Narcissistic elderly father

How to Care For a Narcissistic Parent

Narcissists: you can’t leave them, it’s nearly impossible to love them and you feel like you want to pull your hair out whenever you’re around them.

Laura Thomas, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist based in California who helps clients of all ages deal with a variety of mental health issues, claims that narcissistic tendencies often become less pronounced as a person ages. Yet many family caregivers—especially adult children—would say that they deal with self-important seniors daily.

Whether they come in the form of an uncompromising parent, a selfish sibling or exploitative in-laws, narcissists can be a difficult burden for caregivers to bear. Although true narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is deeply ingrained and notoriously difficult to treat, learning about this disorder can help family caregivers better navigate relationships with aging narcissists.

What Is Narcissism?

Known as narcissistic personality disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) describes narcissism as a specific set of impairments in one’s identity and self-direction, impairments in interpersonal functioning and pathological personality traits. Narcissistic behavior is marked by antagonism, which involves a lack of empathy for others, attention-seeking (grandiosity), manipulativeness, deceitfulness and callousness.

While most people tend to have a rigid concept of what a classic narcissist acts like, there are a few different types of narcissism. A narcissist can be a grandiose peacock who struts about, flaunting their imagined sense of superiority in your face, or they can be charming and outwardly caring—until you get in their way. Covert narcissists may come across as shy, self-deprecating, introverted and/or sensitive. In fact, their penchant and knack for manipulating those around them can make some narcissists difficult to identify.

Dr. Thomas suggests avoiding black and white thinking when it comes to spotting narcissism. Like many mental disorders, NPD exists on a spectrum. “We all have a degree of narcissism in us,” she explains. After all, self-preservation is a basic evolutionary trait in many animals, especially humans. To complicate matters further, individuals with narcissistic personality disorder often have additional mental health issues, such as depressive disorder, substance use disorders, or other personality disorders.

Read: Understanding Mental Health Issues in Seniors

Could You Be Caring for a Narcissistic Parent?

If you think you may be caring for an elderly narcissist, consider how pervasive your care recipient’s sense of self-importance is. Do their needs, no matter how trivial, always come before those of others? Are they hypersensitive to criticism? Are feelings like fear, obligation and guilt a regular part of your caregiving routine? Does your care recipient encourage or provoke these emotions to use them to their advantage (a tactic known as emotional blackmail or FOG)? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean your parent is a narcissist. However, understanding their thought processes can help you learn how to navigate these more abrasive aspects of their personality.

It is also important to consider whether a senior’s personality is much the same as it has been over the course of their life or whether new characteristics are emerging. If they have been noticeably ostentatious, manipulative, attention-seeking and self-absorbed for years, chances are that they have always been (and will likely always be) a narcissist.

However, a senior who suddenly develops some narcissistic tendencies following a major life event, such as the loss of a spouse or the onset of a major health issue, may be suffering from a different mental disorder like depression Dr. Thomas notes. Grief and anxiety can manifest in strange ways and it is important to rule out new or unusual changes in mood and behavior. In some cases, these symptoms can be more easily treated, or they may point to an underlying medical problem like the onset of dementia.

What Causes a Person to Become a Narcissist?

For a family caregiver, it can sometimes feel as though one is constantly surrounded by self-important people who demand our time and attention but offer little to no thanks and refuse to reciprocate.

For true narcissists, their behavior patterns often extend far into their past, but they do not emerge fully formed from the womb. Dr. Thomas notes that pinning down specific causes of narcissism is tricky. She says that self-centered people are generally a product of the confluence of two greatly influential forces: their biology and their environment.

It makes sense. People are genetically programmed to be concerned for their individual health and well-being, even when it sometimes comes at the expense of others. Furthermore, NPD is thought to be hereditary. If you combine those biological features with certain environmental factors, such as neglect, abuse and/or over-parenting, it’s not difficult to see how a person could develop narcissistic tendencies.

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How to Deal With a Narcissistic Parent

The dynamics that exist in a caregiving relationship are complex for even the most “healthy” and tight-knit families. When a care recipient exhibits narcissistic tendencies, it can be both frustrating and extremely painful for the person trying to provide care for them.

Meredith Resnick, LCSW, author of When Your Parent Is a Narcissist, feels that taking care of a family member who is narcissistic can make interactions exceedingly difficult to navigate. “Because patterns between aging parents and adult children are typically long-standing, the emotions involved can be pretty intense,” she admits.

It is easy to become entrenched in an unproductive cycle of emotional blackmail and verbal blow-ups if caregivers are not careful when dealing with a narcissistic mother or father. If a senior is behaving in a selfish manner, Resnick says that the best option is to avoid being baited into outright confrontation at all costs. Before directly challenging an aging narcissist, the caregiver should first determine what they want to achieve by confronting the problem. If the issue is a minor one, it might be best for the adult child to cede the “victory” to their parent.

If, on the other hand, the issue affects the health and well-being of the caregiver or their care recipient, then the caregiver should seek to address the problem in a productive way. One way to do this is by aligning what you want the narcissist to do with their own interests. For example, if your parent refuses to take their medication because they think the prescribing physician is a “quack,” simply remind them that they’re more likely to have to attend another appointment and endure the doctor’s uneducated ramblings if they don’t take their pills. Conversely, if they take the medication, they’ll be able to avoid further “unnecessary” trips to the doctor’s office.

Narcissists may be master manipulators and notoriously difficult to care for, but there are strategies that can help you get your way without wanting to pull your hair out. Most family caregivers are uncomfortable with using these techniques at first but learning to detach and set boundaries will help. These things just take practice and a firm commitment.

