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ANATHEMA'
ALEXANDER KUPRIN

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Russian influence is fooding into America. We see it in literature as naturalism, in the scenic art of the theatre as expressionism, and in social theory as communism. Alexander Kuprin (1870- ) is one of the writers who along with Andreyev, Gorky, Artsybashev, and others are interpreting the Russian mind to the world. In the field of the short story Kuprin has won distinction, although as Professor Phelps points out, his work is decidedly unequal.

"Anathema,” which appeared in 1917 in the volume of selected stories entitled The Bracelet of Garnets translated by Leo Pasvolsky, shows Kuprin's power of handling character and atmosphere. The ponderous Archdeacon and his revolt from the ancient formulas of the Greek Church are peculiarly convincing. “FATHER DEACON, stop burning that Hm,

thought he to himcandle. You won't get far at this rate,' self. said the archdeacon's wife. "It's time to Just like famous singers, he never get up."

trusted his own powers. It is a wellThis little, thin, sallow-faced woman known fact that actors become pale and treated her husband very sternly. When make the sign of the cross just before she was still at school, the prevalent opin- coming out. Father Olympy was the same ion there was that all men are rascals, way. And yet, there was not another cheats, and tyrants. But the deacon was man in the city, perhaps not in all Rusnot a tyrant at all. He was really afraid sia, who could make the dark, ancient of his hysterical wife, who was subject to church, with its gilt mosaics, resound to fits. They had no children, as the wife his low notes.

He alone could fill every was barren. The archdeacon was of im- nook and corner of the old building with mense stature, weighing over three hun- his mighty voice, and make the cut-glass dred pounds, with a chest that reminded ornaments on the incense-bowls tinkle in one of the body of an automobile. He unison. was possessed of a powerful voice and, His wife brought him a glass of weak at the same time, of that gentle conde- tea with lemon and, as usual on Sundays, scension, which is so peculiar to exceed- a small glass of vodka. Olympy tested ingly strong men when they are dealing his voice again. "Mi, mi, fa. with very weak persons.

"Strike that D, mother," said he. It took the archdeacon a long time to His wife struck a prolonged, melanget his voice into proper shape. He had choly note. to go through the whole of that painfully “Hm

Pharaoh, driving his long and unpleasant process which is so chariot No; doesn't work. The familiar to all public singers. He, too, devil take that writer, what's his name?" had to make local application with co- Father Olympy was a great lover of caine, and with caustic, and gargle his books. He read them one after another, throat with a solution of boric acid. in any order, never interesting himself While still in bed, Father Olympy began much in the writer's name. His educato try out his voice:

tion in the seminary, based mostly on "Via

hmm!. .Via-a-a! learning things "by heart," and consisting Halleluja, halleluja

almost exclusively of memorizing church maa-ma

canons and quotations from the Fathers “Don't seem to sound well, God bless of the Church, had developed his memory

wonderfully. In order to memorize a 1 From The Bracelet of Garnets by Alexander Kuprin, translated by Leo Pasvolsky.

whole page of the complicated works of Copyright, 1917, by Charles Scribner's Sons.

such dialecticians as Augustine, TertulBy permission of the publishers.

lian, Origen, and Basil the Great, all he had to do was to read the lines, and they through his awkwardness, the archdeacon would become firmly fixed in his memory. mounted the platform, coughed, spit over Books for reading were supplied by his the railing, touched his tuning-fork, friend Sinirnov, a student at the Academy. went from C to D, and began the The book he had just read was a beauti- service. ful story of life in the Caucasus, where “Bless me, your most gracious Emisoldiers, Cossacks, and Chechens killed nence.” each other, drank wine, married, and "Oh, no, Mr. Regent. You won't hunted wild beasts.

dare to change the pitch as long as the The book aroused the archdeacon's ad- | bishop is here," he thought. He felt venturous soul. He read it over three with pleasure at that moment that his times, and during each reading he cried voice sounded better than ever, went and laughed with joy, doubled his fists, easily from note to note, and made the and turned his huge body from side to air of the whole church tremble with its side. Of course, it would have been soft, deep sighs. much better if he were a hunter, a fish- It was Quadragesima Sunday, in the erman, a horseman; certainly, his place first week of Lent. At first there was was not in the clergy.

very little work for Father Olympy.

