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Selifan?

Our author ran out of time and could not describe Selifan. Using the standard Gogolian ability to create something out of nothing, create a 250-300 word background story of Selifan using your best Gogolian grotesque.

17 Responses to “Selifan?”

  1. Katherine Burdine says:

    The wind blew greenly over the road, riffling the birch trees and the manes of the troika, bringing with it the scent of early spring and the echo of impossibly vast spaces stretching out to either side. Selifan sat on the britzka, the horses’ ribbons held lightly in one big, twisted hand. A clumsy creature, Selifan, all knobbly joints and squinted eyes, his head poking out of his hunched shoulders like a particularly ill-tempered and suspicious tortoise. Ugly you would say, and he was. But there was something graceful, almost tender in the touch of his hands on the reins and the timbre of his voice as he called to the horses before him. They were running well, muddy road notwithstanding, and their ears flicked back light as butterflies to catch the caressing sound of his voice. He had a small flask–oh, a little little flask–keeping him company on top of the britzka, and stared before him between the troika’s twitching ears with a sort of grumbling content.

    Selifan–what can one say about him? Born in Kazan and fed on black bread and cabbage like all poor peasants, he was hunched and skinny from the cradle, and could hold his vodka in the best Russian tradition. He knew horses almost from the time he could toddle on his huge, crumpled feet, for his father was a stablehand and the horses coming to Kazan in those days were from the Caucauses, the finest in the world. Chichikov came there once, many years ago, and among many purchases that will remain nameless he hired a skinny man with ugly, gentle hands to mend his britzka and call sweet nothings to the laboring horses on a windy spring day.

  2. Russell Jacobs says:

    And now for Selifan. It is beyond my doubt that the readers have begun already to flip casually ahead, scan the upcoming paragraphs for the next point of interest and perhaps even let their attention drift suddenly to some detail entirely unrelated to my poem: for who, I ask, has patience for descriptions of such lowly, rank-less characters? Although, in their impatience for the details of this servant and in their new–lackadaisical, shall we say, dispositions perhaps my readers will find that they have more in common with Selifan than they would have imagined. Selifan’s own interests lie little with his own station. His days, as the days of most who spend them atop britzkas, are spent observing roadside oddities and gazing, most of all, into the great Russian sky. What he thinks about in these hours facing skyward, only god knows, though Chichikov could confirm that his servant’s wandering eyes have been the reason for many an accident.

    Selifan’s face, as is not uncommon among that portion of the population that concerns itself with skywatching, has a certain absence about it. As he bobbles up and down on the varied and often abrasive roads that wind through our wide Rus his nose can often be seen to let out copious amounts of snot which, more often then not, winds up everywhere between his chin and his overcoat. Selifan rarely takes note of such an occurrence until his journey is resolved and so, upon completing longer stretches at the helm of Chichikov’s britzka he can be seen desperately mopping his soaked face with a sleeve or some stray rag. His eyes, after years of sun-staring, have degenerated to the point where his vision is less than exemplary and surely, were he a literate peasant, his ability to notice signs would have, beyond a doubt, disappeared already.

  3. Laura Howard says:

    Ah, but Selifan! Selifan will, of course, merit some discourse for our dear reader, as his story is one that could easily be told among Russians who sit with an autumnal wind howling through the cracks in their walls as they sit around the card-table. Selifan was, if the reader can imagine, a man of remarkable lack of height and of even more remarkable stoutness in his limbs and extremities. He was not a bit fat, as each potentially fleshy area of his body seemed to be hardened by some unimaginable dried dough, as if he had sat too long on the seat of the britzka and it had slapped his back end into a board-like shape. His arms, too, imitated this strange condition, hardened as the tops of them were by years spent flicking the whip to and fro.
    The provenance of Selifan, as his life concerns that of our hero, the agreeable Chichikov, is somewhat cloudy and not altogether easy for the author to recollect, though he will do his best to piece together the story, from collections here and there. Selifan was born of a muzhik father and muzhik mother, both tradespeople of various degree, though the mother’s crochet work was never quite straight and finished with various holes where the front should have been and a lack of holes where the arms and head should have been. She was pleased, however, to see the stout boy she had produced, as his stature would greatly decrease the amount of time she would spend stitching, sewing, and mending his clothing. For that, the mother of Selifan was undoubtedly greatful. As for the father of Selifan, well – not much should be said aside from : a muzhik britzka driver father will produce a britzka driver son, and that son will begin his career bouncing around on the seat of the britzka and will possess, many years later, the hardened roundness of whose presence we are so apt to notice today.

