A Comedian Fell Asleep…





      Tětěrev: I’m thinking of you, Makar Julič! At the goblet of champagne, I swear to God, I’m thinking of you! (He raises his goblet) Long live the great humanist and philantropist Makar Julič! 
      (Voices and goblets): Let the sanatorium for captives stricken with tuberculosis flourish to his honor and fame!
      General: (in good mood): You rejoice untimely, my friends! We won’t begin building “The Volga Fairy Tale” before the beginning of spring! So far, I have been working on its plans – I’ve changed it a bit, Bonaparte – (He takes the plans out of a table, everybody is looking) I imagine the facade of the tower as the face of a hooting herald! Elliptic gate, two eyes on the sides. Their eyelids, those will be orange blinds, arched into a sphere. The roof will take the form of a silver helmet with a fluttering plume – 
      Voices: That will be fabulous! 
      You won’t find a similar thing in the whole world!
      General: I imagine the window of the home chapel in the form of an am- phora –
      Bubakov: In the last plan, you drew this window in the shape of an orthodox cross –
      General: Ah – that would be drab! – Anyway, perhaps there won’t even be a chapel. I don’t believe in god – so what a chapel for? 
      Bubakov: But you said – Makar Julič that as you get older you may return to the Lord – on certain conditions – – – 
      General: Will return – won’t return – who knows that today? 
      Čepičev: (Looking into the plan) You originally wanted to build the round tower as a slanting one, suddenly break it in the middle and bend it to the other side –
      Voices: Unheard in the history of architecture! A tilted tower, broken in the middle!
      The whole world would come to look down from it!
      The thirteenth wonder of the world!
      General: I rejected that idea! 
      Everybody: (disappointed) What? Rejected?
      General: (triumphantly) Since I have invented something even more astounding! (Gasping, he points in the plan) Here, here, Bonaparte – what do you say to that? The round tower will widen into the height! The higher, the wider! 
      Čepičev: This idea is fantastic! Let anybody accomplish that, on a rock build a cone on its tip!
      Voices: What, are you also acquainted with construction calculations, general?
      General – what can’t our general accomplish? 
      Really! He is an architect and, at the same time, a composer! 
      Also an inventor!
      Also a bibliophile!
      Also an actor! 
      Makar Julič, recite the “Fiery Serenade” for us!
      No, rather sing “Through Conflagrations’ Fume”!
      Play the violin! 
      Play, master, I will sit at your feet and cry!
      Šura: Quiet! Quiet! The general will take my advice! Makar, godly grandpa, you will fulfill my wish, won’t you? (He caresses him.)
      General: Why wouldn’t I fulfill it?
      Šura: Play Hamlet! I long to hear him from your mouth!
      General: (feignedly, he naively hesitates) I – I still don’t have the courage – (All are around him, begging him.)
Everybody: Yes, yes – Hamlet – general, have mercy! Play for us!
      General: Well, then! Míťa, bring me the skull from the cloak room!
      Míťa: Immediately, your vysokoprevoschoditělstvo – (He runs away.)
      (In the meantime, there is noise behind the drapery.)
      First’s voice: Go away, man! How dare you?
      Křeček’s voice: Mercy, mercy – I want to talk to the general!
      First’s voice: How did you get to the chateau? Away from here!
      Křeček’s voice: I won’t go! I must talk to the general!
      (Noise behind the drapery. A crash of a table and the clinking of glasses knocked down. Noise brought about by throwing out a struggling person.)
      General: What’s going on there?
      Niko: (peeps in) A drunken vagrant crept in – 
      General: Banish him! 
      Křeček’s voice: I must talk to the general! I’m bringing a report from the captive camp!
      First’s voice: Get out, drunkard! 
      Křeček’s voice: General! beneficent general! Benefactor of the oppressed, have mercy!
      General: (flattered) Perhaps the wretch needs my help! First, let him go to me!
      (Overall tension and uneasiness.) 
      Bubakov: (with awe) General, I warn you – (whispering) He’s from the camp!
