A Chat with Rosamund Bartlett.

Bloggers Karamazov (“The Official Blog of The North American Dostoevsky Society”) has an interview with Rosamund Bartlett on the occasion of her new Dostoevsky translation, The Russian Soul: Selections from a Writer’s Diary. I’m very glad to see the Diary get some attention, even if this selection is drastically abridged (“a mere 135 pages”); I read basically the entire Russian text (skimming some of the more repetitive and anti-Semitic political passages) last year and found it a great help in understanding Dostoevsky in general and Karamazov in particular. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

I certainly did not realize quite how interesting I would find the Writer’s Diary until I came to spend a month researching and writing about it. Once I began reading the main sources, beginning with Gary Saul Morson’s 1981 monograph, and realized what a fundamental and innovative work it is, I became riveted. It was a revelation to learn that the Diary was only ever re-published once during the Soviet period, in 1929, and that it was not until 2011 that the first properly annotated complete edition was published in Russia. I also became fascinated by the story of the Diary’s recent popularity as subject of scholarly enquiry after Joseph Frank finally first confronted the issue of its troubling political content in the final volume of his biography in 2002. This is one of the reasons I was keen to include a list of Further Reading, which Notting Hill Editions agreed to. […]

The initial, very good selection of texts, mostly taken from Kenneth Lantz’s excellent translation, was made by the Notting Hill Editions series editor Johanna Möhring. Once I had drafted the Introduction, we had a lively exchange by email about the final selection, which was circumscribed by the need to stay within the 45,000 word limit, which is standard for Notting Hill Editions books. We both wanted to include a representative selection of entries which would reflect the diverse nature of the Diary’s contents but approached the task from different angles. Johanna’s background is in international relations, with research interests in defence, security and the nature of power, as well as Russia and Eastern Europe. She was concerned to show the “acid social realism” of Dostoevsky’s Weltanschauung, and his argument for Russia occupying a “special spiritual realm” in European politics and culture, not ignoring his anti-Semitism. I came to the project as a cultural historian whose background is in Russian literature, so I was particularly keen to convey Dostoevsky’s great power as a writer, as well as his ability to impart a deeper moral and religious resonance to the social and political concerns he raises. I was particularly adamant, for example, that we include “The Peasant Marey,” since it is a precious piece of autobiography which links an event in Dostoevsky’s childhood to his prison experiences and religious conversion in Siberia. […]

In the end I think the volume gives a fair idea of the Diary’s hybrid contents, as they evolved between 1873 and 1881. We begin with “Environment,” in which Dostoevsky starts polemicizing with imaginary opponents, and presenting opposing views in a manner reminiscent of the great dialogues in his novels. His advocacy of individual moral responsibility in “Environment” is also one of his central themes, which he will of course extend further in The Brothers Karamazov. “The Boy Celebrating his Saint’s Day,” meanwhile, in which Dostoevsky discusses a letter a reader had sent to him about a twelve-year-old boy who had committed suicide, was written when he had become both editor and publisher of the Diary. It goes to the heart of the Diary’s new focus on the causes of the spiritual crisis Dostoevsky perceived in society. I thought it important to include “My Paradox,” as it is one of Dostoevsky’s first expressions of anti-Semitism in the Diary, and appears alongside his utopian nationalism as a natural part of his analysis of contemporary politics. We balanced these kinds of entries with a selection which focus on literature, such as Dostoevsky’s obituary of George Sand, in which he discusses her supreme importance to his idealistic generation of the 1840s. We also included his review of Anna Karenina, and his musings on Don Quixote, important to him as the greatest exemplar in literature of a “positively beautiful” figure. The volume inevitably culminates with Dostoevsky’s paean to Pushkin. “The Dream of a Ridiculous Man” is the fictional centerpiece in the anthology, since it presents Dostoevsky’s major themes in microcosm, anticipates their amplification in The Brothers Karamazov, and is a perfect distillation of his art. I would ideally have liked to have also included “The Meek One” as a counterpart, not to mention “Bobok.” I would also have liked to include one of the many discursive accounts concerning the trial of Ekaterina Kornilova, in whose case Dostoevsky became personally involved, but it would have been difficult to find the right excerpt to present in isolation. […]

The Diary was Dostoevsky’s favorite work, which he viewed as a single oeuvre like the novels, and it was more popular, because he deliberately wanted to enter into direct conversation with his readers. The way they responded by entering into passionate correspondence with him was in many ways prophetic of the blogosphere. At 1500 pages, however, the Diary is longer than two of his novels put together, and I believe The Russian Soul provides the first representative anthology, conveniently squeezed into a mere 135 pages.

