Today’s class took place in the audit or ium. As we entered we saw a large placard with the inscrip tion:


Tortsov congrat u lated us on having reached a new, extremely important phase in our studies and began to explain what Bits were and how a play or a role can be divided into its constitu ent parts. What he had to say was, as ever, clear and inter est ing. But nonethe less, first

I’ll write down not what happened in Tortsov’s class but what happened after it was over, some thing which helped me under stand Tortsov’s explan a tion. Today, for the first time I went to the house of the famous actor, Pasha –

my friend Pasha’s uncle. At lunch the great actor asked his nephew what had been happen ing at

school. He is inter ested in our work. Pasha told him we had reached a new phase – ‘Bits and Tasks’. ‘Do you know Shpondya?’ the old man asked. It seems that one of Pasha’s chil dren is taking acting lessons from a young

teacher with the curious name of Shpondya who is an ardent devotee of Tortsov. Consequently all the chil dren and young people have learned our

termin o logy. The magic ‘if’, ‘creat ive ideas’, ‘genuine action’ and other terms I was still not famil iar with cropped up in their youth ful talk. ‘Shpondya teaches all day every day,’ joked the great actor, who, at that

moment, had a huge turkey set before him. ‘He was at our house once. A dish was served like this one. My finger hurt. I asked him to carve and share it out.’ ‘Children!’ Shpondya said to my crocodiles. ‘Imagine that this is not a

turkey but a full-length, five-act play, The Inspector General, for instance. Can you take it all in, in one go? Remember, not only can’t a turkey be taken in all in one go, a five-act play can’t either. So we have to cut it up into very big bits. Like so . . . like so . . .’ With these words Uncle Pasha carved the legs, the wings and the breast

and set them on a plate. ‘Here are your first big bits,’ Shpondya announced. Well, of course, all my

crocodiles bared their teeth and wanted to gulp down the lot imme di ately. However, we managed to restrain the glut tons. Shpondya used this example and said: ‘Remember, you can’t manage a big bit all at once. So slice it into smaller parts. Like so . . . like so . . . like so . . .’ said Pasha divid ing the legs and the wings at the joints. ‘Give me your plate, crocodile,’ he said turning to the elder son. ‘Here’s a

big bit for you. That’s scene one.’ ‘ “I have invited you, gentle men, to inform you of some disagree able

news,” the young man quoted, return ing his plate clum sily trying to assume a bass voice. ‘Eugene Onegin, take the second bit with the post mas ter,’ said the great

actor to his young son, ‘Prince Igor and Tsar Fydor, here’s the scene with the two land lords, Bobchinski and Dobchinski for you, Tatyana Repin and Katya Kabanova, take the scene between Marya and Anna,’ said Uncle Pasha as he distrib uted the bits on the chil dren’s plates.1