Arguments (Problem "The role of art in human life")

Konstantin Georgievich Paustovsky.

Collection “Golden Rose”.



I can’t remember how I learned this story about the Parisian garbage man Jean Chamet. Chamet made a living by cleaning up the craft shops in his neighborhood.
Chamet lived in a shack on the outskirts of the city. Of course, one could describe this outskirts in detail and thereby divert the reader away from the main thread of the story. when the action of this story took place, the ramparts were still covered with thickets of honeysuckle and hawthorn, and birds nested in them.
The scavenger’s shack nestled at the foot of the northern ramparts, next to the houses of tinkers, shoemakers, cigarette butt collectors, and beggars.
If Maupassant had become interested in the life of the inhabitants of these shacks, he would probably have written some more excellent stories. Maybe they would add new laurels to his established glory.
Unfortunately, no outsider looked into these places, except for the detectives. Yes, and they appeared only in cases where they were looking for stolen items.
Judging by the fact that the neighbors called Shamet “a woodpecker”, one must think that he was thin, sharp-nosed, and from under his hat a tuft of hair, similar to a bird’s crest, always stuck out from under his hat.
Jean Chamet once knew better days. He served as a soldier in the “Little Napoleon” army during the Mexican War.
Chamet was lucky. In Vera Cruz, he fell ill with a severe fever. The sick soldier, who had not yet been in any real skirmish, was sent back to his homeland. The regimental commander took advantage of this and instructed Chamet to take his daughter Suzanne, a girl of eight years, to France.
The commander was a widower and therefore was forced to carry the girl with him everywhere. But this time he decided to part with his daughter and send her to her sister in Rouen. The climate of Mexico was deadly for European children. In addition, disorderly guerrilla warfare created many sudden dangers.
During the return of Chamet to France, heat was smoking over the Atlantic Ocean. The girl was silent all the time. Even at the fish flying out of the oily water, she looked without smiling.
Shamet took care of Suzanne as best he could. He understood, of course, that she expected from him not only care, but also affection. And what could he think of an affectionate, soldier of the colonial regiment? What could he do with her? Dice game? Or rude barracks songs?
But still, it was impossible to remain silent for a long time. Chamet increasingly caught the girl’s perplexed gaze. Then he finally made up his mind and began awkwardly telling her his life, recalling to the smallest detail a fishing village on the banks of the Channel, loose sands, puddles after low tide, a rural chapel with a cracked bell, his mother, who treated her neighbors for heartburn.
In these memories Chamet could not find anything funny to amuse Suzanne. But the girl, to his surprise, listened to these stories with greed and even made them repeat them, demanding new details.
Shamet strained his memory and fished these details out of her, until he finally lost confidence that they really existed. They were no longer memories, but faint shadows of them. They melted away like wisps of fog. Shamet, however, never imagined that he would need to renew in memory this unnecessary time of his life.
One day a vague memory of a golden rose arose. Either Shamet saw this crude rose forged from blackened gold, suspended from a crucifix in the house of an old fisherwoman, or he heard stories about this rose from those around him.
No, perhaps he even saw this rose once and remembered how it shone, although there was no sun outside the windows and a gloomy storm rustled over the strait. The farther, the more clearly Shamet recalled this brilliance – a few bright lights under the low ceiling.
Everyone in the village was surprised that the old woman did not sell her jewel. She could get a lot of money for it. Shamet’s mother alone assured that it was a sin to sell a golden rose, because her lover gave it to the old woman “for good luck” when the old woman, then still a laughing girl, worked in a sardine factory in Odierne.
“There are few such golden roses in the world,” said Shameta’s mother. – But everyone who has them in the house will definitely be happy. And not only them, but everyone who touches this rose.
The boy Shamet was looking forward to when the old woman would become happy. But there were no signs of happiness. The old woman’s house was shaking from the wind, and in the evenings no fire was lit in it.
So Shamet left the village, without waiting for a change in the old woman’s fate. Only a year later, a familiar stoker from the mail steamer in Le Havre told him that an artist son, bearded, cheerful and wonderful, unexpectedly came to the old woman from Paris. Since then, the shack was no longer recognizable. She was filled with noise and prosperity. Artists, they say, get big money for their daubing.
Once, when Chamet, sitting on deck, was combing Suzanne’s wind-tangled hair with his iron comb, she asked:
– Jean, will someone give me a golden rose?
“Anything is possible,” answered Shamet. – There is for you, Susie, some weirdo. We had one skinny soldier in our company. He was damn lucky. He found a broken golden jaw on the battlefield. We drank it with the whole company. This was during the Annamite War. Drunken gunners fired mortars for fun, the shell hit the mouth of an extinct volcano, exploded there, and out of surprise the volcano began to puff and erupt. God knows what his name was, that volcano! Looks like Kraka-Taka. The eruption was just right! Forty peaceful natives perished. To think that so many people disappeared because of a worn jaw! Then it turned out that our colonel had lost this jaw. The matter, of course, was hushed up – the prestige of the army is above all. But we got really drunk back then.