      Šura: From the camp? A captive? I have never seen your captives, my darling!
      General: Let him enter! 
      Bubakov: (whispering to Tětěrev) I don’t understand at all how he could’ve here – isn’t the camp hermetically closed?
      Šura: (obstinately) I want to see the captive! (She looks around.) But men, what are you frightened of?
      General: The man is looking for my help here! If it’s in my power –
      Bubakov: (taking the general aside) You know what I mean, Makar Julič – understand it, for god’s sake!
      General: (stubbornly) First! Get him here!
      (The drapery is pushed aside and Křeček appears, a captive with a red mop of hair and wild, disheveled beard. Holding an Austro-Hungarian cap, wearing a German coat and hussar pants, everything patchy but, surprisingly, clean. He falls down on his knees in front of the general.) 
      Křeček: My benefactor –
      General: (in a moved voice) Get up, poor boy! What do you demand for yourself?
      Křeček: Mercy –
      General: Don’t cry! Raise, son – and say what burdens you! 
      Křeček: The camp – the camp is dying – 
      Bubakov: (holding his head) 
      Čepičev, Tětěrev a Niko Nikič form a baffled knot, their heads stuck together. 
      General: What say you? 
      Bubakov: (making a circle with his finger on the forehead) He has gone mad, Makar Julič! 
      Křeček: Typhoid! Typhoid!
      General: (gets scared) You too? (Shrinks from him.)
      Křeček: I’m from number sixty-six – that’s the last healthy hut in the whole camp – We oppose the infection tooth and nail – but it’s impossible – it’s impossible to defy any longer –
      General: (touched) Heroes!
      Křeček: Save what can be saved! Send doctors there – quinine – Close down the infected huts – carry away the dead –
      General: Ah, fellow, you exaggerate! You say: the whole camp! But that’s of course a blatant lie! In a camp entrusted to me there are not and must not be any ill! I know about each case of cold – from major Bubakov’s reports –
      Bubakov: It’s a lunatic, general – have him locked up!
      Křeček: The camp is dying out – and you don’t know anything! – But that’s impossible – aren’t you its commander?!
      General: The camp! The camp! God knows what camp you are thinking of! Gavrilo, hand me the list of the sick! Anyway – bring also the letter of thanks the captives sent me in return for a ram roasted on grill –
      Křeček: That – that – that is – deceit!
      Bubakov: Hallo – a captive came to preach at the commanding general! Who has ever heard anything like that!
      General: (shouts) Silence! Everybody out! (The retinue slowly backs out behind the drapery) (To Křeček:) You stay! Still today I will take a glance at the camp! Deliver to your people this message: Patience!
      Křeček: There are six of us in the hut number “66” – save us first – release us from that hell!
      General: In spring, I will build a sanatorium on the hill! It will be an airy chateau, whose battlements will be visible as far as Samarkan! All of you will get there as convalescents!
      Křeček: But we need help immediately! We are running out of soap – we don’t have any sugar – tea – tobacco – and – and – and (lustfully looking at the beaker) and vodka.
      General: I take you under my protection! I’ll send a case of tea, Chinese tea – and sugar to one’s heart’s con! You’ll have fun in the hut – (He calls.) Míťa, come here! Pour champagne for this pilgrim! 
      (Míťa appears and pours out drink for Křeček.)
      General: (high-mindedly) Drink! And tell your men to endure! In my sanatorium they will then be rewarded hundredfold! 
      Křeček: (drinks it in one gulp) Aaaah! 
      Míťa: (pours again and again – and Křeček drinks.) 
      General: Drink, boy – and tell your comrades – anyway – don’t tell anything! Do you like it here, hairy one?
      Křeček: (groggily looks around, half naively, half surprised) You here – and there they are dying – five thousand of them –
      General: (exasperatedly) Look, how he’s campaigning, a socialist! – (He immediately contains himself and says with pathos) I myself feel an unfathomable burden on my shoulders. I can’t sleep whole nights and think about what else I can do for you! – Drink up, fellow, so that you remember this day of your life!
