Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ivan Turgenev: Faust


When I went in to Vera she looked at me intently and did not reply to my bow. She was sitting by the window; on her knees lay a book which I recognized immediately: it was my Faust. Her face expressed fatigue. I sat down opposite her. She asked me to read out loud the scene between Faust and Gretchen where she asks him whether he believes in God. I took the book and began to read. When I had finished, I glanced at her. With her head leaning against the back of the armchair and her arms crossed on her breast, she was still looking at me just as intently.
I don't know why my heart suddenly began pounding.
' What have you done to me!' she said in a slow voice.
'What?' I asked in confusion.
'Yes, what have you done to me!' she repeated.
'Do you mean,' I began, 'why did I persuade you to read such books?'
She stood up in silence and went to leave the room. I gazed after her.
On the threshold she stopped and turned back to me.
'I love you,' she said, 'that's what you've done to me.'
The blood rushed to my head...
'I love you, I'm in love with you,' repeated Vera.
She left and closed the door behind her. I will not begin to describe to you what happened to me then. I remember I went out into the garden, made my way into its depths, leant up against a tree, and how long I spent standing there, I cannot say. It was as if I had frozen; every so often a feeling of bliss ran in waves through my heart... No, I won't begin to speak about that. I was summoned from my numbed state by Priyimkov's voice; someone had been sent to tell him that I had arrived: he had returned from the hunt and was looking for me. He was astonished to find me alone in the garden, hatless, and he led me into the house. 'My wife's in the drawing-room,' he said, 'let's go and join her.' You can imagine the feelings with which I crossed the threshold of the drawing-room. Vera was sitting in the corner at her tambour; I stole a glance at her and did not raise my eyes for a long time afterwards. To my surprise, she appeared calm - in what she said, in the sound of her voice, no alarm could be heard. Finally I made up my mind to look at her. Our eyes met. She flushed slightly and bent over her canvas. I began observing her. She seemed to be bewildered; a mirthless smile occasionally touched her lips.
Priyimkov left the room. She suddenly raised her head and asked me quite loudly:
'What do you intend to do now?'
I became confused and hurriedly replied in a hollow voice that I intended to fulfill the duty of an honest man and withdraw, 'because,' I added, 'I love you, Vera Nikolayevna, you probably noticed that long ago.' She again bent down towards the canvas and fell into thought.
'I must have a talk with you,' she said. 'Come this evening after tea to our summer-house... you know, where you read Faust?
She said this so distinctly that even now I cannot comprehend how Priyimkov, who was entering the room at that very instant, did not hear anything. That day passed quietly, agonizingly quietly. Vera sometimes gazed around with such an expression, as if she were wondering whether she was dreaming. And at the same time resolve was written on her face. While I... I could not come to my senses. Vera loves me! These words were continually turning round in my mind; but I did not understand them - I did not understand either myself, or her. I did not believe such unexpected, such staggering good fortune; it took an effort to recall what had passed, and I too gazed and spoke as though in a dream.

Ivan Turgenev, Faust, Hesperus Press Limited, London, 2003, translated by Hugh Aplin