Monday, 30 November 2015

Koba (1990)

Mini-Series: Stalin (1990)
→ Revolutionary
→ Despot 
→ Generalissimo
Narrator: Ian Holm
Language: English & Russian
Subtitles: English 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Osip Mandelstam: The Admiralty

In the Northern capital, dusty populus,Sighing, mantles the time’s transparency,
And, through green dark, a frigate or an acropolis,
Brother to water and sky, glows distantly.
A boat of air, its mast like a touch-me-not –
To Peter’s progeny, this rule declares
Beauty was never the whim of a demi-god,
But a simple carpenter’s calculating stares.
Governed by four kind elements of creation,
We, as free people, order the fifth a place:
What is this ark of ours but the abnegation
In cleanly crafted lines of the tyrant, space?
Cranky medusas consolidate a position,
Anchors’ abandoned ploughs are adrift in rust,
But look, the three dimensions burst from their prison
And all the world’s seas are open to us at last.

Translated by Yuri Drobyshev and Carol Rumens

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Maya Plisetskaya: A life in art

Even during the era of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain, it seemed impossible that the mercurial talent of the great Russian ballerina Maya Plisetskaya could be contained by any walls. Now, long after the end of the Soviet Union, her life and work continues to unite and inspire admirers of high art in countries and continents around the world. 

An example to emulate for dancers starring in Swan Lake or Don Quixote, she is recognized by the whole world as the paragon of Russian ballet. It was thanks to her that the likes of Maurice Béjart and Roland Petit were able to bring their ballets to Russia. 

But even if she was half a century ahead of her time in ballet, Plisetskaya was not simply a ballerina – she was a woman of oustanding personality, a star that drew the most remarkable people of her time into her orbit. The stage – even one as great and grand as the Bolshoi – was simply not enough for her. 

Plisetskaya's artistic skill manifested itself very early in her life. As she herself recalled, back when she was too young to even go to school, she was once drawn away from her home by the sounds of a waltz from Léo Delibes' ballet Coppélia,playing from a PA loudspeaker.

But the most fascinating thing about this story is that her mother (who was a silent film star and a member of one of Moscow's most prominent stage actor families) found her surrounded by a crowd of fascinated onlookers who were enjoying little Maya's impromptu dance number.

The girl's aunt, the Bolshoi star Sulamith Messerer, gave young Maya her first ballet lessons and choreographed her first production of The Dying Swan when she was seven – and even at that time, Messerer praised the girl's incredibly flexible arms and her huge, dazzling dark eyes.

Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni once broke in backstage after a performance of Swan Lake, just to declare tearfully: "Actors are so poor: All we have is our facial expressions and gestures, but you, Maya, you use your whole body to act."

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Same Old Story by Ivan Goncharov

That’s a good title for a first novel, you might say, combining world-weary ennui with a touch of chutzpah; but actually it’s the translator’s own – Ivan Goncharov’s book is more often rendered into English as A Common Story. But the new title makes sense, with the phrase “the same old story” being uttered early on by Uncle Pyotr, one of literature’s more remarkable characters.

It isn’t translated into English very often, though. Indeed, Goncharov refused to have his novels translated in his lifetime. If he is known in the UK it is as the author of the 1859 novel Oblomov, the justly celebrated story of a Russian patriarch who simply can’t be bothered to get out of bed. Its success has eclipsed his other works, which is a pity, and also rather mystifying as he only wrote three novels, all of which, incidentally, begin in Russian with the syllable “ob”.

The Same Old Story begins in the middle of the 19th century in the provincial estate of 20-year-old Alexander Aduev, a spoiled only son being fussed over by his silly, widowed mother as he prepares to leave for St Petersburg. (We don’t get to see much of the mother, which is probably just as well, for she reminded me of Jennifer Aldridge in The Archers.) Alexander doesn’t exactly know what he’s going to do in St Petersburg, other than, you know, live – the kind of living that involves writing poetry and becoming famous on the back of it.

He is taken up, with some degree of reluctance, by the aforementioned Uncle Pyotr. When we first meet Pyotr he is reading a fawning, wheedling letter from someone who claims to have had a long friendship with his late parents. There is about a page of this before Pyotr “slowly tore the letter into four pieces, and threw them into the waste-paper basket under the desk”. When I read this I thought: I’m going to enjoy Uncle Pyotr’s company.

I was not proved wrong. His nephew is completely hopeless: a romantic idiot who believes in greatness of soul and the imperishability of true love. Uncle Pyotr’s job, as he sees it, is to drive all this rubbish from Alexander’s head, and from the start we are very much on his side.

Goncharov’s genius resides in the way he makes us root for Uncle Pyotr who, as a hard-headed factory owner concerned only with the bottom line, is the kind of character Dickens might have turned into a villain. Here we applaud him, especially when he lights his cigar with a sheet of paper that has one of Alexander’s recently composed poems on it. But Goncharov makes us root, too, for Alexander, even when we’ve read some of that poetry. There is a good deal of autobiography in Alexander; Goncharov also went to St Petersburg as a youth in pretty much the same spirit, writing in his spare time while employed on trade journals. When Alexander kisses the young woman he has fallen in love with, the scene is described in such a way as to bring a sigh to anyone who has been in love, aged 20, on a summer evening.

It all goes horribly wrong, of course: this is the same old story. What happens to Alexander is shocking. I won’t spoil it for you, but suffice to say that the brilliant comedy of the first half is subverted in a way that is almost painful. This mastery of tone is also a sign that the translator, Stephen Pearl, has done his job extremely well.

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Friday, 13 November 2015

The centuries surround me with fire - Osip Mandelstam, Documentary, 1976.

