Georgia and Haligalia.

In Jabotinsky’s Пятеро (The Five), our narrator has gone to an all-night shindig where students of various nationalities congregate, get drunk, and make speeches; he notices that Marko, the older brother in the family he’s been describing, has been hanging out with the group from the Caucasus and acting as though he were completely at home with them, waving his hands, shouting, and supporting the orators, even though they appeared to be talking in their native languages. Finally the gathering breaks up:

Marko accompanied me home; like me, he hadn’t done much drinking, but he was drunk on spiritual wine, specifically that of Kakheti. He hummed the tune and words of “Mraval zhamier” [მრავალჟამიერი, ‘Many Years’]; for two blocks, never having seen the Caucasus, he painted a vivid picture of the Georgian Military Road to Tiflis; he tried to prove something about Queen Tamar and the poet Rustaveli… Lermontov wrote “The timid Georgians ran away” — what a slander on that knightly tribe! Marko already knew all about the Georgian movement, he knew the differences between Kartvelian, Imeretian, Svan, and Laz, he had even mastered the language — he lured a stray dog with “modi ak [მოდი აქ, ‘come here’]” and then drove it away with “tsadi! [წადი, ‘go away’]” (I don’t vouch for the accuracy, but that’s how I remembered it); and he finished by sighing from the depths of his soul:

“It’s so stupid: why can’t a person just up and say ‘I’m a Georgian’?”

Марко проводил меня домой; он тоже мало выпил, но был пьян
от вина духовного, и именно кахетинского. Он мурлыкал напев и слова «мравал джамиэр»; два квартала подряд, никогда не видавши Кавказа, живописал Военно-грузинскую дорогу и Тифлис; что-то доказывал про царицу Тамару и поэта Руставели… Лермонтов пишет: «бежали робкие грузины» — что за клевета на рыцарственное племя! Марко все уже знал о грузинском движении, знал уже разницу между понятиями картвелы, имеретины, сванеты, лазы, даже и языком уже овладел — бездомную собачонку на углу поманил: «моди ак», потом отогнал прочь: «цади!» (за точность не ручаюсь, так запомнилось); и закончил вздохом из самой глубины души:

— Глупо это: почему нельзя человеку взять, да объявить себя грузином?

(In Mraval zhamier, ჟამი zhami is an archaic Georgian word for ‘time,’ borrowed from Armenian žam, which itself borrowed the word from Iranian, which borrowed it from Akkadian zimān, from Proto-Semitic *zaman-.) This is both touching and funny, and it reminded me of another example of immersion in a foreign culture, from Aksyonov’s 1968 novella Затоваренная бочкотара (translated as Surplused Barrelware), in which travelers on a truck get to know each other. One of them is the “refined intellectual” Vadim Drozhzhinin; he has achieved a modest success in life, but what he prides himself on is being a unique expert in the small Latin American country of Haligalia (Халигалия, based on the Russian form of the dance name hully gully):

He knew all the country’s dialects (there were twenty-eight), all its folklore, its history, its economy, all the streets and alleys of its capital, Polis, as well as three other cities, all the shops and stores on those streets, the names of their owners and the members of their families, and the names and dispositions of the domestic animals, even though he had never been in the country. The junta that ran Haligalia wouldn’t give Vadim an entry visa, but the simple Haligalians all knew and loved him, he corresponded with at least half of them, gave advice on their family lives, and settled all sorts of disputes.

Он знал все диалекты этой страны, а их было двадцать восемь, весь фольклор, всю историю, всю экономику, все улицы и закоулки столицы этой страны города Полис и трех остальных городов, все магазины и лавки на этих улицах, имена их хозяев и членов их семей, клички и нрав домашних животных, хотя никогда в этой стране не был. Хунта, правившая в Халигални, не давала Вадиму Афанасьевичу въездной визы, но простые халигалийцы все его знали и любили, по меньшей мере с половиной из них он был в переписке, давал советы по части семейной жизни, урегулировал всякого рода противоречия.

The passage goes on for much longer, and Haligalia becomes a memorable theme of the novella (which is very much worth reading). I’m sure there are other literary examples of this kind of immersion, but I can’t think of any at the moment.

