Taras Bulba and Other Tales
In the department of--but it is better not to mention the department. There is nothing more
irritable than departments, regiments, courts of justice, and, in a word, every branch of
public service. Each individual attached to them nowadays thinks all society insulted in
his person. Quite recently a complaint was received from a justice of the peace, in which
he plainly demonstrated that all the imperial institutions were going to the dogs, and that
the Czar's sacred name was being taken in vain; and in proof he appended to the
complaint a romance in which the justice of the peace is made to appear about once every
ten lines, and sometimes in a drunken condition. Therefore, in order to avoid all
unpleasantness, it will be better to describe the department in question only as a certain
So, in a certain department there was a certain official--not a very high one, it must be
allowed--short of stature, somewhat pock-marked, red-haired, and short-sighted, with a
bald forehead, wrinkled cheeks, and a complexion of the kind known as sanguine. The St.
Petersburg climate was responsible for this. As for his official status, he was what is
called a perpetual titular councillor, over which, as is well known, some writers make
merry, and crack their jokes, obeying the praiseworthy custom of attacking those who
cannot bite back.
His family name was Bashmatchkin. This name is evidently derived from "bashmak"
(shoe); but when, at what time, and in what manner, is not known. His father and
grandfather, and all the Bashmatchkins, always wore boots, which only had new heels
two or three times a year. His name was Akakiy Akakievitch. It may strike the reader as
rather singular and far-fetched, but he may rest assured that it was by no means far-
fetched, and that the circumstances were such that it would have been impossible to give
him any other.
This is how it came about.
Akakiy Akakievitch was born, if my memory fails me not, in the evening of the 23rd of
March. His mother, the wife of a Government official and a very fine woman, made all
due arrangements for having the child baptised. She was lying on the bed opposite the
door; on her right stood the godfather, Ivan Ivanovitch Eroshkin, a most estimable man,
who served as presiding officer of the senate, while the godmother, Anna Semenovna
Byelobrushkova, the wife of an officer of the quarter, and a woman of rare virtues. They
offered the mother her choice of three names, Mokiya, Sossiya, or that the child should
be called after the martyr Khozdazat. "No," said the good woman, "all those names are
poor." In order to please her they opened the calendar to another place; three more names
appeared, Triphiliy, Dula, and Varakhasiy. "This is a judgment," said the old woman.
"What names! I truly never heard the like. Varada or Varukh might have been borne, but
not Triphiliy and Varakhasiy!" They turned to another page and found Pavsikakhiy and
Vakhtisiy. "Now I see," said the old woman, "that it is plainly fate. And since such is the
case, it will be better to name him after his father. His father's name was Akakiy, so let