Onegin, the main protagonist, travels to the country where he meets the idealistic poet Lensky, who introduces him to the sisters Olga (whith whom Len...moreOnegin, the main protagonist, travels to the country where he meets the idealistic poet Lensky, who introduces him to the sisters Olga (whith whom Lensky is in love) and Tatiana (who falls in love with Onegin). So starts this story of love, life, innocence and jaded young dandies who can only love what they cannot have.
This is one of my favourite books of all time. I have read it countless times and I am sure I will continue coming back to it again and again.
It is so simple yet so beautiful and the poetry is incomparable (in original at least, I am not sure what the translation is like).
We had to learn certain passages off by heart at school and, astonishingly, this was one of the very few books that we had to read as part of the curriculum, when I did not mind, in fact, was eager to do so. Tatiana and Onegin were more real to me than many of the people I know today. I remember reciting bits over and over again aloud to myself pretending that I was Tatiana. I WAS Tatiana. Restless and drunk on love, staying up half the night and writing poetry to my first crush (alas, never sent) and crying with her over Onegin's letter at the end.
Tatiana to me is one of the best written female characters in all of literature. She has depth, intelligence, passion but, most of all, integrity. Whereas Onegin is charmingly decadent and devoid of morals and gets his come-uppance well and truly in the end.
I must admit. I am a romantic at heart. Spare me the fate of the world crap and give me a good love poem/story any day of the week.
I used to read Blok...moreI must admit. I am a romantic at heart. Spare me the fate of the world crap and give me a good love poem/story any day of the week.
I used to read Blok's poetry when I was seventeen and revel in it. I mean, sure it is a bit stalky and obsessive at times in that lurking in dark conners waiting for the woman you love to pass by so you may glance at her and then go die on her doorstep or under her window way, but I never minded that at seventeen.
And Blok is certainly a man who took romanticising a woman seriously. I mean, he idealised the woman he married so much, he wouldn't sleep with her (his feelings for the Beatuful Lady were too pure plus he was too busy having countless affairs with less perfect women) practically pushing her into the arms of his best friend and fellow poet who, whilst also thinking her a perfection, wasn't above shagging her.
Anywho, I am no longer seventeen but I still read Blok from time to time and enjoy it immensely.
One of my favourite Blok poems:
She came in from the cold With a blush on her cheeks Filling the room With the aroma of fresh air and perfume, Her clear voice and disrespectful Chatter.
She immediately dropped a fat Literary journal on the floor And suddenly it felt Like there was not enough room In my large parlour.
All this was somewhat irritating And pretty absurd. But she wanted me To read Macbeth to her.
Having barely reached the earth's bubbles, Of which I cannot speak without excitement, I noticed that she was also excited And looking closely out the window.
It turned out that a large tortie cat Was crawling along the edge of the roof Trying to get to the kissing doves.
I was most upset because It was not us but the doves that were kissing And because the times of Paolo and Francesca have passed. (less)
The Tale of Fedot-strelets is a satirical play in verse written in 1985 by Leonid Filatov and is hugely popular in Russia. Leonid Filatov was primaril...moreThe Tale of Fedot-strelets is a satirical play in verse written in 1985 by Leonid Filatov and is hugely popular in Russia. Leonid Filatov was primarily an actor, though he also directed theatre and films and wrote a number of books of which Fedot-strelets is by far the most popular. I have stumbled across a translation into English here: http://samlib.ru/a/alec_v/fed-rus-eng... which may give an English speaker some idea of this book though, inevitably, it is just a shadow of the original as a lot of the humour is in the particular phrasing used by Filatov which is untranslatable.
The play is written in folk fairytale style with some modern terminology woven in to comical effect and you can often hear Russian people using phrases from the book without even realising they are doing so, because many have since become colloquialisms. All the characters are common Russian folklore figures which a Russian audience will recognise immediately.
The main cast:
Fedot, a wise cracking, vainglorious and incredibly lucky hunter/soldier:
The Tsar, a petty and malicious tyrant and an old lothario:
Marusja, a beautiful maiden of typical Russian folklore stock, one who will cook, clean, pander to the man's every whim, play the violin and solve every problem that he has ever had:
They all seem to have huge sad eyes. Don't think the one in the picture turned into a bird of any kind but plenty of them do turn into pigeons, swans, doves and the like. In Russian folklore there were even two types of bird women, Alkonost and Sirin, which I find fascinating. Both used to sing heavenly songs with the former making you forget everything and the latter being prophetic.
Baba Yaga, a forest dwelling evil witch:
The General, a lazy fool happy to follow all orders:
The tale is narrated by the jester who makes a number of shrewd observations along the way and starts with Fedot being ordered by the Tsar to bring a pheasant or a grouse from the hunt. While on this task, Fedot comes across a pigeon who begs him to spare her life and then turns into the beautiful maiden, Marusja. Unsurprisingly, Fedot is not the only one who thinks that Marusja is a real find. Having learned of Marusja from the General, the Tsar sends Fedot on a number of quests thought up by Baba Yaga in an attempt to kill him off on the sly so that the Tsar may marry Marusja, finally sending him to get that which cannot exist. There are a number of side characters including the Tsar's daughter, a spoilt princes who the Tsar tries to marry off to every foreign envoy (including one from a tribe of cannibals) and her nurse, an old woman with a sharp-tongue.