The reader monotonously mumbled the He always came to the church a little psalms; the deacon, an academician and later than was necessary; just like the future professor of homiletics, spoke rapfamous barytone at the opera. Ap- idly through his nose. proaching the southern gate of the altar, From time to time the archdeacon he tested his voice for the last time. roared, "We shall attend," or, "We shall “Hm, hm

Sounds like D, and pray to the Lord." His huge body, in a that rascal of a regent will be sure to surplice embroidered with gold, towered strike C-sharp. But I don't care. I'll over the crowd. He stood there shaking get the choir to sing my tone, anyway.". his black, silvering hair, that was like a

The pride of the popular favorite lion's mane, and testing his voice from awoke in him. He knew that the whole time to time. The church was filled city adored him, and that even boys in the with old women and gray-bearded little streets gathered in crowds to gaze at old men who reminded one of fish-trad. him, as they did upon the gaping mouth ers, or money-lenders. of the enormous trumpet in the military "It's funny," thought Olympy, "that orchestra that played in the public square. all women's profiles remind you either of The archbishop came in and was sol

or of a hen's head! emnly led to his place. His mitre was There's my wife, too tilted a little to the left. Two subdeacons But his professional habits compelled were standing on each side, swaying the him to follow closely the service, which censers rhythmically. The clergy, in was in accordance with the seventeenthbright holiday vestments surrounded century mass-book. Finally, the psalm the archbishop's seat. Two clergymen reader finished his part, concluding it brought the images of the Saviour and the with the words: “The Most High Virgin Mary from the altar.

Lord, our Master and Creator, Amen." The church was an old one, and, like Then began the rite of the affirmation Catholic churches, it had a little elevated of Orthodoxy. platform in one corner, with a carved- “Who is more supreme than our Lord? oak railing around it, and a fight of nar- Thou, O Lord, art supreme above all, row, winding steps leading up to it. thou, alone, performest miracles.”

Slowly, feeling each step and carefully The melody was slow, and not very dissupporting himself by the hand-rail, as he was always afraid to break something Choir-master.

a fish

or

inct. The service for Quadragesima cils of the Fathers of the Church and Sunday and the rite of anathematization their traditions. aay be varied at will. For example, the “All those who dare to presume that Holy Church knows anathemas written the Orthodox rulers are not seated on

special occasions, e.g., anathemas their thrones by the special grace of God, gainst Ivashka Mazepa, Stenka Razin, and that at their anointing and their elehe heretic Arius, the iconoclasts, the vation to that high station the blessings Irchpriest Habakkuk, etc., etc.

of the Holy Ghost do not descend upon But something peculiar happened to them, and who dare, therefore, to rise in he archdeacon that morning, something rebellion against them and to betray hat had never happened before. Per- them

All those who blaspheme raps it was the whiskey that his wife gave and mock the holy images iim with his tea.

And after each exclamation the choir Somehow his thoughts could not be- answered him sadly, the gentle, angelic come detached from the story he had read voices groaning the word, Anathema." the night before. Simple, beautiful, fas- Hysterics began among the women. cinating pictures rose in his mind with The archdeacon had already finished unusual clearness and distinctness. But, the "Long Life!" service to all the dethrough sheer force of habit, he com- ceased zealots of the church, when the pleted this part of the service, pronounced psalm-reader mounted the platform and the word "Amen," and concluded: handed him a short note from the arch

“This apostolic faith, this paternal priest, in which he was instructed, by the faith, this Orthodox faith, this universal order of the archbishop, to anathematize faith, affirm.”

