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Posts tagged ‘Russian Literature’

Of Seasons, Longings & Despair in Soviet Russia

Allen Ginsberg, in his biography, Ginsburg : A Biography by Barry Mills had explained poetry as something which was “not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.”  This meaning of poetry and the work of the poet comes out in all its vivid forms in a collection of Boris Pasternak’s poems, February, translated by Andrey Kneller. Boris Pasternak, the 1958 Nobel Prize winner who declined the honor under pressure from the Soviet Government, and whose work, Doctor Zhivago has been immortalized in every possible form of media,  was born in a well to do Jewish family (though the Pasternaks had assimilated into the Russian Orthodox Church for years) and had lived through the most turbulent years of Russian History – World War I, Russian Revolution, World War II and the Great Purge, had captured all this changing history of the land and her people and thought about it and then poured it into words of great beauty and resonance, in an act of making a private world, public!

BORIS_BESIDE_THE_BALTIC_AT_MEREKULE,_1910_by_L.Pasternak

Boris Besides the Baltic Sea, by Leonard Pasternak, 1910

February is a slim volume of only 110 pages but within it, are 27 pieces of powerful poetry, that touch upon a variety of subjects ranging from politics, the faith of Pasternak’s beloved Russia, Nature, Christianity and Love! The compilation begins with the said poem February, first published in 1912, and in sparse, terse words, Pasternak manages to blend in the pathos of the last dregs of winter, with mankind and poetry. I fell in love with the simple but powerful opening lines of the poem –

Oh, February, To get ink & Sob! 

To weep about it, spilling ink

One poem that especially was singed into my imagination, is apparently nameless, and powerfully captures the rule of Stalin and its destructive forces on a person and his soul!

The cult of personality is stained,

But after forty years, the cult

Of gray monotony and disdain

Persists like the day of old

Each coming day appears lackluster

Until, it’s truly hard to bear

It brings but photographic clusters,

Of pig like and inhuman stares.

The cult of narrow minded thinking

Is likewise cherished and extolled.

Men shoot themselves from over drinking,

unable to sustain it all.

There is a soul searing piece called Noble Prize, written, after he declined the honor which captures the raw anguish and pain of Pasternak on the stands he was being forced to take, by the very same country and government, he did not choose to abandon or flee, while all his family and friends left, believing in the ultimate good of Lenin led Socialist society! And here in lies the greatness of the poet, that despite all the angst and heartbreak, he ended the poem in hope and faith –

Even now as I am nearing the tomb

I believe in the virtuous fate

And the spirit of goodness will soon

Overcame all the malice and hate

Yet another poem titled Hamlet, captures the need to walk away from a predestined plot, to address something more urgent and ephemeral!There are lovely play of words in his poems about nature, from White Nights to the one called Spring Flood, to yet another work called Easter. His love for Olga Ivinskaya comes through in all the glory of meeting, falling in love and then when Ivinskaya was sentenced to Siberia, of longing, guilt and memories, in the poems titled as Meeting  and then, Parting. The fact that Pasternak was a student of philosophy is a fact that is never really far off in his poetry and in many of his writings,  he touches upon ideas of what is tangible and what is transcendental, especially in his poetry of nature. In Autumn, he says, 

The Lodge’s wooden walls now gaze

At us with grief and hopelessness.

We never vowed to break the restrains’

We will decline with openness. 

There are many powerful and moving things in this collection that shines like a beacon of what poetry is all about! Pasternak in this collection of 27 poems brought the Russia that he knew, with all its beauty and tragedy to life, painting on a vast canvass, touching upon the key notes of everything that constitutes mankind. And while I am wary of all translated works, simply because one does not know exactly what is lost is translation, even in essence, there is enough in this work to enrich your soul and your mind!

 

The Return of the 24 Hour Madness….

I have not been keeping well for sometime now, sleepless nights due to sever bronchial asthma. The biggest project of my career goes live on May 1st and it could set me up for next 3 years or make me look up other jobs! Minor domestic crisis continue to plague me. Life can hardly be called a bed of roses; but do I care? Am I really worried that my life is falling apart?!?!?! Nope…the only thing I give a damm about at this point is that the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is BACK!!! April 29th, 8:00 AM EDT the non-stop reading binge starts!!! Wooohooooo……I CANNOT wait!

readathon5

My first Readathon was last year in October when I stumbled on Brona’s post on her Readathon prep. This is exactly why you need friends…..to drag you and tempt you into madcap adventures! Of course, not that I really need tempting to read a new book or participate in reading events! Anyhow, I attempted it last year and had a ball! Scratch that, I had a ball time 10! There is no way I was passing the April event up, even if it meant working late into the night to ensure Project launch on Monday goes smooth and I have the weekend to READ!!!

Now to proceed to matters, of actual importance – what do we read??!!! That, delicate and difficult question, that haunts each reader’s life; such a wonderful pain! I have my list all set, though again, I am not really sure, if I will be able to cover all or some or even in the end, throw up all the careful planning, to re-read Harry Potter, but for now this is what it looks like

  1. The Histories by Herodotus – Many of you are aware that I am reading this with Cleo and Ruth as part Reading The Histories for The Well Educated Mind Reading Challenge. Both Ruth and Cleo have finished while I lag woefully behind. Having said that, I am loving this narrative and I hope to cover some significant portion, through the Readathon
  2. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol  – This comic satire of Russian feudalism and bureaucracy set in 19th century is an absolutely wonder to read. Again, this is something I am reading with Cleo and again while my progress is slow, I hope, seriously hope to make some progress over the weekend!
  3. An Incident of the Fingerpost by Ian Pears – A whodunit is a must to break the monotony, especially if it’s a whodunit set in medieval England! Really looking forward to this one!
  4. Bones of the Hills – #3 The Great Conquer by Conn Iggulden – Can I possibly do any reading event, without atleast on hardcore Historical Fiction. The answer naturally is a big NO!!! This time I revisit and re-read an old favorite; Conn Iggulden’s marvelously researched tale of Chengiz Khan and his army is a fascinating read, away from all incorrect myths and gory descriptions. I finished Part 1 & 2 over this last week and now move on to part 3.
  5. Men at Arms by Sir Terry Pratchett – Could I possibly consider any reading event as complete, without one homage to a comic and humane narrative of mankind and its his frivolousness? Nope!! We go “detectoring” with Commander Vimes and his crew in the greatest city of Discworld, Ankh-Morpork!

My update style will remain same! I will have a 24 hour open blog update which I will try and update every 3 odd hours. I will also try to be more diligent and in fact use the Twitter and Goodreads pages for well needed breaks!

My cheering squad, I look at the same two – Brona & Cleo – some serious cheering required!!

This should be yet another restful weekend, which  should ensure I am all ready for the big launch come Monday! However, Monday is still far and for now, LET’S READ! Counting down the last few hours!

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