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by Ilya Ehrenburg
1. In a provincial factory town, a readers' meeting is in session at the library to discuss a locally published novel by a young author. One of the speakers is 35-year-old Dmitri Sergeyvich Koroteev, a well-respected and well-liked engineer. Koroteev criticizes the author's revelations about the hero's private life. He finds the love affair featured in the novel improbable, included only for cheap effect. With disdain, Koroteev notes that the whole thing might well have been lifted from the pages of a bourgeois novel.
Koroteev's remarks are met with applause. Only Lena, the wife of the factory director, does not applaud. Koroteev himself is displeased with his speech, thinking it was full of old platitudes.
The next speaker, Katya Stolyarova, a young girl from the factory, takes a different view of the book, saying it held her interest and that love affairs like that do happen. After all, she says, "A human being has a heart, and so he suffers.
Most people think of Koroteev as a lucky man, for whom things always work out. But he has had his share of trouble. In the autumn of 1936, when he was in 10th grade, Koroteev's stepfather was arrested. The following day, his best friend would no longer talk to him, and he was kicked out of the Komsomol. But Koroteev was not embittered. He went to work at a factory and made new friends.
He fought during the Great Patriotic War, was wounded, recooperated, and returned to the front. He fell in love with Natasha, a signals officer. They dreamed of happiness after the war. But Natasha was killed senselessly by a land mine two days after Germany's surrender. Later, Koroteev was to say that he lost his happiness in the war, and marriage never again entered his head.
Koroteev studied machine construction and did so well in his courses, that, after graduation, plans were made to keep him on at the institute. However, strings were pulled and someone else got the job. But here in the Volga district, Koroteev did quite well. His talents were recognized, he was trusted by the workers, and elected to the Town Soviet.
While walking home after the readers' meeting, Koroteev thinks of Lena and the wonderful conversations they used to have. Now he tries to avoid her. He thinks himself to be a cheap liar. After all, he has fallen in love with someone else's wife, just like in the novel which he criticized.
At home, Koroteev tries to lose himself in work, but his thoughts return to Lena and the poor opinion she must have of him now. Then, unexpectedly, he thinks to himself, It's absurd, but I think I'm happy.
2. Lena, who is a school teacher, is at home with her husband, Ivan Zhuravlyov, the factory director. She feels alone, with no one to talk to. Before, there was Pukhov, an old Bolshevik who had fought in the Civil War and was the schoolmaster. But he was old and retired now. Another friend of hers was Doctor Vera Scherer. But Vera was always busy and they seldom met.
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When she first met Koroteev, they became friends instantly. He told her of the war and Germay. They argued over books, including Pytor Pavlenko's Happiness.
Lena became emotionally attached to Koroteev and felt she understood him. Once Lena told him about a girl at school getting unjustly expelled from the Komsomol. She expected Koroteev to express outrage, but he remained silent, as if remembering something.
Then, last summer, Koroteev went for vacation to the Caucasus. When he returned, he was gloomy and has been avoiding Lena ever since.
At the readers' meeting, Lena interpreted Koroteev's attack on the novel's love story as a personal rebuke to her. At first she was angry. But then, for the first time, she realized that she was in fact in love with Koroteev and he was right to warn her away.
When Lena met Zhuravlyov six years earlier, he had attracted her with his cheerfull zest for life. Now she found his eternal optimism annoying. She thought him smug, but really he was just devoted to the factory. To Lena's disappointment, he was not interested in conversations about love, life, and happiness. Nor was he keen to hear Lena talk about things at school. He had one hobby--fishing, which Lena could not understand at all.
About his work, some say Zhurlavlyov is a play-it-safe formalist; others consider him a good administrator and honest man. Twice he was summoned to Moscow, in danger of losing his job. But both times he emerged unscathed. He knew how to make reports to the center. As he told Lena, "You have to know how to say nothing."
The factory was in good standing. True, Zhuravlyov used funds intended for new workers' quarters to build a foundry instead. But the Ministry is mainly interested in output, so this technical illegality was overlooked.
Izvestiya published an article about the factory. Although Zhuravlyov told the reporter to focus on the workers, Zhuravlyov got a big write-up as a manager "combining daring with sober calculation."
