This event happened three years ago, when I hired a house from the street and moved here. I saw here a man as old as the mountains. He lived in the house which was next to mine on the corner of the street. I saw him thinking out on the old bench in front of his house. His face was unshaved and looked dissatisfied wrinkled as he was fat in past and it looked like the statue of angry deity; when one looked at him felt displeasure in his heart. His eyes were insensitive and inexpressive. He was wearing a stylish jacket in the fashion of fiftieths – sitting thoughtful hanging his neck rings. When I was carrying the books from the car to the house he glanced as if he did not expect favor from the world and he had no interest towards anything, then he sat looking at the ground like that again. After a few days I was surprised when I heard from hostess that the old man was a good painter and he paints portraits occasionally now. I guessed he was an unlucky official. Afterwards I often saw the old man with his jacket going to the house or to the direction of the grocery at the beginning of the street with hard steps, as if he was measuring last times of his life; sometimes he was eating scarcely his meal in the kitchen of neighborhood gazing people with hostility. This enmity was poisonous and felt like it was making people weak by choking and that time seemed like it was spreading from his whole body, his essence, from his all tetanus blood vessels and from his fort of life that was unknown for me like secret fortress in jungle. When I saw him my heart was chafed, got troubled and my mood were broken, whereas, we only knew each other by sight. First of all I didn’t like his smirk face: he looked at people with arrogance, stared with doubt in spite of his poor condition, and he pretended himself as if he had been doing the same all his life. One day the hostess asked me to carry supper to the old man. Remembering his frog-like face I felt shy but I couldn’t refuse. I entered the room through the narrow and old fashioned door. The old man was sitting on the cane chair and tilting to the frame picture in the porch. His house was magnificent, but it was like deserted field. Columns and frames were rotten; in general the house smelled bad. This disgusting smell was coming from trees, deserted and faded flower garden that stayed under the snow, woods of the building and pile of pictures in the porch; and sluttish smell was coming from dustbin.
I thought that the old man collected that rubbish all his life. I felt sick and went to the porch where he was sitting. He didn’t pay attention to me, glanced at me with a surprise and continued his work; he was painting a colorful picture. I put a khontakhta (uzbek national table with short legs to eat in kneeling position) in front of him. He didn’t pay attention again: I thought he was accustomed to receiving food from his neighbors. At that time I noticed his hands were shivering and scribbled colors. When I put his supper, he stopped painting, looked at the khontakhta and divided bread into pieces with his dyed hands freely. He began eating and his rotten teeth were seen through his cracked lips. Then I noticed again that he looked like the statue of a male deity. He was slurping, eating with slack known habit for all old men, and liquid of noodles was leaking back to the bowl from both corners of his lips; his head was shivering, blood vessels of his neck got swollen and turned blue when he ingested, his eyes were tired like ready to cry and he sometimes itched his nose bridge with his right hand. I thought it was habit for him because his nose bridge was colorful. While he was rising spoon with feeble, looking his blank face, it was difficult to believe that this sloven who even could not cope to eat his meal could be a painter.
- Can I see your pictures? Are they pictures of twenties? I asked trying not to show my doubt.
He was eating calmly. Then he showed the end of the porch without looking at me as if he was pointing a heap of rubbish.
“All of them is in order. It begins from here”, – said in hoarse voice. His voice was so unpleasant, that I shuddered, so I went to the end of the porch without saying anything. Some people who know an art praised me his pictures in 1920 s. My friend, who worked in the museum, said that his pictures were on an exhibition in the museum. It was said that the old man was a communist in 1920s. He fought against “basmachi” ( the person who was the member of Turkistan national liberation movement 1916 – 1930s) took part actively in establishing new lifestyle. At that time he was well-known. It’s said that he worked in an important job in 1930s. He had worked in that position for a long time till his retirement. The people gossiped about his life and the events of that time. After losing his work, he didn’t go out, and he was alone. It’s said that he didn’t join anybody and he didn’t want to see the people, whom he hurt. In the late 1950 his wife died. Only he had a son who had as unpleasant face than his father’s. His son was a pickpocket. He was imprisoned because of a murder. Now he was living off gambling. He was an ill-tempered man. I saw him twice in the street. It’s said that he lived with a widow in the countryside, and went to see his father once a month or a year. In every visit he quarreled with his father. His only aim from seeing his father was to get money. Even when his father didn’t give money, he beat his father twice. It’s said that the old man had so much money, but he didn’t want to give it even to his son, he was stingy. His son also thought about his father like that. He didn’t respect his father.