  4. Kelsey says:

    The coachman Selifan was a totally different man, though as equally low a character. He was never seen wearing the same thing twice, always picking up a tidbit of a coat in middling condition, or finding another hat on the street to adorn his small egg-head. Nothing of his was ever clean, of course, but he managed to make everything seem charmingly dirty, and in addition he was abnormally partial to a bath, so that Chichikov never remarked on his odor. Where Petruschka was content with any book, Selifan could not sit still and had the attention span of a fruit fly. When the horses and britzka did not need looking after, he would depart to wander various streets and pubs, and there were usually townsfolk who would claim, later that evening, that he had been seen in several places at the same time. He had a penchant to drink, but in no serious way; he was not a dedicated drinker but an absentminded one, up for a good toast or cheer at one tavern, and then the next and the next. The horses knew when he was sauced to any degree, because he really could not hold his liquor and would start expounding on his incoherent dreams and desires to the attentive audience of his beasts when he had even taken one drop. The next morning he would switch them with renewed vigor as the britzka trundled along, not in any ill-natured frustration, but rather as a form of raucous affection.

  5. Melody Wang says:

    As Selifan struggles to get hold, God knows what, now he is dozing off again. Okay I confess, as much as I have exerted consistent effort to make my narrative style as unobstrusive as possible, I know what you are going to say next, I cannot control myself from a temporary suspension of our narrative flow, and expand a little upon our hero’s faithful coachman, Selifan. (A responsible author would definitely want to emancipate the readers from any ignorance, right?) I will certainly not address all the gamut of attitudes towards him from everyone whom he had come into contacts with ever since his childhood, yet I must insist to provide a brief remark on his strikingly equine facial characteristics. I will confine myself to 250 words for our brief exposition on Selifan, and once I hit the 250 word limit, I shall immediately return to the narrative about our hero. Well, people who spend time around horses not only begin to appreciate equine anatomy but also come to resemble their various anatomical and facial qualities. In other words, Selifan’s facial markings resemble that of his horse’. Since nature made horses to be virtual running machines that can reach the speeds of nearly 40mph. The equine body is an impeccably makeup and combination of muscles and bones in a graceful and elegant package. Please do not dismiss the historicity of horses. It was the Clever Odysseus, and with the aid of Athena, ordered a large wooden horse to be built…

  6. Anna Mackey says:

    “And so, this is what can be said for a start about Petrushka. The coachman Selifan was a totally different man…”

    Selifan’s whip licked the back of the vexing urchin, known to all the local coachman as an avid footboard rider. With a slight smile of satisfaction on his thin lips he placed his feet upon the new footrest, installed so his irregularly short legs would not dangle while sitting upon his box. Selifan wore a rather tight fitting frock coat previously owned by his master that, despite his slight frame, still pinched at his shoulders and constrained him greatly. Gripping the reins with slender hands, he noticed the cunning dapple-gray, and with a quick lash and emphatic yell brought him to a respectable speed, pleased with the results so easily acquired with a whip in hand. With the horses managed, he removed a silver flask smeared with fingerprints from his breast pocket and drank with a habitual repetitiveness learned from his taciturn father, or the weepy old stable master, or perhaps from his first employer, a collegiate assessor who collected ceramic kittens – in short, from any Russian man. Just as Selifan’s mind began to wander, Chichikov shrieked a demand from inside the britzka, but the whip remained at Selifan’s side.

