The Death of a Government Official

Updated: Dec 4, 2018


Translation / My translation of Anton Chekhov's short story.


Photograph via Flickr by PhotogJS

One magnificent evening, а no less magnificent administrator, Ivan Dmitrich Chervyakov, sat in the second row of a theater and gazed at The Bells of Corneville through his opera glasses. He sat and gazed and felt himself at the height of bliss. But suddenly . . . we often encounter this “but suddenly” in stories, and authors are right: life is so full of the unexpected! But suddenly, his face scrunched, his eyes rolled, his breath stopped . . . he put the opera glasses aside, leaned forward . . . and, Achooo!!! As you can see, he sneezed. There is nothing wrong with sneezing. Peasants sneeze, so do the superintendents of police, and sometimes even privy councilors. Everyone sneezes. Chervyakov was not at all embarrassed; he wiped himself with a handkerchief, and like any polite person, looked around him to make sure he hadn’t disturbed anybody with his sneezing. And then, he had no choice but to get embarrassed. He noticed that the little old man sitting in the first row was muttering something and diligently wiping his neck and the bald spot on his head with a glove. This little old man, Chervyakov recognized, was Brizzhalov, a general at the Department of Transport.


“I sprayed him!” thought Chervyakov. “He’s not my boss, he’s someone else’s, but it’s still uncomfortable. I’d better apologize.”


Read the story in Construction.