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DOVLATOV, Sergei

The Suitcase

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Are we alike, then? I at least have a stimulus, a goal, an illusion, a hope. What does she have? Only our daughter, and indifference. We have twenty-five years of marriage behind us—twenty-five years of mutual isolation and indifference to real life. In those twenty-five years, our friends fell in love, married, and divorced. They wrote poems and novels about it all. They moved from one republic to another; they changed jobs, convictions, habits, became dissidents and alcoholics, tried to kill others or themselves. Marvellous, mysterious worlds arose and collapsed with a roar all around us. Like taut strings, human relations snapped. Our friends were reborn and died in the search for happiness.

And we? We faced all the temptations and horrors of life with our only gift—indifference. What is more solid than a castle built on sand? What is more durable and dependable in family life than mutual lack of character? What could be stabler than two hostile states each incapable of defending itself?

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