Tag: functionaries

Chekhov, “Le renseignement” (“The Inquiry,” 1883)

inquiry chekhov bureaucracy

(c The Notebooks)

Indifference, corruption and obsequiousness in a government office: a property owner is inquiring about his property to an oblivious functionary who only reacts when three rubles have made it to his desk. From that point on, all is well, basted in the functionary’s obsequiousness. Puzzling though is the property owner’s puzzlement: is he not used to this? The detail of the fly repeatedly loitering on the functionary’s right nostril as the functionary extends his lower lip to blow it away is like a reflection of the property owner’s condition at that moment.


Les Eclats Nr. 36, 1883

Chekhov, “Le triomphe du vainqueur” (1883)

It’s Carnival Friday, everyone gathers at the functionary Kozouline’s house for crêpes, giving Chekhov room to write as few crêpiers ever could about crêpes. Then two functionaries, among them Kozouline, make fun of an old man, humiliating him, paying him back for the time when he was their boss. The cruelty of the host is apparent at the end when Kozouline tells the narrator’s father to prance around like a rooster–which the father does. As does his son, who wants to make sure he lands himself a proper post: “On me nommera sûrement commis aux écritures.” Not a scintillating story but for the triumphalism of lowly clerks’ self-aggrandized ascent in the lower reaches of miserable bureaucracies, and the petty cruelties that shadow the reigns, delicious crêpes notwithstanding. After all, they’re all gathered together.

Les Éclats, 1883 Nr. 9. Not included in the Constance Garnette edition.