Saturday, August 16, 2008

News Roundup: Mandelshtam, Solzhenitsyn, and Rasputin

This week’s Russian news included several items involving writers:

A monument to poet Osip Mandel’shtam will be unveiled in Voronezh on October 2, 2008, opposite the house where Mandel’shtam lived during his 1934-1937 exile.

A fitting 1935 poem from Mandel'shtam's “Voronezh Notebooks”:

“Пусти меня, отдай меня, Воронеж:”

“O, let me go, Voronezh, O return me”

Two news stories mentioned posthumous honors for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. “Большая книга” (“Big Book”) will make a special award to Solzhenitsyn for honor and merit (“честь и достойнство”). The award recognizes, among other qualities, the writer’s ability to remain true to himself and his beliefs. In other news, the Moscow street “Большая Коммунистическая” (“Big Communist Street”) will be renamed for Solzhenitsyn.

On to the slightly weird... When I first saw a headline saying that Valentin Rasputin was going to look at Lake Baikal from the “Mir,” I wondered if a journalist had forgotten that the Mir space station came down to earth in, ah, 2001. No! On Thursday, Rasputin took part in an underwater expedition in a deepwater vehicle that’s also called Mir, which means both “peace” and “world.” Rasputin is known for his activism for protecting Baikal as well as a nationalist bent, which some call “Siberian nationalism.”

One report says Rasputin spent three hours underwater, descending 800 meters. Rasputin told reporters that the underwater world includes beauty, order, friendliness, and a complete absence of aggression. “Yes, the lowest organisms dwell there, but they are somehow higher than us,” he said (my translation).


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