(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Pkhentz” is a fantastic tale of science fiction, describing the emotional experiences and survival techniques of an alien from another planet whose spaceship goes off course and crash-lands somewhere in Siberia. The alien is the sole survivor of the crash. In order to survive in a hostile environment, he disguises himself as a human being, assumes the alias Andrei Kazimirovich Sushinsky, and eventually obtains work as a bookkeeper in Moscow. Although the creature is vegetablelike, with numerous appendages, he manages to pass as human by strapping his extra appendages to his body, hiding them under human clothing. He also wears a wig and rubberlike ears. Thus disguised, he resembles a human hunchback. Gradually, the alien, Andrei, who is both the story’s narrator and its protagonist, reveals the emotional strain he has endured by being forced to pose as a human being for the past thirty-two years. He must be ever vigilant not to reveal his true identity and thus rejects the sexual advances of Veronica Grigorievna, a young girl who lives in the same communal apartment house as he and who is attracted to him.

As an alien creature, he finds the human body repulsive. He longs for contact and association with creatures like himself, and hastens to make the acquaintance of Leopold Sergeyevich, a hunchback whom he encounters in the laundry—he has mistaken Leopold for a fellow creature from his native planet in disguise like himself and goes to...

(The entire section is 445 words.)