Thursday, 30 August 2012
Escape From Civilization: Right now we are going to see some photos of the Altai region, its south-west area, to be more precise. That’s exactly the area so hard-to-get-to. We’ll start from Ust-Kamenogorsk not far from the border with Russia. Pure land of … Read more...
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Two hundred and fifty years ago, Catherine the Great became empress of Russia. During her 34-year reign, she extended Russia’s boundaries, presided over an age of cultural enlightenment and founded the collection, which became the Hermitage Museum.
“She sat on the throne of Peter the Great and ruled an empire, the largest on earth.” This is how the American writer, Robert K. Massie, opens the chapter on her coronation in his new book “Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman” (Head of Zeus, 2012). The book, which received rave reviews and the new Carnegie non-fiction award in the United States, was published in the United Kingdom last month. The first half of Massie’s book covers Catherine’s loveless childhood and marriage, as well as all the adventures that lay between the “modest grey stone house on a cobbled street” in windswept Stettin and her coronation in Moscow’s gold-domed Assumption Cathedral. As the subtitle suggests, this earlier part of her life is at least as important to the Pulitzer-winning author as her subsequent achievements. His epigraph quotes the Earl of Buckinghamshire, who was British ambassador to Russia when Catherine was crowned: “Perhaps the best description of her is that she is a woman as well as an empress.”
Massie, now in his eighties (he describes himself charmingly as a “Methuselah figure”), has four daughters, (aged from 12 to 53) by two marriages. A lot of his research for this book involved “trying to learn about women.” In some ways it is a feminist book, he said in an interview with RBTH, about a strong woman trying to survive in an age when women were generally powerless. “My daughters are growing up in a world which is a little bit fairer, but … men still get a free ride.”
One symptom of the surviving inequalities is the smirking mythology that has grown up around Catherine the Great’s love life. Massie points out that the empress’s dozen lovers would barely invite comment had she been a man. He avoids any mention of the infamous horse-related legends; the closest the narrative gets is an intriguing image, from Catherine’s memoirs, of the sleepless, young princess galloping on a hard pillow she imagined was a horse “until I was quite worn out.”
Her varied adult intimacies are likewise shown as a natural part of life, openly acknowledged and often kept separate from politics. From her physical passion for the young, handsome Gregory Orlov to her lasting partnership with Gregory Potemkin, Catherine’s romantic history is sympathetically portrayed. Her letter to Potemkin in February 1774 detailing her previous lovers is “unique in the annals of written royal confessions,” not least for what it tells us about the empress as a person. “The trouble is that my heart is loath to be without love even for a single hour…” she writes.
Monday, 27 August 2012
Nicely Shot Perm: Perm is the city in the European part of Russia, near the Urals, a large diversified industrial, scientific, cultural and logistic centre of Ural. The city was founded in 1723. The territory of the city has been settled since the … Read more...
Sunday, 26 August 2012
Alan Yentob takes an epic train ride through Tolstoys Russia examining how Russias great novelist became her great troublemaker. In this programme he reveals a difficult and troubled youth obsessed with sex and gambling who turned writer while serving as a soldier in Chechnya and the Crimea. His experiences on the frontline eventually fed into War and Peace a book now recognised as the gold standard by which all other novels are judged. They also triggered his conversion to outspoken pacifist.Alans expedition takes him to the Tatar city of Kazan where Tolstoy was a teenager the siege of Sevastopol on the Black Sea and Imperial St Petersburg as well as the idyllic Tolstoy country estate the writers cradle and grave and home throughout his passionate but brutal 48-year marriage to Sofya - a marriage that began with rape produced 13 children and ended with desertion and denial.Contributors include Tolstoys great great grandson Vladimir Tolstoy AN Wilson and author of a new Tolstoy biography Rosamund Bartlett. Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (known in the West as Leo Tolstoy September 9, 1828 -- November 20, 1910) was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist fiction. Many consider Tolstoy to have been one of the world's greatest novelists.Tolstoy is equally known for his complicated and paradoxical persona and for his extreme moralistic and ascetic views, which he adopted after a moral crisis and spiritual awakening in the 1870s, after which he also became noted as a moral thinker and social reformer. His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him in later life to become a fervent Christian anarchist and anarcho-pacifist. His ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You, were to have a profound impact on such pivotal twentieth-century figures as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Saturday, 25 August 2012
A native of Kiev, opera singer Kristina Kapustinskaya has performed with the Mariinsky company since 2007. She spoke with Axilleas Patsoukas of Russia Beyond the Headlines about her voice and what inspires her as a singer.
Russia Beyond the Headlines: Why did you choose to become a singer?
Kristina Kapustinskaya: I wouldn’t say that this profession is something I could choose to become. I think that creative professions do not depend on your desire alone – you have to have a predisposition, a certain state of mind. Very often young people choose a profession only because it’s fashionable or because it seems beautiful to them. They must know that there is a very high risk in creative professions that even after many years of hard work you will not achieve success.
I had a grandmother who couldn’t go a single day without a song, and that’s how she was raising me – always humming something. She was the one who introduced me to Ukrainian folk songs.
In the fourth grade at school, during a music class, my class was singing a lullaby in choir. And I suddenly realized that my voice stood out the most – I wasn’t shouting, it was just that my voice has suddenly developed a bell, something that professionals call falsetto. When I was 13-14, I’ve watched the Phantom of the Opera movie and it left a lasting impression on me. Even though it was through a movie that I was introduced to opera, the impression was so powerful.
When I was about 16 I auditioned at the vocal department at the Glière Music College. Was this first step into the profession driven by my desire alone? It was mostly driven by something else – by the understanding that I cannot live without it.
RBTH: Do you remember any songs that your grandmother sang to you?
K.K.: How could I forget! I would sing them after her, echoing her. My most favorite one was from Natalka Potavka, an opera by Mykola Lysenko.
