Friday, February 4, 2011

Dead Souls

"Because a Frenchman is as childish at forty as he was at fifteen, we must be the same! Yes, really, after every ball one feels as though one had committed a sin and does not like to think of it. One's head is as empty as it is after talking to one of these society gentlemen. He talks about everything, touches lightly on everything, he says everything he has filched out of books brightly and picturesquely, but he hasn't got anything of it in his head; and you see afterwards that a talk with a humble merchant who knows nothing but his own business but does know that thoroughly and by experience, is better than all these chatterboxes. Why, what do you get out of this ball? Come, suppose some writer were to take into his head to describe all that scene just as it was. Why, it would be just as senseless in a book as it is in nature. What was it, moral or immoral? God knows what to make of it!You would simply spit and shut the book.

Such were Tchitchikov's unfavourable criticisms of balls in general; but I fancy that there was partly another reason for his indignation. His chief vexation was not with the ball, but with the fact that he had happened to come off rather badly at it, that he had been made to look like goodness knows what, that he had played a strange and ambiguous part of it. Of course, looking at it as a sensible man, he could see that it was all nonsense, that a foolish word is of no consequence, especially now when his chief business was successfully concluded. But - strange is man: he was deeply mortified at being in disfavour with the very people whom he did not respect, and whose vanity and love of dress he derided. This annoyed him all the more because when he analysed the matter clearly, he saw that he was to some extent himself to blame. He was not, however angry with himself, and there, of course, he was quite right. We all have a little weakness for sparing ourselves, and we try to find some neighbour on whom to pour out our vexation, for instance, our servant, our subordinate at the office who turns up at the moment, our wife, or even a chair which is sent flying, goodness knows where, right against the door, so that its arms and back are broken - let it have a taste of one's wrath, one feels."  ~ Nikolai Gogol, 1842

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