Dostoyevsky and
Gran Mal

Leonid Tsypkin
Roger and Angela Keys,
She carried on unpacking, and then walked over to the chest of drawers, without even bothering to look at him "Anya, you've gone mad!" he shouted, falling to his knees, crawling over to her, grabbing her hand and pressing it to his lips --- and, still acting calmly, she removed her hand from his, and it was precisely this calm of hers which he found the most frightening thing --- and he jumped to his feet, wanting to turn her face towards his, to look into her eyes, but suddenly the floor began to shake beneath him, and instead of her face, which he had expected to see, because he knew very well that he had taken her head in his hands to turn it towards himself --- instead of her face, he saw some kind of strange, shifting, white blot, which began to expand rapidly, losing its whiteness and filling firstly with blue light but then darkening almost to the point of blackness, like the sky which he had observed that day, when he had been standing on the castle's edge --- and yes, this really was a sky, nocturnal almost and filled with stars which for some reason were enormous, like the sun, each of them radiating a golden light, although it was perfectly possible to look at them, because they did not blind your eyes, and breaking away from the earth, he flew freely between them in space, but as soon as he neared one of them, the golden halo encircling the giant star would fade and his gaze would fall upon a stony desert area, so empty and endless it seemed to have no horizon, and scattered over the heaps of stone and the crags, which took on the hazy outlines of ruined cities, were human skulls and bones, and a strange unexpected smell emanated from these lifeless, stony wastelands --- the smell of ozone usually experienced after a thunderstorm --- and he flew on further and further, easily, effortlessly, like the birds he had seen earlier that day when he stood on the castle platform, but on all these stars, wherever he flew, he gazed at one and the same thing: the remains of earlier life, of former civilization --- and everything was dead --- and then the giant stars began suddenly to diminish in size and, against the background of the dark sky, a bright-yellow, full moon appeared, with a shield emerging from it on which were written in ancient ecclesiastical letters the Words "Yes, yes" and this shining shield and the letters upon it moved across the entire sky from east to west, undoubtedly foreshadowing the messianic destiny of Russia, and he flew after the shield with such effortless ease that he lost all sensation of his own body, merging with what had earlier been inaccessible and had now become a part of his own flesh.

He was half-sitting on the rug between Anna Grigor'yevna's bed and the wall, where she had dragged him, gasping under the weight of his body, and placed a pillow under his head --- and his convulsions were already coming to an end, but there was foam on his lips, and so she wiped it away --- and slowly opening his eyes, he looked at her without recognition --- Comme ça he said in French for some reason --- "I'm here, Fedya, I'm here with you," she replied, kneeling down next to him and pressing her cheek firmly to his cold forehead --- "I'm with you, I'm here," she said again, and her words came out like a sigh of sorrow and tenderness.

--- From Summer in Baden-Baden
©1987, Quartet Books

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