Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Nonsense! nonsense!"

(Titian, Salomé)

Oh, what a deep sigh of delight Sanin heaved, when he found himself in his room! Indeed, Maria Nikolaevna had spoken the truth, he needed rest, rest from all these new acquaintances, collisions, conversations, from this suffocating atmosphere which was affecting his head and his heart, from this enigmatical, uninvited intimacy with a woman, so alien to him! And when was all this taking place? Almost the day after he had learnt that Gemma loved him, after he had become betrothed to her. Why, it was sacrilege! A thousand times he mentally asked forgiveness of his pure chaste dove, though he could not really blame himself for anything; a thousand times over he kissed the cross she had given him. Had he not the hope of bringing the business, for which he had come to Wiesbaden, to a speedy and successful conclusion, he would have rushed off headlong, back again, to sweet Frankfort, to that dear house, now his own home, to her, to throw himself at her loved feet.... But there was no help for it! The cup must be drunk to the dregs, he must dress, go to dinner, and from there to the theatre.... If only she would let him go to-morrow!

One other thing confounded him, angered him; with love, with tenderness, with grateful transport he dreamed of Gemma, of their life together, of the happiness awaiting him in the future, and yet this strange woman, this Madame Polozov persistently floated--no! not floated, poked herself, so Sanin with special vindictiveness expressed it--_poked herself_ in and faced his eyes, and he could not rid himself of her image, could not help hearing her voice, recalling her words, could not help being aware even of the special scent, delicate, fresh and penetrating, like the scent of yellow lilies, that was wafted from her garments. This lady was obviously fooling him, and trying in every way to get over him ... what for? what did she want? Could it be merely the caprice of a spoiled, rich, and most likely unprincipled woman? And that husband! What a creature he was! What were his relations with her? And why would these questions keep coming into his head, when he, Sanin, had really no interest whatever in either Polozov or his wife? Why could he not drive away that intrusive image, even when he turned with his whole soul to another image, clear and bright as God's sunshine? How, through those almost divine features, dare _those others_ force themselves upon him? And not only that; those other features smiled insolently at him. Those grey,rapacious eyes, those dimples, those snake-like tresses, how was it all that seemed to cleave to him, and to shake it all off, and fling it away, he was unable, had not the power?

Nonsense! nonsense! to-morrow it would all vanish and leave no trace.... But would she let him go to-morrow?

Ivan Turgenev, The Torrents of Spring, translated by Constance Garnett

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