  7. Brandt Silver-Korn says:

    “Selifan was stern all the way and at the same time very attentive to his business, which always happened with him either after he had been found at fault in something, or after he had been drunk” (57)…

    As the reader can imagine, Selifan spent most of his mornings in this attentive state, almost always the result of the latter reason. But one cannot blame him, for throughout Selifan’s unremarkable past, he earned a reputation among the few people who had heard of him, as a drinker. Because Russians drink the way they do, this reputation in itself should have solidified Selifan’s past as remarkable. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Nonetheless, because a break from Chichikov’s ordeals is necessary, I will briefly digress into this unremarkable man’s past. The reader should feel free to skim.

    Selifan was unrelentingly fond of spirits and wine for as long as anyone could remember. And since most people care nothing and know nothing about Selifan’s past, it is generally assumed that he began drinking at birth. They say Selifan’s cries were unbearable immediately after exiting the womb. His parents, who were also unremarkable individuals, soon found the only way to pacify the child was with a bottle of Russia’s most inexpensive vodka. How they found this out, God only knows.

    As he grew older his parents came to grips with the reality that their son would be the town’s foremost drunkard, begging for kopecks by the side of the road. Luckily, at age seven, on a deathly cold night, even by Russia’s standards, his prospects turned for the better. Upon exiting a tavern in which he had been kicked out for singing too much, Selifan stumbled across a whip laying in the middle of the road and decided to exact revenge on the manager who had so ungraciously thrown him in the street. A funny thing happened when he picked up the whip. The texture of its handle, which was quite standard for the texture of a whip, in addition to the sound the whip made when he cracked it, which sounded like every whip anyone has ever heard crack, all engaged him like pickled herring does a hungry man. The very next day, after sleeping all night beside this whip, Selifan ventured out in search of a job as a coachman. It was during this time that he met Chichikov.

  8. Rouan Yao says:

    Chichikov’s harsh voice had stirred quite some turmoil within Selifan’s previously calm state of being. Unhappily, he found himself to be awake, driving the horses which still dozed. How unfair, thought he, that these beasts should to race along so half-heartedly and sleepily, while I, their master, must suffer the inconsistencies of the world’s roads to guide them!
    “Of course, Sir! Wide awake, sir!” He turned around with wilted round eyes. “I do not ask for forgiveness, sir. Would I be so foolish as to be asleep? So forgive me – I was wide awake, I am not sorry.”
    And it was true – Selifan was not sorry. He was no regular old muzhik , who would be so easily ashamed by his own faults, as Chichikov thought. No, he was no ordinary serf of the land, though the same fierce Rus’ pride flowed through his veins. Oh, no – the reader should not go as far to make the unhappy mistake that Selifan was anything but the great driver that he is. No, working in the fields would not do for a man with as great a mastery of horses as he! He is Selifan the Mighty amongst horses, Selifan the Great Prince of the three which bore his master and Petryushka.
    And such a proud driver he is! What, he pondered, had put himself at fault when the foreign entity of sleepiness overtook him? He pondered this, just as he pondered why it would be his fault if some unquantified amount of vodka had managed to find itself in his stomach, and how presently the world around him is melting into brighter colours…
    Thus, he thought, and onward ho! The horses and three men raced, by the expertise of the dozing driver, continuing through the frozen landscape that continued its endless assault.

  9. Margaret Fulford says:

    To say anything of the coachman, Selifan, would be to deprive the reader of the obstinate belief in the drunkenness of all relatively worthless living souls in the Russian provinces. Had I, the author, concluded my tale having described to you the unfortunate incident of the overturning of the britchka of Chichikov and nothing more of the little coachman in the large overcoat, surely you would have laughed to yourself, “Oh, poor man! Spending his last kopeck at the tavern, or else furtively diverting the reservoirs of his master’s hosts once the horses had been seen to. What a life — what a typical, deplorable existence.” And indeed, the likes of Selifan would perhaps inspire sympathy if not for the distasteful way he treated the horses of Chichikov which, while of average breeding, endured their master’s whims and whip with the goodwill and stolidness of fine working creatures. Their character might be compared to the man who drove them — although, it hardly need be said that they lacked the capacity to imbibe to dull their suffering, and instead drowned their unexpressed sorrows in troughs of oats.
    Although the likes of Selifan are not long to be dwelled upon, it is perhaps worth noting that he had not always been so fishlike. It was the absolute mediocrity of his station in life that drove him to such lengths, for even the lowliest peasant still retains in him the pride of a successful harvest and the warm feeling of anticipation when thinking of vodka to be distilled. But Selifan carted to and fro an ordinary man of extraordinary whims, and this particular coachman’s unfortunate intellect did not allow him to understand the scope of his master’s ambitions. No, his past and present life was so absolutely unremarkable that only the excitement of a drunken excursion or “accidental” collision between two britchki could inspire in him any sort of passion for existence at all.