New secrets of Malevich's ‘Black Square’ revealed

Kasimir Malevich, Black Square (1915)

Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery has published the results of the latest research carried out on Suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich’s revolutionary avant-garde painting Black Square. It turns out that a color image is hidden beneath the painting – and not one, but two. The discovery was made just over a month ago.
"It was known that there was some underlying image beneath the image of Black Square," said Yekaterina Voronina, a researcher in the Tretyakov Gallery's department of scientific expertise.
"We found that there was not one such image, but two. And we proved that the original image is a Cubo-Futuristic composition, and the one lying beneath Black Square, the color of which is visible in the craquelure, is a proto-Suprematist composition."
In the X-rays, the outlines of Malevich's other painting are clearly visible onBlack Square. Under the microscope, it can be clearly seen that another layer of paint shines through the craquelure, i.e. through the cracks inBlack Square.
The authors of the research – the Tretyakov Gallery's Voronina, Irina Rustamova and Irina Vakar – also spoke about their other discovery: They have deciphered an inscription on Black Square that they consider to belong to the author. More precisely, they have almost deciphered it: Three letters are missing.
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Saturday, 7 November 2015

Vasili Grossman: A report from Stalingrad, 1942

During the Great Patriotic War, Vasili Grossman was a correspondent for the army newspaperKrasnaya Zvezda. As such, he was an eye-witness to and participant in the historic Battle of Stalingrad. Years later, in his novels For A Just Cause and Life and Fate, Grossman would present a somewhat controversial view of that battle. But in 1942, his views were less ambiguous, celebrating the unquestionable courage of Soviet troops and highlighting the horrors of this hideous war.

In the Main Line of Attack describes life and death in a division of Siberian troops who had to bear the brunt of the most frenzied period of Nazi attacks on Stalingrad, withstanding 80 straight hours of bombardment, and more.

In the night, Colonel Gurtiev's Siberian troops took up defensive positions. A factory always looks rather stark and gloomy, but one could surely find no scene in the world more gloomy than the one these men saw on that October morning in 1942: the dark mass of the workshops, the wet, gleaming rails, already rusted here and there, the wrecked goods wagons, the piles of steel tubes scattered around the vast yard, as large as a city square, the brown slag heaps and mounds of coal, the great factory pipes, damaged in many places by enemy shells. The asphalted yard was pock-marked with bomb craters and scattered everywhere were steel splinters torn off by explosions, like thin shreds of material. The Division was to take up positions in front of the plant and stand to the death. Behind was the cold, dark Volga. 

During the night the sappers broke up the asphalt and dug trenches with picks in the hard, stony ground, cut firing-holes in the strong walls of the workshops, and made shelters in the cellars of the ruined buildings. The Barricades Plant was to be defended by Markelov's and Mikhalyev's regiments. One of the command posts was set up in a concrete-lined canal that passed beneath the main workshops. Sergeyenko's regiment was defending the deep ravine which ran down to the Volga through the Barricades Garden City. The officers and men of the regiment called it the Ravine of Death. Yes, behind was the dark, icy-cold Volga,behind was the fate of Russia. The Division was to make a stand and fight to the death. 

The First World War was a terrible ordeal for Russia, but then the fiendish foe had had to divide his forces between the Eastern and the Western fronts. In this war the whole crushing weight of the German invasion had fallen on Russia. In January 1941 the German armies were advancing along the entire front stretching from sea to sea. This year, 1942, the Germans were concentrating their attack in the south-eastern direction. What in the First World War had been spread over two fronts manned by several great powers, what last year struck Russia alone along a two-thousand-mile front, crashed down this summer and autumn on Stalingrad and the Caucasus. Moreover, here in Stalingrad the Germans had renewed their onslaught on the northern and central districts of the city. The Germans showered the murderous fire of countless mortars and thousands of guns on the northern part of the city, on the industrial area in the center of which stood the Barricades Plant. The Germans reckoned that no human being could stand up to such punishment, that no hearts or nerves in the world could fail to crack up in that inferno of fire, screaming metal, quaking earth and seething air. The whole fiendish arsenal of German militarism was concentrated here--tanks and flame-throwers, six-barrel mortars, armadas of dive-bombers with wailing sirens, and personnel and demolition bombs. The tommy-gunners were supplied with explosive bullets, the artillery and mortar teams with incendiary shells. Every kind of German artillery was concentrated here from small-caliber anti-tank guns to heavy, long-range pieces. They fired mortar shells that looked like harmless green and red balls, and air torpedoes, that made craters the size of a two-story house. Here the night was as bright as day from the glow of fires and rockets, while in the day-time it was dark as night with the smoke from burning houses and the German smoke-screens. The din was as solid as the earth itself, and the brief moments of silence seemed more terrible and threatening than the din of battle. And if the whole world bows its head to the heroism of the Russian armies, if the Russian armies speak in pious tones of the defenders of Stalingrad, here in Stalingrad itself, Shumilov's men say with deep respect: 

"It's not us. The lads who are holding the plants, they're the ones. It's an awesome sight: there's a solid cloud of fire and smoke and German dive-bombers above them day and night, but Chuikov's still holding out." 

These are grim words for a soldier; "the line of the main attack" are grave, terrible words. There are no more terrible words in war, and it was naturally no accident that the men of Gurtiev's Siberian Division were sent on that dismal autumn day to defend the plant. The Siberians are tough, sturdy people, used to cold and privation, fond of discipline and order, reticent and gruff. The Siberians are solid .and reliable. In tight-lipped silence they struck at the stony ground with their picks, cutting firing-holes in the workshop walls, making dugouts, entrenchments and communication trenches, preparing for the fight to the death. 

Colonel Gurtiev is a lean man of fifty. When the First World War broke out in 1914 he left the St. Petersburg Polytechnic where he was studying in his second year to volunteer for the army, and fought as a gunner at Warsaw, Baranovichi and Chartoriisk. 

Gurtiev has been in the army for twenty-eight years, seeing active service and training officers. His two sons went off to the front as lieutenants. He has left his wife and daughter behind in far-away Omsk. On this terrible and solemn day he thought of his lieutenant sons, his daughter and his wife, and the many young officers he had trained, and his whole long, hard, Spartan life. The time has come when all the principles of military science, morale and duty which he taught his sons, his pupils and fellow soldiers will be put to the test, and he looked anxiously at the faces of the Siberians--the men from Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk and Barnaul--the men with whom it was his destiny to repel the enemy onslaught. 

The Siberians came to the Volga well-prepared. The Division had been well-trained before being sent to the front. Colonel Gurtiev had trained his men thoroughly and wisely, had never stood for any nonsense and if anything had been over-exacting. He knew that however hard military training might be--the night practice raids, the lying in trenches and slits being "ironed" by tanks, the long forced marches--the real thing was far grimmer. He had faith in the fortitude and stamina of his Siberians. He had tested it on the way to the front, when throughout the whole long journey there had been only one incident: one of the soldiers had dropped his rifle from the moving train, and had leapt down, picked it up and run three kilometers to the next station to rejoin his regiment. He had tested their stamina in the Stalingrad steppes, where his men had had their baptism of fire and calmly repelled a surprise attack of thirty German tanks. He had tested their endurance during the last leg of the march to Stalingrad, when they had covered two hundred kilometers in forty-eight hours. Yet he still looked anxiously at the faces of the men, now that they were there on the front line, where they would be bearing the brunt of the main attack. 

