Showing posts from July, 2011

Nikolay Gogol: May Night or The Floater

Careless and not at all worried about the pursuers, the perpetrator of this commotion was slowly approaching the old house and the pond. No need saying, it was Levko. His black jerkin was unbuttoned, his hands clutching the hat. He was drenched in sweat. Majestic and obscure was the maple wood, facing the moon. A breath of fresh air from the motionless pond wafted to the toiling strider, making him lie down on the shore to rest. All was quiet; in the thick of the woods nightingales roared. The irresistible urge to sleep closed his eyes; his tired body was ready to drift off to sleep; his head was ducking down… “Hey, I am not sleeping here!” he said, rubbing his eyes and standing up on his feet.

He ran his eyes over the plain: the night was magnificent. An unfathomable, but intoxicating glow entwined with the moonlight. Never before had he seen something like it happening. A silver fog fell all over the place. The odor of apple blossom and night flowers blanketed the ground. Astounded,…

Vasily Grossman, Russia's greatest chronicler, awaits redemption

Russia holds biggest ever parades celebrating defeat of Nazis but turns its back on writer who witnessed it all.When the Nazis began their invasion in the summer of 1941, Ekaterina Korotkova-Grossman was at a camp for young communist pioneers. Her father, the writer Vasily Grossman, was on his way to the front as a war correspondent for the Red Star newspaper. Both were to have miraculous escapes.
Ekaterina fled Kiev with her mother and sister just ahead of the advancing Germans. At the city of Dnipropetrovsk the enemy caught up. 'We were trying to cross the bridge across the Dnipro river. It was packed with refugees and military. The Germans had already seized the railway station. They were attacking us with bombers and artillery. My legs were going but we weren't moving forward,' she recalled. Somehow, she reached the other side.
Grossman, meanwhile, almost fell into fascist hands on several occasions – fleeing from encircling Panzer tanks as they advanced relentlessly …

The funeral of Anna Akhmatova


Ivan Turgenyev: "Faust", a story in nine letters

Entbehren sollst du, sollst entbehren. "FAUST." (Part I.)
FIRST LETTER From Pável Alexandrovitch B*** to Semyón Nikoláevitch V***.
VILLAGE OF M....OE, June 6, 1850.
I ARRIVED here three days ago, my dear friend, and, in accordance with my promise, I take up my pen to write to thee. A fine rain has been drizzling down ever since morning; it is impossible to go out; and besides, I want to have a chat with thee. Here I am again, in my old nest, in which I have not been--dreadful to say--for nine whole years. Really, when one comes to think of it, I have become altogether another man. Yes, actually, another man. Dost thou remember in the drawing-room the small, dark mirror of my great-grandmother, with those queer scrolls at the corners? Thou wert always meditating on what it had beheld a hundred years ago. As soon as I arrived, I went to it, and was involuntarily disconcerted. I suddenly perceived how I had aged and changed of late. However, I am not the only one who has gro…

Evgeny Grishkovets: The Shirt

"I feel terrible! Lord!! Why did I fall in love?!
“Why are you so green, did you fall in love or something?” Maks obediently jogged behind me. “Can you hear me at all?!”
“I don’t like your beard!”
“It’s a wonderful beard, three weeks and it’s ready!”
“Shave it off immediately… Where is it, dammit?!”
We finally found the car.
“Do you ever wash it?” Maks deliberately opened the door squeamishly.
“Do you ever brush your teeth?”
He covered his mouth with his hand like a kid.
“I’m scared to fly! Scared horribly! Sasha, I would really like a coffee, a roll and a shower!”
Maks put on a pleading face, like only he could do.
And my name is Sasha.
Maksim – is not fat but rather just… solid. He never grows fat, he just puts on some weight. In other words, he becomes more and more regular. If Maks would ever lose weight, nobody would say to him that he’s in great shape. Everybody would be asking if he was feeling well or not. You could never imagine him skinny. Maks is one of those people wh…

