A. I. (Aleksandr Ivanovich) Kuprin.

The bracelet of garnets : and other stories online

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Online LibraryA. I. (Aleksandr Ivanovich) KuprinThe bracelet of garnets : and other stories → online text (page 1 of 17)
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Copyright, 1917, by Charles Scrihner's Sons, for the
United States of America.

Printed by the Scribner Press
New York, V. S. A.


The translator's task is sometimes rendered diffi-
cult not so much by the actual work of turning into
another language the writings of the author, as by
the necessity of choosing among the author's works
those which ought to be presented to the readers of
the other language. It is a great privilege, therefore,
to base one's choice upon what the author himself
considers his best work. My choice of stories was
based upon the list contained in the following letter:

"My dear Mr. Pasvolsky: — I feel flattered be-
cause you have asked me to make a selection of my
works for translation, especially since we have no
literary treaty either with America or with England.
I consider the following of my works the most success-
ful: An Evening Guest; The Lsestrygonians; A Brace-
let of Garnets; Demir-Kaya; The Jewess; Emerald;
The Horse-Thieves; The Park of Kings; An Insult;
Sulamith; A Coward, besides those which you mention
in your letter.

"A. Kuprin."

I have chosen from this list those stories in which
I consider Mr. Kuprin to be at his best. And he is at
his best in two types of stories.


There is wholeness about Kuprin as a writer, which
breathes of the strength and power of Russia herself;
not the chiselled and filed out artificiality of words
which is often used as a substitute for natural strength
and charm, but simplicity, which is power itself, an
extensive knowledge of life, and a deep and sincere
love for it. When he writes in this style, Kuprin
creates an atmosphere- which inevitably carries us
away; we live in the beauty or the horror of that bit of
life which the magic pen of the writer conjures up be-
fore us. This manner Kuprin uses in some of his
fairly long stories. The other style, in which Kuprin
seems to me at his best, is the very short story, of
three or four pages. And he is really a master of
this most difficult manner of short-story writing.

I have tried to present Kuprin in both of these
manners. In "A Bracelet of Garnets" one cannot
but become transported into that atmosphere of a
"love that repeats itself but once in a thousand years."
In "The Jewess" one is carried away by the impelling
beauty of a Jewish woman, fascinatingly lovely,
though living in filth and ignorance in a road-house.
In "The Horse-Thieves" the tints of horror are sombre
and black, but irresistibly compelling. In "The
Lsestrygonians " the magic of words is so complete
that, even after laying the book aside, one still sees
oneself on the beautiful Balaklava Bay, with the sinu-
ous lines that mark the darting courses of the fish
radiating and intertwining in all directions.

In some of the very short stories Kuprin finds it
possible to compress into a few pages what another


writer may not express in a volume. "The Legend,"
"Demir-Kaya," "The Garden of the Holy Virgin"
were chosen for this reason. The latter was written
on the first anniversary of the war and is really a
striking expression of the reaction of a writer, who
loves Life as Kuprin does, to the diabolic fury of
destruction of life that has struck the world like a
tempest, sent forth by the grim breath of Death.

Leo Pasvolsky.



Preface v

Introduction by William Lyon Phelps . . . xi

The Bracelet of Garnets 1

The Horse-Thieves 71

The Jewess HI

Anathema 14°

the l.estrygonians






BORA 181

the divers 187

An Insult 211

The Park of Kings 235

An Evening Guest 244

A Legend 252

Demir-Kaya 257

The Garden of the Holy Virgin 262



Alexander Ivanovich Kuprin was born in 1870,
and published his first collection of short stories in 1903.
Shortly after, he attained the full dignity of author-
ship, for in 1910 his "works" were published at Petro-
grad in six volumes, subsequently extended to fourteen.
He has not, however, been so prolific as Gorky or as
Andreyev, his foremost living rivals.

