Panyukov’s Televisions

Andrey Dmitriev’s character, Panyukov, marks time according to the life-cycle of his televisions

Panyukov's 'Sunrise'
‘Sunrise’-Soviet Television Set

I have shifted back into translating prose for the time being. The poetry break was nice, but I want to try to actually finish a novel at some point. One of the attractive things about translating a poem, excepting epics like Pushkin’s Evgenii Onegin, is that it can be started and finished in a few days, maybe even just one. A novel, on the other hand, is a long term project.
I will present here another passage from The Peasant and the Teenager (Крестьянин и Тинейджер), by Andrey Dmitriev. As mentioned in an earlier post, this novel begins with the introduction of Panyukov, a man living in a village in rural Russia. Panyukov’s character is initially described through his own reflections on his past, on the “best of times” he had enjoyed when his friend Vova still lived across the road and they worked together raising livestock and growing food in their private gardens and greenhouse. The excerpt below hints that the passage of time for Russians living in farm country could be marked by the life-cycle of televisions. It is funny, poignant and sad in a way that only the relatively minor misfortunes of others can be.

They were not rich of course, but they bought a color television, a ‘Horizon.’ Panyukhov didn’t know what to do with the old ‘Sunrise.’ It seemed a pity to him to throw out the ‘Sunrise,’ even though it didn’t work properly, but then it occurred to him–they could put the color set right on top of it, on the black-and-white.
After three years the ‘Horizon’ started acting up, all of its colors turned to wavy brown stripes; it was thirty miles to the service shop in Pytavinsky. To get registered there, go back again, wait your turn, then wait again after getting it repaired, and again drag it back over all thirty miles–it wasn’t worth it. They bought a new TV in the town of Selikhnovo, and put it on top of the broken one.

Panyukov's 'Horizon' TV

Panyukov now had standing on the bureau a hill of four TVs. The three lower ones did not work. The fourth, an ‘Ayva,’ brought by Vova from Moscow, could be watched only if you sat on the stool, craning your neck, or better–lying on the bed, on your back. Soon something would break on this fourth one, too, and it would be necessary to put a fifth TV on top of it.
And Panyukov sometimes wondered what would be the count of televisions by the end of his life. In his mind’s eye he added a sixth and a seventh; above the seventh would be the ceiling. But there was simply no point to living alone in an empty village without a television.
In the time of the third TV Vova began to languish. He did not begin to drink, but he stopped working. . . 

'Ayva' (Aiwa)
‘Ayva’ (Aiwa)

© 2013, John Dougherty. All rights reserved

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