The artist Volodya Pukhov, son of the old schoolmaster Pukhov, recently returned from Moscow, is doing Zhuravlyov's portrait. Volodya's motivation is purely selfish. The portrait most certainly will be bought by the museum and an article on Voldoya himself will appear in the press.
A year ago, the Zhuravlyovs' daughter, Shura, fell ill. Dr. Vera Scherer came to examine the child. She found nothing seriously wrong. Lena was overjoyed, but, typically overprotective, she asked Vera to double-check her diagnosis. Unexpectedly, Vera exploded with anger, asking why she was summoned if she was not to be trusted. Vera quickly calmed down and explained that she has been on edge ever since the announcement about the so-called Doctors' Plot. Lena also apologized, took Vera home, and from that day on they were friends.
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Lena spoke to Zhuravlyov about the incident and concerning the unjustice of placing Vera under suspicion because of things in Moscow. Zhuravlyov was unsympathetic. He had nothing against Vera, but commented that one should be careful of whom one trusts. That attitude angered Lena and was the last straw in alienating her from her husband. She stayed with him only for the sake of their 5-year-old daughter. After all, he was a good father.
3. While the readers' meeting was going on, Andrei Pukhov was having a birthday party for himself. In her younger days, Andrei's wife, Nadezhda, gave speeches at soldiers' meetings and helped her husband print revolutionary pamphlets. Since then, she has devoted herself to domestic duties, becoming fat and soft.
Despite the fact that he was ill, Pukhov insisted on keeping active, helping young people with their studies and elsewise.
Their son, Volodya, while intelligent and seemingly courteous, always behaved impertinently toward his father. He studied painting in Moscow and was praised for his painting "Feast at the Kolkhoz". Another painting, however, was rejected by a jury. Volodya became angrily and insulted some venerable masters. As a result, he lost his studio and a comission to paint a prominent steelworker was cancelled. Realizing his mistake, Volodya heaped praise on the old masters, called himself a boor and announced he was returning to the provinces to gain experience of daily life at an industrial plant. So he returned home.
Six months later, he finished a painting of two workers. The local paper praised Volodya as immensely talented, and rumors were spread that he would be nominated for a Stalin Prize. Volodya, however, confessed to Nadezhda that he thought his painting was trash.
With frightening cynicism, Volodya once told his sister that books are meant to have ideology, not ideas. Ideas are for lunatics, he said.
All that happens to you with ideas is that you break your neck. What you're meant to look for in a book is ideology. If it's there, what more do you want? Ideas are for lunatics.
Pukhov also felt a barrier between himself and his daughter, Sonya. She was reserved, hardly ever showed enthusiasm or opened her heart to anyone. She was not indifferent to Grisha Savchenko, a young engineer, but she put him off because they might be assigned to work in different places, or they couldn't get a flat of their own. Seemingly, her decision was coldly rational, but she flung herself on her bed and sobbed afterward.
Attending the birthday party, besides the family, are a painter named Saburov; Saburov's wife, Glasha, who is lame; and Volodya's current girlfriend, an actress named Tanechka.
Saburov is a very talented painter who does mainly landscapes which no one buys. Saburov is unconcerned about this, caring only for Art with a capital `A'. Volodya teases him over this, saying that Saburov has a screw loose and doesn't understand what is needed today.
Savchenko arrives from the readers' meeting. He says he was surprised that Koroteev, normally intelligent, gave such a silly criticism of the novel, saying that there was no point in delving into private emotions. Savchenko, however, thinks that the public--long used to doing one thing in private, but saying something quite different in public--is longing for such books.
Tanechka agrees with Savchenko, saying there exists the same sad story with plays. Saburov also speaks in defense of Art and begins to mention Raphael. Volodya interrupts, "Raphael wouldn't be admitted to the Artists' Union."
Sonya defends Koroteev's view. She says, "It's not enough for a Soviet man to control Nature, he has to control his own feelings as well. ... A novel has to educate, not confuse the reader."
