“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. 

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.”

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.

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) .

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:

Happy New Year!

The main thing in the new year celebration does not consist of something like digesting homemade food to the Kremlin chimes and listening to Putin’s TV speech, and is not in the subsequent looking at amateur performances on TV.

No, the celebration of the new year consists of precisely in this exhausting walking in a crowd, in the desire to discern a real treasure among the many ridiculous things, which you will then lovingly send to the shopping basket. This optional trinket is the quintessence of the new year… The main thing is not to forget, after the end of the New Year’s fever, to hide it somewhere far away, otherwise you will inadvertently shudder at its absurdity …
New Year’s utensils are stylized to resemble an old luxurious life, when a poor girl, shivering from the cold, admired the sparkling showcase with delight … Or, at worst, goods from the New Year’s stalls parody the reality of American films, where the ribbon of a gift box falls down under the song of Merry Christmas and under reasoning about the family character of the Christmas celebration, tender cheeks are filled with blush and the young charming woman waves her hands with delight….(Or maybe, as in the famous story of O. Henry, she is finding there in a gift box a comb for her newly cut hair.)

Rebecca Popova New Year post card

And love, and happiness, and life

The ways in which the reader sometimes finds his book are truly amazing.
I was trying to remember the name of a completely different novel – actually, I intended to find The Kill Artist by Daniel Silva, but I forgot the author’s last name, and the search on the keywords “book” – “Venice” – “killer” unespectedly gave me “Death in Venice” by Thomas Mann, which I preferred to read instead of the book I was looking for initially.

Frankly I did not quite manage to grasp my emotions of Thomas Mann’s prose. On the one hand, everything he writes seems to be quite obvious, well-known and often met. But he expresses it so confidently and skillfully, adding to this a certain amount of quite modern details – well, in fact, what means the last hundred years on the scale of human self-knowledge! – and arranges his thoughts and extremely precise descriptions in such a way that the resulting whole text canvas looks quite convincing to the taste of the sophisticated modern reader.

Thomas Mann, exquisitely as a true master of the word, examined the mechanism of a love feeling, when some force makes a lover want to be near and strive to please the person he loved.  A writer by the name of Aschenbach is confronted with love in its pure undiluted form and in amazement tries to comprehend it. The object of love is a surprisingly handsome boy who does not possess intellectual dignity, at the same time the subject of love – Ashenbach – is an educated refined person prone to introspection.
In this state of love intoxication, Ashenbach becomes especially susceptible to arts that would have seemed vulgar to him before.

Beauty wounds Ashenbach like the arrows of Cupid. And then, unconsciously dreaming of possible reciprocity, Ashenbach is forced to think how outwardly attractive he himself looks to other people. He goes up to his hotel room and looks in the mirror … Indeed, people appreciated and extolled him as a master in literature, but will that be convincing in the boy’s eyes? Since the face that looks at him from the mirror is terrifying from an aesthetic point of view.

While polemicizing to himself with Plato’s theses, Ashenbach admits with bitterness and amazement that poets are lustful in their desire to possess beauty.
Under the influence of love intoxication, the hero’s value system changes. What seemed important before – comfort, the desire to write – suddenly became secondary.
The very scheme of love in the novel is reduced to the extraordinary power of beauty and naturalness over the intellect. As a result, the force of attraction of the intellect to beauty turns out to be destructive, and the intellect literally sacrifices itself for the sake of beauty .

How to stop worrying and get your husband’s attention

After rereading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn a second time, I wondered: what is this book about?

What can we find in this text, other than a gripping plot, written with the expectation that it will be the basis of the hit thriller movie script?
Perhaps this is just a very well-written thriller – with the invariable principle of any thriller that everything turns out to be not at all what it seems at first – in which, at the same time, the author paid close attention to the psychological reliability of the characters?
Or, on the contrary, can this novel be viewed as a general discussion of married life, which is just “masquerading” as a thriller?

I really like the first part of this story, while the ending evokes feelings of displeasure interspersed with a sense of horror and seems unnatural.
And, in general, I approximately understand why this is happening.

We read the first half of the book about the transformation of a married couple’s relationship during five years of marriage, when a husband and wife go from mutual delight to painful misunderstanding. The author uses a very effective plot composition technique, in which the same events of life together are alternately described firstly from the point of view of a man, and then from the point of view of a woman – I remember that I really liked a similar method many years ago in the film “Françoise ou La vie conjugale” (1964).

This story of a gradual change in the relationship between spouses might seem quite typical for many couples … although later it turns out that it is faked a little.
Sometimes it seems that the author is literally ironically making fun of typical advice for spouses, such as seeking compromises – “never go to bed without making peace”.

The two main characters in the novel are, of course, the husband and the wife mentioned above.
The husband, with pleasure and a little narcissistic, plunges into the abyss of introspection, recalling the details of his own biography and typical traits of his character and, in general, appears in this hypostasis as a rather self-critical fellow. However, by all accounts, he is devilishly charming, as well as witty, erudite and even able to behave quite caringly towards his other half for a while.

