Into Russia

On our bookshelf is a reasonable selection of Russian authors/stories

  • The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
  • Angel on the Square }
  • The Impossible Journey }
  • Burying the Sun } ~ all three by Gloria Whelan
  • Old Peter’s Russian Tales by Arthur Ransome
  • Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse, with quotes from Pushkin heading each chapter
  • Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Cancer Ward }
  • The First Circle }
  • The Gulag Archipelago volumes one and two (need to find the third) }
  • We Never Make Mistakes }
  • For the Good of the Cause }
  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich } ~ all by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
  • Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin
  • White Gardenia by Belinda Alexandra

We’d have had Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, hard cover edition for fifty cents from a second-hand shop, except that when I put it down, someone else snaffled it up!
I’ve read all the “children’s” ones (the first half dozen in the list), and would heartily recommend them all.
I’ve made a start on the rest. White Gardenia is only a little bit Russian, but holds some of the same themes – and is just as thick as the more Russian books;-) I’ve walked with Ivan Denisovich through his day, and have been inspired to make my summer journey into the rest of the pages of the remaining books.

Somewhat co-incidentally, I also just watched Russian Ark.
Fascinating movie from a number of perspectives.

  1. It’s filmed in a single sequence shot….that’s right, there’s not one “cut” in the whole 96 minutes. Very clever. Very effective.
  2. Beautiful costuming.
  3. There’s mystique and intrigue as you try to work out what’s going on, even who the main character is. Turns out there are two of them – one dead narrator, who you never see, and “the European”, who is visible to the audience.
  4. These two wander through the Hermitage. Would that not be enough?!
  5. But there’s more. They encounter people from various time periods of Russian history. Somewhat confusingly their journey is not chronological, but it is certainly interesting. You probably need to have a bit of a handle on basic Russian history to understand the movie – otherwise it could be quite bizarre….fortunately we have done a bit of reading and even the children could recognise the 900 Day Seige and Catherine the Great and Tsar Nicolas II’s family dinner at the white table, which was exactly where we were standing when we realised we had lost our own little girl and the moment of poignanacy turned into an extended moment of controlled panic. There were other scenes, which we could only guess at.
  6. There were a number of quotable philosophical one-liners, none of which I can actually remember to be able to quote!
  7. Great themes of history and future and understanding and importance and culture.
  8. Fantastic orchestral pieces. Wonderful choreographed dances (and Jgirl16 loved the soldiers marching).
  9. Subtitles. Russian language. Music to the ears –  and the kids enjoyed recognising the odd word and pointing out that someone said, “Yes yes yes” but it was not in the subtitles.

We may not have had a long time in Russia, but they were full and fascinating days, and I am now looking forward to travelling back there in literature.

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