I took a break last week after a rather bloody incident involving
a grater, a chunk of Pineland sharp
cheddar cheese, and a middle finger. Now that I’m back to full typing
capacity, despite an occasional twinge in the finger, here’s a jumble of a post
to get me caught up…
I’ll admit that last week I was more than happy to procrastinate writing about Sergei Nosov’s Грачи улетели (The Rooks Have Flown/Left/Gone): in keeping with the jumble theme, The Rooks is a nearly indescribable jumble of characters, places, and motifs. Nosov tells the story of three old friends—a teacher, a typewriter repairman and watchman, and a former flyswatter salesman and would-be artist(e)—in three non-chronological sections. Much of the book is set in St. Petersburg, which lends itself to some nice passages about changing names and times. And references to Dostoevsky. And peeing off a bridge.
I thought The Rooks worked particularly well when Nosov examined contemporary art—one of his characters makes a wonderful trip to the Hermitage and stares in the abyss of Malevich’s glassed-in Black Square—and the fine lines between art and life. The section set in Germany, where the flyswatter salesman and would-be artist lives for a time and hosts the other two for a painful visit, felt less successful because it felt, simply, too long. Despite some structural misgivings, Nosov won me over with atmosphere, love for St. Petersburg, and a tone that avoids the cloying and preciousness thanks, in large part, to tart commentary on contemporary art and culture. The epilogue contains developments that brought varying degrees of surprise and showed how little we may know our friends and literary characters. It also cemented my interpretation of the book’s title as a reference to fall, playing off the name of Aleksei Savrasov’s painting of rooks that have returned in spring.
|Oxford from the air... must get up early enough to see city before coven...|
- Anne Applebaum: The Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956
- Masha Gessen: Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin
- Thane Gustafson: Wheel of Fortune: The Battle for Oil and Fortune in Russia
- Donald J. Raleigh: Soviet Baby Boomers: An Oral History of Russia’s Post War Generation
- Karl Schlögel: Moscow, 1937
- Douglas Smith: Former People: The Last Days of Russia’s Aristocracy