Comments

  1. Not quite the same, but perhaps related:

    — The imaginary “London” in Huysmans’ A rebours;

    — Zembla in Nabokov’s Pale Fire, complete with the Zemblan translator of Shakespeare whose last words are “Comment dit-on ‘mourir’ en anglais?”;

    — The library scene in Nabokov’s Pnin, where Pnin thinks of a line from Gamlet, Vil’yama Shekspira, then sadly remembers that that edition isn’t in his (American) library.

  2. Not the “literary examples” but rather common-life. I’m often overwhelmed by the onslaught of the would-be Jews who amply cite the holy books and the folk soothes, talk about instantly falling in love with Israeli landscapes, celebrate all the holidays and even change their own, and their ancestors’, names into Hebrew. Ethnicity may be a social construct without much basis to it, according to some, so this hypertrophied affiliation may have remained just slightly annoying … but they come to the genealogy communities seeking evidence in the old documents or in DNA, and, unfortunately, the Czarist Russia filed its documents according the subjects’ religious affiliation, without any foresight about the future aspirations of the great-grandchildren. (It’s easier to become a Georgian than to make your grandfather one, indeed!).

    Occasionally I have to beg the holiest-than-thou Judeophiles to stop because their ancestors are already turning in their graves – or because mine do. Like someone was a descendant of a century-old line of Orthodox priests who he insisted were secretly Jewish. Or someone’s gramps was supposedly “mistreated and misplaced by the Nazis” (but actually punished by the Soviets in 1945, justly or not, for being a Nazi collaborator). One suitor, having repeatedly failed to find a proof of ancestral Jewishness, finally slammed the virtual door wishing us all to burn in the gas chambers.

  3. Not the “literary examples” but rather common-life.

    Yes, examples from life are not hard to find, but I’m curious about its use as a literary topos. I’ll have to reread Pale Fire to see how Zembla works as an analogue.

  4. In Naipaul’s The Mystic Masseur, there’s Stewart, the Englishman in Trinidad, who dearly wishes to be and be seen as a Kashmiri (for some reason).

  5. In A Confederacy of Dunces, Myrna Minkoff, the Jewish student from New York, “stopped throughout the rural South to teach Negroes folk songs she had learned at the Library of Congress”.

  6. ə de vivre says:

    The shape of Old Persian “zəmanak” is an interesting example of what a shitshow historic Semitic sibilants are. The proximate source for OP is Assyrian [zamān], but this is a bit of guesswork based on the actually attested Assyrian spelling and the OP and Aramaic spellings that start with a “z.” Original *š and *s (or, perhaps, *ts) switched places in Northern and Southern varieties of Akkadian, so that Northern scribes wrote “š” for [s] and “s” for [š]. So, when Southerners wrote “simān” and meant [simān], we’d expect Northerners to write “simān” and mean [šimān]. But instead they wrote “šimān,” by which we’d expect them to mean [simān]. Except the word shows up voiced in OP and Aramaic, so they posit that it was actually pronounced [zimān]. This seems a bit circular to me, but maybe there are more examples of initial /s/ voicing in Assyrian—and it’s certainly a plausible explanation that fits the data. We can’t solve the question by appealing to a West Semitic origin, where we’d expect an initial /z/, because the second vowel is long.

  7. Does Haligalia exist in the world of the novella, or only in Vadim Drozhzhinin’s head?

  8. Zembla itself is not quite an equivalent, because the narrator professes to be a native, not a wannabe who is a second-hand expert. The ridiculous Conmal does fit — the great, lionized translator from English to Zemblan, who refuses to accept that he can’t speak or understand English, and can barely read or write it. There’s a slight parallel to him in Pnin: Prof. Blorenge, professor of French literature, who “didn’t like literature and had no French”; and in Lolita, where Mrs. Haze’s pretentious bad French is indicated by the writer transcribing her spoken jambes as zhambes.

    Mark Twain has an account (“Back from Yurrup”) of sitting next to an obnoxious family of American tourists coming back from France, trying to outdo each other in fake nativeness.

  9. Does Haligalia exist in the world of the novella, or only in Vadim Drozhzhinin’s head?

    In the world of the novella, I think…. but I’ll have to reread it to be sure. There’s a Swiss prelate who’s also a Haligalia expert, but of course he could reside in Vadim Drozhzhinin’s head as well.

