Ivan Turgenev -- "The Fool"

08.6.2004 | Trad Anon | Fiction & Fables, Partisan Reader | 1 Comment
from posthumously published Poems in Prose (1930)

XIX
THE FOOL

There lived a fool.

For a long time he lived in peace and contentment; but by degrees rumors began to reach him that he was regarded on all sides as a brainless idiot.

The fool was abashed and began to ponder gloomily how he might put an end to these unpleasant rumors.

A sudden idea, at last, illuminated his dull little brain … And, without the slightest delay, he put it into practice.

A friend met him in the street, and fell to praising a well-known painter….

“Upon my word!” cried the fool, “that painter was out of date long ago…you didn’t know it? I should never have expected it of you…you are quite behind the times.”

The friend was alarmed, and promptly agreed with the fool.

“Such a splendid book I read to-day!” said another friend to him.

“Upon my word!” cried the fool, “I wonder you’re not ashamed.  That book’s good for nothing; everyone’s seen through it long ago.  Didn’t you know it?  You’re quite behind the times.”

This friend too was alarmed, and he agreed with the fool.

“What a wonderful fellow my friend N.N. is!” said a third friend to the fool. “Now there’s a really generous creature!”

“Upon my word!” cried the fool. “N.N., the notorious scoundrel! He swindled all his relations. Everyone knows that. You’re quite behind the times.”

The third friend too was alarmed, and he agreed with the fool and deserted his friend.  And whoever and whatever was praised in the fool’s presence, he had the same retort for everything.

Sometimes he would add reproachfully: “And do you still believe in authorities?”

“Spiteful! malignant!” his friends began to say of the fool. “But what a brain!”

“And what a tongue!” others would add. “Oh, yes, he has talent!”

It ended in the editor of a journal proposing to the fool that he should undertake their reviewing column.

And the fool fell to criticising everything and everyone, without in the least changing his manner, or his exclamations.

And what else can they do, poor young men? Though one ought not, as a general rule, to venerate anyone… but in this case, if one didn’t venerate him, one would find onself quite behind the times!

Fools have a good time among cowards.
   
    April, 1878

translated by Constance Garnett and Roger Rees


Well, that's in the church of Bierce alright!
08.6.2004 | David Walley

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