Max Realus




Part One:

Chapters 1-3

Chapters 4-7

Chapters 8-12

Part Two:

Chapters 1-3

Chapters 4-7

Chapters 8-13




Anthony Burgess's
          Honey for the Bears  

                              A running commentary by © Liana Burgess

                                                                    Chapters 8-12


Chapter 8

In the ship, after a sailor whom Paul thinks he has met (but he has only seen him in the film Battleship Potemkin), a girl comes who, after being questioned about the wife’s disappearance, recognises in him the gentleman who has deserted his wife in her "delirium", when she was crying all the time for a ball.

"Ball ball ball," she was crying out.

"Oh Christ," he said. "That was me she was crying out for. Paul, that was. My name’s Paul. Paul is me."

Then he is told that she - Belinda - is in the Hospital Pavloskya Bolnitsa. (p74), near Ploshchad Mira, Square of Peace. He goes there with the same taxi and taxi driver, who is now sinking deeper in depression after the manic phase ("He drove off back to the great thoroughfare, every corpse its own hearseman.") They reunite and leave the Hospital together although Dr Lazurkina warns, to Belinda exclamation "I’m tired of bed… Food is what I want. Food and drink," that the euphoria is only temporary and that anyhow she will be on duty all night.


Chapter 9

Now they are looking for a Restoran and Paul’s third taxi of the evening takes them to the ‘Metropol’. Belinda tells Paul how ashamed she was to be carried on a stretcher down the gangway and chats along merrily with her shrewd remarks about what she sees, including the famous Nevsky Prospekt ("Seems a pretty big street… really imposing. But shabby. And kind of anonymous." p.82).

He neatly drew up outside a dark place with dirty glass doors, the name 'Metropol' (in the current script that was so unlike print) sprawled across them. If light and gaiety were here they were well wrapped in darkness; it was as if the war were still on. An old man like the postman of Douanier Rousseau was on guard. … this old man opened up a dim passage-way. It reminded Paul of a municipal library after closing-time, the local library society gathering upstairs. And then, seeing on his left a sort of inset rough eating-shop that was shut and angrily swept, he remembered that disastrous war-child of Winston Churchill - the British Restaurant, with its sour-faced servers, floors filthy or else wet from the mopping… but as they mounted the bare curving stairway, they could smell the heat of gaiety above, like some guffawing popular magazine in its drab public-library folder... Belinda… ascended jauntily towards the noise of jazz which wasn’t quite jazz - dzhez, rather: it was fiercely Russian under the corny sax-and-trumpet configurations of "Lady, Be Good", some desperate martial melancholia brewing up.

Here it was again - the old solid Russia preserved in Tsarist décor: piano nobile, vista of white napery, complex chandeliers like ice-palaces shaking to the thud of the dancers. The dance-floor steamed with fox-trotting engineers, electricians, transport workers, all with bulky unsmiling wives; there were small uniformed men, whom Paul took to be cosmonauts, twirling with girls who glowed from the farm, their firm bodies apparent through skimpy summer dresses; here and there were the very young, thin-legged in jeans or tights, jiving. A rich though grubby drawing room, fussy with plush and mirrors, separated the dancers from the diners…



At the Metropol they meet Alexei Prutkov, Brooklyn-born, whose father left Smolensk when he was five (p.86, ) and came back to Russia only to die at the Pavlovskaya Bolnitsa Hospital, leaving his son in charge of Uncle Vadim in Leningrad. Anthony describes the young man in terms charged with hidden ephebic allusions from G.M. Hopkins and O. Wilde ("hard-as-hurdle arms with a broth of goldish flue breathed round, scooped flank...The hair was hyacinthine , curling over the shining brown forehead"). Alexei works as a translator at the Ermitage ("I have this job of interpreter with Intourist") and lives in a one-room pad with his girlfriend. His way of talking is American slang of the late ‘50-‘60. (Dig, dad, pad, crazy, cool, mom, Bohunk). The four of them become a centre of attention, attracting other young people.

A saturnine youth in glasses breathed heavily on Paul and said, "Ernest Gemingway. Murder or suicide?"

"Oh, murder, I think," said Paul. The kohled girl gave a loud yawn, a huge red capital O. "Something to do with Cuban politics, probably. Political assassination, perhaps." This was seized on thankfully and hissed - ‘Politicheskoe ubiystvo’ - round the company.

