that is a small town, north-west of Moscow, at the line Moscow – Vladimir.
It became known by the poem Moscow to the End of the Line of Wenedikt Jerofejew.
This poem is the monologue of a drinker, who travels by train to Petushki and who brings presents to his girlfriend.
This work combines parts of that monologue with snapshots from Petushki which I took in May 2002 and May 2012.
Moscow. The Kursk Station Restaurant
Nothing to drink! Mother of God! Indeed, if you believe the angels, they’re fairly drowning in sherry in here. But now there’s only music and music with some kind of mangy harmonics at that. Yes, that’s Ivan Kozlovsky all right. I recognized him immediately; there’s no one else with a voice that nauseous. All singers have equally nauseous voices, but every one of them is nauseous in its own way. That’s why I can identify them so easily. Well, of course: Ivan Kozlovsky. „Oh, Chalice of my fore-bear-ers. Oh, let me gaze for-e-ever upon you ny star-r-r-r light.“ Well, of course, Ivan Kozlovsky. „Oh, why am I smi-i-tten so with you. Don’t reje-e-ect me.“
„Will you be ordering anything?“
„What’ve you got, just music?“
„What do you mean, just music?“ Beef Stroganoff, pastries, udder…“
I felt sick again.
„What about sherry?“
„Interesting. You serve udder but no sherry.“
„Verrry interesting. Right, no sherry, but udder we’ve got.“
Karascharovo – Chuklinka
I like that. I like it that my country’s people have such empty, bulging eyes. This instills in me a feeling of legitimate pride. You can imagine what the eyes are like where everything is bought and sold – deeply hidden, secretive, predative and frightened. Devaluation, unemployment, pauperism … People look at you distrustfully, with restless anxiety and torment. That’s the kind of eyes they have in the world of Ready Cash.
On the other hand, my people have such eyes! They’re constantly bulging but with no tension of any kind in them. There’s complete lack of any sense but, then, what power! (What spiritual power!) These eyes will not sell out. They’ll not sell or buy anything, whatever happens to my country. In days of doubt, in days of burdensome reflection, at the time of any trial or calamity, theses eyes will not blink. They don’t give a good Goddamn about anything.
I like my people. I am happy that I was born and grew up unter the gaze of these eyes.
Reutovo – Nikolskoe
Petushki is the place where the birds never cease singing, not by day or by night, where winter and summer the jasmine never cease blooming. Perhaps there is such a thing as original sin, but no one ever feels burdened in Petushki. There, even those who don’t dry out for weeks have a bottomless, clear look in their eyes.
Kuchino – Zheleznodorouhnaya
How can there be anything worthwhile in Petushki?
„There can be“, I say to you, and I’ll say it so loud that Moscow and Petushki will tremble. Moscow, no, that couldn’t happen with Moscow, but with Petushki it could. And what if she is a bitch? If you want to know where I dug her up, if you’re interested, just listen, since you’re so shameless, I’ll tell you the whole story.
„As I told you before, in Petushki the jasmine never stops blooming and the birds always sing, so, exactly ten weeks ago today, the birds were singing and the jasmine was blooming. And it was also the birthday of someone or other. In addition, there was an endless stream of liquor, ten bottles or twelve or twenty-five. And there was anything anyone could whish for, from beer on tap to bottled stuff.“
„And what else?“ you ask, „and what else?“
Zheleznodorouhnaya – Chernoe
I was contradictory.
On the one hand, I liked it that they had waists, while we haven’t any waists at all. This awoke in me – how should I put it? – „bliss.“ Yes, it awoke a feeling of bliss in me. But on the other hand, they stabbed Marat with a penknife, though Marat was incorruptible and shouldn’t have been stabbed. This thought killed all feelings of bliss.
On the other hand, like Karl Marx I liked the weakness in them, that is, for example, how they are compelled to squat down to urinate. This pleased me, this filled me with, well, with what? A feeling of bliss, really? Well, yes, this filled me with a feeling of bliss. But, on the other hand, didn’t one of them shoot at Lenin? This killed the bliss again – squat away, but why shoot at Ilich? It would be strange to speak of bliss after that…
Now I’ve gotten distracted.
Chernoe – Kupavna 1
„No, take now – to live and live. Living is not at all boring. Only Nikolai Gogol was bored, and King Solomon.
If we’ve already lived through thirty years, it’s necessary to try to live another thirty.“
„Man is mortal.“
That’s my opinion. But if we’ve already been born, there’s nothing to be done about it, we must live for little…
„Life is beautiful“ – that’s my opinion.
Chernoe – Kupavna 2
So you see how many puzzles are there in nature, how many blank spots everywhere.
But the empty-headed youth coming up to take our place doesn’t seem to see the mysteries of existence. He lacks vision and initiative, and I doubt that he – that any of them – have any brains in their heads.
What could be more noble, for example, than experimenting on oneself? At their age I would do this: on Thursday I’d drink, all at one go, three and a half liters of beer and vodka mixed. I’d drink it and lie down to sleep without getting undressed and with one thought only – will I wake up in Friday or won’t I?
Here’s what! The whole thing got started from that rotgut instead of Clinquot – Democratization got started, the uproar and the Khovanshchinas. All your Ouspenskys, all your Pomialovskys – they couldn’t write a line without a glass. I’ve read it, I know. They drank desperately. All the honest men of Russia. And why did they drink? They drank in desperation. They drank because they were honest, because they were not up to lightening the burden of the people. The people were suffocating in poverty and ignorance. Read Dmitry Pisarev. He writes the same thing:
The people cannot permit themselves beef, but vodka is cheaper than beef, so the Russian peasant drinks because of his poverty. They cannot permit themselves a book, because at the marketplace there is neither Gogol nor Belinsky – just vodka, both government vodka and other kinds, and from the barrel, and to take home. Therefore he drinks, because of his ignorance he drinks.
