Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/The Insect

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1961507The Novels of Ivan Turgenev
Volume X: Dream Tales and Prose Poems
Poems in Prose — The Insect
Constance GarnettIvan Turgenev


I dreamed that we were sitting, a party of twenty, in a big room with open windows.

Among us were women, children, old men. . . . We were all talking of some very well-known subject, talking noisily and indistinctly.

Suddenly, with a sharp, whirring sound, there flew into the room a big insect, two inches long . . . it flew in, circled round, and settled on the wall.

It was like a fly or a wasp. Its body dirt-coloured; of the same colour too its flat, stiff wings; outspread feathered claws, and a head thick and angular, like a dragon-fly's; both head and claws were bright red, as though steeped in blood.

This strange insect incessantly turned its head up and down, to right and to left, moved its claws . . . then suddenly darted from the wall, flew with a whirring sound about the room, and again settled, again hatefully and loathsomely wriggling all over, without stirring from the spot.

In all of us it excited a sensation of loathing, dread, even terror. . . . No one of us had ever seen anything like it. We all cried: 'Drive that monstrous thing away!' and waved our handkerchiefs at it from a distance . . . but no one ventured to go up to it . . . and when the insect began flying, every one instinctively moved away.

Only one of our party, a pale-faced young man, stared at us all in amazement. He shrugged his shoulders; he smiled, and positively could not conceive what had happened to us, and why we were in such a state of excitement. He himself did not see an insect at all, did not hear the ill-omened whirr of its wings.

All at once the insect seemed to stare at him, darted off, and dropping on his head, stung him on the forehead, above the eyes. . . . The young man feebly groaned, and fell dead.

The fearful fly flew out at once. . . . Only then we guessed what it was had visited us.

May 1878.