3 Rules for Defending Yourself Against the Aging Narcissist

An elderly narcissist is unlikely to change their behavior. In fact, psychologists agree that NPD is particularly challenging to treat, even in young, physically healthy people.

Dr. Thomas admits that caregiving for a narcissist is likely to “challenge one to the core of their being.” She offers these three recommendations for caregivers who find themselves in this situation:

  1. Do as much as you can to get respite care, maintain a social life of some sort and engage in activities that you enjoy and that rejuvenate you. This will prevent caregiver burnout.
  2. Work with a mental health professional, such as a counselor or psychologist, to help you sort through your feelings and hone the tools you need to recognize and cope with emotional blackmail.
  3. Set personal limits on how much contact you are willing to make and stick to your boundaries no matter what.

It is also important to remember that a relationship with a narcissist is essentially a one-way street. Those with NPD tendencies are so caught up in themselves that they have a limited ability to love other people, understand their perspectives or value their emotions. Truly accepting this reality will help you acknowledge your role as a protector and provider for someone who lacks the ability to reciprocate with feelings of love, appreciation, or even tolerance.

Respect Your Limits While Caregiving

Resnick and Dr. Thomas both urge family caregivers in this situation to take responsibility for their personal emotional state. Remember, you cannot control a narcissist; you can only control yourself. Your number one goal should be finding out how to help a narcissistic parent without losing yourself in the process.

If you are struggling to come to terms with your feelings and your mental and physical health are suffering, it is likely time to set stricter boundaries with your care recipient or walk away altogether. In fact, professional health care workers from in-home care companies or in senior living facilities may be more successful in providing quality care because they do not have a personal history with the senior and are therefore more immune to their emotional blackmail.

The last thing a narcissist wants is for their caregiver’s needs (or anyone’s needs, really) to supersede their own. Caregivers are selfless individuals, and those with NPD often use this to their advantage. BUT you must remember that you are important, too. Your health and happiness matter. Making meaningful changes to your care plan will require you to act in your own self-interest for once. Many family caregivers must make the difficult decision to go low-contact or even no-contact with their narcissistic parents. It will be tough, but this is certainly not something to feel guilty about; it is a necessity.

Read: Detaching With Love: Setting Boundaries in Toxic Relationships

Planning Care for an Elderly Narcissistic Parent

Narcissism in the family is incredibly difficult to deal with. The narcissistic person is always right, nothing you do is good enough for them, and it’s always your fault. This can mean that as a child of a parent who is narcissistic, you have had to endure a lot. However, as our parents become older, fragile and more vulnerable, we can’t help but want to be there for them and help. So how do you go about planning care for an elderly narcissistic parent?

What is narcissism?

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is a mental disorder and the person may exhibit superiority, and endless demands for attention, especially praise and recognition. The narcissistic parent may demonstrate a lack of empathy and be accustomed to manipulating others around them with little or no regard for their feelings or emotions. When it comes to caring for someone with this personality disorder, or planning and arranging their care, it can be an overwhelming thought.

Although personality disorders such as narcissism can become milder as the person ages, it can still be present enough to be an issue, especially in a parent that you are trying to help. It may bring back all sorts of memories and triggers that make it much harder for you to deal with. It could be that your elderly parent has developed narcissism in their old age, this can be due to a variety of reasons, including trauma, or depression. It could also be that they are exhibiting some narcissistic traits because of dementia.

Understanding narcissism, how it works, where it comes from and how it manifests is an important tool for you to survive. So, if you haven’t already, ensure that you know everything there is to know about it. It can help a great deal to see a therapist on a regular basis as support for you, as well as assistance in understanding how to navigate around an elderly narcissistic parent, especially if you are going to care for your parent yourself.

Caring for your narcissistic parent yourself

This can be a tough decision and much more draining than caring for the non-narcissistic parent. You will need to carefully consider your options here, thinking about your own mental health. If you have already made the decision to care for your parent yourself, ensure that you take regular breaks, set boundaries and get as much external support as you can to retain your self-esteem, sense of self, and perspective.

If you are within the narcissistic environment for too long without outside breaks, you will find it much harder to retain your own mental health. Have a good support network and you may also wish to engage regularly with a therapist.

Dealing with Gaslighting

If you were raised by a narcissist, this is behaviour you may already be familiar with, and if not then you need to be aware of it. A narcissist will often try to make you feel as though you are losing your mind, or that you are delusional and this behaviour has become known as ‘gaslighting’. This behaviour could develop with the onset of dementia if they have not previously exhibited gaslighting behaviour.

It might be that they tell you that you remember a situation incorrectly, or trying to tell you that your perceptions are not correct, or always insisting they are the victim and you are doing something wrong. They will make you doubt yourself and are attempts at manipulation. This can make it incredibly difficult to discuss that they need care, or you may feel forced into caring for them.

Dealing with ‘nothing is good enough and everything is your fault’

Narcissism can include irritability, they take a dig at you, along with a scolding. This can be incredibly difficult to navigate for adult children of narcissistic parents, especially while you are trying to care for your parent. It can be easy for you to slip into feeling like a scolded child again.

For example, you place a meal in front of your parent that you took care in preparing and your parent simply gets cross, saying ‘I don’t want you to use that plate, I TOLD you this.’ It’s important to keep yourself in the now, reminding yourself that you are an adult and in control of your own life. Keep calm and realise this is simply a manipulation tactic to help the narcissist feel superior or a projection of their own feelings of inadequacy. You can offer to change the plate in this example, or say that you will remember this for next time.

