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Doggy Cold

 Author (Russian): Ilf & Petrov

Translated by A. Charumati Ramadas

The rinks are closed. Children are not allowed to go out, and they languish at home. Trotting tests are canceled. . The so-called “Doggy-Cold” has arrived.

In Moscow, some thermometers show thirty-four degrees, some for some reason show only thirty-one, and there are also such eccentric thermometers that show even thirty-seven. And this is not because some of them show the temperature by Celsius, and others by the Reaumur system, and not because it is colder on Ostozhenka than on Arbat, and on Razgulyai frost is more severe than on Gorky street. No, the reasons are different. You know, the product quality of these delicate devices is not always excellent. In General, until the relevant manufacturing Unit, struck by the fact that due to the frost its shortcomings are suddenly exposed, will not begin to rectify its product, let us take the average figure – thirty-three degrees below zero. This is certainly true and is an exact arithmetic expression of the concept of doggy-cold.

Muscovites muffled up to their eyes, shout at each other through their collars and scarves:

“It’s amazing how cold it is!”

“What’s so surprising about that?” The Weather Bureau reports that the cold wave is due to the intrusion of cold air masses from the Barents sea.

“Well, thank you. How subtly they notice. And I, the fool, thought that the cooling was caused by the invasion of the broad hot masses of the Arabian air”.

“Now you’re laughing, and tomorrow will be even colder.

“It can’t be!

“I assure you it will be. Came to know from the most reliable sources. Just don’t tell anyone. Do you understand? There’s a cyclone coming at us, and it’s got an anticyclone in its tail. And in the tail of this anticyclone, there is again a cyclone, which will capture us with its tail. Do you understand?” Presently it’s nothing, now we are in the core of the anticyclone, but when we get into the tail of the cyclone, you will cry. It will be an incredible frost. But you don’t say a word to anyone”.

“Please tell me – which is colder — a cyclone or an anticyclone?”

“Of course, the anticyclone”.

“But you just said that there is an unprecedented frost at the tail of the cyclone”.

“It’s really very cold in the tail”.

“And the anticyclone?”

“What an anticyclone?”

“You said yourself that the anticyclone is colder”.

“And I keep saying it’s colder. What don’t you understand? The core of the anticyclone is colder than the tail of the cyclone. Hope it’s clear”.

“Where are we now?”

“In the tail of the anticyclone. Can’t you see for yourself?”

“Why is it so cold?”

“Did you think that Yalta was tied to the tail of the anticyclone? Do you think so?”

In General, it is noticed that during severe frosts, people begin to lie for no reason. Lie even honest and truthful people who in normal atmospheric conditions will not even dream to tell a lie. And the harder the frost, the harder they lie. So with the current cold weather, it is difficult to meet a person who just doesn’t lie at all. Such a person comes to visit, takes a long time to remove his warm clothes; in addition to his muffler, takes off a white lady’s shawl, pulls off his large boots, puts on shoes brought in a newspaper, and, entering the room, with pleasure declares:

“Fifty-two. By Reaumur”.

The host, of course, wants to say: “Why are you visiting people in such cold conditions? Could have better stayed at home,” but instead he suddenly says to himself:

“ What you telling, Pavel Fedorovich, it’s much more. It had been fifty-four in the afternoon, but it is certainly colder now”.

Here the bell rings, and a new figure tumbles in from the street. From the corridor itself it shouts cheerfully:

“Sixty, sixty! Well, there’s nothing to breathe, absolutely nothing”.

And all three know perfectly well that it is not sixty, and not fifty-four, and not fifty-two, and not even thirty-five, but thirty-three, and not by Reaumur, but by Celsius, but it is impossible to refrain from exaggeration. Let’s forgive them for this little weakness. Let them lie to their health. Maybe it will make them feel warmer.

While they are talking, putty is falls off the window with a bang, because it is not so much putty as plain clay, although it is ranged as putty of the highest quality. Frost-the Inspector notices everything. Even the fact that the stores do not have the beautiful colored cotton, which is so pleasant to look at, when it lies between the window-frames, guarding the apartment heat.

But the speakers do not pay attention to this. Various stories are told about the cold and blizzards, about the pleasant slumber that covers the freezing, about the St. Bernards with a barrel of rum on the collar, who are looking for lost climbers in the snowy mountains, remember the ice age, about friends falling through the ice (one friend allegedly fell into the ice hole, floundered under the ice for twelve minutes and got out).

But the crown of all is the story of grandfathers. Grandfathers are generally distinguished by strong health. There is always something interesting and heroic about grandfathers. (For example: “my grandfather was a serf”, in fact, he had a small, but still a grocery store.) Now, during severe cold figure of his grandfather takes on a whole cyclopean shape.

Every family has its own story of the grandfather.

“Here we are riding-a weak, pampered generation. And my grandfather, I still remember him (here the narrator blushes, obviously from the cold), was a simple peasant serf and in the very cold, you know, sixty-four degrees, went to the forest for firewood in one lustrous jacket and tie. How do you like it? Isn’t that right, cheerful old man”?

“That’s interesting. So I too have a coincidence. My grandfather was a great original. It’s about seventy degrees below zero, all living things are hiding in their holes, and my old man in only striped panties goes with an axe to the river to swim. He’d cut a hole for himself, take a dip, and go home. And still says he’s hot and stuffy”.

Here the second narrator turns purple, obviously from drinking tea.

The interlocutors carefully look at each other for a while and, having made sure that there will be no objections to the mythical grandfather, begin to lie about how their ancestors broke rubles with their fingers, ate glass and married young women, having – well, how much do you think? One hundred and thirty-two years”.

What hidden traits does not frost discover in people?

Whatever the incredible grandfathers did, thirty-three degree is a nasty thing. Amundsen said you can’t get used to the cold. You can trust him without requiring proof. He knew the business thoroughly.

So, frost, frost. I can’t believe that there are happy, warm places somewhere in our far North, where, according to the respected weather Bureau, it’s only ten or fifteen degrees below zero.

Skating rinks are closed, children sit at home, but life goes on -the metro is being completed, theaters are full (it is better to freeze than to miss a performance), the police do not part with their ballroom gloves, and in the most severe cold, planes took off on regular flights minute by minute.



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Charumati Ramdas

I am a retired Associate Prof of Russian. I stay in Hyderabad. Currently keep myself busy with translations of Russian works into HIndi.
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1 year ago

Just cannot imagine that this writing is so old !!
I enjoyed it while reading Sulekha once and now you have served this again. Hope a lot of new people read this here and then enjoy Russian Literature :)))
Happy Ganesha Chathurthi , Charu ::)

Navneet Bakshi
Navneet Bakshi
1 year ago

It is noticed that during severe frosts, people begin to lie for no reason. Lie even honest and truthful people who in normal atmospheric conditions will not even dream to tell a lie. And the harder the frost, the harder they lie. So with the current cold weather, it is difficult to meet a person who just doesn’t lie at all.
Very interesting. You had posted it at Sulekha too.
Grand parents have many stories to tell and most of them are hyperbole but interesting nevertheless. But there are people in Russia who take a plunge in the frozen waters on some holy days. I have seen them jumping merrily in the rivers with temperatures of -7 degrees C. Let’s see, whether the Corona virus will be able to survive through the Russian winter or not. Though they have invented the injection Sputnik V and if it proves to be effective they won’t be able to inoculate all Russians before this winter.

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