Tag Archives: Leo Tolstoy Resurrection

an exchange about (Russian, American literature) – UPDATED

 

 

 

Between me and my Russian collaborator Nataliya this morning. We are working together on translations of Pitirim Sorokin’s early works from Russian into English.

 

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NATALIYA

 

I don’t see a problem with the translation of the poem.* I know that there are many good translations of nineteenth-century Russian poetry into English. I myself saw such publications in the Library of Valdosta State University.

Lermontov is a great Russian poet of the nineteenth century, the second after Alexander Pushkin. Unfortunately, he did not live long. He was killed in a duel when he was only twenty-seven years old. Of course, his poems were translated into English.

We just need to find these translations. If I could go to Moscow or St. Petersburg, I would find them in the library, but this is not possible yet. Let’s not rush it. This is not the only poetic quote in Sorokin’s book. While we can find translations on the internet, then we will check and search in high-quality and reliable publications. We don’t need professors for that.

 

*Дума (Mediation), a poem by Mikhail Lermontov, from which Sorokin quotes several lines

 

 

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ROGER

 

Thanks for the message and wishes, Natalia.

An internet friend of mine, Elisabeth van der Meer, has a site in English devoted to Russian literature. I like her site. She always reads my stuff. She had a recent post about Lermontov:

 

https://arussianaffair.wordpress.com/2020/10/15/the-most-scottish-of-the-russian-writers-mikhail-lermontov/

 

Of course, I had heard of Lermontov but knew very little about him, and still do (know little).

I will get back to Sorokin soon.

You might like this post of mine:

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/04/01/spring/

 

I became engrossed in Tolstoy in my mid-twenties. I read his major novels pretty much in a row. When I read the passage about spring at the opening of Воскресение [Resurrection], it made a powerful impression on me. Around that time, I also got into Chekhov, briefly — but, again, I found his works unforgettable.**

All of this was in English translation.

The thing about the passage about spring (Tolstoy’s) that impresses me greatly is how Tolstoy is the great realist, descriptive novelist — nothing is fanciful — “All is true,” as Balzac said at the beginning of one of his most famous novels novels, Père Goriot — yet there is always a weighty level of deep philosophical meaning.

Herman Melville comes closest to achieving this among the great American writers.

 

** Especially, in my case, a lesser known Chekhov work:  Остров Сахалин (translated as The Island: A Journey to Sakhalin); not the most artistic of Chekhov’s works, but I found it very powerful.

 

 

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NATALIYA

 

Dear Roger,

 

Elisabeth has a wonderful website. Her post about Lermontov is great. I knew about Lermontov’s Scottish roots, but she told about it so interestingly and beautifully. I’m going to the North Caucasus in the summer, just in those places that are associated with the biography of Lermontov and his death. There are very beautiful museums and monuments there. I’ll send you photos.

I also love Leo Tolstoy and believe that at every age, at different stages of life, people discover new content in his works. He is a child of his own time and at the same time timeless. That makes him great.

 

 

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ROGER

 

Tolstoy is the best novelist ever! Competitors? I would say Herman Melville (one great book), Victor Hugo (same), Charles Dickens. And, yes, Tolstoy is timeless.

P.S. The House by the Dvina by Eugenie Fraser is an interesting book. I bought it in London during a trip overseas.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 7, 2021; updated March 10

 

post updated — “spring (as seen by The Bard, by Tolstoy; and felt by us all, myself included)”

 

 

See my updated post

 

spring (as seen by The Bard, by Tolstoy; and felt by us all, myself included)

 

https://rogersgleanings.com/2016/04/01/spring/

 

 

It seems relevant now.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

an intellectual adventure

 

 

“My father never judged people by what they wore, how much they earned or what school they attended. He wanted to know if someone was an intellectual. By that, he meant someone who read books and thought about ideas. That was his kind of person.”

