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Publié par
Nombre de lectures 10
Langue English


The Road to Life
(An Epic of Education)
Volume 2

Source: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow 1955, Second Edition
Illustrations: selected from photographs taken by Makarenko at the Maxim Gorky Colony
Translation: Ivy and Tatiana Litvinov
Online Version: A. S. Makarenko Reference Archive ( 2002


The Road to Life (Volume 2)

We transferred to the new colony on a fine, warm day. The leaves on the trees not yet begun to turn, the grass was still green, as if at the
height of its second youth, freshened by the first days of autumn. The new colony itself was at that time like a beauty of thirty years--lovely
for itself as well as for others, happy and calm in its assured charm. The Kolomak encircled it on almost all sides, leaving a narrow passage
for communication with Goncharovka. The whispering canopy of the luxuriant treetops of our park spread generously over the Kolomak.
There was many a shady mysterious nook here, in which one could bathe, cultivate the society of pixies, go fishing, or, at the lowest,
exchange confidences with a congenial spirit. Our principal buildings were ranged along the top of the steep bank, and the ingenious and
shameless younger boys could jump right out of the windows into the river, leaving their scanty garments on the window sills.
The slope on which the old orchard grew was terraced, and the lowest terrace of all was taken over by Sherre from the very start. It was
always airy and sunny here, and the Kolomak, if not particularly adapted to mermaids, fishing, or poetry, flowed broad and calm. Instead of
poetry, cabbage and black currants flourished here. The members of the colony went to this plot with strictly practical intentions, armed with
spade or hoe, and sometimes a few of the boys accompanied Falcon or Bandit, harnessed to a plough and picking his way with difficulty.
Here also was situated our jetty-three planks jutting out over the waves of the Kolomak to a distance of three metres from the bank.
Still further, the Kolomak, curving eastward, generously left at our feet several hectares of lush meadowland, dotted with bushes and copses.
We could descend to this meadow straight from our new orchard, and in hours of leisure there was a keen temptation to go and sit on this
green slope in the shade of the poplars at the edge of the orchard, for yet another look at meadow, woods, and sky, at the silhouette of Goncharovka etched on the horizon. Kalina Ivanovich was very fond of this place, and sometimes, at noon, on a Sunday, would get me to go
there with him.
I liked talking to Kalina Ivanovich about the peasants and the repairs, about life's inequities, and our own future. Before us lay the meadow,
and this circumstance sometimes distracted him from his highly philosophical meanderings.
"You see, old man, life is like a woman--you can't expect justice from either. Anyone with a fine moustache will get any amount of pies and
cheesecakes and fritters, and then another comes along, whose beard simply won't grow, let alone a moustache, and the wench won't even
give him as much as a draught of water. Now, when I was a hussar.... Oh, you son-of-a-bitch, where's your head? Have you eaten it for
supper, or did you leave it at home? Look where you've taken the horse, you parasite! Curse you! There's cabbage planted there!"
Kalina Ivanovich finished up these utterances on his feet, quite a distance from me, brandishing his pipe.
Three hundred metres away, a chestnut-coloured rump could be seen among the grass, but there was no "son-of-a-bitch" in sight. Kalina
Ivanovich knew whom he was addressing, though. The meadow was Bratchenko's domain, he was constantly there, unseen, and Kalina
Ivanovich's speech was in reality a sort of incantation. After two or three more brief incantations, Bratchenko himself materialized, in keeping
with the magical atmosphere, not next to the horse, but just behind us, emerging from the orchard.
"What are you raving about, Kalina Ivanovich? Where's the cabbage, and where's the horse?"
A highly specialized argument ensued, from which, however, it would have been apparent even to the uninitiated that Kalina Ivanovich was
quite out-of-date in his views, that he could hardly follow the topography of the colony any more, and had actually forgotten where the field
had been cleared to plant cabbages.
The boys allowed Kalina Ivanovich to age in peace. Agricultural affairs had long ago passed exclusively into the hands of Sherre, and Kalina
Ivanovich only now and then, by way of meticulous criticism, endeavoured to thrust his old nose into certain chinks in the agricultural
armour. Sherre had a way, cool, courteous and jocose, of pinching this nose, and Kalina Ivanovich always beat his retreat.
In our general economy, however, Kalina Ivanovich approached more and more nearly the position of a king, who reigned, but did not rule.
We all recognized his economic majesty and bowed respectfully to his axioms, but we did as we ourselves thought fit. Kalina Ivanovich was
not even offended, for he was not a touchy individual, and besides, what he really cared about was philosophizing.
According to long-established tradition, it was Kalina Ivanovich who drove into town, and his journeys were now accompanied by a certain
amount of ceremony. He had ever been an advocate of old-fashioned luxury, and the boys were familiar with his utterance:
"Gentlemen keep a grand carriage and a hungry nag, but the good master has a plain cart and a well-fed horse." The boys would spread fresh hay covered with a clean strip of hand-woven linen on the bottom of the old, hearse-like cart. Then they would
harness the best of the horses, and drive up in style to Kalina Ivanovich's porch. All our economic officials and authorities would be doing
their jobs --in the pocket of Denis Kudlaty, our assistant manager of supplies, lay a list of all that had to be done in town; Alyoshka Volkov,
storekeeper, pushed the necessary boxes, tubs, balls of string, and other necessaries for packing, under the hay. Kalina Ivanovich would keep
the cart waiting three or four minutes at his porch, and then emerge in a clean, well-pressed raincoat, put a match to his previously prepared
pipe, cast a rapid glance at the horse and cart, sometimes muttering through his teeth huffily.
"How many times do I have to tell you not to go into town in such a disreputable cap! What a stupid lot!"
While Denis changes caps with one of his comrades, Kalina Ivanovich clambers up into his seat, and gives his order:
"Let's be off, then!"
In the town Kalina Ivanovich spends most of his time in the office of some food supply bigwig, holding his head upright, and endeavouring to
keep up the honour of that strong and wealthy power, the Gorky Colony. To this end, his talk is chiefly of matters of high political
"The muzhiks have all they want," he would declare. "I can tell you that for a fact."
In the meanwhile Denis Kudlaty, in his borrowed cap, would swim and dive in the economic ocean on the floor below, writing out orders,
quarrelling with managers and clerks, loading the cart with sacks and bags, taking care to leave Kalina Ivanovich's place inviolate in the
process, feeding the horse, and would burst into the office at three o'clock, covered with flour and sawdust.
"Time to go, Kalina Ivanovich!"
A diplomatic smile would light up Kalina Ivanovich's countenance, he would press the director's hand, and ask Denis in a businesslike
"Have you loaded everything properly?"
On arriving at the colony again, the exhausted Kalina Ivanovich would rest, while Denis, hastily swallowing his lukewarm dinner, would
journey to-and-fro along the economic channels of the colony, fussing about like an old woman.
Kudlaty was physically unable to bear the sight of waste--he really suffered if straw was scattered from a cart, if anyone lost a padlock, if a
cowshed door hung by one hinge. Though sparing of his smiles, he never seemed cross, and the insistence with which he hunted down anyone
wasting economic values was never mere nagging, such was the persuasive solidity and restrained will in his voice. He knew how to deal with
careless little chaps who believed, in their innocence, that climbing a tree was the most reasonable expenditure of human energy. Denis could make them come down by a mere movement of his brows.
"Do you think with your head--or what? It'll be time for you to be married, soon, and there you are, perched up in a willow, spoiling your
trousers. Come along with me, I'll give you another pair of trousers."
"What trousers?" the little chap would ask, breaking out into a cold sweat.
"Kind of overalls for climbing trees. Who ever saw a person climbing trees

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