Sonya goes to her room to rest for a moment. She confesses to herself that she loves Savchenko, but convinces herself that she must control the feeling. She hates emotionalism. Savchenko enters and kisses her. He asks her not to alway be so coldly logical. Furious, Sonya says she does not love him. For the rest of the evening, she says not a word to Savchenko, and doesn't even look at him.
Walking home in the snow afterwards, Savchenko thinks that perhaps Koroteev is right and that love doesn't matter. Nonetheless, he feels that he in Sonya he found his happiness, but now he has lost it.
Going to bed, Sonya tries to convince herself that she must overcome this weakness of love, that she must dominate herself no matter how wretched it makes her feel.
Volodya walks Tanechka home through a snowstorm. Deep in her heart, Tanechka is unhappy. As a child, she dreamt of acting as a life of tragedy and splendor. But now she's gotten to know its intrigues, cliques, ham actors, dirty little hotel rooms, and weight of misery. And there is very little talent...only craftsmanship. After her first love affair ended, she decided to take poison. Since then she has had several lovers without illusions or true passions. Volodya she had accepted out of lonliness and because he sometimes made her laugh. Sometimes his views annoyed her, such as his contention that everyone does potboilers because, after all, turnips are more necessary than art.
Tanechka says she can tell that Saburov is a real artist and she wants to view his pictures. Volodya says Saburov is a schizophrenic. Tanechka angrily points out that all Volodya produces is potboilers. To herself, Tancheka admits that she is just a mediocre actress, a cog in the wheel, and that she, too, does potboilers. All the same, she thinks that Saburov is right and that there is such a thing as art.
In the taxi on the way home, Volodya thinks that no one really cares about art, although they shout about it all the time. He remembers in Moscow that if you had money, you were popular.
Volodya also thinks that Savchenko is a fool. It's all right for his father to talk about ideas--he grew up amid all that revolutionary romanticism. But Savchenko's an ordinary engineer who has no business getting tangled up in ideas. Everyone has to compromise.
Everybody trims his sails, maneuvers, lies, only some are smarter at it, some less smart.
4. The next morning Lena decides that she is living dishonestly. How can she go on living with a man that she no longer loves or respects. She decides that she must tell her husband the truth. But when she goes to see him, Volodya is there, doing his portrait. Over the weeks that pass, there is always some excuse not to tell Zhuravlyov.
She thinks of Koroteev constantly, dreaming that he would stop in for even half an hour to talk nonsense. But then she realizes she degrading herself like heroines in novels from the old days. She is a Soviet woman; she has a sense of dignity and doesn't need his charity.
Lena feels lost, longing to talk things over with someone. She thinks of writing to her mother, but decides not to. Her mother, Antonina Pavlovna Kalashnikova, is a formidable woman and chairman of the Red Way Kolkhkoz. She first became chairman during the war when all the men were away. She excelled in managing and planning. He son was killed during the war, and her husband came back a shell-shocked wreck. She was very proud of Lena and of her success at college. When Lena told Antonina that she was getting married, Antonina was overjoyed at the prospect of grandchilden.
Zhuravlyov immediately took a liking to Antonina, saying she had a statesman's brain. But, although Antonina said nothing about it, Lena could see that she did not like Zhuravlyov. Once, Lena mentioned to Antonina that she had some misgivings about Zhuravlyov, but Antonina, shocked, told her to put such thoughts out of her head.
Antonina was a remarkable woman. If there were more like her, Communism would come very soon. But she either could not or would not understand feelings.
Lena decides to go tell her troubles to Vera.
5. Vera, 43-years-old and still attractive, was well respected and considered a good doctor. But despite the fact that she had been practicing here for seven years, she made no friends aside from Lena and chief designer Sokolovsky.
Sokolovsky would drop in from time to time just to talk. While Vera liked Sokolovsky and shared most of his opinions, she never understood his motivation for visiting her.
Vera had been reserved since childhood, never talking very much, never establishing a deep, long-lasting friendship. She came to consider herself some sort of monster.