— Judith Colp Rubin, eulogy for Ralph Colp Jr., MD, November 2008

 

 

i In my first two brief therapy sessions with Dr. Ralph Colp Jr. at Columbia University, he asked me some standard questions for a psychiatric interview and I shared with him in general some of the problems and anxieties I was having, such as feelings of frustration in dating and romantic relationships and with my job.

In our third session, I said something which I can’t recall precisely — something along the lines of I am not just a bored, frustrated office worker living a life of quiet desperation; I have a rich intellectual life.

“Tell me about them,” he said. (I seen to recall that I had mentioned books.)

I told Dr. Colp that I was reading Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection and — as has been the case with me through my life; there are books that come along, so to speak, that overwhelm me — about how Resurrection overwhelmed me on so many levels: the story, the writing; the underlying moral and human questions addressed. I think I said something to him about how I had always thought that I would be likely to prefer Dostoevsky (whom I had already read) to Tolstoy, and here I was bowing at the altar of Tolstoy.

As was usual, Dr. Colp did not say all that much. But he was never a passive listener, never cold, bored, or indifferent (He was simply reserved and very thoughtful.) I could tell that this “disclosure” by me had him thoroughly engaged and was giving him a truer picture and appreciation of me. It was another level for us to connect deeply on: the intellectual or “thought” sphere.

A few sessions later, I said something to Dr. Colp that I knew he appreciated very much as feedback. I could see and sense it. I told him, “I can feel the interest [in me, his as a therapist] on your part. That in itself, that alone, is therapeutic.”

 

 

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Dr. Colp’s whole life was that of an intellectual. I realize now, at this stage of my life, that this is now, and has always been, true of me. It has given my life meaning and purpose, and whatever achievements or value it has involved or amounted to.

At some point, much later, I told Dr. Colp that I had been reading Samuel Johnson’s essays and that they were a revelation for me: the depth of penetrating insight, the practical wisdom that one could take away from them. (Dr. Colp once complimented me with having the gift of “rapid insight.”)

Dr. Colp belonged to a reading group. He told me that my comments about Johnson were illuminating. He said that a man in his reading group had once said, “The only reason that Johnson is of any interest is the book Boswell wrote about him.”

I told Dr. Colp that (I had already read Boswell’s biography, about which I had talked at length with Dr. Colp) Johnson’s own writings assuredly were well worth reading.

“I guess he was wrong,” Dr. Colp said of the past remark. He always welcomed the opportunity to learn something new.
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I told Dr. Colp once, ruefully, that I had bought quite a few expensive books, including multivolume sets of the works of writers such as Whitman and Parkman. (And a multivolume set: The British Empire Before the American Revolution by Lawrence Henry Gipson, which I still have not gotten around to reading. Dr. Colp told me that he had been told that it was a great read). I felt rueful because I had “overbought” and would probably never be getting around to reading most of the books. My appetite was bigger than what I could consume.

“You’ll get around to reading them,” Dr. Colp said emphatically. I wondered if that was true, but I felt better about my indulgences.

 

 

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Right now, I am having a sort of intellectual adventure. I love to map out such intellectual endeavors for myself, and then try to follow through on them. I am reading Samuel Johnson’s works in the Yale Edition. They are splendid books, superbly edited and annotated, and beautifully produced. There are twenty-three volumes, of which I own all but two.

I probably won’t read them all. I have already read, in their entirety or in part, Johnson’s Diaries, Prayers, and Annals, his Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, many of the essays (which are a must), a portion of his Lives of the Poets, and other miscellaneous writings by Johnson.

Johnson is, I would suspect, not in fashion nowadays, and his style is often said to be dated. His political views would probably be regarded as retrograde. He has typically been portrayed as a stodgy Tory conservative, if not an arch-conservative. This is simplistic and amounts to making Johnson a caricature (as Boswell has been accused of having done.) Books such as Donald Greene’s The Politics of Samuel Johnson (which I have read) demonstrate this. I think it is more accurate to say that Johnson was a contrarian who hated political cant and what today might be called liberal smugness.

