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     Andrei Platonov (1899-1951). Inhabitant of the State
     Translation (c) 1997 by Serge Winitzki
     Оригинал этого текста расположен по адресу http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/5344/fun/friends.html#translations

     An  aged  man liked transportation to  the same  extent as co-operative
enterprises and the perspectives of future construction.  In  the morning he
would take a bite at yesterday's tidbits and  would go out to observe and to
enjoy. At first he would  visit  the  railway station,  mostly platforms for
storage  of incoming freights, and there he felt joy at the  accumulation of
goods.  The  steam locomotive snuffled with its thick,  peaceful  force  and
slowly pulled off carloads of public substances: bottles  of sulphuric acid,
mounds  of ropes, institutional  luggage, and  unmarked bags  with something
useful. The aged man,  by the name Pyotr Yevseyevich Veretennikov,  was glad
that  his  city was  being supplied, and  would  go  to the  cargo  delivery
platform to see whether  the  trains were leaving for the  far  ends of  the
Republic, where people worked  and  waited for the cargo. The springs of the
departing trains were tightly compressed: they were carrying so much  of the
required weight. This also was satisfying to Pyotr Yevseyevich -- the people
over there, for whom the goods were intended, will be provided for.
     Not far  from  the station a settlement of  dwellings  was being built.
Pyotr Yevseyevich daily  followed the  growth of  the constructions  because
thousands of working families will be sheltered under their  warm roofs, and
the world will become happier and more honest after their  settlement. Pyotr
Yevseyevich would leave the  construction  field deeply touched by the sight
of labour and material. All this  prepared substance would soon, through the
diligence of comradely labour, become a sturdy coziness from the harm of the
weather during fall and winter, for the very contents  of the  State, in the
form of its population, to be whole and tranquil.
     Farther on Pyotr Yevseyevich's way  was a smallish  forest already used
by the rural public. The wood was only marginally enriched by standing pines
which were however a little worn down. In  a dividing  trough in that forest
an earth surveyor was sleeping; he  was not yet old but weary, perhaps  from
earth management.  His mouth had opened  itself in  sleepy lassitude,  and a
live, disturbing smell of resinous pines entered the depth of the surveyor's
body and made him  healthier there, so that  the body was  again capable  of
managing the  wheat ploughmen's earth. The man  rested and  was being filled
with the happiness  of shared  repose;  his  tools,  the  theodolite and the
measuring tape, lay on the ground and were being hurriedly examined  by ants
and a dry spider that always lived individually due to its stinginess. Pyotr
Yevseyevich tore some grass out of its  accumulation in the  trough,  shaped
that grass into a soft pulp of sorts and put it underneath the sleeping head
of the earth surveyor, bothering him gently  to attain comfort. The surveyor
did not  awake; he only moaned  something like a plaintive orphan  and  sunk
again  into sleep. However, it was already better for him to rest on a  soft
grass. He would sleep tighter and  survey the earth more accurately --  with
this feeling of useful participation  Pyotr Yevseyevich went on to  his next
     The forest ceased quickly, and the earth under the trees became trenchy
furrows and yet undivided  lots  of rye ploughland. Ordinary  villages lived
behind the rye, and above them was air from the  frightening space, -- Pyotr
Yevseyevich considered  air  a good thing also, since  from it breathing was
delivered to  the  entire area of  the State.  Windless  days  bothered  him
however; the peasants have nothing to grind with, and the infected air stays
over  the city,  whereby the  sanitary  condition  is  worsened.  But  Pyotr
Yevseyevich bore his anxiety not as a suffering but as a concerned necessity
which occupies  the entire soul  by its meaning and thereby makes the burden
of one's  own life imperceptible.  At  the moment, Pyotr Yevseyevich  was  a
little worried for a locomotive that was hauling up some rough freights with
sharp,  stifled  wisps of steam  which reached at Pyotr Yevseyevich's  tense
feelings. Pyotr Yevseyevich stopped and with a  helpful  compassion imagined
the ordeal of a machine pushing the stagnation of sedimentary weight forward
and uphill.
     "If only nothing bursts in the couplings," Pyotr Yevseyevich whispered,
grinding  his teeth  between the itching gums. "And if only there is  enough
fire, it has to  burn the water! Let it be patient, it's not  far until  the
end now..."