RBTH: What is the first song you remember singing?
K.K.: I think it was something cheerful, probably some chastushka, a folk song.
RBTH: What does your voice mean to you?
K.K.: It’s my life. If God has given you the talent in the shape of your voice, you must develop it, facet it every day, find its new colors and intonations. You are now responsible for it – you must learn how to work with it, how to load it, how to give it rest, how to preserve the most important thing about the voice, the beauty and clarity of the timbre. You must hold the responsibility for this beauty and allow it to save the world that sometimes takes such ugly shapes.
RBTH: In recent years you have changed from mezzo-soprano to soprano. Was it your choice? Was it easy to make?
K.K.: Again there’s a question about a choice. How can you predefine something that grows and develops? I did not change from anything to anything. I can only be myself. I choose to not use labels – mezzo or soprano. I prefer it to be simpler – there is a voice. When I was labeled mezzo, they have automatically limited me with pieces written for mezzo, and trying something different is no longer an option. I did not make any decision on what I want to be. I only decided whether I wanted to abandon everything I had already done and start everything from scratch. The decision required courage.
RBTH: As a soprano you have a wider repertoire, but you will not be able to play Carmen, a role that you were amazing in.
K.K.: Why not?! You should sing whatever is not harmful to your voice, whatever makes it develop, whatever suits your age, level and abilities, whatever doesn’t blur your timbre – because timbre is the utter treasure. There are sopranos who have sung Carmen beautifully.
A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT of grunt work went into literary masterpiece-making in the days before Spell-check and Google, and yet there is no acknowledgment page to be found at the conclusion to War and Peace or Crime and Punishment, no list of the relatives, friends, monarchs, spouses, and serfs who contributed to the novels’ creation. Who compiled the research? Who created conditions conducive to decades of uninterrupted concentration? Who hand-copied massive manuscripts or typed and retyped them, edited and copy-edited and, once revisions were done, ventured into the publishing world and managed the business of book-selling?
Alexandra Popoff’s book is a look at Russian writers’ wives—greatest hits edition—the women who brought us the men who brought us the classics. Included are Anna Dostoevsky and Sophia Tolstoy (the originals), Véra Nabokov, Nadezhda Mandelstam, Elena Bulgakov, and Natalya Solzhenitsyn, each of them paired with a handy epithet—Nursemaid of Talent (Mrs. Tolstoy) or Mysterious Margarita (guess who). The central argument of The Wives is twofold: that great writers have demanding habits, and that the women who tended to those habits deserve recognition.
Short of rattling off the words, which of course is the essence of the activity of literature, wives are responsible for the books—not an altogether absurd claim by Popoff’s logic. These women made profound sacrifices for the sake of their husbands’ vocation. Natalya Solzhenitsyn, for example, spent eighteen years secluded in “a zone of quiet” in Vermont, assisting Solzhenitsyn fourteen hours a day; “people might say it’s a convict’s life, but we are happy.” What’s more, the glamour that befell their husbands never touched them. Dostoevsky was a celebrity, but his wife Anna went about in rags (or rather, she stayed home).
But, and here is Popoff’s main point, they do not deserve pity along with credit. “This book should change a popular perception of such lives as miserable, lonely, and unfulfilled,” writes Popoff in a neatly tacked-on epilogue. It is a noble cause—but is that really the popular perception? Popoff often tries to talk me out of a stance I wasn’t aware I’d taken, until I came dangerously near to taking it. In an equally tidy prologue, we learn the source of Popoff’s obsession: her father was a well-known writer in the Soviet Union and her mother a top-notch literary helpmeet wife. “She collaborated with my father from the moment his novel was conceived till its completion … [and] was her husband’s first reader, editor, and literary advisor.”
This is a project that Popoff has pursued before. The Wives is her second book, and it follows closely on the heels of a biography of Sophia Tolstoy, a woman generally depicted as shrewish and contentious because she did not quietly abide her husband’s difficult late-life character. (Natalya Solzhenitsyn, when interviewed by Popoff, censured Sophia Tolstoy for this: “She should have followed him and lived in a hut, as he had asked.”) In her biography of Sophia, Popoff took it upon herself to set the record straight. Sophia was not the one who shunned the aging author. It was Tolstoy’s young disciple Vladimir Chertkov who alienated Tolstoy from his family and inspired his final flight from home, preventing Sophia from seeing her husband until he had slipped into unconsciousness, from which he never recovered.
For the husbands, life was work and work was life—and so their wives and even mistresses necessarily assumed professional responsibilities. (Bulgakov’s wife and his mistress “took his dictation in turns.”) Many of these husbands demanded their ladies’ services to the exclusion of everything else. Anna Dostoevsky was a talented stenographer, but when the couple faced financial straits, Dostoevsky forbade Anna to seek work—he demanded her services all for himself. Though Osip Mandelstam and his wife were practically homeless and starving after the Russian revolution, Nadezhda, who had studied law at Kiev University, never even considered a job. Mandelstam “wanted her to be ‘entirely dependent on his will.’ So she would spend most of her day sitting on her mattress, taking dictations.” Vladimir Nabokov was no less stingy: “The typewriter does not function without Véra,” he said.
The Wives is captivating when lightheartedly doling out anecdotes, but less so when laboring to prove the worth of these women. Writers die young, and writers in a totalitarian regime die younger, so sections invariably end with harried synopses of unwavering devotion to literary legacies. Then there is the inherently monotonous nature of the work itself. Sophia Tolstoy “loved copying War and Peace,” writes Popoff, “work she did for seven years, remarking, ‘The idea of serving a genius and great man has given me strength to do anything.’” If Popoff’s mission is to redeem these women as legitimate figures in literary history, her methods are strangely counter-productive. By emphasizing their diligence, she underlines their drudgery.
