Shostakovitch: The Nose


(Ivan Iakovlevitch is busy shaving Kovalev)
Kovalev Ivan Iakovlevitch, your hands stink, as usual!
Ivan Iakovlevitch What could have made them stink?
Kovalev I don't know that, but what I do know, my good man is that they stink!

(The same setting. It is morning. Praskovia Ossipovna is finishing baking her bread while Ivan Iakovlevitch wakes up and yawns)
Ivan Iakovlevitch (sniffing the bread) Ah...umph! Today, Praskovia Ossipovna, I shan't drink any coffee; on the other hand, I shouldn't mind eating a little onion toast...
Praskovia Ossipovna (aside) Why doesn't the fool help himself to his own bread? So much the better: there'll be a second helping of coffee.
Ivan Iakovlevitch (between his teeth) To be quite candid, I'd have liked a bit of both, but that would be frowned upon...
(Praskovia Ossipovna throws him a loaf of bread)
Praskovia Ossipovna doesn't tolerate such free-and-easy ways. Umph! it melts in one's mouth! But what is this? (He takes a nose out of the loaf)
A nose? ? ?
Praskovia Ossipovna (furiously) You wretch! Whose nose did you cut off? Scoundrel, drunkard! You'll see... I'll give you away to the police myself! At least three people have told me already that when you shaved them, you damaged their noses in such a way that there was hardly any left on their faces.
Ivan Iakovlevitch No wait! Praskovia Ossipovna, I'll wrap it up in a napkin and put it away in a corner. It'll stay there for a short while and then I'll get rid of it.
Praskovia Ossipovna No, I won't hear of it! I shall never suffer this nose to remain in my house. Villain! Look at him! All he's able to do is to sharpen his razor, then he can't even use it properly. Good for nothing! You'd like the police to accuse me instead of you, wouldn't you? Blackguard! Go on, out of here! Scram!...Scram!... Ivan Iakovlevitch How the devil could this have happened? Was I drunk when I came back last night? Of course, it's impossible to answer such a question...but all the same, it's a very extraordinary thing: a loaf of bread can be baked in an oven, but a nose can't! Honestly, it's quite inexplicable...
(As the stage darkens, the District Inspector can be seen in silhouette)
Praskovia Ossipovna Take it away wherever you like, but don't let me see you with it again.
(The light returns and the silhouette vanishes)

(On the embankment. Ivan Iakavlevich enters hurriedly. He drops the nose but a baker notices it)
The Baker Pick it up! Can't you see you've dropped something?
(Ivan Iakovlevich picks up the nose and goes on his way. He can't seem to get rid of the thing. At every turn he meets some acquaintance who asks him: "Whom are you going to shave so early in the morning?" or: "Where are you rushing to like that?" Having finally picked his moment, Ivan Iakovelevitch throws the nose into the river. The District Inspector appears and gradually draws near him).
The Inspector Come this way a moment, my man!
Ivan Iakovlevitch I wish you a good day, your honour.
The Inspector No, no, my good man, none of this "your honour"; I'd rather you told me what you were doing over there when you stopped just now.
Ivan Iakovlevitch Why, sir, I am just on my way to shave a customer and I wanted to see the river flowing...
The Inspector You're lying, lying. But you won't get off so easily. Go on, confess...
Ivan Iakovlevitch I'll shave you twice a week, or three times even, free of charge.
The Inspector Now, my good man, don't be childish! I already have three barbers who shave me free, gratis and for nothing and who indeed consider themselves highly honoured! Will you please be kind enough to tell me what you were doing over there?
(It grows completely dark)

Intermezzo for percussion

SCENE THREE (Kovalev's bedroom. Kovalev can be heard waking up behind a screen)
Kovalev Brrr...brrr...brrr...brrr...umph...umph...
(He comes round the screen onto the stage: he is noseless)
Last night, I grew a little pimple on my nose...
(Calling Ivan, his servant) A mirror!
(Ivan brings him a small mirror) What? Why, what's this? My nose! Where is it? No, it's not possible! Quick, water, a towel! Nothing doing - no nose!
(To Ivan) Pinch me! No, it isn't that, I'm not asleep!
(He rubs his eyes and again looks at himself in the mirror.) It still isn't there! Well, wherever it may be, I must get dressed quickly.
Ivan If anybody asks where you've gone, what shall I say?
Kovalev Say that I've gone to the police-station.
(He goes out)


