A decent person

By: Sławomir Mrożek


We are now proposing an approach to the work of the Polish writer S.Awomir Mro-ek (1930-2013). From his book The Elephant (1957), a collection of satire-stories, where the author points to the various aspects of the socialist regime he met, and sometimes of the opposition, the often fanatical and clumsy attitude, although full of the goodwill of the people, and the mediocrity of the officials, we recovered the text “A Decent Person”. With the scathing and very fine humor that characterizes his work, reflection is always imposed.

In that secluded, though intense corner of the world, the seasons changed, rains fell, winds were blowing or the sun was shining, so that, from this point of view, that region left by the hand of God in nothing differed from the capital and one did not understand why such a fuss had been organized about it. Finally, in view of this state of things, a weather station was installed there, a kind of rectangular garden surrounded by a white fence in whose center, on high and thin legs, there was a box of instruments. Next door lived the station manager. Not only did he have to deal with the hygrometer and anemometer, but also send reports to the higher offices, giving exactly account of the state of time so that the authorities, in the event that someone asked them about it, were not in trouble, but that it was enough for them to take a look at the table in their office to know immediately what they had to answer.
The director of the weather station was a conscientious man. He wrote his reports with good calligraphy and sticking exactly to reality. When it rained, it did not stop until it had described the rain in all its aspects: when, how long and to what extent it rained…
When it was sunny, I was reporting on the sunstroke. There were no differences for him. He knew that the state had to work hard to get the four kids he gave him; therefore, he haggled no effort. He didn’t lack a job, because in his region he always did some time or another.
In late summer, storms were frequent and downpoofs were small. He described everything as it was and sent his report to headquarters. The storms didn’t stop.
One day he was visited by an old meteorologist who was passing through. Having observed the work of his host, he murmured as he left:
–Don’t you think, my friend, that your reports are too sad?
–How? The station’s director replied in amazeedly. You see how it rains yourself.
–Yes, of course. Everybody knows that. But don’t you understand that things have to be done consciously and scientifically? I don’t care, I just wanted to warn you for your sake.
The old meteorologist put on the rubber flip flops and when he left he wagged his head again. The young man stayed and wrote his report. He looked worried to heaven, but kept writing.
A short time later he received a subpoena to report to the authority. It wasn’t the supreme authority, but it was an authority. He took the umbrella and set out on the journey. The authority received him in a beautiful building. On the roof you could hear the rain falling.
“We have sent you here because we are astonished at the unilaterality of your reports,” the representative of the authority told him. For some time now they’ve been more pessimistic. The harvest is coming, and you keep talking about rain. Don’t you understand the responsibility for your work?
“But if it rains, indeed…,” the questioner said, trying to justify himself.
–No excuses! “The representative of the authority said, frowning and punching the table with papers.
Here are all your latest reports. That’s realities. You’re a tireless worker, but you lack nerve. We can’t stand defeatism.
When the meteorologist left the office, he put the umbrella under his arm and returned home as if the weather were magnificent. But despite his goodwill, he warmed himself to the bone, took a cold and had to keep a bed. He dismissed the idea that that might have happened to him because of the rain. And he was glad to see that the next day time improved a little. He immediately began writing his report:

“It has completely stopped raining, although the previous rainfall was also not significant. It drizzle slightly in some isolated areas… But now, what the sun looks like!”
Indeed, the sun looked; began to get hot and from the ground rose a vapour. While doing his work, the meteorologist hummed a song. Around noon some clouds rose; the station manager took refuge in the house. Maybe he would have stayed outdoors if he hadn’t been feared catching a flu. The time for the report was approaching. As he removed in the chair, he wrote, “Ah, this sun! Already Copernicus proved that it only gets in appearance, but that, deep down, it never stops shining; what happens is that…”.
At this point he felt great sorrow. When the first lightning struck, he stopped opportunistic and simply wrote, “17 hours – storm and storm.”
The next day he trotted again. He said it in his report. The next day he didn’t snever, but he ha won. He said so, too. He felt strangely calm, even satisfied. This mood was not altered until the postman gave him a subpoena. This time he had to report to the supreme authorities.
Upon returning to his station, he no longer hesitated. The reports that followed spoke exclusively of good weather in their region. He sometimes wrote dialectical reports: “Partly passing rains caused certain floods; but the courageous attitude of our pioneers and rescue teams is unwavering.”
Then followed other descriptions of sunny days, some even in verse. Until after two months he did not write a report that necessarily had to attract the attention of the authorities. The report read: “A devilish cloud has burst.” Lower down and written in pencil in a hurry, he said, “But the boy who gave birth to the village widow is perfectly, even though everyone figured that he would digest it right away.”
Research showed that this report had been written one day that the meteorologist had become drunk, secretly selling the airometer and hygrometer. The second part had been added at the last moment, at the post office.
Later, nothing could cloud the magnificent weather of his region. He was struck by lightning, a day when, during a storm, he went out into the countryside to ward off the clouds by a bell from Lourdes, because deep down, he was a decent person. Ω

Taken from the book The Elephant, by S.Awomir Mro-ek, Seix Barral S.A. edition, December 1963.
We appreciate the collaboration of Amado Alberto Aguilera Vargas, who provided us with the text.

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