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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Women in books - "Between two chairs" by Eugene Kluev, translated by Maria K.

After staying on the serious side of literary female portraits, I'd like to take a moment and pop over to the ridiculous side.

Eugene Kluev's Between Two Chairs was inspired by Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense and by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Sadly, only parts of it are translatable because much of the word play only works in Russian. So, it is with no small pleasure that I present to you one such segment: the meeting between the book's protagonist - a very serious young name by the name of Peter-Paul (because the author could not remember whether his name was Peter or Paul) and one of the strange inhabitants of an even stranger country he finds himself in.

I am purposely not providing an illustration to this, because I think the author would have wanted you to ride this one out on sheer power of your own imagination.


The smoke took its time dissipating, but once it did, Peter-Paul caught a glimpse of a horseman dashing across the room on his steed. Peter-Paul had a feeling that the horseman had more than one head. It was difficult to determine how many heads he had: Peter-Paul realized he may have been mistaken as to the number, but he was prepared to swear under oath that there was some sort of misunderstanding about the horseman's upper body. This incident left him with an ill first impression. Peter-Paul made to follow the horseman, but then realized that chasing a horseman not having a horse of your own would be stupid and returned to his previous spot. The spot turned out to be occupied. A colorfully dressed young woman was hugging and kissing a man old enough to be her father, grandfather and great-grandfather, all the while telling him how much she loved him and how this was the first time this ever happened to her. Peter-Paul was very embarrassed to have walked in on such a tender and significant moment in a relationship of two strangers. He stepped back and even tried mumbling some sort of apology, but didn't get enough time, because the girl suddenly stopped hugging and kissing her love and, having jumped over to Peter-Paul, started hugging and kissing him. Embraces and kisses were mixed with words, "Oh, my love, I have waited for you so long! I fell in love with you suddenly - strongly and passionately: it's the first time this ever happened to me!"

It all happened so quickly, that Peter-Paul didn't even realize that he'd heard the same lines before: a red rose swung back and forth before his eyes, his head was spinning and beginning to hurt. Kissed nearly to death in the matter of moments he felt weak and barely breathed out, "Do we know each other?"

"We were made for each other!" the girl exclaimed passionately and followed her affirmation with an embrace that felt like an attempted homicide. Peter-Paul shrieked, while his tormentor continued, "Do you want my life? Take it, take it, it's yours! What do I need it for now, that I have met you, my love!"

Peter-Paul did not need the life he'd been offered, especially considering that his own was clearly in danger, but he didn't answer, having fainted from yet another embrace and completely lost his ability to think.

When his temporarily extinguished consciousness had finally returned, the first person Peter-Paul remembered was the man old enough to be the girl's father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Still showered with kisses, Peter-Paul grasp at the first coherent thought about him, which went something like this, "He will kill me." It was impossible to focus even on that simple thought: the rose continued to swing before his eyes and confuse him. Peter-Paul managed to sneak a glance at the girl's former lover, whom he expected to see with a dagger in hand. The man himself, however, was smiling blissfully and crossing himself as he gazed upon them. He appeared to be thrilled about being set free. "He won't kill me," Peter-Paul realized sadly: he could no longer count on someone else to rescue him. He had to help himself. It wasn't easy: his arms and legs refused to obey. All he managed to do was get rid of the rose: Peter-Paul was able to twist and pull it out of his tormentor's fanciful coif. Having tossed the rose as far as he could, he succumbed to his fate and anxiously awaited death. It was clearly hopeless to wait for mercy.

Over a short period of time Peter-Paul became completely disheveled and almost missed the magic words suddenly uttered by the girl.

"I don't love you anymore!" she exclaimed and with a rebel yell "Oh, my love!" ran off somewhere. The familiar horseman appeared before Peter-Paul, and the girl jumped into the saddle in front of him. "I have waited for you so long! I fell in love with you suddenly - strongly and pa..." he heard from the distance.

Peter-Paul shuddered and became caught in a disturbing and terrible dream. The only difference between dream and reality was that there was an unimaginable quantity of roses in the strange girl's hair, and Peter-Paul kept pulling them out from her coif.

"Don't sleep, you'll go bonkers," he heard someone's voice through the nightmare and felt something fall on his face. Peter-Paul applied his will power and stopped the dream with the roses.

"Who was that?" he asked. The girl's former lover was sitting next to him eating fried fish.

"That? the man lobbed yet another fish bone at Peter-Paul, "That was Charmen. Spanish, you know... Love is like a winged bird and all that... Want some fish?"

Peter-Paul shook his head.

"What's wrong with her... that Charmen? She stormed in like a hurricane..."

"She fell in love," the man spread his hands, "What's there to do? It happens. She's an interesting character by the way, crazy! She falls in love with everyone she meets and loves him until she sees someone else: then she falls in love with the next one, and forgets the previous one. And when she meets a forgotten lover sometime later, she falls in love with him all over again. What a temper!"

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