by Frederick Karinthy

“Back You Go”



WHEN I was seventy-eight I discovered that my wife had been betraying me with another man for fifty-four years, so I went to St. Margaret’s Bridge and took a lovely header into the river, thereby winning the diving championship of the Metropolitan Athletic Club., Subsequently, I established a record in under-water swimming, for I stayed under water for two and a half days, whereas my nearest rival, Kankovsky, could only bear it for two minutes and nineteen and a half seconds.

St. Peter was sitting in front of the projector, winding up the film of my life on a spool. When I arrived he had just reached the scene where I jump into the river, and as the audience—a number of saints and angels—were excessively amused at the way I kicked and struggled in the water, I became so angry that I gave St. Peter’s arm a strong pull, which caused a piece of the film to be torn off.

“Fool!” cried St. Peter. “How do you think I’m going to take it off the spool now, what? I must run it off again—backwards. A fine sight that’ll make. I’m afraid you'll have to go back where you came from.”

And with that he began to run off the film of my life from the end.

The next instant I shot out of the Danube feet upwards, and jumped on


to the bridge. Then, walking backwards, I went home. I backed up to the third floor and shut the door of my flat, whereupon it opened. Backing through the hall into the drawing room, I sat down on the settee.

I retired for a few minutes, then I returned to the room and began to digest my lunch. Soon after, lunch was ready, the maid backed in with the dirty plates and I sat down at the table and began to take bits of roast chicken from my mouth with a knife and fork, placing them on my plate and piecing them together. Then, having emptied the soup from my mouth, spoonful by spoonful, I rose and glanced at my watch. It was half past one, and I had to be at the office by one o’clock, so I hurriedly backed out of the room. The half-smoked cigarette in my mouth became bigger and bigger, until finally I lighted it and replaced it in my pocket.

Ten years later my hair began to turn black and my teeth gradually returned to my mouth. I was deprived of my pension and had to sit at the office doing my work from the end right to the beginning. My employers were very kind to me, but after twenty-five years they ceased to know me and engaged me on trial at fifteen pounds a month. So there I stood, back to front, of course, without money and without a job, but with a wife who grew


prettier and loved me more every day. I was now twenty-five years old.


I ran away with my wife backwards, taking her back to her father and falling in love with her for the first time. On a sinful night of passion she fell into my arms three times running (backwards), whereupon I became more timid and tried to touch her lovely hand, but she withdrew it. Finally, we met and I was introduced to her. Then I never saw her again.

Having obtained my degree, I plunged into my carefree student life. I was young and happy and I loved to study, so I knew less and less as time went back. At the age of eighteen I matriculated, my moustache vanished, and as I shrunk into my clothes I forgot more and more of what I knew. At the age of fourteen I recovered from cholera, which almost proved fatal, but then I became infected with the disease and so I was out of danger. After that I lived a quiet life. First I began to lisp, then I forgot to speak, and when I was small enough I crawled back into the cradle on all fours and the memory of what happened next is all confused.


SOURCE: Karinthy, Frederick [Frigyes]. “‘Back You Go’” [translator unknown], Lilliput, vol. 17, no. 5, issue no. 101, November 1945, pp. 415-416.

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

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