Missing Text.

Anatoly Vorobey sometimes says of his more recondite posts “вряд ли кому-то будет интересно” [unlikely to be of interest to anyone], and the same is probably true of this, but I have found a tear in the fabric of spacetime and I cannot be silent. Back in my college days, Natalya Baranskaya’s 1969 story «Неделя как неделя» (A Week Like Any Other, also translated as The Alarm Clock in the Cupboard) was famous not only among students of Russian like me but internationally, as a look into the daily life of a Soviet woman trying to juggle life and work; it was translated into many languages and much discussed. Now that I’m finally reading it, I imagine it’s pretty much forgotten, and it’s not easy to find a Russian text online. The only version I’ve found is copied from the 1981 collection Женщина с зонтиком [Woman with an umbrella], which I happen to own and in which I’m reading it. At the bottom of page 17, continuing onto the next page, in a passage about hurrying to work on a Tuesday morning, we find:

Когда мы утрясаемся немного, мне удается вытащить из сумки «Юность». Я читаю давно уже всеми прочитанную повесть. Читаю даже на эскалаторе и кончаю последнюю страничку на автобусной остановке у Донского.

When we’ve settled in a bit, I manage to pull Yunost′ [Youth, a popular magazine] out of my purse. I read a story long since read by everyone else. I read it even on the escalator, and finish the last page at the Donskoi bus stop.

Frustrating — one wants to know what that story was. Well, if we go back to the original magazine publication in the November Novy mir, which happens to be available online as a pdf, we find out; the passage reads there (pp. 31-32; I’ve bolded the part omitted in republication):

Когда мы утрясаемся немного, мне удается вытащить из сумки «Юность». Я читаю давно уже всеми прочитанную повесть Аксенова о затоваренной бочкотаре. Я не все в ней понимаю, но мне делается от нее вeceлo и смешно. Читаю даже на эскалаторе и кончаю последнюю страничку на автобусной остановке у Донского.

When we’ve settled in a bit, I manage to pull Yunost′ out of my purse. I read Aksyonov’s story about surplused barrelware, which everyone else has long since read. I don’t understand everything in it, but it makes me happy and amuses me. I read it even on the escalator, and finish the last page at the Donskoi bus stop.

So the story is Vasily Aksyonov’s famous 1968 Затоваренная бочкотара (translated as Surplused Barrelware; see this LH post), which everyone was indeed reading at the time. Why the different texts? Between them came the Metropol Affair of 1979, after which Aksyonov was a nonperson and couldn’t be referred to in such an approving context. Now that the Soviet Union and its stupid censorship are history, it’s high time to restore this nod to a fellow writer.

An interesting point: when Olga, the protagonist, complains to her husband that they never talk about anything other than the kids and the hassles of daily life, he tries to come up with counterexamples and says they’ve talked “О войне во Вьетнаме, о Чехословакии …” [about the war in Vietnam, about Czechoslovakia…]; I’m surprised that covert equivalence (Soviet troops had invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968) made it past the censors in either year.

Comments

  1. AJP Crown says:

    I’m surprised that covert equivalence [Vietnam & Czechoslovakia] made it past the censors in either year.

    Could it be that the censors looked as much at who wrote it as who read it, and that earlier Vasily Aksyonov was allowed more latitude?

  2. AJP, V and Ch analogy doesn’t belong to Aksyonov. And I am not sure what exactly censors might not have liked. Both things were undoubtedly in the news. I don’t think anyone in 1968 thought that Soviet denizens were not supposed to talk about Ch. They should have been for the invasion, not silent about it. And it might not have occurred to the censor that US:V::SU:Ch, America was trying to suppress socialism in Vietnam, bad, USSR was restoring socialism in Czechoslovakia, good. It is true, that in later Brezhnev’s times there was tendency to simply ignore any potentially unpleasant subjects.

    It seems that the original Aksyonov reference was restored in the 1989 edition.

  3. AJP Crown says:

    Were ordinary Russians in favour of the invasion of Czechoslovakia? I can see why it’s not similar, but we were pretty shocked by it in England. Young Americans were very worried they might have to serve in Vietnam, that probably didn’t happen in Russia until Afghanistan and even by then (Afghan.) I don’t remember terrible photographs like the ones of napalmed children that came out of Vietnam.