the "boyard" Leo Tolstoy.”—“See Chapt. The archbishop was an extreme for- L. of the mass-book," was added in the malist and pedant. He never permitted note. any omission in the canons of the most The archdeacon's throat was already blessed Father Andrew of Crete, or the tired after its long exertions. Yet he funeral rites, or any other service. And cleared it again and began: “Bless me, Father Olympy, making the whole church your most gracious Eminence.” He tremble with his mighty voice, and the scarcely heard the low whisper of the old glass ornaments on the lustres tinkle in archbishop: unison with it, cursed, anathematized, "May our Lord God bless you, O archand excommunicated the following: all deacon, to anathematize the blasphemer iconoclasts, all heretics, beginning with and the apostate from the faith of Christ, Arius, all followers of the teachings of rejecting its holy sacraments, the boyard Italus, the pseudo-monk Nile, Constan- Leo Tolstoy. In the name of Father, tine and Irinika, Varlaam and Akindina, and Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Herontius and Isaac Argira, all Moham- “Amen,” came from the choir. medans, Jews, those who mock the Holy Suddenly, Father Olympy felt his hair Church, those who blaspheme the Day | standing erect on his head, becoming of Annunciation, tavern-keepers who rob hard and heavy, like steel wire. And at widows and orphans, Old Believers, the the same moment the beautiful words of traitors and rebels Gregory Otrepiev, the story he had read the night before Timoshka Akundinov, Stenka Razin, came to him, clear and distinct : Ivashka Mazepa, Emelka Pugachev, and

awaking, Eroshka raised also all who profess faith contrary to the his head and began to watch intently the Holy Orthodox faith.

night-butterflies, which

Aying Then followed categorical anathemas around the trembling flame of the candle, against those who refuse the blessing of and falling into it. redemption, who deny the holy sacra- “You fool,' said he. 'Where are you ments, who do not recognize the coun- 1 An archaic title indicating nobility.

were

them go.

flying? Fool, fool!' And, sitting up, he Holy Spirit, like Simon the Magician, began to chase the butterflies away from or like Ananias and Saphira, returning the flame with his thick fingers.

like a dog to the matter he has vomited, "Why, you'll get burned, you little may his days be short and hard, may his fools. Fly over there, there's lots of prayer lead to sin, may the devil dwell in room,' he was saying gently, catching but his mouth, may he be condemned forever, terflies by the wings, holding them care- may his line perish in one generation, mas fully in his thick fingers, and then letting the memory of his name be effaced from

the earth. And may double, and triple, 'You're hurting yourself, and I'm and numerous curses and anathemas fall trying to save you.'

upon him. May he be struck with "My God! Whom am I anathematiz- Cain's trembling, Giezius's leprosy, ing?” thought the archdeacon in terror. Judas's strangulation, Simon's destruc"Him? Is it possible? Didn't I weep tion, Arius's bursting, the sudden end of all night in joy, and rapture, and admira- Ananias and Saphira

.... Be he tion?"

excommunicated and anathematized, and But, obedient to the traditions of cen- forgiven not even unto death, may his turies, he continued to hurl those awful, body fall to dust and the earth refuse to stupefying words of anathema and ex- accept it, and may a part of it descend communication, which fell into the crowd into eternal Gehenna, and be tortured like the peals of a huge brass bell.

there day and night The former priest Nikita, And his vivid memory brought to his and the monks Sergius, Sabbatius, Doro- thought more and more of the beautiful thius, and Gabriel

blaspheme words: the holy sacraments of the church, and "Everything that God has made is for will not repent and accept the true man's joy. There is no sin in anything church; may they be cursed for such im

Take a beast, for example. He pious doings.

lives in the Tartar rushes, and in ours He waited a few moments. His face

Wherever he comes, there is his was now red, streaming with perspiration. home. He eats whatever God gives him. The arteries of his neck swelled until And our people say that for such doings they were as thick as a finger

you will lick hot irons in Hell. Only, I 'Once I was sitting by the river and think that it is not true.'

