Monday Starts on Saturday

Monday Starts on Saturday

Monday Starts on Saturday 27

  Gnome: In Western European traditions, an ugly little creature who protects underground treasure troves. I have spoken with several gnomes, who are genuinely little and ugly but know nothing about any treasure. In fact, most gnomes are long-forgotten and severely desiccated doubles.

  Golem: One of the earliest cybernetic robots, made out of clay by Loew ben Bezalel. (See, for instance, the Czechoslovakian comedy film The Emperor and the Golem, in which the creature is very similar to the real one.)

  Harpies: In ancient Greek mythology, the goddesses of the whirlwind; in reality, a variety of nonlife, a side product of experiments by early magicians in the area of selective breeding. In appearance they resemble large, reddish birds with the heads of old women. Extremely dirty, gluttonous, and quarrelsome.

  Homunculus: As conceived by illiterate medieval alchemists, a humanlike being artificially created in a retort. In actual fact it is impossible to create an artificial being in a retort. Homunculi are synthesized in special autoclaves and used for biomechanical modeling.

  Hydra: In ancient Greek belief, a fabulous, multiheaded water snake. In our Institute, a real multiheaded reptile, the daughter of Wyrm Gorynych and a female plesiosaur from Loch Ness.

  Incubus: A variety of the living dead in the habit of entering into marriage with the living. Does not exist. In theoretical magic the term incubus is used with a quite different meaning, as a measure of the negative energy of a living organism.

  Ifrit: A variety of genie. As a rule ifrits are well-preserved doubles of the greatest Arabic military leaders. In the Institute they are employed by M. M. Kamnoedov as armed guards, since they are distinguished from other genies by their high level of discipline. The ifrits’ fire-throwing mechanism has been little researched and is unlikely to be subject to fundamental study, because it is of no use to anyone.

  Incunabulum: A name given to the earliest printed books. Several of the incunabula are distinguished by their truly immense dimensions.

  Jan ben Jan: Either an ancient inventor or an ancient warrior. His name is always associated with the concept of a shield and never encountered separately. (Mentioned, for instance, in Flaubert’s novel The Temptation of Saint Anthony.)

  Kitsune: See shapeshifter.

  Levitation: A method of flying performed entirely without any technical apparatus. A well-known phenomenon practiced by birds, bats, and insects.

  Malleus Maleficarum: An ancient handbook for the conduct of third-degree interrogations. Compiled and used by churchmen especially for the identification of witches. In modern times it has been abrogated as obsolete.

  Maxwell’s demon: An important element of a thought experiment by the great English physicist Maxwell, intended as an attack on the second law of thermodynamics. In Maxwell’s thought experiment the demon is located beside an aperture in a partition that divides a vessel filled with molecules in motion. The demon’s job is to let fast molecules out of one half of the vessel into the other and close the aperture in the face of slow molecules. In this way the ideal demon is capable of generating a very high temperature in one half of the vessel and a very low temperature in the other half, thereby producing a type-two perpetuum mobile. However, only relatively recently, and only in our Institute, has it proved possible to find such demons and train them for this job.

  Oracle: As conceived by the ancients, a means used by the gods to communicate with people: the flight of birds (via augurs), the rustling of trees, the ravings of a soothsayer, etc. Oracle was also used as a name for a place where prophecies were pronounced. The “Solovets Oracle” is a small, dark room in which it has been planned for many years to install a powerful computer for minor prophecies.

  Phantom: A specter or ghost. In contemporary thought, a crystallization of necrobiotic information. Phantoms inspire superstitious horror, although they are entirely harmless. In the Institute they are used for establishing precise historical truth, although they are not legally acceptable as witnesses.

  Pythia: A priestess and prophetess in ancient Greece who prophesied after breathing in poisonous fumes. We have no Pythias practicing in the Institute, but many people smoke tobacco and study the general theory of prognostication.

  Ramapithecus: In contemporary thought, the immediate predecessor of Pithecanthropus on the evolutionary ladder.