  4. It seems that the original Aksyonov reference was restored in the 1989 edition.

    Ah, good to know. Of course, if I’d found that text in my googling, I probably wouldn’t have bothered making the post…

  5. Donskoy is a monastery next to the main character’s civil engineering office. She rode metro’s green line from Sokol to Belorusskaya, changed to the ring to Oktyabr’skaya, and boarded a bus down Leninsky Avenue. The eponymous subway station was already operational (and today, I would take it) but a long, crowded transfer tunnel at Oktyabr’skaya and a walk to the monastery would have taken, by my ex-Muscovite estimate, about 17 minutes. The infamously second-pinching Muscovites might have invented a less obvious but marginally faster route. I can’t recall her bus line number anymore, dang, despite having taken it once or twice.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donskoy_Monastery

  6. January First-of-May says:

    The eponymous subway station was already operational

    Indeed; it opened in 1962. The monastery is a good kilometer northeast of it, though (almost directly towards Oktyabr’skaya, as it happens), and it probably did make sense for her to take a bus instead if she knew where to look for it.

    Today (and indeed in 1981) she would have been better served by the Shabolovskaya station, much closer to the monastery, which was also built in 1962 but, due to construction complications, didn’t open until 1980.
    (Actually, depending on where exactly she started from, today she might well have been better off taking the Moscow Central Circle from Panfilovskaya to Ploshchad’ Gagarina; but that wasn’t an option until 2016.)

  7. Were ordinary Russians in favour of the invasion of Czechoslovakia?

    Hard to tell (as in any country where people are not free to speak their mind). It was short and successful and deathless (or almost), so I guess it was reasonably popular. Not with intelligentsia, probably.

  8. I guess it was reasonably popular. Not with intelligentsia, probably.

    That’s my sense of it.

  9. Of course, the same was true of the Vietnam War here until the Tet Offensive.

  10. Apropos Shabolovskaya and civil / industrial engineering, that’s the location of Moscow’s iconic Shukhov Tower, which came from Russia’s first civil engineering powerhouse, Alexander Bari design bureau (led by a naturalized American, St Petersburg native, who got his engineering degree in Switzerland in the 1860s where his dad, a disciple of Humboldt’s, was biding his time as an early political refugee from Russia)

  11. This reminded me of a minor controversy about Nekrasov’s Железная дорога: when the boy in the epigraph asks who built the railroad, should his dad say “Count Petr Andreevich Kleinmikhel’, my boy!” as in the original publication or “The engineers did, my boy!” as in all later editions during Nekrasov’s life. Boris Bukhshtab made the case that even if the reference was removed to appease the censors, Nekrasov didn’t restore it later not because he couldn’t, but because topical references to specific people aesthetically fall flat a few years after they were written.

    Here, though, the 1989 edition D.O. found rules out any argument like that (apart from the fact that Aksyonov was still a big deal in 1981).

  12. The greatest crime against literature was probably censoring the ending of Pushkin’s play “Boris Godunov”.

    “Mosalsky

    People! Maria Godunova and her son Theodore poisoned themselves with poison. We saw their dead bodies.

    The people are silent in horror.

    Why are you silent? shout: long live Tsar Dimitri Ivanovich!

    The people are silent.

    The End”

    The original ending:

    “The people

    Long live Tsar Dimitri Ivanovich!

    The End”

  13. Apropos Shabolovskaya

    The first time I was there—the first time I was anywhere—I looked like this:

    Л.С. Персианинов

    (I’m not referring to Persianinov, but he was there, I’ve been told.)

  14. If she took the subway from Sokol to Belorusskaya and changed to the circle line, she would exit at the circle-line Oktyabr’skaya station, opened in 1950. That station is relatively deep underground so the escalator is long but you exit right onto Leninsky Prospect, next to the bus stops. My guess – based on a 1968 route map – is the heroine took bus 115, which would turn left from Leninsky into Donskaya Street and stop by the monastery. That bus route got canceled in the 1970s, I think.

    If she had chosen to walk from the station to her institut, she would have had to cross Leninsky Prospekt. The unpleasant “tunnel,” if I understand Dmitry Pruss correctly, is the underground pedestrian passage next to the circle-line Oktyabr’skaya exit on Leninsky Prospekt. I don’t know if it existed in 1969 but today it’s the only way to cross the street unless you prefer walking down to the next traffic light.

    Starting from 1971, she would have had the option of changing to the “Orange Line” at Novokuznetskaya/Tretyakovskaya but the transfer did not yet exist in 1969. Without it, she could not reach the orange-line Oktyabr’skaya station, opened in 1962 (see January First-of-May’s comment).

