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Двенадцать стульев

Книга для чтения на английском языке
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Предлагаем вниманию читателей знаменитый роман советских писателей первой половины XX века Ильфа и Петрова «Двенадцать стульев», написанный в 1927 году. История о двух искателях сокровищ — Остапе Бендере и его «напарнике» Кисе Воробьянинове, — стала поистине «народной классикой». Бендер, «великий комбинатор», использует множество известных ему «честных» способов присвоения чужих денег, обладает потрясающим обаянием и является одним из самых популярных героев литературы XX века. Роман публикуется на английском языке и будет интересен широкому кругу читателей.
Ильф, И. А. Двенадцать стульев : книга для чтения на английском языке : художественная литература / И. А. Ильф, Е. Петров ; пер. с русск. Дж. Ричардсона. - Санкт-Петербург : КАРО, 2020. - 416 с. - (Современная русская проза). - ISBN 978-5-9925-1417-9. - Текст : электронный. - URL: https://znanium.com/catalog/product/1864332 (дата обращения: 20.05.2024). – Режим доступа: по подписке.
Фрагмент текстового слоя документа размещен для индексирующих роботов. Для полноценной работы с документом, пожалуйста, перейдите в ридер.
ILYA ILF 

YEVGENY PETROV

THE TWELVE  

CHAIRS

Translated from the Russian  

by John Richardson

УДК 372.8
ББК  81.2 Англ–93 

И45

ISBN 978-5-9925-1417-9

Ильф И. , Петров Е.

И45  Двенадцать стульев : книга для чтения на англий
ском языке / И. Ильф, Е. Петров/ — [пер. с русск. 
Дж. Ричардсона]. — Санкт-Петербург : КАРО, 
2020. — 416 с. — (Современная русская проза).

ISBN 978-5-9925-1417-9.

Предлагаем вниманию читателей знаменитый роман 

советских писателей первой половины XX века Ильфа и 
Петрова «Двенадцать стульев», написанный в 1927 году.

История о двух искателях сокровищ — Остапе Бенде
ре и его «напарнике» Кисе Воробьянинове, — стала поистине «народной классикой».  

Бендер, «великий комбинатор», использует множе
ство известных ему «честных» способов присвоения чужих денег, обладает потрясающим обаянием и является 
одним из самых популярных героев литературы XX века. 

Роман публикуется на английском языке и будет ин
тересен широкому кругу читателей.

УДК 372.8 

ББК 81.2 Англ–93

© КАРО, 2019

ILYA ILF, YEVGENY PETROV

THE TWELVE CHAIRS

Translated from the Russian  

by John Richardson

PART I

THE LION OF STARGOROD

Сhapter One
Bezenchuk and the Nymphs

There were so many hairdressing establishments 

and funeral homes in the regional centre of N. that the 
inhabitants seemed to be born merely in order to have 
a shave, get their hair cut, freshen up their heads with 
toilet water and then die. In actual fact, people came 
into the world, shaved, and died rather rarely in the 
regional centre of N. Life in N. was extremely quiet. The 
spring evenings were delightful, the mud glistened like 
anthracite in the light of the moon, and all the young men 
of the town were so much in love with the secretary of 
the communal-service workers’ local committee that she 
found difficulty in collecting their subscriptions.

Matters of life and death did not worry Ippolit 

Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, although by the nature of 
his work he dealt with them from nine till five every day, 
with a half-hour break for lunch.

Each morning, having drunk his ration of hot milk 

brought to him by Claudia Ivanovna in a streaky frostedglass tumbler, he left the dingy little house and went 
outside into the vast street bathed in weird spring 
sunlight; it was called Comrade Gubernsky Street. It was 
the nicest kind of street you can find in regional centres. 
On the left you could see the coffins of the Nymph 
Funeral Home glittering with silver through undulating 
green-glass panes. On the right, the dusty, plain oak 
coffins of Bezenchuk, the undertaker, reclined sadly 
behind small windows from which the putty was peeling 
off. Further up, “Master Barber Pierre and Constantine” 
promised customers a “manicure” and “home curlings”. 
Still further on was a hotel with a hairdresser’s, and 
beyond it a large open space in which a straw-coloured 
calf stood tenderly licking the rusty sign propped up 
against a solitary gateway. The sign read: Do-Us-theHonour Funeral Home.

Although there were many funeral homes, their 

clientele was not wealthy. The Do-Us-the-Honour had 
gone broke three years before Ippolit Matveyevich 
settled in the town of N., while Bezenchuk drank like a 
fish and had once tried to pawn his best sample coffin.

People rarely died in the town of N. Ippolit 

Matveyevich knew this better than anyone because he 
worked in the registry office, where he was in charge of 
the registration of deaths and marriages.