     The locomotive slithered up slope with screeching rims but did not give
in to the cars that stuck  to  the  rails.  Suddenly the locomotive  started
giving  out frequent  and  worried  honking,  asking  for the  way  through.
Apparently the semaphore was closed and the engine-driver was afraid that he
would not be able to start the train up the slope after a stop.
     "Oh  my God,  and  what is going on!" Pyotr  Yevseyevich exclaimed and,
smitten  with sorrow,  energetically set  out to the  station  in  order  to
examine the accident.
     The  locomotive   gave   three  whistles,  meaning  stop,  while  Pyotr
Yevseyevich found a total calmness reign at the station. He sat down in  the
third class waiting hall and began to torment himself: "Where is the State?"
he thought. "Where can its automatic order be found?"
     "Shchepotko!" the agent on duty shouted to the train marshall. "Let the
fifty-first  through to the eighth. Make a remark to the mechanic and to the
head that we are full with transit. Did you dispose of the tanks there?"
     "Yes, sir!" answered Shchepotko. "Do not  accept  any  more, I have  no
place to put it. We need to finish with the fifty-first."
     "Now  it's quite  understandable," Pyotr Yevseyevich calmed down.  "The
State is  here because  the concern  is here.  We  only  need  to  tell  the
population  to  exist quieter,  or else the  machines would burst  under its
     With a satisfied distress, Pyotr Yevseyevich left the railroad juncture
to visit a nearby village named Koz'ma.
     In that  Koz'ma  village there  lived twenty-four homesteads.  The huts
were  built on the  slopes  of  a functional  ravine and  have suffered this
condition for seventy  years. Beside the ravine, the  village  suffered from
thirst; due  to  thirst  people ate  poorly and did not  procreate properly.
There was no fresh and quenching  water in Koz'ma:  there was  a small  pond
amidst the village, at the bottom of the ravine, but this pond was hedged by
a dam made from  manure, while the water flew there from under the dwellings
and places of farming  necessity. All manure and  the dead remnants of human
life were washed down to  the hollow of  the  pond and  were  settled into a
yellowish-brown  viscous soup  that  could  not serve as a quenching liquid.
During the common epidemics among citizens, namely cholera, typhus or a poor
wheat harvest due to the local soil  containing few  of the  bountiful good,
the people  of Koz'ma would lie down on warm stoves and  came to their  end,
gazing at flies and cockroaches with their eyes. In the old times, they say,
Koz'ma had almost a hundred homesteads, but  now there  are no traces of the
past  thickness  of  population.  Vegetative  shrubbery  covered  the  spots
previously  populated  by  the now desolate villas,  and there were  neither
ashes  nor brick or limestone spots  under that shrubbery. Pyotr Yevseyevich
had already dug  through that place,  for he did not  believe that the State
could  shrink;  he felt  the multiplying  strength of  order  and sociality,
everywhere he observed the automatic growth of the State-born happiness.
     The peasants who lived in Koz'ma respected Pyotr Yevseyevich for giving
them hope and  correctly deemed that the  whole  Republic should know  their
need  of drinking water, while Pyotr Yevseyevich  would support them in that
     "You will be provided with drinking," he would promise. "It's the State
after  all. The justice occurs automatically, not to mention drinking water!
It is  not any kind of dermal disease, is it? No, it is an  internal affair:
each citizen needs water as much as the mind!"
     "Of course!" the people of  Koz'ma would confirm. "The Soviet authority
has us  in  the watering aspect as first thing.  Our turn will  come, and we
shall drink  our fill! Or did  we  not drink  since  old times?  We just  go
downtown and drink."
     "Absolutely right," Pyotr  Yevseyevich would determine.  "And  one also
has to appreciate in addition that life goes drier and stingier with thirst,
and one feels it more from the languish."
     "One cannot escape  it without water,"  the  peasants would agree. "One
lives as if just swallowed a burning log from a fire."
     "This is  merely an imaginary impression," explained Pyotr Yevseyevich.
"One would imagine many things when one has a desire  to drink. The sun also
seems  to  you and to us a heat and a force, but one  can hide and quench it
with some  steam from  a  kettle --  at once  there  will  be  chill  on the
table-cloth. It only seems that way to you and to us  in  the  middle of the
     Pyotr Yevseyevich  always  regarded  himself  and  the State  with more
respect  than  the  population,  unaware of  the  sense  of  it,  since  the
population constantly  exists alongside with  and  is provided  by the State
with the necessary life.