Arranging care for your narcissistic parent

Narcissists will very rarely seek care for themselves and will probably resent any form of ageing. If you decide that caring for your narcissistic parent is going to be, or already is too much, there is no shame in handing over the care of your parent to a care provider and even distancing yourself. Sometimes we have to preserve our own sanity and health from toxic relationships.

Having a talk about your parent needing care is not something that is going to go well with the narcissist, so it can be good to get help from a therapist in preparation for this. The discussion is likely to end up with you feeling guilty. You will need to be strong and explain what is going to happen, ensuring that you retain your boundaries and stick to your plan. If you have a support network or other members of the family to help with this, get them involved.

Getting external help will save you from a lot of heartache. An employed care worker will be able to treat your parent with dignity and care, but also be able to handle their personality. Your parent may be a difficult person to help, but a good carer will be able to help them despite this. It is much easier for a person without your emotional attachments to be able to deal with the narcissistic parent.

Narcissism and dementia - how can you tell?

It can be difficult to see dementia in a person who is narcissistic, especially in the early stages of cognitive decline. You may struggle to distinguish between actual memory problems and gaslighting behaviour, and they may use gaslighting to deal with it. In early stages of dementia, the narcissist will blame others for their forgetfulness, however this could also be a normal occurrence in ageing. So, how can you tell if a narcissistic parent is developing dementia?

As their cognitive abilities decline with dementia, it will become very much apparent, you will need to be observant in their behaviours to spot changes, as they will continue to blame others, but will be more likely to withdraw from others to save their ego, rather than thrive on the attention.

Once severe cognitive decline is in progress with the narcissist, this is a stage where they may be at risk of suicide; a narcissist is more likely to follow through, rather than use it as a tool for attention. When they are no longer able to look after themselves, narcissists shut down and may occasionally behave like a non-narcissist person. Family members may cling to this with hope but the progression of the dementia is too advanced. Anger outbursts will be common as well as paranoid delusions. The narcissist is so convincing even at this stage that they are able to draw in others into their delusional state.

If your parent has been otherwise non-narcissistic and seems to have suddenly developed some these traits, this may also be indicative of dementia.

You are not alone

There are plenty of support groups for this particular situation too, you are definitely not alone in this. The very reason this article has been written is because it is more common than you probably think. Have a look on Facebook and on the internet, you will find groups and forums where you can connect with others to get some additional help, advice and support.

The 9 Most Unpleasant Characters in Russian Literature • Arzamas

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  • History
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I'm lucky!


Philologist Oleg Lekmanov chose the most unsympathetic characters from Russian novels and stories of the 19th and 20th centuries

1Aleksey Shvabrin from The Captain's Daughter by Alexander Pushkin (1836)
Grinev's duel with Shvabrin. Illustration by M. V. Nesterova for the story "The Captain's Daughter". 1886 All-Russian Pushkin Museum, St. Petersburg

Shvabrin, secretly in love with Masha Mironova, tries to discredit her in the eyes of Pyotr Grinev:

“Wow! Self-loving poet and modest lover! Shvabrin continued, irritating me more from the hour, “but listen to friendly advice: if you want to be in time, then I advise you not to act with songs.

— What does this mean, sir? Feel free to explain.

- With pleasure. This means that if you want Masha Mironova to come to you at dusk, then instead of tender rhymes, give her a pair of earrings.

My blood boiled.

— And why do you have such an opinion about her? I asked, holding back my indignation with difficulty.

“Because,” he answered with an infernal grin, “I know from experience her temper and customs.

- You're lying, you bastard! I cried out in rage, “you are lying in the most shameless way.”

2Peter Verkhovensky from Fyodor Dostoevsky's "Demons" (1872)
Title page of the first separate edition of Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel "Demons". St. Petersburg, 1873 House of Antiquarian Books “In Nikitsky”

Pyotr Verkhovensky is talking to his father Stepan Trofimovich:

“Peter Stepanovich quickly explained the reason for his arrival. Of course, Stepan Trofimovich was overwhelmed and listened in fright, mixed with extreme indignation.

- And this Yulia Mikhailovna Varvara Petrovna Stavrogina is a wealthy landowner and patroness of Stepan Trofimovich, who was the former teacher of her son Nikolai. Yulia Mikhailovna is the wife of the new governor. The ladies compete with each other: each tries to make her home the center of the life of the local society. expects me to come to read it!

- That is, they do not need you at all. On the contrary, this is to be kind to you and thereby suck up to Varvara Petrovna. But, of course, you will not dare to refuse to read. Yes, and I think I want it myself, - he grinned, - you all, the old people, have hellish ambition. But listen, however, it is necessary not to be so boring. What do you have there, Spanish history, or what? You give me three days to look through, otherwise you will probably put me to sleep.

The hurried and too naked coarseness of these barbs was clearly deliberate. It was pretended that it was as if it was impossible to speak with Stepan Trofimovich in a different, more subtle language and concepts. Stepan Trofimovich firmly continued not to notice the insults. But the reported events made a more and more startling impression on him.

- And she herself, herself, ordered me to convey this through ... you? he asked, turning pale.

- That is, you see, she wants to appoint you a day and a place for a mutual explanation; remnants of your sentimentality. You flirted with her for twenty years and taught her the most ridiculous tricks. But don't worry, it's not the same now; she herself says every minute that now she has just begun to “despise”. I explained to her directly that all this friendship of yours is only one mutual outpouring of washing. She told me a lot, brother, fu, what a lackey position you performed all the time. Even I blushed for you.