Gurtiev had great faith in his officers. His young Chief of Staff, Tarasov, did not know what tiredness was: he could sit for days and nights in a dugout that was constantly being shaken by explosions, poring over maps, planning the complicated battle ahead. His uncompromising judgment, his habit of looking life straight in the face and getting to the bottom of a situation to know the truth, however bitter, were based on unflinching faith. There was unshakable strength of mind and spirit hidden in that thin youth with the face, speech and hands of a peasant. The Colonel's political instructor Lieutenant Svirin was possessed of aniron will, a sharp mind, and a tremendous capacity for self-denial. He could remain calm, cheerful and smiling, where even the calmest and most cheerful would lose their smile. Markelov, Mikhalyev and Chamov, the regimental commanders, were the Colonel's pride and joy. He had as much faith in them as in himself. The whole Division spoke with love and admiration of Chamov's silent courage, Markelov's grit, and the fine qualities of Mikhalyev, the darling of his regiment, who was like a father to his subordinates, a gentle, good-natured soul, and completely fearless. Even so. Colonel Gurtiev now looked anxiously at the faces of his regimental commanders, for he knew what bearing the brunt of the main attack meant, what it meant to hold the line in Stalingrad. "Will they stand up to it?" he wondered. 

Hardly had the division had time to entrench itself in the stony ground of Stalingrad, hardly had the command post moved into a deep gallery cut in the sandy escarpment above the Volga, the communications lines been laid and the transmitters begun to tap out their messages to the artillery positions on the other side of the river, hardly had the first pale light of dawn pierced the darkness, than the Germans opened fire. For eight hours solid the German Junkers dive-bombed the Division's positions,for eight hours, without a moment's pause, wave after wave of German planes passed over, for eight hours the sirens wailed, the bombs whistled through the air, the earth trembled and what was left of the brick buildings crashed to the ground.For eight hours the air was dark with smoke and dust and deadly splinters zipped everywhere. Anyone who has heard the whine of the air rent by falling bomb, anyone who has experienced an intense ten-minute bombing raid by the Luftwaffe will understand what eight hours of solid aerial bombardment by dive-bombers means. For eight hours the Siberians kept up a constant barrage of fire at the enemy aircraft, and the Germans doubtless felt something like despair as the whole area of the plant, burning and shrouded in a black cloud of dust and smoke, crackled with rifle shots, rattled with machine-gun fire, the short thuds of anti-tank rifles and the regular, angry fire of ack-ack guns. It would seem that everything living must be broken, annihilated; yet there were the Siberian Division, dug into the ground, uncowed and unbroken, keeping up a continuous deadly barrage of fire. The Germans had thrown in their heavy mortars and artillery. The monotonous hiss of mines and the crash of shells merged with the whine of sirens and the roar of exploding bombs. So it continued until nightfall. Then in solemn silence the Red Army men buried their dead comrades. That was the first day, the "house-warming". The German mortar-batteries kept up their racket all night, and few of the men got any sleep. 

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Parade on Red Square on November, 7th, 1941

St. Petersburg

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan

Thursday, 5 November 2015

900 days The Myth & Reality of the Leningrad blockade (Full doc + Eng subs)

Fyodor Dostoyevsky “My Paradox” (Extract)

Again a tussle with Europe (oh, it’s not a war yet: they say that we – Russia, that is – are still a long way from war). Again the endless Eastern Question is in the news; and again in Europe they are looking mistrustfully at Russia. . . . Yet why we should go running to seek Europe’s trust? Did Europe ever trust the Russians? Can she ever trust us and stop seeing us as her enemy? Oh, of course this view will change someday; someday Europe will better be able to make us out and realize what we are like; and it is certainly worth discussing this someday; but meanwhile a somewhat irrelevant question or side issue has occured to me and I have recently been busy to solve it. No one may agree with me, yet I think that I am right – in part, maybe, but right.

I said that Europe doesn’t like Russians. No one, I think, will dispute the fact that they don’t like us. They accuse us, among other things, of being terrible liberals: we Russians, almost to a man, are seen as not only liberals but revolutionaries; we are supposedly always inclined, almost lovingly, to join forces with the destructive elements of Europe rather than the conserving ones. Many Europeans look at us mockingly and haughtily for this – they are hateful: they cannot understand why we should be the ones to take the negative side in someone’s else’s affair; they positively deny us the right of being negative as Europeans on the grounds that they do not recognize us as a part of “civilization”. They see us rather as barbarians, reeling around Europe gloating that we have found something somewhere to destroy purely for the sake of destruction, for the mere pleasure of watching it fall to pieces, just as if we were a horde of savages, a band of Huns, ready to fall upon ancient Rome and destroy its ancient shrines without the least notion of the value of the things we are demolishing. […] But Europeans do not trust appearances: “Grattez le russe et vous verrez le tartare”, they say (scratch a Russian and you’ll find a Tatar). That may be true, but this is what occured to me: do the majority of Russians, in their dealings with Europe, join the extreme left because they are Tatars and have the savage’s love of destruction, or are they, perhaps, moved by other reasons? That is the question, and you’ll agree that it is a rather interesting one. The time of our tussles with Europe is coming to an end; the role of the window cut through to Europe is over, and something else is beginning, or ought to begin at least, and everyone who has the least capacity to think now realizes this. In short, we are more and more beginning to feel that we ought to be ready for something, for some new and far more original encounter than we had hitherto. Whether this encounter will be over the Eastern Question or over something else no one can tell! And so it is that all such questions, analyses, and even surmises and paradoxes can be of interest simply through the fact that they can teach us something. And isn’t it a curious thing that it is precisely those Russians who are most given to considering themselves European, and whom we call “Westernizers”, who exult and take pride in this apellation and who still taunt the other half of the Russians with the names “kvasnik” and “zipunnik?” [cf.: vatnik. – Sergey Armeyskov]. Is it not curious, I say, that these very people are the quickest to join the extreme left – those who deny civilization and who would destroy it – and that this surprises absolutely no one in Russia, and that the question has never even been posed? Now isn’t it that truly a curious thing?