The chapter ends with Alex claiming "Russia or America… what’s the difference? It’s all the State. There’s only one State. What we have to do is to get together in these little groups and start to live." (9)



Chapter 10

To the first group of young people other attach themselves. ("It all became very friendly. The faces of the young Leningaders grew names - Vladimir, Sergei, Boris, Feodor, a Pavel like himself; it was the cast-list of a Russian novel coming alive".)

Sergei, a student of engineering, begins to recite Pushkin, and then more Pushkin. Belinda wants to improvise a strip-tease ("I came here for a good time and not a lot of poetry. Clear all that muck off the table and I’ll do a strip-tease."), but she has a fresh onslaught of her mysterious ailment, allergy or whatever, and she has practically to be carried downstairs trying to get a private car from the Secret Police for whom Pavel, apparently, works. And now "a hellish noise of bawling and banging and smashed glass comes from the street; there is frenzied hammering at the front door".

Paul is momentarily frightened. Drunken Russian were after foreign blood... But Alex reassures him: "They are only stilyagi. They want to be let in."

"Stilyagi?" That had something to do with style, dress. "Oh yes," Paul remembered, "teddy-boys."

At this point Pavel points towards a dim light and "a stench of urine."

All the men prepared to go there, nodding, as though this question of transport had to be debated by an ad hoc committee to meet in camera. In the gentlemen, Alexei turns to Paul urgently and says, "What have you got to sell, dad?" All the other look keenly at Paul. Paul is thrown off balance, and all the other insist with their lists: watches, cameras, Parker pens"Brassières, for instance. Russia is in great need of brassières," Alexei says, looking gloomy.

Paul begins to relent: "…my wife… might have a dress or two… She might need a little extra money and would be willing to sacrifice one or two of her dresses. But she’d need cash, not promises."

"Oh… there’d be cash, dad. There’s plenty of cash around. I don’t have much myself, but there’s plenty around."

Alexei tells Paul where he works and also were he lives: "...I work… in the Hermitage. Do you know where that is?"

"I’ve seen it...Very imposing."

"They have these old professors who are with it, dig - art and sculpture and history, but they don't know any English. That’s where I come in. I translate what they say for the tourists. Sometimes I get it all wrong, but nobody seems to notice. Sometimes I just ball it up on purpose, dig, but nobody seems to care. What I want... is to live. (9) I’m there every morning around now... from ten o’clock on."

"So now," said Paul, "I know where to find you."

"That’s it, dad. You know where to find me. And some time... you might like to come round to my pad." He looked both shy and daring. "Pad. Is that the word?"

Meanwhile Belinda is downstairs shouting for help, but:

The stilyagi were still raging to be let in. Two sweating bulky commissionaires swore as they lent their weight to support the straining portals. "We want to get out," said Paul. "Please open up." To his surprise they did, promptly. To his greater surprise the stilyagi took no advantage. Young toughs in shirt-sleeves (this being no season for style), armed with coshes and bottles, they politely made way for the leaving party, waited for the doors to be bolted again, then resumed their batterings and yells. Something to do with the chess-mind.

I transcribe this episode because Anthony speaking with me dwelt on it many times. He had been very impressed by it. He kept turning it over in his mind. And of course this formalism or formality appears again in Alex of A Clockwork Orange. And with it also the mesmerising prose which follows immediately.

"Huge northern summer night above, belled fire and the moth-soft Milky Way." Sergei began murmuring more Pushkin. The road was empty as though drained.

A marlovian-type firmament is to reappear when Paul, head down, suspended from the window sill of Alexei’s pad is to repeat the gesture of Pierre Bezuchov in Tolstoy’s (9) War and Peace.

It had been, as he remembered, the third storey in War and Peace; this floor was much much higher. The warm Leningrad summer night, with dawn not far off, was as much below as above… He then found himself squirming, head down, arms desperate, vodka glugging out of the bottle, trying to get his other leg into the room. But he couldn’t and, like a Blake Satan, was poised falling and not falling in the immense immense immense. Jeering voices of the heavenly host assailed him… Even in this state of nightmare inversion Paul could not bear to think of vodka streaming in the firmament, degging the bluey dew, dewy blue… A final gulp finished the bottle. He shook it neck-down to show it was empty…he sent the bottle spinning into the dark emptiness. Afar off it silvertinklesplintered.

The text is so action-packed and compressed that often a mere two-three-line sentences are like the opening up of skies with angelic choirs treading or elbowing clouds in the Barocco ceiling of a post-tridentine church. I feel that that is what is happening here, with a mere vodka bottle and the sound it makes falling a long long way.