It’s a good selection, considering the ridiculous space constraints, and I hope a lot of people read it; I second her praise for Gary Saul Morson’s brilliant writing on Dostoevsky and for the Lantz translation (which has excellent notes and an indispensable introduction by Morson).

If you’re curious about my own Russian reading, I gobbled up Andrei Sinyavsky’s delightful Прогулки с Пушкиным (Strolls with Pushkin, which portrays Pushkin as a quintessential outsider who didn’t take anything very seriously except poetry and was very controversial in the exile community, which like all Russians worshiped Pushkin) and made my way more slowly through Georgi Vladimov’s grim Верный Руслан (Faithful Ruslan: Ruslan, deprived of his position as a guard dog when the Gulag camp is closed, finds new purpose in guarding a released prisoner in a nearby town and waiting for the camp to reopen), and I’m now about halfway through Yury Trifonov’s Другая жизнь (Another Life) — it’s slow going so far, maybe a little too Chekhovian, but I trust Trifonov and am sure I’ll be satisfied by the end.

Addendum. Melissa Frazier has a nice piece on Dostoevsky for the Jordan Russian Center:

Aileen Kelly has recently accounted for Herzen’s commitment to the natural sciences with reference to his reading of both Feuerbach and Schiller. The same is also true for Dostoevsky. While Feuerbach is most often remembered in the crude terms of “you are what you eat,” his was not a material world devoid of thought, but a world where thought as both imagination and reason is itself always embodied. As Feuerbach writes, his philosophy “joyfully and consciously recognizes the truth of sensuousness: It is a sensuous philosophy with an open heart.” Like Herzen and like Dostoevsky, the young Schiller trained in the sciences, and his plays anticipate Feuerbachian “sensuousness” on two levels: it is not just that his characters are remarkably physically involved—in The Robbers (1781), Franz “paces violently,” faints, and even “writhes … in fearful convulsions”—but that his audience responded in kind. Belinsky remembered the Moscow production of The Robbers in 1828 as “that wild, flaming dithyramb erupting like lava from the depths of a young, dynamic soul”; on just reading the same play in 1794 an excited young Coleridge wrote to his friend Robert Southey: “My God! Southey! Who is this Schiller? This Convulser of the Heart?” This insistence on putting minds in bodies and bodies in the world runs all through nineteenth-century science, although not in the kind that literary scholars know best.

Which gives me a chance to plug Aileen Kelly’s great biography of Herzen; see my review.

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    Probably I shouldn’t begin a thread with a semi-off-topic comment, but, you know, the pandemic —

    The composer Mussorgsky (who played the music at Dostoevsky’s funeral) gains in interest when looked at through the lens of Dostoevsky. His music is gorgeous and has a very Russian feeling, and he made many musical innovations which were not appreciated until he’d been dead for 40+ years, but if you pay attention to the librettos of his operas (which he played a major role in producing) they’re extraordinarily dark. Basically he describes a historical cycle of doom in which nominally well-meaning rulers succeed only in bringing disaster .

    Mussorgsky, like Dostoevsky, was troubled in his personal life, and also like Dostoevsky, an anti Semite and Russophile.

    The beauty of the music makes people miss the darkness of the story, a problem Mussorgsky was well aware of, but if you understand what‘’s happening that tension becomes part of the experience. For example, there are a number of lovely Russian folk songs in the two major operas, but in all cases the singers are servile, singing on command, and the feeling of the music goes counter to the action of the opera. (And one of them had been borrowed from a Beethoven quartet commissioned by a Russian nobleman — Mussorgsky could be impish).

  2. Huh — I love Mussorgsky but haven’t listened to him in quite a while, and now I want to do so with Dostoevsky in mind. Thanks!

  3. I read somewhere that Tchaikovsky despised Mussorgsky, and I’m imagining the contrast: the refined, establishment composer of light, and the dark hot mess of the underground. Personally I have no use for the music of the former, and admire that of the other.