- Did I fulfill the position of lackey? Stepan Trofimovich couldn't stand it.

- Worse, you were a hanger-on, that is, a voluntary lackey. Too lazy to work, but we have an appetite for money. All this and she now understands; at least the horror that she told about you. Well, brother, how I laughed at your letters to her; conscientious and nasty. But you are so corrupted, so corrupted! There is something forever corrupting in charity - you are a clear example!

— She showed you my letters!

— All. That is, of course, where to read them? Fu, how much paperwork you have written, I think there are more than two thousand letters ... But you know, old man, I think you had one moment when she would be ready to marry you? You stupidly missed it! Of course, I'm speaking from your point of view, but still, it's better than now, when they almost wooed on "other people's sins", like a jester for fun, for money.

— For money! She, she says what money! Stepan Trofimovich cried out painfully.

- But how is it? What are you, I protected you. After all, this is your only way of justification. She herself understood that you needed money, like everyone else, and that from this point of view you are probably right. I proved to her like twice two that you lived on mutual benefits: she is a capitalist, and you are a sentimental jester with her. However, she is not angry about money, even though you milked her like a goat. It only takes her anger that she believed you for twenty years, that you swindled her on nobility and forced her to lie for so long. She will never admit that she herself lied, but for this you will get twice. I don’t understand how you didn’t guess that you would have to pay someday. After all, you had at least some mind. Yesterday I advised her to send you to an almshouse, calm down, to a decent one, you won't be offended; she seems to do just that. Do you remember your last letter to me in the X province, three weeks ago?

— Did you show her? Stepan Trofimovich jumped up in horror.

- Well, still not! First thing. The one in which you notified that she was exploiting you, envious of your talent, and there about "other people's sins". Well, brother, by the way, what, however, you have pride! I laughed so hard. In general, your letters are boring; you have a terrible syllable. I often didn’t read them at all, but one of them still lies unopened with me now; I will send you tomorrow. But this, this last letter of yours is the height of perfection! How I laughed, how I laughed!

- Fiend, Fiend! cried Stepan Trofimovich.

3Judushka Golovlev from Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin's The Golovlevs (1880)
Reproduction of the Kukryniksy's illustration for Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin's novel The Golovlevs. 1975 RIA Novosti

Son Peter prays to Father Porfiry Vladimirovich (nicknamed Judas) for money to pay for the shameful loss:

he didn’t sit down himself, didn’t make his son sit down, but began to walk up and down the room. It was as if he instinctively felt that the matter would be delicate and that it would be much freer to explain such subjects on the go. And it’s more convenient to hide the facial expression, and it’s easier to stop the explanation if it takes too unpleasant a turn. And with the help of the half-open door, one can refer to witnesses, because mother and Evprakseyushka, probably, will not hesitate to come to tea in the dining room.

“Daddy, I lost the state money,” Petenka said at once and somehow stupidly.

Judas didn't say anything. You could only see how his lips trembled. And after that he, as usual, began to whisper.

“I lost three thousand,” explained Petenka, “and if I don’t pay them the day after tomorrow, then very unpleasant consequences for me may occur.

- Well, bring it in! said Porfiry Vladimirych kindly.

Father and son made several rounds in silence. Petenka wanted to explain further, but he felt that his throat was seized.

- Where will I get the money from? he finally said.

- Dear friend, I don't know your sources. What sources did you rely on when you lost government money at cards - pay from those.

- You yourself know very well that in such cases people forget about the sources!

- I don't know anything, my friend. I've never played cards - only you can play fools with your mother to amuse the old woman. And, please, don't involve me in these dirty deeds, but let's go and have a cup of tea. Let's have a drink and sit, maybe we'll talk about something, but, for Christ's sake, not about that.

And Yudushka was about to go to the door to dash into the dining room, but Petenka stopped him.

— Excuse me, however, — he said, — I must somehow get out of this situation!

Judas grinned and looked Petenka in the face.

- It's necessary, my dear! he agreed.

- So help me!

- And this ... this is another question. That you need to somehow get out of this situation - that's right, it was you who said the truth. And how to get out is none of my business!

— But why don't you want to help?

- And because, firstly, that I have no money to cover your worthless deeds, and secondly, because this does not concern me at all. You messed up yourself - get out yourself. If you like to ride - love to carry sleds. That's right, friend. After all, just now I started by saying that if you ask correctly...

- I know, I know. You have a lot of words in your language. ..

- Wait, hold back your insolence, let me finish. That these are not just words - I will prove to you now ... So, I told you just now: if you ask for what is proper, sensible - if you please, friend! always ready to satisfy you! But if you come with a request that is not practical - sorry, brother! I have no money for crappy business, no, no! And it won't - you know that! And don't you dare say that these are just "words", but understand that these words border very closely with deeds.

- Think, however, what will happen to me!

“And whatever God pleases, that will be,” answered Judas, slightly raising his hands and looking askance at the icon.

Father and son again made several tours around the room. Judas walked reluctantly, as if complaining that his son was holding him captive. Petenka, akimbo, followed him, biting his mustache and smiling nervously.

— I am your last son, — he said, — don't forget about it!

- From Job, my friend, God took everything, but he did not grumble, but only said: God gave, God took - do, Lord, your will! That's right, brother!

- God took it, and you yourself take it away from yourself. Volodya...

— Well, you seem to start talking vulgarities!

- No, this is not vulgarity, but the truth. Everyone knows that Volodya...