Crucifixion XV c., Andrej Rublev Museum, Moscow


Aleksandr Pushkin - Biography

Aleksandr Pushkin is considered Russia's greatest poet and the founder of modern Russian literature. Pushkin was the first to use everyday speech in his poetry, fusing Old Slavonic with vernacular Russian. This blend gave his works their rich, melodic quality.
Aleksandr Pushkin was born in Moscow on 6 June 1799 into a cultured but poor aristocratic family, with a long and distinguished lineage. On his father's side, he was a descendant of an ancient noble family; his mother was a great granddaughter of Gannibal, the legendary Abyssinian, who served under Peter the Great. Pushkin's mother took little interest in the upbringing of her son, entrusting him to nursemaids and French tutors. Pushkin got acquainted with the Russian language through communication with household serfs and his nanny, Arina Rodionovna, whom he loved dearly and was more attached to than to his own mother.
In 1811, along with 30 other distinguished young men, Pushkin was admitted to the Lyceum, an excl…

Vladimir Vysotsky: Thankful for being alive

The 25th of July is the day of memory of Vladimir Vysotsky, an outstanding Russian singing poet and actor. In an interview for The Voice of Russia, his son Nikita Vysotsky speaks about the first feature film dedicated to his father. The title is “Vysotsky. Thankful for Being Alive” and Nikita is the scriptwriter and producer of the film.

Nikita says that the premiere of the film will take place on the 1st of December. During the five years of making the film he heard a lot of talk about which facts from the poet’s life the plot will be based on and who will play the part of Vladimir Vysotsky, an idol of the 1970s and 80s who passed away at the age of 42 during the Moscow Olympic Games of 1980. People seemed to forget the grand sports event and mourned their idol paying their last tribute to him. This generation is still alive and a new generation has come for which Vysotsky is a historical figure having nothing to do with contemporary life. For the new generation it would be absolutel…

Anton Chekhov on Writing

"When you describe the miserable and unfortunate, and want to make the reader feel pity, try to be somewhat colder — that seems to give a kind of background to another's grief, against which it stands out more clearly. Whereas in your story the characters cry and you sigh. Yes, be more cold. ... The more objective you are, the stronger will be the impression you make. — To Lydia Avilova, March 19, 1892 & April 29, 1892
I will begin with what in my opinion is your lack of restraint. You are like a spectator in a theatre who expresses his enthusiasm so unrestrainedly that he prevents himself and others from hearing. That lack of restraint is particularly noticeable in the descriptions of nature with which you interrupt dialogues; when one reads them, these descriptions, one wishes they were more compact, shorter, say two or three lines. — To Maxim Gorky, December 3, 1898
Another piece of advice: when you read proof cross out as many adjectives and adverbs as you can. You ha…

Nikolay Nekrasov

November 22, 1821 - January 8, 1878
Nikolay Nekrasov, one of Russian poetry's most eloquent voices, became a successful publisher and author of some of the most mellifluent verses about women. Nekrasov, being the most influential literary entrepreneur of the day, assembled works ranging from ethnography to fiction to literary criticism, all written by leading authors and thinkers of the time. He is also well remembered as the long-standing publisher of the almanac, “Sovremennik” (The Contemporary) from 1846 to 1866. The journal was shut down by the government in connection with the arrest of its radical editor Chernyshevsky.
Nekrasov was born into the family of a petty Russian officer. His mother, Aleksandra Zakrevska, was from Warsaw and belonged to the Polish gentry. She was well-educated and her parents were against her marriage to a poor and uneducated officer. Their marriage was not a happy one.
Nikolay was abused by his tyrannical father. His father’s drunken rages against …

