I'm searching for a short story I read a long time ago in a different language (Bulgarian). It was listed as a story by Ray Bradbury, but I can't find it in his bibliography. I've checked every title, that is even remotely related to the plot, and couldn't find it. And the style is not exactly like his. It's very weirdly written, basically two pages story, divided to several very short chapters. The writing is very simple - short sentences, simple words.

It's about a man, who starts with thoughts about how words are useless, and music is the one true thing, when it's without words. And how he wants to remove words from the world. He's a soloist, who works alone. With a knife. He removes words, tongues and keeps them in jars. He writes his confession to the police, because he's deaf. He put a metal wire through his ears, to stop the words and just listen to the music in his head.

I have it in Bulgarian, but I want to find the author and read the original. The title is Instrumentalist. Here's a few translated "chapters":


I have not slept for years. When I go to bed - never before dawn - I remain awake, listening to the city's fuss.
The city has sound and rhythm. The city is music.
But the words are whining, which confuses the music. They should be removed. The music must be pure. The truth must be pure.


I am the instrument of purity and truth. I'm a solist. I play alone.
My tool is the knife.
I live in the city. Therefore, I work in the city. Alone.
I was not captured because I'm cautious. I work on them one by one. At night. Alone.
I take away their words. One by one. With my instrument, with my knife. Everyone I met in the city. From anyone who is alone.
I cut off their tongues.


How many tongues? A pointless question because it is composed of words. I will answer with equally meaningless words: dozens, hundreds, thousands. Who counts them? Numbers are not words.
I cut the tongues and keep them up beside my bed. In jars. The tongues ​​are trophies. I'm a fighter on the side of the truth.
The jars were seized when they took me away.

  • 1
    What's the title in Bulgarian?
    – Laurel
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 22:41

1 Answer 1


"The Instrumentalist" (1996) by William Relling, Jr.

It was published in the anthology Night Screams where Ray Bradbury's 1945 short story "Corpse Carnival" also appears. The only information I can really find on it is from this review on Goodreads.

· 318 • The Instrumentalist • William Relling, Jr. Short piece from the point of view of a hospitalized psycho. Not too impressive.

Whilst I can't find a full copy of the book anywhere online it is available on Google Books and searching it for tongues gives me this excerpt which matches part of your translation.

The Instrumentalist excerpt transcribed below

-strument, my knofe. Anyone whom I encountered in the city. Anyone who was alone.

I cut out their tongues.

And another search reveals that the short story starts with.

The words must be taken away. The music must be pure.

I found this by using the advanced title search feature on isfdb and looking for titles that contain instrumentalist. Luckily this search only returned the one result so from there I just tried to find some information on it.

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