Posts Tagged ‘Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’
October 17, 2016 | by Martin Herbert
The hopeful dystopia of Pushwagner’s Soft City.
Where does art begin? In the case of Soft City, the straightforward answer is this: it began in Fredrikstad, Norway, in 1969, in a sea captain’s house converted into a writer’s retreat by the novelist Axel Jensen, after Pushwagner had ingested Sandoz LSD. He doodled a man in a car, whom he intuited was called “Mr. Soft”—five years before Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel would have a hit song of that name—and, along with Jensen, envisioned a day-in-the-life narrative structure for the character, along the lines of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and James Joyce’s Ulysses. And then?
A hiatus of some three years (hardly the only sharp left turn in Pushwagner’s tumultuous life), during which time he lived on virtually nothing in London (subsisting by selling drawings on trains for pennies) and Oslo, went back to his mother’s, was arrested for trying to board a flight to Madeira on his hands and knees, was institutionalized, walked back to Fredrikstad, escaped a hotel in Paris, sojourned in Lisbon, returned to London, and became a father. After these adventures, he once again began Soft City, with, he’s said, his beloved baby daughter, Elizabeth, on his lap, and with thoughts of the future in mind. Mr. Soft now had a family of his own, and a fearful projected dystopia to live in. Pushwagner finished the book, or rather the 269 bleak yet blackly comic ink drawings that would comprise it, in 1975; and then, after a few luminaries of the London music world had admired it (including Pete Townshend and Steve Winwood), he lost it. Read More »
July 3, 2014 | by Diana Bruk
Why are there so few courses in Soviet literature at American universities?
When I was completing a master's in comp lit at Oxford, I kept coming across a curious lapse—while most of my British peers had read at least some of the great writers of the Soviet canon, often as early as secondary school, my equally well-educated American friends had never even heard of them. The more I perused the courses of American universities, the more I found that Soviet literature—by which I mean the proverbial classics penned between the revolution and death of Stalin and published largely during Khruschev’s thaw—was noticeably absent. There were, of course, exceptions at institutions such as Stanford, Princeton, Yale, the University of Washington, and a few others, which are renowned for their Russian literature departments. But the majority of colleges, particularly liberal arts schools, focused on the nineteenth-century Russian novel and then skipped straight to Nabokov, or even to post-perestroika literature.
This absence struck me as odd, especially given the literary tastes of the Russian reading public. The Russian literati ostensibly admire and cherish the greats—your Tolstoys and Chekhovs, your Dostoevskys—but ask them to name their favorite writers and most will cite someone from this isolated literary isle. They might mention Mayakovsky, the macho darling of the Futurist movement, whose thundering poetry shook his listeners into an acute state of consciousness; or Akhmatova, an Acmeist poet who explored suffering, humanity’s great equalizer, with minimal words and explicit emotion. They could invoke Pasternak, whose Doctor Zhivago many Americans assume to be a tragic love story between a man and a woman, when really it’s a tragic love story between a man and a revolution, although in Russia Pasternak is celebrated even more for his poetry, especially his wildly experimental collection My Sister, Life. Then there’s the lyrical sentiment of Platonov, or the satire of Solzhenitsyn. There’s Bunin, Mandelshtam, Tsvetaeva, Zoschenko, Babel, Bergholz, Zamyatin, Bely, Bulgakov, and a litany of other luminaries whose surnames have all but disappeared from university syllabi.
Is this a lingering effect of the Cold War, a symptom of our culture’s tendency to seal off what we fear or don’t understand? I’m reminded of the horrific looks I got from people the summer I was nineteen, when I decided to read Mein Kampf. They worried that it would negatively influence my nubile and malleable young mind—a concern I found irritating, since I’ve long believed it’s our moral obligation to dissect the most heinous events in history, to use literature as a scalpel of sorts. Was the fear and scorn of Soviet oppression, I thought, part of the reason its literature was kept behind closed doors, even all these years later? Read More »
May 2, 2012 | by Leanne Shapton and Ben Schott
|Havisham’s Complexion1||Anti-Sex Scarlet2||Plum Purple3||Closed Eyelid4|
|Green Paste5||Rain Stone6||Nothing7||Esther’s Sauce8|
|Anthracite Brazier9||Dove10||Encrimsoned11||Foul Mood12|
|Snot13||Eyes14||Aschenbach’s Youth15||Saffron Silk16|
|Elm Shadow17||Paris18||Paper Smell19||England20|
|Rat Brown21||20,00022||Dorian Scarlet23||Lilac Ocean24|
|Basking Pear25||March Morning26||Sour Apple27||Gulag28|
- “ ‘Dear Miss Havisham,’ said Miss Sarah Pocket. ‘How well you look!’ ‘I do not,’ returned Miss Havisham.‘I am yellow skin and bone.’” ‘Great Expectations,’ Charles Dickens.
- “A narrow scarlet sash, emblem of the Junior Anti-Sex League, was wound several times round the waist of her overalls, just tightly enough to bring out the shapeliness of her hips.” ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ George Orwell.
- “ ‘Not those socks, Jeeves,’ I said,gulping a bit but having a dash at the careless, off-hand tone. ‘Give me the purple ones.’ ‘I beg your pardon, sir?’ ‘Those jolly purple ones.’ ‘Very good, sir.’ ” ‘The Inimitable Jeeves,’ P. G. Wode- house.