  10. Dmitry Pruss: “…the onslaught of the would-be Jews who amply cite the holy books and the folk soothes, talk about instantly falling in love with Israeli landscapes, celebrate all the holidays and even change their own, and their ancestors’, names into Hebrew.”

    But what’s the point of all this? Are they faking Jewishness to get Israeli citizenship or is it some kind of neurosis/psychosis? If one is serious about converting to Judaism, there’s a legitimate route for that.

  11. In a summer institute I once taught, one of the students was a senior professor of English at a Japanese university whose own English was so heavily accented that I could just barely understand every few words. When I mentioned that to an American professor of Japanese, he explained that in my student’s generation fluency in another language was disapproved of as a sign of deficient Japanese authenticity.

    And from the point of view of social class there’s act 4 of Three Sisters, where social-climbing Natalya begins speaking French like her sophisticated Muscovite in-laws — but an unidiomatic, ungrammatical French full of beginners’ errors.

  12. But speaking another language, well or badly, isn’t really to the point; the trope (insofar as it exists) is about total immersion in another country — its songs, cuisine, cities, folkways, all that stuff. And language, of course, but that’s just part of the package.

  13. Kozma Prutkov Desire to be a Spaniard

  14. Yes! Prutkov is always there for the important stuff.

  15. John Cowan says:

    stopped throughout the rural South to teach Negroes folk songs she had learned at the Library of Congress

    “Long and long and long ago, my children … (read it and weep)

  16. Then (to be immodest) how about Jonathan Morse, “The Picture Odyssey of Ben Bloom Elijah” James Joyce Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 3-4 (Spring-Summer 2015), pp. 669-89 and cover illustration (actual date of publication 2017)?

    The money shot is that one series of events in the minutely depicted Dublin of Ulysses concerns an impending visit by John Alexander Dowie, a faith healer who presided over a cult in Zion City, Illinois. In the fantasy zones of the “Oxen of the Sun” and “Circe” episodes he becomes part of the language, and there he speaks a slangy American English. Only one bit of fine print follows in my article: in what’s called reality, Dowie (1) wasn’t an American but a Scot, and (2) didn’t visit Dublin.

    But boy is the language real nevertheless. You can hear it in Dowie’s own mouth at

    http://ia800208.us.archive.org/2/items/SERMONINDEX_SID13145/SID13145.mp3

  17. David Eddyshaw says:

    Long and long and long ago

    I think this is not so much pathological as human. Some time ago I came to the conclusion that what I took for my my oldest memories are, in fact, more recent memories of remembering my oldest memories.

    And the Handbook of American Indians is actually pretty good, after all. Only teenagers think that authenticity is a simple concept.

    Modern Israeli Hebrew is, in one sense, hopelessly inauthentic. In another – the exact opposite.

  18. G. Ginat says:

    The Elder Brother in Hesse’s Magister Ludi, who lives in a bamboo garden and is absorbed in things Chinese.

    If what you’re thinking of is characters whose primary world, in terms of emotion or ideas, doesn’t correspond to where they find themselves, then there ought to be lots of examples in immigrant and academic novels. Pnin, of course, combines the two subgenres. Another example from the academic novel, arguably, is the nasty, all-knowing novelist, Gertrude Johnson, in Randall Jarrell’s wonderful Pictures from an Institution, who is hyper-connected to her surroundings, but who yearns for the South of her grandmother, if memory serves.

  19. SFReader says:

    total immersion in another country — its songs, cuisine, cities, folkways, all that stuff. And language, of course, but that’s just part of the package.

    Could have been me.

    Fortunately I was saved by breathtaking multitude of countries I took interest in.

    You can’t get totally immersed in dozens of cultures.

  20. G. Ginat, thanks for that elegant generalization, “characters whose primary world, in terms of emotion or ideas, doesn’t correspond to where they find themselves.” Apropos, Gertrude Johnson à clef is the Kentucky novelist Caroline Gordon. For more generalization about her, her husband and fellow Southern nostalgist Allen Tate, and Princeton’s new examination of the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, read Wikipedia about Thomas Nelson Page and hum along with the Viennese Jew Max Steiner:

    Gone WITH the wind,
    Gone WITH the wind . . .