— No, no, no! I don't want to listen to your vulgarities! Yes, and in general - enough. What needed to be said, you said it. I also gave you an answer. And now let's go and drink tea. Let's sit and talk, then we'll eat, drink goodbye - and with God. See how merciful God is to you! And the weather calmed down, and the path became smoother. Little by little, little by little, thump and thump - and you won't see how you get to the station!

- Listen! Finally, I beg you! if you have even a drop of feeling...

— No, no, no! let's not talk about it! Let's go to the dining room: mama, I guess, she missed tea for a long time. It is not good to make an old lady wait.

Judas made a sharp turn and almost ran towards the door.

- Even if you leave, at least don't leave, I won't leave this conversation! - Petenka shouted after him, - it will be worse, as if we will start talking in front of witnesses!

Judas turned back and stood right in front of his son.

— What do you want from me, scoundrel… tell me! he asked in an excited voice.

- I need you to pay the money I lost.

— Never!!

— So this is your last word?

See? Judas exclaimed solemnly, pointing with his finger at the image hanging in the corner, “do you see that? This is daddy's blessing... So I tell you in front of him: never!!

And he walked out of the office with a decisive step.

- Assassin! - flashed after him.

4Yuliya Gudayevskaya from The Little Demon by Fyodor Sologub (1905)
Cover of the first separate edition of Fyodor Sologub's novel The Little Demon. St. Petersburg, 1907 House of antiquarian books "In Nikitsky"

Yulia Gudaevskaya secretly from her husband summons the gymnasium teacher Peredonov to her house in order to punish the innocent son Antosha together with him:

"Finally he got to the dwelling of the Gudayevskys. The fire was visible only in one window to the street, the other four were dark. Peredonov went quietly up the steps, stood for a moment, put his ear to the door, and listened—everything was quiet. He tugged lightly on the brass handle of the bell, and there was a distant, faint, rattling sound. But no matter how weak he was, he frightened Peredonov, as if behind this sound all hostile forces were supposed to wake up and rush to these doors. Peredonov quickly ran off the porch and pressed himself against the wall, crouching behind a post.

Short moments passed. Peredonov's heart sank and pounded heavily.

Light footsteps were heard, the knock of an open door - Yulia looked out into the street, her black, passionate eyes sparkling in the darkness.

- Who's here? she asked in a loud whisper.

Peredonov parted a little from the wall and, peering from below into the narrow opening of the door, where it was dark and quiet, he asked, also in a whisper—and his voice trembled:

"Has Nikolai Mikhailovich left?"

“Gone, gone,” Yulia whispered happily and nodded.

Looking around timidly, Peredonov followed her into the dark passage.

“Excuse me,” Yulia whispered, “I am without fire, otherwise someone else will see, they will chat.

She walked ahead of Peredonov up the stairs, into the corridor, where a small lamp hung, casting a dim light on the upper steps. Yulia laughed joyfully and quietly, and her ribbons trembled unsteadily from her laughter.

"He's gone," she whispered joyfully, looked round and surveyed Peredonov with passionately burning eyes. “I was already afraid that I would stay at home today, so I got into a fight. Yes, I could not bear it without a screw. I also sent the servants - only Liza's nanny remained - otherwise they will interfere with us. After all, you know what people are these days.

Heat radiated from Yulia, and she was all hot, dry, like a torch. She sometimes grabbed Peredonov by the sleeve, and from these quick dry touches it was as if quick dry flames ran through his whole body. Quietly, on tiptoe, they walked along the corridor - past several locked doors and stopped at the last one - at the door to the nursery ... "

guard." Paris, 1927
House of antiquarian books “In Nikitsky”

Captain Sergei Talberg flees from Kyiv, which is approached by the Petliurists, leaving his wife and her brothers to their fate:

“Red-haired Elena immediately grew old and ugly. The eyes are red. Hanging her arms, she listened sadly to Thalberg. He towered over her like a dry staff column and said inexorably:

- Elena, there is no other way to do it.

Then Elena, reconciled to the inevitable, said this:

- Well, I understand. You are right, of course. In five or six days, huh? Maybe the situation will change for the better?

Thalberg had a difficult time here. And he even removed his eternal patent smile from his face. It has grown old, and at every point there was a completely resolved thought. Elena. .. Elena. Ah, a false, shaky hope... Five... six days...

And Thalberg said:

- We must go this minute. The train leaves at one in the morning...

...After half an hour everything in the room with the falcon was ruined. The suitcase is on the floor and the inner sailor's cover is on end. Elena, thinner and strict, with folds at her lips, silently put shirts, underpants, and sheets into her suitcase. Thalberg, kneeling by the bottom drawer of the cupboard, was picking at it with a key. And then ... then it's disgusting in the room, as in any room where the laying is chaotic, and even worse when the lampshade is pulled off the lamp. Never. Never pull the lampshade off the lamp! The lampshade is sacred. Never run away like a rat into the unknown from danger. Doze by the lampshade, read - let the blizzard howl - wait until they come to you.

Thalberg fled. He towered, trampling on scraps of paper, by a buttoned heavy suitcase in his long overcoat, in neat black headphones, with a hetman's gray-blue cockade and was girded with a saber.

On the long journey of City I, Passenger, a train is already standing still without a locomotive, like a caterpillar without a head. It consists of nine carriages with dazzling white electric light. The staff of General von Bussow leaves for Germany at one in the morning. They take Talberg: Talberg had connections... The Hetman's Ministry is a stupid and vulgar operetta (Talberg liked to express himself trivially, but strongly), just like the hetman himself. All the more vulgar that ...

