In two hours my wife and I leave for the airport to fly to London and then from London we will fly to Moscow. Then after a few days in Moscow, we will fly to St. Petersburg.
We’ll see if I have any good stories/photos when I get back?
In the meantime, check out Zachary Schomburg’s June posts about his trip to Russia last year.
(via Adam Peterson)
I went through high school without having read One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. I read other common high school books, such as A Separate Piece, Catcher In The Rye, A Tale of Two Cities, and a few ones that strike me as odd for high school (Ridley Walker?), but never this one.
I finally read it in January, and I’ve just now got a chance to type some thoughts, which will be very brief, because I did not take notes as I read this one.
Like Night by Elie Wiesel and Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi, One Day In The Life tells in rather plain, unadorned language (as far as I can tell through the translation) of how a human copes under massive, institutional cruelty, though in this case Denisovich is ‘fictional.’ I’m assuming most of you are very familiar with this book, so I’m not going to really summarize it or anything: there’s the usual intense description of prison camp procedure, the remarking of odd traditions, the listing of ways one might die, etc. The main character must constantly position himself to survive the day. And what I found fascinating in these books is how the daily routine, the little microcosms of the camps, sometimes gave the prisoners respite. I’m thinking here of how Primo Levi’s background as a chemist helped him receive a work detail as an assistant in a laboratory, thus protecting him from the harsh winter.
May 12th, 2009 / 1:54 am
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin is the dystopian novel you’ve never read. Or maybe you have read it. I don’t know. I had not heard of it until I found it on a recommended reading list of Russian novels, and then a former student of mine learned of my planned trip to Russia and loaned me his copy.
What follows the jump is another post about my ongoing Russian lit reading experience. This post is in two parts: the first considers We‘s place in the world, which I thought I should share because the novel doesn’t seem all that popular or familiar to readers, though that was only my experience; the second part consists of a selection from the book and a quick revisit of Notes from the Underground.
April 27th, 2009 / 1:59 am
It’s very hard for me to separate these two books in my mind. Elements of each strike me for their similarity: the characters Prince Myshkin and Alyosha Karamazov, Nastasya Filippovna and Agrafena Svetlova, Parfion Rogozhin and Dimitri Karamazov, Gavrila Ivolgin and Ivan Karamazov; there is some sort of complicated love triangle between everyone; someone is murdered in a gruesome fashion (by knife and by pestle); and so on.
The heft of these books encourages me to take them on long journeys, so that I may always have words to read. I want to wear them on my feet and grow two inches taller, because I am only 5’6″ and I read a study somewhere that taller people tend to make more $ in the business world. I want to hollow out these books and store smaller books inside of them and even smaller books inside of those books. These are the kinds of books that make me wish I could escape from writing stories that involve two people saying stupid things about sperm whales to each other. These are the kinds of books that make me miss good storytelling.
April 21st, 2009 / 8:29 pm
As you may already know, this summer I’ll be traveling to Russia for a week. Because of that trip, I decided to read as much Russian literature as I could. I even blogged about my plans over at Conversational Reading. But so far, I haven’t read much; it’s taken me longer than I expected just to get through Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground, The Idiot, and The Brothers Karamazov. What follows are some brief thoughts (perhaps too personal?) about Notes; look out for more posts on the next few books. Read on if you’re interested.
April 17th, 2009 / 1:40 am
Here is an excerpt from Memoirs of Peasant Tolstoyans In Soviet Russia (Indiana University Press):
In our village of Burdino there were fistfights three times a year- in December and January, on Shrove Tuesday in February, and at Easter, in April. The village was divided in half, and on Shrove Tuesday village fought village–Burdino and Terbuny. I also took part in those fights. Our priests said that fistfights were not bad: men got training from them and would be bolder and more active in war. The fights began with boys, then with teenagers, then grown men, and after that even bearded old men. Once the old men gathered close together like a wall and pushed me up against one of the strongest old men from the other side. I knocked him down, and from that time on they considered me a strong man. They said, “How he knocked over that big granddad!” It was the rule that you should never beat a man who was lying down, whether he was knocked down or whether he fell by himself, but sometimes they would agree to hold the very strongest men up by the armpits, and other strong men would not let them fall down and would keep beating them. Sometimes the outcome was fatal. Once a wealthy shopkeeper offered two buckets of vodka to the side that won. No fewer than three thousand men got together for the brawl. Our village won that time.