I heard his voice while I was passing from the street. “I don’t know anything, – he, said loudly. – If you don’t find money, I set fire to your house. ” Then banging noise began and his swear word was heard. In the evening the hostess told me that his son beat his father again.
The old man‘s porch was as a workshop. The front of the porch was glassed in windows, and it could be opened in the summer. It was a wide place. I was very interested in his painting in 1920. In general I got interested in the old man more and more. Here there were accessories: artificial flowers, flower-pots, different paints, old books, and the boy’s statue carrying fire, weapons made of stones, nets, and chains – they were all mixed. There smelled wet. It was more like pantry reminding futile past than the porch. The porch was long. The paintings were arranged according to their years of painting. There were nearly 40 paintings and drafts: “1957”, ”1947”, ”1937”, ”1928”, ”1926” and so on. While I was looking through the picture I felt as I was going into his secret life. On the comer of the porch a painting was hung and “1921” was written at the bottom of the painting. I thought that he began painting from this year. Although the picture was painted unskillfully, its colors were clear. In the painting a sturdy man was leading a monkey from the thick forest. A young man’s eyes were brightening from confidence. The fetters on the neck of the monkey were tightened. I didn’t understand what the old man wanted to say. But I was astonished at the belief in the man’s eyes; a reddish colored man’s feelings were reflected perfectly. The old man could paint the next paintings rather well. The colors were clear and used skillfully. The scenery of nature was getting more beautiful the colors were different. But then there was an abstraction of a black color in the painting as if the sky was covered with autumn crows. The increasein usage of a black color from one painting to another astonished me. An abstraction seemed in the painting and also in the color. I noticed that black colors were more occupied instead of other colors. The paintings in 1930 were more abstract. They were covered with black colors. When you see the paintings an abstract feeling would come into your heart. At that time I thought that the old man painted disorderly. Because the old man worked in those years. I noticed that pictures were painted without any aim. Only in the first painting the resolution and confidence in the man’s eyes were attracted anybody. You would also follow him. It leaded you to a light life from the dark forest. You were eager to come into this life. When you looked at his eyes, it would captivate you. My friend felt like that, so he praised the old man. In his painting the old man could appear himself as a talented painter with good prospects. If you pay attention to his first paintings, you would notice that they were painted in his youth. I thought that he painted last ones only not to forget his ability. In the painting such kind of things were described: deserted villages, streets and houses, graves, weapons that symbolize death, crying women and children, scavenger birds barrows with dead, fence cells, burnt villages, shocked people (like “Pompey’s last days”) threatened from something, mystical creature, wild animals, people who wore different masks of animals, (I thought it was a carnival), men at parties, naked women, chaste girls withered flowers. It was difficult to believe that these paintings were painted with an inspiration or an aim. I looked at the old man without understanding the view of the painting.
He had already had supper; he continued painting with dark colors. It seemed that he forgot I was here. I didn’t see any other completely described person in his next paintings. All paintings contained smeared colors. I was surprised at the abstraction on these works because as I know, the old man chose them among his best pictures and arranged them. That day I didn’t believe in his neighbors’ praises as he was a good painter. When I saw his paintings, my desire just passed. It seemed to me like a hopeless and deserted residence of life. I began thinking that their praises were just worthless words. The abstraction in the painting irritated me; but I came to the conclusion that once his life began flourishing soon, then this intensity merged with abstraction like a summer rain was absorbed by the desert. It reminded his youth; though his eyes were reddened they were still intelligent. But these eyes lost hope and belief.