[…] This is what I think: does not this fact (i.e., the fact that even our most ardent Westernizers side with the extreme left – those who in essence reject Europe) reveal the protesting Russian soul which always, from the very time of Peter the Great, found many, all too many, aspects of European culture hateful and always alien? That is what I think. Oh, of course this protest was almost always an unconscious one; but what truly matters here is that the Russian isntinct has not died: the Russian soul, albeit unconsciously, has protested precisely in the name of its Russianness, in the name of its downtrodden and Russian principle. People will say, of course, that if this really were so there would be no cause for rejoicing: “the one who rejects, be he Hun, barbarian, or Tatar, has rejected not in the name of something higher but because he himself was so lowly that even over two centuries he could not manage to make out the lofty heights of Europe.”

People will certainly say that. I agree that this is a legitimate question, but I do not intend to answer it; I will only say, without providing any substantiation, that I utterly and totally reject this Tatar hypothesis. Oh, of course, who now among all us Russians, especially when this is all in the past (because this period certainly has ended) – who among all us Russians can argue against the things that Peter did, against the window he cut through to Europe? Who can rise up against him with visions of the ancient Muscovy of the tsars? This is not the point at all, and this is not why I began my discussion; the point is that, no matter how many fine and useful things we saw through Peter’s window, there still were so many bad and harmful things there that always troubled the Russian instinct. That instinct never ceased to protest (although it lost its way so badly that in most cases it did not realize what it was doing), and it protested not because of its Tatar essence but, perhaps, precisely because it had preserved something within itself that was higher and better than anything it saw through the window. . . (Well, of course it didn’t protest against everything: we received a great many fine things from Europe and we don’t want to be ungrateful; still, our instinct was right in protesting against at least half of the things.)

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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Nikolai Gogol: The Viy

(The “Viy” is a monstrous creation of popular fancy. It is the name which the inhabitants of Little Russia give to the king of the gnomes, whose eyelashes reach to the ground. The following story is a specimen of such folk-lore. I have made no alterations, but reproduce it in the same simple form in which I heard it. — Author’s Note.)
As soon as the clear seminary bell began sounding in Kieff in the morning, the pupils would come flocking from all parts of the town. The students of grammar, rhetoric, philosophy, and theology hastened with their books under their arms over the streets.
The “grammarians” were still mere boys. On the way they pushed against each other and quarrelled with shrill voices. Nearly all of them wore torn or dirty clothes, and their pockets were always crammed with all kinds of things — push-bones, pipes made out of pens, remains of confectionery, and sometimes even young sparrows. The latter would sometimes begin to chirp in the midst of deep silence in the school, and bring down on their possessors severe canings and thrashings.
The “rhetoricians” walked in a more orderly way. Their clothes were generally untorn, but on the other hand their faces were often strangely decorated; one had a black eye, and the lips of another resembled a single blister, etc. These spoke to each other in tenor voices.
The “philosophers” talked in a tone an octave lower; in their pockets they only had fragments of tobacco, never whole cakes of it; for what they could get hold of, they used at once. They smelt so strongly of tobacco and brandy, that a workman passing by them would often remain standing and sniffing with his nose in the air, like a hound.
About this time of day the market-place was generally full of bustle, and the market women, selling rolls, cakes, and honey-tarts, plucked the sleeves of those who wore coats of fine cloth or cotton.
“Young sir! Young sir! Here! Here!” they cried from all sides. “Bolls and cakes and tasty tarts, very delicious! I have baked them myself!”
Another drew something long and crooked out of her basket and cried, “Here is a sausage, young sir! Buy a sausage!”
“Don’t buy anything from her!” cried a rival. “See how greasy she is, and what a dirty nose and hands she has!”
But the market women carefully avoided appealing to the philosophers and theologians, for these only took handfuls of eatables merely to taste them.
Arrived at the seminary, the whole crowd of students dispersed into the low, large class-rooms with small windows, broad doors, and blackened benches. Suddenly they were filled with a many-toned murmur. The teachers heard the pupils’ lessons repeated, some in shrill and others in deep voices which sounded like a distant booming. While the lessons were being said, the teachers kept a sharp eye open to see whether pieces of cake or other dainties were protruding from their pupils’ pockets; if so, they were promptly confiscated.
When this learned crowd arrived somewhat earlier than usual, or when it was known that the teachers would come somewhat late, a battle would ensue, as though planned by general agreement. In this battle all had to take part, even the monitors who were appointed to look after the order and morality of the whole school. Two theologians generally arranged the conditions of the battle: whether each class should split into two sides, or whether all the pupils should divide themselves into two halves.
In each case the grammarians began the battle. and after the rhetoricians had joined in, the former retired and stood on the benches, in order to watch the fortunes of the fray. Then came the philosophers with long black moustaches, and finally the thick-necked theologians. The battle generally ended in a victory for the latter, and the philosophers retired to the different class-rooms rubbing their aching limbs, and throwing themselves on the benches to take breath.
When the teacher, who in his own time had taken part in such contests, entered the class-room he saw by the heated faces of his pupils that the battle had been very severe, and while he caned the hands of the rhetoricians, in another room another teacher did the same for the philosophers.
On Sundays and Festival Days the seminarists took puppet — theatres to the citizens’ houses. Sometimes they acted a comedy, and in that case it was always a theologian who took the part of the hero or heroine — Potiphar or Herodias, etc. As a reward for their exertions, they received a piece of linen, a sack of maize, half a roast goose, or something similar. All the students, lay and clerical, were very poorly provided with means for procuring themselves necessary subsistence, but at the same time very fond of eating; so that, however much food was given to them, they were never satisfied, and the gifts bestowed by rich landowners were never adequate for their needs.
Therefore the Commissariat Committee, consisting of philosophers and theologians, sometimes dispatched the grammarians and rhetoricians under the leadership of a philosopher — themselves sometimes joining in the expedition — with sacks on their shoulders, into the town, in order to levy a contribution on the fleshpots of the citizens, and then there was a feast in the seminary.
The most important event in the seminary year was the arrival of the holidays; these began in July, and then generally all the students went home. At that time all the roads were thronged with grammarians, rhetoricians, philosophers, and theologians. He who had no home of his own t would take up his quarters with some fellow-student’s family; the philosophers and theologians looked out for tutors’ posts, taught the children of rich farmers, and received for doing so a pair of new boots and sometimes also a new coat,
A whole troop of them would go off in close ranks like a regiment; they cooked their porridge in common, and encamped under the open sky. Each had a bag with him containing a shirt and a pair of socks. The theologians were especially economical; in order not to wear out their boots too quickly, they took them off and carried them on a stick over their shoulders, especially when the road was very muddy. Then they tucked up their breeches over their knees and waded bravely through the pools and puddles. Whenever they spied a village near the highway, they at once left it, approached the house which seemed the most considerable, and began with loud voices to sing a psalm. The master of the house, an old Cossack engaged in agriculture, would listen for a long time with his head propped in his hands, then with tears on his cheeks say to his wife, “What the students are singing sounds very devout; bring out some lard and anything else of the kind we have in the house.”
After thus replenishing their stores, the students would continue their way. The farther they went, the smaller grew their numbers, as they dispersed to their various houses, and left those whose homes were still farther on.
On one occasion, during such a march, three students left the main road in order to get provisions in some village, since their stock had long been exhausted. This party consisted of the theologian Khalava, the philosopher Thomas Brutus, and the rhetorician Tiberius Gorobetz.
The first was a tall youth with broad shoulders and of a peculiar character; everything which came within reach of his fingers he felt obliged to appropriate. Moreover, he was of a very melancholy disposition, and when he had got intoxicated he hid himself in the most tangled thickets so that the seminary officials had the greatest trouble in finding him.
The philosopher Thomas Brutus was a more cheerful character. He liked to lie for a long time on the same spot and smoke his pipe; and when he was merry with wine, he hired a fiddler and danced the “tropak.” Often he got a whole quantity of “beans”, i.e. thrashings; but these he endured with complete philosophic calm, saying that a man cannot escape his destiny.
The rhetorician Tiberius Gorobetz had not yet the right to wear a moustache, to drink brandy, or to smoke tobacco. He only wore a small crop of hair, as though his character was at present too little developed. To judge by the great bumps on his forehead, with which he often appeared in the class-room, it might be expected that some day he would be a valiant fighter. Khalava and Thomas often pulled his hair as a mark of their special favour, and sent him on their errands.
Evening had already come when they left the high-road; the sun had just gone down, and the air was still heavy with the heat of the day. The theologian and the philosopher strolled along, smoking in silence, while the rhetorician struck off the heads of the thistles by the wayside with his stick. The way wound on through thick woods of oak and walnut; green hills alternated here and there with meadows. Twice already they had seen cornfields, from which they concluded that they were near some village; but an hour had already passed, and no human habitation appeared. The sky was already quite dark, and only a red gleam lingered on the western horizon.
“The deuce!” said the philosopher Thomas Brutus. “I was almost certain we would soon reach a village.”
The theologian still remained silent, looked round him, then put his pipe again between his teeth, and all three continued their way.
“Good heavens!” exclaimed the philosopher, and stood still. “Now the road itself is disappearing.”
“Perhaps we shall find a farm farther on,” answered the theologian, without taking his pipe out of his mouth.
Meanwhile the night had descended; clouds increased the darkness, and according to all appearance there was no chance of moon or stars appearing. The seminarists found that they had lost the way altogether.
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Love and Hate: A Tolstoy Family Tale