  4. John Emerson says:

    Almost everyone in musical circles had something snotty to say about Mussorgsky, who was self taught and musically idiosyncratic in ways that later composers admired, and who was also eccentric or even maudit. The only possible exception was Borodin.

    For a few years Russian music was divided between the “Germans” (schooled musicians, often of German or German Jewish descent) and the Russophiles, led by Balakirev. Tchaikovsky was a German, and Rimsky Korsakoff started as a Russian but ended as a German. Mussorgsky was all Russian.

    Trivia: all but one of the 5 “Russians” had military careers. Borodin was a research chemist but formally a military officer.

  5. Interesting trivia from Wikipedia:

    The family name derives from a 15th- or 16th-century ancestor, Roman Vasilyevich Monastyryov, who appears in the Velvet Book, the 17th-century genealogy of Russian boyars. Roman Vasilyevich bore the nickname “Musorga” (from Greek: μουσουργός, romanized: musorgos, meaning ‘music maker’), and was the grandfather of the first Mussorgsky. The composer could trace his lineage to Rurik, the legendary 9th-century founder of the Russian state.

    In Mussorgsky family documents the spelling of the name varies: “Musarskiy”, “Muserskiy”, “Muserskoy”, “Musirskoy”, “Musorskiy”, and “Musurskiy”. The baptismal record gives the composer’s name as “Muserskiy”.

    In early (up to 1858) letters to Mily Balakirev, the composer signed his name “Musorskiy” (Мусoрскій). The “g” made its first appearance in a letter to Balakirev in 1863. Mussorgsky used this new spelling (Мусoргскій, Musorgskiy) to the end of his life, but occasionally reverted to the earlier “Musorskiy”. The addition of the “g” to the name was likely initiated by the composer’s elder brother Filaret to obscure the resemblance of the name’s root to an unsavory Russian word:

    мусoр (músor) — n. m. debris, rubbish, refuse

    Mussorgsky apparently did not take the new spelling seriously, and played on the “rubbish” connection in letters to Vladimir Stasov and to Stasov’s family, routinely signing his name Musoryanin, roughly “garbage-dweller” (compare dvoryanin: “nobleman”).

  6. John Emerson says:

    In English Musorgsky is sometimes spelled with one and sometimes with two s’s, based on nothing in the Russian as far as I know. I tend to use one, but autocorrect sometimes switches it to two.

    On my Haquelebac blog I list about 20 transcriptions of “Tchaikovsky”, but I can’t post links from this computer.

  7. Back to Dostoyevsky, whom I hadn’t read in a long time; the first time I read him, I’d been directed to some short stories, which were quite funny, despite his reputation otherwise. There must be newer and better translations of everything. For the basics, which English translators do you recommend, Hat?

  8. John Emerson says:

    I remember that when I was reading crime and punishment I thought that many passages were darkly humorous.I felt the same way about Moby Dick. These are books that we were supposed to read gravely, since we were existentialists and everything, but they were often quite droll

  9. For the basics, which English translators do you recommend, Hat?

    I don’t have recommendations, since I read in Russian, but there’s a comparison of translations (of Tolstoy, I’m afraid) here. What I always recommend is to sample various versions of whatever it is you want to read (via Google Books or Amazon’s Look inside the book) and pick the one that reads best to you.

  10. I have always been a big fan of Mussorgsky, and one thing I think is unfortunate is that his two best-known works, “Night on Bald Mountain,” and Pictures at an Exhibition, are hardly ever heard except in edited version prepared by other composers. Naturally, Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel would not have produced those scores if they had not been sincere admirers of Mussorgsky’s original work, and I would not even argue that the revised versions are not better. However, both Rimsky-Korsakov and Ravel toned down the weirdness of the original compositions, and I think that more listeners should be exposed to the versions directly from Mussorgsky’s pen. For many years, there was at most one readily available recording of the original version of “St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain,” and it never even got a proper performance in Mussorgsky’s lifetime. Miliy Balakirev, who is little remembered as a composer today but was the leader of the Five (the group of Russianist composers), refused to premiere it in 1867, and it was probably not performed until the twentieth century. However, thanks to the Internet, several recordings are now available, and if you have never heard it, I suggest listening at least once; you will probably be surprised by how much it differs from Rimsky-Korsakov’s version.

