Friday, January 19, 2007

DI Zbigniew Herbert And DS Olga Grushin Probe The Crimes Of The Soul Underlying Contemporary Life And Culture

Olga Grushin reads at the National Museum of Women In The Arts, Washington, D.C., United States

January 25, 2007 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Reservations required.
Call 202-783-7370 or email

Olga Grushin reads from her extraordinary debut novel, The Dream Life of Sukhanov (2006), which was short-listed for the Orange Award for New Writers and compared to the works of Nabokov, Tolstoy, and Gogol. Russian-born Grushin drew partly upon memories of her childhood in communist Moscow to craft a novel full of richly complex characters who explore the interplay between art and politics, hope and regret at the end of the Soviet era. A reception and book signing follow the program.


Ms Grushin will also be reading at Politics and Prose Bookstore, Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., on Saturday, January 27, 2007, at 1 PM [6 PM? Check beforehand.]


In December 2006, The Washington Post's Book World named The Dream Life of Sukhanov one of the ten best books of the year.


Excerpt from Olga Grushin's The Dream Life of Sukhanov

"Sukhanov no longer wrote any articles himself: at his level of importance, creation had by necessity sunk to the bottom of his list of priorities. He was content with regulating the general flow of things -- supervising the obsequiously smooth workings of his staff, distributing a monthly set of preselected themes among a trusted handful of critics, then poring through their texts to weed out a few chance occurrences of names better left unmentioned or to nudge two or three carelessly straying phrases back into the herd. He prepared each glossy, pleasantly substantial issue of Art of the World according to the same simple yet unfailing recipe: Take a doughy theoretical discourse on the methods and principles of Revolutionary art, stuff it with two or three well-seasoned essays portraying Repin and Fedotov as precursors of socialist realism and Levitan as an enemy of tsarism, mix in a sugarcoated biography of a famous Soviet master in the vein of Malinin and a spicy discovery of some unjustly ignored genius of the Italian Renaissance who was vilely persecuted by the Church, whisk in, for a bit of exotic flavor, an interview with this or that diamond-in-the-rough from a remote Asian republic . . . and finally, generously pepper the whole with quotations from Marx and Lenin."


Why the Classics
by Zbigniew Herbert

in the fourth book of the Peloponnesian War
Thucydides tells among other things
the story of his unsuccessful expedition

among long speeches of chiefs
battles sieges plague
dense net of intrigues of diplomatic endeavours
the episode is like a pin
in a forest

the Greek colony Amphipolis
fell into the hands of Brasidos
because Thucydides was late with relief

for this he paid his native city
with lifelong exile

exiles of all times
know what price that is

generals of the most recent wars
if a similar affair happens to them
whine on their knees before posterity
praise their heroism and innocence

they accuse their subordinates
envious collegues
unfavourable winds

Thucydides says only
that he had seven ships
it was winter
and he sailed quickly

if art for its subject
will have a broken jar
a small broken soul
with a great self-pity

what will remain after us
will it be lovers' weeping
in a small dirty hotel
when wall-paper dawns

Translated by Peter Dale Scott and Czeslaw Milosz

[And with apologies to John Carpenter & Bogdana Carpenter for, in my haste, neglecting to cite them, last month, as the translators of Zbigniew Herbert's The Envoy of Mr Cogito.]

Detective Inspector Zbigniew Herbert and Detective Sergeant Olga Grushin

Photo credits: Olga Grushin photo (c) Tamara Beckwith. All rights reserved. With thanks.


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