When Tolstoy died, in 1910, the last of the Titans
vanished. The giants of prose fiction in Russia were
all men of the nineteenth century: Pushkin, Gogol,
Turgeniev, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy. Pushkin is, of
course, much better known as a poet than as a master
of prose; but his short stories display exquisite art,
and he is really the Russian pioneer in this branch of

I believe that if Garshin (1855-88) had lived ten
years longer, he might have become the true heir
to the Russian literary throne, for his tales bear the
unmistakable sign, not of brilliant or clever talent, but
of the inspiration of genius. Despite the extraordi-
nary power, charm, and versatility of Chekhov (1860-
1904), despite his enormous and ever-increasing pop-
ularity, it is my conviction that Garshin had a greater
natural endowment than he.

Nearly all Russian novelists are and have been
masters of the difficult art of the short story, the only



notable exception being Dostoyevsky. Gogol's famous
tale, "The Overcoat," has been the inspiration, the
model, and often the despair of his successors; it has
that curious mingling of realism with fantasy so charac-
teristic of the Russian method and manner.

The chief living writers of fiction in Russia to-day
are Kuprin, Andreyev, Gorky, Korolenko, Sologub,
Bunin, and Artsybashev. Fortunately, the works of
these authors are rapidly becoming accessible in Eng-
lish translations, so that there is no longer any excuse
for American ignorance. The New York Russian
Review, edited by my friend who is the translator of
the tales in this volume, gives us all an excellent
opportunity to become acquainted with contemporary
Russian thought in both art and politics. It was in
the pages of this periodical that I first read Kuprin's
beautiful dream, "The Garden of the Holy Virgin."

Partly owing to the war, partly owing to the reac-
tion that invariably follows a surprise, there is some
danger that the former Anglo-Saxon indifference to
Russian fiction will change into an almost equally
stupid idolatry. A novel is not great simply because
it is written in the Russian language, nor because its
author has a name difficult to pronounce. A slavish
— no pun intended — adoration of Russian novels is
not in itself an indication of critical intelligence. And
a vast deal of nonsense has been gushed over the
"Slavonic soul." The Slavonic soul, as revealed in
the masterpieces, is impressive because it is poignantly
human, not because it is superhuman, subhuman, or


I find that the modern Russian writers can be just
as sensational, just as exaggerative, just as cheap,
and just as dull as if they had been born in America.
It should be the task of the translators not to hurry
anything and everything Russian through the press,
but to exercise the happy talent of selection and dis-
crimination. Nor should there be any exploiting of
mere horror or sensuality. A pessimist is not neces-
sarily a profound thinker, nor is uncleanness in itself
a sign of virility. Emerson and Browning had at once
more depth and more force than Artsybashev.

Kuprin, like his contemporaries, is a decidedly un-
equal writer; he soars and he sinks. His range ex-
tends from "The Garden of the Holy Virgin" to "The
Pit." He is holy and he is coarse, he is sublime and
he is flat. Among his full-length novels may be found
the dreamily sentimental, forceless "Olessia," and the
immensely powerful masterpiece, "The Duel."

Every American lover of militarism — and we have
thousands of them — ought to read "The Duel." Kup-
rin was at one time an officer in the Russian army,
and making due allowance for exaggeration and over-
emphasis, he apparently knows what he is talking
about. Kuprin hates war as only a truly civilized
man can hate it; and I wish that those ministers of
the gospel who loudly assert that war and military
training are purifying and ennobling forces would read
this novel. Garrison life, official tyranny, and mili-
tary conscription are revealed in a strong light — the
light, not of sentimentalism, but of truth. Here is
the way the Russian officers are portrayed. "At home


they are splendid fathers of families and excellent hus-
bands; but as soon as they approach the barracks
they become low-minded, cowardly, and idiotic bar-
barians. You ask me why this is, and I answer: Be-
cause nobody can find a grain of sense in what is called
military service. You know how all children like to
play at war. Well, the human race has had its child-
hood — a time of incessant and bloody war; but war
was not then one of the scourges of mankind, but a
continued, savage, exultant national feast to which
daring bands of youths marched forth, meeting vic-
tory or death with joy and pleasure. . . . Mankind,
however, grew in age and wisdom; people got weary
of the former rowdy, bloody games, and became more
serious, thoughtful, and cautious. The old Vikings
of song and saga were designated and treated as
pirates. The soldier no longer regarded war as a
bloody but enjoyable occupation, and had often to
be dragged to the enemy with a noose round his
neck. . . . Military discipline still exists, but it is
based on threats and dread, and undermined by a
dull, mutual hatred. . . . And all this abomination is
carefully hidden under a close veil of tinsel and finery,
and foolish, empty ceremonies, in all ages the charla-
tan's conditio sine qua non."