 

 

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So why go through this self-appointed intellectual task, this “journey” of plowing through Johnson’s works? Because there is so much to be learned — so much that I am learning as we speak — from him, both from his writings, the excellence of which I can only hope to emulate; and his deep thoughts, which cause me, in the words of Charles Darwin (Dr. Colp’s alter ego), to “think energetically.”

The other books can wait.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   January 2020

spring (as seen by The Bard, by Tolstoy; and felt by us all, myself included)

Hudson River Park 12-30 p,.m. 4-6-2020

Hudson River Park, Manhattan, April 6, 2020

 

 

In springtime, the only pretty ring time,

When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;

Sweet lovers love the spring.

 

— William Shakespeare (from As You Like It)

 

 

 

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Как ни старались люди, собравшись в одно небольшое место несколько сот тысяч, изуродовать ту землю, на которой они жались, как ни забивали камнями землю, чтобы ничего не росло на ней, как ни счищали всякую пробивающуюся травку, как ни дымили каменным углем и нефтью, как ни обрезывали деревья и ни выгоняли всех животных и птиц, — весна была весною даже и в городе.  Солнце грело, трава, оживая, росла и зеленела везде, где только не соскребли ее, не только на газонах бульваров, но и между плитами камней, и березы, тополи, черемуха распускали свои клейкие и пахучие листья, липы надували лопавшиеся почки; галки, воробьи и голуби по-весеннему радостно готовили уже гнезда, и мухи жужжали у стен, пригретые солнцем. Веселы были и растения, и птицы, и насекомые, и дети. Но люди — большие, взрослые люди — не переставали обманывать и мучать себя и друг друга. Люди считали, что священно и важно не это весеннее утро, не эта красота мира божия, данная для блага всех существ, — красота, располагающая к миру, согласию и любви, а священно и важно то, что они сами выдумали, чтобы властвовать друг над другом.

 

ЛЕВ НИКОЛАЕВИЧ ТОЛСТОЙ, воскрешение (1899), Часть первая, глава первая

 

 

 

Though hundreds of thousands had done their very best to disfigure the small piece of land on which they were crowded together, by paving the ground with stones, scraping away every vestige of vegetation, cutting down the trees, turning away birds and beasts, and filling the air with the smoke of naphtha and coal, still spring was spring, even in the town. The sun shone warm, the air was balmy; everywhere, where it did not get scraped away, the grass revived and sprang up between the paving-stones as well as on the narrow strips of lawn on the boulevards. The birches, the poplars, and the wild cherry unfolded their gummy and fragrant leaves, the limes were expanding their opening buds; crows, sparrows, and pigeons, filled with the joy of spring, were getting their nests ready; the flies were buzzing along the walls, warmed by the sunshine. All were glad, the plants, the birds, the insects, and the children. But men, grown-up men and women, did not leave off cheating and tormenting themselves and each other. It was not this spring morning men thought sacred and worthy of consideration not the beauty of God’s world, given for a joy to all creatures, this beauty which inclines the heart to peace, to harmony, and to love, but only their own devices for enslaving one another.

 

— Leo Tolstoy, Resurrection (1899), Part One, Chapter One; translated by Louise Maude (italics added)

 

 

 

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See photographs of New York City in the spring, below.  Also posted here is Thomas Morley’s song (set to Shakespeare) “It was a lover and his lass.”

 

 

–posted by Roger W. Smith

    April 2016

 

 

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photographs taken in Queens and Manhattan, NYC, April 2016, by Roger W. Smith

 

 

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Woodside, Queens, May 22, 2016 (taken by Roger).JPG

Woodside, Queens, NY, May 2016

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Juniper Valley Park, Middle Village, Queens, NYC

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Maspeth, Queens, NYC

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Bryant Park, New York City

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Juniper Valley Park, Middle Village, Queens, NY