Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fiction: Scene in Café Griboyedov with Russian Expression

Café Griboyedov
Terrance Lindall

In the above illustration by Terrance Lindall of a scene in my story, "The Bottomless Bottle of Beer," we see Koroviev in his characteristic pince-nez and checkered clothes pointing to Hella as she approaches the table where he and the story's anonymous 'hero' sit, though we can't see the latter's face since he's watching Hella approach, as is also an enamored waiter. The café scene just prior to Hella's appearance is given below:
The café was large, spacious, packed; my traveling companion seemed to know everyone as he grasped hands in greeting while we made our way to a table inexplicably free of patrons. I tried to focus on what the tall fellow was telling me about each individual he greeted but could scarcely hear above a loud, jazzed-up version of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." And waiters! Griboyedov had waiters! Bearing trays laden with cups and saucers high above their heads, they pushed their way among the patrons, hoarsely shouting, "Izviníte menyá!" Dropping the ordered cakes and coffees down onto tables with a clunk, sweeping used cups, saucers, and silverware clattering onto their trays, dumping loads of used dish- and silverware roaring into sinks, shouting out orders for various coffees and cakes. In short, pandaemonium.
This scene will feel familiar to those who've read Michail Bulgakov's wonderful novel, The Master and Margarita, for I've borrowed a scene from that tale to structure this description. But I have a question about the Russian expression,"Izviníte menyá," for I originally had "Prostíte menyá." A Russian girl I met suggested the change when I described the scene to her, and she also noted a third possibility, "Proshu proshcheniya," for which I've not yet found the diacritical marks, but I think that one's overly formal. Anyway, here are the three possibilities:
Простите меня!
Prostíte menyá!
Excuse me!

Извините меня!
Izviníte menyá!
Excuse me!

Прошу прощения!
Proshu proshcheniya!
I beg your pardon!
If any of my readers are Russian or at least knowledgeable about the Russian language, please feel free to advise me on the best expression for the scene. Keep in mind that the waiters are not particularly courteous and would likely use the briefest expression possible, so the expression used could even differ from any of the three that I've noted here.

I thank all in advance . . .

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