One of the most famous sentences in literature is the opening of Leo Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina: "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Tolstoy's own marriage seems to have fallen into the second category. He and his wife, Sophia, had 13 children together. She was an invaluable assistant in his work, hand copying his manuscripts. But Sophia, a countess from Russia's aristocracy, was impatient with Tolstoy's ideas about social reform and a simpler life. And he had little sympathy with her interests in music and photography. Leah Bendavid-Val, author of Song Without Words: The Photographs and Diaries of Countess Sophia Tolstoy, says Sophia's family provided Leo Tolstoy with characters for his books. For example, in War and Peace, the heroine Natasha is modeled after Sophia's younger sister, Tanya. The Tolstoys' marriage started off "in a beautiful way," Bendavid-Val tells Deborah Amos. "They were madly in love when they got married in 1862, and they shared everything, including their diaries. They used their diaries to talk to each other. "She copied his manuscripts and he listened to her opinions, which was very gratifying to her," Bendavid-Val says. But in nearly 50 years of marriage, the couple had a love-hate relationship, the author says. Both Sophia and Leo were "very emotional, very passionate, and their love was full and passionate and deep and rich — and so was their hatred," Bendavid-Val says. "And unfortunately, the hatred seems to have won out in the end." Sophia became obsessively afraid that Leo had written a new will. He overheard her searching his study for the document and became outraged. He decided it was the last straw and left his wife. He became very ill on the train and died shortly thereafter. "They needed each other," Bendavid-Val says. "Neither of them could have lived as full and rich a life without the other." Excerpt: 'Song Without Words' DIARY ENTRY (LEV) 8 January 1863 In the morning —-her clothes. She challenged me to object to them, and I did object, and said so —-tears and vulgar explanations ... We patched things up somehow. I'm always dissatisfied with myself on these occasions, especially with the kisses —-they are false patches. ... I feel that she is depressed, but I'm more depressed still, and I can't say anything to her —-there's nothing to say. I'm just cold, and I clutch at any work with ardor. She will stop loving me. I'm almost certain of that. The one thing that can save me is if she doesn't fall in love with someone else, and that won't be my doing. She says I'm kind. I don't like to hear it; it's just for that reason that she will stop loving me. DIARY ENTRY (SONYA) 9 January 1863 Never in my life have I felt so wretched with remorse. Never did I imagine that I could be so much to blame. I have been choked with tears all day. I feel so depressed. I am afraid to talk to him or look at him. ... I am sure he must suddenly have realized just how vile and pathetic I am. DIARY ENTRY (LEV) 15 January 1863 Got up late; we're on friendly terms. The last squabble has left some small (imperceptible) traces — or perhaps time has. Every such squabble, however trivial, is a scar on love. A momentary feeling of passion, vexation, self-love or pride will pass, but a scar, however small, will remain forever on the best things that exist in the world — love. I shall know this and guard our happiness, and you know it too... DIARY ENTRY (LEV) 5 August 1863 ... I've looked through her diary — suppressed anger with me glows beneath words of tenderness. It's often the same in real life. If this is so, and it's all a mistake on her part — it's terrible... Almost three decades after this exchange Sonya decided to copy her husband's diary for posterity. She noted on November 20, 1890, I have been copying Lyovochka's diaries, which cover his whole life. ... She described how the copying job affected her. ...

