As I enter my sixtieth year, I take pleasure in all the people life has put in my path (which of course includes you LH readers); on a less elevated plane, I take pleasure in the chicken curry and homemade peach ice cream I’m now digesting and in the presents generous kith and kin have showered me with, the more LH-relevant of which I will now mention, so you will know what I am experiencing in the weeks to come. From my wonderful wife, a CD of The Indestructible Beat of Soweto (this is one of the best records ever, and if you’re not familiar with it you should run right out and listen to it—mbaqanga forever!) and Viktor Shklovsky’s Energy of Delusion: A Book on Plot. Ever since I read Shklovsky’s Sentimental Journey I’ve been wanting to read more by this amazing stylist and critic, and this late work (it was finished in 1981, when he was 88) looks like just the ticket.
From Sven & Leslie, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation by Alexei Yurchak; from Brooke & Elias, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman (see this post from February) and The Russian Context: The Culture Behind the Language by Eloise M. Boyle and Genevra Gerhart (you can read about this amazing book, which I will be working my way through for at least the next year, here; I learned about it from a comment by Bill Walderman to this post on The Russian’s World by Gerhart). And from my brother Eric, this selection of Asian movies (original titles courtesy of Wikipedia/IMDb): Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ, saeng satawăːt), Adrift in Tokyo (転々, Tenten), Public Enemy (공공의 적, Gonggongui jeog), 24 City (二十四城记/二十四城記, Er shi si cheng ji), and Ashes of Time Redux (东邪西毒, Dung che sai duk). Many thanks to one and all!
Update. Just received a package from bulbul in far-off Slovakia: a copy of Язык старой Москвы [The language of old Moscow], a “linguistic-encyclopedic dictionary” of the language of Moscow of the late 19th and early 20th centuries by V. S. Elistratov. Looks both enjoyable and useful—Ďakujem!


  1. Ahem. “Indestructible.”

  2. anonymous stranger says

    Happy birthday, languagehat! I enjoy your blog.

  3. Mattitiahu says

    Happy Birthday Mr. Hat!

  4. Happy Birthday! Let us know what you think of the Yurchak – I thought it made a not-exactly-new point, but one that still needed to be stated definitively, and it did so in a well-researched, nice-to-read way.

  5. Happy Birthday! Enjoy the books!

  6. Happy 59th birthday, Hat! What percentage of people who talk about their “60th year” mean the year they were 60?

  7. Happy birthday!

  8. marie-lucie says

    Hello from California! I have been too busy to even read LH the last while.
    Happy last-few-hours-of-birthday!

  9. I hope you had a fantastic birthday!

  10. Well, that certainly does sound like you had a great birthday. Looking forward to those book reports 😉

  11. To be fair, it’s Amazon spelling indestructible with an a, even though the sleeve art shows the usual spelling. Spotify, where I’m listening to the album now (thanks, LH!), also spells the word with an i. Happy birthday!

  12. Happy birthday!

  13. Victor Sonkin says

    Happy birthday!

  14. Happy birthday! I was delighted to see that LH was listed as one of the sites you can pick on the my6sense app – some developers clearly have excellent taste 🙂

  15. Repito aquí los saludos de feliz cumpleaños!
    Ya sé qué podría regalarte: un bife a caballo con papas souffle del Palacio de la Papa Frita. ¿No es cierto?

  16. dearieme says

    MHR, LH.
    P.S. Very flat, Russia.

  17. Ahem. “Indestructible.”
    D’oh! Fixed now, thanks. This is what comes of copy-and-paste combined with posting after a long day and a big dinner. And speaking of a big dinner:
    Ya sé qué podría regalarte: un bife a caballo con papas souffle del Palacio de la Papa Frita. ¿No es cierto?
    ¡Claro que sí!
    Thank you all for your birthday wishes, and I will of course be reporting on my various goodies as I get to them.

  18. Zythophile says

    I bought the original Indestructible Beat LP (yes, one of them) back in 1985 or so, and it’s been a favourite ever since. I remember the secret glow of satisfaction when Paul Simon came out with Graceland, that I had discovered South African rock ‘n’ roll before he told the world about it.

  19. Same here! Alas, my LPs were ruined in a basement flood, and I hadn’t played them for several years before that—in one of my moves the connecting wires for the turntable got misplaced, and I just didn’t have the motivation to get it set up again.