(Kazan Cathedral. In the semi-darkness, a few men and women are praying. The nose comes in, wearing a State Councillor's uniform; he kneels down several times and begins to pray with fervour. Kovalev follows the Nose into the cathedral; he is hiding his noseless face in a handkerchief. Noticing the Nose, he coughs softly to attract his attention. Throughout the episode, Kovalev sings in a breathless staccato while the Nose retains the same unruffled calm)
Kovalev (aside) How can I manage to get near him? Everything - his uniform - his hat - marks him out as a State Councillor!...Blast it!...How shall I manage?...
(To the Nose) Your honour! Your honour! The Nose I beg your pardon? Kovalev This is strange indeed, your honour, you'll admit it yourself; you ought to know your place...and yet, all of a sudden I bump into you! And where? In a church...
The Nose I really don't understand what you're saying at all. Will you try to speak more plainly?
Kovalev How can I explain this to him? Needless to say, I happen to be an Adjutant...You'll therefore admit that I cannot remain noseless! It's not proper. Perhaps a common costermonger, selling oranges on Voskressensky Bridge might at a pinch afford to, but I aspire...besides...I am received in a certain number of great households, I know several ladies - Madame Chekhtaryova, the widow of a State Councillor, and others...Judge for yourself your honour...I beg your pardon, but speaking objectively - as a matter of honour and duty - you should understand of your own accord...
The Nose Nothing at all, certainly. Explain yourself, if you please...
Kovalev Your honour, I don't know how I am supposed to interpret your words. And yet the matter is simple: either you consent to...but since you are my own nose!
The Nose You are mistaken, sir; I exist "per se"! Moreover, if I am to judge by the buttons on your coat, the two of us can never be on intimate terms: you belong to the Senate, or at any rate to the judiciary world, whereas I am from the Academy of Science.
(Two women come in; one is old, the other is young and slender; a lackey is clearing the way for them)
The Lackey Make way, make way!...
(Kovalev tries to draw the attention of the younger lady. The Nose takes advantage of this to leave the church unobserved)
Kovalev (starting, as though he had suddenly burnt himself) Ouch! Where has he gone? My nose! Where is he, where is he, where?...
Chorus Where?



(Up center, Kovalev is sitting in a hansom cab)
Kovalev Is the Chief of Police at home?
The Assistant Chief of Police (from the audience) No, he has just left!
Kovalev That's my luck!
The Assistant Chief of Police He's hardly been gone a moment! If you'd come a few minutes earlier, you'd have found him.
Kovalev (to his cabman) Go on, on your way!
The Cabman Where to?
Kovalev Straight on.
The Cabman What do you mean, straight on? There's a fork: right or left?
Kovalev To the newspaper editorial offices!

