“Upon a fiction, heavy tears I’ll weep”

Sometimes it happens so that a book comes to you at such a moment that it extremely resonates with the strings of your own soul, and then every barely noticeable hint in the text evokes a storm of emotions and tears are about to splash … It is exactly like “Upon a fiction, heavy tears I’ll weep “, as Alexander Puhkin said in his poem “Elegy” (1830)…

Reading this largely autobiographical novel by Cronin, I involuntarily recalled many other works of world literature about childhood. In general, it is always especially interesting for me to read the diary notes of a generation, refracted in the writer’s mind, telling about the youth that took place at the beginning of the 20th century … For example, the study by two friends of the fauna of the Wynton Hills, described by Cronin, reminded me of Marcel Pagnol’s childhood trilogy.

In his presentation of events, the author tries to be objective and to place accents accurately, at the same time striving both with a grain of irony to imagine how the hero looked from the outside, and not to miss the whole stream of thoughts and emotions that rushed through his head, while he was answering to his interlocutors with his meager restrained remarks.

Perhaps I will make this review rather personal since I’d like to describe my amazement when I was captured by emotions about the episode in which the “grandmother”, with the best intentions, sews a school suit for Robert instead of the worn one, using the fabric of the green lining of her skirt, and all the troubles that awaited the main character after that. And when a caring “mother” suggested that he put on his aunt’s women’s sharp-toed shoes in case his own ones would suddenly break off at the moment of perhaps the most responsible exam in his life …
“The poor are not given the right to choose, my boy,” says his “dad” with some hypocrisy, the main feature of which was stinginess … In this book, stinginess is perhaps brought to the point of absurdity, but perhaps this is somehow familiar to many readers in some form, and this is especially true of the older generation in our country – Russia, accustomed to try to save extremely – even if sometimes they could well afford something more.

There is, of course, a national flavor in the book, and it is described especially vividly due to the fact that the main character was born in Dublin into a Catholic family, but then he was forced to live in a small Scottish town inhabited by Protestants – by the way, through the prism of the perception of the little hero we we learn a lot about the way of life and manners of this very town.

Summing up, I will note that we have an example of such kind of book, in which, perhaps, there are no such action events as in a thriller or in an action movie, but, nevertheless, thanks to the correctly placed accents and interesting cognitive aspect of the text, the level of the reader’s response to which far surpasses many books of sharp genres. 

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Lost in … Or Robinson Crusoe in Search of Lost Time

“There will always be someone whose view is wide enough,” it is said mysteriously at the very beginning of the novel -really, it is not yet too clear what this is about – oh, this will become obvious only closer to the end of the novel.

And after that, paragraph by paragraph, the picture unfolds before the reader of a hero’s acquisition of his memories, for the time being, buried somewhere. Acquisitions bit by bit, with the help of some stable verbal turnovers being recalled, with the help of not too recognized yet person images who for the time being do not have their own name that are poping up from memory.

He identifies Russia by seeing himself in the church, and outside the window – a snow-covered country. And I think this very combination is extremely “Russian”!

“The church is a great joy, especially in childhood. Small, that means, I hold onto my mother’s skirt … And so I soar in church, float over the priest, waving a censer, through the fragrant smoke. Above the choir – through his chants (slow waves of the choir and his own grimaces on high notes). Above the old woman candlestick and the people who filled the temple (flowing around the pillars), along the windows, behind which there is a snowy country. Russia?”

Then he finds his memories even more accurately in space – this time with the help of recalling of the images of spire and the river.
I can’t help but quote this metaphorical description of the tramway movement:

“I am recalling. Tram rails on the frozen river. An electric tram making its way from one bank to another, benches along the windows … The car driver is concentrated, he is the last one to lose hope. The conductor is also strong in spirit, but does not forget to cheer himself up with sips from a flask, for the frost and moonlit landscape will discourage anyone, the conductor must remain vigorous. Sells tickets for five kopecks, rips them off with icy fingers. There are ten fathoms of water under it, a blizzard on the sides, but its fragile ark, a yellow light on the ice, strives to its goal – a huge spire lost in the darkness. I recognize this spire and this river. Now I know what city I lived in. “

And gradually this one who is recalling finds himself, feels himself, – first in space, then – in time. And most importantly – bit by bit he restores pictures of idyllic Russian life, forever lost and preserved only in the memories of those who, like him, are still alive, or … captured on paper by those who did manage to write it down.

“I try to approach the past in different ways in order to understand what it is. Something separate from me, or something I still live through?”

