Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Quotations from Andrei Navrozov's The Gingerbread Race
Below are a few of my favorite quotations from Andrei Navrozov's The Gingerbreak Race: A Life in the Closing World Once Called Free
If Moscow is the Hollywood of power, Vnukovo was Beverly Hills.
...there you could crawl through to his thicket of raspberry bushes, peacefully going wild in the totalitarian gloom.
Further down at No. 7, on the assumption of relative equality among the muses, lived the founder of the puppet theater, a Diaghilev of the inanimate.
She was a distant relation of the original owner, a scientist who discovered the secret of immortality. This secret was of great interest to the ruler of a vast and powerful country like ours, and he showered her with honors until his death from cerebral hemorrhage.
For the animals she cooked a kind of nightmare stew, although at times it resembled plain gruel, perhaps simply oatmeal porridge with lots of innocent water, which was sticky and therefore frightening to a child who had never been exposed to life in the raw.
To compensate, he had a reproduction of the Picasso etching of Don Quixote tacked, upside down, to the wall above the television set, presumably in order order to say "Is this art?", or even "Is this Don Quixote?"....
He was, of course, a mass murderer...
Father would often stop to chat with him in Mayakovsky Street. "I told Iosif Vissarionovich to grab hold of Yugoslavia," I remember once overhearing.
Father though photography vulgar and discouraged the practice...
I was struggling with Xenophon's Anabasis. "Can the child read Greek?" asked the inspector. "Only with a dictionary," the child interjected with crushing modesty....
...and other tribal rites that punctuate the sanctimonious ordeal of human existence.
In the land where their parents might have disappeared without a trace and their own children might still be forced to swallow shards of glass in a cellar, they feared thieves.
The principle of the family as a voluntary assembly of peers was upheld.
But on closer inspection, these freedoms were little more than latitudes...
The infinitely wise Zamyatin--who said that Russian literature had only one future--its past--returned and mocked England in The Islanders.
In the Russian idea of nobility, disdain and sadness are fused so that it is impossible to tell where one ends and other begins.
I do not mean that the Vnukovo ravine was my Galilee. I merely note the essential clumsiness of all that is genuine, and what an evanescent thing is truth.
My nanny, who had firm instructions not to interfere with my personal life, did not object when I went on to tell the girls that performances began promptly at eight.
It was the only time in my life when I felt like a child.
It is equally obvious that if Flaubert had known all along what would become of Emma Bovary, she would not have outlived him.
In somewhat more modest terms, film is to the theater arts what sport is to the arts of war.
A writer explained why books were dear: "Because books ought to be dear. A book is not vodka, not a woman walking the street."
A poet, after all, cannot be expected to be understood by more than a few hundred contemporaries.
To occupy ourselves with the future of our earthly possessions would have been as incongruous as loading a funeral barge with an alarm clock and spare she horns.
Here in Vnukovo, apparently, bourgeois relaity was only a generation away from totalitarian artifice.
In the West, Prokofiev and Shostakovich would have let go, lost their moorings, put on the faceless modernism which is one of the masks of timeless banality.