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THE CELLO

by

Sergey Karpukhin





It was painted by an English emigrant who had by that time been living in Normandy for twenty years. He was old but still worked every day in a spacious empty room on the ground floor of his house. The two girls with whom he had lived and who had been his only connection with the outside world had gone away two years before the picture was drawn. Once a week a woman from an agency in Caen visited him, left food and rode away, taking his laundry with her. In his diary the artist called this woman ancilla; he also wrote there on one of the last days of working at the picture: "This bitch has got testicles". He died a week after the work was done, as the date on the canvas suggests.

This work, which remained after the death of the artist among his few finished things, was immediately marked as outstanding. An expert came to the master's maison in order to assess his pictures and to select some of them for an exhibition in Paris: this trip concluded with his bringing the picture in question alone. The firm had to send another expert. The picture was signed Foure Plandaire, which did not, however, cause any considerable doubts as to its authenticity, since the artist had signed almost all of his last works with different names; besides, the method was perfectly recognizable. The main peculiarity of the picture showed when the dark was drawing on: a pattern composed of dark colours in the centre, from a blurred spot, which resembled a quadrate standing upon one of its corners so that one of its diagonals would be vertical and the other horizontal, turned into familiar objects. Moreover, it appeared that for everyone who looked at the picture objects were familiar, everyone saw his or her things there: some saw a glade at sunset, some saw rain, and some saw a bookcase with Tibullus' bust upon it. Another peculiarity consisted in the fact that the quantity of those images increased with each time the picture was looked at. When it was seen by a great many people, images of some of them began to coincide. Thus, for instance, a bookcase with Tibullus was seen by fifteen persons, and a rainbow by thirty persons. Although everybody admitted that the images were composed of contrasting colours, a dark shadow against a lighter background mainly, akin to silhouette. Five years after the picture was drawn, that is now, the year 2000, in some monographs dedicated to this problem one may find statements that the picture contains ca. 300 images, but unofficially it is known to comprise not less than a hundred thousand images. Last summer a poet saw himself in the picture, and his seven-year-old daughter, who had come with him to look at the picture, said she also saw her father in it.

Another work of the same artist, though inscribed Fur Plunder, is a shabby paysage - a draft, a thing definitely unaccomplished.







ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sergey Karpukhin was born in Irkutsk, Russia in 1982. He is currently studying Russian literature at the Irkutsk State University, majoring in Nabokov. He writes short stories and poetry and translates from English and French. Some of his translations from Baudelaire and Coleridge were published in a local monthly, his Russian fiction appeared at Vernitskii Literature.




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