Fyodor Sologub: Мелкий бес (The Petty Demon)


The latest addition to my website is Fyodor Sologub‘s Мелкий бес (The Petty Demon). This is a social satire on the inhabitants of a small Russian town, but focussing on a teacher, Ardalyon Borisych Peredonov. Peredonov is lazy, incompetent, a bully, racist, sexist, petty self-centred and full of himself. He lives with his second cousin, Varvara Dmitrievna Maloshina, who works as his cook and housekeeper but she is hoping to marry him. She has one hold over him. She used to work for the Princess Volchanskaya and the princess has, apparently, promised to help Varvara’s husband (but only if they are married) get a position as schools inspector, a position that Peredonov eagerly covets. However, Peredonov is an eligible bachelor and there are lots of eligible young unmarried women in the town and their various relatives are always trying to push them onto Peredonov. He considers several but seems unable to make up his mind. His friend, Volodin, who is not paid nearly as much, however, is rejected by every woman he proposes to. Peredonov’s behaviour is becoming increasingly erratic and he shows signs of neurosis, paranoia and having hallucinations. His headmaster is worried enough to call in medical advice, which is not readily forthcoming. Sologub pulls no punches in his mockery of Peredonov (he himself was a teacher), the eligible young women and their relatives and the pompous town officials, so much so that this book had considerable success in Russia. It is still an enjoyable read.

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