I really love this book but, I guess, when it comes right down to it, it's not a literary masterpiece by any stretch and my love for it has probably more to do with my own nostalgia than anything else. Plus it's really funny (in Russian at least). However, while not being an original folk tale itself, this book is closely based on one and does provide a very accurate and humorous look at the quintessential Russian fairytale and also represents an excellent example of the social and political satire in Russia both at the time when the book was written but also throughout most Russian history, with the Tsar and the General being caricatures of the political and executive powers, respectively, and Fedot representing the people. (less)
This is a short story collection of nine fairy tales retold. These were certainly beautiful and gave a totally different perspective to some of the st...moreThis is a short story collection of nine fairy tales retold. These were certainly beautiful and gave a totally different perspective to some of the stories while keeping very close to the original with others. They read more like poetry than anything else.
I loved him the way it feels when you get hot wax on the inside of your wrist and while it's burning, just as sudden, it's a cool thick skin. Like it tastes to eat sweet snow, above the daffodil bulbs - not that I've ever found it, but clean snow that melts to nothing on the heat of your tongue so that you aren't even sure if it was ever there. I loved him like spaniel joy at a scent in the grass - riveted, lost.
I'd sit around dreaming that the boys that I saw at shows or at work - the boys with silver earrings and big boots - would tell me that I was beautiful, take me home and feed me Thai food or omelettes and undress me and make love to me all night with the pale trees whispering windsongs about a tortured, gleaming city and the moonlight like flame melting our candle bodies.
She made him want to cry when he walked up the path through the ferns and doves and lilies and saw her covered with earth and dust and ash. Only her eyes shone out. Revealing, not reflecting. Windows. Her feet were bare. He wanted her to tell him the rest of the story. He felt bereft without it, without her. There were only these women with mirror eyes strutting across marble floors, tossing their manes, revealing their breasts, untouchable, only these tantalizing empty glass boxes full of dancing lights he could not hold, only these icy cubicles, parched yards, hard loneliness.
The problem was that with poetry, I have to feel it with my heart rather than my mind and, while I did think these were beautiful, I just didn't love them. I kept feeling like I wasn't really getting these stories and there is a bigger deeper more profound meaning to them that kept eluding me. A quick and interesting read but I doubt I will be coming back to them.(less)
What a peculiar story this is. Laura and Lizzie are two sisters who go to fetch some water every day and on their way they hear the cries of the gobli...moreWhat a peculiar story this is. Laura and Lizzie are two sisters who go to fetch some water every day and on their way they hear the cries of the goblin men selling all manner of luscious exotic fruit:
Apples and quinces, Lemons and oranges, Plump unpeck’d cherries, Melons and raspberries, Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches, Swart-headed mulberries, Wild free-born cranberries, Crab-apples, dewberries, Pine-apples, blackberries, Apricots, strawberries;— All ripe together In summer weather
Wise Lizzie keeps her head down and ignores the goblin men's cries of "Come buy, come buy" but Laura is fascinated. She hangs back one evening, buys some fruit with a golden curl and "a tear more rare than pearl" and then:
She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more Fruits which that unknown orchard bore; She suck’d until her lips were sore; Then flung the emptied rinds away But gather’d up one kernel stone, And knew not was it night or day As she turn’d home alone.
Lizzie, "full of wise upbraidings", waits at the house for her sister, and the next day when the two go to fetch the water in the evening, Laura realises that she can no longer see the goblin men or hear their cries. Laura turns sick with longing for more of the forbidden fruit and, when she appears to be at death's door, incorruptible Lizzie decides to brave the goblin men and heads out into the forest to buy some fruit for her sister. The goblin men are at first willing to sell fruit to Lizzie but when they realise that she wants to take it away and give it to someone else, they turn on her:
Lashing their tails They trod and hustled her, Elbowed and jostled her, Clawed with their nails, Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking, Tore her gown and soiled her stocking, Twitched her hair out by the roots, Stamped upon her tender feet, Held her hands and squeezed their fruits Against her mouth to make her eat.
But virtuous Lizzie refuses to open her mouth so that even a drop of the fruit juice wouldn't trickle in and runs home, where she invites her sister to:
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices Squeezed from goblin fruits for you, Goblin pulp and goblin dew. Eat me, drink me, love me;
Whereupon Laura miraculously recovers and they both live happily ever after.
So, what on earth is this story all about? Is this an exploration on "feminine sexuality and its relation to Victorian social mores" (quoting Wiki here), is it an allegory of temptation and salvation, is it a cautionary tale about the dangers of pre-marital sex or addiction, a celebration of lesbian/sisterly love (choose as you will), a treatise against advertising? All of these, none of them?
Whatever it was, it was a lot of fun. And I disagree with those readers that say that this is definitely not for the children. I read this with my daughter (who is 10) and it is only as dirty as your mind makes it to be (although she did go ewww when Laura was licking the juice off of Lizzie).
We read one of the free versions of this poem available online but I didn't want us to miss out on the illustrations so we did a bit of googling and we looked at the many wonderful pictures that come up and stumbled across this version, which I think deserves a particular mention. (less)