    I wonder what magnolia blossoms smell like in retrospect in Russian literature.

  21. Surprisingly, Russian lit doesn’t have a lot of well-known examples of protagonists immersing themselves in a foreign culture to the degree that they sort of live in there (outside obvious joke examples). This is something that, when I think about it, should definitely have happened. Boris Akunin, who is a translator from Japanese by his first profession, made his hero Fandorin somewhat Nipponized, but that happened only after he traveled to Japan. There is something in Pelevin’s “Chapaev and Pustota” aka Buddha’s Little Finger aka Clay Machine Gun, but in other works as well, where his thoroughly Russian protagonists become so immersed in (Pelevin’s version of) Buddhism that they sort of become Tibetan Buddhists from Mongolia. But the novel is thoroughly postmodernist (and no, it can’t be called “modernist”) and it’s not possible to separate who is who and who lives in what time or place.

    I would say that Helen DeWitt’s The Last Samurai sort of flirts with this idea, but not really plunges into it. The immersion doesn’t become total.

  22. G. Ginat says:

    Thank you, Jonathan. Sounds fascinating; I’ll certainly follow up.

    Funny you should mention the Viennese version of Gone with the Wind. My Mom left the city in 1938, at the age of 12, and we never quite got over it.

  23. SFReader says:

    Surprisingly, Russian lit doesn’t have a lot of well-known examples of protagonists immersing themselves in a foreign culture to the degree that they sort of live in there

    http://lib.ru/WELLER/wishpari.txt

  24. Owlmirror says:

    but they come to the genealogy communities seeking evidence in the old documents or in DNA, and, unfortunately, the Czarist Russia filed its documents according the subjects’ religious affiliation

    Didn’t someone comment here about Subbotniks? Aren’t those in the files?

    Like someone was a descendant of a century-old line of Orthodox priests

    I understand that the Orthodox Church has more lenient rules for celibacy than the Roman Catholic Church, but is this actually a thing?

  25. Does this count as a literary example?

    https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/ken-sama

    I think the countless non-Japanese people who live in a sort of mental fantasy Japan are often called “otaku”, and those who do the same thing but to an even more embarrassing degree are “weebs” or “weeaboos”.

    I can also easily imagine the reverse being quite common – a Japanese person in need of a hobby deciding to become extremely immersed in, say, Peruvian culture without ever having been there or met anyone from there – but can’t think of any literary examples.

    Also, I was unfamiliar with the hully gully, but know “halli-galli” as a German word for partying – are they related?

    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/german-english/halligalli

  26. @Owlmirror: Yes, it’s a Big Thing. The so-called white clergy – the non-celibate priests and deacons – were close to being a hereditary caste.

    The absence of primogeniture did not force second sons of noble families into clerical service. Occasionally, noblemen would take monastic vows – it is from the monks that the higher orders of the church (ẗhe black clergy) are recruited. But noblemen seldom if ever became parish priests. Young men from non-privileged classes would sometimes manage to get ordained, however.

  27. The Elder Brother in Hesse’s Magister Ludi, who lives in a bamboo garden and is absorbed in things Chinese.

    A good example, as is SFReader’s Veller.

    If what you’re thinking of is characters whose primary world, in terms of emotion or ideas, doesn’t correspond to where they find themselves, then there ought to be lots of examples in immigrant and academic novels.

    No, it’s more specific: characters who choose to immerse themselves in alien cultures, cultures that would appear to have nothing to do with them. Thus, immigrants longing for their homes don’t count.

  28. I think the countless non-Japanese people who live in a sort of mental fantasy Japan are often called “otaku”

    Yes, and I’m not sure if they count (they’d have to be literary characters, of course, but I imagine there are some such). Are they immersed in the actual Japan or in a fantasy Japan they create for themselves from the anime and manga they’ve experienced, in which case it’s more like Star Wars fandom? Food for thought.

  29. Not a book, but the Caucasian over-immersion trope is basically the entire plot of the fondly-remembered Soviet comedy Кавкавcкая пленница.

    As someone who spent nearly two years in Georgia, it’s a country that is peculiarly seductive this way. Even if you can’t sing “Suliko” or dance the Adjaruli or make churchkhela, you come away wishing you could.