     Usually Pyotr Yevseyevich was offered food in Koz'ma -- not  because of
kindness  and  plenty, but  out of  a feeling of  security.  However,  Pyotr
Yevseyevich  would  never  eat others' food: bread grows  on a peasant's lot
only for one, not for two -- and so Pyotr Yevseyevich had nothing to eat out
of. The sun, it also burns sparingly  and socially: it does not warm up more
bread than for one labouring eater, therefore, there should be no feeding of
guests in the State.
     Amidst the summer the  village of  Koz'ma, as well as all rural places,
suffered from diarrhea, because the berries on the shrubbery and  the greens
in   the  gardens  ripened.  These  fruits  would  drive  the   stomachs  to
nervousness, to which the watery substance  from the  pond added. To prevent
that public suffering,  the young communists from Koz'ma  would start to dig
wells each year, but they would become worn down  by the power of impassable
sands and would lie on the ground in languish of fruitless labour.
     "How  could   you  do  all  this  without  proper  arrangement?"  Pyotr
Yevseyevich would  upset himself and  rebuke the young  communists. "This is
the soil of the State, the State will also give you a drinking well --  wait
automatically, and for now drink the rains! Your work  is to plough the soil
within the bounds of your lots of land."
     Pyotr Yevseyevich would leave Koz'ma with a certain grief that citizens
lack water,  but  also with a happiness of  expectation that, therefore, the
forces of the State must be coming there and  he shall see them on the  way.
Moreover, Pyotr Yevseyevich  liked to weaken his peace of  mind,  as a test,
also by devising  a small doubt. This small doubt in the State was  on Pyotr
Yevseyevich's mind  after Koz'ma because of lack of water in the village. At
home Pyotr Yevseyevich would take out an old map of Austro-Hungary and spend
a  long  time   examining  it  in  quiet   meditation;  he  cared   not  for
Austro-Hungary but rather for a live State outlined by its borders, a hedged
and protected meaning of civil life.
     Under a painting of  the Battle of Sevastopol, which adorned the  warm,
stable dwelling of Pyotr Yevseyevich, there hung a popular map of the united
Soviet Union. Here  Pyotr Yevseyevich would  observe  with  more concern: he
troubled  himself about the unshakeability of the border line. But what is a
border line? It is a still frontier of a live and faithful army behind whose
backs the bent-down labour peacefully sighs.
     In labour there is a meekness of squandered  life, but this spent  life
is  accumulated in the  form of  the  State, and one  must love it  with  an
undivided  love, because it is in the State that the life of the living  and
of  the dead is  untouchably  preserved. Buildings, gardens and railways  --
what are they but a short life of labour captured for ages? Because of this,
Pyotr Yevseyevich was  right in feeling compassion  not for  the  transitory
citizens but for their work, petrified in the image of  the State.  All  the
more  necessary was it to conserve  all labour that was to become the common
body of the State.
     "Are there not birds  on the millet?" Pyotr  Yevseyevich would suddenly
remember with  agitation. "They peck at the young seeds, and what would then
feed the population?"
     Pyotr Yevseyevich would hurry to the millet field and,  indeed, saw the
feeding birds.
     "What is going on, oh my Lord God? What  will remain  whole, if nothing
of good can rest peacefully? These wild elements have exhausted me  -- rain,
thirst, sparrows, stopping trains! How can the State live  against this? And
yet  there are people who  are  offended  at  the  country:  are  they  real
citizens? They are descendants of the Horde!"
     Having driven the birds off the millet,  Pyotr Yevseyevich would notice
under his feet  a weakened worm that did not manage  to follow moisture into
the depths of the earth.
     "Now  this one  exists also, gnawing  at  the soil!" Pyotr  Yevseyevich
would  fume. "As  if the State cannot  do without it!" And Pyotr Yevseyevich
would crush  the worm  to death:  let  it  now  live  not  in the history of
humanity, which is already crowded enough, but in Eternity.