    I remember hearing an interesting discussion that arose spontaneously during a radio interview with a number of musicians and scholars on WFIU, the public radio station at Indiana University. Since Bloomington is a small city with among the world’s largest and all-around best music schools, music really dominates the cultural scene there. WFIU had an incredibly knowledgeable group of disk jockeys, and they got many interesting performers to come on and talk about both their own work and other people’s. One day in 2004, during the afternoon program that was usually focused on jazz, they had a number of people on the air talking about the release of Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE, and they played both the original recording of “Wind Chimes” by the Beach Boys and the 2004 version Brian Wilson released. Some of the people in the discussions thought the two versions presented interesting contrasts, but one musician disagreed and thought that the original was a work of weird genius, whereas the second version was boringly conventional. He said that hearing “Wind Chimes” in 1967 was revelatory, a bizarre demonstration of almost wholly new things that could be done with music. However, over time people had gotten used to it, the way they got used to listening to some of Mussorgsky’s most creative works, and it was easily to underestimate how groundbreaking the sound combinations that compositions like “Wind Chimes” or “St. John’s Eve on Bald Mountain” involved had been when they were first played. Although nobody on the radio made the connection, it occurred to me as I was listening that, according to this way of looking at things, Brian Wilson had become his own Rimsky-Korsakov, toning down the strangeness of his own composition.

  11. Oh, WFIU!

    One of my most treasured Bloomington memories is of the puzzled half-hour I spent in front of the radio, thinking, “What IS this crap? Has something gone wrong with WFIU?”

    Then the crap ended, and the announcer said, “No, that wasn’t Victory at Sea.” It was instead, he explained, a composition by the modernist musician who awed everybody there was to be awed in the 1920s: George Antheil. My radio moment occurred almost fifty years ago now, but you see I haven’t forgotten the audio link that that announcer established between Ezra Pound’s Paris and Lawrence Welk’s Middletown USA.

  12. PlasticPaddy says:

    Mussorgski: painting and story of its production are moving:
    https://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/collection/portret-kompozitora-m-p-musorgskogo/

  13. John Emerson says:

    The first time I heard “Night on bald mountain” In the original version I was made uneasy, Because Mussorgsky started it right the middle of things without an introduction.

    The motivation of Rimsky Korsakoff’s setting of Pushkin’s Mozart and Salieri” is thought to be Rimsky-Korsakov’s belief that he was like Salieri while Musorgsky was like Mozart. Pushkin’s playlet, in turn, is supposedly motivated by Pushkin’s own identification with the hardworking Salieri and his identification of his Polish friend Mickewicz with the inspired Mozart. Mandelstam, who identified with Salieri, took the Salieri / Mozart contrast very seriously.

  14. John Emerson says:

    There’s a lot more to the story. Google “Everything you ever wanted to know about Mozart and Salieri” to get the whole thing. It’s a wild ride.

  15. I think it’s also interesting that Mussorgsky, who admired Russian-ness is all the arts, is best known visually from a painting done by the most distinguished Russian paiting of the day, Ilya Repin. Moreover, it is unusual for the best-remembered image of any artistic genius to have been created at the subject’s nadir, looking so unlike the composed formal photographs Mussorgsky sat for in his youth. Repin is probably best known for his Realist crowd scenes, and even in his portraits, he often makes powerful use of gesture. However, his portrait of Mussorgsky is completely different. It is a very stationary image, showing the composer slouching, disheveled, and unhealthy (indeed, dying). Yet the face, in spite of its drunken flush, manages to convey a keen energy; there is a brilliance in those sidelong, watery eyes, even if it is too late to save it.

  16. there is a brilliance in those sidelong, watery eyes

    The expressive eyes are a characteristic of Repin’s art. Who can tell if the model really looked like that.

  17. John Emerson says:

    The deathbed picture certainly catches the dark side of the late-period Mussorgsky. In earlier images he is rather chipper, even foppish.

  18. Yes, if you have the option, you might want to have Frans Hals paint you, not Ilya Repin.

  19. John Emerson says:

    Well, if you want a memorable picture, Repin is the one.