During her student days, Vera had one love affair. She felt such shame and torment afterwards, that she vowed never to do it again. She broke her vow four years later when she met the man who was to become her husband--a noisy, talkative, swearing geologist named Yastrebtsev. He was the very opposite of Vera, but they were very happy together. Then came the war, and Yastrebtsev was killed at the front. Vera was overcome with grief, but she continued to work calmly. Everyone mistakenly believed that Vera was imperturbable.
Lena comes to visit Vera and starts rambling on about things at the school. She looks ill, with flushed cheeks. She never gets to the subject of her marriage, but instead "remembers" that she has a meeting and leaves quickly.
6. Zhuravlyov didn't like the caustic, sharp-tongued Sokolovsky, considering him an impudent eccentric. He would have gotten rid of Sokolovsky, except for the fact that the Ministry considered him a good designer and Zhuravlyov did not want to stir up any trouble.
Sokolovsky's previous job was in the Urals. There he quarreled with his chief and was denounced in the newspapers.
Once, he was to receive a prize, but his idea was pirated.
He kept a nasty, ill-tempered dog who bite Sokolovsky himself twice. As Sokolovsky explained it, the dog got confused and didn't know who he was protecting. That happens to people, too, Sokolovsky said--they mean to help and turn against their own.
Strangely, Sokolovksy would often drink and talk with Volodya, who delighted in Sokolovsky's mocking comments and assumed that Sokolovsky shared his disdain for everything and everyone. Howewver, unlike Volodya, Sokolovsky sometimes saw things which pleased him and filled him with admiration.
Volodya refused to show Sokolovsky his paintings, saying they were just hack work.
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Sokolosky was fond of music, particularly Shastokovich's 10th Symphony, which he called mathematical and limitless.
Sokolovsky never hid his opinions and lashed our with particular venom at botched work, disorder, or a heartless attitude to people. Lately, however, his attacks were less frequent. When he read the newspapers, he often nodded in agreement.
After reading the Central Committee's decree of 23 October 1953 calling for an increase in production of consumer goods and and improvement in quality, he assumed that this meant that Zhuravlyov would soon be sacked.
In 1928, Sokolovsky had married a melancholy, pensive, shy literature student named Maya. She quickly turned into vain, shrill woman, bored with everything. One day, she announced that for her own sanity, they must get a divorce. And, by the way, she had met a lawyer from Belgium and she was going to leave with him, taking their daughter, Masha. Sokolovsky asked only that she send him news of their child from time to time.
At first, Sokolovsky received regular notes from Maya about their daughter, whom she had decided to rename Mary. But communication ceased during the war. Then, three years ago, he got a letter from Mary herself. She told her father that Maya had died during the War. Things had been terrible during those years in Belgium, she writes, but the Russians saved everybody and she was proud to be a Russian. She had been studying at the university, but gave it up for modern dance. She hoped to visit Russia someday.
After his unhappy marriage, Sokolovsky lost all confidence in himself and kept away from women. He grew more and more attached to his lonliness and no longer dreamt of love or friendship. But then he met Vera, and he realized that she was the love of his life; but he knows that he will never tell her that.
******Sokolovsky comes to visit Vera just after Lena has left. They talk of various things, including astronomy. Sokolovsky says that study of infinity or other great concepts makes him feel that each moment is infinitely more significant--both that it will pass and that beyond it there is an infinity of other moments, epochs, worlds, lives.
Sokolovsky tells Vera a story about a young Pioneer who had an aloe plant. He read in a book that the aloe is a desert plant, so you must water it only rarely and give it the poorest of soil. The Pioneer was upset that he couldn't lavish care on the plant. So he threw away the book, watered the aloe, gave it fertile soil, and generally treated it as if it were the most delicate orchid. And--miracle of miracles--the aloe plant flourished. It grew so large that the Pioneer could no longer keep it in his room, it had to be transferred to the Botanical Garden in Moscow. In general, Vera doesn't believe this story is true.
Vera is distracted, thinking about her conversation with Lena. Obviously Lena wanted to talk about something, and Vera regrets having let her go. After a while, Sokolovsky leaves and sadly wanders the cold streets alone.
7. Old Andrei Pukhov comes to visit the school. Lena is very happy to see him. Pukhov is bubbling with enthusiasm because of a great victory. It seems a certain gifted student--Kostya Chernishev--was unfairly rejected at the Institute. After months of appeals to the school, various committees and the Minister himself, Pukhov has finally gotten the injustice corrected.
