- Martiros Saryan (1880-1972) "Armenia's national artist"
What a coincidence - just a few days after reading Burton Watson's charming The Rainbow World, I happen to read Vasily Grossman's An Armenian Sketchbook. I love little stories of real, existing human beings told by people who still love our sad little species.(*) And since, in my view, there is no real love without close and illusion-free acquaintance, such love is tempered with a clear knowledge of our trivialities, our inconsistencies, our envious and selfish nature, our striving for recognition and dominance, of the whims and accidents we set up as eternally correct and universal customs and ways, of our all too frequent readiness to injure, maim and kill each other, and our oh so readily produced rationalizations for such acts, this love is often expressed with wry irony and various degrees of sadness and poignancy. And so it is in this book.
Shortly after the Soviet machinery of mind control confiscated the manuscripts of Grossman's Life and Fate in 1961, including all associated appurtenances like typewriter ribbons (!) - a blow that struck Grossman so hard that his friends and family attest that he aged 20 years in a few weeks - it threw him a bone: he was to "translate" on the basis of a literal translation provided by another person a 1,420 page Armenian novel about "the setting up of a copper smelting plant" ! (**) And he was to do this in Armenia, so that he may consult with author and literal translator.
Off he went. He needed the money, he needed the work, and he needed the distance from a marriage that was reaching a breaking point.
I'm one of those people who only read 1 book at a time. It's not because I can't keep track of multiple books...I just prefer 1 book at a time and I finish books faster this way. But something went wrong this month.
I was reading Red Rising by Pierce Brown (which I didn't like very much) and went to the library and took out a few books. So in the middle of Red Rising I started Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler...which I then misplaced (for a week), so I picked up Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. I finished Red Rising and started Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse and then Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman.
I'm almost done Before We Met and found Parable of the Sower (on the floor of my back porch). And now I have to start The Trial by Franz Kafka for a book club in a few days.
If I hadn't kept picking up new books I would be done with most of the above mentioned books and would have time to devote to The Trial and the tome Life and Fate. I've decided to finish all my current books before I start in on Life and Fate - that one needs my undivided attention.
So, Booklikes people....which do you prefer - 1 book or multiple books?
This is a BBC radio dramatization of the book. I picked it up because I cannot place up an opportunity to listen to something that has both Kenneth Brannagh and David Tenant. I just can’t. Taking place in Russia during the Second World War, in particular Leningrad, the play chronicles the experiences of a family as well as various individuals. The primary characters are a scientist and his wife, and it is though them that other characters come – the sister and her former lover as well as her current one, a brother and his experiences during the Siege of Leningrad, another sister who falls in love with a pilot and those who are taken and killed by the Nazis. I dare to listen to the chapter detailing the travel in a cattle car and not be moved. Superbly acted, heart aching, beautiful, stunning. I wish NPR would do stuff like this.