  Shapeshifter: A person who can turn into one of various animals, e.g., into a wolf (werewolf), into a fox (kitsune), etc. Causes terror in superstitious individuals, but it is not clear why. For instance, when Korneev’s wisdom tooth started causing him pain, he turned into a cock, and immediately felt better.

  Star of Solomon: In international literature, a magic sign in the form of a six-pointed star possessing magical properties. At the present time, like the great majority of other geometrical spells, it has lost its power and is only good for frightening the ignorant.

  Taxidermist: A maker of stuffed animals. This term is not in common usage in Russian, but I recommended it to the authors, because C. J. Junta flies into a fury when he is referred to as a mere animal stuffer.

  Tertia: One-sixtieth of a second.

  Upanishads: An ancient Indian commentary on four holy books.

  Upyr: See vampire.

  Vampire: A bloodsucking corpse in folktales. Does not exist. In reality vampires (also known as upyrs) are magicians who for some reason or other have chosen the path of abstract evil. From ancient times the means used to combat them have been a poplar-wood stake and bullets cast from native silver. In the text the word vampire is always used in the figurative sense.

  Werewolf: See shapeshifter.



  by Boris Strugatsky

  We came up with the idea of a story about wizards, witches, sorcerers, and magicians a long time ago, at the end of the 1950s. To begin with we had no idea of what might happen in it; all we knew was that the heroes would be characters from the fairy tales, legends, myths, and ghost stories of all cultures and times. And that their adventures would take place against the backdrop of a research institute with all its foibles, well known to one of us from his own personal experience, and to the other from the many stories recounted to him by his academic friends. We spent a long time gathering together jokes and nicknames and amusing characteristics for our future characters, and wrote them all down on separate scraps of paper (which, as always happens, were later lost). But no real advance took place; we were never able to think of a story or a plot for the adventure.

  For all practical purposes, everything started on a rainy evening at the Kislovodsk high-altitude station, where two colleagues on loan from the Pulkovo Observatory were cordially dying of boredom: junior researcher B. N. Strugatsky and senior engineer Lidia Kamionko. Outside, it was October 1960. I had just finished my task of finding a site for the Large Altazimuth Telescope in the damp and grassy slopes of the northern Caucasus and was waiting for the infinitely varied formalities involved in the transfer of the expedition’s property, the write-off of unused surpluses, the completion of accounts forms, and other tedious activities to be completed. And L. Kamionko, who had come to the high-altitude station to make the final adjustments to some new item of equipment, was despairingly idle because of the emphatic absence of any weather that would allow her to make astronomical observations. And so, out of sheer boredom, we started to write a little story that evening, a tale with no beginning or end, with the same rain in it, the same dim bulb without a shade hanging from the ceiling by a cord, the same damp veranda filled with old furniture and boxes of equipment, the same melancholy boredom, but which was also a story in which the most ridiculous and entirely impossible things took place: strange, clumsy figures appeared out of thin air, making magical gestures, delivering absurd and ridiculous speeches, and the whole four-page surrealist abracadabra finished with the striking words “THE SOFA HAD DISAPPEARED!!!”

  I went home via Moscow and stayed with my brother (and coauthor), and there, with his family, we read this sket
ch out loud, provoking friendly laughter and general approval. And everything stopped there; it never occurred to us that the mysteriously disappearing sofa was a magical sofa-translator, or that the strange people described in the story were wizards chasing said translator. Everything happened as it was supposed to: several years of reflection and adaptation lay ahead of us.

  It may seem strange, but the story of how Monday Starts on Saturday came to be written has completely disappeared from my memory. It has vanished to such an extent that now, when I look back over the scattered lines of letters and diaries, I catch myself losing the thread of the conversation.

  03/19/61—AS LETTER: . . . You seem to have gone to the seventh heaven in vain . . . [Oddity number one. Seventh Heaven is one of the earliest possible titles we gave to Monday Starts on Saturday. But had I really “gone there” so soon, by March 1961? That seems to me entirely impossible.]