- Understand (whisper), the Germans are leaving the Hetman to the mercy of fate, and it is very, very possible that Petliura will enter. <...> ... and this, you know ... "

6M-sieur Pierre from Vladimir Nabokov's "Invitation to Execution" (1935)
Cover of Vladimir Nabokov's novel "Invitation to Execution". St. Petersburg, 2007 © Azbuka Publishing House

Executioner Monsieur Pierre reports on how he struck up friendly relations with Cincinnatus C. , sentenced to death:

“Dear sirs,” Monsieur Pierre finally said in a thin voice without raising his eyes, “first of all and first of all, allow me to outline with two or three successful strokes what I have already completed.

“Please,” the director boomed, sternly creaking his chair.

- Of course, you know, gentlemen, the reasons for that amusing mystification that is required by the tradition of our art. Indeed. What would it be like if I, having opened myself from a floundering bay, offered my friendship to Cincinnatus Ts.? After all, this would mean, gentlemen, knowingly pushing him away, frightening him, turning him against himself - in a word, committing a fatal mistake.

The speaker took a sip from the glass and carefully set it aside.

- I won't talk about that, - he continued, waving his eyelashes, - how precious for the success of the common cause is the atmosphere of warm comradely intimacy, which gradually, with the help of patience and affection, is created between the sentenced and the executor of the sentence. It is difficult, if not impossible, without shuddering to recall the barbarity of bygone times, when these two, not knowing each other at all, strangers to each other, but bound by an inexorable law, met face to face only at the last moment before the sacrament itself. All this has changed, just as the ancient, wild marriage, more like a slaughter, has changed over the centuries, when a submissive virgin was thrown by her parents into a stranger's tent.

(Cincinnatus found a silver piece of chocolate in his pocket and began to crumple it.)

- And so, gentlemen, in order to establish the most friendly relations with the condemned, I settled in the same gloomy cell as he, in the image of the same, to say the least, a prisoner. My innocent deception could not fail, and therefore it would be strange for me to feel any remorse; but I don't want the slightest drop of bitterness at the bottom of our friendship. Despite the presence of eyewitnesses and the consciousness of my concrete rightness, I (he held out his hand to Cincinnatus) ask for your forgiveness.

7Mikhail Romashov from "Two Captains" by Veniamin Kaverin (1940)
Cover of the book "Two Captains". Moscow, 1940 Detizdat of the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League

Taking advantage of this opportunity, during the war Romashov leaves without weapons, documents, food and water Sanya Grigoriev, whom he always envied:

“I opened my eyes. Illuminated by the first rays of the sun, the mist wandered lazily between the trees. I had a wet face, wet hands. Romashov sat at a distance in his sleepy, indifferent posture. Everything seemed to be the same as before, but everything was already completely different.

He didn't look at me. Then I looked sideways, very quickly, and I immediately understood why it was so uncomfortable for me to lie down. He pulled a bag of crackers out from under my head. In addition, he pulled out a flask of vodka and a pistol.

Blood rushed to my face. He pulled out a gun!

- Now return the weapon, you idiot! I said calmly.

He was silent.

- Well!

"You're going to die anyway," he said hurriedly. “You don't need weapons.

- Whether I die or not, that's my business. But you give me back the gun if you don't want to get under field court. Clear?

He began to breathe short and fast.

- What a field court! We are alone, and no one will know anything. In fact, you have been gone for a long time. It is not known that you are still alive.

Now he was looking straight at me, and he had very strange eyes - some kind of solemn, wide open. Maybe he went crazy?

- You know what? Take a sip from the flask,” I said calmly, “and come to your senses. And then we will decide whether I am alive or dead.

But Romashov did not listen to me.

- I stayed to say that you bothered me always and everywhere. Every day, every hour! You bored me to death, insanely! You bored me for a thousand years!

Certainly he was not quite normal at that moment. The last phrase “tired of a thousand years” convinced me.

- But now it's all over, forever! Romashov continued in a kind of self-forgetfulness. - You would have died anyway, you have gangrene. Now you will die sooner, now, that's all."

8G. O. from "Victory" by Vasily Aksenov (1965)
The first publication of Vasily Aksenov's story "Victory" in the magazine "Youth". No. 6, 1965 © Pravda Publishing House

In the compartment of a fast train, a grandmaster plays chess with his neighbor:

“—That's interesting: why are all chess players Jews? asked H. O.

— Why is everything? said the grandmaster. - For example, I'm not a Jew.

— Really? - G.O. was surprised and added: - Yes, you don’t think, I’m like that. I have no prejudices on this score. Just curious.

— Well, here you are, for example, — said the grandmaster, — after all, you are not a Jew.

- Where am I! H.O. muttered, and again plunged into his secret plans.

“If I am him like that, then he is like me,” thought H.O. “If I shoot here, he will shoot there, then I go here, he answers like this... I’ll finish him anyway, I’ll break him anyway. Just think, grandmaster-blattmeister, you still have a thin vein against me. I know your championships: you agree in advance. I will crush you anyway, even if there is blood from my nose!“

— Yes, I lost my quality, — he said to the grandmaster, — but it’s okay, it’s not evening yet.

He launched an attack in the center, and of course, as expected, the center immediately turned into a field of senseless and terrible actions. It was no-love, no-meeting, no-hope, no-hello, no-life. Flu-like chills and again yellow snow, post-war discomfort, the whole body itches. The black queen in the center croaked like a crow in love, crow love, in addition, the neighbors were scraping a pewter bowl with a knife. Nothing so definitely proved the meaninglessness and illusory nature of life as this position in the center. It's time to end the game."

