Petersburg Nevsky Prospect

Beards, moustaches, chins: that abundance was made of the upper extremities of human bodies.

Shoulders, shoulders, shoulders flowed past; all the shoulders formed a thick mass, as black as coal; all the shoulders formed a highly viscous and slowly flowing mass, and Aleksandr Ivanovich’s shoulder adhered momentarily to the mass; so to speak, it stuck to it; and Aleksandr Ivanovich Dudkin followed his capricious shoulder, in keeping with the law of the body’s indivisible wholeness; thus was he thrown on to Nevsky Prospect; there he sank into the blackly flowing mass like a grain of roe.

What is a grain of roe? It is both a world and an object of consumption; as an object of consumption the grain of roe does not have sufficient wholeness; such wholeness is represented by caviare: the sum total of grains of roe; the consumer is not aware of grains of roe; but he is aware of caviare, that is, of the mass of grains of roe that are spread on the sandwich that is served to him. Thus, in similar fashion, are the bodies of the individuals who fly along the paving of the Nevsky Prospect transformed into the organ of a common body, into grains of roe: the pavements of the Nevsky are the surface of a sandwich. The same thing happened to the body of Dudkin, who flew along here; the same thing happened to his stubborn thought: it instantly stuck to an alien thought, inaccessible to the mind, the thought of an enormous, many-legged creature that was running along the Nevsky.

They left the pavement; here many legs were running; and silently they stared in wonderment at the many legs of the dark, moving human mass: that mass, incidentally, did not flow, but crept: crept and shuffled – crept and shuffled on flowing legs; the mass was glued together from many thousands of little members; each little member was a body: the bodies moved on legs.

There were no people on Nevsky Prospect; but a creeping, wailing myriapod was there; into a single damp space multivarious voices were poured – a multivariety of words; articulate phrases broke there one against the other, and horribly there did the words fly apart like the shards of bottles that were empty and had all been broken in one single place: all of them, jumbled up together, again wove into a sentence that flew into infinity without end or beginning; this sentence seemed meaningless and woven from fantasies: the ceaseless flow of the sentence that was formed from meaninglessness hung above the Nevsky like black soot; above the expanse stood the black smoke of fantasies.

And with these fantasies, swelling out from time to time, the Neva roared and struggled between its massive walls of granite.

The creeping myriapod is horrible. Here, along the Nevsky, it has been moving for centuries. And higher up, above the Nevsky – there the seasons move: the springs, the autumns, the winters. The sequence there is variable; and here – the sequence of springs, summers, winters is unchanging; this sequence of springs, summers and winters is the same. And the periods of the seasons have, as is well known, their limits; and – period follows period; summer follows spring; autumn follows summer and moves into winter; and in the spring everything thaws. The human myriapod has no such limits; and nothing replaces it; its links change, but it remains entirely the same; somewhere out there, beyond the railway station, its head turns; its tail thrusts into Morskaya; and along the Nevsky shuffle the arthropodal links – without a head, without a tail, without consciousness, without thought; the myriapod creeps as it has crept; it will creep as it has crept.

Just like a scolopendra!

And the frightened metal horse rose up long ago over there on the corner of Anichkov Bridge;4 and the metal groom has hung on it: will the groom saddle the horse, or will the horse injure the groom? This competition will last for years, and – beyond them, beyond!

And beyond them, beyond: ones, twos, threes and couple after couple – they blow their noses, cough, shuffle, laughing and maliciously gossiping, and they pour into the damp expanse with multivarious voices a multivariety of words that have been torn loose from the sense that gave them birth: bowler hats, feathers, service caps; service caps, cockades, feathers; tricorne, top hat, service cap; umbrella, shawl, feather.