Were these lives really so great? Popoff relies mainly on the firsthand accounts from the women—theybelieved they were fulfilled. But so do reality TV stars and sufferers of Stockholm Syndrome. When Nadezhda was taking dictation, “Mandelstam treated her ‘as a puppy’ and even stuck a pacifier in her mouth so she would not interrupt him; he insisted she wear one on her neck and it was attached to her pearl necklace.” Dostoevsky gambled away all his own cash, and also his wife’s; and so when it came time to attend fashionable salons, soirees, and readings, he went solo—how could Anna go without a proper dress? He would dish out the details on return—“his tales were so enthralling,” Anna wrote, “and were told so expressively that they completely replaced social life for me.” Shortly after the publication of The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky was to give a speech at a Pushkin festival in Moscow, and Anna, once again secluded in purdah, considered attending incognito to at least witness the momentous event. And these were not women without critical faculties and, in several cases, advanced degrees.
The section on Véra Nabokov highlights a particular problem with The Wives: it imposes a single template on numerous relationships, each with their particular satisfactions, dissatisfactions, and power dynamics. Does anyone (besides Popoff) harbor a perception of Véra Nabokov’s life as miserable or unfulfilled? If so, all one needs to do is find a photograph of Véra in the Montreux Palace Hotel—a glow like hers is hardly borne of misery. Moreover, Véra, who had been publicly acknowledged by her husband (every one of his books was dedicated to her!), made explicitly clear that she did not seek acknowledgment.
Her wish to be kept out of articles, interviews, biographies—all Nabokoviana—should not be interpreted as coy or dismissed as old-fashioned. And yet Popoff ignores her request. Here she is, squeezed between Nadezhda Mandelstam and Elena Bulgakov: Popoff writes that she “carried Nabokov’s briefcase, opened the door for him, put his notes on the lectern, and occasionally rushed to fetch his glasses from the car,” and later, “Toiling with the zeal of a student Véra filled hundreds of index cards with her research notes” on Eugene Onegin, a monumental project that Popoff wrongly and breezily deems a failure (“Pushkin’s poetry proved untranslatable”). If you’re going to disregard the wishes of the wives, and dip your toes in “guilty pleasure” waters—detailing gowns and pillow talk—you may as well dive in. Give me less blissful co-authoring and more Irina Guadanini, Nabokov’s “beautiful and divorced” mistress, who is allotted all of two paragraphs.
Thursday, 23 August 2012
|A 1914 painting by Leonid Pasternak of the Pasternak children, left to right: Boris, Josephine, Lydia, Alexander Pasternak. The occasion was their parents' 25th wedding anniversary.|
Nicolas Pasternak Slater, nephew of celebrated Russian writer Boris Pasternak, is collaborating with the department of Slavonic studies at Vienna University to publish a trilingual edition of his mother’s poetry. Lydia Pasternak Slater has long been in the shadow of her famous brother, one of the most beloved poets of the 20th century and author of “Dr. Zhivago.” However her poetry allows her to stand alone in this celebrated literary family. Written in German, Russian, and English, her poems exhibit lyricism and range, encompassing witty pieces written for colleagues, as well as reflections on unhappy periods in her life. It also reflects her love for nature, a passion she shared with her brother, Boris.
Nicolas Pasternak Slater is a retired hematologist who now lectures at literary festivals and conferences, as well as working as a translator. He grew up in a household where his absent uncle was a constant presence, a figure he felt he knew intimately despite never directly communicating with him.
His memories of the excitement when the family received a letter from abroad inspired him to translate and edit a collection of his uncle’s letters, published as “Boris Pasternak: Family Correspondence, 1921-1960.” This correspondence with his relatives was the closest Boris Pasternak kept to a diary, and offers an insight into the mind of a man sustained by an unshakable inner confidence.
RBTH: What originally prompted you to translate the correspondence between Boris Pasternak and his family?
Nicolas Pasternak Slater: I had particularly vivid memories of my childhood and the great excitement that was generated in the household on the rare occasions when a letter would come from Russia.
Just at the end of the war when I was seven years old, letters came which were smuggled through by English diplomats, and my mother would be very emotional about it. She would ring up her sister and they would discuss whether there were things left unsaid, and worry about whether anything awful had happened to the family.
RBTH: How aware were they of the reality of life for Boris?
NPS: He didn’t write about individual terrible things, writing in general terms such as “oh if you only knew everything, I can’t go on, I’d begin to howl.” They were aware that terrible things did happen, that people disappeared, that people were arrested and that these were things he couldn’t write about. So they were looking for hints and allusions, trying to unlock the code that he used. For instance when Vladimir Sillov was arrested and shot, Boris wrote that “he has died of the same illness as our late Liza’s husband, he thought too much and sometimes this leads to this kind of meningitis.” The family knew that the late Liza’s husband had been shot in 1918, and so this allusion to the ‘same illness’ was a clear indication of what had happened.
RBTH: How can these letters help us understand his character?
NPS: They show his enormous inner strength. He didn’t really depend on other people to provide him with support. He was very lonely, but he took great strength from a confidence that was he was doing was right. He believed in his poetry and later in the novel he was writing, and that compensated for absolutely everything. Even in the 1950s, when he was writing “Dr. Zhivago” and being persecuted and hounded, he wrote “don’t worry about me, I’m happy, I’ve probably never been happier.” He was satisfied that he was doing the right thing. He was an extraordinary person in that respect, for drawing inner strength and being supported by it.
RBTH: Can these letters help us shed any light “Dr. Zhivago?”
“Dr. Zhivago” is a story of the things that happened in Russia around the revolution and after. But it’s a story told from inside the people that it’s talking about. Above all he’s interested in the inner life of his characters, and the way that this sustains them. Boris believed passionately in life as a kind of force that was much stronger and much more interesting than external events. In one of his poems he writes “to be alive, that only matters, alive and burning to the end.” That really was the only thing that mattered to him; to be living your life in an honest and creative way.