9A man in a raincoat from "Resentment" by Vasily Shukshin (1971)
Cover of the first edition of Vasily Shukshin's collection of short stories "Characters", which includes the story "Resentment". Moscow, 1973 © Sovremennik Publishing House

The saleswoman unfairly accused the hero of the story, Sashka Ermolaev, of having drunkenly hooliganed near the store the day before. This scene was witnessed by Sasha's little daughter Masha:

“An elderly man in a raincoat stepped forward.

- Enough - he was not in the store! You are here every evening - you will not break through. They think they are worth it. If they say it, then it was.

- What are you saying, they don't go anywhere in the evenings! - they spoke in line.

— They read newspapers.

- It's worth it - indignant! It is you who should be outraged. You have to be angry about something.

- What are you talking about? Sashka tried to say more, but he realized that it was useless. Silly. He cannot pass this wall of people.

— Work, — Rosa was told from the queue. - Work calmly, do not pay attention to everyone here ...

Sasha went to the exit. A buyer in a raincoat sent him the last one in the back:

- Vodka starts selling at ten o'clock! Came early!

Sasha went out into the street, stopped and lit a cigarette.

"What a bunch of uncles," said Masha.

“Yes, uncles… aunts…” Sashka muttered. — Mm… — did he think what to do? How to proceed? He did not want to leave everything in this position. I just couldn't. He was shaking again. Just some kind of jerk!

He decided to wait for this, in a raincoat. Talk. How so? Why on earth did he jump out like such a sycophant? What is the manner? What kind of damned desire to please a salesman, an official, a boorish boss?! Satisfy no matter what! After all, they themselves bred boors, themselves! No one brought them to us, they didn’t drop them by parachute. Sami! It's time for them to shorten it. They already don’t know the measures ...

That's how Sasha thought. And then this one came out, in a raincoat.

“Listen,” Sasha moved towards him, “I want to talk to you…

Cloak stopped, stared unkindly at Sasha.

— What should we talk about?

— Why did you jump out to intercede for the sellers? I really wasn't in the store yesterday...

— Go to sleep first! Understood? He will still stop ... "Talk." I'll talk to you! Talk to me somewhere else!

— Are you mad?

- It's you who will piss me off! In a moment you'll get mad at me, in a moment... I'll talk to you, you damn gateway!

The cloak rustled again to the store - to the phone, as Sashka understood.


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Miracles of acting improvisation

I wonder how Hugh Laurie would react if his daughter announced at dinner that she was pregnant? What would David Schwimmer, the same Ross from Friends, look like if he were not an actor, but the coach of the women's volleyball team? Howard Schatz's new photography project answers these questions. The photographer came up with a wonderful idea: to capture the emotions of a person who finds himself in a non-standard situation.


Left: You are an exemplary family man and a good father. You are having dinner with your wife when your 15-year-old daughter announces to you that she is pregnant.

Center: You are a young designer. On the morning before your first show, you realize that your collection is not ready to be shown and there is not a single "amazing" thing in it.

Right: You are a narcissistic, arrogant member of the British Parliament. You are giving a speech that is broadcast live by the BBC and you are terribly rushing from the sound of your own voice.


Left: You are an unfortunate father who lost his daughter two months ago. You were called to the police to identify the body of a young girl. The coroner pulls the sheet and you realize that this is not your daughter.

Center: You are a little boy at a freak show. You watch a pierced uncle eat cockroaches.

Right: You are a 14-year-old girl who has just opened her 18-year-old sister's bedroom door without knocking. The sister was there having sex with her boyfriend.


Left: You are in your fifties, you are a middle manager, you have been with the company for quite some time. You just learned that after the merger, you will be out of a job.

Center: Acting teacher, you just heard an Oscar-winning actress thank you live.

Right: Offended woman.


Left: You are the emotional coach of a female boxer. You jump around the ring and yell at her: She stole your boyfriend! She kidnapped your child! Come on, go ahead and kill that fucking cow!!

Center: You have been happily married for five years now. Not exactly very happy, but you are happy and your marriage is calm. You explain to your wife, “Honey, I said Rubens proportions, that doesn't mean fat! Well, what are you! It means Rubensian proportions. "

Right: You are a 10-year-old boy playing ball with a dog in an apartment on the top floor of a skyscraper. Your ball just flew out the window, and your dog jumped out after it.


Left: You are a young naive actress, you are new to Hollywood. Your agent just called you and told you that you have been cast in a big movie, according to the script, George Clooney will fall in love with you.

Center: You are a builder. Together with your friends at work, you are sitting at a construction site and are going to have lunch. You yell at a hot girl passing by, "hey babe, do you want to see what I have in my lunch box?"

Right: You are an average drug dealer, you owe a big mafia boss a shitload of money. Your courier just told you that "suddenly the wind came up and blew two bags of your cocaine away."


Left: You are a seven-year-old boy peeking through the cracks of the wooden dressing rooms at the girls changing on the beach.

Center: You are an elderly hippie peace activist who has just been told by his son that he has joined the Marine Corps.

Right: You just lost your house and everything you had when the roulette wheel landed on a number next to the one you bet on.


Left: You are the exemplary wife of a famous televangelist. You just found out that your husband had an affair with a call man and the press knows about it.

Center: You are a wealthy woman on Fifth Avenue, you wish "Merry Christmas" to the doorman you never tip.

Right: You are Barbara Walters interviewing a recently divorced actress. You ask her about the latest film, and then immediately ask the question: “Did it really hurt you that he left you for a young one?”