(The newspaper editorial offices. In a tiny room, a bald clerk with glasses is registering an advertisement handed in by the lackey of an old Countess. There are eight servants on the stage)
The Lackey Believe me, my good sir, this little bitch isn't even worth 80 kopeks; that's to say I wouldn't give so much as 8 kopeks myself, but the Countess adores her! Yes sir, she certainly does adore her!
(The clerk listens to the lackey with a polite expression as he counts the number of letters in the advertisement) And so, she offers one hundred roubles to whoever will bring her back!
(The others servants exclaim over the sum)
The Servants One hundred roubles! One hundred roubles! One hundred roubles!
Kovalev (bursting in) Who registers advertisements here? Ah, good day!
Clerk At your service!
Kovalev I would like to have an advertisement inserted...
Clerk Excuse me, I'll be with you in a moment...
Lackey To speak plainly, strictly between you and me, people's tastes are quite incompatible...
Kovalev Sir, allow me to ask you...
Clerk Presently, presently! Two roubles and forty-three kopeks...
Kovalev My need is great.
Lackey It's all right if you are a sportsman, to take care of your dog and not to baulk at paying five hundred or even a thousand roubles, if necessary; but then, your dog has to be worth it...
Clerk One rouble and sixty-four kopeks. Can I help you?
Kovalev I'd like...I have been cheated or wronged and up to now I haven't been able to understand...I'd only like to say that whoever puts me in touch with the villian will earn a fine reward!
Clerk May I ask what your surname is?
Kovalev No, impossible, what for? I know too many people... Madame Chekhtaryova, the widow of a State Councillor; Pelagia Grigorievna, Madame Podtotchin...if they should ever happen to God! No, just put this in: a College Assessor, or even better, an Adjutant...
Clerk And the fugitive was your servant?
Kovalev A servant! That wouldn't be so serious! The fellow who's run away from me is my nose!
Clerk Umph...what a strange name!...And has the said Nose robbed you of a large sum?
Kovalev My nose...the thing is that you haven't understood!...I am talking about my own has vanished!
Clerk Your nose? Servants (giggling) His nose has vanished! He's lost his nose! His nose has vanished! He's lost his nose! His nose has vanished! He's lost his nose! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Clerk (amused too) Haw, haw, haw! And how did it vanish?
Kovalev The devil must have wanted a laugh at my expense!
Clerk There is something here that I don't quite grasp, you know!
Kovalev (beseechingly) I am unable to tell you how it happened, but what is certain is that, right now, my nose is walking through the city masquerading as a State Councillor - and this is why I want to make it known that whoever catches him should bring him back to me as quickly as possible...Judge for yourself: how can I do without that essential feature of my face? You see, it isn't the same thing as a little toe which can be safely hidden inside a boot without anyone even noticing that it's missing.
Servants Yes, that's quite true, inside a boot, it doesn't show...
Clerk True! It doesn't show!
Kovalev On Thursdays, I visit Madame Chekhtaryova, the widow of a State Councillor, and then there is also Madame Podtotchin, Pelagia Grigorievna, the General's wife; she has a very pretty daughter. See for yourself...what shall I do now?
(blubbering) I can't show myself at their houses any more!...
(with a sudden flash of hope Kovalev looks at the clerk who seems to be thinking things over
Clerk No, I cannot insert such an advertisement.
Kovalev How is that? Why?
Clerk Because the paper might lose its good name...Just suppose that everybody decided to advertise the fact that they've lost their nose! As it is, we are already taxed often enough with publishing too many improbable happenings and false rumors!
Kovalev But how can what has actually happened be improbable? This is not so at all!
Clerk Well, to you it may not seem improbable, but listen to this: last week the following thing happened: a civil servant came in, exactly as you did, and brought an advertisement which cost him two roubles and seventy-three kopeks. His black poodle - or so he said - had run away - so far there was nothing out of the ordinary...But there was a catch: the poodle was in fact the book-keeper of a gamesters' club who had made off with the cash...
Servants Well, now, did you hear that? The things that happen!
Clerk Really!
Kovalev But I am not inserting an advertisement about a poodle, I'm inserting one about my own nose...It's almost as though it were I myself, in the flesh!
Clerk No, I cannot possibly accept such an advertisement.
Kovalev But since my nose really has disappeared!
Clerk If it has disappeared, it's a doctor's business - they say that nowadays people can successfully graft almost any nose! But! If I must speak quite candidly, I've noticed that you were a merry fellow and that you liked a good jest...
Kovalev (extremely cross) Damnation! Well, if this is what you think, I'll show you!
Clerk No, don't bother! Though, if it's at all possible, I wouldn't mind a peep...
(Kovalev removes the handkerchief from his face)
Well, I must say it's extemely curious! The surface is perfectly smooth - smooth as a pancake straight out of the pan.
Servants Yes, incredibly smooth!
Kovalev There - and now, are you going to keep on arguing? Surely you can see that it's impossible not to do something. I would be particularly grateful if you could register the advertisement and I am very glad to have made your acquaintance on that occasion.
Clerk Of course it wouldn't be much bother to publish it, but I can't see what good it would do you. Let me advise you rather to trust some professional person, someone who knows how to ply his pen, with the task of relating this tale as a rare freak of nature to be subsequently published in the "Northern Bee"... (he takes some snuff) for the benefit of the young and, in a general way, for the satisfaction of public curiousity. (He takes some more snuff) To tell you the truth, I'm really sorry that such an anecdotic story should have happened to you...Would you like some tobacco? They say it's good for headaches and also for haemorrhoids.
(Kovalev bangs crossly on the table)
Kovalev I can't understand how you have the heart to joke about this! Can't you see that I am precisely without the organ used for snuffing?...The devil take your tobacco; I can't even bear to look at it - and not only yours but all tobacco in general, yes, even the super-fine variety!
(the servants begin to read advertisements out loud)
Servants A good, fiery, eighteen-year-old mare...-Turnips and radishes imported direct from London...-A fully-equipped datcha, with two stalls for horses and a piece of land on which birch- trees could be planted...-Anyone desirious to buy second- hand shoes is expected every day from 8 to 3 a.m. at the general store...-A beautifully-hung stage-coach, without springs...-A near new carriage, brought back from France in 1814...-A young nineteen-year-old servant-girl who has already worked in a laundry would accept other tasks... -A coachman, well-behaved (non-drinker), free immediately...


(Kovalev's apartments In the hall, Ivan is lying down playing his balalaika and singing dreamily)
Ivan An invisble force ties to my beloved. Bless us, o Lord, her and me! Her and me! I'll give up a king's crown, if my beloved is happy. Bless us, o Lord, her and me! Her and me!
(There is a knock at the door. Ivan runs to open it and Kovalev walks in, in a foul temper)
Kovalev You brute! You're forever fooling around...
(Ivan vanishes, Kovalev goes into his room)
Armless or legless, it's not too bad, but noseless a man is no more than a hybrid creature; he's not even an animal, and certainly not a citizen; he's hardly good enough to be grabbed and thrown out of the window. If it had at least been cut off in the war or if I had been responsible for its loss! But it has vanished just like that, for no good reason at all, without my even gaining anything by it! Why no, it can't have disappeared; it's impossible, inexplicable. Such things can only be invented in dreams or in moments of intoxication. Perhaps instead of drinking water, I mistakenly drank the vodka intended to refresh my skin after shaving. Maybe that idiot of an Ivan forgot to take it away and I swallowed it? (He looks at himself in the mirror and pinches himself!) What a clowish face!