Solzhenitsyn's short stories

Collection of innovative short stories reveals that the Russian writer was still experimenting in his final yearsA collection of nine short stories by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, described by scholars as ranking alongside his best work, is to be published in English for the first time. In one of the publishing events of the autumn, the collection will appear under the title Apricot Jam and Other Stories, fulfilling a long-held desire of the author that the work be available to the English-speaking world.The collection reveals that Solzhenitsyn was still experimenting with literary form towards the end of his life. Eight of the stories have two parts, which are conceived as pairs. Daniel J. Mahoney, a Solzhenitsyn scholar, said: 'This was a new form that Solzhenitsyn, always a pioneer of new genres… called binary tales. They're two-part stories that are connected by a theme, even though there's a sharp contrast. They [each] range from 20 to 50 typed pages. Many of them highligh…

Marina Tsvetaeva: The Demon in Me

The demon in me's not dead,
He's living, and well.
In the body as in a hold,
In the self as in a cell.
The world is but walls.
The exit's the axe.
("All the world's a stage,"
The actor prates.)
And that hobbling buffoon
Is no joker;
In the body as in glory,
In the body as in a toga.
May you live forever!
Cherish your life,
Only poets in bone
Are as in a lie.
No, my eloquent brothers,
We'll not have much fun,
In the body as with Father's
Dressing-gown on.
We deserve something better.
We wilt in the warm.
In the body as in a byre.
In the self as in a cauldron.
Marvels that perish
We don't collect.
In the body as in a marsh,
In the body as in a crypt.
In the body as in furthest
Exile. It blights.
In the body as in a secret,
In the body as in the vice
Of an iron mask.

5 January 1925
Translated by David McDuff, 1987

Fedoskino Miniature Painting

Fedoskino miniature is one of the types of traditional lacquered miniature painting. Painting is made in oils on papier-mache articles. This handicraft was developed in the late 18th century in the Fedoskino Settlement under Moscow. The art owned its appearance to popularity in Europe of snuffboxes, made of pressboard (i.e.papier-mache). The boxes were covered with black ground, varnished, and then painted with classical topics. Such snuffboxes became fashionable in Russia as well, and in the late 18th century a merchant Korobov organized their production in this country.
Initially the snuffboxes were decorated with prints, pasted on the lids and covered with transparent varnish. In the first half of the 19th century they gave place to oil painting miniatures. After the death of Korobov the factory was owned by his daughter for some time, and then went to merchants Lukutins, who owned it for 85 years. ...

Ivan III the Great - Biography

Ivan III the Great was the grand prince of Moscow and the grand prince of all Russia. During his reign, the Russian state gained independence from the Mongol Tatars, finally ending 200 years of their rule. Ivan also made Moscow the centre of the Russian world by considerably expanding its borders.

Ivan III was born in Moscow in 1440. He came from a generation of Moscow's grand dukes. His father was Vasily II the Dark, a name he was given during the civil war when he was blinded by his cousin Dmitry Shemyaka in his attempt to acquire power. In order to secure his son's succession Vasily declared Ivan co-ruler at only six years of age. At twelve Ivan was married to Maria, princess of the principality of Tver. Their marriage facilitated the annexation of Tver, which had been Moscow's major rival since 1300. During the ten years before his father's death, Ivan stayed by his side, participating in all his dealings and crusades. He was already an experienced prince, with st…

Anton Chekhov:The Lottery Ticket

Ivan Dmitritch, a middle-class man who lived with his family on an income of twelve hundred a year and was very well satisfied with his lot, sat down on the sofa after supper and began reading the newspaper.

'I forgot to look at the newspaper today,' his wife said to him as she cleared the table. 'Look and see whether the list of drawings is there.'

'Yes, it is,' said Ivan Dmitritch; 'but hasn't your ticket lapsed?'

'No; I took the interest on Tuesday.'

'What is the number?'

'Series 9,499, number 26.'

'All right . . . we will look . . . 9,499 and 26.'

Ivan Dmitritch had no faith in lottery luck, and would not, as a rule, have consented to look at the lists of winning numbers, but now, as he had nothing else to do and as the newspaper was before his eyes, he passed his finger downwards along the column of numbers. And immediately, as though in mockery of his scepticism, no further than the second line from the top, his…

Vladivostok in pictures

More pictures from Vladivostok here.

