In the department of but it is better not to name the department. There is nothing more irritable than all kinds of departments, regiments, courts of justice and, in a word, every branch of public service. Each separate man nowadays thinks all society insulted in his person. They say that, quite recently, a complaint was received from a justice of the peace, in which he plainly demonstrated that all the imperial institutions were going to the dogs, and that his sacred name was being taken in vain; and in proof he appended to the complaint a huge volume of some romantic composition, in which the justice of the peace appears about once in every ten lines, sometimes in a drunken condition. Therefore, in order to avoid all unpleasantness, it will be better for us to designate the department in question as a certain department.
So, in a certain department serves a certain officialnot a very prominent official, it must be allowedshort of stature, somewhat pockmarked, rather red-haired, rather blind, judging from appearances, with a small bald spot on his forehead, with wrinkles on his cheeks, with a complexion of the sort called sanguine. How could he help it? The Petersburg climate was responsible for that. As for his rankfor with us the rank must be stated first of allhe was what is called a perpetual titular councillor, over which, as is well known, some writers make merry and crack their jokes, as they have the praiseworthy custom of attacking those who cannot bite back.
His family name was Bashmachkin. It is evident from the name, that it originated in bashmak (shoe); but when, at what time, and in what manner, is not known. His father and grandfather, and even his brother- in-law, and all the Bashmachkins, always wore boots, and only had new heels two or three times a year. His name was Akakii Akakievich. It may strike the reader as rather singular and far-fetched; but he may feel assured that it was by no means far-fetched, and that the circumstances were such that it would have been impossible to give him any other name; and this was how it came about.
Akakii Akakievich was born, if my memory fails me not, towards night on the 23d of March. His late mother, the wife of an official, and a very fine woman, made all due arrangements for having the child baptized. His mother was lying on the bed opposite the door: on her right stood the godfather, a most estimable man, Ivan Ivanovich Eroshkin, who served as presiding officer of the senate; and the godmother, the wife of an officer of the quarter, a woman of rare virtues, Anna Semenovna Byelobrushkova. They offered the mother her choice of three namesMokiya, Sossiya or that the child should be called after the martyr Khozdazat. No, pronounced the blessed woman, all those names are poor. In order to please her, they opened the calendar at another place: three more names appearedTriphilii, Dula and Varakhasii. This is a judgment, said the old woman. What names! I truly never heard the like. Varadat or Varukh might have been borne, but not Triphilii and Varakhasii! They turned another pagePavsikakhii and Vakhtisii. Now I see, said the old woman, that it is plainly fate. And if thats the case, it will be better to name him after his father. His fathers name was Akakii, so let his sons be also Akakii. In this manner he became Akakii Akakievich.
They christened the child, whereat he wept, and made a grimace, as though he foresaw that he was to be a titular councillor. In this manner did it all come about. We have mentioned it, in order that the reader might see for himself that it happened quite as a case of necessity, and that it was utterly impossible to give him any other name. When and how he entered the department, and who appointed him, no one could remember. However much the directors and chiefs of all kinds were changed, he was always to be seen in the same place, the same attitude, the same occupationthe same official for letters; so that afterwards it was affirmed that he had been born in undress uniform with a bald spot on his head.
No respect was shown him in the department. The janitor not only did not rise from his seat when he passed, but never even glanced at him, as if only a fly had flown through the reception-room. His superiors treated him in a coolly despotic manner. Some assistant chief would thrust a paper under his nose without so much as saying, Copy, or, Heres a nice, interesting matter, or any thing else agreeable, as is customary in well-bred service. And he took it, looking only at the paper, and not observing who handed it to him, or whether he had the right to do so: he simply took it, and set about copying it.
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