Alexander Grin was born Alexander Stepanovich Grinevsky into a family of an exiles from Poland living in Slobodskaya Vyatka Province. Sometimes called Alexander Green in English, the proper name is Alexander Grin.
In 1896 at age 16, Grin finished a four-year Vyatka college and left for Odessa.
He ran away from his home and lived as a tramp, worked as a sailor, and a fisherman, sought gold in the Urals, and later served the army, where he joined the Socialist revolutionary party.
Grinevsky read avidly, with Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne among his favorites, and he even reportedly carried a portrait of Edgar Allen Poe with him everywhere he went
His works were published starting from 1906. The first short story, titled “Merit of Private Panteleev ” (Zasluga ryadovogo Panteleeva) was of political agitation and copies of the brochure were confiscated by police.
Grin was arrested in Sevastopol for propaganda and served his sentence in prison and three exiles.
In 1905 Grin moved to St. Petersburg after his first exile. His His ealier career was known for poetry and short stories, but not yet the romantic escapes he discovered after the revolution. Areested and exiled several times, Grin moved to St. Petersburg several times.
In 1912 the Grin returned to St. Petersburg, mainly writing short stories at that time.
After the disappointment of the Bolshevik revolution in 1918, the major theme of his writing was the collision of freedom and loss of freedom, expressed in his novels The Shining World (Blistayushii mir) (1923), Jessie and Morgiana (1929) and The Road to Nowhere (Doroga nikuda, 1930).
Grin’s symbolic romantic story Crimson Sails (Alye Parusa, 1922) is considered to be his best work. Certainly, it is his most popular legacy. Grin created his own exotic land in his stories, “Grinlandia”, in which pure-hearted souls search for love and adventure and have a constant poetic dialogue with the sea. “Scarlet Sails” has been called “the Russian ‘Treasure Island’”.
In 1924 Alexander Grin moved to Theodosia, Crimea. Gradually his writings came to be in conflict with principles of the communist party, and so his publications were getting scarcer and scarcer. In 1930 the writer moved to the town of Staryi Krym (not far from Theodosia), where two years later he died of lung cancer. This is where he was laid to rest.
Presented and dedicated to Nina Nikolayevna Grin by the AUTHOR November 23,' 1922 PetrogradLongren, a sailor of the Orion, a rugged, three-hundred ton brig on which he had served for ten years and to which he was attached more strongly than some sons are to their mothers, was finally forced to give up the sea. This is how it came about. During one of his infrequent visits home he did not, as he always had, see his wife Mary from afar, standing on the doorstep, throwing up her hands and then running breathlessly towards him. Instead, he found a distraught neighbour woman by the crib, a new piece of furniture in his small house. "I tended her for three months, neighbour," the woman said. "Here's your daughter." Longren's heart was numb with grief as he bent down and saw an eight-month-old mite peering intently at his long beard. Then he sat down, stared at the floor and began to twirl his moustache. It was wet as from the rain. "When did Mary die?" he asked. The woman recounted the sad tale, interrupting herself to coo fondly at the child and assure him that Mary was now in Heaven. When Longren learned the details, Heaven seemed to him not much brighter than the woodshed, and he felt that the light of a plain lamp, were the three of them together now, would have been a joy unsurpassed to the woman who had gone on to the unknown Beyond. About three months previously the young mother's finances had come to an abrupt end. At least half of the money Longren had left her was spent on doctors after her difficult confinement and on caring for the newborn infant; finally, the loss of a small but vital sum had forced Mary to appeal to Menners for a loan. Menners kept a tavern and shop and was considered a wealthy man. Mary went to see him at six o'clock in the evening. It was close to seven when the neighbour woman met her on the road to Liss. Mary had been weeping and was very upset. She said she was going to town to pawn her wedding ring. Then she added that Menners had agreed to lend her some money but had demanded her love in return. Mary had rejected him. "There's not a crumb in the house," she had said to the neighbour. "I'll go into town. We'll manage somehow until my husband returns." It was a cold, windy evening. In vain did the neighbour try to talk the young woman out of going to Liss when night was approaching. "You'll get wet, Mary. It's beginning to rain, and the wind looks as if it will bring on a storm." It was at least a three hours' brisk walk from the seaside village to town, but Mary did not heed her neighbour's advice. "I won't be an eyesore to you any more," she said. "As it is, there's hardly a family I haven't borrowed bread, tea or flour from. I'll pawn my ring, and that will take care of everything." She went into town, returned and the following day took to her bed with a fever and chills; the rain and the evening frost had brought on double pneumonia, as the doctor from town, called in by the kind-hearted neighbour, had said. A week later there was an empty place in Longren's double bed, and the neighbour woman moved into his house to care for his daughter. She was a widow and all alone in the world, so this was not a difficult task. "Besides," she added, "the baby fills my days." Longren went off to town, quit his job, said goodbye to his comrades and returned home to raise little Assol. The widow stayed on in the sailor's house as a foster mother to the child until she had learned to walk well, but as soon as Assol stopped falling when she raised her foot to cross the threshold, Longren declared that from then on he intended to care for the child himself and, thanking the woman for her help and kindness, embarked on a lonely widower's life, focusing all his thoughts, hopes, love and memories on the little girl. Ten years of roaming the seas had not brought him much of a fortune. He began to work. Soon the shops in town were offering his toys for sale, finely-crafted small model boats, launches, one and two-deck sailing vessels, cruisers and steamboats; in a word, all that he knew so well and that, owing to the nature of the toys, partially made up for the hustle and bustle of the ports and the adventures of a life at sea. In this way Longren earned enough to keep them comfortable. He was not a sociable man, but now, after his wife's death, he became something of a recluse. He was sometimes seen in a tavern of a holiday, but he would never join anyone and would down a glass of vodka at the bar and leave with a brief: "yes", "no", "hello", "goodbye", "getting along", in reply to all his neighbours' questions