  15. AJP Crown says:

    I still remember the name Jan Palach, the student who set himself on fire in 1969 (Vietnamese monks were doing this) to protest; in his case, the suppression of free speech. Not much of that today.

  16. Vietnamese monks were doing this

    Yes, Thich Quang Duc was the famous one (though I had to look up his name).

  17. January First-of-May says:

    Starting from 1971, she would have had the option of changing to the “Orange Line” at Novokuznetskaya/Tretyakovskaya but the transfer did not yet exist in 1969. Without it, she could not reach the orange-line Oktyabr’skaya station, opened in 1962

    While I could not find specific statements to that effect on Wikipedia, I highly suspect that the orange-line Oktyabr’skaya immediately came with a transfer from the circle line. Indeed in 1969 it would have been the only way to transfer to or from the orange line (prior to the 1971 extension into the center).

    As such, I suspect that the “transfer tunnel” that Dmitry Pruss refers to is the tunnel between the two Oktyabr’skaya stations. It is indeed long, crowded, and quite unpleasant.

    Somehow I didn’t think of the Novokuznetskaya transfer, which would indeed probably have been the optimal route between 1980 and 2016 (and possibly still is; in that direction it’s a short and relatively uncrowded tunnel) – though in the absence of Shabolovskaya (i.e. between 1971 and 1980), and depending on where the bus stops were, taking the bus from the circle line might well still have been marginally faster.

  18. AJP Crown says:

    Malcolm Browne won a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of the monk’s death.
    Prize? There’s something wrong here.

  19. They give prizes for striking photographs, and that was one of the most famous of the year. What’s wrong is people feeling they have to burn themselves alive, not the photographic record.

  20. John Cowan says:

    What’s wrong is evil so (apparently) powerful that burning themselves alive is the only sufficiently loud protest people can find.

  21. Exactly, that’s what I meant.

  22. How interesting that you wrote this post now, Languagehat! There was discussion of Baranskaya on (Russian Literature) Twitter just last week and I ordered up a сборник of her work so I can reread “Неделя как неделя” as well as some of her other writing. The discussion was spurred by a blogger’s post listing “25 Books by Women in Translation From the Russian Language” — the Baranskaya novella is included. After reading your post, I’m looking forward to it even more!

    As it happens, I lived for nearly a year at Oktyabrskaya (1992/1993) and went to the cemetery at Donskoy quite a few times. (In grad school I wrote a paper about Mikhail Kheraskov, now largely forgotten, so of course I had to visit him and tidy his grave.) Sometimes I walked, sometimes I took the Metro, sometimes I took surface transportation. Google Maps does show tram and bus routes in the area but they may have changed significantly since Baranskaya wrote the novella.

  23. AJP Crown says:

    What’s wrong is evil so (apparently) powerful that burning themselves alive is the only sufficiently loud protest people can find.

    Well said. Obviously that’s bad. What I’m talking about is different. It’s right to take the pic, but it’s the event and the monk that are important not the person taking the pic. To acknowledge the photographer with a prize for that is the wrong word (wrong for the ethics of journalism & photography). Someone committing suicide in the name of free speech isn’t a photo opp it’s an event to be recorded by any means possible. There’s confusion about the intention & effect of different photos despite Susan Sontag’s book On Photography and others, and she may have mentioned this pic, I can’t remember. Nowadays there’d be twenty people pointing iPhones in the monk’s direction. None would get a Pulitzer Prize, and quite right too; that’s one thing that’s improved. “Award” conceivably, but not prize; but it’s the insensitive attitude I object to more than the word.

  24. bus 115

    bingo! I was like, not 111, not 144 (for the latter one, you had to cross the street indeed), but what? 🙂 And yes, I meant the transfer passageway between the two Oktyabrskaya stations. It was a miserable place to be in the rush hour before the Orange Line got extended further North.

    Most of my family is buried (or cenotaphed, for the Stalin’s victims) at the cemetery of Donskoy, so I visit quite regularly & consider it be my absolutely favorite corner of the city….

  25. David Marjanović says:

    Not much of that today.

    That’s how Algeria’s part of the Arab Spring started in 2011.

  26. John Cowan says:

    AJP: Ah, I understand. Pulitzer-Prize-winning photographs, though, have to go through a lot of gatekeepers. Someone has to submit them to a “U.S. newspaper, magazine or news site that publishes regularly”, and an editor has to decide to publish them. Then someone (often the publisher, but not necessarily) has to submit the work for a Prize, and then there’s the jury followed by the Board.

