The life of Lyova Odoevtsev, the descendant of the Odoyevtsev princes, proceeds without any particular upheavals. The thread of his life is flowing out of someone’s divine hands. He feels more like a surname than a descendant of his glorious ancestors. Grandfather Lyova was arrested and spent his life in camps and exile. In infancy, Lyova, conceived in the fateful year of 1937, also moved along with his parents towards the “depth of the Siberian ore”; however, everything went well, and after the war the family returned to Leningrad.
Levin, the pope, is the head of the department at the university, where his grandfather once shone. Lyova grows up in an academic environment and since childhood dreams of becoming a scientist – “like a father, but bigger.” After graduating from school, Lyova enters the Faculty of Philology.
In the Odoevtsevs’ apartment, after ten years of absence, the former neighbor Dmitri Ivanovich Yuvashov, who is called Uncle Dickens, a man “clear, poisonous, expecting nothing and free” returns from confinement. Everything in it seems to Lyova attractive: his disgust, dryness, harshness, thieves aristocratism, sobriety of attitude to the world. Lyova often goes to Uncle Dickens, and even the books he takes from a neighbor become a childhood remedy.
Soon after the appearance of Uncle Dickens, the Odoevtsev family is allowed to recall their grandfather. Lyova learns for the first time that his grandfather is alive, he looks at his beautiful young face in photos – from those that “sting by unconditional difference from us and unquestionable belonging to a person.” Finally comes the news that the grandfather returns from exile, and the father goes to meet him in Moscow. The next day my father returns alone, pale and lost. From unfamiliar people, Lyova gradually learns that in his youth his father abandoned his father, and then even criticized his work in order to get a “warm” chair. Returning from the link, the grandfather did not want to see his son.
Lyova is working out for himself the “grandfather’s hypothesis”. He begins to read the grandfather’s work on linguistics and even hopes to use part of the dedov system for course work. Thus, he derives some benefit from the family drama and cherishes in his imagination a beautiful phrase: grandfather and grandson…
The grandfather is given an apartment in a new house on the outskirts, and Lyova goes to him “with a brand new beating heart.” But instead of the person whom he created in his imagination, Lyova is met by a disabled person with a red, pinched face, which strikes with its unconsciousness. Grandfather drinks with friends, confused Lyova joins the company. Senior Odoevtsev does not believe that he was imprisoned undeservedly. He was always serious and does not belong to those insignificant people who were first undeservedly imprisoned, but now deservedly released. He is offended by rehabilitation, he believes that “all this” began when the intellectual first entered the door into conversation with a boor instead of chasing him in the neck.
Grandfather immediately notices the main feature of his grandson: Leva sees from the world only what is suitable for his premature explanation; an unexplained world leads him into a panic, which Lyova takes for mental suffering, which is peculiar only to the sentient person. When the intoxicated Lyova tries to blame his father for something, the grandfather in a fury expels his grandson – for “treachery in the seed.”
Lev Odoevtsev ceased to celebrate the outside world from his childhood, that is, he learned the only way that allowed many Russian aristocrats to survive in the twentieth century. After graduating from the faculty, Lyova enters post-graduate school, and then starts working in the famous Pushkin House of the Academy of Sciences. Even in graduate school, he wrote a talented article “Three Prophets”, which amazes everyone with inner freedom and a flying, sighing syllable. Lyova has a certain reputation, whose even fire he imperceptibly supports. He deals only with pure antiquity and thus acquires confidence in a liberal environment without becoming a dissident. Only once he finds himself in a difficult situation. Levin is a close friend of “something wrong” wrote, signed or said, and now the trial is due, during which Lyova will not be able to keep silent. But here the confluence of all conceivable circumstances interferes: Leva falls ill with the flu, goes on vacation, urgently responds to Moscow, wins a trip abroad in a lottery, his grandfather dies, old love returns to him… To Levine’s return, a friend is no longer in the institute, and this somewhat spoils Levin’s reputation. However, soon Lyova discovers that the reputation in an unimaginative form is even more convenient, calm and safe.
Lyova has three friends. One of them, Albina, the clever and subtle woman of the Lion circle and upbringing, loves him, throws her husband for him – but remains unloved and unwanted, despite repeated meetings. The other, Lyubasha, is simple and uncomplicated, and Lyova... does not attach any importance to her relations with her. He loves only Faina, whom he was introduced to on the day of graduation by a classmate of Mitishatyev. The next day after meeting Lyova invites Faina to the restaurant, with a trembling dare to take by the hand and irresistibly kisses in the front room.