(The outskirts of St. Petersburg On the stage, an empty stage coach and its coachman, fast asleep; the District Inspector is busy collecting his ten policemen together and posting them)
Inspector My orders are that you capture the scoundrel immediately and take him to my place so that he can be questioned!
First Policeman There are supernatural things happening, if only you knew!
Second Policeman Supernatural things? Then sin isn't far away. Honest citizens will be so scared that it will put them off eating and drinking. Come on, take courage! Let's have a drink!
Third Policeman How then?
Inspector I'll teach you how to take courage! What's the matter with you? Are you refusing to obey, hey? Are you on the other side hey? Are you rebels, hey? What's all this, hey? You'll be reported! Dismiss! Andrew, sit down on the right; no, no, stop! Let Pete sit down. Now, this will do...Go! To that side; don't push like this - knaves - I repeat, don't push like this!
Fourth Policeman How then?
Inspector This is how; just come round to this side. Go on, hurry, hurry...
Fifth Policeman What must we do? Inspector What's the matter with you, boys? Honestly, your hair is as white as snow, but your intelligence is still in the cradle. Just you wait a moment, I'll give you some orders...
Sixth Policeman Funny bloke he is! A man like him should be hung from the top of an oak-tree like a candle.
(The policemen sing a song in order to drum up their courage)
Policemen Like a dog, with a tail between its legs, like Cain, fidgeting around, he made tobacco run from his nose...
Inspector Tobacco ran from his nose.
A Lady (who is escorting some travellers) How can one embark upon such a journey at this time of night? Sure, it's a bad time! They're going to be attacked by robbers or something of that sort...
A Passenger May God defend us from robbers! Anyway what's the good of speaking about such things at nightfall! Nevertheless, it's frightening to hear.
Lady Robbers or no robbers, it's dark - a bad time for travelling...As for the coachman, he looks very ill and quite puny. Any old jade could get the better of him. Besides, he's obviously drunk already and his guns look as though they'd been jammed for quite some time. If you could only see them! Rather than shoot, they'd be in danger of exploding and tearing apart his hand and his face - and making him a cripple for the rest of his life, poor man!
(The policemen are talking among themselves)
Seventh Policeman Maybe he's Satan himself.
Eighth Policeman Whoever he is, there's something demoniacal underneath it all.
Seventh Policeman I'll bet you anything he's not a man but a devil.
(Two children arrive, escorted by their father and mother)
Eighth Policeman How is he dressed?
Father And now, mother, bless your children. Here, children, come to your mother's side; a mother's blessing guards one everywhere, by land and by sea.
(The passenger climbs into the stage-coach)
Mother May the Holy Virgin protect you! Don't forget your mother, write to her, even a tiny note.
First and Second Son Farewell, farewell, may God protect us...
Father And now, according to the old peasants' custom, let us sit down for a minute before your departure. (They sit down) There! Now, everything is as it should be!
Ninth Policeman It's no, then?
Tenth Policeman No!
Ninth Policeman How, no?
Tenth Policeman No!
Ninth Policeman You don't think it's him?
Tenth Policeman What do you think I care?
Ninth Policeman But surely, some devil must have had a hand in it, if that dog drank vodka on that particular morning?
(Peter Fiodorovitch and Ivan Ivanovitch run into each other near the stage-coach)
Tenth Policeman Hush! They're having a drink over there...
Ninth Policeman Let's hope we won't be too late, with all this funny business...
Ivan Ivanovitch A good day to you, Peter Fiodorovitch.
Peter Fiodorovitch I wish my noble friend and benefactor, Ivan Ivanovitch, a good day!
Ivan Ivanovitch You are tired, it seems to me. Is your bad leg bothering you? Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Peter Fiodorovitch My leg? Hee, hee, hee!...I'll tell you something, my good friend and benefactor, Ivan Ivanovitch, in my days, I took some longer journeys! (An old noblewoman appears and her servants help her to take her seat in the stage-coach) Ah! Let me tell you how I once stole into the grounds of a lovely little German lady!...
Ivan Ivanovitch Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Fifth Policeman This is no place to be joking: there are diabolical things happening!
Sixth Policeman Yes, unnatural! Here, let me have a taste of that tobacco...It's very good!
Fifth Policeman Very good? Why, an old chicken would refuse to chew it!...
Old Countess I'm going to tell you something extraordinary - I shall die this summer! My death has already been to visit me...
Servants What are you saying, my God!
Old Countess Let me ask you to carry out my last wish: when I am dead, bury me near the church door, in a very simple grey dress; not the one with a lilac stripe and ruffles - a dead woman doesn't need a beautiful gown!
Servants What are you saying, my God! Death is still far away, why do you scare us with such talk?
Old Countess No! No! I already know when I'll die, but I wouldn't want you to be affected by it; I am now a little old woman. I've lived quite long enough...and you too are now old: we shall soon meet again in the other world.
(A cracknel-vendor draws near)
Vendor Cracknels! Cracknels! They're delicious! Buy some!
Third Policeman Pretty little slip of a girl!
Fourth Policeman A choice morsel!
(The vendor draws near the policemen)
Vendor Cracknels!
Fourth Policeman What is this then? What is this then?
Vendor They're delicious, buy some! Buy some!
Third Policeman What's this? (He gooses her)
Vendor Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!
Policemen Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Fourth Policeman A nice little morsel! Makes one's mouth water! What if we...her? Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha! Nothing doing! Nothing doing!...
(The travellers and their companions exchange their last farewells
All -Mistress we shall treasure for ever the remembrance of the lovely moments we spent in your company. -Goodbye Mamma! Goodbye Mamma! -Hey you! The bearded chap! Where are you going? Can't you see there's a lady!... -Christ Almighty! They've climbed in from every side! -Where are you sneaking to? Stop! A handkerchief has just been stolen!
(The coachman blows his horn and the coach careers off. The Nose suddently appears running towards it)
Nose Stop! Stop! Stop!
(The horse is terrifed by his cries and shies; the Nose tries to catch up with the coach. The coachman fires at him and misses, while all the passengers tumble out of the coach)
Coachman Guards!
Peter Fiodorovitch, Ivan Ivanovitch and First and Second Son and People What has happened?
(The old countess rushes off in pursuit of the Nose who stumbles over the sleeping inspector. The latter starts awake and blows his whistle)
Old Countess Stop him!
All Ah!
Nose How dare you? I am a servant of the state and a high-ranking one too!
(The Nose escapes, the policemen chase him. Guns are fired, whistles are blown)
Inspector Stop him! Go on, boys, after him!
Policemen Who? How? A lantern! Ah, the devil!
People Ouch! Ouch! Don't be afraid, catch him! A lantern!
Old Countess Stop him!
First Policeman Don't be scared! At-a-boys, catch him! What on earth are you afraid of?
Inspector After him, go on, after him!
(Everyone surrounds the Nose and wallops him mercilessly)
Nose Ah! All Yes, that's it! That's it! That's it! Hit him! Hit him! Hit him! Take this! Take this!
(After undergoing a severe thrashing, the Nose resumes its former aspect)
All A nose!
The Old Lady Take this! The Nose.
First Policeman The Nose!
Passengers Stop!
(The District Inspector wraps the nose up in a piece of paper and withdraws with his men)

