Fadeev on the Housewife

Aleksandr Fadeev, Ferrous Metallurgy. October 1954

 

Excerpts from the Novel

Original Source: Ogonek, No. 43 (October 1954), p. 3.

It was morning-the beginning of another day which, just like hundreds of days before it and thousands of days to come, would he filled with all the bitterness and boredom of endless, terribly petty and soul-destroying work, all the things which filled the life of a housewife, the life of millions and millions of women.

… Tina recalled the past when, as a nineteen-year old girl, she had been independent, full of hope, esteemed and respected; and she realized that she would not have lost all this if she had not herself dropped everything for the sake of her husband and children. She had lost touch with her friends. Her best friend now spent her time with others who were traveling along the great highway of life with her. Meanwhile she, Christina Boroznova, spent her time clearing up after her father-in-law and her brother-in-law, Zakhar.

… Tina went back into the kitchen, removed the boiling kettle and put the frying-pan in its place, took off the cooked cabbage soup and put on the milk; then she measured out some semolina for the children and began to fry the meat. While the food was cooking, she set the kitchen table for her husband Pavlusha and poured out a full glass of wine for him.

Tina could hear how Pavlusha dressed and washed, tinkling with the cup which he used for shaving; and she kept remembering that he must hurry to get to work in time for Musa’s smelting. But when he came into the kitchen, still without his jacket and in his slippers, a little preoccupied, but fresh and talkative as usual, Tina suddenly asked him:

‘Do you think you could find out for me whether Rubtsov is on holiday? I’d like to see him.’

I Her husband.

Rubtsov was the head of the recently formed metal working shop where Vasya now was.

Pavlusha understood at once why Tina had mentioned Rubtsov. He looked at her moodily, drank his wine and began to eat his soup in silence.

‘I know what you’re afraid of,’ Tina said.

‘It’s not what you think at all,’ he answered. ‘It’s just that I’m concerned about you: I don’t want you to look like Shura Krasovskaia.’

Krasovskii’s wife Shura was the secretary of her shop Komsomol branch. She worked as a dispatcher in the coke processing shop and also kept house for the whole Krasovskii family. She had to look after her little girl-a baby of eight months, her husband’s mother who had now been a cripple for a year and a half, and her younger sister, a school girl in the fourth form who also lived with them. The Krasovskiis had only been married two years, but Shura had noticeably aged during that time…. And whenever Tina said that she wanted to go out to work again, Pavlusha would bring up Shura Krasovskaia. But this time he received an unexpected reply:

‘Of course, you’d rather I was like Zakhar’s Dunka,’ Tina said. ‘You Kuznetsovs seem to prefer that!’

It was the first time that she had criticized Pavlusha’s family.

‘And aren’t you a Kuznetsov too?’ he asked with a sly smile.

‘The Kuznetsovs’ servant! If we were both working we’d be able to take on a nursemaid.’

‘And be laughed at? We’re both working people. It’s not right for us to have nursemaids. And anyway, try getting a nursemaid here in Bolshegorsk!’

‘You’ve got such a good reputation, they might even take them in the kindergarten.’

‘And would you let them go?’

And so their quarrel had begun.-Never before had Tina experienced such an aching feeling of love towards her husband as now when she saw him going down the crowded street together with Vasya and Sonya Novikova. And never before had she been conscious of such a strong and terrible feeling of despair and defeat. In the street below Tina saw people going to their day’s work, a perfectly ordinary sight, but one which typified for her a right enjoyed by everyone else, but now denied to her. It was not simply that she, who had been one of the best workers in her time, was no longer an equal with these women. It also seemed to her that all these men and women going to their work with her husband were somehow closer to him than she was herself, that, having sacrificed herself and subordinated herself to him, she could no longer be as close to him as people who were his equals and who were independent of him.

Tina went back into the dining-room, separated the bickering children and took them into the kitchen. But she did not see how they were eating, she did not hear their chatter.

‘How had it all happened?’ she asked herself. ‘How did I come to this? How did it start?’-And she felt ashamed and frightened to answer these questions….

Source: Dorothea L. Meek, ed., Soviet Youth: Some Achievements and Problems. Excerpts from the Soviet Press (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957), pp. 218-220.

 

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