and greetings. He could not stand visitors and would get rid of them without resorting to force, yet firmly, by hints and excuses which left the former no choice but to invent a reason that prevented them from remaining further. He, in turn, visited no one; thus, a wall of cold estrangement rose up between him and his fellow-villagers, and if Longren's work, the toys he made, had depended in any way on village affairs, he would have felt most keenly the consequences of this relationship. He bought all his wares and provisions in town, and Menners could not even boast of a box of matches he had sold to Longren. Longren did all his own housework and patiently learned the difficult art, so unusual for a man, of rearing a girl. Assol was now five, and her father was beginning to smile ever more gently as he looked upon her sensitive, kind little face when she sat in his lap and puzzled over the mystery of his buttoned waistcoat or sang sailors' chants, those wild, wind-blown rhymes. When sung by a child, with a lisp here and there, the chants made one think of a dancing bear with a pale blue ribbon around its neck. At about this time something occurred that, casting its shadow upon the father, shrouded the daughter as well. It was spring, an early spring as harsh as winter, but still unlike it. A biting North off-shore wind whipped across the cold earth for about three weeks. The fishing boats, dragged up onto the beach, formed a long row of dark keels which seemed like the backbones of some monstrous fish on the white sand. No one dared to venture out to sea in such weather. The single village street was deserted; the cold whirlwind, racing down from the hills along the shore and off towards the vacant horizon, made the "open air" a terrible torture. All the chimneys of Kaperna smoked from dawn till dusk, shaking the smoke out over the steep roofs. However, the days of the fierce North wind enticed Longren out of his cozy little house more often than did the sun, which cast its coverlets of spun gold over the sea and Kaperna on a clear day. Longren would go to the very end of the long wooden pier and there he would smoke his pipe at length, the wind carrying off the smoke, and watch the sandy bottom, bared near the shore when the waves retreated, foam up in grey froth that barely caught up with the waves whose rumbling progress towards the black, stormy horizon filled the space between with flocks of weird, long-maned creatures galloping off in wild abandon to their distant point of solace. The moaning and the noise, the crashing thunder of the huge, upthrusted masses of water and the seemingly visible currents of wind that whipped across the vicinity--for so forceful was its unhampered course -- produced that dulling, deafening sensation in Longren's tortured soul which, reducing grief to undefin-able sadness, is equal in its effect to deep slumber. On one such day Menners' twelve-year-old son Hin, noticing that his father's boat was being buffeted against the piles under the pier and that its sides were becoming battered, went off to tell his father of this. The storm had but recently begun; Menners had forgotten to pull his boat up on the sand. He hurried to the beach where he saw Longren standing at the end of the pier with his back to him, smoking. There was not another soul in sight. Menners walked halfway along the pier, climbed down into the wildly splashing water and untied his boat; then, standing upright in it he began moving towards the shore, pulling himself along from one pile to the next. He had forgotten his oars, and as he stumbled and missed his hold on the next pile, a strong gust of wind pulled the prow of his boat away from the pier and towards the ocean. Now Menners could not have reached the nearest pile even if he had stretched out to his full length. The wind and the waves, rocking the boat, were carrying it off into the distance and doom. Menners realized his predicament and wanted to dive into the water and swim ashore, but this decision was too late in coming, for the boat was now spinning about near the end of the pier where the considerable depth and raging waves promised imminent death. There were only about twenty metres between Longren and Menners, who was being swept off into the stormy distance, and a rescue was still possible, for a coiled rope with a weighted end hung on the pier beside Longren. The rope was there for any boat that might land during a storm and was thrown to the boat from the pier. "Longren!" Menners cried in terror. "Don't just stand there! Can't you see I'm being carried away? Throw me the line!" Longren said nothing as he gazed calmly upon the frantic man, although he puffed harder on his pipe and then, to have a better view of what was happening, removed it from his mouth.
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Russian poetess, translator, human rights activist, and participant of dissident movement in the USSR
Are you insane As they say you are Or just forsaken Are you still there Do you still care Or are you lost forever I know this song You'll never hear Natalya Gorbanevskaya (from the song "Natalia" by Joan Baez)
Natalya Evgenyevna Gorbanevskaya (born on May, 26th 1936 in Moscow)is well-known as a Russian poetess, translator, human rights activist, and a participant of the dissident movement in the USSR.
Natalya Gorbanevskaya graduated from the Leningrad University majoring as a technical editor and translator in 1964. She worked in Moscow as a librarian, a bibliographer, a technical and scientific translator, and was a contributor, a typist and an editor of underground samizdat editions.
It was she who came to be the initiator, contributor, editor and typist of the first release of samizdat newsletter Chronicle of Current Events issued in April 1968.
On August, 25th the same year she participated in the famous demonstration on Red Square against the Soviet intrusion into Czechoslovakia. That event, also named “demonstration of the seven” was one of the most considerable actions of the Soviet dissidents. The seven dissidents stood up against bringing into Czechoslovakia of theUSSR and other Warsaw Pact countries’ armies, which intruded on the night of August 20th to 21st to suppress Czechoslovakia’s political reforms, called the Prague spring.
All the demonstrators were arrested, but for Natalya Gorbanevskaya, because she had just given birth to her son. So while she was free she used the opportunity to publicly follow the trial in the Chronicle of Current Events, and later published the materials in the documentary book “Noon. Case on Red Square Demonstration” (published abroad under the title “Red Square at Noon”). The collection was published in the Russian language in 1970, in French, English (in England and the USA), and Spanish (in Mexico) later in the 1970s, and in Polish in 2006. The first edition in Russia, revised and enlarged, was published in Moscow in 2007.