  20. Repin’s most famous works are indeed multifigure scenes like “Cossacks writing a letter to the Sultan of Turkey” or “Volga’s barge haulers”, but I guess the most remarkable is “Ivan the Terrible and his son Ivan”. Those googly eyes!

    About the addendum. Feuerbach was for a long time remembered in Russia because “Ludwig Feuerbach and the end of classical German philosophy” was made a part of the Marxist Testament. Obviously, nothing but the title was remembered by anyone except the priests (an occasional weirdo probably had “Theses on Feuerbach” stuck in their head). Which led to the following amusing story (as Russians say, I am selling for the price I bought it). In some theatrical school students were putting up a play based on the revolution of 1917. One scene involved a protagonist rushing to the stage with exclamation “Mirbach is killed!” [google it], but an actor, who was forced to sit through the lectures on the Canon, exclaimed “Feuerbach is dead!” which cued his opposite number to reply “Well, that’s the end of German classical philosophy”.

  21. David Marjanović says:

    In English Musorgsky is sometimes spelled with one and sometimes with two s’s, based on nothing in the Russian as far as I know. I tend to use one, but autocorrect sometimes switches it to two.

    The ss is there to tell readers, especially French ones, that it’s [s] and not [z].

  22. PlasticPaddy says:

    What David said. In addition, this is important for L1 readers, who may be inclined to pronounce [vowel]-sor like incisor (compare laser) and not like eyesore.

  23. Not sure what you mean; the former is closer to the Russian [ˈmusər(k)skʲɪj].

  24. PlasticPaddy says:

    @hat
    Do you say inseyessor? Or like me inseyezor. Having said that, scissors is presumably scizzors for both of us. I think I should just forget this 😔

  25. Oh, I completely misunderstood you — I thought you were talking about the vowel, but you were talking about the consonant. Never mind 😔

  26. (I say in-SIZE-er.)

  27. PlasticPaddy says:

    I am too lazy to use IPA. Thanks for bearing with me. I felt when DM said “especially French”, a supplement would be good, to explain the reason a L1 speaker would prefer the spelling with ss. I think for me the final vowel of incisor and even actor is somehow intermediate between a schwa and an o, my lower lip comes up on the o of actor but not the schwa of better . I am not sure this results in an audible difference. Maybe they are allophones for me.

  28. The ss is there to tell readers, especially French ones, that it’s [s] and not [z].

    Oh dear. I’ve always pronounced the man’s name with a [z]. No particular reason that I can think of. Since there tends to be a certain amount of variation in the transliteration of Russian names into English, I guess I’ve never thought of them as reliable pronunciation guides.

  29. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Irrelevantly, is there an official distinction between the vowel of ‘isle’ and the first vowel of ‘island’? Mine are definitely different, but as far as I can tell the world in general seems to consider them the same thing.

  30. They’re identical for me, but I’m not in Edinburgh.

  31. John Cowan says:

    If one has the vowel of spider and the other has the vowel of beside (her), then it is the Scottish vowel length rule in operation. This prolongs most simple vowels in “long contexts” (namely before /r/, voiced fricatives or a morpheme boundary), but a long context changes the /ɘi/ of spider to the /ai/ of beside her (because morpheme boundary). The rule affects both Scots proper and Scottish Standard English; Canadians and Western Pennsylvanians do this too.

    I must say that if the SVLR is operating here, I don’t quite understand why. Perhaps island is understood by the Scottish Acquisition Device to have a cranberry morph i- followed by -land as in woodland, townland, Highland/Lowland, Finland, Iceland, Ireland etc.

    ObDoIRepeatMyself: isle < French île, ile < Latin insula, with the s artificially restored in English; island < ey, the root of eyot/ait ‘small island’ + -land as above. So they are unrelated.

  32. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Hang on, I thought SVLR applied in cases such as agreed (long, because agree#d) vs. greed (short). In other words where the vowel is immediately followed by the morpheme boundary. In beside her you have /d/ and THEN the morpheme boundary. So I think side, beside and beside her all have short(er) vowels, like spider.

    But side and sighed don’t have the same vowel.

