Monday, 6 January 2014

"Hence vain deluded joys…"

"They went up to Proctor-Gould's room, a dark, lofty chamber on the third floor, furnished in the characteristic Imperial  baroque, and looking out over the Kremlin.  Proctor-Gould appeared to be not so much occupying the room as camping in it, like a rambler in some corner of the lawns at Versailles. An open suitcase lay on the floor at the foot of the bed, a tangled heap of possessions straggling out across the carpet.  Suspended on plastic hangers from the dark furniture all about the room were wet shirts and socks, dripping into antique ornamental bowls or on to pages of the Soviet newspapers.

…[Proctor-Gould] rummaged in the suitcase, found a little aluminium camper's kettle with a folding handle, and disappeared with it into the corridor.  Manning sat down in an uncomfortable carved chair, with brass lions' heads beneath his hands, and gazed about him, steeping himself in the profound melancholy of the room.  On a table in the corner were stacked dozens and dozens of English books, all still in their dust jackets.  Manning put his head on his shoulder to read the titles.  He made out Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, The Human Use of Human Beings, Philosophical Investigations, five copies of Lucky Jim, and seven copies of the Concise Oxford Dictionary.

'I see you're looking at my beads,' said Proctor-Gould, coming back into the room holding the kettle, now steaming, at arm's length.
'Your what?'
'My beads.  Presents for the natives.  I always bring a suitcase full of English books when I come over  -- they're like gold-dust here.'
He felt under the clothes in his case again, and produced two stout plastic mugs.  Inside a spare suede shoe he located a Woolworth's apostle spoon, and beneath a pile of dirty socks, the old familiar tin.

'Do you mind Nescafe?' he asked."

The Russian Interpreter  Michael Frayn

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