Monday, 2 November 2015

Battle for Stalingrad, 1942 - a picture from the past

Battle for Stalingrad, 1942

This cinematic photograph shows Red Army troops in the ruins of war-torn Stalingrad in 1942. The city was flattened by German bombs at the start of their offensive, leading to a battle that was characterised by savage street fighting. The German defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943 is considered to be the turning point of the war on the eastern front

Vasily Zaitsev - Biography

This Hero of the Soviet Union killed more than 300 Nazi soldiers in the Battle of Stalingrad during World War II and taught scores of other snipers.

Vasily Zaitsev was born into a family of peasants in the village of Yelenovsk in the Chelyabinsk Region in the Urals. His grandfather taught him to hunt at a very early age – as a child, Vasily would spend days in the taiga together with his younger brother, tracking wolves, setting traps and sleeping in the snow. He brought home his first trophy at the age of twelve: a wolf that he shot with a single bullet from his first personal weapon, a large single-barreled Berdan rifle, which he was just barely able to carry behind his back at the time. As bullets were scarce, Vasily learnt to pull the trigger just once per animal. This is how he grew up to become a sharpshooter.

In 1937 Vasily was recruited into the Red Army. Despite his small frame, he was sent to serve in the Soviet Navy in the Pacific, near Vladivostok. But when Nazi forces invaded the Soviet Union, Zaitsev, like many of his comrades, volunteered to be transferred to the frontline. At the time he had already reached the rank of Sergeant Major. On the eve of 22 September 1942 Zaitsev crossed the Volga River and joined the 1047th Rifle Regiment of the 284th Rifle Division of the 62nd Army. He made a name for himself during the first encounters with the enemy in the flame-lit city. Then one day, Zaitsev’s commanding officer called him up and pointed at an enemy officer in a window 800 meters away. Vasily took aim from his standard-issue Mossin-Nagant rifle, and with one shot, the officer was down. In less than a few moments, two other Nazi soldiers appeared in the window, checking their fallen officer. Vasily fired two more shots, and they were killed. For this, together with the Medal for Valor, Vasily was also awarded a sniper rifle.

Vasily Zaitsev’s name quickly became known across the Soviet Union; between 10 November and 17 December he was credited with 225 verified kills, 11 of them snipers. The Soviets soon organized a school of snipers based in a metal hardware factory, marking the beginning of the sniper movement in the Red Army. “For us there was no land beyond the Volga,” Zaitsev once said in a famous quote, revealing his fervent loyalty to the Motherland.

Zaitsev would hide in all sorts of locations – on high ground, under rubble, in water pipes. After a few kills he would change his position. Together with his partner Nikolay Kulikov, Zaitsev would hide and sting. One of Zaitsev’s common tactics was to cover one large area from three positions with two men at each point – a sniper and scout. This tactic, known as the “sixes,” is still in use today and was implemented during the war in Chechnya.

In his memoirs, Vasily recalls a certain sly Nazi sniper he tracked for a week – they called him the “Supersniper.” He was allegedly Heinz Thorvald, aka Erwin König, a high-ranking Werhmacht officer and head of the Berlin sniper school. There is little known about König’s identify. He reportedly came to Stalingrad to kill Zaitsev, who had already caused much havoc and drained Nazi morale. Zaitsev writes that the sniper was highly skilled and was very hard to find. But when two of Vasily’s comrades were injured by a sniper, Zaitsev and Kulikov began searching the area, and Vasily noticed a glimpse of light under a piece of metal. When Kulikov lifted a helmet on a stick from a window, Erwin König fired and revealed himself as he peeked to see whether his target was dead. It was then that Zaitsev shot him in the head.

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All Is Permitted, All Over Again - Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”

All Is Permitted, All Over Again: Oliver Ready’s Translation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”

IN HIS EXUBERANT and terrifying account of a decade-long journey into the dark heart of contemporary Russia’s media-political complex, Peter Pomerantsev relates an incident in which a group of factory workers pledge their support to President Putin on television “via live video-link”: 
But then it turns out the workers don’t actually exist; the whole thing is a piece of playacting organized by local political technologists (because everyone is a political technologist now), the TV spinning off to someplace where there is no reference point back to reality, where puppets talk to holograms when both are convinced they are real, where nothing is true and everything is possible. And the result of all this delirium is a curious sense of weightlessness.
Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible was too good a formulation to leave it buried in the text; it had to be the title of Pomerantsev’s book, which hit the shelves in 2014. What words could better capture the distinctly postmodern atmosphere in which Russians now find themselves? Indeed, “Everything is founded on appearance in Russia; whence it is that everything inspires mistrust.” So wrote the Marquis de Custine while visiting the country in 1839, long before Pomerantsev’s time and, for that matter, long before Baudrillard theorized of “simulacra.” Plus ça change …

But it isn’t just Western visitors (and Kiev-born, London-raised Pomerantsev is essentially that) who’ve noted, and been haunted by, the uncanny fraudulence and immateriality of Russia’s façades. Exactly a decade before de Custine’s visit, the Russian nobleman Pyotr Chaadayev wrote a series of “Philosophical Letters Addressed to a Lady,” admonishing his fellow Russians to “glance around.” “Does anyone,” he asked, “have a firm footing?”
Our memories reach back no further than yesterday; we are, as it were, strangers to ourselves. […] This is the natural consequence of a culture that is entirely imported and imitative. We have no internal development, no natural progress; new ideas sweep out the old, because they are not derived from the old but show up out of nowhere. We accept only ready-made ideas, and so those indelible traces that are left in the intellect by the progressive development of thought, that build mental power, never furrow our minds.
One traditional response to this “curious sense of weightlessness,” which Chaadayev felt in 1829 and Pomerantsev described, mutatis mutandis, in the 2010s, is a sort of reaction formation — to blame Russia’s ails on the “ready-made ideas” infecting its people’s minds and, by extension, on the source of those ideas, the West. This was the line taken by the Slavophiles and pochvenniks (“native soil” conservatives) in the mid-19th century. Russia, they insisted, had a firm basis for its civilization: the collective values of Orthodox Christianity and of the village. The rejection of this solid foundation in favor of foreign ideals, be they radical individualism, materialism, utilitarianism, or the false collectivisms of “utopian” and “scientific” socialism, could only lead to disaster.