When I came nearer to him, I glanced at his painting. It was covered with the material, in order not to be dust. I saw the description of the legs of a man and an animal. I was surprised at this. Finally, after some years man’s picture was appeared. The painting was unfinished. The old man looked like kneeling opposite the painting. Dyes could hardly follow to him, as if they were tired from reflecting useless and abstract scenes.
He asked seeing me packing dishes: “Well, did you like the paintings?”
I shrugged my shoulders and said that I didn’t understand the paintings. He looked at me as being sorry with his tired eyes and he nodded.
“Yes. Right, we lived unclearly, – he said sadly – , our every step was doubtful and misunderstanding for others. Of course, we are guilty, not you”.
He was speaking ironically like laughing at oneself and his every word was sawing my nerve. Perhaps it seemed to me like this. As he wanted to stop talking, he took the brush. He didn’t want to speak to me. If I had stayed here till the night, he wouldn’t have said a word. I took the dishes and went out immediately. He even didn’t turn round to me. I had thought his words for long time. But I couldn’t understand why he said so. I liked only his work “A man leading monkey” among his paintings. Right, I wasn’t a good admirer in art, but I was excited the confidence in young man’s eyes And I often imagined his firm appearance. I could hardly remember the other paintings. After two days the descriptions of the other paintings were mixed except the first painting. Then everything flew out from my memory tree like the birds.
The other day I brought him supper, I felt sick from stink again.
But I began getting used to this fetid smell. At that time we talked quite a lot. What I wondered at was that he was educated. It meant that he realized what he had done till this time. He was aware of Titian, Picasso, the representatives of modernism, Georges Braque and Umberto Boccioni which my friend praised, and their creations. But that day we talked about another thing. He said: “What is goodness or harm you cannot differentiate. It seems that sometimes goodness is harm for somebody, sometimes harm is goodness for someone.
“I disagree” I said with anger. Because he considered that everybody’s conclusion should be as he said. “These are contrary expressions. Harm couldn’t be goodness. Whatever is opposite to freedom and goodness, it is harm. ”I said.
He laughed at me proudly like I was a little boy. Then he began seriously, as if he remembered something.
“I serviced equally at both goodness and harm. Because what I did, it divided into two parts. I am not going to argue with you. I want to give an example. Once I had a friend of high rank. He was open-hearted, but he liked to be authoritative. He didn’t lose his high position for twenty seven years. He was a master. As for him, he was ordered to supply with raw materials. An order couldn’t be discussed and rejected. We were brought up like that. All workers of the factory had to work 14-16 hours. Officially it wasn’t impossible. To say the truth we could show initiative, but we couldn’t work like that for twelve months. A man is not a machine.
It might hurt thousands of people. If you disagree with it, of course you might lose your position. Although you are honest, the life cannot be beautiful with your honesty. That’s why my friend chose an alternative way. It should be noted that he was frank and helpful man. He signed papers as everything was done. He made other factories follow to him. They considered that «the more you did, the more we give». Because he always thought people’s fortune. My friend thought against despot orders, in this way he saved people with papers during twenty-seven years.
In the end he died. Then the people who were protected by him began throwing stones over him. They appointed another man instead of him. This head used everything, even forced to do an order. Profit reduced and people began begging. So they regretted their former head. And they realized that he was right. So, can you tell me what goodness or harm is in that case? How it can be distinguished? One of them broke the rule because of thinking people’s fate, the other ruined people because of a law. I cannot distinguish both of them during my life”.
“What about faith?”, – I said angrily. I lost my mind from his proofs. Perhaps, he had thought about his for a long time. That’s why he spoke with confidence and strictly. “Convinced people can realize well what is goodness or harm”, – I said and stopped because I was ashamed of my ornate words.