  30. Yes, even without having been to Georgia (*shakes fist at tour leader who chose to spend 11 days in Sochi instead of taking us to Tbilisi, Bukhara, or the Crimea*) I find myself attracted to the language and culture — I wonder when I’ll make my third attempt to learn Georgian…

  31. I can’t remember any books about that on the top of my head, but it’s common in the real world. I’ve seen a few documentaries about the people immersed in the 50s/60s US culture, including cars, music, clothes. I would think many people around the world immerse themself in US culture of different flavours. But somehow they don’t turn up in fiction so much…

  32. John Cowan says:

    I think this is not so much pathological as human

    I could not agree more. I only meant: weep for the student, for he will surely never get a Ph.D. now.

  33. G. Ginat says:

    Variations on the theme, if not spot on:

    Ozick’s The Messiah of Stockholm, in which a Swedish journalist becomes convinced that he’s the son of Bruno Schulz, learning Polish in the process.

    Roziner’s A Certain Finkelmeyer, in which a Soviet Jewish poet writes a “translation” of an invented native Siberian oral epic in order to get published.

  34. The Ozick sounds on point, the Roziner not (if he’s just inventing an epic for career advancement rather than immersing himself in a culture).

  35. If one is serious about converting to Judaism, there’s a legitimate route for that

    But one shouldn’t take the hard road to win something which is already rightfully theirs.

    Didn’t someone comment here about Subbotniks? Aren’t those in the files?

    There are different sects of Subbotniks. Generally their vital records were considerably more haphazard than the Jewish records, especially so because they lived in places where ordinary Jews were banned, like Don basin or Zima station. Sometimes they can be found in the Orthodox parish books. Sometimes, in special situations, even regular Jewish records may be found in the Orthodox books (usually early on, when the government requirement for registering births and deaths has just been imposed (1830s) at the locations where there was no suitable Interior Ministry-approved Jewish recordkeeper. One of my distant relatives had a birth record in a rural Christian parish book in Moldova in the mid-1850s due to a special circumstance: the family lived in a town surrendered to Romania after Russia’s Crimean war defeat, and Russia allowed its subjects to move North of the new border line in a somewhat haphazard fashion, disrupting the vital record keeping among other things. But it generally takes a Christian genealogy specialist to seek things in the Christian books…

    In Azerbaijan, some Subbotniks lived side by side with the Jews, and occasionally they may luck into finding “proper” records.

    In practice, Israeili authorities used to show great understanding to the recordkeeping problems of the Subbotniks, but the attitudes hardened as the document fraud became the norm, and over time it’s become very hard for the Subbotnik descendants to prove their origins.

    Orthodox Church has more lenient rules for celibacy

    It isn’t about leniency. Monks were celibate, while parish priests were REQUIRED to be married to win their appointments. Stalin, in his days of a theology student, famously married young and had a son (who perished in the Nazi camps in WWII) simply because this was a job requiremen (soon, he abandoned the ideology, the job, and of course the family he needed just to get the no longer needed job).

  36. David Marjanović says:

    Otaku: best translated as “geek”, I’d say, though I’m pretty sure a common meaning is “couch potato who watches anime all day”.

    know “halli-galli” as a German word for partying –

    Huh, I don’t. Maybe it was a 1950s fad.

    Monks were celibate, while parish priests were REQUIRED to be married to win their appointments.

    Bishops, however, are required to be celibate, and are therefore chosen not from parish priests but from monks, which goes a long way toward explaining why Orthodox bishops have such an embarrassing record of having no idea of the world at large.

  37. Languagehat,

    The Ozick sounds on point, the Roziner not (if he’s just inventing an epic for career advancement rather than immersing himself in a culture)

    I should think it might be interesting to sort out the related but differently motivated language moves of Thomas Chatterton (a fantasist who began writing his Middle English pastiches before he was even in his teens) and James (“Ossian”) Macpherson.(a careerist working in a cultural-nationalist milieu).

  38. I thought it would be a good idea to put this episode in context: the narrator speaks of Marko with a friendly irony while making it obvious Marko is not a particularly deep thinker, to put it mildly – he’s ridiculously susceptible to intellectual and political fads. As a rule, he talks nonsense. In fact, Marko’s father thinks he’s a sort of a kind-hearted, high-IQ idiot. Marko’s girlfriend is more charitable, judging him a victim of bad luck: “as you call it, pardon me, a shlimazel, or as I’ve heard from Muscovites at the theater, twenty-two misfortunes.” (This one’s from The Cherry Orchard.)

