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Articles tagged "Russia"

Venedikt Erofeev’s “Walpurgis Night”

To those five-sixths parts of the world not encircled by Russian borders—borders that, for centuries, have flittered carelessly across map-faces like so many loose ribbons in the wind—at least a Russian identity of letters feels stable and secure: there is Pushkin, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy; beside them proudly prance characters crafted in their image, Onegin, Bazarov, Prince Myshkin, and Levin. So, while the peoples of Ukraine and Eastern Crimea continue daily to suffer...

Traders

Back in the early 1990s, when Wild-West capitalism came to Russia, I was a chelnok, or shuttle trader. My wife and I (we weren’t married at that stage) traveled the whole world in search of cheap merchandise and markets to sell it at. Well, not exactly the whole world—but almost. The most common way of doing business was to buy merchandise in Russia, take it to Poland, sell it for ten or fifteen times as much, and get hold of dollars at a good rate; then you traveled to China,...

On the Moscow Metro and Being Gay

In the catalogue of sins in his Divine Comedy, which is as random as it is insanely detailed, Dante found room for the sin that “dared not speak its name” long before Oscar Wilde’s trial—one of which Dante’s beloved guardian and tutor Brunetto Latini was also guilty. (He placed such sinners in the Seventh Circle of Hell, near the suicides and usurers, but above thieves and bribe-takers.) I always wished that Dante had added another sin, one which probably...

Petroleum Venus

“Vanya, why are you sitting in the dark?” “I’m looking at the picture,” came the imperturbable reply. “What picture?” What new fantasy had come into his mind? I walked up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. A picture frame he had brought in off the street was propped against our pot-bellied fridge. It had a picture in it. I flicked the switch and warm light flowed down from our tumblerlike lampshades. A naked blonde, her...

Just Gone to Bed

Just gone to bed Oh well, not turning the light on Barefoot Jerking the shin back from the cold rim And nothing Something gripes inside and However I strain doesn’t come Remembered in horror M.P. telling how adenoma they reach it with a cutter through the urethra good gracious to the bathroom not feeling the pain hit the toes against the door jamb okay okay here’s a toothbrush with aero- dynamic handle squatting push it furiously into the rear up and down...

Russian


Yiddish


From “The Geographer Drank His Globe Away”

"Hey young fellow, it's your stop . . ." Sluzhkin was being prodded by the old guy on the opposite bench. He unglued his eyes, sprang onto his knees still in his sleeping bag, and shot a look through the upper window pane, because the lower one was thickly overgrown with a dense cover of icy ferns. The lopsided, gray little houses of Valyozhnaya were undulating past the electric train, across the hillside. "Code red, gang!" Sluzhkin roared. "We nearly missed Valyozhnaya!" The...

On the Use and Abuse of Letherburg for Life

You will have had no difficulty recognizing the German crib tacked onto Daniil Kharms's neologism in the title of my remarks. It is Nietzsche's essay "On the Use and Abuse of History for Life," written in 1874 and published in the collection Untimely Meditations. In the essay, Nietzsche warns of the dangers that arise when a self-sufficient sense of history turns excessive. This historical sense tends to degenerate into an uncritical, antiquarian attitude, which undermines...

The Beginning

I wake up at eight a.m. On the sixteenth floor every day at eight a.m. Sorokin sneezes. After that, on the fifteenth floor, Aunt Masha falls out of bed. I wake up because I live on the fourteenth floor and hear both Sorokin sneezing and Aunt Masha falling. I hear them distinctly, sometimes even wake anticipating the sounds, nervous if they are late. And so, I finally hear a loud sneeze that resembles the blast of an antipersonnel shell, followed by the dull thud of Aunt Masha's...

Pears from Gudauty

We could hear the dry coughing of our landlord, Khuta Kursua, through the partition wall, and Mother's eyes were wide with fear. I was ten, my own lesions had barely healed, and now we were neighbors of tuberculosis again. Our landlord was a handsome, thin man, all smiles with his paying guests but ferocious with his wife, although, actually, I was not too interested in the people around me. I had seen the sea for the first time that year and spent the rest of the month savoring the...

Unity of Form

I've always received kingly presents. I got worn-out pans and rusted teapots, patched up bedsheets and unstitched shirts, books, missing pages ripped out for rollies and a piano with knocked-out teeth on the keyboard, chairs without legs and burnt out light bulbs, writing paper from the times of the Chinese cultural revolution, whatever you write on it-- blood stains appear though its tissue. People zealously granted me headless nails and spools without thread,...

Calligraphy Lesson

Translator's Note: Like much of Mikhail Shishkin's writing, "Calligraphy Lesson" is highly allusive and attentive to the formal qualities of a story both inventively told and steeped in Russian atmospherics. The reader will want to be aware of two issues in particular. First, what the English reader may not realize—but the Russian will pick up instantly—is that the various women's names refer to characters from Russian classics: Sofia Pavlovna from...

