Anton Chekhov

I’m often asked to recommend Russian literature.
I’d like to reveal you a famous writer Anton Chekhov (1860 – 1904). I don’t want to rewrite an article from Wiki, so if you want to read about him, you’ll do it there. I’ll just say Chekhov was a great dramatist. For example, here you may see his reputed short stories: As for me, I was impressed by story №154 “The Bet”.
Yesterday I read one of his stories and I liked it, but I didn’t find it in the list. So I’ll translate it.


Anton Chekhov

“The Conversation Between the Drunk Man and the Sober Imp”

The former official of quartermaster’s office, retired collegiate secretary Lakhmatov was sitting around a table and drinking the 16th shot while pondering over brotherhood, equality and freedom. Suddenly an imp appeared behind the lamp… But don’t be frightened, dear reader. Do you know, what an imp is? It’s a young man of nice appearance with mug black as a boot and expressive red eyes. Despite he isn’t married, he has small antlers on his head… Haircut a la Capulet. The body is covered with green wool and smells as a dog. A tail with arrowhead end dangles at the bottom of his body… Claws instead of fingers; hooves instead of legs. Lakhmatov became a bit confused after noticing the imp, but then he remembered green imps have a stupid custom to appear for all drunk people and soon calmed down.
– Whom am I honored to talk to? – he addressed to uninvited guest.
The imp confused and cast down his eyes.
– Don’t be embarrassed, – Lakhmatov continued. – Come closer… I’m a person without prejudices and you may sincerely talk to me… from the bottom of your heart… Who are you?
The imp hesitatingly approached to Lakhmatov and politely bowed with bending his tail under himself.
– I’m an imp or a devil… – he introduced himself. – I’m appointed as an official of special missions at the person of his Excellence director of Hell office Mr. Satan!
– I’ve heard of you… Glad to meet you. Take a seat! Would you like vodka? I’m very glad… What is your occupation?
The imps confused even more…
– Properly speaking, I have no particular occupation… – he replied with embarrassing coffin and blew his nose into “Rebus”. – Indeed, previously we had an occupation… We used to tempt people… led them astray… Between you and me, nowadays this occupation doesn’t worth a spit… The way of Good no more exists, there’s nothing to led people astray from. Besides, people became more cunning than we… Try to tempt a person who has studied all sciences in university, and went through fire and water! How am I supposed to teach you how to steal a ruble, if you have already obtained thousands on your own?
– That’s right… But you do perform something, don’t you?
– Yes… Our former appointment now could be only memorial, but we still have a job… We tempt ladies, prompt youth to write poetry, force drunk merchants to smash mirrors… But we don’t interfere in politics, literature and science for a long time… We understand nothing in these fields… Many of us cooperate in “Rebus”, some even quit Hell and entered mankind… These retired imps, who entered mankind, have married rich tradeswoman and now have excellent life. Some of them are lawyers, others publish newspapers, they are businessmen and respectable people!
– Forgive me an indelicate question: what is you salary?
– Our order keeps… – the imp responded. – The staff hasn’t changed at all… As before, apartments, light and heating are provided by the state… We have no salary because we are considered supernumerary and because an imp is an honorable appointment… Generally, speaking sincerely, life is bad, we are almost deprived… Thanks to people who taught us to take bribes, otherwise we all would demise. We make a living by this earnings… While supplying rations for sinners… well… I take some… Satan became old, he often comes away to see Zucchi, he doesn’t take care of reports…
Lakhmatov poured a shot of vodka for the imp. He drank it and got to talking. He told all secrets of Hell, unburdened his heart, cried and Lakhmatov liked him so bad that allowed him to spend a night at his place. The imp was deliriously sleeping in the stove. He disappeared towards the morning.


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