(Kovalev's and Madame Podtotchin's apartments The stage is divided in two; only one half of it is lit, revealing Kovalev's rooms)
Inspector Are these Assessor Kovalev's lodgings?
Kovalev Come in; I am Adjutant Kovalev.
Inspector Are you the person who has lost his nose?
Kovalev I am indeed! Inspector Well, it has now been found!
Kovalev What are you saying? How?
Inspector In a very strange manner: it was caught trying to make away by coach. It already had a passport, all perfectly in order, in the name of a high-ranking civil servant, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Kovalev Where is it? Where is it!?
Inspector And the funny thing is that even I, at first, mistook it for a man! Ha, ha, ha, ha! Why, most fortunately, I had my glasses on! So I noticed immediately that it was nothing more than a nose!
Kovalev (with increasing impatience) Where is it?
Inspector I'm very short-sighted and if you were to stand in front of me, I could make out your whole face, but neither your nose, nor your beard...
Kovalev Where is it?
(The inspector sedately unwraps the nose)
Inspector My mother-in-law, that is to say my wife's mother, she can't see a thing either...
Kovalev Where is it? I'll go immediately!
Inspector Calm yourself - since I knew that you'd be needing it, I brought it along with me. The curious thing is that the mainspring of this whole business is a barber from Voznessensky Street - a scoundrel who's now been delivered up into the hands of justice. I have suspected him of being a thief and a drunkard for a long time now... Within the last three days, he stole a whole lot of fasteners and buttons from a shop... (The inspector shows Kovalev his nose) Here is your nose, just as it used to be!
Kovalev Yes, that's it, that's it exactly! Let me offer you a cup of tea.
Inspector Thank you, it would be with the greatest pleasure, but I have to refuse for I must now go round to the Tribunal of Commerce. Every article has just undergone a very steep rise in price...I live with my mother-in-law, that is to say, my wife's mother and my children. The eldest one has been showing early dispositions, but I am not rich enough to have him educated... (Kovalev gives him some money) ...but I am not rich enough to have any of them educated...(Kovalev gives him more money and the Inspector leaves)
Kovalev Yes, this is it indeed! Here is the pimple on the left side! Here it is! Here it is! My own nose! Now that it has been found, I must stick it back on, put it back in its place, between my two cheeks! What if it shouldn't stay on! (Kovalev tries to put the nose back in front of the mirror) It won't stick! What a mess! It doesn't stay on! Go on, you goop, stay there! Can it really not be put back? My God, what if it could never be stuck back? Ivan! Ivan!
Ivan At your service!
Kovalev Go quickly!
Ivan Where to?
Kovalev To the doctor's, tell him... (Ivan goes out) Go on, get back into your place, you fool! Nothing doing, nothing doing!
(The doctor walks in)
Doctor Where to? This way?
Ivan This way, kind sir, this way! This is what happened, it's unexpected...
Kovalev My saviour! Save me! The Lord will reward you for helping an unfortunate wretch!
Doctor How did it happen?
Kovalev I woke up fairly early and I saw that where my nose used to be, there was a completely smooth, stupidly flat surface.
Doctor And the rest of your face is in its right place?
Kovalev Never mind about the rest!
Doctor Fine, fine! Sit down and turn your head this way.
(The doctor feels the place where Kovalev's nose should be)
Kovalev Ouch!
Doctor It's nothing. Umph...turn your head a little further to the right, that's it...(He feels again)
Kovalev Ouch!
Doctor, impossible...
Kovalev What?
Doctor It might be better to remain as you are... because we'd run the risk of making things worse.
Kovalev I beseech you, please, isn't there a cure?
Doctor Of course, we could always try to stick it back on, but I warn you that it won't look so nice.
Kovalev Stick it back on, whichever way you can! Let it be a mess, but let me have it firmly back on! If needs be, I am quite ready to hold it into place with my hands in moments of stress. Anyway, I never dance so there's no danger of my damaging it by making a false move. I beg of you, stick it back on! As regards my gratitude, you may rest assured: I shall give you everything that my limited means will afford...
Doctor Please understand that I never accept patients in order to take advantage of their situation: it is against my rights and against my art: in fact, to tell you the truth, if I do let people pay for their visits, it's only because I don't wish to hurt their feelings by refusing. Of course, I shall put this nose of yours back in its place, but I promise you - you have my word as a physician - that it will look worse than it does now... Why don't you leave things to Nature? Clean the place as often as you can with fresh water and you'll see that you'll feel just as good without it as with... As for your nose, I advise you to place it in a flask of alcohol, or even better, to add a couple of spoonfuls of very strong vodka and lukewarm vinegar. You should be able to get quite a tidy sum for it! I might even buy it myself, at a reasonable price...
Kovalev No! I wouldn't sell it for anything in the world! I had rather see it rot!
Doctor Sorry. I was only trying to help. But what can I do? At any rate, you can vouch for all my efforts. (The doctor leaves)
Kovalev Go on! Back in your place, you fool!
Iarizkin (walking in) What a ludicrous face! Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Kovalev Ouch! Ouch! (He sees Iarizhkin) Will it really never stay on any more? By golly! No, nothing doing!
Iarizhkin Why don't you try homeopathy?...How, through what stroke of ill-luck could it have happened?
Kovalev Madame Podtotchin must be to blame: she wanted me to marry her daughter and I replied that I was too young and that I must wait for another five years, so as to reach precisely my forty-second year; and so, in order to revenge herself, she must have resorted to some kind of witchcraft... For I cannot possibly believe that my nose was actually cut off by someone. Nobody came into my room. As for the barber Ivan Iakovlevitch, he shaved me on Wednesday and my nose was in its place throughout the day and even on Thursday... Besides, I would have felt a sharp pain, there would have been a wound which couldn't have healed so fast and become thus as smooth as a pancake.
Iarizhkin Nasty business, very nasty business!
Kovalev Must I take it to the courts? Or go to her place and get even with her myself?
Iarizhkin Perhaps she'll agree to settle things with you without a fuss, won't she? Write to her...
Kovalev Certainly, I'll write to her.
Iarizhkin If my nose doesn't resume its rightful place... and so on...Dear Madame!
(Kovalev sits down and writes)
Kovalev Pelagia Grigorievna...
(The other half of the stage lights up, revealing Madame Podtotchin and her daughter, while Kovalev and Iarizhkin fade into darkness. The daughter is telling her own fortune with a pack of cards)
Daughter Another road - a king of diamonds on the horizon - tears - a love letter - on the left a king of clubs is exerting himself but he is thwarted by an evil person...
Mme. Podtotchin And whom do you think that king of clubs is?
Daughter I don't know, I don't know...
Mme. Podtotchin Platon Kuzmitch Kovalev!
Daughter Oh no! Certainly not. I'd wager anything that it isn't him.
Mme. Podtotchin Now don't argue - there is no other king of clubs...
Daughter No! No! No!
(Ivan comes in carrying a letter)
Ivan Have I the honour of speaking to Madame Podtotchin, Pelagia Grigorievna?
Daughter Ah! How near spring feels!
Mme. Podtotchin You have!
Ivan I have brought a letter.
(Madame Podtotchin takes Ivan's letter and writes an answer which she gives to him)
Daughter My heart feels as though I was always waiting for somebody - my ears are ringing - how could I possibly remain deaf to all those calls? Ah, no!
Mme. Podtotchin This letter is from Kovalev! (Madame Podtotchin goes to her daugher's side and they both read Kovalev's letter)
Mme. Podtotchin and Daughter What? What? "Dear Madame Pelagia Grigorievna! I cannnot understand your strange behavior...Please be assured that by acting in this way you will not succeed in making me marry your daughter. Let me tell you that I know perfectly well what has happened to my nose and also the way in which you have been the mastermind of this whole plot. Its sudden disappearance from its usual place..."
(The other half of the stage lights up again. Kovalev and Iarizhkin are reading Madame Podtotchin's reply)
Ivan Here is the answer.
Kovalev Give it to me! Give it to me!
Iarizhkin "Dear Mr. Platon Kuzmitch. I was extremely surprised by your letter. I shall confess quite candidly that I was certainly not expecting such reproaches and suspicions from you..."
Mme. Podtotchin and Daughter "...its flight, first dressed up in a uniform and then under its normal aspect, is neither more nor less than the result of witchcraft perpetrated by you or by some other person well versed..."
Iarizhkin and Kovalev "...please believe that the civil servant to whom you allude has never been received in my house, neither in disguise nor under his normal aspect. True, Philip Podtantchikov has occasionally visited us; but although he was desirious to obtain my daughter's hand and although he was an excellent kind of man and extremely knowledgeable, I never let him entertain the slightest hope."
Mme. Podtotchin and Daughter "In the kind of practices which are so popular with you...Should the aforesaid nose not resume its former place on this very day, then I shall find myself compelled to place the whole affair into the hands of justice. With all due respect, your humble servant, Platon Kovalev."
Iarizhkin and Kovalev "You allude to the nose. If you mean to infer thus that I intended to lead you by the nose, that is to say to deny you my daughter's hand, well I am surprised that you should be the first to mention this as you know full well that my intentions are quite opposite, and that if you were to make your request now, I should grant you her hand immediately...since it has always been my most earnest wish. I remain your devoted Pelagia Podtotchin."
Kovalev No! She's not guilty, that's certain. Yes, it's impossible! A guilty person would never write like this.
Iarizkhin The devil alone could unravel this business.