      Křeček: (reaches out for the glass, hesitates – in the end he gains self-control) I must – go. My comrades are waiting – 
      General: (imperiously) You will stay! I concern myself – how you came in here – the whole camp is encircled by barbed wire! Major Bubakov claims that not even wind can slip through an aisle between two bayonets! – Drink!
      Křeček: (pushes away the glass, as if he was ashamed – and gets up) I – I don’t want to drink. I promised that I would bring them good news – and sugar and tea – and instead I’m sitting here, drinking wine – and they there – 
      General: Are suffering! Can’t they suffer a little? I suffer as well – and I’m a general! I can’t lie down – or the veins would burst in my arteries – I sleep sitting up – and as soon as I sleep a wink – what do you know – the dream about a chemical dye-house comes! If – if I could sleep without the chemical dye-house – in bed, I would whip the pack of liars and flatterers out! I suffer, I suffer immeasurably – and who am I! – Let everybody suffer then! I need the certainty that I’m not alone! That my pains are balanced by the enormous weight of the one-thousand-fold pain of the nameless! – 
      Křeček: (steps back from him with awe) You – you don’t want to help us?
      General: (theatrically) Help is on the way! (Whips the scourge) Get out! (Křeček jumps aside.) Downstairs, in the storehouse, artelščík First is waiting for you! From his hands, you will receive communion for the return journey! He will load you as much as you can carry! You won’t forget today’s visit! 
      Křeček: (He wants to thank.)
      General: (points with the scourge at the little door on the left) There’s the way to the courtyard! 
      Křeček: (He brushes past.) 
      General: (Calling through the window) First, on my command endow the captive! A box of cigarettes and a quid of sugar! Add as much vodka as he can carry! Let César Romanovič a Rina Césarovna accompany him on a part of his journey!
      Křeček: (from distance) Thank you, general, oh, thank you!
      General: (Looking through the window) Quickly, quickly, come here!
       Everybody flocks at the open window. From the yard they can here the rattle of chains and suddenly ferocious barking of two dogs is heard. 
      Křeček: (desperately from the yard) Help – heeeelp!
      First: (from the yard) César, take him! Rina, to him, to him! 
      (Barking intensifies.) 
      General: (Splits his sides with laughter. He shouts downstairs.) César! Fetch! Fetch!
      Křeček: (already from distance) Ouch! Jesus Christ – enough! That’s enough!
      (Barking, even more ferocious, recedes.)
      Hilarious voices of the retinue:
      César – what a nobleman! How classy!
      Rina Césarovna is slimmer and more elegant!
      I bet on César, nine to three!
      Rina – Rina already has him! She’s already holding his trouser-leg! Vodka is flowing!
      Bravo! Bravissimo! César jumped on the back of his neck! 
      He has already shaken him off, your mother! 
      General: (Living the wild chase with his whole body. He twitches, encourages the greyhounds from distance, helps them with his arms and legs.)
      Míťa: (Carrying a letter on a tray) Your vysokoprevoschoditělstvo – a telegram came – from Moscow! 
      General: (Turns pale. He can’t break the seal with his shivering hands. He hands it to Nikič.) Read! 
      Niko: (reads) In reply to your reminder: the sixth installment of 850 rubles for the winter clothing of the camp. 
      General: (guffaws, uncontrollably, cannot be appeased. The whole retinue, as if on command, begins laughing as well. Suddenly, the general shuts the laughter off – his retinue also immediately stops. General strictly) Major Bubakov!
      Bubakov: (standing at attention.) Your vysokoprevoschoditělstvo! 
      General: In Berevidka, you’ll buy 5000 beaver fur-coats for my captives! – and now – (playfully strikes his palms) Míťa – to the cellar! Roll out one more barrel of champagne! – The main prize came out to be Moscow! – Flatterers! Liars! Charlatans! Drink and be merry before the second shift comes! – Leave me here – I’ll take a nap – God – I haven’t been sleeping for a week – (Yawns at length and broadly. He collapses into a club chair.)