     At the beginning of  the  night Pyotr  Yevseyevich would return to  his
flat. The sparrows  also  became quiet then  and  would not come  to eat the
millet; so the  tiny seeds  would become more ripened and  firm through  the
night -- it would be harder to peck at them tomorrow.  With  the consolation
of this thought Pyotr Yevseyevich  would  finish  eating  the crumbs  of the
morning breakfast  and would lay his  head to  slumber,  but  could not fall
asleep. He would imagine things: he  would  listen and hear  the stirring of
mice  in  co-operative  enterprises while  the  watchmen sat  in  tea-houses
riveted to the function of the radio, not believing it for joy. Somewhere in
a seldom visited steppe the kulaks  are chasing a village correspondent, and
the lonely worker of the State falls down powerless under the brunt of thick
force, similarly to the bread of  life falling down dead under an unbalanced
     But the  memory was  merciful: Pyotr Yevseyevich  remembered  that near
Urals  or  in  Siberia,  as  the  newspaper  said,  a  powerful  factory  of
complicated  threshing  machines  was  started by  construction; and at that
recollection, Pyotr Yevseyevich lost consciousness.
     In the next morning the old roofers would go to work past  his windows;
a  glazier carried his material on his shoulder; and a co-operative cart was
transporting beef.  Pyotr Yevseyevich sat as if in distress, while he was in
fact delighted  by  the  quietness of the State  and the manners  of working
people. There, the  meek, silent  old man Termorezov entered the  consumer's
bakery; he daily  bought himself a roll for breakfast  and left to labour at
the  barn of  Communist Industrial Union, where the ropes were  manufactured
out of hemp for the needs of peasantry.
     A  barefoot girl tugged a goat by a string to  graze in the  backyards.
The goat's face with its beard and yellow eyes resembled  the devil; it  was
however permitted  to eat  grass  on the  territory, therefore the goat  was
important too.
     "Let the  goat  be also," Pyotr Yevseyevich  would ponder.  "One  could
reckon it a junior calf."
     The door to  the dwelling opened, and a known peasant, Leonid  from the
village Koz'ma, appeared.
     "How  do  you do,  Pyotr  Yevseyevich," Leonid said.  "You  should have
waited yesterday with us, but instead you hurried away to your flat..."
     Pyotr Yevseyevich became flustered and afraid.
     "But whatever has happened? Eh? Is not all well in the village there? I
saw a beggar drop a burning cigarette -- did he burn the estate?"
     "Well, the village is well and good out of  that cigarette... But right
after you left, there were two carts coming from  the other end,  and an old
man in a carriage behind them. The old man  says, 'Citizens,  do you perhaps
need  deep water?' We say, 'We do, but we ain't got power to reach  at  it.'
Then the old  man says, 'All right, I am  a  professor from  the State and I
will  get you the water from the mother layer.' The old man spent  the night
and went away, and two  technicians remained with instrument and started  to
feel  inside  the soil. Now, Pyotr  Yevseyevich, reckon us  as  we were with
drinks. For this  I brought you a jug of milk: were it not for you, we would
have dug  in vain, or sat there without  drinking, but  then  you would walk
around  and say:  wait for the motion of the State, it  foresees everything.
That has happened. So drink, Pyotr Yevseyevich, our milk for this..."
     Pyotr Yevseyevich sat in disappointment: he again  went right  past the
live State and missed its pure original action.
     "Here," he told Leonid. "Here it  came and went.  From  a  dry place it
will procure water for you, that is what it is worth!"
     "Who is it then?" Leonid asked quietly.
     "Who!"  Pyotr Yevseyevich said abstractly. "I myself do not know who it
is, I only adore it in my cogitation, since you and I are merely population.
Now I see  everything, Leonid, and I shall  hold tight to my  hope.  Let the
birds peck at  the millet, let the watchmen in the co-operative stare at the
radio while mice eat the goods -- the State will suddenly catch up with that
too, and we should live and have patience."
     "That is right, Pyotr Yevseyevich:  by just not  touching anything, one
shall see the good come."
     "Exactly, Leonid!"  Pyotr  Yevseyevich agreed.  "Without the  State you
would not drink cow's milk."
     "But where would it go then?" worried Leonid.
     "Who knows where! Maybe grass would not grow either."
     "But what would there be?"
     "The soil,  Leonid,  the soil  is the main thing! And  the  soil  is  a
territory of the  State,  so there would not be any  territory! Where  would
your  grass  ripen then? It  does  not grow in  an unknown place,  it  needs
territory and earth management. The African Sahara, for  one, has  no State,
and the  Arctic Ocean neither, and that is why nothing grows there: only the
sand, the heat and the dead ice!"
     "Shame on such places!" Leonid forcefully affirmed and immediately fell
silent. Then he  added  in an  ordinary  human  voice: "Come visit us, Pyotr
Yevseyevich, we miss somebody's presence without you."
