While Dombrovsky does not have the wit, the suave cynicism of Bulgakov, he is-or was-immensely drawn to the tragi-comic potential of the bureaucratic flap, endemically Russian. Water boils drearily for tea in noisily peopled conferences; lank-jawed, heavily smoking females whine and bark in outrage; minor officials threaten and soothe; mass grievances are unburdened. The narrator is an open-hearted, straightforward young man with the title of Keeper of Antiquities in the archaeological section of a museum in rural Soviet Central Asia. The Keeper is moderately happy in his eyrie of catalogues and modest displays, sharing varieties of pickling alcohol with an earthy old carpenter and enjoying a secret hoard of carnival views of ""Beauties of the World"" in their natural state. His aim is to go quietly on his way ""without interfering with anybody."" But ""Your business is history"" to prove and demonstrate, and there is no escape. An attempt to improve the local library by a critical comment; the friendship with a collective brigade leader whose brother was shot (unjustly?) as a traitor; the defense of a young archaeologist fired by the library-all forbode disaster. The keeper of pristine truths unsullied by expedient exploitation thinks of flight, but in the end simply waits for the closing in of ""history,"" party style. A spirited, often anguished, indictment of mindless officialdom wherever it appears.