декорации она не любит, так-то.

— А каким это рассказом, скажи пожалуйста, ты ее ввел в краску и заставил потупить глаза?

Ростислав улыбнулся от приятного воспоминания.

— Так, отвечал он, — анекдот рассказал.

— Ах! Ростя, сказала Катерина Алексеевна, — что мне с тобой делать?

— Ничего, мамашенька, отвечал Ростислав, целуя у ней руки, — вот, позвольте, я вам расскажу этот анекдот…

— Нет, нет, покорно благодарю, уволь. Ты меня когда-нибудь уморишь своими анекдотами.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 9, 2016 8:02 am

    Surely “joke” rather than “anecdote.”

    • June 9, 2016 9:46 am

      “Joke” was my first thought, but since we know that Stepanida Andrevna несколько раз потуплялась while it was being told, and the narrator calls this joke/anecdote a рассказ, I had the impression that something longer than a single joke with a punchline was being described. I’m starting from the idea that English “joke” is both анекдот and шутка, while анекдот can be both “joke” and “anecdote.” That said, I suppose there’s no reason Rostislav can’t be talking about one short joke in a longer conversation that has other racy moments.

      Also, I’m not sure if I’ve got Rostislav’s voice right, but given that в университете он считался не только отличным студентом, но и отличным малым, I want him to sometimes use words slightly fancier than necessary (anecdote, manifests itself, idiosyncratic) and sometimes sound slightly more down-to-earth than others of his class.

      • June 9, 2016 10:03 am

        That all makes sense; I guess I’m just allergic to the word “anecdote,” which occurs far more often in translations than in actual English usage. When was the last time you heard someone mention a naughty anecdote?

      • June 9, 2016 10:44 am

        True, but then someone who told a dirty joke would hardly describe it as a dirty joke in front of his mother.

        I completely see where you’re coming from, though. If someone else translated анекдот as “anecdote,” I’d think it was a silly knee-jerk use of a cognate. At least декорация didn’t come out as “decoration.”

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