Kuprin's short stories vary so greatly in value and
significance that I regard it as particularly fortunate
that this volume is made up of specimens selected and
translated by a Russian living in New York. Mr. Leo
Pasvolsky understands the original as no native Amer-
ican could possibly do; and his residence in our country


makes him peculiarly fitted to judge what stories are
best fitted for our admiration and comprehension. He
has made an excellent choice, naturally sacrificing
some things to obtain range and variety.

It is a happy chance that this book appears in the
year of the Russian Revolution, which, whatever its
ultimate results may be, has stirred the hearts of the
whole world. It is an event of even greater significance
than the war itself, and more important — so far as we
can see — than the outcome of the international fight.
We may have to revise our opinion of what Sienkiewicz
called slave improductivite. And may we not hope
that this Revolution is a real step forward toward that
time of which Kuprin speaks in the closing pages of
The Duel," a time when man shall be really free?

"Ah, a time will come when . . . there shall be
no longer slaves and masters; no maimed or cripples;
no malice, no vices, no pity, no hate. Men shall be
gods. How shall I dare to deceive, insult, or ill-treat
another man, in whom I see and feel my fellow, who,
like myself, is a god? Then, and then only, shall life
be rich and beautiful. . . . Our daily fife shall be a
pleasurable toil, an enfranchised science, a wonderful
music, an everlasting merrymaking. Love, free and
sovereign, shall become the world's religion."

Wm. Lyon Phelps.

Yale University,
23 March, 1917.


alatcakr tcmpTt


L. van Beethoven, 2 Son. (Op. 2, No. 2)
Largo Appassionato

IN the middle of August, just before the birth of
the new moon, the weather suddenly took a turn
for the worse and assumed that disagreeable char-
acter which is sometimes characteristic of the north-
ern coast of the Black Sea. Sometimes a heavy fog
would hang drearily over land and sea, and then the
immense siren of the lighthouse would howl day
and night like a mad bull. Sometimes it would
rain from morning to morning, and the thickly
falling rain-drops, as fine as dust, would trans-
form the clayey roads and paths into one continuous
sheet of mud, in which the passing wagons and car-
riages stuck for a long time. Sometimes a hurricane-
like wind would begin to blow from the steppes lying
toward the northwest, and then the tops of the trees
would bend down to the ground, and again sweep



up, like waves during a storm; the iron roofs of the
country houses would rattle at night, as though some
one were walking over them in iron-shod boots, the
window-panes would jingle, the doors snap, and the
flues howl dismally. Several fishing barks lost their
way in the sea, and two of them never returned to
shore; it was only a week later that the bodies of
the fishermen were washed ashore in different places.

The inhabitants of the shore resort — which lay on
the outskirts of a large city-*-mostly Greeks and Jews,^
who, like all people of the south, are fond of comforts,
hastened to move to the city. And endless lines of
wagons, loaded with mattresses, furniture, trunks,
wash-stands, samovars, and all kinds of household
goods, stretched down the muddy road. Sad and piti-
able, and even disgusting, was the sight of this pro-
cession, as one caught glimpses of it through the thick
net of rain, for everything seemed so old and worn
out and sordid. Maids and cooks were sitting on
top of the tarpaulins that covered the vans, holding
flat-irons, tin boxes, or baskets in their hands; the
sweating, almost exhausted horses stopped every little
while, their knees shaking, and a cloud of steam ris-
ing from their heaving flanks, while the drivers, all
covered with rags for protection against the rain,
cursed them hoarsely. } But even sadder was the sight
of the deserted houses, with their suddenly acquired
bareness and emptiness, with their mutilated flower-
beds, broken window-panes, straying dogs, and piles of
refuse consisting of cigarette stumps, pieces of paper,
boxes, and medicine-bottles.


But toward the middle of September the weather
again changed unexpectedly. The days suddenly
became calm and cloudless, bright, warm, and sunny,
as they had not been even in July. The fields became
dry, and on their yellow bristle glistened the autumn
spider-web, like netted mica. The trees were now
dropping their yellow leaves, obediently and silently.