    Only six times has a freelance photographer won the Prize (there are two, actually: one for breaking news and the other for features): for one thing, most newspapers don’t buy freelance work any more. On the contrary, it is common to award it to a paper’s entire photographic staff, or several people on that staff, particularly if multiple pictures (up to 20) are nominated as a single entry. In 1956 the New York Daily News won for an entire year of photographs, though one of a B-26 bomber crashing in the middle of the street in a Long Island suburb was specially mentioned.

    The Pulitzers are after all primarily prizes for journalism, though occasionally mention is made of artistic elements such as excellent composition. (The prizes for books, drama, and music are judged entirely separately.) As such, violence and disaster are pretty much universal elements, except for the 1958 shot of a cop talking a toddler out of crossing the street during a parade. Both of these photographs appear on a Graun web page.

  27. David: I think you meant Tunisia’s, not Algeria’s, part in the Arab Spring: the latter country did have a few dramatic suicides, but to my knowledge none was the actual spark that triggered any kind of mass movement.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, yes, Tunisia.

  29. It’s sometimes counterproductive.

    Between 2009 and June 2017 there were 148 confirmed self-immolations by Tibetan monks, with some 80% ending in death.

    The Chinese government claims that the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government are inciting these acts and sought out and arrested people who supposedly encouraged monks to do so.

    Now China is gradually eradicating the Tibetan language via its education system.

  30. You’re surely not suggesting that if only those monks hadn’t practiced self-immolation the Chinese government would be leaving the Tibetan language and culture alone.

  31. The people are silent.

    Became a catch phrase meaning not a horror brought on by the going-ons inside the czar’s palace (as probably intended by Pushkin, even if at censor’s prompt), but the passivity of people of Moscow and by extension in the Russian history. Surprisingly, the latter probably is the meaning intended by the original Pushkin’s ending and not that installing “Dimitri Ioanovich” (I’ve heard, it is fashionable among some sort of Russian intellectuals to believe that czar Dimitri was indeed son of Ivan IV) was a good idea.

  32. False Dimitri I wasn’t Tsarevich Dimitri, of course. Because we know for certain that Tsarevich Dimitri suffered from epileptic seizures while False-Dimitri I was pretty healthy.

  33. You’re surely not suggesting that if only those monks hadn’t practiced self-immolation the Chinese government would be leaving the Tibetan language and culture alone.

    They might not have come down so harshly or drastically…

  34. AJP Crown says:

    JC: violence and disaster are pretty much universal elements [re Pulitzer prizes]
    True, and the monk probably wanted publicity; or why do it? Despite that, I’m still bothered by the paradox of great photographs of terrible events (and the monk is a great photograph as is Nick Ùt’s famous pic of the napalmed children running). I suppose the exhibition in London of the Raft of the Medusa (“lurid entertainment” – Christine Riding, The Raft of the Medusa in Britain) was an earlier example of something similar. Btw, I just saw a comment elsewhere inadvertently calling it ‘the Pulitzer Peace Prize’.

  35. They might not have come down so harshly or drastically…

    A highly unlikely supposition. Governments seizes on whatever the news brings them to “justify” whatever they’ve already decided to do. (Compare the US invasion of Iraq.)

  36. Dimitri

    I see t the Ngram / Google books that the Impostor was spelled Димитрiй (as in Slavonic) while the contemporary Dmitry’s didn’t have the initial “i” at least as early as the 1780s. Did they drop the letter to avoid the association with the False Dimitri???

    Interestingly also, the familiar form Dima doesn’t appear anywhere until the 1890s.

  37. Dima used to be the familiar form of Vadim and D[i]mitriy was familiarized (if that’s the word) to Mit’a. Why first “i” was lost, no idea.

  38. @Dmitry Pruss: Olga would avoid that tunnel because, having traveled from Belarusskaya to Oktyabr’skaya on the circle line, she would exit the metro and take a bus at one of the stops near the entrance to Oktyabr’skaya kol’tsevaya. If you should decide to walk all the way to the Donskoy monastery or cemetery from the orange-line Oktyabr’skaya, you could simply exit the station near the French embassy, cross the Zhitnaya street and walk on. There is also a compromise solution (already available in 1969 and even earlier): walk to the Apakov tram depot and take a tram from there. Ideally, number 14. Its route has not changed since the 1960s while some bus routes have mutated almost beyond recognition.

    By the way, the orange metro line runs under the Donskoy monastery but is apparently deep enough so isn’t doing any damage to the old buildings. That’s interesting because, as legend has it, every Russian monastery in or around Moscow has its own underground tunnels connecting it to the Kremlin or providing an escape route in the case of a siege.