- “I pulled up my feet, bent my knees, and rested my chin on my hand. Then I closed my eyes. Still no sounds. The darkness behind my closed eyelids was like the cloud-covered sky, but the gray was somewhat deeper.” ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle,’ Haruki Murakami.
- “I bought makeup in tubes off a rack, and in the cold and dirty toilet of the gas station, I attempted a transformation, slapping buff-colored liquid over my face and rubbing green paste on my eyelids.” “Dulse,” Alice Munro.
- “A rainstorm would last hours, soaking the ruined outbuilding nearby, darkening its stones.” “St. Martin,” Lydia Davis.
- “Taken to his uncle’s house once, he had stumbled on her in the soft pink bedroom. Ida had just emerged from her bath and she sat in a powder blue nothing before a mirror at a little table crammed with jars.” ‘The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,’ Mordecai Richler.
- “He taught me how to eat avocados by melting grape jelly and french dress- ing together in a saucepan and filling the cup of the pear with the garnet sauce.” ‘The Bell Jar,’ Sylvia Plath.
- “At the street corner there was a brazier alight, the red cones of anthracite beautifully glowing, and a whiff of heat shedding from it.” ‘Girls in Their Married Bliss,’ Edna O’Brien.
- “Passersby, who, of course, stopped and stared, had just time to see a face of the very greatest importance against the dove-gray upholstery, before a male hand drew the blind and there was nothing to be seen except a square of dove gray.” ‘Mrs. Dalloway,’ Virginia Woolf.
- “Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way through the trellised panes, and served to render sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around.” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Edgar Allan Poe.
- “At home I’d slept for several hours then woke to a blue light and in a foul mood.” ‘Ticknor,’ Sheila Heti.
- “Tom was crying. He put his knuckles in his eyes the way little girls do on biscuit tin lids. A large tube of green snot hung out of one nostril, and when he sniffed it bobbed out of sight.” ‘The Cement Garden,’ Ian McEwan.
- “Pretty eyes. Pretty blue eyes. Big blue pretty eyes. Run, Jip, run. Jip runs, Alice runs. Alice has blue eyes. Jerry has blue eyes. Jerry runs. Alice runs. They run with their blue eyes. Four blue eyes. Four pretty blue eyes. Blue-sky eyes. Blue-like Mrs. Forrest’s blue blouse eyes. Morning-glory-blue-eyes. Alice-and-Jerry-blue-storybook-eyes.” ‘The Bluest Eye,’ Toni Morrison.
- “ ‘Surely you will permit me to restore what belongs to you?’ ‘How?’ asked Aschenbach. For answer the oily one washed his client’s hair in two waters, one clear and one dark, and lo, it was as black as in the days of his youth.” ‘Death in Venice,’ Thomas Mann.
- “But still at home, ignoring him, I’ll stay . . . Beautiful, clad in saffron silks all day.” ‘Lysistrata,’ Aristophanes.
- “On a sheep-cropped knoll under a clump of elms we ate the strawberries and drank the wine—as Sebastian promised, they were delicious together—and we lit fat, Turkish cigarettes and lay on our backs, Sebastian’s eyes on the leaves above him, mine on his profile, while the blue-gray smoke rose, untroubled by any wind.” ‘Brideshead Revisited,’ Evelyn Waugh.
- “In Paris, Cyril had a room away from his mother. I could already imagine the window open to the pink and blue sky, the wonderful sky of Paris, with the pigeons cooing on the windowsill, and with Cyril beside me on the narrow bed.” ‘Bonjour Tristesse,’ Françoise Sagan.
- “It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house—to reach the smell. But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the color of the paper! A yellow smell.” “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
- “At Gatwick they found a taxi without difficulty. It was raining, as it always seemed to be when you returned to England. Graham gazed through the speckled window. Why did every- thing green seem to have so much brown in it here? And how was it possible for things to be both damp and dusty at the same time?” ‘Before She Met Me,’ Julian Barnes.
- “It was a rough and ugly thing, an overall length of twenty-eight feet, a five-foot draft and just that one junk sail, but with a respectable three hundred and fifty square feet. A trim tab rudder hung on the stern. She was heavy and slow. And very ugly. I made her more ugly by painting her rat brown.” ‘The Shipping News,’ Annie Proulx.
- “The solar rays shone through the watery mass easily, and dissipated all color, and I clearly distinguished objects at a distance of a hundred and fifty yards. Beyond that the tints darkened into fine gradations of ultramarine, and faded into vague obscurity.” ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,’ Jules Verne.
- “His finely chiseled nostrils quivered, and some hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left them trembling.” ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray,’ Oscar Wilde.
- “The sky turns a soft lilac. Seeing this magnificent, enchanting sky, the ocean frowns at first, but soon itself takes on such tender, joyful, passionate colors as human tongue can hardly name.” “Gusev,” Anton Chekhov.
- “Grapes for the asking, / Pears red with basking / Out in the sun, / Plums on their twigs; / Pluck them and suck them, / Pomegranates, figs.” “Goblin Market,” Christina Rossetti.
- “It was a typical March morning when we got up to drive them to the train: blowy, dark, with spits of rain now and then.” ‘The Country Wife,’ Dorothy Van Doren.
- “White halogen off the green of the composite surface, the light out on the indoor courts at the Port Washington Tennis Academy is the color of sour apples.” ‘Infinite Jest,’ David Foster Wallace.
- Both of us were weak, dried out; our skin was grayish-yellow on our bones.” ‘The Gulag Archipelago,’ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.