Prize to the Studio!

Erik McDonald of XIX век (which reached its tenth anniversary in January) has gotten back to regular posting, which is a great pleasure to me (and should be to anyone interested in Russian literature and culture), and last week he had a good post, Black boxes, taking off from a quote from Gleb Stashkov’s Интербригада (International Brigade, 2015) that includes the line

— Правильно, — обрадовался Шрухт и неожиданно закричал: — Приз в студию!

“Correct,” Shrukht said, pleased, and unexpectedly shouted, ”Prize to the studio!”

Erik explains that this is a reference (which would have gone right past me) to “the game show Field of Wonders (Поле чудес), the Russian equivalent of Wheel of Fortune,” where a black box contains a mystery prize for a contestant. He follows it up with an even more interesting post, What a game show tells us about the intelligentsia and the shestidesiatniki,” that does what it says on the tin. I should clearly watch more Russian TV. (His latest post is on what appears to be a mistake in translation in the published English edition of Zola’s Thérèse Raquin.)


  1. SFReader says

    Not sure if everyone gets the reference, but the Field of Wonders is actually the Field of Miracles (Italian: Il campo dei Miracoli) from the story of Pinocchio (or rather it’s Russian localization called Buratino).

    It’s a place where fools bury their gold coins expecting them to grow miraculously as promised by scammers (who naturally dig the coins out at night and run away).

    Astonishingly honest choice of a name for this kind of game show.

  2. Thanks, that went right by me too! Buratino is one of those things I intend to get around to reading one day.

  3. John Cowan says

    I love the absurd regime, the idiotic masses, and the “intelligentsia subjectivity of disavowed sixtierism”. Indeed, that would have made a good title for the XIX vek post.

  4. For the Thérèse Raquin quote, “surgical theater” would be better than “operating room,” as that modern term also gives the wrong idea. In the 19th century both dissections and surgeries were performed in large open spaces before tiers of spectators (mostly fellow doctors and medical students). This still from the cable series The Knick gives the idea. The surgeon would narrate what he was doing to the spectators, so “lecture” is not exactly right, but not exactly wrong either.

  5. Some random reminiscences on The Field of miracles (I didn’t watch it since 1998 or thereabouts).

    The first host of the show, Vlad Listyev, used to announce the show with the words “The field of miracles…in our country” referencing the phrase from the book (or at least, from very popular movie based on it) “The field of miracles in the fools’ country”

    If you don’t want to click on the link, Vlad Listyev was also a host of a number of popular current events shows and the first director (CEO) of the newly commercialized First channel of Russian TV. He was shot in 1995 and his death became a symbol of the breakdown of law and order in 1990s Russia. The case is not solved to this day.

    I never saw Wheel of Fortune and don’t know how the prizes are distributed on that program, but the idea of the black box is that the host bargains with a contestant on its content. This lead to the following joke (slightly adapted for international audience).
    A policeman stops a car and demands that the driver open the trunk.
    Driver, ‘I will give you $100 not to open the trunk’
    Policeman, ‘Open the trunk’
    Driver, ‘$200’
    Policeman, hesitating slightly, ‘Open it’
    Driver, ‘Ok, $500’
    Policeman, after a deep thought, ‘Open the trunk’
    Driver, ‘$1000, final offer’
    Policeman in visible agony, ‘Open the damn trunk!”
    Driver opens the trunk, there is nothing there.
    Policeman, ‘Why were you offering me money?’
    Driver, ‘I am playing The Field of miracles

    Another joke. At some moment, an insurance company was the main advertiser on the show. They offered to the contestants insurance against some of the possible in-game misfortunes, guessed a letter wrong or landed on “bankrupt”, the like. The joke suggest the following insurance offering “has been shown all the letters, couldn’t say the word”.

  6. What D.O. says: “поле чудес в стране дураков” was pretty much a fixed expression thanks to (A. N.) Tolstoy’s book and, no less likely, to the 1976 musical film. I could never stand it but it’s impossible to unsee and unhear. Rolan Bykov, Rina Zelenaya, Elena Sanayeva, Vladimir Basov and Vladimir Etush all put in an excellent performance.

  7. For the Thérèse Raquin quote, “surgical theater” would be better than “operating room,” as that modern term also gives the wrong idea

    UK hospitals still talk about “operating theatres” rather than “operating rooms” and surgeons will say “I’m in theatre tomorrow” meaning that they’re going to be operating on someone. This room, in the attic of St Thomas’ Hospital in London, gives a very good idea.

  8. Which gives three completely different meanings to the sentence “This time last month, I was in theatre” depending on whether it’s spoken by a surgeon, an actor who has suffered a career setback, or a soldier just back from deployment.

  9. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    surgical theatre: When I was at the Institute of Computer Science (at U of Copenhagen), we were using the buildings of the Medical-Anatomical Institute which had moved to more modern facilities. Built in 1942, Auditorium I was the old theatre for anatomy lectures and looked exactly like the one in laowai’s old photo. (Point is, not just the 19th).

  10. David Eddyshaw says

    “Theatre” is indeed the normal UK term for “room where you operate.”

    “Surgery”, on the other hand, means a general practioner’s office. You wouldn’t do surgery there, except very minor stuff perhaps.

    It’s all very simple.

  11. PlasticPaddy says

    Not to mention that one’s local elected representative holds a clinic (where any ad-hoc surgery is performed by overzealous visitors, who bring their own knives for the purpose).

  12. David Eddyshaw says

    You can, of course, have a theatre in a surgery.

    (I spent some time negotiating for the use of one for Anti-VEGF eye injections, but we were bumped in favour of the chiropodists. It’s all a question of priorities.)

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