Solzhenitsyn Excerpts


So, back in the early days of my grad school career, the heady late summer/early autumn of 2006, I decided to translate Solzhenitsyn’s novella A Twenty-Four Tale. The novella takes place in Prussia during the winter of 1945. Well, I translated a few chapters, realized it wasn’t going as well as I had hoped. At the same time,I discovered the writings of Vasily Grossman, and the rest is history…or at least an MA thesis and book.

I do, however, have those chapters still on my laptop. While I feel that  on the whole, it’s all too rough to be seen, there are a few excerpts I would like to share:

The ground is frozen and rocky, you won’t dig very far.

The coffins were nailed together quickly, well-done, by our carpenter Sortov, a Mari – from pre-prepared planks that had been smoothed out by a plane.

Does the banner get put up? No one ever saw any banners, except at the brigade parade, when it got all decked out. The banner was always stored somewhere in the supply depot, in the third echelon, so as to not take any chances.

Podkliuchnikov was from the fifth battery. Lepetushin was from the sixth. Party group leader Gubaidulin, laughing stock of the whole division, crawled out to say a few words. This morning he was already drunk and slurred all the hallowed phrases – of the holy Motherland, of the lair of the beast, where we have stepped foot – we’ll avenge them.

*** *** *** *** *** ***
There was no sound of distant gunfire coming from anywhere. No aviation, ours or the Germans. Its as if the war had ended.

It was not a cold day, very cloudy. Low light. For the time being all three divisions had shifted themselves from their standard battle positions and pulled up to brigade headquarters.

It gently wound down to dusk. Even though we had already put down roots in Europe, we still followed Moscow time. As a result it became light at about nine in the morning and got dark, you know, around six.

*** *** *** *** *** ***
Boev always slept deeply but woke quickly. In such a wonderful bed, with a fluffy featherbed, he allowed himself to sleep without his tunic.He was now standing on the run putting it on. His uniform was covered in medals. You would be amazed. He had two Red Banners, and order of Alexander Nevsky, an order of the Great Patriotic War, and two red stars (there was also one from Khasan, one from the Finnish war, and there was a third Red Banner, the last one, but when he was wounded it was either lost or someone stole it.)And so, a chest full of metal, he wore them, not changing his socks. He accepted this burden, one of the joys of a soldier.

It had only been a month since Toplev had been transferred from the commander of the reconnaissance division. As according to regulations, the commander of headquarters, saluted ceremoniously, and reported the facts. His face was solemn, his voice was still warm and childlike.There were two casualties from the second division: Podkliuchnikov and Lepetushin.

The major was of a medium height, but his head was elongated and with a neat, short haircut his face looked like a long rectangle, with corners at the temples and jaw. However his eyebrows were not level and his nose was a little tipped to a deep birthmark on his side, as if it were in never ending, constant tension.

With this tension he listened. And said bitterly after a moment, “Hmmm, stupidity…”

Was it was worth it to endure so many artillery barrages, bombardments, to endure so many beachheads and crossings to die because of a bottle in Germany.

Bury them, but where? They chose their own grave.

*** *** *** *** *** ***
But life, duty – flows, demands. Captain Toplev went the headquarters of the brigade: to find out how the casualties would be recorded.

The director of headquarters, a thin, lanky lieutenant-colonel Beresovoi answered straight away, “The commissar already took care of it: ‘He died a brave death in defense of the Motherland.’

*** *** *** *** *** ***
On the little hill they were knocking together grave markers, not yet decorated. And who will look after them? In Poland German military graves had stood since nineteen-fifteen. Ischukov, the director of communications, shook them loose along the Narev; dragged them – avenged. And no one said a word to him: next to him there stood a SMERSH agaent, Larin.

2 Responses to “Solzhenitsyn Excerpts”

  1. Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

  2. mikhailych Says:

    Thanks!

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