The Man Who Couldn’t Die

It had been Marina's idea. Keep Alexei Afanasievich from finding out about the changes in the outside world. Keep him in the same sunlit but frozen time when the unexpected stroke had cut him down. "Mama, his heart!" Marina had pleaded, having grasped instantly that, no matter how burdensome this recumbent body might be, it consumed much less than it yielded. At the very first, clear-eyed Marina may have been moved by more than this primitive practicality. There had been a period...

Crimean Sojourns to the Movies

susan sarandon from the family felidae doesn't like to cry and never cries we aren't let into the movies but they write, that it'll be fun in the same green chairs like it was 40 years ago the church on the bank: din-dong din-dong susan saran-din-dong somewhere london-din-dong and the same rain if the rain was a wall like the berlin one for instance the one that cut the world in half and the world would divide like a macerated polymer blah...

well hell then what

well hell then what what hell what then wax with one hand leaning with the cheek rubbing with a leg she's a dyed in the wool pioneer perfect pallor, not a drop of tan not a gram of conscience in a shirt, sleeves rolled up a tie white as her with a book without letters, like a living as if dead asking: "kiss me, moscow girl, kiss lenin, he lives between my legs this time didn't go anywhere life swung on the swing more has happened here trust me lenin lives,...

from Essence

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The Silent Steppe by Mukhamet Shayakhmetov

The Silent Steppe: The Story of a Kazakh Nomad under Stalin is a vivid, personal story of courage and hope in the face of persecution and terror. It breathes new life into a neglected chapter of European history, and should prove useful for Cold War research and socio-cultural anthropology studies. Famine, conscription into the Red Army, the defense of Stalingrad . . . author Mukhamet Shayakhmetov is a remarkable survivor, bolstered by a strong faith. He is now in his eighties. His...

Courage Does Not Reign

I was kicked out of the Conservatory. When called to the office of the elderly director where I was handed my dismissal papers, I said: "Sir, believe me Sir, I am not concerned for my sake regarding this decision of yours. What concerns me is how the St. Petersburg Conservatory will shoulder the heavy burden of having kicked out the best student it has ever had-just for one or two disciplinary offenses: That is what concerns me." "I do not know what to say to you," said the director....

The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt

If he hadn't been who he was, I never would have married again. I had everything: a child, a job, my freedom. And suddenly there he was . . . clumsy, practically blind, wheezing. Letting someone into your world with so much baggage—twelve years in Stalinist camps, they took him as a boy, sixteen years old. . . . With the burden of that knowledge . . . the differences. That's not what I'd call freedom. What is it? What's the point? Admit that I only pitied him? No. It...

“To kiss a forehead is to erase worry.”

To kiss a forehead is to erase worry. I kiss your forehead. To kiss the eyes is to lift sleeplessness. I kiss your eyes. To kiss the lips is to drink water. I kiss your lips. To kiss a forehead is to erase memory. I kiss your forehead.

from Songs of Friendship and Love

Snoopy Goes to Kasimov I used to torture myself over the question, I was baffled by it: to what could I attribute the incontrovertible fact of my total lack of literary talent? A fluke of nature? Blind chance? Genetic aberration? And this in a family tree, mind you, that's produced five writers minimum, two of which, in the opinion of their contemporaries, made a sizable contribution to the treasurehouse of Russian belles-lettres. My grandfather, who during his lifetime was honored...

The Bride from Odessa

One spring evening in 1890, from his vantage point up on the Primorsky Boulevard, a young man was watching the movement of ships in the port of Odessa. Decked out in his Sunday finest, he contrasted as much with the everyday casualness of most of the passersby as with the exoticism of others. The fact is, the young man was dressed to set out on a great adventure: his mother had given him his varnished leather shoes; his uncle, a tailor by trade, had completed his made-to-measure suit...

Me and Perestroika

Now I will tell you how perestroika collapsed. To be more precise, it hasn't collapsed yet, but it definitely will due to the archaic institutions of the family and marriage, which dominate in times of real socialism. To be fair, one must add that history recalls a few cases when trivia stood in the way of great achievements. Such was the case with the emperor Peter Fedorovich, who didn't succeed in carrying out his reformist program only because, several times, in public, he...

from Cuneiform

Hadjar bore seven children. Aga Akbar was the youngest, and he was born deaf and mute. She knew it even in the first month. She saw that he didn't react. But she didn't want to believe it. She never left him alone, and no one else was allowed to stay with him for long. For six months she kept that up. Everyone knew the child was deaf, but no one was allowed to speak of it. Until, finally, Kazem Khan, Hadjar's eldest brother, felt it was time to get involved. Kazem Khan...

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