As for his wife, in the beginning of the text she looks just beautiful, obedient and being in love one, accepting all the shortcomings of her husband and as if dissolved in her bright feeling of love and forgiveness – that is, in fact, she embodies the ideal of a wife according to all the textbooks of family life.
However, right in the middle of the book, the wife turns out to be not at all as simple as it seems. For example, it turns out that it was she who, at the very beginning of their relationship, stimulated her future husband to “become a superman” and to lead an intellectual life at the limit of his mental capabilities, and it is eaxactly as a result of this process he fell in love with her.
Subsequently, the wife turns out to be a grotesque character, in which the features are unusually hypertrophied, but this is what makes the novel so interesting to read … and at the same time so implausible – in other words, some “surrealistic” events begin.

In the second half of the novel the reader is forcibly immersed in such purely american themes as reflections on the power of public opinion, lawyers, paparazzi, cops, popular TV shows, phrases from movies, talk show hosts…
In general, I can’t say this text give rise to any interesting literary thoughts and associations in me, although – to be honest – reading was extremely interesting.

Door to the Garden of Eden in the gray city

I met books in my life that I often re-read as a teenager and about which then I remembered all my life with a warm feeling, amazed at my own emotions while reading. In fairness, I will note that the available choice for reading was by no means as rich as it is today, but still we saw on the bookshelves the spines with titles that had passed, in the opinion of competent persons, all kinds of censorship, both in terms of quality and for ideological reasons. For example, the “door in the wall” from the story of the same name by H.G. Wells became a completely archetypal concept for me for the rest of my life – I must say that in childhood and adolescence, the bright image of a door entwined with wild grapes and capable of hiding in the space of an ordinary-looking gray city, invariably excited my imagination.
Just now I re-read this short story, and my expectations were not disappointed, and this time – I was touched again – however, this time it was more from my own memories, not allowing the ice of stinging criticism to penetrate my soul.
This time, the described Garden of Eden unexpectedly reminded me of a visit to Rodini Park in the city of Rhodes … In general, this entire subconscious memory mechanism is truly amazing, because, to be honest, I cannot say that I remember visiting this park so frequently or that it was the most interesting park in my life … Apparently, a certain majesty and serenity, which gives this place its venerable age – really, the park erased at the end of the 5th century BC, and thete are pointers to the mausoleum of Ptolemy, – has affected. Indeed, centuries pass ater centuries, and the park still stands in the same place, indifferent to the passage of time and even more so to people with their vain concerns.

I have found that this story, with its thought of the amazing places lost in rather familiar space so close to us, has influenced my entire life.
The Wallace’s school games with an attempt first to get lost and then find the right path reminded me of our childhood fun with space, which my girl friends and Iused to play in the vicinity of our house, about which I write in my book “I Am Becoming a Woman”


“We had such fun with Tanya: being impressed by the intricacies of the streets, we used to hit the road with the intention of getting lost. We were satisfied when, after having strayed among the streets and having time to be seriously scared, we suddenly found our house on the wrong side from where we left.”

The way his household greeted unkindly Wallace after his returning home echoes this fragment of “I am becoming a woman”.


“Then it turned out that they were looking for us at this time – we had gone as far away from home as never before … But this was a necessary feature of any more or less interesting activity: a reckoning in the form of censure from parents was to come inevitably.”

Moscow International Film Festival

So  that’s what often happens – you grab some first book you come across to put it under a sheet of paper you are giong to write on, and on closer examination this book turns out to be last year’s catalog of the MIFF, and then the thought comes: what is there with the current MIFF – the very same festival that they were going to postpone to the fall?And by coincidence, which are only in films or books, it turns out that the festival has not yet passed and that it begins as early as tomorrow, October 1st.I like everything about my going to the festival, including a walk along Novinsky Boulevard, and a touching attempt to catch the last warmth of the fall sun.This time I didn’t try to get into the festival atmosphere and enter into conversations with someone – as they say, the situation is inappropriate today  to communicate too much  – it’s good that the festival is  held at least in some form.I went to two films in a row at once – “Run, Uwe, Run” (Sweden) and “Salvation” (South Africa)….And here I am hanging in a certain timeless space, alone with the darkness, my trusty tablet and a wide screen.Which movie did I like more?The second film – “Salvation” – looks like a kind of real festival movie, the actors have impressive facial expressions, you want to peer into their faces endlessly, no matter what they say, some frames are so beautiful that it makes you want to take a screenshot on the sly, you want to shazam the music, and in the end you have to secretly wipe away your tears.The first film was made according to more familiar rules and, despite a certain degree of Swedish flavor (architecture, inscriptions), it is extremely understandable to the Russian viewer both in its picture (small rooms with grandmother’s carpets and a swiveling stool near the piano), and in its cinematic language, and even according to their logical text patterns in the conversations of the heroes (laughter was often heard in the cinema hall). It evokes a pleasant feeling of belonging to the pan-European global world.