Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Of Rus and Corn Fields

I've always had an affinity for the Russian writers. Maybe it's the spirit of my grandfather, germanic in heritage, but born along the waters of the Black Sea coast in Bessarabia. He knew the Russian language, and I suspect, the Russian soul. Perhaps some of that genetic code found its way to my being.

While Tolstoy and Dostoevksy are the most celebrated, for me, Turgenev, to an even larger extent Nikolai Gogol symbolized what it means to be Russian, to be connected to the land in some almost undefinable way. This from his 1842 novel, Dead Souls:

"Everything in you is open, empty and flat; your low towns peep out like dots or marks from the plains; there is nothing to seduce and capture one's gaze. But what is the incomprehensible, mysterious force that draws me to you? Why does your mournful song, carried along your whole length and breadth from sea to sea, echo and re-echo incessantly in my ears?

What is there in this song, what is it?...Rus! What do you want of me? What is that mysterious, hidden bond between us? What do those immense, wide, far-flung open spaces prophesy? Is it not here, is it not in you that some boundless thought will be born, since you are yourself without end?...Oh, what a glittering, wondrous infinity of space the world knows nothing of Rus!"

To see that daily in my runs through the countryside. My good friend Jake is back from England, we were on the Mackinaw a few days past. I know Gogol there also. These are my plains, but the nature of the soul is the same.

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