  39. John Cowan says:

    Chatterton fits the model, but Macpherson does not. He wanted to collect the antiquities of his own people as preserved in ballads and manuscripts, and was disappointed when they did not quite amount to what he expected. Instead of carefully documenting what he had, as Elias Lönnrot was to do a century later, and what changes he made to it in order to produce his own epic, he lost control of the details, lied, forged manuscripts to cover up his lies, and ended up inspiring a century-long logomachy with the Highlanders and the Romantics on one side, and the historians, the Irish, and Dr. Johnson on the other:

    “But Doctor Johnson, do you really believe that any man today could write such poetry?”

    “Yes: many men, many women, and many children.”

    But in truth, if Chatterton and Macpherson had not been genuine poets as well as forgers, they would never have aroused so much interest in their time and would be completely forgotten now.

  40. So how did the average Russian envision Georgians at that time? Noble savages? Carefree people of antiquity? Did Stalin cultivate any particular view of Georgians in general as foundation for his own constructed image?

  41. Henry Crabb Robinson, travel journal, 2 August 1829:

    “He [Goethe] spoke of Ossian with contempt and said, “No one remarked that while Werther is in his senses he talks about Homer, and only after he grows mad is in love with Ossian.'”

    But yes, John Cowan: if Macpherson still occupies a niche in literary history, literary history must have decided not to evict him.

  42. based on the Russian form of the dance name hully gully

    Perhaps the only time I’d come across it was here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCivWd3bRMg

  43. know “halli-galli” as a German word for partying –

    Huh, I don’t. Maybe it was a 1950s fad.

    It’s still in use, at least among people above 30. It doesn’t refer only to partying, but to any kind of festive hubbub, e.g. you can say about a fun fair “Da war echt Halligalli”.
    That usage is also behind the name of the TV Show “Circus Halligalli” that ran on German TV in the mid-2010s.

  44. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    Oddly similar to the Gaelic horo-gheallaidh
    https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2218815171536352

  45. CDavid Marjanović says:

    “Da war echt Halligalli”.

    Ah, that explains it. This kind of term is always strictly regional.

    (I’m over 30…)

    “Circus Halligalli”

    Oh yes, I’ve seen that. Never thought it was anything but a made-up funny-sounding name.

    horo-gheallaidh

    Intriguing.

  46. Here’s a remarkable passage from the novel:

    “Foma Gavrilych isn’t here; he’s ushedshi [‘having gone out’].”

    I didn’t even understand at first who she was talking about; I was especially shaken by the use of a participle instead of the simple past. Motrya, who had worked for a general before coming to us, observed all these verbal refinements punctiliously, always emphasizing that the laundress ushla [‘had gone out’] but the lady of the house ushedshi [‘having gone out’]. I had a confused sense that there had been some sort of elevation of the social standing of our dvornik [Foma Gavrilych].

    — Фомы Гаврилыча нема: воны ушедши.

    Я даже не сразу понял, о ком она говорит; особенно потрясло меня деепричастие вместо простого прошедшего. Мотря, до нас служившая у генерала, точно соблюдала эти глагольные тонкости и всегда оттеняла, что прачка «ушла», а барыня — «ушедши». Я смутно ощутил, что в общественном положении нашего дворника совершается какой-то процесс возвышения.

    I’ve been reading Russian literature for a long time and had never noticed this subtlety (which of course there’s no way of effectively translating into English).

  47. Somewhere between literary creation and real life fall the characters on the television series Jersey Shore: Six young Americans who strongly identified as Italian, incessantly celebrating their homeland. Celebration typically took the form of cooking pasta dishes and picking fights with anyone who said anything critical about Italy. The cast traveled to the actual Italy one season, where none had been before and most could not speak the language. They didn’t seem to like it much but it didn’t diminish their enthusiasm for Italy after they got back.

  48. he’s ushedshi [‘having gone out’]

    “They” are rather than he is. It’s always used in plural; for some reason the author concentrated on the verb form, and not on the pronoun which is also different (as it should be, check Google books, which also suggests that dvornik was commonly treated with this degree of deference.

