Sister of the Four

A play in two acts

Eugene Vodolazkin
Eugene Vodolazkin is a historian and novelist. His debut novel, Solovyov and Larionov, was shortlisted for the Andrei Bely Prize and the Big Book Prize. Vodolazkin’s second novel, Laurus, won both of Russia’s major literary awards, The Book Prize and the Yasnaya Polyana Award.

Translated by Shelley Fairweather-Vega


FUNGHI, twenty-nine
WRITER, sixty-four
DEPUTY, forty-three
DOCTOR, forty-one
NURSE, unspecified age
PSYCHIATRIST, a woman of indeterminate age
POLICE OFFICER, a man in the prime of life


Morning. Outskirts of Moscow. A four-bed hospital room in the Albert Camus Hospital for Infectious Diseases. From the other side of the wall of that room, from time to time, we hear the sound of an axe.

On one bed, in hospital pajamas, sits FUNGHI, listening to the radio.

The DOCTOR, NURSE, and WRITER walk into the room.

RADIO. This is our broadcast of the very latest news.

NURSE. Good morning, Mr. Patient.

FUNGHI. How good can it be with this very latest news? The very latest, like the very last? There will never be news again! There will never be anything again! What a virus!

RADIO. Lombardy has set a dismal new record: 960 people dead of coronavirus in the past twenty-four hours. The ratio of infections to deaths has set another record . . .

NURSE. Mr. Patient!

FUNGHI. You’re distracting me and keeping me from the news of infections and deaths.

NURSE. Mr. Patient, allow me to introduce your new roommate . . .

FUNGHI. And what’s with this “Mr. Patient?” I’m perfectly healthy. Just call me Funghi.

DOCTOR. Funghi? Great. What does “Funghi” mean?

WRITER. Funghi is a type of pizza. (to Funghi) With mushrooms, right?

FUNGHI. Exactly. Mushrooms. And I’m healthier than every one of you. Temperature 36.6. (Shows the thermometer.) What do you say, Doctor? Not too high? 36.6, Doctor.

DOCTOR. Impossible!

NURSE. (Walks over to Funghi, places a hand on his forehead, then turns to Doctor.) I’d say 38.5, no less.

DOCTOR, to Funghi. Are you trying to trick us?

NURSE. You could light a match on his forehead. (Takes the thermometer from Funghi’s hand.) But what do you know: 36.6. How did you take your temperature?

FUNGHI. Under my arm, like we do all over this country. Abroad they do it differently, you know. Orally, for example. And also . . .

DOCTOR. Let’s stop at orally. That’s the perfect method for you. It keeps you quiet for five whole minutes. We’ve all gone a little crazy in the days you’ve been here.

NURSE. If you had that thermometer in your mouth right now, I could have already introduced your new roommate.

FUNGHI. Don’t introduce him! I’ll guess. You’re a professor. Probably a law professor. Right?


FUNGHI. Don’t tell me, Nurse! That goes for you, too, Doc. (to the Writer) Nothing striking about your outward appearance. Your look is sort of shabby, sorry to say. Safety instructor?

WRITER. (Laughs.) Not on your life!

DOCTOR, to Funghi. Can I ask what you do for a living?

Continue reading at Plough Quarterly.