(A man walks in from the wings; he is buried deep into his newspaper; he is followed by others)
People -Adjutant Kovalev's nose is walking around here... -I must admit that I don't quite understand this business...Where? Where? -Well, I didn't know about this...and where is it? I can't see! -Where is it? Where is it? I can't see anything! -It's unbelievable, the things that can happen in this world! And where is it, that nose? Where can it be? I can't see... -You must admit that it's a curious story, just like those tales about moving tables, this story about Adjustant Kovalev's nose! -Where can it be? Here it is! Here it is, look! -Where? Yes, that's it! -Where, where? I can't see anything! Where? -What an amazing adventure! -Let's see the nose! Here it is! Here it is! -Look, look! -Yes, that's it, look, it's coming, it's coming! -Where, where? -Which one is it? -The one with the newspaper.
Old Man Let me see, if you please, let me have a look...
People -Where is it? There, with the newspaper! -That's it, that's it, look! -Where is it? Where is it?
Old Man What's the matter with you? By golly! Why, that's not it!
People That's not it. That's not it.
First Man The whole thing has been made up, do you understand, made up...
People So then, that's it? That? Adjutant Kovalev's nose?
Second Man The things that can be done thanks to progress are really quite amazing.
People Progress? Progress? Where is progress in all this? By golly!
Fourth Man All the same it's curious; just think: they say that at three o'clock sharp, it walks about the streets.
People Where is it? Where is it? Where? Where? Ah! Let us see it! Let us see it!
A new arrival Gentlemen, the nose is now inside the officers' shop.
All Where? Where? Inside the officers' shop!...
(The curtain is raised to show the back of the stage; a crowd is standing in front of the shop)
Where is it? Where is it? Where's the nose?
(To the front of the crowd a con-man is busy renting little step-ladders on which people can stand to get a better view)
Crowd Where is it? Where is it? Here it is! Look! There it is! Where? Behind the shop-window, inside the shop!
Con-man I rent step-ladders, lovely step-ladders! Step-ladders for fifty kopeks, for eighty kopeks. Who wants to climb up?
Officer Will you please let me have a look?
Woman's Voice Ouch! Where do you think you're trying to sneak, you shameless thing?
Some Bystanders Ha, ha, ha! Where is it? Where is it? Look! Look!
(The officer climbs onto a bench)
Officer It's a pull-over, a plain pull-over, there's no nose! Crowd A pull...ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! There's no nose!
Fourth Man How do they dare disturb us with such nonsense!
First Man That's what I said! A pull-over!
Second Man It's all poppycock! Poppycock! Poppycock!
Crowd There's no nose - only a plain pull-over. Ha, ha, ha!
New Arrival Ladies and gentlemen, the nose is taking a walk in the Summer Garden!
Crowd Where? Where? -Didn't I tell you he wasn't on Nevsky Avenue? -To the Summer Garden, quick, quick!
(Everybody starts to run)
Dandy Michael, are you going?
Second Dandy Yes!
First Dandy So am I!
An Anonymous Voice I shall go and have a look!
Third Student Are you there? Let's go and see!
First Student Of course!
Fourth Student See Adjutant Kovalev's noise?
Students -Yes, it's in the Summer Garden! -Let's run over there! -We must go! -As fast as we can!
A Respectable Lady and her Two Children -Mamma, mamma, can we see the nose? -Presently, children, presently. Let's go quickly to the Summer Garden!
(The Summer Garden can now be seen; on the road to it, there's a derelict shop in front of which everybody stops)
Crowd -This is where Adjutant Kovalev's nose is taking a walk! -Nonsense! Everyone knows he's in the Summer Garden. -Ah! Let's see it! Let's see it! Where is it? Where is it?
(Khan Khozrev Mirza is trying to make his way through the crowd in a sedan carried by eunuchs)
Eunuchs Now then, citizens, please let Khozrev-Mirza through!
Crowd Where is it? Here it is! Look!
Eunuch Make way: Khozrev-Mirza would like a look! If you please, let Khozrev-Mirza through!
Crowd Make way! Khozrev-Mirza would like a look! Let Khozrev-Mirza have a look!
Khozrev-Mirza (aside) I can't see anything! (aloud) Really, it's incredible! How can the nose be walking by itself in the Summer Garden? What a sensational phenomenon. Truly, an amazing freak of nature! It's extremely interesting! (to his eunuchs) Let's go home!
Eunuchs If you please, citizens, Khozrev-Mirza would like to go home, make way! He has had a look and now he wants to go home.
Crowd Khozrev-Mirza has seen it! We must see it too! Where is it? Show us the nose! We want to see it too! Here it is! No, that's not it! Yes, here it is...
(a police squad walks in)
Police Now then, now then, move up, move up... on your way!
Crowd Where is it? Where is it?
(Firemen appear and douse the crowd)