Maksim Gorky: My Childhood

IN a narrow, darkened room, my father, dressed in a white and unusually long garment, lay on the floor under the window. The toes of his bare feet were curiously extended, and the fingers of the still hands, which rested peacefully upon his breast, were curved; his merry eyes were tightly closed by the black disks of two copper coins; the light had gone out of his still face, and I was frightened by the ugly way he showed his teeth.

My mother, only half clad in a red petticoat, knelt and combed my father’s long, soft hair, from his brow to the nape of his neck, with the same black comb which I loved to use to tear the rind of watermelons; she talked unceasingly in her low, husky voice, and it seemed as if her swollen eyes must be washed away by the incessant flow of tears.

Holding me by the hand was my grandmother, who had a big, round head, large eyes, and a nose like a sponge a dark, tender, wonderfully interesting person. She also was weeping, and her grief formed a fitting accompa…

Kuskovo Manor: Entertainment House of Russian Elite

Kuskovo Manor: Entertainment House of Russian Elite: "Welcome to Kuskovo Manor, the summer entertainment country-house of count Peter Sheremetiev which was intended for parties, celebrations and entertainments. For more than half a century beginning with 1739 and ending with 1792 count P. B. Sheremetiev, son of Peter … Read more..."

Arkady Averchenko: Eleven elephants

Stryapukhin grabbed my hand and quickly said: “Which of the two ears is ringing? Heh! Heh! Quickly!!

“Whose ear is ringing?” I said, surprised.

“Mine! Hoot. Lord! Mine, mine!! Quickly! Tell me!”

I listened carefully. “Which? I really can’t hear…Can’t you figure it out by yourself?”

“You have to guess, understand? Guess! You’re so clueless!”

“Well it’s not hard to guess,” I agreed. “If you had many ears, then it would be a different matter. But there are only two – that’s nothing. Is it your left one?”

“Correct! Good man!”

I smirked. “You bet! I can do that and much more…Why did you need me to guess?”

“Why else? It’s a superstitious belief…I thought of something. If you guess it correctly, it means my wish will come true”

“What did you wish for?”

“I can’t tell you. If I do it won’t come true.”

“How do you know that?”

“It’s just a belief.”

“Ok then, goodbye,” I grumbled, slightly offended. “I’m going home.”

“Leaving already? What time is it now?”

“I can’t tell you that,” I stubbornly gr…

Valery Bryusov: The Republic of the Southern Cross

From The Republic of the Southern Cross, and other stories, G. Constable, London (1918)
Translator unknown

This story was originally published as 'Respublika Yuzhnogo Kresta' in Zemnaya Os (The axis of the Earth) (1907)

THERE have appeared lately a whole series of descriptions of the dreadful catastrophe which has overtaken the Republic of the Southern Cross. They are strikingly various, and give many details of a manifestly fantastic and improbable character. Evidently the writers of these descriptions have lent a too ready ear to the narratives of the survivors from Star City (Zvezdny), the inhabitants of which, as is common knowledge, were all stricken with a psychical distemper. For that reason we consider it opportune to give an account here of all the reliable evidence which we have as yet of this tragedy of the Southern Pole.

The Republic of the Southern Cross came into being some forty years ago, as a development from three hundred steel works established in the Southe…

Osip Mandelstam: Petropolis

From a fearful height, a wandering light,
but does a star glitter like this, crying?
Transparent star, wandering light
your brother, Petropolis, is dying.

From a fearful height, earthly dreams are alight,
and a green star is crying.
Oh star, if you are the brother of water and light,
your brother, Petropolis, is dying.

A monstrous ship, from a fearful height,
is rushing on, spreading its wings, flying.
Green star, in beautiful poverty,
your brother, Petropolis, is dying.

Transparent spring has broken, above the black Neva’s hiss
the wax of immortality is liquefying.
Oh if you are star – your city, Petropolis,
your brother, Petropolis, is dying.