     "Were you strict  citizens,  you would not have missed anything," Pyotr
Yevseyevich said.
     Leonid remembered that there was no water yet in Koz'ma, and drank from
Pyotr Yevseyevich's water pail to stock up for the stomach.
     After the peasant's departure, Pyotr Yevseyevich  tasted the  presented
milk and  went to wander  amid the town.  He  would touch the  bricks of the
houses  on his way, stroke  the  hedges, and  thankfully  observe  what  was
unreachable to  sensation. Perhaps  the people who created these  bricks and
hedges  were  already  dead from old age and emaciation  of labour, but from
their bodies there remained bricks and boards -- objects  that comprised the
sum and substance  of the  State. Pyotr Yevseyevich had  long discovered for
his joy that the  State was  the useful act of the dead,  as well as  of the
living  but  labouring  population;  without  production  of  the  State the
population would die meaninglessly.
     At the end of his journey Pyotr Yevseyevich accidentally arrived to the
railway station; hearing  the worried honks of the steam locomotives, he did
not completely  trust the railroad. Immediately an indignation rose in Pyotr
Yevseyevich:   in  the   third  class   waiting  hall  a  boy  was   burning
government-supplied logs in a stove, although it was summer.
     "You slime, why do you burn fuel?" asked Pyotr Yevseyevich.
     The boy did not take offense, as he was used to his life.
     "I was told so," he  said. "They let me spend nights at the station for
     Here Pyotr Yevseyevich  could  not think of a reason why one would need
to  heat up  the  stoves  in  summer.  But  the  boy  himself  helped  Pyotr
Yevseyevich to disperse the puzzlement: there  were heaps of rotten logs  at
the station, and to avoid carrying them out it had been decided to burn them
in the stoves of the rooms and let the heat come out of the doors.
     "Give me, Mister, a couple of kopecks!" asked the boy after his story.
     He was  asking  ashamedly,  but without respect  for Pyotr Yevseyevich.
However, for Pyotr Yevseyevich the  question was not the two kopecks but the
place of this boy in the State: was he necessary? Such thoughts have already
started to torment Pyotr Yevseyevich. The  boy reluctantly told him that his
mother and girl sisters lived in the village and had only potatoes  to  eat.
Mother had told him, 'Go  away,  perhaps you shall find  life somewhere.  Or
else, you'd have to suffer with us, but I love you.' She gave him a piece of
bread she  borrowed  in the village, or  maybe  she  lied  and had gone  out
peddling. The boy took bread,  went out to  the railways and climbed into an
empty car. Since then he was going places:  he had been to Leningrad, Tver',
Moscow and Torzhok, and now  he was here.  Nobody  would  give  him  a  job,
saying: he has little strength and there are many orphans already.
     "So what are  you up to?" Pyotr Yevseyevich would ask him. "You have to
live and wait until the State looks back at you."
     "Can't wait," the boy answered. "The winter will come soon, I am afraid
to  die then. Even in summer people die. I have seen  one in Likhoslavl': he
went to sleep in a garbage box and died in there."
     "But don't you want to return to your mother?"
     "No.  There  is  nothing to  eat  and  many  sisters,  their faces  are
pock-marked and the men do not marry them."
     "Why didn't they  get vaccinated in  time? The  state doctors vaccinate
everybody at no expense."
     "I don't know," the boy said coolly.
     "You do not know," Pyotr Yevseyevich exclaimed with annoyance, "but now
one has to take care of you! Your family is at fault for all this: the State
vaccinates  against smallpox for  free. If your sisters were vaccinated when
they needed it, they  would be long  married now, and you would have a place
at home! But if you don't want to live  according to the State -- so now you
have to wander by  railroads. It is all your  fault -- go to your mother and
tell  her! So why  should  I give you the two kopecks after this? Never! One
must  get vaccinated in  time, citizen, or else one would have to  free-ride
the trains and wander on the rails!"
     The boy was silent. Pyotr Yevseyevich left him there alone, not feeling
any more pity for the guilty.
     At  home he found  a notice: he had  to  report  tomorrow for the  next
re-registration  at  the  labour  exchange,  where  Pyotr   Yevseyevich  was
registered as an unemployed from  the Union of Soviet Salespeople.  He liked
to visit the  labour exchange, feeling that he was serving the State in that

Last-modified: Sun, 26 Sep 1999 13:32:01 GMT
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