  10. Bryanna Kleber says:

    A class of men exists whom the proverb has described as “men unto themselves, neither this nor that–neither Bogdan of the city nor Selifan of the village.”

    Driving the britzka of an average gentleman was a muzhik of unfortunate fate. He wore an overcoat that was much too large and was never courageous enough to ask his master for a replacement. He was horribly bad-looking. His eyes were too close together and they always appeared to be squinting. And his ears stuck out to the side so that he looked like an animal more than a human. He had skinny legs and a large stomach. He was much to young to have such an unfit body.
    When he rode into town without his master, people would walk around him as to avoid some sort of disease they assumed he had. What more could you expect of a man with such a name as Selifan. It was the doing of his mother and father that fated him to live a lowly and ugly life. The name they presented to him set the course that his life was meant to follow.
    Everyday was the same monotonous day as the last for Selifan. Harness the horses, groom the horses, and drive his master around. He never had any sort of motivation to change the course of his life. He understood this was what his life was destined to be and he had no will to fight it.
    He did however dream that one day his master would realize that the two of them could be best of friends. He hoped that Chichikov would take him in as a brother, not a servant anymore, and they could dine and drink and laugh together. Yet, day after day, his master would call him a fool or something of the like. And he would continue to serve and respect his master, like he was meant to.

  11. Flora Weeks says:

    “No, master, it can’t be that I’m drunk! I know it’s not a good thing to be drunk. I talked with a friend, because one can have a talk with a good man, there’s nothing bad in that; and we had a bite to eat together. There’s no offense in a bite to eat; one can have a bite to eat with a good man” (40).
    But as Chichikov, the author, and the reader all know, he was drunk! It wasn’t such a bad thing as Selifan thought it was, since it is rare to find a sober coachman in all of Russia. It’s just that it was rather unlike Selifan. And so I will take a moment here, while Selifan is busy righting the coach, and we are unable to make any progress toward our destination, to write about this poor man. He is a somewhat mysterious character, as even his master knows little of his background. I have been able to discover some details that I hope the reader will find interesting.
    Selifan grew up in a town not far from the border. His father, too, was a coachman, and even though he grew up around horses and coaches, it was not from his father that he learned the trade. His father was a reticent man; he was hard-working and respectable, but never paid any interest to his children, in fact rarely giving a thought to other people at all. He certainly felt no need to pass his knowledge along to his children. Luckily, Selifan, the oldest, had a keen eye and a knack for picking up trades. With no words exchanged, Selifan had learned everything he needed to know to be hired as a coachman by the age of 8. He only needed to find a wiling employer. Chichikov, looking for anyway to spare a kopeck, was more than willing to hire an 8-year-old coachman. This is how the relationship between master and coachman came to be, and while there have been difficult times, such as the one we are experiencing now, it is a relationship that has been good to both of them.

