in Translation

Pyotr Petrovich

Another Zamyatin “fairytale”, from the collection Fairytales 1914-1917. Like “God”, from yesterday, this is — I believe — the first version in English. Translated just now, tonight, by me.

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“Pyotr Petrovich” by Yevgeny Zamyatin

There is no one in the whole world smarter than Pyotr Petrovich: he thinks it all, he thinks it all, his nose runs and drips, and he thinks.

Pyotr Petrovich’s snot is purple, and his ancestry is Native American. And Pyotr Petrovich’s wife is Annushka, who is shaped like a hockey stick and speckled. Another month married.

And as the blind little heads of the first grasses hatch from the ground, Annushka begins to nest. She stops combing her hair, and gets all ruffled up, and staggers around clucking and moaning. Meanwhile, Pyotr Petrovich stands on one leg and thinks, and thinks: here are these eggs, with red freckles, and not today but tomorrow little chicks will pop out of them, yellow as a dandelion, downy as a dandelion.

“Well, how interesting!”

The speckled Annushka is minding her own business, sitting on the eggs in her clutch. A week goes by, and another. Annushka is getting worn out: she doesn’t drink, doesn’t eat, doesn’t get off that spot.

Pyotr Petrovich can’t wait.

“Well, how are you doing there?”

Annushka blushes:

“About as well as you’d expect. Only they haven’t grown their fluff yet. Another week’ll be needed.”

“We-ell: a week! You won’t manage it. I know how it goes with you women!”

There is no one in the whole world smarter than Pyotr Petrovich: he thinks it all, he thinks it all, he stands on one leg, and he thinks.

And Pyotr Petrovich decides: women are known to be slow and dim-witted. They need to think about things in our way, in the cock-turkey way.

He goes up to Annushka—one eye is squinting slyly: trouble!

“Come and have a drink, Annushka. There is fresh water in the tub, and I will look after the eggs without you.”

Annushka goes to drink, and Pyotr Petrovich goes to her clutch: egg—one egg, egg—another, egg—a third. Warm little chicks, breathing, by God! He rejoices. Time to get them out of their shells.

He starts breaking them out, and they are ugly, naked, flimsy, and most of their backside is still attached, veins, blood, to the eggshell. He begins ripping it off… Their guts stretch… He tries putting them back in the shell. They won’t go back.

Pyotr Petrovich recoils, his snot turns pale, and he looks with a gaping beak at the broken eggs and yellow heads hanging over the edge on unbearably long, thin necks. And they can hardly breathe.

Pyotr Petrovich flaps his wings—quickly, over the fence, before Annushka sees. He knows what women are like: with them, it is always trouble!