  07/23/61—AS LETTER: . . . What if we tried getting . . . Wizards finished? If it’s no more than 4 printer’s pages long, that would be great.1

  08/04/61—AS LETTER: Re: wizards. I don’t know. It should be something short and cheerful. At most three printer’s pages. Three parts. The first one’s already written . . . [Oddities two and three. What does he mean, “getting Wizards finished”! Does this mean that there’s already something done that we only need to “finish”? And what does he mean, “The first one’s already written”? As far as I recall, we had nothing of the kind nearing completion, nor even drafted . . . Odd, it’s very odd . . .]

  Second part. The hero is sure that the wizards will leave him in peace now. But all day long, wherever he goes, the wizards follow him à la secretary Prysh. They lean mournfully out of walls and manholes, make incomprehensible gestures in his direction, annoy him when he meets his girlfriend, and sadly fly away when he starts to get angry. Their dullness and ignorance start to worry him. A wizard is easy to distinguish from other people: you just need to ask him to recite the seven times table. Wizards from all corners of the universe gather on Earth. They need the White Thesis, which has been lost since time immemorial: it was hidden in a tree, which was then taken to a workshop and turned into the sofa, which fell into our hero’s hands . . .

  And so on. Who is Prysh? What happens next? One thing is clear: whether we had something or nothing written by then, the future Monday Starts on Saturday started off looking very different from how it looked at the end.

  11/01/62—AS LETTER: . . . I’ve put us into the Detgiz2 catalog for 1964 under the title Seventh Heaven. The title isn’t absolutely vital for the time being, but we need to write the book. About wizards. Frivolous. Cheery. Nothing tricksy. And? Dreams! And?

  I went to the Polytechnic Museum with Andreyev, Gromova, Dneprov, Poleschuk, Parnov, and Emtsev. . . . I said, as if laying down the law from the pulpit, “We should write about witches and sorcerers; science isn’t something that we are under orders to write about.” You should have seen their reaction! Laughter, applause, outrage . . . !

  I strongly suspect that by this time we had something written and stored away in our war chest: the Kislovodsk sketch, rewritten and bulked up to the size of a future chapter of “The Commotion over the Sofa.” And here we are, finally!

  09/06/63—AS DIARY: Boris came, we did some work on Hard to Be a God, and wrote the plan for “The Commotion over the Sofa.” . . .

  01/18/64—AN DIARY: On December 26 [1963] I came back from Leningrad. We wrote “The Commotion over the Sofa.” . . .

  Finally! The first part of the future novel had been done, and not even three years had gone by. There was still a while to go before the whole thing was completed. A large number of notes and drafts and jokes and ideas have been preserved from that period.

  Man is an animal with the capacity to become a wizard. A wolf is born a wolf and spends his whole life as a wolf. A pig is born a pig and remains one all his life. Man is born a monkey, but he can grow up and become a wolf, or a pig, or a wizard.

  The director of the Institute is the werewolf Kir Janus. He can divide himself. . . . The father, the son, and the holy ghost.

  Contrast: make the wizards do stupid tasks. Meetings, trips to collective farms.

  The accounts department, where they save nothing but kopecks (not millions of rubles and not time).

  The wizards really want to make all people happy. One basic plot strand: the work of the Happiness Bureau. IDEA: it is forbidden to rain down good fortune on the heads of present-day people. BUT THIS WOULD BE THE EASIEST THING FOR THEM TO DO.

  The Bureau of Happiness and Contentment. Constantly getting results other than those they planned.

  The Bureau of Circus Techniques. The institute as a whole was originally founded as NICirTech. This is remembered with respect and to this day the Bureau of CirTech serves as a model for them all. (Analogies with astrometry.)

  Show how annoying it is to work according to a dogmatic, all-encompassing official theory.

  And so on. It is not yet Monday Starts on Saturday; the authors are only gropingly finding a way toward it, but theirs is the true way. They are working in harmony. And quickly.

