“It has, no doubt, happened to you, some time or another, to hear a voice calling you by name, which simple people explain as a soul grieving for a human being and calling him; and after that, they say, death follows inevitably. I must admit I was always frightened by that mysterious call. I remember that in childhood I often heard it. Sometimes suddenly someone behind me distinctly uttered my name. Usually on such occasions it was a very bright and sunny day; not one leaf in the garden was stirring; the stillness was deathlike; even the grasshopper left off churring for a moment; there was not a soul in the garden. But I confess that if the wildest and most tempestuous night had lashed me with all the fury of the elements, alone in the middle of an unpenetrable forest, I should not have been so terrified as by that awful stillness in the midst if a cloudless day. I usually ran out of the garden, hardly able to breathe, and was only reassured when I met some person, the sight of whom dispelled the terrible spiritual loneliness.”
–Nikolai Gogol, Old-World Landowners
a strange little passage, tucked almost at the end of a short story which is mostly about an old couple’s love for food, but then also heartbreak, and aging suddenly, and ending with a chilling little aside from the author who has otherwise played almost no part in the story. it’s oddly personal, oddly relatable in the way of childhood terrors, and somehow casts a darker edge across the rest of the story, that while sad is relatively benign. there’s more serious existential melancholy in that passage, and the brief return to the end of the narrative is strange, and the ending somehow stranger. a trailing off rather than an ending. music from another room. is that eliot?
it reminds me of the last line in ‘peter and wendy’: “where children are young, and innocent, and heartless.” a chilling unexpected twist that redefines everything that has come before.
gogol was fucking nuts and right now i can’t get enough of his distorted little world.