Lena feels like a better person just walking next to Pukhov, and she thinks that now she understands the people who made the Revolution. She even forgets about her own troubles. When she gets home, Zhuravlyov is there. She steels herself and finally tells him that she must leave him. He is angry and assumes that she's turned into a worthless flirt and is in love with someone else. She denies it. For the sake of their daugher, Shura, Zhuravlyov says Lena can live as she likes, but they must not get a divorce. Nevertheless, a week or so later, Lena and Shura move out, having found someone to take them in temporarily.
Wandering the empty rooms of his apartment, Zhuravlyov finds Shura's broken doll and almost breaks into tears, but he manages to control himself. He thinks that Koroteev was right to attack novelists--we are living in historical times, decent people have no times for intrigues.
On her first day of independence, Lena feels wonderfully energetic. She thinks that Koroteev despises her, but, still, she recognizes that it was he who helped lift a burden off her. She meets Vera on the street and tells her what has happened. Vera insists that Lena and Shura come to stay with her. Although it is a cold, Februray day, Lena happily thinks, "It will be spring soon."
8. After the excitement of celebrating with Kostya, old Pukhov has a mild heart attack in the middle of the night. He tries to conceal it from Nadezhda, but agrees to stay in bed.
Volodya comes home with the news that Lena has left Zhuravlyov. Pukhov approves, saying that Lena is a good, caring teacher and that Zhuravlyov is a typical bureaucrat. Sonya thinks it's disgusting when people get divorced. Perhaps in the old days it was natural, she says; but nowadays people have time to think and analyze before getting married.
Sonya wants to convince Pukhov to take things easy. Volodya disagrees, saying members of their father's generation are made of stronger stuff than people today. Besides, Pukhov has lived his own way and will die his own way, too.
Sonya tells Pukhov that instead of running around helping individual school children, his time would be better spent staying at home and writing an article on education. He would have a much broader impact--on millions, not just a few individual boys.
Pukhov agrees that an article is a good idea, but he cannot abandon his boys. He insists that everything cannot be reduced to arithmetic and committee resolutions. For life to advance, everyone must take individual responsibility.
It is on the way you live and work, on your relations with other people that the whole future of society depends.
Thinking about this conversation later, Sonya feels that she is lost, stumbling in the twilight. She thinks it's frightening that you can never read another person's mind. You walk in darkness, you think happiness is in front of you, and yet one more step and there's a precipice
After Pukhov's birthday party, Savchenko fought off the urge to see Sonya, feeling that it was pointless to pursue her anymore. He visits Koroteev occasionally. They talk of work, the war, and poetry. At one point, Savchenko asks Koroteev if a man should struggle for happiness if he loves a woman. Koroteev responds, "He has to struggle. There are times when you have to tear right through the fog."
So Savchenko goes and invites Sonya for a walk. It is freezing cold as they stroll. They talk of films and world events. Whatever Savchenko says, Sonya contradicts it just on principle, even if she really agrees. Finally, Savchenko gets around to telling Sonya that he can't live without her. She cruelly rebuffs him, saying their characters are too different.
Afterwards, Sonya feels bitter with herself for rejecting happiness.
9. Volodya is running short of money. A small hack job turns up just in time--decorative panels for an agricultural exhibition. They can't find photos of the right kind of poultry for Volodya to copy, so they offer to send him to a state farm 50 miles away. The idea of such a trip horrified Volodya. Luckily, magazine photos of the proper poultry were found just in time.
Despite being well paid for the panels, Volodya is depressed. He assumes his bad mood is a result of that fact that here, away from the hustle and bustle of Moscow, he has time to think, which he finds to be a revolting occupation.
Bored, Volodya decides to visit Saburov. Bearing bags of food, wine and vodka, Volodya arrives at Saburov and Glasha's tiny room. Volodya is shocked at how small and squalid it is.
Saburov is very glad for the visit. It seems today is Saburov and Glasha's second wedding anniversary, so now they can have a celebration.