Princess Vera Nikolayevna Sheyin, the wife of the
president of the local Assembly of the Nobles, could
not leave her country house, because the alterations
in their city home had not as yet been completed. And
now she was happy over the splendid weather that had
set in, over the quiet, the fresh air, the chirping of the
swallows that were gathering on the telegraph-wires
and forming into flocks for their far journey — happy
over the gentle, salty breeze slowly coming from the


Moreover, that day, September 17, happened to
be her birthday. She was always fond of that day, as
it was connected with happy childhood recollections,
and she always expected something miraculous and for-
tunate to happen on her birthday. This time, before
leaving for the city, where he had an urgent engage-
ment, her husband had put on her night table a little
case, containing beautiful earrings with shapely pearl
pendants, and this present made her still happier.

She was all alone in the house. Her bachelor
brother Nikolay, who was living with them, had also


gone to the city, as he had to appear in court that
morning in his capacity of assistant district attorney.
Her husband had promised to bring a few intimate
friends for dinner. She thought it was well that her
birthday came at the time when they were still in their
country home. If it had happened in the city, it
would have been necessary to provide a formal ban-
quet, while here, on the seashore, a simple dinner
would do just as well. N Prince Sheyin, despite his
prominence in society, or perhaps because of it, had
always found it rather difficult to make his financial
ends meet. His immense hereditary estate had been
reduced almost to the point of bankruptcy by his
predecessors, and he was compelled to live beyond
his means: to provide entertainments, give to charity,
dress well, keep up a good stable. Princess Vera,
whose formerly passionate love for her husband had
already become transformed into a feeling of lasting,
true, sincere friendship, did everything in her power
to help her husband ward off financial disaster. With-
out letting him know, she refused herself many luxuries
and economized in her household management as much
as she could.

Just now she was in the garden carefully cutting
flowers for the dinner-table. The flower-beds were
almost empty and presented a disordered appearance.
The many-colored double carnations were in their
last bloom; the gillyflowers already had half of their
blossoms transformed into thin, green pods, that
smelled like cabbage; the rose-bushes were blooming
for the third time that summer, and their blossoms


and buds were small and far between, as though they
were degenerating. Only dahlias, peonies, and asters
were coldly and haughtily beautiful in their luxuriant
bloom, spreading a sad, grassy, autumnal odor in the
air. The other flowers, after their sumptuous love
and abundant summer motherhood, were now quietly
shedding on the ground the numberless seeds of future

The sound of an automobile-horn came from the
road. It was Princess Vera's sister, Anna Nikolayevna
Friesse, coming to help her with her preparations, as
she had promised over the telephone that morning.

Vera's accurate ear did not deceive her. A few
moments later, a beautiful car stopped at the gates,
and the chauffeur, jumping down from his seat, quickly
opened the door.

The sisters greeted each other joyfully. From early
childhood they had been warmly and closely attached
to each other. They were strangely unlike in appear-
ance. Vera was the older of the two, and she was
like her mother, a beautiful Englishwoman; she was
tall and slender, with a cold and proud face, beauti-
ful, somewhat large hands, and that charming slope
of the shoulders which one sometimes meets in old
miniatures. Anna, on the other hand, inherited the
Mongolian blood of her father, a Tartar prince, whose
forebears had embraced Christianity only at the be-
ginning of the nineteenth century, and whose ances-
try could be traced back to Tamerlane himself, or
Lang-Temir, as the father was fond of calling in the
Tartar dialect that great bloody tyrant. She was


considerably shorter than her sister, rather broad-
shouldered, with a lively and light-minded disposi-
tion. Her face was of a pronounced Mongolian type,
with rather prominent cheek-bones, narrow eyes,
which she always screwed up a little because of near-
sightedness, with a haughty expression of her small,
sensuous mouth, that had a slightly protruding,
full lower lip. And yet her face was fascinating with
some incomprehensible and elusive charm, which lay
perhaps in her smile, perhaps in the deep feminacy
of all her features, perhaps in her piquant and coquet-
tish mimicry. Her graceful lack of beauty excited
and attracted the attention of men much oftener
than her sister's aristocratic beauty.