In December, 1969 Natalia was arrested and labeled as deranged with the diagnosis of “continuous sluggish schizophrenia”. In spite of the absence of any signs of psychopathological disorders in the clinical record, she was confined in a Soviet psychiatric prison in Kazan till February, 22nd 1972.
Joan Baez dedicated to her the song Natalya with lyrics by Shusha Guppy released on the live album From Every Stage (1976). When introducing the song, Joan Baez criticized Gorbanevskaya's imprisonment and said: "It is because of people like Natalya Gorbanevskaya, I am convinced, that you and I are still alive and walking around on the face of the earth."
In 1971 Natalya Gorbanevskaya published her essay “Free medical aid”, which was written in March, 1968 and denounced psychiatry abuse in the USSR; it became part of the book “Punished by madness”.
In December, 1975 Natalya together with her two sons emigrated, and has lived in Paris since February, 1976. She worked in the editorial board of The Continent journal and in the last years of the Parisian edition of The Continent was the deputy of its editor-in-chief. Till 1988 she was a non-staff contributor for radio "Freedom", and from the early 1980s till 2003 worked in the newspaper Russian Thought. From 1999 she was an editorial board member, as well as a regular contributor and translator of the Russian-language magazine New Poland issued in Warsaw. She has also been the citizen of Poland since 2005.
Natalya Gorbanevskaya participated in the documentary TV series They Chose Freedom on the history of the Soviet dissident movement (director V. Kara-Murza, 2005).
She is also known as the author of one and a half tens of poetry books and a prolific translator. She mostly translated Polish poetry, prose and essays, but also translated from Czech (in particular, some essay and speeches by Vaclav Gavel), Slovak and French, including Claude Simon’s “Invitation” (The Continent. 1988. № 56).
At the same time, Gorbanevskaya’s poems were translated by Jerald Smith and Daniel Weissbort into English, by Victor Voroshilsky, Stanislav Baranchak, and Adam Pomorsky into Polish, and by Valery Boguslavsky into Ukrainian.
In 2008 Gorbanevskaya received the Award of Marie Curie and the Angelus Central European Literature Award.
One of the things to love about modern Russia is that by simply walking 60 to 100 yards to the left or right one can step back into time by a few hundred or even a thousand plus years, and then continue back into the 21st century in plenty of time for dinner.
Modern and ancient Russia, intertwined
Modern and ancient Russia, intertwined
Alexandre Benois: Peter the Great Meditating the Idea of Building St Petersburg at the Shore of the Baltic Sea.
|Alexandre Benois. Peter the Great Meditating the Idea of Building St Petersburg at the Shore of the Baltic Sea.|
Konstantin Dmitriyevich Balmont was born on 3 (15) June 1867 in Gumnishchi Village of Shuisk District, Vladimir Province. He started writing poetry when a child yet. His first book of poetry Collected Poems was published at the author’s own expense in Yaroslavl in 1980. After the release of the book the young poet burnt down almost all the copies, which were not many in number.
A decisive period for formation of Balmont’s poetic outlook was the mid1890s. Balmont was fated to become one of the pioneers of the new literature movement of symbolism. Out of all symbolist poets Konstantin Balmont was the one who most consistently elaborated the impressionist side. His poetic realm is the realm of subtlest transient observations and fragile sensations.
According to Balmont himself his forerunners in poetry were Vasily Zhukovsky, Mikhail Lermontov, Afanasi Fet, P.B. Shelley and Edgar Poe.
Konstantin Balmont became widely famous rather late, whereas in the late 1890s he was more known as a talented translator.
The late 1890s to early 1900s was the time of very fruitful poetic work for Balmont. He created a great number of romantic verses, including outright erotic ones.
The poet travelled much. In June 1920 he left Russia forever.
On 23 December 1942 he died of pneumonia and was laid down to rest in the neighborhood Noisy-le-Grand under Paris, where he had spent his last years.
Konstantin Balmont was a Russian poet, critic and translator. He was one of the first symbolist poets of the Silver Age of Russian literature.
Balmont was born on June 15, 1867 in the village of Gumnishchi, near the city of Vladimir, into the family of a nobleman. His childhood was typical for the son of a country landlord. He wrote in his autobiography, “My best teachers of poetry were our estate, the orchard, the creeks, the swamps, the rustling of leaves, the butterflies, the birds and the sunrises.”
Like hundreds of other boys of his generation, Balmont caught the rebellious and revolutionary spirit of the times. In 1884 he was expelled from his gymnasium for being part of a revolutionary group. He finished the course two years later in Vladimir and then entering the Law Faculty of the Moscow University.
The free student atmosphere of the university only nurtured his rebellion; he took part in a student riot and soon after was expelled. A little while later he was restored back to his studies, but never finished the law course – he quit university in 1889 in favor of literature.
He wrote that any knowledge of history, philosophy, literature and philology he possessed he owed to self-education. He followed the example of his elder brother, who was obsessed with philosophy. Unfortunately his brother went mad and died at the age of 23.
As for the major influences in his life, Balmont wrote: “It is hard to single out experiences that shaped my life, but I will try. The reading of “Crime and Punishment” when I was 16, and then the “Brothers Karamazov” at 17. The latter book gave me more than any other book in the world. My first marriage (when I was 21, which ended in divorce five years later), my second marriage (when I was 28). The suicides of several of my friends when I was young. My own suicide attempt (age 22), when I threw myself out of the 3rd storey window on to the rocks (I ended up with multiple fractures and years of being bedridden, which resulted in an unprecedented revival of my mind and will to live. Writing poems (first at the age of nine, then at 17 and 21) and traveling through Europe (I was especially impressed by England, Spain and Italy).