While Glasha is out of the room, Volodya presses Saburov to accept a loan of 1,000 rubles, recalling that years ago Saburov lent Volodya twenty rubles for a date when he was broke. Volodya says Saburov can repay the loan when he's made an academician.
Volodya views Saburov's paintings and is stunned with how marvellous they are. He says he envies Saburov's skill.
Based on Volodya's reaction to the paintings, Glasha wants Saburov to show his paintings in Saratov. But Saburov says the paintings aren't ready...there are small imperfections. Saburov says he hopes to get some work next month at the theater. Glasha says he should just concentrate on his paintings and not worry about money.
The next day at home, Volodya feels cold staring out at the swirling snow. Even an overcoat doesn't warm him. He knows he could go back to Moscow, suck up to some people and win a prize or two. But even then, he knows, he would still envy Saburov.
10. When Koroteev learns that Lena has left Zhuravlyov, he finds that he can't stop thinking about her, even though he tries to put all this "nonsense" out of his head. He also develops a sympathy for Zhuravlyov and is friendly toward him. Zhuravlyov is touched by this attitude, and invites Koroteev to have dinner with him on Sunday, intending to have a serious conversation.
Koroteev tries to come up with various ways to meet Lena "by chance", but none of them work out. Then Savchenko invites him to go see a performance of Hamlet. Remembing that Lena loves the theater, Koroteev accepts.
During an intermission at the play (in which Tanechka plays Ophelia), Koroteev bumps into Lena. Nervously, he says that he's been thinking about her a lot and has wanted to visit her. Speaking rapidly, Lena says she's fine, never been happier. She's staying with Vera and, of course, it would be nice if Koroteev came to visit, but he needn't worry about her.
Afterwards, at home, Lena breaks out sobbing and confesses to Vera that she loves Koroteev. She's certain, however that Koroteev doesn't love her, only pities her. And she will never accept pity from anyone.
11. Since the breakup of his marriage, Zhuravlyov has lost his optimism. He is unsure; people seem hostile. He is suspicious and on the look-out for slanders and conspiracies.
At a Party meeting, Sokolovsky complains about the shabby workers' quarters, which should have been rebuilt in 1952. Zhuravlyov boils over with anger. Everyone knows that the foundry was a priority, he says, and he accuses Sokolovsky of demagogy. He assumes Sokolovsky is out to get him.
On Sunday evening, Zhuravlyov and Koroteev have dinner. They talk about factory affairs, then then swap war stories. They begin to feel the closeness of fellow veterans.
Zhuravlyov then begins complaining about Sokolovsky, saying he's a serious trouble-maker. Koroteev admits that Sokolovsky has a difficult personality, but praises him as honest and a good worker who doesn't really mean to be insulting.
Zhuravlyov launches into a heated diatribe against Sokolvosky, calling into question his competence and his Party credentials, darkly remarking that Sokolovsky's family is in Belgium. Disgusted with Zhuravlyov's slanderous attack, Koroteev leaves. Zhuravlyov is shocked at Koroteev, seeing now that he is just a scoundrel, working hand-in-glove with Sokolovksy.
Koroteev is glad that times have changed and Zhuravlyov can't simply have Sokolovsky rubbed out. Zhuravlyov isn't a complete scoundrel, he thinks, but he's unfinished and incomplete. It's time for a different sort of man, Koroteev feel--romantics. The key is not knowledge, but feelings. But how can feelings be trained? How can a conscience be grafted onto someone like Zhuravlyov? The Soviet people are truely a heroic people, but only half developed. As a result, half of the Soviet home is a slum. Koroteev remembers Gorky's call for a Soviet humanism and fears that it has been forgotten today.
Knowledge doesn't get you far. Take America--they've any amount of education there. And the marvelous laboratories they put up. But just read what they do to Negroes and see how it depresses you--sheer savagery.
Koroteev condemns himself for keeping a partition between the way he reasons and the way he lives. He feels that he was a two-faced hypocrite in his criticism of the love affair in the novel discussed at the readers circle. Things must change. Sometimes the mind can't keep up, other times it is the heart that lags behind.