(Kovalev's rooms Kovalev jumps out of bed, holding his nose)
Kovalev Here it is! Here it is! Yes, indeed. Here it is! My nose is back in its place, between my cheeks! Ivan, Ivan!
(Ivan comes in)
Ivan Did you call me, sir?
Kovalev Look, Ivan, I think there's a pimple on... my nose. (aside) Let's hope he doesn't say: there's not only no pimple, there's no nose either!
Ivan No there's nothing, sir.
Kovalev What do you mean, nothing?
Ivan There is no pimple, the nose is spotless!
Kovalev Fine, fine! (addressing the nose) What do you think of that? You double- dealer!
(Kovalev dances around. Ivan Iakolevitch walks in)
Ivan (aside) Just look at the master, prancing around!
Kovalev Ah! There you are! Ivan Iakovlevitch That's right. Kovalev Tell the truth, are your hands clean?
Ivan Iakovlevitch Clean!
Kovalev You're lying...
Ivan Iakovlevitch Word of honour, clean!
Kovalev Go ahead!
(He sits down for his shave)
Ivan Iakovlevitch Water! Water! (Ivan brings some water. He points to his nose) Well, what about this one, what shall we do with it? What if we...all the same... I mean to say! Ha, ha, ha.
(Kovalev and Ivan Iakovlevitch look at each other and laugh)
Kovalev Ha, ha, ha! Your hands stink as usual.
Ivan Iakovlevitch Ha, ha, ha! But why should they stink?
Kovalev I don't know, my good man, but what I do know is that they stink...Hey there, hey there, be careful!