She had married a very wealthy and very stupid
man, who had absolutely nothing to do, but was
nominally connected with some charitable institution
and had the title of a gentleman of the Emperor's
bedchamber. She did not like her husband, and
had only two children; after the birth of her second
child, she decided to have no more. Vera, on the
other hand, was very anxious to have children, and
the more the better, as it seemed to her, but she had
none, and was extremely fond of her sister's pretty
and anaemic children, always polite and obedient,
with pale faces and curly, light hair, like that of a

Anna was perfectly happy in her haphazard way of
doing things, and she was full of contradictions. She
was perfectly willing to engage in most risky flirta-
tions in all the capitals and fashionable resorts of


Europe, but she was never unfaithful to her hus-
band, whom she, nevertheless, jeered contemptuously
both in his presence and absence; she was extravagant,
inordinately fond of gambling and dancing, of exciting
experiences, of visits to suspicious cafes, and yet she
was remarkable for her generosity and kindness, and
for her deep, sincere piety, which had even led her
to embrace secretly the Catholic faith. She had a
wonderfully beautiful bosom, neck, and shoulders.
When dressing for balls, she bared her neck and shoul-
ders beyond the limits set by both propriety and
fashion, but it was whispered that despite her low
decollete, she always wore a hair shirt.

Vera was characterized by stern simplicity, cold
and somewhat condescending politeness, independence,
and majestic calmness.


"Goodness, how beautiful it is here! How beauti-
ful!" Anna was saying this, as she walked rapidly
with her sister down the path. "Let us sit on this
bench by the precipice for a while, if we may. I haven't
seen the sea for such a long time. The air is so exhila-
rating it makes my heart glad to breathe it. You
know, last summer in Crimea, when we were in Mis-
khora, I made a marvellous discovery. Do you know
what is the odor of the water at high tide? Just
imagine, it smells like mignonettes.'"

Vera smiled affectionately.

"You are a regular dreamer."


"Why, no, no, not at all. I remember once, when
I said that there is a pinkish tint in moonlight, every-
body laughed at me. And only a few days ago, Borit-
sky, the artist who is painting my portrait, told me
that I was right and that artists have known about it
for a long time."

"An artist? Is that your new fad?"

"You always imagine things!" said Anna laugh-
ingly, as she rapidly walked up to the brink of the
precipice, which was sloping down almost perpen-
dicularly into the sea, glanced over it, and suddenly
cried out in horror, jumping away, her face turning

"Goodness, how high it is !" she said in a weak and
shaking voice. "When I look down from such a
stupendous height, I have such a sweetish and dis-
gusting sensation in my chest. . . . And my toes
feel as though they were being pinched. . . . And
yet I am drawn, drawn toward it. . . ."

She made a motion as though she were again going
to look over the brink of the precipice, but her sister
stopped her.

"Anna, dear, please don't do it. I become dizzy
myself, when I see you doing it. Won't you, please,
sit down?"

"All right, all right, here I am. . . . But just
look how beautiful it all is; I can't feast my eyes
enough on it. If you only knew how thankful I am
to God for having created all these marvels for us ! "

The sisters remained thoughtful for a moment.
Far, far below, under their feet, spread the calm sea.


The shore was not visible from the spot where they
were sitting, and this merely emphasized the feeling
of illimitable grandeur, produced by the vast sheet
of water before them. And the water was gently
quiet, joyfully blue, shining with occasional, oblique
bands of smoothness, that marked the currents, and
changing its color into a deeper blue near the horizon

Fishermen's boats, appearing so small that they
were scarcely discernible to the naked eye, seemed
plunged in slumber upon the motionless surface of
the sea, not far from the shore. And a little farther
off, a large, three-mast schooner, covered from top
to bottom with white sails monotonously expanded
by the wind, seemed to be standing in the air, also

" I think I understand you," said Vera thoughtfully.
"But I feel differently about it. When I see the sea
for the first time, after being away for a considerable
period, it agitates me and gladdens me and amazes
me. It seems to me as though I were beholding for

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Online LibraryA. I. (Aleksandr Ivanovich) KuprinThe bracelet of garnets : and other stories → online text (page 1 of 17)