Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Elephant in the Room

A few months ago, I was rereading Dostoyevsky's The Possessed, and came across this passage:
Byelinsky, like the Inquisitive Man in Krylov's fable, did not notice the elephant in the museum of curiosities, but concentrated his whole attention on the French Socialist beetles; he did not get beyond them. And yet perhaps he was cleverer than any of you.
hmmm. What was Krylov's (or Krilof's) fable? I found it here, in  this edition online:
THE INQUISITIVE MAN.

GOOD day, dear friend ; where do you come from?"

From the Museum, where I have spent three
hours. I saw everything they have there, and examined it
carefully. So much have I seen to astonish me, that, if you
will believe me, I am neither strong enough nor clever
enough to give you a full description of it. Upon my word
it is a palace of wonders. How rich Nature is in invention !
What birds and beasts haven't I seen there ! What flies,
butterflies, cockroaches, little bits of beetles! some like
emeralds, others like coral. And what tiny cochineal in-
sects ! Why, really, some of them are smaller than a pin's
head."

" But did you see the elephant ? What did you think it
looked like ? I '11 be bound you felt as if you were looking
at a mountain."

" Are you quite sure it 's there ? "

" Quite sure."

"Well, brother, you mustn't be too hard upon me; but,
to tell the -truth, I didn't remark the elephant."
Is this the source (or a source) of the ubiquitous expression: "the elephant in the room"?

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