    But of course in Motrya’s speech, the pronoun is Ukrainian, but the verb is properly Russian.

  49. “They” are rather than he is.

    Russian uses the plural, but you can’t translated it with an English plural. According to Jabotinsky, the dvornik started being treated with deference when he became an important local arm of the police, in the early years of the century (at least in Odessa). What do you mean by “check Google books”?

  50. David Marjanović says:

    Ukrainian

    Ah, I was wondering about нема (e.g. Polish nie ma, literally “hasn’t”)…

  51. Yes, everyone in the novel is speaking Ukrainian- and/or Yiddish-influenced Russian.

  52. I mean I searched for the word in Google books with an Ngram-appropriate time filter, and some of the first found uses were about dvornik (and other police functionaries). I don’t understand what is wrong about it in your opinion. These archaic usages aren’t fully transparent to today’s Russians, so what’s so bad about trying to look it up in the period’s books??

  53. No, there’s nothing wrong with that, I do it all the time myself! I just didn’t understand what you specifically meant by “check Google books”; now that you’ve explained, it all makes sense.

  54. “But one shouldn’t take the hard road to win something which is already rightfully theirs.”

    What is it that one “wins” by being (converting) Jewish?

    Must be different rites of membership because everyone has the natural right to become a Christian.

  55. SFReader says:

    Re: dvornik as an important official figure

    https://i.pinimg.com/originals/17/af/09/17af093f8d758812689b1d8fec879763.jpg

    Gorodovoi (policeman) with two dvorniks.

    https://diletant.media/upload/medialibrary/5f4/5f4ea8f31a645d438723ffa6ad4a5b23.jpg

    Dvornik in uniform

    No wonder the maid was so impressed.

  56. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    What is it that one “wins” by being (converting) Jewish?

    Israeli citizenship, I think (or some right to apply for it).

  57. Dvornik in uniform

    No wonder the maid was so impressed.

    Indeed! Thanks for that; I didn’t have a good mental image of a dvornik.

  58. everyone has the natural right to become a Christian

    For a conversion to Judaism, one has to turn into a righteous human being first. Of course, it’s kind of natural for the humans to aspire to righteousness anyway, and the standards aren’t perfectly defined, but it isn’t a walk-in thing. One has to apply a consistent effort and not to expect an instant gratification. Shopping for the fastest entry is a double-edged sword since conversions by the branches of Judaism who practice the easiest standards aren’t universally recognized. That’s why up to 20% of the ethnic Jewish citizens of Israel aren’t members of the faith, and can’t legally marry in Israel or be buried at the official Jewish cemeteries (there is no civic marriage in the land, but foreign marriages are recognized just fine, and Cyprus has become to Israel what Las Vegas is for the American brides and grooms). The unusual status quo is a product of an old compromise which is fairly well accepted by the population, but still, every major election campaign is marred by a tussle over promises of civic marriage.

  59. David Eddyshaw says:

    This puts me in mind of the old (Jewish) saying: a Jew is better off than a Christian; after all, they can always convert.

  60. J.W. Brewer says:

    I don’t know how thorough the assemblage of German texts in the google books corpus is, but the first instance in German of “Halli-Galli” in something like the relevant sense is from 1964 and may just be a reference to the dance. (The “Hully Gully” craze in the U.S. had started in ’59 and then had a second, higher peak in ’61-’62, so that date fits a plausible timeline for when it might have crossed the ocean and expanded outside English-speaking societies.). There’s an Italian instance from ’63 with the same spelling as the German that’s clearly a reference to the dance craze: “Non si può ballare questa roba, Twist e Halli – Galli “.

  61. SFReader says:

    Thanks for that; I didn’t have a good mental image of a dvornik.

    And more dvorniks here in wonderful clip by Russian folk group Otava Yo based on poem by Daniil Kharms

    https://youtu.be/eIa7ZfJUeGU

  62. Thanks, that was delightful! At first I thought maybe I should have been a dvornik, since they lead such exciting lives, but then when I got to the massacre I realized I’d made the right choice.

  63. Lars Mathiesen says:

    They got better, though. That’s a useful skill to have!

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