Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chetnia: Readings from Russia

I jump around in my reading - like my food preferences, I enjoy variety. Sure, I have my staples: nonfiction about my favorite historical times. But I also like to read what's currently being published in the juvenile field, plus, books in my mother tongue, German. Reading books in the only other language I'm fluent in, is somehow refreshing and I regret not being able to read in other languages ... like Russian, for instance.

I've just finished reading a journal of translated Russian work. It's called Chetnia: Readings from Russia.  This edition, Volume 3, Summer 2008, has "Road Trips" as its theme. The authors include well known names like Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) and Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) to contemporaries like Peter Aleshikosvsky ((short-listed for the Russian Booker) or Dmitry Glukhovsky. The latter's excerpt from his novel Metro 2033 published in Russian in 2007 and translated in this journal by Paul Richardson), Chapter Five, entitled For Cartridges, was my personal favorite in this themed collection of 'roads'.  By googling Metro 2033, I learned that there's even a video game out based on the novel (a novel which, by the way, was first published in installments on the internet. Click on the above link and watch a youtube documentary about the book's success.)

The setting of Glukhosvksy's book is the near future in the Moscow Metro. It's dark and this darkness is a major force of the chapter. I'm not a big fan of science fiction or fantasy, but this excerpt really caught my imagination. The suspense was very real. I was in the dark with the character and felt cheated when the chapter ended and I couldn't read on.

My other favorite from this collection was Chekhov's Sakhalin Island. I could find Sakhalin Island on my modern map of Russia and it was fascinating to read about how Chekhov saw it more than a hundred years ago. Explorers didn't just head west in those years. The island is still a controversial place.

Chtenia: Readings from Russia is a quarterly journal. Journals and journeys - both have the same root, which is from the French word meaning "day." Daily writing, daily traveling. Writing is the journey - and the roads are geographical, historical, psychological, or political - but always personal.

As a Canadian I feel linked to the Russian headspace with our common expanse of a harsh, huge landscape. It does affect the psyche. And yet our roads, so similar, are also so different. Kind of interesting.  

Back to my pile of books. What shall I taste next? Reading is simply the most amazing human invention. By giving us the ability to step into another's world, we can become more than who we are. Yes!

2 comments:

Barrie said...

You read in German? It's your mother tongue? Gabe, you are an amazement (made-up English word, I think!)

gabe said...

Learning another language as a kid is a gift - and I should have passed it on! My kids tell me this.