Honestly, keeping in mind the title of the novel – Aviator, I was afraid that it would turn out to be a text about the everyday life of some outstanding plane designer like Sergei Korolev, but my fears were not confirmed.
In general, when the reader tries to understand why the book is named in one way or another, then an amazing kind of scanning of the text occurs in his mind …
Of course, the theme of the aviator (really fashionable and sometimes tragic occupation for the 1910s) echoes the poem of the same name by Alexander Blok (1912).
But, closer to the end of the text, we may find a quote about a wide view of the picture seen, shedding light on the mysterious phrase about the width of the view at the very beginning and, besides, on the title of the novel:

“Once in Siverskaya I saw an airplane take off from a poorly mowed field. Taking a take off, the aviator went around potholes, jumped on bumps and suddenly – oh, joy! – was in the air. Looking at the car convulsively moving across the field, no one was flying, frankly speaking, he did not expect. And the aviator took off. And there was no more hummocky field, no laughing spectators for him – the sky appeared in the clouds scattering over it and the motley, like patchwork, earth under the wings. “

The hero of the novel identifies himself with Robinson Crusoe, the hero of his beloved childhood novel … By the way, the very book that his grandmother read to him when he was ill, listening to it through the sur of his fever, it is difficult to imagine something more idyllic.
That’s right: he is now Robinson Crusoe, because he was left completely alone, he was cut off from the world of which he was a part, and he was deprived of the opportunity to build a boat to get on it to the “Big Earth”.

So, all that remains is to remember and try to write down as many of your memories as possible.

“There is no point in writing about any major events … Descriptions should concern something that does not take place in history, but remains in the heart forever.”

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This smooth male voice

L’année dernière à Marienbad by Alain Resnais , 1961

“I was walking towards you along these endless corridors, along these too wide stairs, on carpets that absorb the sounds of footsteps …”

A man insinuatingly says something to a woman, a little secluded together with her from the rest of the respectable audience with their measured respectable amusements, and the woman, first with amazement, and then with polite interest, listens to his words, either smiling slyly, or in a flirtatious fright, a little picturesquely moving away from him while asking him to stop talking and leave her.

The words are repeated endlessly, each time from a slightly different angle, from a slightly different point, just as the camera is capturing the hotel’s interior, overloaded with the ponderous decoration of the “other century”, from a slightly changed angle, just as is capturing views of a formal, usually deserted park with frozen sculptures .. And as a result of these repetitions, a moment comes when the viewer seems to dissolve in this incessant sound of the organ – so solemnly cold and so detached, adding to everything that happens some otherworldly note and making the heroes themselves – man and woman – look like forever frozen statues in the park.

And now, towards the end, the whole situation with unswerving impetuosity turns out at first to be something that is sometimes called “adultery”, and then, after a few moments, it is “irrigated” by the presence of a pistol, after which the quiet words of a woman lying on the bed in a white peignoir , trimmed with feathers, that she felt cold and therefore would not go to the evening performance, no longer seem so unambiguously coquettish and intended only for a quick meeting with her lover.

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Research institutions of the Soviet era

I was amused by the peculiar style of the world of dust-covered appliances, typical for a research institute. It came to my mind that no one had touched these old devices for years, and even if they had been touched, they still looked abandoned and disused.

In addition to such devices in the premises of institutes one could come across other curious objects that existed in a single copy in the whole world. For example, in the room of one head of the laboratory, I was attracted to a skull-shaped ashtray which seemed something pirate. And while on work-related trip in Nizhny Novgorod, I noticed a goose feather inserted in a special stand swinging like a Weeble.

In various laboratories of the Institute, I came across sheets with funny inscriptions. For example, in the “List of Brilliant Ideas” it was proposed to appoint such-and-such staff member as a director of the institute. I saw “Leaf of Rage. In the case of rage, this leaf should be grabbed , crumpled and teared up in little pieces” with the image of a furious bull depicted below. Or the inscription on the door “Our joy of your visit knows no bounds”, featuring a giant with an ugly grimace.

Later it turned out that this humor had been borrowed from some American physical journal.

It was a quote from ” Flirting over a Cup of Coffee” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 3) .

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Herbalife and others

In those days, representatives of network marketing were wandering around the streets of Moscow. The internal structure of such companies, reminiscent of the complicated hierarchy of the bee community, was built very competently: lower level employees a priori would have never risen to the upper echelons parasitizing on their “slaves”, but, at the same time, they had the stromgest incentives to earn something in the absence of a fixed part of the salary. That’s why, dressed in their finest suits, these active young people were walking along the streets of Moscow and used to rush to the gray-faced unsmiling residents, blocking their way. “Congratulations, you have won a prize!” they shouted to you right out of the gate.

And then one could see how it was going. Would you enter into a long and dangerous talk with them, or, shaking your string bag decisively, would demand giving way and would wander further with your boring things?

It was a quote from ” Flirting over a Cup of Coffee” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 3) .

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The way my head works

I generally have a very complicated relationship with anecdotes. As you know, anecdotes and humor in general are based on an element of surprise. Usually I grasp the essence of the joke quite quickly, but then I begin doubting whether I understood correctly, and if that was really the case. These doubts corrode my brain – that’s why I am afraid of anecdotes in general.

It was a quote from ““Flirting over the Cup of Coffee” (The Unbearable Longing of the Flesh Book 3). You may buy the book here on amazon:

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