29 December 2009

like some magician

"If you want to get rich quickly," Konstanjoglo broke in abruptly and sternly, for he was in a bad humour, "you will never get rich. But if you want to get rich without thinking of how long it will take you, then you'll get rich quickly."
  "So that's how it is," said Chichikov.
  "Yes, sir," said Konstanjoglo abruptly as though he was angry with Chichikov himself. "One must love one's work. Without that you can do nothing. One must love farming—yes, sir! And believe me, it is not at all boring. They've taken it into their heads that life in the country is dull and depressing. Why, I'd die, I'd hang myself from depression, if I had to spend one day in town as they spend it in their stupid clubs, pubs, and theatres. The fools, the stupid idiots, the breed of jackasses! A farmer can't be bored. He has no time to be bored. There's not an inch of emptiness in his life. Its completely full. Think of the diversity of his work and what work! Work that truly exalts the spirit. Say what you like, but in the country man walks hand in hand with nature, with the seasons, he participates and communes with everything that goes on in creation. Have a good look at the annual cycle of works: how even before the coming of spring everything in nature is already on the alert and full of expectancy. The seeds must be got ready, the corn in the barns has to be carefully sorted out, measured, and dried, new rates of taxation have to be fixed. The income and expenditure for the whole year has to be carefully considered and calculated in advance. And as soon as the ice starts breaking up and the high-water level of the rivers has gone down and everything is dry again, the earth begins to be turned over—the spades get busy in the kitchen gardens and the orchards and the ploughs and harrows in the fields: planting and sowing ... Do you understand what it all means? A trifle! It's the next harvest that is being sown! It's the happiness of the entire earth that is being sown! It's the sustenance of millions that is being sown! Summer comes. ... The mowing and haymaking begins. ... Soon harvesting time is upon us; after the rye comes the wheat, then the barley and the oats. The work is in full swing; there is not a moment to be lost; if you had twenty eyes there'd be work for them all. And when all this has been happily accomplished and all the grain has been carted to the threshing floors and stacked, and the winter crops have been sown, and the barns, the threshing barns, and the cow-sheds have been repaired for the winter and the women have completed all their work, and the balance of all that has been drawn up and you can see what has been done, why, it's ... And winter! there's threshing on all the threshing floors and the carting of the threshed grain from the threshing floors to the barns. You go round the flour-mill and the factories, you have a look at the workshops, you pay a visit to the peasants to see what they are doing. For my part, if a carpenter knows how to wield his axe, I'm ready to stand for a couple of hours watching him: his work gives me much pleasure. And when on top of it you realize that this work is being done with some purpose and that everything around you is multiplying and multiplying, bringing in both fruits and profits, why, I can't tell you what one feels at the time! And not because your money's growing—after all, money's not everything—but because it's all the work of your hands; because you see that you are the cause and the creator of it all, and that, like some magician, you are scattering riches and abundance everywhere. Where could you find delight to equal it?" said Konstanjoglo, lifting his face from which the wrinkles had suddenly disappeared. Like an emperor on the day of his solemn coronation, he looked transfigured and it seemed as though rays of light were issuing from his face. "Yes, nowhere in the world will you find anything to equal this delight. It is here, yes, here that man imitates God. God has left the work of creation to himself as one of the highest delights and he asks man also to be a creator of like prosperity all around him. And they call that dull work!"
  Chichikov listened with delight to the sweet sound of his host's words like the singing of a bird of paradise. His mouth watered, his eyes grew moist and shone with sweetness, and he could have listened for ever.
 ... "You can talk as much as you like," said Platonov, who was walking behind them, "but it's boring, all the same."

Gogol, Dead Souls (1969: 238-329)