Maxim Gorky: Military museum; soaking the dirt and dust of the earth with copious blood
From The Specter (1938)
Translated by Alexander Bakshy
In the morning, performing however reluctantly the duty of the traveler, armed with a red Baedeker guide-book, Samghin strode through the streets of the city of stone, and this tidy, bleak city depressed and bored him. The damp wind scattered people in all directions; the iron shoes of shaggy-legged horses clanked; soldiers marched; a drum rattled; occasionally an automobile honked by, lumbering like an elephant, and the Germans stopped, respectfully according it the right of way and following it with friendly eyes. Samghin found himself in a square with a number of mountainous buildings spaced neatly over it, above each of them, between blue-gray clouds, its own piece of blue sky shining. Every one was a museum. Before Samghin could decide which one of them to visit, a thunderclap shook the air and rain descended in torrents. Samghin was compelled to seek shelter in the nearest museum, which proved to house a collection of armor, its walls covered with stupid, if brightly colored, paintings, all scenes from the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars. From special stands protruded rifles of various types, swords, sabers, crossbows, lances, daggers; stuffed horses in war array stood with the steel shells of knights rising from their backs. The multitude of variously treated metals yielded a nauseating, oily chill. Samghin pondered that without question most of these instruments designed for the performance of military duty had slashed human skulls, chopped off arms, pierced chests and abdomens, soaking the dirt and dust of the earth with copious blood.