Tuesday, 31 May 2011

...of a general

...His usual conversation with his subordinates was strict as strict could be and consisted almost entirely of three phrases: 'How dare you? Do you realise whom you are talking? Are you aware who is standing before you?' He was, however, a good man at heart, loyal to his friends and ready to oblige, but the rank of general had completely turned his head. His promotion had somehow bewildered him and thrown him off balance, and he really had no idea how he should behave. When he was with his equals, he was a quite decent man, very gentlemanly in fact, and in many respects even intelligent; but as soon as he chanced to be in the company of men even only one rank beneath him, he was simply a lost soul: he could not say a word, and people felt pity for him, all the more so since he sensed that he could have been spending his time incomparably better. Sometimes his eyes betrayed a strong wish to join some interesting group or conversation, but he was always stopped by the thought that this might be going too far, that such over-friendliness on his part might detract from his significance. And so, as a result of these considerations he remained forever in the same condition of silence, pronouncing only the occasional monosyllable and acquiring the reputation of being exceptionally boring...

[The Greatcoat, Gogol, N. V.]

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