– Where did it happen? Susie asked doubtfully.
– I told you – in Annam. In Indo-China. There, the ocean burns with fire like hell, and jellyfish look like lace skirts of a ballerina. And there is such dampness that mushrooms grew in our boots overnight! Let them hang me if I’m lying!
Before this incident, Shamet had heard a lot of lies from soldiers, but he himself had never lied. Not because he did not know how, but simply there was no need. Now he considered it a sacred duty to entertain Susanna.
Chamet brought the girl to Rouen and handed her over to a tall woman with a pursed yellow mouth – Susanna’s aunt. The old woman was all in black glass beads, like a circus snake.
The girl, seeing her, clung tightly to Shamet, to his burnt overcoat.
– Nothing! Shamet said in a whisper and nudged Susanna on the shoulder. – We, the rank and file, also do not choose our company commanders. Be patient, Susie, soldier!
Shamet is gone. Several times he looked back at the windows of the boring house, where the wind did not even move the curtains. In the cramped streets, the fussy ticking of clocks could be heard from the shops. In Shamet’s soldier’s knapsack lay the memory of Susie – a crumpled blue ribbon from her braid. And the devil knows why, but this ribbon smelled so gentle, as if it had been in a basket of violets for a long time.
The Mexican fever undermined Shamet’s health. He was fired from the army without a sergeant’s rank. He retired to civilian life as a simple private.
Years passed in a monotonous need. Chamet tried many meager jobs and eventually became a Parisian scavenger. Since then, he was haunted by the smell of dust and garbage. He could smell it even in the light breeze that came into the streets from the direction of the Seine, and in the armfuls of wet flowers sold by the neat old ladies on the boulevards.
The days merged into a yellow haze. But sometimes a light pink cloud appeared in it before Shamet’s inner gaze – Susanna’s old dress. This dress smelled of spring freshness, as if it, too, had been kept in a basket of violets for a long time.
Where is she, Susanna? What with her? He knew that now she was already an adult girl, and her father had died of wounds.
Chamet kept planning to go to Rouen to visit Suzanne. But every time he put off this trip, until he finally realized that the time had passed and Susannah had probably forgotten about him.
He cursed himself like a pig when he remembered saying goodbye to her. Instead of kissing the girl, he pushed her in the back towards the old hag and said: “Be patient, Susie, soldier girl!”
Scavengers are known to work at night. Two reasons force them to do this: most of all the garbage from the ebullient and not always useful human activity accumulates by the end of the day, and, moreover, one cannot insult the eyesight and smell of the Parisians. At night, almost no one, except for rats, notices the work of scavengers.
Shamet got used to night work and even fell in love with these hours of the day. Especially the time when dawn sluggishly made its way over Paris. Fog smoked over the Senoi, but it did not rise above the parapet of the bridges.
One day, at such a foggy dawn, Chamet was walking across the Pont des Invalides and saw a young woman in a pale lilac dress with black lace. She stood at the parapet and looked at the Seine.
Chamet stopped, took off his dusty hat and said:
“Madame, the water in the Seine is very cold at this time. Let me take you home.
“I don’t have a home now,” the woman answered quickly and turned to Shamet. Chamet dropped his hat.
– Susie! he said with despair and delight. – Susie, soldier! My girl! Finally I saw you. You forgot me, I must be Jean Ernest Chamet, that private of the Twenty-seventh Colonial Regiment that brought you to that filthy aunt in Rouen. What a beauty you have become! And how well combed your hair! And I, a soldier’s plug, did not know how to clean them up at all!
– Jean! – the woman cried out, rushed to Shamet, hugged him by the neck and began to cry. – Jean, you are as kind as you were then. I remember evrything!
– Uh, nonsense! Chamet muttered. – Who benefits from my kindness. What happened to you, my little one?
Chamet drew Susanna to him and did what he had not dared to do in Rouen – he stroked and kissed her shiny hair. He immediately pulled away, afraid that Susannah would hear the mouse stink from his jacket. But Susanna clung to his shoulder even tighter.
– What’s wrong with you, girl? Shamet repeated in confusion.
Susanna didn’t answer. She was unable to contain her sobs. Shamet realized that for the time being there was no need to ask her about anything.
“I have,” he said hurriedly, “I have a lair by the ramparts. Far from here. The house, of course, is empty – even a rolling ball. But you can warm the water and fall asleep in bed. There you can wash and relax. And generally live as long as you want.
Susanna stayed with Shamet for five days. For five days an extraordinary sun rose over Paris. All the buildings, even the oldest, covered with soot, all the gardens and even the lair of Shamet sparkled in the rays of this sun, like jewels.
Whoever has not experienced excitement from the barely audible breathing of a sleeping young woman will not understand what tenderness is. Brighter than the wet petals were her lips, and her eyelashes shone from the night’s tears.
Yes, with Suzanne, everything happened exactly as Shamet expected. She was cheated on by her lover, a young actor. But those five days that Susanna lived with Shamet were quite enough for their reconciliation.