    EDIT: Turns out I was wrong! Wells 1982 says spider actually has [ae] not [ʌɪ]: spider is syllabified as spi.der; if there had been a morpheme boundary, the medial consonant would count as tautosyllabic and end the stressed syllable, triggering the centralized allophone. This is then maybe why Jen has different vowels in isle and island — she syllabifies them differently.

  33. John Cowan says:

    It’s my second method of detecting a Hidden Canadian in the U.S. media. Note the thinko “inside her” for “beside her”; I was evidently confusing the tuffet with the Nile.

  34. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    Sure, but as far as I know:
    – SVLR does not operate in the exact same environment as Canadian Raising necessarily (even originally, in Canada)
    – Canadian Raising has been moving to new phonological environments for some US speakers

    Also, what about ‘sorry’ as a shibboleth for spotting Hidden Canadians? 😀

  35. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Thank you, Andrej – I’m not highland enough to make ‘ice’ and ‘eyes’ a minimal pair, and I hadn’t come up with one!

    And thank you John for the explanation and the IPA, although I can’t quite decide whether I have the same vowel in ‘spider’ and ‘beside’ (or ‘spider and ‘spied’) or not…

  36. David Marjanović says:

    with the s artificially restored in English

    Graphically, the circumflex is very young in French, 18th century apparently.

  37. Also, what about ‘sorry’ as a shibboleth for spotting Hidden Canadians?

    If you mean the pronunciation (that is, a cot-caught merger tending toward /ɑ~ɔ/, then you can find it in Eastern New England. If you mean the usage, I can’t speak to that.

  38. Very well, artificially restored in both French and English.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    the pronunciation

    Is this about sorry with FORCE, “sore-y”? The Canadian I know best does that.

  40. John Emerson: “For a few years Russian music was divided between the “Germans” (schooled musicians, often of German or German Jewish descent) and the Russophiles, led by Balakirev.”

    It was never as simple as that. Speaking of the Five, one should not lose sight of their mentor, Vladimir Stasov, perhaps the most influential art critic of his age and a highly educated dilettante. Stasov was not at all fixated on transcendent Russianness but rather believed it was time for Russian artists to go their own way, building on the best from the Western tradition. Stasov’s views on music and the visual arts were emphatically anti-academicist rather than anti-Western (e.g., in 1883, he took Repin on a tour of European museums to show him, among others, Rembrandt and old Dutch and Flemish masters). Glinka nicknamed Stasov “Bakh” – i.e., Bach – for his advocacy of the master’s music; Balakirev changed it to the more affectionate Bakhin’ka (dear little Bach, sort of).

    Musically, the Five were all brought up on Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Chopin – e.g., Balakirev introduced Mussorgsky to the symphonic form by jointly playing four-hand piano settings of all Beethoven symphonies. The Five were also fond of Liszt and Berlioz, both musically and personally (perhaps unaware of or uninterested in the antagonism between Liszt and Schumann/Mendelssohn).

    Liszt was a huge influence on Balakirev, while Tchaikovsky preferred older music (especially the 18th century) and called Balakirev’s circle “Jacobins.” But Balakirev admired Romeo and Juliet and Francesca da Rimini; what he could not stand were Tchaikovsky’s later symphonies because they were “academic” by definition: the tone poem was Balakirev’s music of the future.

    No doubt Glinka and (for Mussorgsky especially) Dargomyzhsky were the Five’s Russian guiding lights but there weren’t just enough Russian predecessors or contemporaries for them to learn from.

    Of the five “Germans” Mussorgsky parodied in his vocal number Rayok (1869-70, sometimes translated as “The Peepshow”), four – Zaremba, Famintsyn, Feofil Tolstoy, and Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna – are almost completely forgotten. Only Alexander Serov, a talented composer, was targeted unfairly, perhaps because of his family feud with Stasov. Rayok was triggered by Balakirev’s dismissal from his conducting post at the Russian Musical Society in 1869. Tchaikovsky and Nikolai Rubinstein spoke out in support of Balakirev then despite disagreeing with his esthetic principles.

  41. Andrej Bjelaković says:

    “Is this about sorry with FORCE, “sore-y”? The Canadian I know best does that.”

    Yes, I meant that sorry and story normally rhyme in Canada, whereas I’m not sure they ever do in the US (usually you get whatever the speaker in question has in LOT).

