from Pages from the Book of Varius
by Mikhail Sokovnin

translated from the Russian by Bela Shayevich

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Various things were always happening to him and he himself was just overwhelmed with various things. Everything, even his inner pockets were overfilled with them to the breaking point and he was always faced with two concerns: “not to lose” and “not to find,” and felt at himself so frequently, that he often gave the repellent impression of an itching person.

The retrieval of a handkerchief was for him particularly fraught: along with it, springing out of his pocket onto the carpet, were almost always the kind of things that he would have preferred to keep secret. When he would leave the house traveling light, that is, without at least some of his things, his mind would run itself ragged with the sense of the forgotteness of something in an other and, who can say, sacred enough place. And things like this really would happen to him, indeed, it can be said that almost always all sorts of various things would happen.

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С ним вечно случались разные вещи, и сам он был просто подавлен разными вещами. Все, даже внутренние карманы переполнялись ими до крайности, и он всегда стоял перед вопросами: "не потерять" и "не обнаружить", и ощупывался столь нередко, что часто производил нерасполагающее впечатление чешущегося.

Доставание носового платка было для него особенно чревато: вместе с ним на ковер выпрыгивали из кармана почти всегда такие вещи, которые он предпочел бы держать в секрете. Когда же он уходил из дома налегке, то есть хотя без некоторых вещей, ум его изнурялся ощущением забытости чего-то в другом - и кто скажет, достаточно ли сокровенном месте. А такие вещи с ним действительно случались, с ним, можно сказать, почти всегда случались какие-нибудь разные вещи.

• • •

Michael Sokovnin was born in Moscow in 1938. From an artistic family, he began writing at an early age, even forming a magazine with his friends in his school days. He went on to study Russian language and literature at a pedagogic institute, after which he became a lector in the Bachkhrushin Museum of Theater during winters and a literary tour guide in the summers, occasionaly giving lectures on riverboats.

Due to the hopeless nature of the attempt, Sokovnin never undertook publishing. The tape recordings made by artist Oleg Vasiliyev in the last years of Sokovnin's life contain the main body of his work. He was not prolific but experimented in many forms. "Pages From the Book Of Varius," was written with the participation of A.Mal'kov, and is a small collection of small stories ostensibly centering around Varius, whose presence, though not always named, is felt as that of a feeling man in disjointed and oppresive surroundings he is compelled to float through. Varius gets yelled at for wanting liverwurst, sees glass faces, gets alienated from his friends. He forgets and is forgotten, a minor tragedy much in the course of things for an into-the-worktable writer like Sokovnin, who died of chronic heart disease in 1975. An anthology of his work, with an introduction by poet Vsevolod Nekrasov, was first published in Russia in 1995.

Bela Shayevich, Calque's Editor-at-Large for the Russian Language, currently divides her time between St. Petersburg and Moscow.

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[Calque will be periodically featuring new translations of poetry or short prose. These translations will run on the front page for a week. The feature will then be given a permanent link in the translators page. To submit single pieces for online publication, email us.]