  12. Benjamin Kingstone says:

    His dream came to an abrupt halt as stiff wagon ruts rose slowly before the dreaming horses. This Muzhik was trying to sleep when his master so thoughtlessly woke him—and the horses, for that matter—from dreamful sleep. Looking with sleep-encrusted eyes full of accumulated, restful hatred at Chichikov, he threw the rains down hard on the horses and the troika lurched forward. Selifan’s thoughts, however, did not respond with that energy typical of lazy serfs trying to impress their master’s guests. He was thinking about how he arrived to be sitting here—on this sodden bench with these thick, muddied gloves covering dirty hands. He, Selifan, the carriage driver, the burdened bleary-eyed, Tartar halfblood who arrived to scribe the pages of this grotesque history. Yes, reader! You have been duped, led on, blinded by our Russian stereotypes. You had forgotten me, considered me a louse, an illiterate peasant. But let me announce to you now that I am so much more. I am the thought of this narrative. I am the soul that you considered dead as soon as you met me. Chichikov hired me to narrate this story. But I knew you would discredit its monstrous claims—you thoughtless ghouls, you half-dead souls!—if it were told by mere Selifan, carriage driver and horse beater. So I waited until the end to release the secret. Chichikov may have devised this idiotic plan but it is I, sneaky Selifan, who shall document its destiny. Having learned to read in the Sultan’s court and then fleeing danger to Petersburg during the war for Greek Independence I became this story’s beating pulse. Though Chichikov’s story ended long ago (he died of a stroke in a local prison, captured for one to many cheap schemes), I have survived long enough to write this manuscript.

  13. Romany Redman says:

    “However, no more need be said about Petrushka. On the other hand, Coachman Selifan —”

    …he had a different story. Like Petrushka, Selifan also inhabited a large overcoat, though he lived in it much like a tortoise. His head could pop out through the collar to poke his nose at his friend, the one lazy horse of the troika. Alternatively, his head could then hide back inside the large coat along with his round red nose, while rocking side to side on the britchka, wobbling in the wind and swaying with the drink. A mat of hair and a twisted beard insulated whatever space was left between his bony shoulders and the chill of the air.
    Unlike Petrushka, Selifan never filled a room with his own smell. For one, he was rarely in a room, or a proper room at least. Second, Selifan rarely had his own smell, rather the scent of the horses, the barn, the road, his work… Selifan adopted the smell of whatever the environment might be – city cobble stones or country ruts. Naturally so, as he was as much a part of the environment as any other wheel or horse’s tail. Not to fear, Selifan’s humanity was consistently validated through his only human blunders thanks to alcohol. The bottle also helped to keep him warm, as well as facilitating conversation especially with that lazy horse. The other two understand so much better, don’t they?

  14. Juan Machado says:

    The author is embarrassed to here occupy the reader’s time with a description of such a lowly character. Little is to be gained from it; nothing is remarkable about those common individuals who crowd our country. Nevertheless, one might as well read a few words about Selifan and find in it some relief from boredom while waiting at a posting station for horses or perhaps while waiting for supper to be served.

    Selifan was not born, but found. A poor family made the unfortunate discovery on the front steps of their residence in St. Petersburg. They debated for a week whether to keep him or unload the burden on some other family. Finally, it was decided that they would raise the boy, but that as soon as he could command a good price he would be sold to a house of substance. Thus, he was named Selifan. The first syllable comes from the word “sell,” and the ones the follow come from the French word “enfant.” At the time, and of course this has since changed, nothing was more in vogue than to have a French sounding name and the family hoped to eventually use this phonetic advantage to increase their margins.

    He was never sold, however. As the boy grew up, his guardians noted that he had the most striking features. His nose was so tiny, it was a miracle he breathed at all and his mouth was so perfectly round it reminded them of a dog’s posterior opening. “You are awe-inspiring,” his entrepreneurial guardians would often exclaim, “how could we ever think of parting with you?” From that point Selifan was badly spoiled and inflated with pride, a lamentable trait when considering that not everyone in the world admires tiny noses and uniquely shaped mouths.

  15. Emily de Koning says:

    Poor Selifan! Always to suffer the humiliation that was not his own. Before ever being granted the honor of leading a coach, he had been a lowly stable boy. Some may think only of the dread of cleaning piles of hay and shoveling oats of being yelled at by unhappy owners “Rah! Rah! You fool! Feed them more oats I say!” But Serifan could not have wished for a more wonderful duty. Every day he would see them, those beautiful creatures! Those mighty beasts! To him it was an honor to care for them. In his youth, he had once hoped to race horses. Ah! The days he spent imagining the praise he would receive! “Selifan the fast!” “Selfan the lean!” But his mother could not let that happen. Deshevyska was a bitter woman, who would draw every kopchek she could out of her children, sending them off to work as soon as they could carry a bucket. Every night his mother would beat him “Rah! Rah! You fool, where is that money you owe me! You thief! You scoundrel!” And so he never raced.

