By Ilya Zverev, translated from the Russian by Anna Aslanyan.
Apart from the story with the deck, there were a few other significant achievements. Leo Makhervax, a crazy young naturalist, was shown a picture of a little bird cut out of a Polish magazine, and told that it’s a zoological mystery, a Papio nightingalis, which can be found in the south of Galápagos Islands only, and sings in a man’s voice.
‘Galápagos Islands are generally full of surprises,’ Leo said. ‘This is the only place where you can find giant tortoises.’
He was credulous and really did know a lot, which made the trick somewhat less impressive. The first prize, therefore, went to Mash, who, after recovering from the shock, managed to trick the best student Sasha Kamensky, their know-all, a tall, skinny boy with bushy eyebrows, who spoke in a condescending tone to everyone, even to the headmaster, even to the general Colonel of Armoured Troops who came to the school on the eve of Armoured Trooper’s Day. Mash approached him:
‘Come on, Sasha, tell us where these lines are from: The penny of life has dropped, an ink-stain on the blank sheet. Can you at least guess the poet?’
He moved his lips, big and soft, reminding Mash of the horse she had seen in the country last summer, and said:
‘Of course it’s Mayakovsky. Early. Possibly from ‘The Backbone Flute.’ Yes, oh yes, of course it’s from there…’
And then he started explaining what particular idea the poet wanted to convey in these lines. Unfortunately, he never managed to bring his explanations to a conclusion because Mash snorted with laughter and ruined the whole thing, for which the class condemned her, justly and unanimously.
Already by the first break any tricks whatsoever became impossible. Everyone, including Year 1 kids, had grown vigilant. Everyone expected nasty surprises and trusted no one. Whatever was being said, everyone listened with a sceptical face: OK, fine, natter away, you won’t catch me on this.
Instead of bringing benefits, deceptions began to cause losses. Because some would forget about April Fool and say things they really knew and meant. That was Kol’s undoing: he was told that some grown-up guy was waiting for him downstairs. He laughed right into the messenger’s stupid face: to try and catch out him, Kol, on such a trifle! But there really was a guy who came to see him. It was the famous stamp collector Lyonya from school No 29, whose visit the aspiring philatelist could never even hope for. but that did not transpire until much later.
[This is a short extract, the full article is available to read in Issue Three]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anna Aslanyan is a journalist and translator. she writes for a number of publications—including 3:AM Magazine, TLS, The Independent and The National—mainly on books and arts. Among her translations into Russian are works by Peter Ackroyd, John Berger, Tom McCarthy, Jeffrey Eugenides and Zadie smith. Her translations from Russian into English include contemporary short stories and a collection of essays Post-Post Soviet? Art, Politics and Society in Russia at the Turn of the Decade.
[Image: Hana Vojackova]