His suicide attempt left him with a life-long limp, something that became one of his trademarks. It appears Balmont was genetically inclined towards mental illness. It started affecting him at a young age and had an influence on him throughout his life. Arguably, some historians and biographers say that Balmont partly owed his genius to his mental instability.
Balmont’s debut as a poet coincided with many misfortunes. No magazines wanted to publish his poetry for several years. Finally he took matters into his own hands and published his own book of poetry in 1890. It had no success whatsoever – the book wasn’t even liked by Balmont’s family and friends. He was so hurt by the public rejection that he destroyed practically the whole edition.
Instead of writing, Balmonst focused on translating foreign writers and poets. He possessed an amazing linguistic capacity, mastering over a dozen foreign languages. This allowed him to read European literature and translate it into Russian. He worked with Spanish and English poetry and translated the works of Poe, Ibsen, Calderon, Whitman, as well as Armenian and Georgian poets. In 1893, he published the full works of Percy Shelly in Russian. He worked with many other languages, including Baltic and Slavic languages, Indian and Sanskrit.
Translating paid off much more than writing – Balmont’s translations of Edgar Allen Poe were published in virtually every Russian magazine. This gave him the courage to publish his own works once again. “Under Northern Skies” in 1894 followed by “Silence” in 1898 finally brought him the recognition and fame he had sought for so long. Besides the obvious content, Balmont’s symbolist poetry carried a hidden message, expressed through hints and melodious rhythms. He became the impressionist of poetry, his world made of fine observations and fragile sentiments.
At the turn of the century Balmont reached the height of his career. The books "Let Us Be Like the Sun" (1903) and "Love Alone" (1903) represent Balmont at his finest. He was at the top of his writing game, extremely popular with the public and practically ruled the world of Russian literature. He brought a moral and almost physical liberation from the old school of mournful poetry, which lamented the troubles of Russian life. His proud optimism and life-affirming pathos encouraged freedom from the restrictions imposed by society. Balmont’s poetry became the new philosophy marking the beginning of the Silver Ager of Russian literature.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Successful Merchants of Old Time: The Eliseev brothers were rich Russian merchants who owned some shops, many warehouses and vodka and confectionery factories in the beginning of the last century. Let us look at the magnificent old buildings. Eliseev (in the middle) and friends The … Read more...
The visionary dream about world unity and world dominion -- is an age-old dream of mankind. The Roman Empire was the greatest attempt at such unity and such dominion. And every universalism is bound up even at present with Rome, as a concept spiritual, and not geographic. The present-day world war, which is spreading all over and threatens to engulf all lands and peoples, would seem deeply contrary to this old dream about world unity, about a single world governance. Such a terrible war, it would seem, is destroying the unity of mankind. But this is so only for the superficial glance. From a perspective at greater depth the world war to the ultimate degree has brought into sharp focus the question concerning world order upon the earthly globe, about the expanse of culture upon all the surface of the earth. The present historical period has similarity to the era of the great transmigration of peoples. There is the feeling, that mankind is entering upon a new historical and cosmic even period, amidst some sort of great inevitability, completely unforeseen by any of the scientific prognoses, meanwhile toppling down all the doctrines and teachings. And it demonstrates first of all, that the ancient, the irrational and indeed primitive instincts are stronger than all the modern social interests and humanitarian feelings. These instincts, rooted within the obscure wellsprings of life, win out over the feeling of bourgeois self-preservation. That, which seemed to the consciousness of the second half of the XIX Century to be the solely essential things within the life of mankind, have proven all to be merely at the surface level of life. The world war tears away this surface skin of the civilisation of the XIX and XX Centuries and reveals the deeper layers of human life, it sets loose the chaotically irrational within human nature, covered over only outwardly, but nowise changed within modern man. The social question, the struggle of classes, the humanitarian-cosmopolitanist socialism etc, etc, all that which not so long ago seemed still singularly important, and in which they saw the only possible future, now fades into the background, gives way to deeper interests and instincts. Into the foreground move questions of nation and ethnos, the struggle for dominance of various imperialisms, all that, which had seemed overcome and left behind by cosmopolitanism, by pacifism, by the humanitarian and socialistic teachings. The eternal bourgeois and socialistic world has proven phantasmic, a mere abstraction. Within the fires of this terrible war have been burnt up all the doctrinalisings and there has been melted away all the fetters, latched upon life by the teachings and theories. The instincts of nation and ethnos in the XX Century have proven to be mightier than instincts social and of class. The irrational has proven stronger than the rational within the most bourgeois and well-organised of cultures. The struggle of ethnos, the struggle of national dignities, the struggle of great empires for might and dominion is essentially supra-national. Here the dark will for the expansion of the supra-personal life wins out over all personal interests and plans, it capsizes all the individual perspectives on life. How many individually unrewarded go the sacrifices that are demanded by imperialistic politics or the struggle for national worth. And in our epoch there is the displacing of instincts by still stronger instincts, upon which stand the imperialistic and national struggle. The instincts particular to life, of the egoistic family, the philistine, are won out over by interests of national life, of historical and world life, by instincts of the glory of peoples and states.