What follows, I’m not sure I understand fully myself and I would be very obliged for any suggestion or glossa. I surmise that, in a process parallel to the one described somewhere else in this Bulletin, referring to Nothing Like the Sun, Paul, drunk, is elevated to shakespearian depths or marlovian gaping pits:

Paul pluck was one raw red burn. The record-player was tromboning black and white again, but this time at 78 r.p.m. so that the dark treacly tones spun mad and high and absurd like some Gothic vision of heaven, bobbed auburn nobs of blasting archangels. "Shakespeare," called Paul. "Sweet William." There was a jam-jar with a scant bunch of the flowers in it, sitting on the cloth-topped soap-box by Anna’s side of the bed. "For that the furtive ties pronounce auriculous," recited Paul, "and in fat andirons cross and cowslip lay - then foreshore tits wax loud in holdall brew." There was applause. Feodor started a sort of frog-dance. They were all old Russia after all, God bless them. "I suggest now," cried Paul, "that we all strip ourselves stark ballock naked."

What is supposed to follow would be a homosexual bacchanalia, which of course does not because, among other things, the closing of this chapter 3 of Book Two is a prelude to the cranking of the Deus ex machina which produces immediately a change of set: Paul who is sharing Paul’s pad, is now asked to leave with his two suitcases.


Chapter 11

But we have jumped ahead. After the styliagi have let them go through and the ambulance with Dr Lazurkina, alerted by Vladimir, has come to carry off Belinda to the hospital, Paul, for whom there is no room in that small vehicle, can only go back on foot to the Astoria where he sleeps like a stone, woken only by "a brilliant Russian noon marching in through the window with swinging elbows".

Going down the "lovely imperial staircase" - since the lift, as usual Nye Rabotayet , works not, - he thinks of the present to take to Belinda. Then, precisely as now (September 2000), any busy or quiet hall of hotel or Restaurant has a sort of boutique "staffed by pretty, ill-clad girls" enthusiastic about selling you something. Paul chooses a matrioshka (a doll within a doll within a doll etc, but now they are mainly dolls of political character, Eltsin included), but comes to grief when his roubles and kopeks are turned down and he has to pay in English currency, which was then calculated as follows: 12 pence to a shilling, 20 shilling to a pound, 1 pound plus 1 shilling = a guinee. According to "a cyclostyled international price-list as thick as a thesis" his bill amounts to

"Twenty-two shilling, seventeen penny."

While Paul patiently explains the arithmetic of the situation and adds one purchase to another since the vendors don’t want to return any change, be it pence or kopeks, considering that their task is getting, and not giving out, money, Comrades Zverkov and Karamzin approach him bearing the latest news regarding Mizinchikov and fervidly inviting him to share a vodka with them.


"We would so very much like to see these dresses you have brought," said Zverkov, almost wistfully. "They are not on the ship, for we have confirmed that in person. They are not in your room here in the hotel. We have but newly checked that. So in what place that seems to you safe have you put them? There are so many places," he said in an aggrieved tone. "There are the baggage places in the railway stations, for example. There is the Metro. There are cloakrooms in restaurants and hotels. It is very difficult for us, you can see for yourself, Mr Gussey."

Paul rejects the bargain they propose, in order to walk to the Hospital where he has a very long conversation with Dr Lazurkina, but he is denied access to his wife and ends his day in a couple of "charmingly dirty champagne-and-cognac bars below street level". Still fairly drunk, he goes to the Barrikada Cinema on Nevsky Prospekt where he falls asleep, suddenly woken up by his own face filling the screen, showing a full set of teeth in the act of shouting "Oh hell" before running up the terminal of the Sea Terminal, "surrounded by the Soviet musicians who are just being welcome back home".


Chapter 12 (last of Book One )


He sleeps soundly. Suddenly he is woken up by a telephone ringing:

"Mr Gussey?" It was a girl’s voice. "Will you have them both sent up to your room or are you perhaps not staying with us here any more?"

"Let’s," panted Paul, "have that again." What folly had he committed last night, what couple rashly invited? Why did it seem to be implied that the management wished him to leave? "I didn’t," he said, "quite---"

"Intourist at the port," said the girl’s voice. "They tried this hotel first and they were first time lucky. They said you were right to have your name on them but wrong to be so careless and forgetful. Do you want them to be sent up?"

"What?" cried Paul. "Oh God. Wait, wait, I’ll be down." He was as wide awake now as ever in all his life he would expect to be. "Don’t touch anything," he warned, like some TV police inspector. "I’ll be right down."