How is one not to give way to despair, how not to write about the muzhik, how not to want to save him, how not to drink from despair? The Social Democrat writes books and drinks, he drinks as well as he writes. But the muzhik does not read and drink, he drinks without reading. Then Ospensky gets up and hangs himself and Pomialovsky lies down under a bench in a tavern and breathes his last and Garshin gets up and, dead drunk, throws himself over the railing…
Usad – Kilometer 105
„What’s last Friday got to do with it? Who cares about last Friday!
Last Friday, the train hardly made any stops. And, in general, trains traveled faster then, but now, the devil knows, they stop and wait. For what? It’s enough to make you sick sometimes. Why is it always stopping? Like that at every marker. Except Esino….“
I glanced out the window and frowned again.
„Again, your last friday. I see, Venya, that you are completely in the past. I see that you don’t whish to speak of the future at all…..“
„Last Friday at eleven in the morning, I don’t argue, it was light. But this Friday at eleven in the morning it may be so dark that you could poke your eye out. Do you know how the days are diminishing now? Do you know? I see that you don’t know everything, you only brag about knowing everything….“
Kilometer 105 – Pokrow: how often
The well-known shock-worker Aleksei Stakhanov went to the toilet for number one two times a day and once for number two. But when he was on a drunk, he went four times for number one and not once for number two. Calculate how many times per year shock-worker Aleksei Stakhanov went for number one and how many for number two, if we consider that he was on a drunk three hundred and twelve days of the year.
Kilometer 105 – Pokrow: blondes
When the ships of the American Seventh Fleet docked at the Petushki station, there were no Communist Party girls present, but if Komsomol girls are considered Party members, then every third of them was a blonde. When the ships of the American Seventh Fleet set sail, the following was discovered: every third Komsomol girl turned out to have been raped, every fourth rape victim turned out to be a Komsomol girl, every fifth one of the Komsomol girls who have been raped turned out to be a blonde; every ninth blonde rape victim turned out to be a Komsomol member. If there are 428 girls in all in Petushki, determine how many non-Party brunettes among them remained untouched?
Kilometer 105 – Pokrow: Point F1
As is well known, in Petushki there aren’t any points A. Moreover, there are no points B, C, D or E. There are only points F. So, then, polar explorer Papanin, desiring to save polar explorer Vodopianov, departed from point F1 for point F2. At the same moment, Vodopianov, desiring to save Papanin, departed from point F2 for point F1. It is not known why both of them turned at point F3, located twelve of Vodopianov’s spitting distances from point F1 and sixteen of Papanin’s spitting distances from point F2. If it is allowed that Papanin could spit three meters and seventy-two centimeters and that Vodopianov couldn’t spit at all, did Papanin indeed set out to save Vodopianov?
Kilometer 105 – Pokrow: Chamberlain
Lord Chamberlain, Premier of the British Empire, while departing the restaurant of the Petushki Railroad Station, slipped on somebody’s vomit and, in falling, turned over the next table. On the table, before the fall, there were two pastries of thirty-five kopeks each, two portions of udder at thirty-nine kopeks and two carafes each containing 800 grams of sherry. None of the crockery was broken. All the food was ruined. But here’s what happened with the sherry: one carafe did not break, but everything spilled out of it to the last drop. The other carafe broke to smithereens, but not a drop spilled out of it. If it is allowed that the cost of an empty carafe is six times more than a portion of udder, while every child knows the cost of sherry, tell me what bill was presented to Lord Chamberlain, Premier of the British Empire, in the Kursk Station restaurant?
Pokrov – Kilometer 113
„Man should not be lonely“ – that’s my opinion.
Man should give himself to people, even if they don’t want to take. But if he’s lonely anyway, he should go through the cars.
He should find people and tell them: ‚Look, I’m lonely. I’ll give up myself to the last drop (because I just drank up the last drop, ha-ha!) and you give of yourselves to me and, having given, tell me where we are going.
From Moscow to Petushki or from Petushki to Moscow?
Petushki. The Platform
And then everything started to swirl around. If you say that it was fog, I probably would agree with you – yes, it was fog. But if you say ‚No, it wasn’t fog, it was fire and ice,‘ probably you’re right – fire and ice. That is, at first the blood grows cold, grows cold – and the moment it freezes, it starts boiling, and havin boiled up, it grows cold again.
Petushki. Station Square
Somebody told me once that it’s very simple to die: to do it you’ve got to breathe in forty times altogether, deep, deep, as deep as you can, and breathe out the same way, from the depths of your heart, and then you’ll let go of your soul. Maybe I should try it?
Oh, hold it! Maybe I should find out what time it is. But who can I ask, if there’s not a single soul in the square, not a single one? And if some living soul did come along, could you even get your mouth open with the cold and the grief? Yes. Oh the muteness of the cold and the grief!
And if I die sometime – I’m going to die very soon – I know I’ll die as I am, without accepting this world, perceiving it close up and far away, inside and out, perceiving but not accepting it. I’ll die and He will ask me:
‚Was it good there for you? Was it bad there for you?‘ I will be silent with lowered eyes.
I’ll be silent with that muteness familiar to everyone who knows the outcome of days of hard boozing.
Moscow/Petushki. An unidentified Front Hallway
I didn’t know that there was a pain like that in the world. And I writhed from the torture of it – a clotted red letter „Q“ spread across my eyes and started to quiver.
And since then I have not regained conciousness, and I never will.