“Faith!”, – he say sadly. ”If you lived to believe and fight for it, but one day…when the thing you believed turned into a lie and you would realize goodness was meaningless, you wouldn’t say so. It looked like an empty cart, which lost its way. You couldn’t distinguish goodness and harm. Even you couldn’t deny doing any harm to fulfill the space of a cart. Is it faith? I haven’t said this word for forty years. It is so lustrous, fake and ornate. When I hear about it, I sicken”, – he stopped, wheezed with pain. He was so angry; he was as a full cup of tea. If I said something, he would shout at me. Apparently, he didn’t like the people, who didn’t agree with him. It was terrible and I imagined how he was, when he couldn’t find the difference between goodness and harm during his life. Even I began understanding his strange paintings. They were about people’ s thoughts, heart-breaking sorrows, who didn’t believe themselves, wasted their life with a lie, comfort and the pieces of his soul covered with abstraction. The last days of his life were coming; he avoided from ruthless decisions of the world and hid in the forest of loneliness and abstraction. And here he was thinking about all his life and making decisions for it. But I thought he couldn’t come to the conclusion. His lonely life seemed to me like a rotten tree. Apparently, loneliness became like his last shelter. His words had something to poison one. Having a talk with him quarter an hour, I began feeling bad. The old man destroyed everything I believed. And he harmed me with his distrust. It felt like my body was covered with the devil in the appearance of the old man. From that day I began reading funny stories till a long time to high my mood.
I didn’t go to his house again. I couldn’t come to myself from his nonsense and the stink of his house. When I remembered, I felt sick and I lost my interest in everything soon. The hostess went to his house once a week. She told me that he was painting a picture attentively. She didn’t understand his paintings and like him also. But she didn’t want to be separated from her neighbors, because they brought supper to the old man. In general, widows have a mercy feeling. They are soft-hearted and impressive. And they get sad in an instant.
Little by little I was not interested in his paintings and life. At that time I was translating stories by Onetti. I seldom remembered him and the old man would appear like a dark figure and he pursued me. When I remembered his first painting, my thoughts were delight as the young man’s eyes. I was interested in only his last painting a little bit. Because I thought, he was painting his last picture. Sometimes I saw him on the way of the grocery. When I looked at his meaningless eyes, they seemed to me as if his life was full of sorrows. And his body was so bent not to notice the beautiful world surrounded him. So I wanted to believe in my fearful thought.
During the whole winter I saw him twice at the gate where he was sunbathing. The hostess was talkative. She gossiped over the village and continued investigating the old man. She spoke about him with disgust. But she used to bring supper to him with responsibility. Especially, she didn’t like the old man’s manners unlike his neighbors.
When I came back in an early spring the hostess greeted me with tears in her eyes. She said that the old man died three days ago. My body shaked as if something cold crept and suddenly I thought about his paintings. The hostess said: “His house is neglected still. His son is not found anywhere. He might be caught again”. In the evening I went to the old man’s house. It was deserted. There was no any wet smell, but one felt sick from that stink smell. The paintings were put away to the corner. I began looking for his last painting. I was interested “Did he manage to finish it?” Finally I found a yellow material scraped the paper and stared at the painting. I saw so clear colors in it. It didn’t look like the other paintings which were painted during forty years. I wondered the scenery of the painting a bit. The scenery of the forest was described like his first picture. But in this painting the monkey was leading the man whose eyes were sad and almost dead through the forest. There was seen that picture was painted in a hurry. He used dyes inaccurately in some cases. He hurried to paint because of knowing his death. The colors on the background of painting were not in measure. It reminded sunset and spreading of darkness. On the fon the appearances of the man and monkey were described clearly. The despair of man’s face was so enhanced.
At that time I thought about the existence of entrance and exit doors of art as life had. His paintings were like a mythical fortress. When I saw his first painting I felt as if I came into his fortress and I was in the deserted field. Finally I knew why I was sad and my body shuddered when I saw his paintings. Till these I was living in the old man’s world. But now I felt as I left there. Now there was something anxiety from his paintings in my body instead of disgusting mucus thing.
When I came back my house, the hostess was speaking to an old man, who worked the local committee. She told me that the old men of the district were going to give somebody his house. She advised me to buy it. At once I felt that stink from the trees, flowers and even every bricks in his house. I felt unpleasant.
- No, – I said while I was going to my room,- presently, I am going to live without house.
Alisher Navoiy nomidagi Toshkent davlat o’zbek tili va adabiyoti universiteti O’zbek-ingliz tarjima fakulteti 2-bosqich talabasi Toshxonova Muborak