Tuesday, June 7

The Looking-Glass

When I was growing up in Bhopal, we were quite poor. Buying books was very difficult. Still used to manage to get some books from here and there, also inherited loads from didu's uncle and her fathers library. Dadu only had scientific and engineering books. Then we got the British council library but that only had British publications. 
At that time ussr was still extant and they had huge soviet publishing houses. The books they would publish would be hugely subsidised. So I would pick up whole rows of Russian literature in English plus science, mathematics and engineering texts. You may have seen them when you were there in February. 
So actually ended up getting a great grounding in Russian literature. Much more than American, European, Chinese, Japanese or Spanish literature.  Be that as it may, it was an education of sorts son. 
Russian literature is a funny one. It's frequently cold and morose. It's very long winded but full of terrible feelings which emerge slowly but when they do, they overwhelm you. 
Russian literature therefore closely mirrors Russian culture. They are a tragic people son. Their history is one of horrible pain, sorrow and great tribulation. The typical Russian peasant is perhaps one of the lost ones. Capable of great patience and great losses. 
Chekhov was one of the cosmopolitan writers. He can legitimately be called as one of the greatest short story writers son. Another chap who I rate very highly is guy de Maupassant but that's for another time. As mum what she thinks about short stories as she has won awards for her short stories which have been published. Interesting genre. 
Read his stories with care kids, it may sound depressing at first but the stories reflect some serious emotions. Huge ones. 
Happy reading. 

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NEW YEAR'S EVE. Nellie, the daughter of a landowner and general, a young and pretty girl, dreaming day and night of being married, was sitting in her room, gazing with exhausted, half-closed eyes into the looking-glass. She was pale, tense, and as motionless as the looking-glass.
The non-existent but apparent vista of a long, narrow corridor with endless rows of candles, the reflection of her face, her hands, of the frame -- all this was already clouded in mist and merged into a boundless grey sea. The sea was undulating, gleaming and now and then flaring crimson. . . .
Looking at Nellie's motionless eyes and parted lips, one could hardly say whether she was asleep or awake, but nevertheless she was seeing. At first she saw only the smile and soft, charming expression of someone's eyes, then against the shifting grey background there gradually appeared the outlines of a head, a face, eyebrows, beard. It was he, the destined one, the object of long dreams and hopes. The destined one was for Nellie everything, the significance of life, personal happiness, career, fate. Outside him, as on the grey background of the looking-glass, all was dark, empty, meaningless. And so it was not strange that, seeing before her a handsome, gently smiling face, she was conscious of bliss, of an unutterably sweet dream that could not be expressed in speech or on paper. Then she heard his voice, saw herself living under the same roof with him, her life merged into his. Months and years flew by against the grey background. And Nellie saw her future distinctly in all its details.
Picture followed picture against the grey background. Now Nellie saw herself one winter night knocking at the door of Stepan Lukitch, the district doctor. The old dog hoarsely and lazily barked behind the gate. The doctor's windows were in darkness. All was silence.
"For God's sake, for God's sake!" whispered Nellie.
But at last the garden gate creaked and Nellie saw the doctor's cook.
"Is the doctor at home?"
"His honour's asleep," whispered the cook into her sleeve, as though afraid of waking her master.
"He's only just got home from his fever patients, and gave orders he was not to be waked."

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