  20. Boy, that kind of disaster sounds familiar. I’m glad I’m not young any more.

  21. Happy Birthday! 🙂 Really enjoy your blog, keep up the good work 🙂

  22. tsu dayn geburtstog, tsu dayn yontev haynt
    hobn zikh farzamlt ale dayne gute fraynt!
    vivat, vivat mir vintshn dir (x2)
    mir vintshn dir…
    gezunt un glik!

  23. Bathrobe says

    Awfully late, but Happy Birthday, Hat.
    I know someone else who has a birthday on 1 July, but he’s only three years old…

  24. (Oy, how did I miss this?) All best wishes, Hatman.

  25. A very belated happy (and hatty) birthday.

  26. Tillykke med fødselsdagen!
    I find it hard to believe you’re 60. And at times I find it hard to believe you’re only 60, given how much knowledge you’ve amassed.

  27. Siganus Sutor says

    And many happy returns.

  28. He’s not 60, he’s entered his 60th year. Big difference.

  29. What AJP said. I’ll be 60 next year.

  30. I find it hard to believe you’re 59. And at times I find it hard to believe you’re only 59, given how much knowledge you’ve amassed.

  31. rootlesscosmo says

    Late as usual, but anyway, happy birthday!

  32. Biz hundert un tsvantsik jor, hat!
    60 next year, eh? How about a big party with all us usual suspects?

  33. Yes, let’s do it in Bratislava!
    Bulbul, you should mention that your & John’s Hašek translation is now available for reading; not everyone knows about your blog.

  34. L’shana ha-ba bi-Presburg!
    And yes, you should.

  35. Trond Engen says

    Late to the party, again, and without a present, again. Well, happy 60th year! Now, is there any cake left?

  36. Yes, I think AJP’s goats missed a fragment over in that corner.

  37. Yes, let’s do it in Bratislava!
    Hey, if the birthday boy is willing to make the trip across the pond, I’m all for it.
    Now, is there any cake left?
    Between me and AJP’s livestock? No.
    not everyone knows about your blog

  38. I just looked at our translated chapters for the first time since we finished them, and I liked them a lot. Right after we’d finished working on them I thought that we hadn’t done a very good job and that ithe pieces didn’t come across very well in English. But I guess this is an occupational hazard of translators.

  39. he died so young and hah, tuberculosis and overweight sound misdiagnosis to me
    Happy Birthday, LH! luchshe pozdno chem nikogda cz

  40. Hasek had the most amazing life. His father died when he was young and he became a kind of hooligan. During part of that time he traveled around the Austro-Hungarian empire begging and supposedly living with gypsies (called bohemians by the French, properly Rom). Then he became a barfly and hack journalist and published 2-3 sketches a day under several pseudonyms, and sometime one of his pseudonyms would denounce one of his other pseudonyms. Then he was drafted, deserted, joined the Czarist forces, joined that Bolshevik forces, and became quite an efficient commissar, mostly in minority areas to the east (Bashkir, Chuvash). At one point he taught Russian to Sukhbataar, the Mongolian revolutionary hero (Hasek has a footnote in the official history of the Mongolian People’s Republic.) Then he returned to Prague, started drinking, wrote more of his book, and died in 1923.

  41. Nicely done, JE and bulbul, and hilarious writing. I wasn’t quite sure about the “modeler” though. By the reference to clay, I suppose it’s a sort of sculptor. But this had me howling:

    And so while the Social Democrats have their fat men Šmeral and Němec, the National Socialists have Hübschmann and the 260 lbs. senator Exner. Both parties have therefore nothing to be ashamed of and it is surely a good sign of the progress the oppressed masses are making.

    He seems to have a bit of the Mark Twain about him, with the short, ironic statements, and the unexpected and outrageous plot departures stated as if they were everyday expected occurrences.

  42. Hasek was compared to Mark Twain already while he was in high school.

  43. Bah, I was compared to Mark Twain already while I was in kindergarten. (“You’re as grumpy as Mark Twain in his old age, and if you don’t watch out Hal Holbrook will be impersonating you.”)

  44. I’ve never thought of MT as grumpy; grumpy is just the flip side of pollyanna, unreasoning and unwarranted optimism. (As a child, I was often compared unfavorably to Pollyanna.) MT had more nuance than that, and was gentle with those who clung to useless social conventions, even as he unveiled the truth behind the facades. But Holbrook? I have never liked any of the Twain impersonators, not nimble enough, and too much of the cutesy old codger cliche.

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