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Kinks, Jews, And Russians...Entertaining And Instructing


3DOP

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(For everyone else, volgadon has started a thread in General Discussion in which he highlights a song that goes back a long ways. I have been wanting to talk to volgadon about a few things for weeks and now I must.)

Wow volgadon...

I had that record by the Kinks. Heh. I might give a substantive reply later.

I love your taste in literature, your interest in Russia, and now the Kinks? Someone else remembers something of the Kinks besides L-O-L-A (which I don't listen to, clever though Ray Davies was)? I have been wanting to ask if you are familiar with some less well-known figures who I think deserve more attention. I love Solzhenitsyn's fiction, but everyone knows of him.

I want to recommend two of my favorite 20th Century Russian authors. Both were Jewish. Both were persecuted either by Nazis or Communists. Both died thinking that their greatest works would be unpublished. The first died an Auscwhitz, but her work, only partly finished is still lovely. She talks about how a good piece of literature might resemble a symphony. She was carefully crafting such a symphony when, fleeing from Paris, the Germans took her. She was dead of typhoid within a month. Her husband's pleas for clemency were in vain. She was already gone while her husband was unknowingly gaining unsafe recognition from authorities who he had thought would save his Jewish wife, if they only knew that she had converted to the Catholic faith. He was taken shortly after, and it was left to their young children to discover and publish their mother's work in their later lives.

The other had been a successful war correspondent for the Soviets. His style at that time had to fit with the political realities. Later, during the thaw which came during Kruschev's early years he completed his own War and Peace. It could never have been published in Russia during the times of Stalin, or even under Kruschev because along with exposing the deepest evils of the Nazi terror, (which all of Russia would take for granted), he subtly gives an impression that the Nazis were not to be outdone by the Soviet tyranny. It is filled with a cast of characters, and changing scenery reminiscent of Tolstoy, and you'll want a copy of the book that lists all of the names and their relations to one another. So the author is taken ill with a terminal cancer in the early 60's, just when Kruschev's star is falling rapidly and he is making plans for publication. The police come and confiscate his manuscript. He died not knowing that someone had managed to have a copy, slightly mutilated, that made it to the West. His work was published in the early 80's.

Irene Nemirovsky and Vasily Grossman. Maybe you have heard of them? I won't give more of a book report than I have already, but combined with the author's biographies, their works speak of the different ways that Russian Jews met with tragedy in their personal lives while trying desperately to remain artistically and ideologically sound, without rousing the tyrant. Nemirovsky's work is called Suite Francaise while Grossman's is usually translated as Life and Fate. I have read Grossman at least twice, once aloud to my wife. It is epic in scope and it might help to approach it as a kind of literary pilgrimage. I believe I will turn to Nemirovsky's shorter "symphony" again and again too. I just discovered her this year.

I hope I haven't built them up too much now. A superficial reading can't work with the greatest literature. Certainly it isn't for everyone. Most people like every painting of a wave on the beach. I do! I am not against them, they are so easy to enjoy. I hope that any who would expose themselves to either of these two authors would approach them with care and with a mind to reflect and ponder. I found them both to be entertaining but I would not say they are "easy to enjoy". Anyone will care about the heroes and villains. But there may also be some joy of discovery too for those who approach with a mind to work.

Edited by 3DOP
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A thread after my own heart!

Wow volgadon...

I had that record by the Kinks. Heh. I might give a substantive reply later.

I love your taste in literature, your interest in Russia, and now the Kinks? Someone else remembers something of the Kinks besides L-O-L-A (which I don't listen to, clever though Ray Davies was)?

I don't listen to Lola either anymore, though the Kinks are one of my absolute favourite bands. Ray Davies was a superb lyricist and I always feel better after Waterloo Sunset.

I'll respond in more detail, but Grossman was a superb writer. I'm vaguely familiar with Nemirovsky, but haven't gotten round to reading her.

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