  42. I rhyme them. (Father from the Ozarks, mother from Iowa; I grew up in Japan, Thailand, and Argentina with home-leave trips to Southern California and the DC area, went to college in LA and grad school in Connecticut, lived in NYC for 23 years, and have resided in Western Massachusetts for the last 15, so my dialect is an unholy mess.)

  43. While I was just looking at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July 1965 (in connection with a comment I just left in another thread), I glanced again at the cover story, Rogue Dragon by Avram Davidson (who had been the editor of the magazine until a few months before). I remember the story being a bit disappointing and quite reminiscent of something by Jack Vance. However, glancing at the early pages, I did notice something in the story that I had not picked up on previously. The main character’s home planet orbits the star Moussorgsky Minor, and I had not previously realized that that was a play on “minor” key.

  44. Oh how that cover takes me back! F&SF was my favorite magazine, I was a subscriber by then, and I opened each issue with feverish anticipation. I remember the cover and I know I read the story, but I have little memory of it (except that it was, as you say, reminiscent of Vance). Of course I wouldn’t have picked up on the “minor” thing either at the time.

  45. John Emerson says:

    The musical “Russians” were not so much really anti-German as anti-Wagnerian. The Germanist – Russianist feud was sort of a put-up job and only lasted a year or so.

    Musorgsky was in any case more fundamentally impish than Slavophile. The ever-so-Russian folk theme opening one of his big operas was famiar to much of his audience as a theme in one of Beethoven’s Rasimovsky quartets. And in his operas, whenever you hear the folk singing lovely folk songs for their lord, you can assume that they’ve been commanded to. In one place one singer asks something like “What are we celebrating today?”and the other answers something like “Who knows and who cares?”

  46. John Emerson says:

    Antheil: in his American career Antheil also sold some kind of patent medicine. And with the actress Hedy Lamar (!!!!!) he patented a technical procedure for coding that was so far ahead of its time that it wasn’t used before the patent ran out. Really.

    Borodin also discovered the Borodin reaction on chemistry, which the Nazis tried to rename it after a German — among the least of their crimes,I suppose.

  47. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    The composer Mussorgsky (who played the music at Dostoevsky’s funeral)

    While we’re at it, Leoš Janáček played the organ at Gregor Mendel’s funeral. He had been a chorister in the monastery.

  48. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Hedy Lamar (!!!!!) he patented a technical procedure for coding that was so far ahead of its time that it wasn’t used before the patent ran out. Really.

    Hedy Lamarr was apparently much more brilliant than her acting career might suggest. Sadly, however, she is mostly remembered for appearing her birthday suit in Ecstasy — something very unusual at the time.

    Borodin also discovered the Borodin reaction on chemistry, , which the Nazis tried to rename it after a German — among the least of their crimes, I suppose.

    Successfully, it appears. It is almost always called the Hunsdiecker reaction, after Cläre Hunsdiecker.

    But I agree with you that that isn’t the worst thing that the Nazis did.

  49. Borodin also discovered the Borodin reaction on chemistry

    That’s a weird coincidence.

  50. Yeah, I vaguely knew there was a reaction named after Borodin, but I did not realize it was the same as the Hunsdiecker reaction.

    Wikipedia says Borodin was the first person to observe nucleophilic substitution, which sounds impressive but doesn’t really seem to stand up to interrogation. After all, alchemists* had been mixing alcohols and strong acids since forever. And it cannot mean that Borodin was the first chemist to recognize his reactions as nucleophilic substitutions, since he died before chemical bonds were understood—before, in fact, the discoveries of electrons or nuclei themselves.

    * I recently stumbled upon an old SMBC comic in which an alchemist announces that he had finally turned lead into a threesome.

  51. John Emerson says:

    I recently read a ground-breaking book about Newton’s alchemy by Teeter-Dobbs, and it was very revealing. Newton worked longer and harder on alchemy than on fundamental physics, but with only moderate incremental success . The questions just weren’t there to ask before Lavoisier and Mendeleev and Watt and many others. He ended up mostly spinning his wheels. Prigogine said that he had started off with the lowhanging fruit (fundamental physics wasn’t easy, but it was *there*”.

  52. I also meant to mention that “this is Liberty Hall” is used in Rogue Dragon.

Speak Your Mind

*