Tautology

dovlatov socks

“Dovlatov: I prefer being alonе, / but with somebody next to me.” Image courtesy of SPBsocks. This pair of socks sells for 370 rubles or approximately €5.

Petersburg fashionistas with a snobbish vibe have an additional option available to them: socks emblazoned with quotations by local writers. Socks of this sort have recently gone on sale at SPBsocks, where you will find Joseph Brodsky socks, Fyodor Dostoevsky socks, and Sergei Dovlatov socks.

One of the Dovlatov socks proclaims outright, “I prefer being alone.”

There thus won’t be any more questions to the second sock, whether it is at large under the bed or lost during the wash.

“Dovlatov is the most popular. The recent anniversary, the unveiling of the monument to him in Petersburg, and the 1980 fads have all benefited the writer. We have chosen ironic, edgy quotations. You don’t get anywhere nowadays without a little controversy. Breaking the mold increases sales,” acknowledges Svetlana Suetova, founder of SPBsocks, an online designer sock store, which also runs a showroom in the Golytsin Loft at Fontanka Embankment, 20.

Source: Delovoi Peterburg

____________________

Regardless of whether one is a writer or a reader, one’s task consists first of all in mastering a life that is one’s own, not imposed or prescribed from without, no matter how noble its appearance may be. For each of us is issued but one life, and we know full well how it all ends. It would be regrettable to squander this one chance on someone else’s appearance, someone else’s experience, on a tautology—regrettable all the more because the heralds of historical necessity, at whose urging a man may be prepared to agree to this tautology, will not go to the grave with him or give him so much as a thank-you.

[…]

The philosophy of the state, its ethics—not to mention its aesthetics—are always “yesterday.” Language and literature are always “today,” and often—particularly in the case where a political system is orthodox—they may even constitute “tomorrow.” One of literature’s merits is precisely that it helps a person to make the time of his existence more specific, to distinguish himself from the crowd of his predecessors as well as his like numbers, to avoid tautology—that is, the fate otherwise known by the honorific term “victim of history.” What makes art in general, and literature in particular, remarkable, what distinguishes them from life, is precisely that they abhor repetition. In everyday life you can tell the same joke thrice and, thrice getting a laugh, become the life of the party. In art, though, this sort of conduct is called “cliché.”

Excerpted from Joseph Brodsky, “Nobel Lecture,” December 8, 1987, trans. Barry Rubin. Source: Nobelprize.org

Advertisements

Stay Glued to Your TV Set

tv

Nobody or almost nobody in the western press talks about the sheer numbers of people leaving Russia, either quietly, as in the case of most people I know who have left, or noisily, as in the case of Altai Territory opposition activist Aidar Kudirmekov.

I think if we took a head count, the numbers would be staggering, especially since the Kremlin boarded the crazy train in the spring of 2014.

I’m nobody important, and yet off the top of my head I can name at least thirty or forty acquaintances who have left the country for good in the last few years.

But all my Western European and North American friends of leftist and liberal views can only complain of the “hysterical anti-Russian coverage” on their TV sets.

What they mean is the unflattering coverage of their secret sharer, Vladimir Putin, who in ways that have never been clear to me has been aiding their mostly imaginary “anti-imperialist” cause.

That there are 144 million other Russians who have subjectivity and agency, and who might actually be even more “hysterically anti-Russian” (i.e., opposed to Putin’s nineteen years of criminally shambolic governance) seemingly never occurs to them, as it almost never occurs to their TV sets, either.

This is not to mention the explicitly or implicitly pro-Putinist coverage you find in vast swaths of the western press, including the Nation, the BBC on bad days, anywhere the ludicrous pro-Kremlin apologists Mary Dejevsky, Seamus Milne, and Stephen Cohen pop up, the Independent (e.g., Robert Fisk’s and Patrick Cockburn’s coverage of the war in Syria, which has been forthrightly pro-Assad and, thus, pro-Putin), and on and on.

On any given day, depending on how many languages you read, you can find numerous western reporters and op-ed writers tossing so many softballs at the Kremlin to bat out of the park, you would be excused for thinking you were at a high school in Iowa in April during ninth-grade phys ed class. // TRR

Image courtesy of Perfect Excellence

________________________________