The desk at which Ippolit Matveyevich worked 

resembled an ancient gravestone. The left-hand corner 
had been eaten away by rats. Its wobbly legs quivered 
under the weight of bulging tobacco-coloured files of 
notes, which could provide any required information on 

the origins of the town inhabitants and the family trees 
that had grown up in the barren regional soil.

On Friday, April 15, 1927, Ippolit Matveyevich 

woke up as usual at half past seven and immediately 
slipped on to his nose an old-fashioned pince-nez with 
a gold nosepiece. He did not wear glasses. At one time, 
deciding that it was not hygienic to wear pince-nez, 
he went to the optician and bought himself a pair of 
frameless spectacles with gold-plated sidepieces. He 
liked the spectacles from the very first, but his wife (this 
was shortly before she died) found that they made him 
look the spitting image of Milyukov, and he gave them 
to the man who cleaned the yard. Although he was not 
shortsighted, the fellow grew accustomed to the glasses 
and enjoyed wearing them.

“Bonjour!” sang Ippolit Matveyevich to himself as he 

lowered his legs from the bed. “Bonjour” showed that 
he had woken up in a. good humour. If he said “Guten 
Morgen” on awakening, it usually meant that his liver 
was playing tricks, that it was no joke being fifty-two, 
and that the weather was damp at the time.

Ippolit Matveyevich thrust his legs into pre
revolutionary trousers, tied the ribbons around his 
ankles, and pulled on short, soft-leather boots with 
narrow, square toes. Five minutes later he was neatly 
arrayed in a yellow waistcoat decorated with small silver 
stars and a lustrous silk jacket that reflected the colours 
of the rainbow as it caught the light. Wiping away the 
drops of water still clinging to his grey hairs after his 
ablutions, Ippolit Matveyevich fiercely wiggled his 
moustache, hesitantly felt his bristly chin, gave his closecropped silvery hair a brush and, then, smiling politely, 

went toward his mother-in-law, Claudia Ivanovna, who 
had just come into the room.

“Eppole-et,” she thundered, “I had a bad dream last 

night.”

The word “dream” was pronounced with a French “r”.
Ippolit Matveyevich looked his mother-in-law up 

and down. He was six feet two inches tall, and from that 
height it was easy for him to look down on his motherin-law with a certain contempt.

Claudia Ivanovna continued: “I dreamed of the 

deceased Marie with her hair down, and wearing a 
golden sash.”

The iron lamp with its chain and dusty glass toys all 

vibrated at the rumble of Claudia Ivanovna’s voice. “I am 
very disturbed. I fear something may happen.” These last 
words were uttered with such force that the square of 
bristling hair on Ippolit Matveyevich’s head moved in 
different directions. He wrinkled up his face and said 
slowly:

“Nothing’s going to happen, Maman. Have you paid 

the water rates?”

It appeared that she had not. Nor had the galoshes 

been washed. Ippolit Matveyevich disliked his motherin-law. Claudia Ivanovna was stupid, and her advanced 
age gave little hope of any improvement. She was stingy 
in the extreme, and it was only Ippolit Matveyevich’s 
poverty which prevented her giving rein to this passion. 
Her voice was so strong and fruity that it might well have 
been envied by Richard the Lionheart, at whose shout, as 
is well known, horses used to kneel. Furthermore, and 
this was the worst thing of all about her, she had dreams. 
She was always having dreams. She dreamed of girls in 

sashes, horses trimmed with the yellow braid worn by 
dragoons, caretakers playing harps, angels in watchmen’s 
fur coats who went for walks at night carrying clappers, 
and knitting-needles which hopped around the room by 
themselves making a distressing tinkle. An empty-headed 
woman was Claudia Ivanovna. In addition to everything 
else, her upper lip was covered by a moustache, each side 
of which resembled a shaving brush.

Ippolit Matveyevich left the house in rather an 

irritable mood. Bezenchuk the undertaker was standing 
at the entrance to his tumble-down establishment, 
leaning against the door with his hands crossed. The 
regular collapse of his commercial undertakings 
plus a long period of practice in the consumption of 
intoxicating drinks had made his eyes bright yellow like 
a cat’s, and they burned with an unfading light.

“Greetings to an honoured guest!” he rattled off, 

seeing Vorobyaninov. “Good mornin’.”

Ippolit Matveyevich politely raised his soiled beaver 

hat. “How’s your mother-in-law, might I inquire?” “Mrrmrr,” said Ippolit Matveyevich indistinctly, and shrugging 
his shoulders, continued on his way.

“God grant her health,” said Bezenchuk bitterly. 

“Nothin’ but losses, durn it.” And crossing his hands on 
his chest, he again leaned against the doorway.

At the entrance to the Nymph Funeral Home Ippolit 

Matveyevich was stopped once more. There were 
three owners of the Nymph. They all bowed to Ippolit 
Matveyevich and inquired in chorus about his motherin-law’s health.