Left: You are an aging middleweight boxer. You are fighting in the fourth round of a match broadcast on HBO. You are doomed to lose, but hold on gritting your teeth to earn at least one last time.

Center: You are the creative director of an advertising agency suffering from manic depressive illness. You haven't taken your medicine in weeks. Now you're trying to convince McDonald's executives to let you remake a picture of a Big Mac into a Rembrandt self-portrait.

Right: You are a 17-year-old gatekeeper at the service entrance to the Metropolitan Opera. You watch as your favorite opera diva leaves the theater with her retinue.


Left: You are a New England Patriots player who was left in the dressing room by the coach for the deciding match. you realize that you missed the chance of a lifetime.

Center: You are an entomologist on an expedition to the Amazon. You have just discovered a hitherto unknown subspecies of the drill worm.

Right: You are the coach of the women's volleyball team during a match. You shout to your charges: tear them to shreds, make them weep!


Left: You are a distressed screenwriter who managed to arrange a meeting with a studio representative. You really needed to make a good impression. But as you exit the restaurant where the meeting was, you see some fucking pickup truck coming out of the parking lot, ramming into your rented Lamborgini.

Center: You are a high school substitute teacher in third grade. Before falling asleep, you warn the students: whoever squeaks will go home to mommy in pieces.

Right: You are an 11-year-old gamer at BlizzCon. Surrounded by the same nerd gamers, you are extremely emotional and seriously play World of Warcraft.


Center: You are a little boy visiting the zoo for the first time. The elephant has just taken the nut from your hand with its trunk, which you handed him.

Right: You are a husband begging his wife to give him another chance.


Left: You are a programmer boy flirting with a cheerleader girl and unaware that you have no chance.

Center: You are leaving the nursing home where your wife is. This is your first visit where she didn't recognize you.

Right: You are the coach of a college basketball team yelling at the referee. You know that if the team is relegated, your boys will turn it up a notch.


Left: You are a violin teacher at a rehearsal. Your best student plays Mozart monstrously, she literally kills a brilliant work.

Right: You are a young father staying at home for the first time with his one and a half year old triplets. They run in all directions!


Left: You are a capo of the Neapolitan mafia, you listen to your assistant who came to tell you that he is going to pursue a “solo career”: Boss, I am leaving you and gathering my gang, you are do not mind?

Center: You are a gay designer who has been hired to furnish and decorate the Arab emir's new palace. His assistant, completing the meeting, tells you: the emir insists that you and your wife have dinner with him before starting work.

Right: You are a 15 year old dunce. Leaving a crazy party (which you were not supposed to be at) you see how students steal your dad's Lamborghini (which you absolutely should not have taken).


Left: You came to the store to return a non-working laptop, but the seller, instead of taking it and exchanging it, says sign up for computer literacy courses. In a rage, you shout at him: you don’t have to be computer literate to understand - this garbage just broke!

Center: You are an Iraqi father, your son accidentally popped his soccer ball and American soldiers ran to the cotton. They pointed machine guns at him. You scream - don't shoot, it's just a child!

Right: You hit the rear of the vehicle in front. The driver who got out began to yell at you and threaten with all the punishments of heaven, although you, well, at best, scratched his bumper a little. You are trying to calm this hysteric: calm down, friend, do not get excited.


Left: You are a congressional candidate. According to the results of the polls, your affairs are very bad. You sit in the campaign headquarters and listen to how your consultants argue among themselves.

Center: You are a tailor. You are watching a fastidious client who admires himself in the mirror and rejoices at how well the suit you have sewn fits on him.

Right: You are a mathematical genius who realized that his life's work was based on an erroneous formula.


You are the District Attorney. The star of the prosecution and your main hope for a guilty verdict has just lied under oath.


Left: You have just been told that you have inoperable cancer.

Center: You are watching a basketball game. At the last minute, the team you bet on to lose made a three-pointer and won.

Right: You are a caring father, your disabled daughter graduated with honors from college, and you watch her receive her diploma.


Left: You are the 14 year old son of a single mother. You internally prepare to listen to her naive attempt to tell you where babies come from. With examples from the life of insects. all sorts of bees, flowers, pollination.

Center: At your daughter's graduation party, her cute friend, whom you secretly stare at all the time, told you: "Mr. Lefokwitz, you can't be 58, you're too cool."

Right: You are a student about to give a speech. You've just been introduced to the audience, but your prepared speech is completely out of your head.


Left: You are a successful young lawyer. Your neighbor at a dinner party just started telling you "you blacks are so"

Center: You stand at the altar and watch your bride walk down the aisle with her father. And then you realize that now you will make the biggest mistake of your life.

Center: You are a New York taxi driver who just got a dollar tip for a $45 airport ride. You can hardly restrain yourself from saying "yes put them in your ass, greedy bastard."

Right: You are a powerful Hollywood producer. You have just decided to agree to a meeting with a beautiful, naive ingenue. And you only think of one thing... You look with disbelief at the Russian Foreign Minister, who just told you, “well, yes, we are easily ready to send 50,000 soldiers to Afghanistan.”

Center: You are an Oscar nominee. At the moment your opponent is announced as the winner, you understand that the camera is aimed specifically at you.

Right: You are a graduate of Yale University. As a member of the Peace Corps, you traveled to a distant African country. And so, getting out of the Land Rover in the refugee camp, you see for the first time what the words "hunger" and "poverty" really mean.


Left: You are a North Korean investigator. You told your people to stop beating and torturing the prisoner only when he confesses everything.

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