12. Over the next week or so, Sokolovsky and Zhuravlyov work together in a businesslike fashion. Each realizes that he was too harsh in his criticism of the other. They won't particularly like each other, but they can get along.
But before the development of this uneasy peace, Zhuravlyov vented his rage against Sokolovsky to a friend named Khitrov. Khitrov in turn blabbed to his wife and everyone else he met that Sokolovsky has been unmasked as a double-dealer and saboteur who settled his family in Belgium. The rumor of course is spread like wildfire, growing more preposterous with each retelling. Soon everyone knows that Sokolovsky is a Belgium spy soon to be arrested. The only one unaware of this nonsense is Sokolovsky himself.
Volodya goes to visit Sokolovsky, who seems to have the flu. He warns Sokolovsky that Zhuravlyov is out to get him, spreading the story about Sokolovsky sending his family to Belgium. Feeling increasingly ill, Sokolovsky lies down. He asks Volodya something about Leonardo da Vinci's pigments, but Volodya doesn't know the answer.
Seeing that Sokolovsky is getting sicker, Volodya summons a doctor. The doctor gives Sokolovsky some injections, and Volodya stays the night.
Sokolovsky becomes delirious, mumbling about Mary. He also babbles about the aloe plant.
The next morning doctors confer about Sokolovsky, worried about his condition. A nurse is assigned to stay with him. When Sokolovsky regains consciousness, he sees Vera standing over him. He tries to say something to her, but she tells him not to speak. Sokolovsky drifts off again into sleep, but Vera is clearly moved that he recognized her.
13. A campaign is started to send workers to help out at the Red Way Kolkhoz. Zhuravlyov, however, won't let any of the good workers go. He sends Chizov, a Stakhanovite-turned-drunkard, whose parents live on the kolkhoz anyway.
Once on the kolkhoz, Chizov blabs to his parents the news about Lena leaving Zhuravlyov. Chizov's mother, in turn, goes to tattle to Antonina.
Offended that she had to hear this news from a stranger, Antonina goes to see Lena. She says she approves of Lena's decision, because she always knew that Zhuravlyov was a liar, unsympathetic to the people. She proposes taking Shura back to the kolkhoz with her, at least until Lena can get a place of her own. Lena reluctantly agrees.
Lena is constantly thinking of Koroteev. Antonina can see that something is troubling her, but Lena refuses to confide in her.
14. A freak gale blows through the town, knocking over a workers' barracks, making 11 families homeless. Zhuravlyov immediately knows that it is he who will be blamed. Sure enough, a week later Zhuravlyov is summoned to Moscow.
Soon word comes back that Zhuravlyov has been sacked. Everyone starts talking about the new director and quickly forgets about Zhuravlyov as if he had been of no importance whatsoever.
15. Sonya learns that she will be sent to work in Penza. She is afraid that perhaps she won't be able to cope with real work. Old Pukhov tries to encourage her, reminding her that Saltykov-Shchedrin lived in Penza and that Lermontov country is near-by. While Lena is moved by Lermontov's poetry, she doesn't consider it relevant. It is her work that will matter.
Pukhov has a very difficult night, but he tries to hide it from his wife. All his life, he thinks, he has fought--even before the Revolution. He has fought the enemy as well as himself--his sorrows, his doubts. He has had to fight to keep his faith in mankind. And now, every night he fights death.
He mentally says good-bye to his family. He thinks that Volodya has brains and gifts, but is lacking in something. He is like a grown-up waif.
He is convinced that Sonya's businesslike dryness is put on, hiding a young, proud, passionate and timid heart.
The next day, Sonya burns all her schoolgirl diaries and letters from college friends and Savchenko. She hears her father having a thoughtful conversation with someone. Pukhov says, "A man forgets what he wants to forget, but what is real stays with him until he dies." Sonya peeks in and is surprised to see that Pukhov is having this conversation with Seryozha, one of his adolescent schoolboys. Pukhov never had such an adult conversation with Sonya.
A man forgets what he wants to forget, but what is real stays with him until he dies.