For these reactionaries, nowhere was the falsity of Russia’s “imported and imitative” culture more palpable than in that most chimerical of cities, foggy St. Petersburg, built by imperial fiat on a swamp in the inhospitable north. And at no point did they feel the threat of foreign “ready-made ideas” more keenly than in the 1860s, a period of seething generational conflict, revolutionary activism, and national uprisings on the edges of empire.

Squarely in the middle of that decade, a middle-aged, bereaved, and cash-strapped Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote to Mikhail Katkov, the conservative editor of The Russian Messenger (Russkii vestnik), from Wiesbaden, proposing a story for his journal. In the introduction to his dazzlingly agile and robust new translation of Crime and Punishment, the novel that would grow out of that proposal with remarkable speed, Oliver Ready quotes from Dostoyevsky’s letter:
A contemporary setting, this current year (1865). A young man, excluded from student status at university, of trading class, living in extreme poverty, succumbs, through frivolity and ricketiness of thought, to certain strange, “half-baked” ideas in the air, and makes up his mind to get out of his foul situation in a single bound.
In both conception and execution, Crime and Punishment was very much a reactionary work, a probe into what Dostoyevsky saw as the pathologies of modern urban existence: “half-baked” imported ideas that, when taken to their extremes, justify atrocities. Alcoholism, prostitution, usury: all were the consequences of alienation from the proper foundation of Russian life, alienation from God, alienation from the community. As Ready points out, the novel’s central character, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov — whose surname alludes to the schism (raskol) that affected the Orthodox Church in the mid-17th century, as well as to his fateful axe-blows — is no more divided than any other character in Dostoyevsky’s world. Even the portrait of the saintly prostitute Sonya Marmeladova, to whom Raskolnikov confesses his guilt and who may facilitate his salvation, is tinged with darkness by her descent into sin — a descent conditioned by the forces of a decrepit and debauched civilization.

Ready’s introduction teases out the novel’s ideological and literary subtexts engagingly, succinctly, and with great nuance. Just as importantly, it hints at what pushes the novel beyond the limitations of its author’s ideological convictions: the fact that Dostoyevsky’s text is as riven, as raving, as irreducible as its characters and their milieu. One can speculate, but only speculate, on some of the causes of this irreducibility: the depth of Dostoyevsky’s empathy for the deluded Raskolnikov (the author was, after all, a socialist revolutionary manqué in his youth); the haste with which he was forced to write in order to stay one step ahead of his creditors (and, of course, one shouldn’t forget that Raskolnikov’s intended victim is a pawnbroker); and even his epileptic fits (as Ready writes, one “can argue [following the late J. L. Rice] that they were a creative tonic”). The causes condense and the novel spins off into polyphony, to be so easily — and productively — “misread” or read selectively over the next century and a half by existentialists and psychoanalysts, Orthodox fundamentalists and atheists, orthodox Marxists and neoconservatives.

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Anatoly Mariengof : A Novel Without Lies


By the fall we were living in the Bakhrushin house. Karp Karpovich Korotkov — a poet little known to readers, but quite popular in literary circles — let us stay at his apartment.
Karp Karpovich was the son of a rich manufacturer, but even before the revolution he had left his family home and devoted himself to the arts.
Soon he had released some thirty books, all distinguished for their unprecedented lack of sales and their Eastern accents on Russian words.
Nonetheless the books disappeared pretty quickly thanks to the inexpressible energy with which Karp Karpovich himself handed them out, along with his autograph!
One joker even promised two pounds of Ukrainian lard to any eccentric who might have a copy of Karp Karpovich's books without a dedicatory inscription.
This was no small gamble. In 1919, not only for the sake of lard, but even for yellow millet, people would feed lice with their bodies for weeks in the icy carriages.
All the same our joker had to eat his own lard himself.
Our room was big and quite nice.


There is no force capable of separating a Russian from his ruinous devotion to the arts — not a typhoid louse; nor ankle-deep provincial mud; nor 'loo-lessness'; nor war; nor revolution; nor an empty stomach.
You might say we have refined natures.
I was returning home late one night from a friend's. In the sky hung a cloud like a rustic washstand with a broken faucet — a cursed rain flowed freely and without respite.
The Tverskaya pavement was black and glossy — just like my top hat.
I was meaning to turn onto Kozitsky Lane. Suddenly from the opposite side of the street I hear:
'Hey, foreigner, stop!'
I tended to fluster simpletons; my top hat and wide overcoat, you see.
Five men moved away from a wall.
I waited.
'Citizen foreigner, your identity card!'
Nearby, a cabman driving a jade roan hobbled along the dilapidated roadway. He glanced in our direction — then whipped his Bucephalus. The latter, being no fool, gallopped off. A guard was dozing off by the Cafe Lyre. Before my eyes, he darted into a by-street and — cheers!
Not a living soul. Not even a stray dog. Or a dim street lamp.
I asked them:
'By what right, comrades, do you demand documents of me? Your warrant?'
'Warrant ...?'
A fellow in a student's peak-cap, with a face that was pale and rumpled — like a pillow after a night's sleep — waved a pistol in my face:
'Here's your warrent, comrade, right here!'
'So, perhaps this isn't about my papers. But my overcoat!'
'Well, hurrah for you, God bless ... You guessed it.'
The fellow with the rumpled face stood behind me, gently helping me disrobe, like the doorman at a good hotel.
I tried to joke. But it wasn't a very happy occasion.
I'd just had the overcoat made. A good cut, high quality thick woolen cloth.
Rumple-face stared at me sadly.
But just as I was slipping out of my sleeves in complete despair, that selfsame Russian love for art, a love that knows no bounds, came to my rescue.
One of the group, staring at me intently, asked:
'And what, comrade, might your name be?'
'Anatoly Mariengof?'
Pleasantly stunned at the extent of my fame, I repeated with pride:
'Anatoly Mariengof!' 'The author of Magdalene?'
At this happy and magical moment of my life I would have given them not only my overcoat, but thrown in my pants, patent-leather boots, silk socks, and handkerchief as well.
Let it rain! Let me go back home in just my underpants! Let our budget be shot to hell! Let it, a thousand times let it!
What a succulent and rich food for my ambition, that voracious Falstaff we carry in our hearts!
Needless to say, my nocturnal acquaintances didn't touch the overcoat; the ringleader, having discovered in my person the Mariengof, was profuse in his apologies; they escorted me all the way home and in parting I warmly shook their hands and invited them to come hear my new stuff at Pegasus' Stall.
Two days later there was more confirmation of the Russians' refined nature.
Esenin dropped in on the cobbler. He needed his soles patched.
The cobbler quoted a fair price. Esenin, without haggling, left him an address for delivery:
'Bogoslovsky 3, apartment 46 — Esenin.'
The cobbler clasped his hands:
And in a fit of rapture he cut the price in half.
A page of history (true, the circumstances were somewhat different, but also noteworthy):
The year is 1917. In Gatchina General Krasnov, commanding Kerensky's forces, concludes an inglorious accord with the Bolshevik detachments.
In comes Kerensky's adjutant and Lev Trotsky. They are followed by a Cossack guard with a rifle. The Cossack catches hold of Trotsky's sleeve and won't let go.
Trotsky turns to Krasnov:
'General, order your Cossack to leave us alone.'
Krasnov pretends not to recognize Trotsky.
'And just who are you?'
'I am Trotsky.'
The Cossack stands at attention before Krasnov:
'Yer excellency, I was stationed to guard the Mister Officer here (Kerensky's adjutant), and alluva sudden this here little Jewboy comes in and says, "I am Trotsky, come with me." I'm a guard. So I follows 'em. I ain't lettin' go without the corporal 'a the guard here.'
'Ach, how stupid!' Trotsky spits out and leaves, slamming the door.
General Krasnov then turns to his officers with a phrase worthy of immortality.
'What a magnificent scene for my future novel!'
Russians, Russians!
Here we have the irreversible setting of the general's sun. The surrender of Petersburg. Russia's fate is at stake. And he, commander of the army (true, only two companies and nine hundred Cossacks, but still decisive: to be or not to be), expounds upon a scene for a novel? How do you like that?