    @Lizok: On the front cover of the Baranskaya collection from that list of 25 books, there’s a painting of a church, possibly a monastery, and the translator’s name next to the image is Pieta Monks. Amusing.

  39. @Lizok: On the front cover of the Baranskaya collection from that list of 25 books, there’s a painting of a church, possibly a monastery, and the translator’s name next to the image is Pieta Monks. Amusing.

    Yes, that is amusing, Alex K.! I saw the cover in that blog post I linked to but confess I didn’t really pay much attention at the time. That church looks a lot like Novodevichy to me. I looked up Pieta Monks; this obituary, from The Guardian, implies that she died in 2010. She sounds like she was a very interesting person!

    And I agree with you about the transportation options!

  40. She sounds like she was a very interesting person!

    Yes indeed; thanks for linking to that obit.

  41. PlasticPaddy says:

    @do
    in OCS Dmitri seems to have a jer between the D and the m.
    https://www.languagesoftheworld.info/historical-linguistics/story-jers.html

  42. It would have to, since it’s a borrowing of Greek Δημήτριος.

  43. In Igor Isayev’s 2011 lecture on Russian dialectology, he claims that the former yers, whenever they weren’t dropped for good, aren’t completely merged with o/e in some Russian dialects. Instead, they are voiced like an “ou” diphthong. (And other dialects of Russia’s South, former ъ is always retained as ‘o’)
    https://polit.ru/article/2012/03/21/isaev/

  44. The first is a well-known phenomenon. On the second issue, I don’t find that claim in the speech; what I find mentioned in the discussion is dialects without чередование, i.e. in words where the yers were in strong and weak positions in different forms of the paradigm, and where the literary language has consequently forms with and without /o/ (rъtъ /rъta -> rot / rta ), these dialects have the form with /o/ in the entire paradigm. AFAIK, this is not a phonetical survival of the yers in weak position, but the result of paradigm leveling towards the forms with vocalisation of the yer. In such dialects, yers in weak position are still lost when the position doesn’t become strong in other forms of that paradigm. A similar thing happened in Serbia-Croatian, where you have paradigms like otac / otaca “father” vs. Russian otec / otca .

  45. Ah, this is known as “runaway vowels”. No linguistic insight, just a colorful term.

  46. Hans: “in Serbia-Croatian… otac / otaca”

    I don’t know what dialect or language you are referring to there.
    For what it’s worth, in Croatian, otac is father (nom sing), oca is gen sing, and otaca is gen plural.

  47. Sorry, zyxt, that was an autocorrect mistake for “Serbo-Croatian” (or as DM likes to say, FYLOSC) that I failed to catch. And yes, I should have made it clear that otaca is genitive plural and so the Russian equivalent is otcov.
    And it’s not the best example, because a) the strong / weak contrast hasn’t been eliminated in the entire paradigm and b), now that I think of it, what’s going on here may be something else; in the gen pl, the first yer would have been strong, so it may be a case of the yer becoming a full vowel in strong position and the gen pl ending just being added to that. A better example would have been dan “day”, where the strong yer stem has been expanded to the entire paradigm (e.g. Nom Sg /Pl dan/dani vs. Russian den’/dni).

  48. David Marjanović says:

    as DM likes to say

    Invented right here in these hallowed cyber-halls by J. W. Brewer.

  49. John Cowan says:

    I on the other hand can claim credit for FBRMNA (fibberm-na lento or fibber-na allegro): the Formerly British Republic in the Middle of North America. I believe I first mentioned it here, but I (unlike Cromwell’s opponents) think it possible I may be mistaken.

  50. @Lizok: I’m pretty sure it’s the Novodevichy convent. I wish I knew the artist. Pieta Monks also translated some of Andrei Bitov’s short stories (“Ten Short Stories,” published in 1995). The originals are very good.

  51. January First-of-May says:

    oca is gen sing

    …I keep forgetting how brutally phonetic FYLOSC spelling is; I’d have expected **otca.

    As a Russian speaker, I insist that – in Russian, at least – отца isn’t actually pronounced as if **оца (is there a minimal pair?), but I’m not very confident of exactly how it is pronounced differently, and wouldn’t be especially surprised if studies showed it was identical after all.

  52. David Marjanović says:

    Consonant length?

    (Which FYLOSC lacks entirely, except maybe across the most obvious morpheme boundaries.)

  53. January First-of-May says:

    Consonant length?

    That would do it, though I’m not sure if affricates can be long.

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