Volodya and Nadezhda take Sonya to the train station. Volodya told Savchenko about Sonya's departure, so he shows up, too. Savchenko says he wants to come visit Sonya in Penza. She gives a noncommittal reply. Savchenko doesn't understand if she wants him to visit or not. Nevertheless, he feels happy. On the train, Sonya falls asleep, peaceful and happy.
16. Sokolovsky was ill for two weeks. During that time, Vera visited him every morning. By the evening, he longed to see her again.
Volodya visits occasionally. Once Sokolovsky tries to talk about Goya and Spanish painting. But Volodya says he's just been painting hens and now has a commission to paint a young woman holding a box of chocolates, so it's absurd for him to think of Goya now.
After he recovers, Sokolovsky plans to visit Vera. In his mind, he reviews the things he can talk about with her--Chinese sculpture, Volodya's chocolates.
Sokolovsky gets a letter from his daughter in Belgium. She says she has married a bank employee and part-time theater critic named Felix. There is a possibility that Felix will be sent to Moscow to report on the Russian theater. If that happens, Mary intends to come as well. She says she doesn't understand how Sokolovsky and others live in Russia, but she imagines that if she sees things for herself, she will understand immediately.
Sokolovsky writes back, congratulating Mary, but cautioning her that it will not be easy for her to understand Soviet life. It has been a very complicated, long, hard life, and Mary has grown up away from it.
Sokolovsky thinks better of it, and rips up his letter without sending it.
That evening, Sokolovsky visits Vera. He starts rambling on about art and Leonardo, but stops himself. He then says, "The last time I was here, you didn't understand what I told you about the aloe." She quickly stops him, saying, "We are not children. Why talk about it?"
Vera is called away to see a patient. Sokolovsky stands to leave, but Vera asks him to remain and wait for her return.
While Vera is gone, Sokolovsky looks out the window and sees that the snows have begun to melt. When Vera returns, he will tell her, "The thaw has come."
17. Volodya hadn't been to see Tanechka since January. Now, in spring, he is passing her door, so he stops in to invite her out for a stroll. Tanechka is in a foul mood, but agrees anyway.
After her horrible performance as Ophelia, Tanechka had played a lab assistant in a Soviet play about unmasking a professor for subservience to things foreign. It was a terrible work, full of imbecilities.
As they stroll, Volodya tells Tanechka that his career isn't going anywhere. No one will pay a kopeck for the portrait of the disgraced Zhuravlyov. But Volodya isn't upset, because Zhuravlyov deserved to be sacked.
Currently, Volodya is doing some pot boilers for the catering club.
Things are looking up for Saburov, however. The Artists Union has chosen two of his paintings for an exhibition.
Tanechka is surprised that Volodya is not making wisecracks and snotty remarks. Instead, Volodya runs himself down, saying he never had a kopeck's worth of talent--or maybe he had 5 kopecks' worth of talent but gambled it all away at the first street corner.
Tanechka tells Volodya not to lose hope. Things can change. Miracles can happen.
They walk to the park, where young lovers are cuddling and kissing. Volodya points out a whole assortment of miracles: winter is over; pussy willows are growing; grass is sprouting.
Volodya has never been so happy to see spring. And just like a young boy, Volodya joyfully begins breaking the ice on puddles.
18. Lena does not notice the sparrows or blue patch in the sky, or the new cheerfulness in people's faces. She is consumed with her own grief. She loves Koroteev, but she's convinced that he does not love her. Then suddenly everything changes. She hears Koroteev shout out "Lena"--the first time he used her name without the patronymic.
Koroteev was on the other side of the street, thinking about how life had become cramped and empty without Lena and remembering with embarrassment his remarks at the readers' meeting in winter. Then he sees Lena. Surprising himself, he runs across the street to her. They walk around and end up at Koroteev's building. Inside, in the hall, on this fine spring day, they kiss.
Biography of Ilya Ehrenburg
Ehrenburg, Ilya. Born on 26 January (14 Jan, Old Style) 1891 in Kiev, the son of an engineer. Originally given the name Eliyahu, Ilya had three older sisters. His father had no interest in Jewish ritual, while his mother continued to observe religious customs. On this matter, Ilya followed his father's example, and never learned Yiddish or Hebrew. . . . . (...Continued...)
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