Translated by Jose Alanis

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Arseny Tarkovsky: I waited for you yesterday since morning

I waited for you yesterday since morning,
They guessed you wouldn't come,
Do you remember the weather?
Like a holiday! I went out without a coat.

 Today came, and they fixed for us
 A somehow specially dismal day,
 It was very late, and it was raining,
 The drops cascading down the chilly branches.

No word of comfort, tears undried…

Ludmila Petrushevskaya: The Fountain House

There once lived a girl who was killed, then brought back to life. That is, her parents were told that she was dead, but they weren’t allowed to keep her body. (The family had been riding the bus together; the girl was standing up front at the time of the explosion, and her parents were sitting behind her.) The girl was just fifteen, and she was thrown backward by the blast.

While the parents waited for the ambulance, and while the dead were being separated from the wounded, the father held his daughter in his arms, though it was clear by then that she was dead; the doctor at the scene confirmed this. But the body still had to be taken away, so the parents climbed into the ambulance with their daughter and rode with her to the hospital morgue.

She seemed to be alive, as she lay on the stretcher, but she had no pulse, nor was she breathing. Her parents were told to go home, but they wouldn’t; they wanted to wait for the body, though procedures still had to be followed—the autopsy performed and the cause of death determined.

The father, who was desperate with grief, and who was also a deeply religious man, decided to steal his daughter’s body. He took his wife, who was barely conscious, home, endured a conversation with his mother-in-law, woke up a neighbor, who was a nurse, and borrowed a white hospital coat. Then he took all the money in the house and went to the nearest hospital, where he hired an empty ambulance (it was two in the morning), and, with a stretcher and a young paramedic, whom he’d bribed, drove to the hospital where his daughter was, walked past the guard and down the stairs to the basement corridor, and entered the morgue. There was no one there. Quickly he found his daughter and, with the paramedic’s help, put her on the stretcher, called down the service elevator, and took her to the intensive-care unit on the third floor. The father had studied the layout of the hospital earlier, while he and his wife waited for the body.

He let the paramedic go. After a brief negotiation with the doctor on duty, he handed over his money, and the doctor admitted the girl to the intensive-care unit.

Although the girl was not accompanied by a medical history, the doctor could see perfectly well that she was dead. But he badly needed the money: his wife had just given birth (also to a daughter), and his nerves were on edge. His mother hated his wife, and they took turns crying, and the child cried, too, and now on top of all this he had been assigned exclusively night shifts. The sum that this (clearly insane) father had offered him to revive his dead princess was enough for half a year’s rent on a separate apartment for his own little family.

This was why the doctor began to work on the girl as if she were still alive, but, since the father was determined not to leave her side, he did request that the man change into a hospital gown and occupy the cot next to his daughter.

The girl lay there, as white as marble; she was beautiful. The father, sitting on his cot, stared at her like a madman. One of his eyes seemed out of focus, and it was only with difficulty, in fact, that he was able to open his eyes at all.

The doctor, having observed this for a while, asked the nurse to administer a cardiogram, and then quickly gave his new patient a shot of a tranquillizer. The father fell asleep. The girl continued to lie there like Sleeping Beauty, hooked up to her various machines. The doctor fussed around her, doing all he could, even though there was no longer someone watching him with a crazy unfocussed eye. In truth, this young doctor was a fanatic of his profession—there was nothing more important to him than a challenging case, than a person, no matter who it was, on the brink of death.

The father slept, and in his dream he met his daughter—he went to visit her, as he used to visit her at summer camp. He prepared some food—a sandwich, that was all. He got on the bus—another bus—on a fine summer evening, somewhere near the Sokol metro station, and rode it to the paradisiacal spot where his daughter was staying. In the fields, amid soft green hills, he found an enormous gray house with arched gates reaching to the sky, and, when he walked through these giant gates into the garden, there, in an emerald clearing, he saw a fountain, as tall as the house, with one tight jet of water that cascaded at the top into a glistening crown. The sun was setting slowly in the distance, and the father walked happily across the lawn to the entrance, to the right of the gate, and took the stairs up to a high floor, to the apartment where his daughter was. She seemed a little embarrassed when she greeted him, as if he had interrupted her. She stood there, looking away from him—as if she had her own, private life here, which had nothing to do with him anymore, a life that was none of his business.

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