Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As one might expect from a writer who has said that “whenever I earn any money—and I earn it regularly from my literary works—I am amazed each time it happens and I carry the money away in haste, clutching my pocket, crouching slightly like a burglar,” the style of “Graphomaniacs” is tricky, devious, playful. One notable example of this devious style is the manner in which Tertz uses the character of Galkin.

Galkin is something of a buffoon—moreover, a buffoon seen through the eyes of the vain, spiteful Straustin. By using Galkin (instead of a more impressive figure) to express many of his own views on the nature of writing, Tertz avoids a didactic or sententious tone. The same purpose is served by the description of Galkin in the grip of poetic inspiration. Straustin scornfully observes that, at such moments, Galkin would fall silent, sitting motionless for minutes on end. Complaining that these trances distracted him from his own work, Straustin relates that he “would drop some article on the floor—a pencil, a pair of scissors and once, for the sake of experiment, a heavy manuscript, the novel In Search of Joy”—but, having been lifted outside himself, “Galkin did not react. From his protuberant lower lip a strand of spittle hung down to his collar.” Thus, Tertz suggests that true writing is a selfless discipline in the service of transcendence—but deviously, with a smile.