a cradle floating down. A per- Suddenly the archdeacon stopped and fectly good cradle it was, only one side closed the ancient mass-book with a snap. broken off a little. And then all sorts The words that followed on its pages of thoughts came into my head. Whose were even more terrible than those that cradle is it? Those devils of soldiers of he had spoken. They were words that yours must have come to the village, taken could have been conceived only by the the women with them, and some one of narrow minds of the monks who lived them, maybe, killed the child. Just in the first centuries of our era. swung him by the feet and dashed him The archdeacon's face became blue, alagainst the corner of the house. As most black; his hands clutched convulthough such things were not done! There sively the railing of his platform. For a is no soul in men! And such thoughts second he thought that he was going to came to me, such thoughts

faint. But he recovered himself. StrainThey must have taken the woman with ing the utmost resources of his mighty them, I thought, thrown the cradle away, voice, he began solemnly: burned the house. And the man, I "To the joy of our earth, to the ornaguess, took his gun and went over to our ment and the flower of our life, to the side to be a robber.

true comilitant and servant of Christ, to And though he tempt the the boyard Leo

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He became silent for a second. There archbishop's place without even glancing vas not a whisper, not a cough, not a ound in the crowded church. It was It was only in the churchyard that his hat awful moment of silence when a wife caught up with him. Crying and arge crowd is mute, obedient to one will, pulling him by the sleeve, she began to eized by one feeling. And now, the

shriek: irchdeacon's eyes reddened and became "What have you done, you crazy idiot? juffused with tears, his face suddenly be- Got drunk in the morning, and started up came radiant with that beauty which can .. It'll be lucky if they only send transform the face of a man when in the you to some monastery to clean cesspools. ecstasy of inspiration. He coughed again, How much trouble I'm going to have and suddenly, filling the whole edifice now, and all on account of you, you with his terrible voice, roared:

blockhead!" "Lo-o-ong li-i-ife.”

“Doesn't make any difference,” said the And, instead of lowering his candle, as archdeacon, looking at the ground. "I'll is done in the rite of anathematization, he go as a common laborer, become a switchraised it high above his head.

man or a janitor, but I won't serve in It was in vain that the regent hissed at the church any more. I'll go to-morrow. his choir-boys, struck them on the heads Don't want it any more. My soul can't with his tuning-fork, closed their mouths stand it. I believe truly, according to with his hand. Joyfully, like the silvery the symbol of the faith, yes, I believe in sounds of the archangels' trumpets, their Christ and the Apostolic Church. Yet I voices rang out through the church: feel no wrath.” "Long life! Long life!"

And then again, the familiar, beautiful In the meantime, Father Prior, Father words rushed through his mind: Provost, an official of the Consistory, the "Everything that God has made is for psalm-reader, and the archdeacon's wife man's joy." had mounted on the platform.

"Idiot! Blockhead!" shrieked his “Let me alone

Let me alone wife. “I'll send you to the insane asysaid Father Olympy in a wrath- | lum

I'll go to the governor, to ful, hissing whisper, contemptuously the Tsar

Got drunk out of his brushing aside Father Provost. "I've

senses, the blockhead.” spoiled my voice, but it was for the glory Then Father Olympy paused, turned of the Lord. Go away.'

around, and, opening wide his large, anHe took off the surplice embroidered gry eyes, said sternly and heavily: with gold, reverently kissed the stole, "Well?" made the sign of the cross, and came For the first time his wife became timdown. He went out through the aisle, | idly silent. She turned away from her towering over the crowd, immense, ma- husband, covered her face with a handkerjestic, and sad, and people involuntarily chief, and burst into tears. moved away, experiencing strange fear. And he walked on, immense, dark, and As if made of stone, he walked past the majestic, like a monument.

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