Wednesday, October 30, 2013

on having a russian soul, but not passing it on to my child

i have a russian soul. i know it sounds bad these days, with all of the homophobia and intrigues and hired clappers at the bolshoi and odin knows what else going on in russia, but it's still there. the same burning fascination that drove me to collect several degrees and a large bookshelf full of russian literature still smoulders within. i'm reading andrea pritzer's the secret history of vladimir nabokov and it, together with sabin's recent trip to st. petersburg, have fanned the flames once again.

russia is just so infuriatingly complex and vast and incomprehensible. it is at once primitive and highly cultured, traditional and fresh and new, provincial and cosmopolitan, a pastiche of copies of styles from around the world, but utterly its own. just when you think, i've just read brothers karamazov and now i really understand the russian soul, you turn to master and margarita or pale fire and another entire facet opens up. layer upon layer upon layer of complexity and history and blood and violence and art and thought and religion. i never get my fill of it.

i'll admit i was a little sad that it didn't speak to sabin in the same way. she said she was glad she went, but that she wouldn't want us to plan a family vacation to go back. maybe at 12, wandering the streets of modern st. petersburg, sipping a starbucks, and taking snapshots with her iPhone, it's perhaps understandable that she didn't feel the soul and the pulse of history running through the veins of nevsky prospect. but i had hoped that russia would open itself to her the way it did to me.

times are, of course, different. my initial interest in russia was a reaction to an instinctive and idealistic loathing of ronald reagan (i still think he's where the slippery slope began). it also arose in following the story of dissident andrei sakharov in the early 80s and in reading that baggy monster war & peace at too tender an age. the cold war was in full swing and we practiced nuclear fallout drills in the basement of our school. that's all very remote for sabin, if she has any awareness of it at all. the foundation just isn't there.

her danish sensibilities were a bit overwhelmed by the excessive ornate decoration of everything. gold trim and entire rooms of amber or malachite do make you understand why they needed a revolution. she found she didn't like not being able to read signs or understand what people were saying (being so multi-lingual, those are strange experiences for her). i guess i will have to accept that she will find her own forms of rebellion and passions and infatuations and that they don't have to mirror mine. i'm actually pretty ok with that, but i do wish that russia had made her heart go just a little bit pitter patter. but it wasn't a wasted trip. anytime you travel the world, you grow.


Veronica Roth said...

Interesting reaction between the two of you and, I completely understand. Just like you were influenced by the cold war, I have a fear of Russia, (the old Russia), brought about by the occupation I lived thru, and my mother has a deep loathing of all things Russian, while trying to keep up her Russian language skills. (My Russian is now so rusty it isn't even funny and this poor student staying with us right now is getting an unreasonable amount of translation form me rather than me making her search for the English words). Jon and Chloe have a fascination with Japan. Jon lived there for 1.5 years and C is deliberately learning Japanese, (which is messing with her French and Czech) in order to live and work there for a while after she graduates with her degree. I can't say I'm particularly taken with any culture though because I've lived or visited all over the place and nothing seems ideal or fascinating. I guess I'm more in love with history, like the old India of British Colonialism and other times which are gone and can never be experienced, (like the old Russia). Hmm...I'll have to think about that some more.

Ariadne said...

I so enjoyed your blogpost today!AriadnefromGreece!

Sammi said...

I *still* haven't read any Russian literature, though I will, I am just determined to get through the stack of books in my bedroom before I buy any more. Tho' I did make an Amazon wishlist for any one stuck for ideas at Christmas ;)

I guess it all depends on the way you've been brought up, my obsession with St. Petersburg is more because of watching Anastasia as child, and later learning a bit about the Tsars.

Also, I think there is going to be a series on the BBC about the Cold War soon, I am definitely interested in watching it.