in Translation

Rubbish Boy

by Yevgeny Zamyatin

Another Zamyatin “fairytale” for you, translated yesterday and this morning by me.

Why has it taken so long to get these out (no one is wondering)? Well, essentially, because I don’t think very much of them compared to the second volume as a whole, or Pyotr Petrovich and God in this one. But anyway, here they come now. More to follow.

* * *

They gave Petka a toy: blue eyes, small hands, silk curls, a variety of lace and stitching. And look how wonderful it is—squeeze hard, and it will say, “I—love—you”, and even roll its blue eyes. 

Play, Petka, play, and thank your parents: not everyone is given such toys. But no: the stupid boy has to get too smart. Plays one day, a second. On the third day, he wants to know: “Why does it do that with its eyes? Why does it smell so good? Why does it say ‘I—love—you’?” 

He cuts it open with a penknife, and gets the answer, why, what. But there is nothing interesting: for the languid eyes, some lead balls; under the pink satin (skin), rotten sawdust; for “I—love—you”, a rubber bladder with a pipe. 

Later the parents sew it back up sloppily, but it doesn’t work: doesn’t know how to say “I—love—you” anymore. 

They take it away from Petka: the stupid boy will only damage his toys. How many times has it been said? Toys are for playing with, and if you don’t want to play, you rubbish boy, give it to someone else. But he needs to look inside, needs to break it. 

“Don’t break it! Don’t break it! Don’t break it!” 

Serves him right.