Faina is older and more experienced than Lyova. They continue to meet. Leva constantly has to make money for restaurants and numerous ladies’ things, often borrow from Uncle Dickens, secretly sell books. He is jealous of Faina, convicts of infidelity, but unable to part with her. During one party, Lyova discovers that Faina and Mitishatyev have disappeared from the room and the door to the bathroom is locked. Dumbfounded, he waits for Fain, mechanically clicking the lock of her purse. Glancing at last in her purse, Lyova discovers a ring there, which, according to Faina, is expensive. Thinking that he has no money, Lyova puts the ring in his pocket.
When Faina discovers the loss, Lyova does not admit his deed and promises to buy another ring, hoping to save money for the stolen goods. But it turns out that the Fainino ring is too cheap. Then Lyova simply returns the ring, assuring that he bought it for a pittance. Faina can not object and is forced to accept the gift. Lyova freezes from the satisfaction unknown to him. After this story, the most prolonged and peaceful period in their relations sets in, after which they all the same leave.
In the November holidays of 196 … Leva was left on duty at the Institute building. To him comes a longtime friend-enemy and colleague of Mitishatyev. Lyova understands that the impact on her of Mitishatyev is akin to the influence of Faina: they both eat Lev, enjoy, humiliate him. Mitishatyev talks about Jews who “spoil our women.” Lyova easily refutes Mitishatyev’s statement about the non-talent of the Jews, arguing that Pushkin was a Semite. Mitishatyev says that he is going to crush Lyova spiritually, and then turn the whole world: “I feel myself in power.” There were “Christ-Mohammed-Napoleon” – and now I. Everything is ripe, and the world is ripe, only a person who feels in your strength. “
Mitishatyev leads his graduate student Gottiha, warning Lyova that he is a snitch. Baron von Gottich writes poetry about martens or matrens in patriotic newspapers, which gives Mitishatyev an excuse to mock the fragments-aristocrats. To brighten Lyova’s supposed loneliness, not knowing about his guests, comes Isaiah Borisovich Blank. He is an employee of the Institute on pension, one of the noblest people that Leve had to meet in his life. The form is not only extremely neat outwardly – it can not talk about people badly.
Blank, Mitishatyev, Gottikh and Lyova drink together. They talk about the weather, about freedom, about poetry, about progress, about Jews, about the people, about drunkenness, about ways to purify vodka, about cooperative apartments, about God, about women, about the Negro, about currency, about the social nature of man and about that there is nowhere to go… They argue about whether Natalia Nikolayevna Pushkin loved. Some Natasha’s girls come. Mitishatyev lays out his life philosophy, including “Mitishatyev’s right-hand rule”: “If a person seems to be shit, then he is shit.” From time to time, Lyova senses drunken memory failures. In one of these failures, Mitishatyev offends Blanka, and then assures me that Lyova smiled and nodded at the same time.
Mitishatyev says that he can not live on earth while there is Lyova. He also insults Faina, and this Lyova can not stand it any more. They fight with Mitishatyev, and Mitishatyev breaks Pushkin’s posthumous mask. This is the last straw – Lyova calls him to a duel on the museum pistols. Shot sounds – Lyova falls. Mitishatyev leaves, taking with him an inkstand Grigorovich. Recovering himself, Lyova with horror discovers what kind of rout is done in the museum room. But it turns out that with the help of Albina, working in the same institute, and Uncle Dickens everything is very quickly put in order.
Grigorovich’s inkstand is found under the window, another copy of Pushkin’s mask is brought from the basement. The next day, Lyova discovers that no one at the institute is paying attention to fresh traces of cleaning and repair. The deputy director summons him only to instruct him to accompany the American writer to Leningrad.
Lyova leads an American through Leningrad, shows him monuments and talks about Russian literature. And all this – Russian literature, Petersburg, Russia – Pushkin’s house without his curly guest.
Left alone, Lyova stands over the Neva on the background of the Bronze Horseman, and it seems to him that, having described the dead loop of experience, seizing a lot of empty water with a long and heavy net, he returned to the starting point. Here he stands at this point and feels that he is tired.