Tag Archives: Tolstoy

Sochi: My First Impressions

Well last night I was at home to get a haircut for my job interview and my mom was kind enough to DVR the opening ceremony for me. I must say, it was probably the most impressive one I can remember (certainly of the Winter ones) and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Russia has such a long, storied, complex, and frankly awkward national history and I think that the Sochi committee did a brilliant job at covering all that in such a concise manner. Being a Nonwestern History Major and having took a Russian Lit class last semester really made it possible for me to appreciate what I was seeing; as having context always does. During the Cyrillic acrostic segment I was familiar with every item listed, though I would like to know poor Tolstoy was forced to share T with television (every other letter only got one item). The Thousand Years of History in Three Minutes short was also very good, starting with the Varangians and ending with right now (but the writers of this short didn’t seem to think anything notable happened in the last century). My personal favorite scene in the whole ceremony was when Czar Peter the Great sailed to what would later become St. Petersburg. I could recognize everything that was being shown, so I really didn’t like the fact the announcers had to explain every damn thing that was shown. I know The Bronze Horseman when I see it. I did a face palm during the ball dance, because it brought me back to the dreary experience of braving through Anna Karenina, so I laughed heartily when the train appeared later. Over all I would say that the opening ceremony was everything it should be, save for some egregious omissions. It was certainly better than the London 2012 one, which was very, well, British. The only thing missing from the Sochi ceremony was Putin wrestling an almasty.

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Review of Anna Karenina

After one long month, I have finally finished Anna Karenina. While it is the most cited candidate for Best Novel Ever, I find it very difficult for me to assess it. Parts of it were absolutely enthralling, such as the scene where Levin scythes grass with with the serfs; while other parts I couldn’t help but skim through. My problem was that I had two read two Parts a week and keep up with a 35 page a day minimum quota lest I fall behind. Combined with two or three other books for different classes, it made reading Anna Karenina a chore. Being a novel grand in scope and covering all the hot topics of 1870s Russia, I feel that I would have needed to read it at my own leisure to get the most out of it. Taking two lit classes has really shown me that reading literature for a course is a two edged sword. You are able to discuss the material thoroughly with your peers and a paid expert; but you need to juggle it with so much else and cannot give the books the attention the need and possibly deserve.

Because of these reasons I cannot give it a rating, though I can see why it is one of Oprah’s Favorite Books, lol. I was rather hestitant about having to read it because of its length and because of the long Slavic names that all sound the same. Actually, once you understand how Russian names work (and with the internet there’s no reason you can’t learn) it’s really not that bad and the usage of given, patronymic, and family names can actually help keep track of how everyone is related. Trust me. However, there are so many characters that it can be difficult to keep track of them all, which is usually the case with any work with loads of characters. Many readers of Tolstoy and Dostoevski keep notebooks cataloguing the full names of all the characters, fortunately the translation my class read had that provided in the index. This particular translation is highly praised. It was done by Richard Pevear and and Larissa Volokhonsky, who are a husband-and-wife team with the advantage of one being an Anglophone while the other’s first language was Russian. There work is highly praised, so if you decide to read Anna Karenina I recommend reading their version.

Hopefully someday I will be able to reread Anna Karenina when I have time to do so at my own pace. Now I really want to read War and Peace, and NOT just to say that I did.

All easy classes are alike; each challenging class is challenging in its own way.

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My Perception of Time

Yes, I definately can feel time slow down when I am hyped about something. The most recent time I felt that was the night before I moved into my dorm. I maybe got three or four hours of sleep, I really don’t know but I functioned perfectly fine on that big day. I felt similar the day before I went to Yellowstone, but I think the main culprit for not being able to sleep on that night was the fact I was sleeping in a church sanctuary (click on the tag for Montana for further context) which is not the most comfortable place to sleep; although I lucky enough to get to share an air matress with a friend, which is rather awkward. Airplanes are another place where time slows down for me. Flying to Costa Rica (another sleepless night before) was very grueling for me and it seemed to last much longer than the ten hours that it actually did. Flying back home, seemed much quicker.

A friend of mine went to the midnight release of GTA V and he said that was one of the longest hours he has experienced. If you don’t play video games it would be difficult to explain that, if you do than no explanation is necessary.

Its rather interesting that this Prompt be posted when it has. Right now I am reading La Commedia Divina which has some very interesting insights about the nature of time, specifically Dante’s ideas about time that were the paradigm in the Middle Ages. When I read Inferno I can feel time go by very fast, as it is a very fascinating work. When I am reading Anna Karenina, for another class, I can feel time go slow. It’s not a bad book, its just a labor to read in four weeks juggled with about three other books.

Time is fluid and open to interpretation.

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/daily-prompt-waiting/

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Review of Fathers and Sons

I have finished reading another book for another one of my classes. That other book was Fathers and Sons (also translated as Fathers and Children) by Ivan Turgenev. Once considered one of Russia’s foremost stylists, Turgenev has largely been overshadowed by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I find that rater unfortunate because I really enjoyed Fathers and Sons and would like to read some of his other works when I am able to. A far cry from the obese volumes the other two are famous (or infamous depending on who you ask) for, Fathers and Sons is only 160 pages long; a sensible length for most people.

It tells a story of a recently graduated college student named Arkady, who returns home with his friend Bazarov. The two embrace the radical philosophy of nihilism, which brings them into conflict with their elders and the more conservative (or less radical) members of their own generation. The setting in Russia in the 1850s, right before the serfs were emancipated. Though it is not a novel of action or excitement, it is a strong character driven story made excellent by well crafted dialogue. While the plot itself is very easy to follow, do be warned that you MUST print out the Cliffnotes page for the cast of characters; each character is referred to by three different names, their given name, patronymic, and surname, as is Russian custom. Also, be sure to pick up a copy that contains footnote; the entire books is filled with mentions of various events, customs, individuals, and so on that you will not have heard of. If you take my advice, the book has the potential for a very enjoyable read.

I highly recommend Fathers and Sons to anyone interested in Russian history or dynamic character development.

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