Nina Ananiashvili – Biography

Nina Gedevanovna Ananiashvili was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. Her father, Gedevan, and two older brothers, George and Levan, were all geologists; her mother, Lia Gogolashvili, a philologist.

The family was once part of the Georgian aristocracy, but their wealth and land vanished with the Russian revolution. Ananiashvili’s father's family was almost completely wiped out in the Stalinist 1930s. He was the only male spared as he was just 2 years old. He became a geologist and married a linguist.

In 1963 their daughter, Nina, was born. She was a sickly child and at the age of 4, her parents started her ice skating in an effort to improve her health. At 10, she became champion in her age group in Georgia. A dance teacher saw how she moved on the ice – in particular her balance and how she used her arms – and had her perform The Dying Swan on skates. Then the teacher took Nina to a theatre and showed her the feathered costume she could wear if she performed it on stage, just like Maya Pl…

Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910)

Mikhail Vrubel. Flowers in Blue Vase 1887
Water-color on paper 33*23 Museum of Russian Art, Kiev

Artists are like heralds of ancient tragedies who come from somewhere beyond into this evenly-paced life with a mark on insanity and fate on their brow.
-- Alexander Block
Mikhail Vrubel was a versatile artist who excelled in painting, graphics, sculpture, as well as in monumental and applied arts. His name is routinely associated with Russian Symbolism and Art Nouveau and perhaps rightly so.
Mikhail Alexandrovich Vrubel was born in 1856 in the city of Omsk in Western Siberia to a family of a military lawyer. His mother died when he was not yet three years old and his father remarried four years later. Vrubel’s stepmother was a good pianist and helped develop Vrubel’s musical sensibilities. In his teen years, he became a fervent theater aficionado. Later in his life, he married a prominent opera singer and was on good terms with composer Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. Many of his mature works wer…

Andrey Bely - Biography

leading theorist and poet of Russian Symbolism, a literary school deriving from the Modernist movement in western European art and literature and an indigenous Eastern Orthodox spirituality, expressing mystical and abstract ideals through allegories from life and nature.

Reared in an academic environment as the son of a mathematics professor, Bely was closely associated with Moscow’s literary elite, including the late 19th-century philosopher-mystic Vladimir Solovyov, whose eschatological thought (concerning the world’s purpose and final resolution) he absorbed. Carried by his idealism from harsh reality to speculative thought, Bely completed in 1901 his first major work, Severnaya simfoniya (1902; “The Northern Symphony”), a prose poem that represented an attempt to combine prose, poetry, music, and even, in part, painting. Three more “symphonies” in this new literary form followed. In other poetry he continued his innovative style and, by repeatedly using irregular metre (the “lame…

Leo Tolstoy - The Last Years


Innkenty Annensky: Poetry

The life’s chance and creative spirit
United painfully in you,
And midst the beauty’s hitting views
There’s not so airy and exquisite…

In the world desert’s sandy grounds –
Where all’s a host, you fell in love
With cosmos of the different sounds
And flowers of troubled life.

Untouchable, transparent wholly!
We’re pined by you, oh, goddess holly,
When, through pale slots, you, vaguely viewed,

Such grasp all our thought and body,
That if to fall in love with you –
Love will be mad for everybody.

Tolstoy thought Chekhov 'worse than Shakespeare'

Tolstoy's condemnation of Chekhov's plays as 'worse than Shakespeare' has been thrown back into the spotlight by a new book that draws on memories of the author from his contemporaries.

Editor Peter Sekirin has worked with previously untranslated letters, diaries and essays by Chekhov's family, colleagues and friends for his book Memories of Chekhov, which has just been published. Peter Gnedich, a novelist and playwright, recalls in the book how Chekhov once recounted a trip he made to visit Tolstoy in Gaspra.