The national consciousness and nationalism -- are phenomena of the XIX Century. After the Napoleonic wars, inspired by the idea of a world empire, there began the wars of national liberation. And national self-awareness grew. National states crystalised into shape. Lesser peoples even wanted to assert their national visage, and to possess an independent life. The national movements of the XIX Century are profoundly contrary to the universal spirit of the Middle Ages, which was under the sway of ideas of world theocracy and world empire and which did not know nationalism. The intense national energies within the XIX and XX Centuries act alongside energies that were cosmopolitan, socialistic, humanitarian-pacifist. The XIX Century -- was the most cosmopolitan and yet the most nationalistic of centuries. The bourgeois European life was also both very cosmopolitan and very nationalistic. But in it the spirit of universality would be difficult to find. The nationalisation of human life involved also its individualisation. And the striving towards individualisation always involves new appearances. The national states, the national individualities are fully definable only for the XIX Century. And quite parallel to the growth of the national manifold was a lessening of the remoteness of states and nations, it weakened the provincial isolation. It might be said, that mankind moves towards unity through a national individualisation. Parallel to the individualisation in national existence is an universalisation, a developement in breadth. And it can likewise be said, that mankind at present moves towards oneness and unification through a worldwide discord of war, through prolonged misfortune, into the period we are now entering. History -- is paradoxical and antinomic, and its processes -- are twofold. Nothing within history is realised alongside a straight line, by peaceful growth, without detours and without sacrifices, without evil, accompanying the good, without a shadowing of the light. Races and peoples are locked in a bloody struggle. Within the war there is an outlet for the particularistic and isolated existence of peoples.
The most compelling feeling, evoked by the world war, might be expressed thus: this is the end of Europe, as a monopoly on culture, as a closed-in province of the earthly sphere, with its pretensions to be universal. The world war pulls into the cycle of world life all the races, all the parts of the earthly orb. It brings East and West into so close a contact, as never yet known within history. The world war poses the question about an emergence onto world expanses, about the extension of culture across all the surface of the earthly globe. It sharpens to the final extreme all the questions, connected with imperialistic and colonial politics, connected with the relations of the European states to other parts of the world, to Asia and Africa. One such aspect already is this, that the present-day war with a fateful inevitability posits the question about the existence of Turkey, about the dividing up of its holdings, which leads us beyond the borders of European horizons. The semi-phantasmic existence of Turkey, which for a long time was sustained by European diplomacy, kept Europe within its closed-in condition, forestalling the too acute and catastrophic setting of questions, connected with movement towards the East. In Turkey all was tied up in a knot, the undoing upon which depends the character of the existence of Europe, since the end of Turkey represents the emergence of culture eastwards, beyond the bounds of Europe. And besides the question concerning Turkey the war posits still many other questions, connected with the world-historical theme: East and West. And the world war demands resolution of all the questions.
The great powers conduct world politics, and make pretense of spreading their civilising influence beyond the borders of Europe, to all parts of the world and to all peoples, upon over all the surface of the earth. This -- is imperialistic politics, which always contains within it universalistic pretensions and which ought to be distinguished from nationalistic politics. Nationalism is particularism; imperialism is universalism. On the strength of some almost biological law, a law of biological sociology, the great. or in the terminology of N. B. Struve, the greatest powers strive towards a swallowing up of all the weak and the small, towards a worldwide dominion, they want on their own terms to civilise all the surface of the earthly sphere.
The talented and original English imperialist Cramb sees the significance of English imperialism in this, that it "should inspire all peoples, living within the bounds of the British empire, with the English world-outlook".1 In this he sees the striving of the race for immortality. Imperialism with its colonial politics is a modern, a bourgeois method of spreading of the universalisation of culture, of spreading civilisation beyond the bounds of Europe, beyond the seas and oceans. Modern imperialism -- is a phenomenon purely European, but it bears with it an energy, the ultimate revealing of which spells the end of Europe. In the dialectics of imperialism is a self-negation. The endless expansion and might of the British empire spells the end of England, as a national state, as the individually particularistic existence of a people. For the British empire, as in every empire, within its own bounds is the world, the earthly orb. In modern imperialism, which I term "bourgeois" in distinction to the "sacred" imperialism of former ages,2 there is the same striving for world dominion, as was also in the Roman empire, and which is impossible to investigate, as mere national existence. This -- is the tantalising torment of the great powers, unquenchable in their thirst. Only small peoples and states are content with a purely national existence, making no pretense to be all the whole world. But how distinct are the methods of modern bourgeois imperialism from the methods of the old sacral imperialism. Both the ideology and the practice are altogether different. Now everything possesses, foremost, an economic undertone. Modern imperialists no longer speak about a world theocracy, nor about a sacred world empire. Colonial politics, the struggle for dominion on the sea, the struggle for markets -- this is what concerns modern imperialism, here are its methods and means of world might. Imperialistic politics indeed does lead out beyond the bounds of the closed-in existence of Europe and indeed does serve towards the universalisation of culture. But this is accomplished by crooked and negative paths. In a straight-forward intent of imperialism to spread culture it is impossible to believe. We know only too well, how the European great powers peddle their culture over all the earthly sphere, how rough and ugly their contacts are towards races of other parts of the world, their civilising of old cultures and savages. The cultural role of the English in India, an ancient land of great religious revealings of wisdom, which even now could help the peoples of Europe deepen their religious consciousness, is all too well known, for it to be possible to sustain the lie of the cultural ideology of imperialism. The world outlook of modern Englishmen is more superficial, than the world outlook of Indians, and they can convey to India but an outward civilisation. The England of the XIX Century would nowise be capable to beget a Ramakrishna, who was born in India. In the contacts of modern European civilisation with the ancient races and ancient cultures there is always something of the sacrilegious. And the conceited European, bourgeois and scientific, civilising consciousness -- is a phenomenon so pitiful and trite, that it spiritually can be looked at only as a symptom of the ensuing end of Europe -- the monopolist of world culture. It is the nightfall of Europe -- here is a feeling, impossible to be rid of. Barbarisation in part threatens Europe. Yet all the same it is impossible to deny the significance of imperialism, as an emergence beyond the borders of Europe and purely of the European civilisation, it is impossible to deny its external, material, geographic mission. All the surface of the earthly orb has inevitably to be civilised, all the races have to be drawn into the coursings of world history. This worldwide task stands now more acutely before mankind, than the tasks of the inward life of the crystalised European states and cultures.