As he dressed, snoring through his mouth, Zverkov and Karamzin kept appearing on the wall in a static smiling pose, hugging each other. He rushed out and the concierge bawled ‘Kliuch’ at him near the stairhead. Paul threw the ridiculous ceremonial key at her desk, missed and was railed at. The lift was still not working. He ran with clumsy toes down stairs meant for Tolstoy beauties, swan-necked, gliding like swans. In the hall he saw them, both cases, neatly stacked near other cases in the luggage-space between two pillars. Zverkov and Karamzin were nowhere to be seen. The time? Nearly ten, his watch said. Early enough, early enough to get lots done. From the reception desk, uncluttered as yet by complaining tourists, the girl with the cold, admirer of Hemingway, cried cheerfully:

"Ah, it is Mr Gussey. The gentleman of the bags."

"I must take them now," he panted. "I’ve left my other upstairs. I’ll be back later to pay my bill." For he’d decided that the only way to rid himself of Zverkov and Karamzin was to get out of here and go to...

"Eh!" It was the bald man with the shapely lips who was so eager for free lessons. He called very clearly, "What is right---‘in the belly’ or ‘on the belly’?" God knew what context of action he had in mind; or perhaps he too admired Hemingay.

"Both are painful," said Paul. "No time now. Must go." Zverkov kicking him in, Karamzin on. He picked up the bags and hurried towards the swing-doors. The bald man’s voice pursued him in anger, like that of a kennelled dog cheated of a walk. In the street Paul noticed that the weather was changing: rain to come, a stiff breeze from the Baltic. He crossed to the taxi-stand and saw with relief that only three people were waiting. Zverkov and Karamzin were still craftily out of sight. When, after ten dithering minutes, Paul’s taxi came, he said to the driver, ‘Ermitage.’ He felt better: the name seemed to carry connotations of sanctuary. He tore the name-tags off his bags.


It would be a tremendous pity to omit the description of the Hermitage, {which I visited last September (2000) in order to prepare myself to compare ‘reality’ with a fiction superbly realistic, that appeared to me undated} where Alexei works.


The Neva was all dull metal today. As he [Paul] looked up at the northern façade of Rastrelli’s baroque monster his heart sank at the prospect of having to search for Alexei Prutkov in a place so vast. The hundreds entertaining with him eyed his cases curiously. He smiled reassuringly at them all: he was bringing no bombs, he didn’t want to steal the Sword of Marengo. Once in the entrance-hall that was full of Soviet eyes and mouths awed at the wedding-cake ceiling, the blind salt-coloured caryatids, Paul was glad to surrender his luggage at the cloak-room. And now, with indecent prodigality, the Hermitage tried to make drunk again one who had woken sober. And empty, he noted, as well as sober: nothing in or on the belly. The miles of rooms made him giddy. His feet and eyes ached and his belly grumbled at the gilt and malachite and agate, the walls of silver velvet, the rosewood, ebony, palm and amaranth parquet, the frozen Arctic sea of marble veined and arteried like some living organism. The size of things, and no place too big for the swarms of Soviet workers on an instructive morning-off. The formidable parade of portraits of whiskered victors of 1812, the mad painted ceilings, the mosaïque map of the USSR in precious stones like a giant squashed pearly king, the statues, cameos, intaglios, the medieval weapons. Chandeliers impended like glass-forest helicopters. Verst after verst after verst of Rembrandts, French Impressionists, Titians, a whole Prado of Spaniards... Paul’s head and feet raged. And then, in the fiftieth room (but the surface of the hideous mounds of treasure hardly scratched), Slava Bogu, the voice of one he was seeking.

"This clock is the size and shape of a goose-egg, dig, and it’s got more than four hundred separate parts. It was made between 1765 and 1769 by the watch-maker I. Kulibin, dig, and I. Kulibin never had a lesson in his life."

Paul limped at the periphery of a large group of American conducted tourists, nearly all of them middle-aged. There was Alexei Prutkov all right, translating with little vivacity the rolling rich commentary of a big bear of a professional man in a very old suit.

One of the Americans said, "Well, whadya know?"

A young woman asked, "A lesson in what?"

Alexei Prutkkov replied, "How would I know a lesson in what? You better ask him, chick," nudging towards the professorial man, who was now talking about a yashma vase that weighed nearly nineteen tons.


Alexei gives him a sort of visiting card, having received the cloak-room ticket and engaged himself to pick up the two suitcases, where as Paul has "a long walk, finding his way out of the Hermitage, half-shutting his sore eyes against a reprise of its bludgeoning splendours…out of there and back to the Astoria".





                                                                 © Liana Burgess



                                                              Honey for the Bears




































































































































































































































Part Two


Czar Peter