'He was bedridden due to illness,' Chekhov told Gnedich, according to an extract from Sekirin's documentary biography published in the New York Review of Books. 'Among other things, he spoke about me and my works. Finally, when I was about to say goodbye he took my hand and said, 'Kiss me goodbye.' While I bent over him and he was kissing me, he whispered in my ear in a still energetic, old man's voice, 'You know, I hate your p…

Memories of Chekhov by Peter Sekirin

Memories of Chekhov, from which this excerpt is drawn, is the first documentary biography of Anton Chekhov to be based on primary sources: the letters, diaries, essays, and memories of Chekhov’s family, friends, and contemporaries that I collected from Chekhov archives in Yalta and Moscow, as well as the New York Public Library, the Russian State Library, and the Library of Congress. All of this material appears in English translation for the first time. My favorite discovery was a rare editorial by Chekhov dedicated to the life of Nikolai Przhevalsky, a famous Russian geographer. At the very end of the nineteenth century Chekhov wrote, “Reading this biography, we do not ask: ‘Why did he do this?’ or ‘What did he accomplish?’ but we say, ‘He was right!’” These words also describe Chekhov’s own life.

—Peter Sekirin, Editor, Memories of Chekhov


Ivan Bunin, “Chekhov,” from The Russian Word (1904)

I got to know Chekhov in Moscow at the end of 1895. I remember a few specifically Chekhovi…

Mikhail Nesterov - Biography

Mikhail Nesterov is Russian painter, follower of critical realism, master of religious painting. Even though the career of Mikhail Vasiliyevich Nesterov bridges the 19th and the 20th centuries, he is best known as a nineteenth-century painter of lyrical religious scenes and one of the fathers of the artistic movement known as "World of Art". He was born in 1862 in Ufa, in a merchant family with artistic interests. From 1877 to 1881 he studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under the guidance of Vasiliy Perov, Alexey Savrasov, and Illarion Pryanishnikov. He left the Moscow Art School in 1881 and worked with Pavel Chistyakov at The Saint Petersburg Imperial Academy of Fine Arts until 1884. In 1884 he went back to Moscow. There, he met a group of influential painters at the estate of Savva Mamontov at Abramtsevo. Being a deeply religious man he sought to combine his Orthodox beliefs with the Art Nouveau style of the time. In his attempt to revive r…

Maxim Gorky: Tales of Italy

In silence, the old man waved his hand. Both bald guys grinned as one and the old man sipped some more wine and went on, watching, as the falcon soared in the skies, “I was thirteen when he hired me, like all the others, to fetch blocks for the construction of his house. He treated us like dirt, his animals were treated with better care. When my friend, Lucchino, brought his attention to that fact, this is how he responded: ‘This mule is mine, while you are a stranger to me, why should I be sorry for you?’ These words made my heart bleed, but made me take a closer look at his life. I wasn’t thrilled by what I saw – he was nervy and cynical with everyone, be it the elderly or women – he didn’t care. When reproached for such behavior, he would just laugh, ‘When I was poor, there was no one to take pity on me, either.’ He cliqued well with priests, carabineers, and the police; other people only saw him in their bitterest misery, he knew he could take advantage of them.”

“Such people do e…

Ekaterina Kondaurova

Fresh-faced and smiling, her short red hair framing bright blue eyes and a porcelain complexion, Ekaterina Kondaurova arrives promptly for our meeting at the Shamrock restaurant/bar on Ulitsa Dekabristov. It’s 9:30 p.m. on a Friday night, and she apologizes unnecessarily for being late. But Kondaurova has not just come from a performance. Rather, her twelve-hour rehearsal day finished just 15 minutes ago.

At 22, the tall, lithe dancer has already been in the company for four years. Just a year ago she was promoted to Coryphée from the corps de ballet. But she’s already dancing several soloist roles that aren’t shared in the repertoire lists of fellow coryphées: the Lilac Fairy in “The Sleeping Beauty” (both the Sergeev and the reconstructed versions), Medora from “Le Corsaire”, Myrtha from “Giselle”, the grand pas de deux from the second act of “La Bayadere”, the Siren in “Apollo”. More uniquely, Kondaurova’s resume includes modern ballets. She seems to have been dubbed the master of …