The Russian Voice: An Appreciation
The leaps, the rhythms, the humor--
Seems to me all writers are bound to the earth, but the Russians, who fly.
If you’ve known me a while, you know this is one of my all time favorite passages, it’s from one of Anna Akhmatova’s letters. A paragraph that does more in 6 lines than some novels. I could read it 100 times and never tire.
What’s “happening” in the text? Anglicans would want to know what is being conveyed, (how clearly, and so forth) because Anglican culture essentially sees “writing” as a medium of information; As trucks carry lumber, writing carries “information.”
Not to the Russian.
Here it is:
“I received a letter from a Swedish professor who is writing a book about me. He wrote that he was coming to see me. And he did come, but I was in the hospital, so he went there to see me. A fine fellow and he knows a lot, but the most amazing thing was the blinding whiteness of his shirt. It was a white as the wing of an angel. While we had two bloody wars and a lot of other blood, the Swedes were washing and ironing that shirt.”
From Anna Akhmatova and Her Circle by Patricia Beriozkina and Konstantin Polivanov
“Like salmon leaping impossibly up a waterfall, the amount of ground covered in the passage is at once dizzying and graceful, and each element, each image, magically serves the (unexpected) whole (apparently) effortlessly.”
Comment by Toby Russell