Shamet participated in it. He had to take Susanna’s letter to the actor and teach this languid handsome man politeness when he wanted to tip Shamet a few sous.
Soon the actor arrived in a fiacre for Susanna. And everything was as it should be: a bouquet, kisses, laughter through tears, repentance and a slightly cracked carelessness.
When the young people left, Susanna was in such a hurry that she jumped into the cab, forgetting to say goodbye to Chamet. Immediately she caught herself, blushed, and guiltily held out her hand to him.
“Since you have chosen your life according to your taste,” Shamet grumbled at the end, “then be happy.”
“I don’t know anything yet,” Susanna answered, and tears glistened in her eyes.
– You worry in vain, my baby, – the young actor drawled with displeasure and repeated: – My pretty baby.
– Now, if someone would give me a golden rose! Susannah sighed. – It would be fortunate for sure. I remember your story on the boat, Jean.
– Who knows! Chamet replied. “In any case, it’s not this gentleman who will bring you a golden rose. Sorry, I’m a soldier. I don’t like shamblers.
The young people looked at each other. The actor shrugged. The fiacre started.
Chamet used to throw away all the rubbish that had been swept out during the day from the craft establishments. But after this incident with Suzanne, he stopped throwing dust out of the jewelry workshops. He began to collect it secretly in a bag and carried it to his shack. Neighbors decided that the scavenger “moved off.” Few people knew that this dust contained a certain amount of gold powder, since jewelers always grind off some gold when they work.
Shamet decided to sift gold from the jewelry dust, make a small ingot out of it and forge a small golden rose from this ingot for Susanna’s happiness. Or maybe, as his mother told him, it will serve for the happiness of many ordinary people. Who knows! He decided not to see Susanna until the rose was ready.
Shamet did not tell anyone about this. He was afraid of the authorities and the police. You never know what comes to mind judicial hooks. They can declare him a thief, put him in jail and take away his gold. After all, it was something else.
Before joining the army, Shamet worked as a laborer on a farm with a village curate and therefore knew how to handle grain. This knowledge was useful to him now. He remembered how bread was winnowed and heavy grains fell to the ground, and light dust was carried away by the wind.
Shamet built a small winnowing machine and at night winnowed jewelry dust in the yard. He was worried until he saw a barely visible golden powder on the tray.
It took a long time until the gold powder accumulated so much that it was possible to make an ingot out of it. But Shamet hesitated to give it to the jeweler to forge a golden rose out of it.
He was not stopped by the lack of money – any jeweler would agree to take a third of the ingot for work and would be happy with it.
That was not the point. Every day the hour of meeting with Susanna was approaching. But for some time now, Shamet began to fear this hour.
All the tenderness that had long been driven into the depths of his heart, he wanted to give only to her, only to Susie. But who needs the tenderness of a well-worn freak! Shamet had long noticed that the only desire of the people who met him was to leave as soon as possible and forget his thin, gray face with sagging skin and piercing eyes.
He had a shard of a mirror in his shack. From time to time Shamet looked at him, but immediately threw him away with a heavy curse. It was better not to see himself, that clumsy creature hobbled about on rheumatic legs.
When the rose was finally ready, Chamet learned that Suzanne had left Paris for America a year ago and, as they said, forever. No one could give Shamet her address.
At first, Shamet even felt relieved. But then all his expectation of an affectionate and easy meeting with Susanna turned in an incomprehensible way into a rusty iron fragment. This prickly fragment was stuck in Shamet’s chest, near the heart, and Shamet prayed to God that he would rather plunge into this frail heart and stop him forever.
Chamet gave up cleaning workshops. For several days he lay in his shack with his face turned to the wall. He was silent and smiled only once, pressing the sleeve of his old jacket to his eyes. But no one saw it. Neighbors did not even come to Shamet – everyone had enough of their own worries.
Only one person followed Shamet – that elderly jeweler who forged the thinnest rose from an ingot and next to it, on one branch, a small sharp bud.
The jeweler visited Shamet, but did not bring him any medicine. He thought it was useless..
And indeed, Shamet quietly died during one of the visits to the jeweler. The jeweler lifted the scavenger’s head, took a golden rose wrapped in a crumpled blue ribbon from under the gray pillow, and slowly left, closing the creaking door. The tape smelled of mice.
It was late autumn. The evening darkness stirred with wind and flickering lights. The jeweler remembered how Shamet’s face changed after death. It became stern and calm. The bitterness of this face seemed to the jeweler even beautiful.
“What life does not give, death gives,” thought the jeweler, prone to cheap thoughts, and sighed noisily.
Soon the jeweler sold the golden rose to an elderly man of letters, sloppily dressed and, in the jeweler’s opinion, not rich enough to be eligible to purchase such a precious item.
Obviously, the story of the golden rose, told by the jeweler to the writer, played a decisive role in this purchase.
We owe to the notes of an old writer that this sad incident from the life of a former soldier of the 27th colonial regiment, Jean Ernest Chamet, became known to some.
In his notes, the writer, among other things, wrote:

“Every minute, every casually thrown word and glance, every deep or playful thought, every imperceptible movement of the human heart, as well as the flying fluff of a poplar or the fire of a star in a puddle at night, are all grains of gold dust.
We, writers, have been extracting them for decades, these millions of grains of sand, collecting them imperceptibly for ourselves, turning them into an alloy and then forging our “golden rose” from this alloy – a story, a novel or a poem.
Golden Rose of Shamet! It partly seems to me a prototype of our creative activity. It is amazing that no one took the trouble to trace how a living stream of literature is born from these precious motes.
But, just as the golden rose of the old garbage man was meant for Susanna’s happiness, so our creativity is meant so that the beauty of the earth, the call to fight for happiness, joy and freedom, the breadth of the human heart and the strength of the mind, prevail over the darkness and sparkle like a never-setting sun”.

Arguments (Problem “The role of art in human life”)

1. In the story “Precious dust” K. G. Paustovsky tells the love story of the poor scavenger Shamet, a former soldier of the Napoleonic army. Many years later, he meets a girl he knew as a child, and finds out that she is on the verge of suicide. To help his beloved, the hero wants to make a small golden rose from the dust that he sweeps off the tables in jewelry workshops – an amulet that brings happiness. But Shamet is not destined to help Susanna, he dies, and the Russian writer buys the rose, who sees in it the prototype of his work. In the same way, bit by bit, the writer selects valuable life material, which then turns into a finished work that brings joy and light to its people.

2. Konstantin Georgievich Paustovsky in the collection “Golden Rose”, or rather in the story “Precious Dust”, told a touching love story of a former soldier, a scavenger Shamet, who decided to make a small rose of happiness from jewelry dust for his beloved Suzanne. It is the golden rose that is the jewel that literature is for any person. It elevates us above the ordinary and the bustle, opens the world of beauty and the human soul to us, directs us to high ideals.

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