(Nevsky Avenue Kovalev is walking idly around, greeting sundry acquaintances)
First Acquaintance Good day, Platon Kuzmitch!
Kovalev Good day! (aside) The nose is where it should be! (aloud) Good-day, Stephen Lazarevitch!
Second Acquaintance I wish you a very good day, Platon Kuzmich.
Kovalev It's in its place, it's in its place!...If the Adjutant doesn't burst out laughing as he sees me, it will be an irrefutable proof that everything is in order.
Third Acquaintance Ah! When one speaks of the devil, one sees his horns!
Kovalev Ah! As for you, I know you well! A real viper! How are you? Ah, yes, I'm fine...
Mme. Podtotchin and Daughter Platon Kuzmitch...Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Kovalev Dearest Madame Pelagia Grigorievna! Mademoiselle! Ha, ha, ha!...(He tells them an anecdote) Here's a good one: he had been away on a mission for three years; he finally comes back home; his wife goes to meet him, beside herself with joy, holding a child by the hand - Hullo! - Hullo! Where has that child sprung from? - The good God sent him to us! she says. - The good God! You bet it is! and he wallops her; he had forgotten that the child was his. And yet the little perisher is his spit image...Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Daughter Hee, hee, hee, hee!
Mme. Podtotchin Platon Kuzmitch, would you accept an invitation to lunch with us tomorrow? (aside to Kovalev) And should you like to get engaged to my daughter, I would grant your request.
(Kovalev bows respectfully as they move away)
Kovalev (shaking his fist) Such is indeed the female race, a race of fowls! Well no! Anyway, I shan't marry your daughter! It's so much simpler to do it "for love"...
(The principal characters discuss the events of this strange story)
(Kovalev goes up to a street-vendor)
Kovalev Listen, my dove, come and see me at home... All you have to do is to ask: where does Adjutant Kovalev live? Anyone will be able to tell you. Umph, umph...(As he goes away) My love... my pretty one...
(He disappears)


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