  06/25/64—AS DIARY: I spent May in Leningrad, where we wrote and rewrote the remaining two sections of The Commotion over the Sofa: “The Night Before Christmas” and “Of Time and the Self” . . .

  Note all this messing about with names. The authors did not yet know what the parts of the new story, or even the story itself, should be called. But at the same time, the title Monday Starts on Saturday did already exist. This is a title with its own fairly amusing history.

  It should be said that the beginning of the 1960s was a time of general Hemingway worship. No one is read nowadays with such enjoyment and rapture; no one is discussed so much and so passionately; no one’s books are sought out with such fervor by every single member of the reading public, from the high school student to the college professor. And so once, while I was sitting in my office at the Pulkovo Observatory, a call came through from the city from my old friend Natasha Sventsintskaya, a woman who knew a great deal about, and read a great deal of, Hemingway (at least she did in those days). “Borya,” she said with restrained excitement. “At Dom Knigi they’ve just brought in a new book by Hem, called Monday Starts on Saturday.” My heart leaped and then sweetly repined. It was such a perfect, such an authentic Hemingway title: sad yet restrained, cruelly hopeless, cold, and oh so human all at the same time . . . Monday starts on Saturday: that means there is no rest in our life, our working days follow on one from another without break, what is gray will remain gray, what is dull will be forever dull . . . I did not hesitate for a second: “Buy it!” I snapped. “Take as many as they’ve got. At any price!” Angelic laughter down the phone line was the only reply.

  It was a successful prank she played on me. And not in vain, as so often happens with jokes. I immediately squirreled away this wonderful invention, sure that it would be a perfect title for a future novel about a love affair both wondrous and hopeless. That novel was never written, nor was it ever even considered as it should have been, but the squirreled-away title lived its own life in my notebooks, waited for its opportunity, and when it came, a couple of years later, took it. True, Arkady and I gave it a completely different, one might almost say contradictory, profoundly optimistic meaning, but we never regretted it for an instant. Natasha did not complain either. In fact, I think she was even rather flattered.

  And so historical justice demands that two wonderful women, former colleagues at the Pulkovo Observatory, be given due recognition for their position at the sources of what is evidently the most popular of Arkady and my stories. Stand forward, my dears: Lidia Alexandrovna Kamionko, the coauthor of the famous, plot-creating phrase “THE SOFA HAD DISAPPEARED,” and Natalia Alexandrovna Sventsintskaya, the person who thought up that infinitely sad, or perhaps joyfully optimistic, aphorism “Monday starts on Saturday”!

  Overall, Monday Starts on Saturday is to a great extent a comic revue, the resu
lt of cheerful collective work.

  DO WE REALLY NEED OURSELVES FOR ANYTHING? was a poster that actually did hang in one of the laboratories of, I think, the State Optical Institute.

  “Down the road there comes a ZIM, and that’ll be the end of him” is an inspired verse made up by my old friend Yuri Chistakov, a great expert in composing verses in the style of Captain Lebyadkin.

  “A summer dacha is my aspiration. / But where to build? Although I try and try . . .” is a poem from the newspaper For a New Pulkovo.

  And so on, and so forth . . .

  To conclude, I cannot keep from mentioning that the censor did not assault this new story too much. It was a funny tale, and the cavils were funny as well. So the censor categorically demanded the excision of any mention of the Zavod imeni Molotova, or Molotov Auto Factory, from the text. (“Down the road there comes a ZIM, and that’ll be the end of him.”) The thing is, at this time Molotov was a marked man, condemned and excluded from the Party, and the auto factory that bore his name was rapidly transformed into the GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, or Gorky Auto Factory), just as the ZIS (Zavod imeni Stalina, the Stalin Factory) had already been renamed as the ZIL (Zavod imeni Likhacheva, the Likhachev Factory). Laughing loudly, the two authors suggested that the poem should read, “Down the road there comes a ZIL, / And that’ll be the end of him.” And what do you think happened? To their great surprise, Glavlit3 eagerly agreed to this ridiculous nonsense. And in this crude form the poem was printed and reprinted several times.