  16. Alexandra Siega says:

    Selifan sat sluggishly in the boxy seat, glaring without concern at the dreary landscape and at the pockmarked road that stretched before him, leading the party further into the monotony of the Russian countryside. The horses trudged—not all, for the lazy dapple-gray may as well had been lolling between the master and his lackey for all the help that the slothful animal provided—on the unremarkable path towards an unremarkable location. Selifan’s whip, driven by mechanics instead of a conscious soul, smarted each sweating spine, yet the beasts moved no faster. That damned dapple-gray, who felt indifference towards his sharp thrashes—and sharper words, that clopped along the bleak country road with a disdain that the coachman himself felt for his grating master. Yes! Indeed, Selifan was the dapple-gray, who felt the sting of his master’s scolding and made no effort to avoid it: lo, he even welcomed the challenge of a punishment that would never manifest. The shrill threats of the master grew soft on the coachman’s apathetic ears; the ominous knife that had threatened to stick into his side an incalculable amount of times was still comprised of air, and, consequently, had become no less painful over the course of his service despite the number of occasions in which the master had foolishly waved it around with only words. A scoundrel! A fool! His master, so confident in his ability to pull the finest wool over a pair of eyes: Selifan himself saw through the master’s guise—comprised of Holland shirts, a creamed complexion, and a smooth tongue—and responded with the indifference that the hoodwinker deserved; yet the utterly stupid officials of each of the bleak, brainless, boring villages seemed to excite themselves over their charming visitor time and time again. God only knows why such schemes were allowed to come to fruition, for the master’s bad luck—as slanted as the cockeyed riding cap on the coachman’s balding head—followed him as persistently as the coachman’s whip on his horses’ backs. To be sure, his master’s life was a series of heaps and mounds of fortune and misfortune—lest it be a consequence of divine providence or merely a product of his own schemes—that mimic so thoroughly the jumbled bouncing of the old carriage, swiftly moving to his master’s taste… but I digress. Selifan straightened. Indeed, the dapple-gray was to be sold at the next market, for such an indolent animal was of no further use to the master and his coachman.

  17. Sarah Bellingham says:

    “’Didn’t you know before? Didn’t you, eh? Eh? Answer! Didn’t you know?’
    ‘I knew,’ Selifan replied, hanging his head.” (222)

    After hearing the various abuses his master had to offer, Selifan shuffled out the door. He glanced back over his shoulder, an insolent light in his eyes. How little his master knew. That foolish man, his head full of clever swindles and tricks—he thought he could manipulate them all! Little did Chichikov know, however, his ruse only worked on his superiors.

    Selifan had been following his master around for decades—or driving him, rather, seeing as Selifan was the coachman. Years of playing the fool had slowly begun to pay off. The night before, Selifan tested his master, standing for ages at the door before carrying out his orders. Chichikov had done nothing. This morning, the master had been furious with his serf’s seeming idiocy and laziness regarding the preparations for their hasty departure. His threats and intimidations only served to motivate Selifan further.

    Selifan was not an ordinary serf. Educated by spying through a schoolhouse window in his later years, he had acquired the knowledge of the written word and used it to forge illicit documents. His current pet project was his master’s will.

    With every scheme his master dreamt up, Selifan’s hopes grew. Unfortunately, the idiot had lost his fortune everytime Selifan came near to carrying out his plot. This time, however, things would be different. As soon as Chichikov got the last of the money from selling his dead souls, Selifan would strike.

    “Yes, my good readers, you would prefer not to see human poverty revealed…. Do we not know ourselves that there is much in life that is contemptible and stupid?” (248-9)

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