“She’s well,” replied Ippolit Matveyevich. “The things 

she does! Last night she saw a golden girl with her hair 
down. It was a dream.”

The three Nymphs exchanged glances and sighed 

loudly.

These conversations delayed Vorobyaninov on his 

way, and contrary to his usual practice, he did not arrive 
at work until the clock on the wall above the slogan 
“Finish Your Business and Leave” showed five past nine.

Because of his great height, and particularly because 

of his moustache, Ippolit Matveyevich was known in 
the office as Maciste. Аlthough the real Maciste had 
no moustache. (Translator’s Note: Maciste was an 
internationally known Italian actor of the time.)

Taking a blue felt cushion out of a drawer in the 

desk, Ippolit Matveyevich placed it on his chair, aligned 
his moustache correctly (parallel to the top of the desk) 
and sat down on the cushion, rising slightly higher than 
his three colleagues. He was not afraid of getting piles; 
he was afraid of wearing out his trousers-that was why 
he used the blue cushion.

All these operations were watched timidly by two 

young persons-a boy and a girl. The young man, who 
wore a padded cotton coat, was completely overcome 
by the office atmosphere, the chemical smell of the ink, 
the clock that was ticking loud and fast, and most of 
all by the sharply worded notice “Finish Your Business 
and Leave”. The young man in the coat had not even 
begun his business, but he was nonetheless ready to 
leave. He felt his business was so insignificant that it 
was shameful to disturb such a distinguished-looking 
grey-haired citizen as Vorobyaninov. Ippolit Matveyevich 
also felt the young man’s business was a trifling one 
and could wait, so he opened folder no. 2 and, with a 
twitch of the cheek, immersed himself in the papers. 

The girl, who had on a long jacket edged with shiny 
black ribbon, whispered something to the young man 
and, pink with embarrassment, began moving toward 
Ippolit Matveyevich.

“Comrade,” she said, “where do we …”
The young man in the padded coat sighed with 

pleasure and, unexpectedly for himself, blurted out:

“Get married!”
Ippolit Matveyevich looked thoughtfully at the rail 

behind which the young couple were standing.

“Birth? Death?”
“Get married?” repeated the young man in the coat 

and looked round him in confusion.

The girl gave a giggle. Things were going fine. Ippolit 

Matveyevich set to work with the skill of a magician. 
In spidery handwriting he recorded the names of the 
bride and groom in thick registers, sternly questioned 
the witnesses, who had to be fetched from outside, 
breathed tenderly and lengthily on the square rubber 
stamps and then, half rising to his feet, impressed them 
upon the tattered identification papers. Having received 
two roubles from the newlyweds “for administration of 
the sacrament”, as he said with a smirk, and given them 
a receipt, Ippolit Matveyevich drew himself up to his 
splendid height, automatically pushing out his chest 
(he had worn a corset at one time). The wide golden 
rays of the sun fell on his shoulders like epaulettes. His 
appearance was slightly comic, but singularly impressive. 
The biconcave lenses of his pince-nez flashed white like 
searchlights. The young couple stood in awe.

“Young people,” said Ippolit Matveyevich pompously, 

“allow me to congratulate you, as they used to say, on 

your legal marriage. It is very, very nice to see young 
people like yourselves moving hand in hand toward the 
realization of eternal ideals. It is very, ve-ery nice!’

Having made this address, Ippolit Matveyevich 

shook hands with the newly married couple, sat down, 
and, extremely pleased with himself, continued to read 
the papers in folder no. 2. At the next desk the clerks 
sniggered into their inkwells. The quiet routine of the 
working day had begun. No one disturbed the deathsand-marriages desk. Through the windows citizens 
could be seen making their way home, shivering in 
the spring chilliness. At exactly midday the cock in the 
Hammer and Plough cooperative began crowing. Nobody 
was surprised. Then came the mechanical rattling and 
squeaking of a car engine. A thick cloud of violet smoke 
billowed out from Comrade Gubernsky Street, and the 
clanking grew louder. Through the smoke appeared the 
outline of the regional-executive-committee car Gos. No. 
1 with its minute radiator and bulky body. Floundering 
in the mud as it went, the car crossed Staropan Square 
and, swaying from side to side, disappeared in a cloud of 
poisonous smoke. The clerks remained standing at the 
window for some time, commenting on the event and 
attempting to connect it with a possible reduction in 
staff. A little while later Bezenchuk cautiously went past 
along the footboards. For days on end he used to wander 
round the town trying to find out if anyone had died.

The working day was drawing to a close. In the 

nearby white and yellow belfry the bells began ringing 
furiously. Windows rattled. Jackdaws rose one by one 
from the belfry, joined forces over the square, held a 
brief meeting, and flew off. The evening sky turned icegrey over the deserted square.

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