Thursday, December 9, 2010

"I am thy brother."

The young officials laughed at and made fun
of him, so far as their official wit permitted;
told in his presence various stories concocted
about him, and about his landlady, an old woman
of seventy; declared that she beat him; asked
when the wedding was to be; and strewed bits
of paper over his head, calling them snow.

But Akakiy Akakievitch answered not a word,
any more than if there had been no one there
besides himself. It even had no effect upon
his work: amid all these annoyances he never
made a single mistake in a letter.

But if the joking became wholly unbearable,
as when they jogged his hand and prevented his
attending to his work, he would exclaim,
"Leave me alone! Why do you insult me?"
And there was something strange in the words
and the voice in which they were uttered.

There was in it something which moved to pity;
so much that one young man, a new-comer, who,
taking pattern by the others, had permitted
himself to make sport of Akakiy, suddenly
stopped short, as though all about him had
undergone a transformation, and presented
itself in a different aspect.

Some unseen force repelled him from the comrades
whose acquaintance he had made, on the supposition
that they were well-bred and polite men.
Long afterwards, in his gayest moments,
there recurred to his mind the little official
with the bald forehead, with his heart-rending
words, "Leave me alone! Why do you insult me?"

In these moving words, other words resounded--
"I am thy brother." And the young man covered
his face with his hand; and many a time
afterwards, in the course of his life, shuddered
at seeing how much inhumanity there is in man,
how much savage coarseness is concealed beneath
delicate, refined worldliness, and even, O God!
in that man whom the world acknowledges as honorable
and noble.

from The Overcoat -Nicolai Gogol

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