You have to love pedestrians...
the greater part of humanity.
And so begins The Little Golden Calf (Золотой телёнок or Zolotoy telyonok) by Soviet authors Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov. A new English translation of the 1931 book, by Konstantin Gurevich and Helen Anderson, is getting a lot of enthusiastic reviews. When I went looking for it, I came upon another, but incomplete, translation by Maciej Ceglowski and Peter V. Gadjokov. The novel's hilarious and, much to my surprise, rather apropos to this humble blog. The opening pages continue with a clever, trenchant comparison of pedestrians and cagers!
... The best part, no less. Pedestrians created the world. It was they who built the cities, raised skyscrapers, laid sewage and water lines, paved the streets and lit them with electric lights. It was they who spread civilization throughout the world, invented movable type, thought up gunpowder, flung bridges across rivers, deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphs, introduced the safety razor, abolished the slave trade and established that soybeans can be used to prepare 114 tasty, nutritious dishes.
And when everything was ready, when our home planet had taken on a comparatively comfortable form, the drivers appeared.
We should note that the automobile was also invented by pedestrians. But drivers somehow instantly forgot about that. They started running over the peaceful, intelligent pedestrians. They took over the streets the pedestrians had created. The pavement doubled in width, the sidewalks narrowed to the size of a tobacco pouch, and pedestrians had to start pressing themselves against the walls of buildings in fear.
Pedestrians in the big city lead a martyr’s life. A kind of transportation ghetto has been created for them. They are only permitted to cross the streets at pedestrian crossings, that is, in precisely those places where traffic is the heaviest and where it is easiest to sever the hair by which a pedestrian’s life usually hangs.
In our expansive country, the ordinary automobile—designed by pedestrians for the transportation of goods and people—has taken on the terrifying outlines of a fratricidal missile. It mows down rows of union members and their families. And if a pedestrian somehow manages to escape from under the car’s silver nose, he is fined by police for violating the rules of the traffic catechesis.
And in general, the authority of the pedestrian has been rather severely shaken. Having given the world such notable persons as Horace, Boyle, Mariotte, Lobachevsky, Gutenberg, and Anatole France, he must now go the most undignified lengths simply to remind the world of his existence. Oh God, oh great God who does not actually exist, what have you brought the pedestrian to?