Kade kneels next to a stream formed by the San Francisco Glacier, about two hours outside Santiago, Chile.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The "Rooshians"

In a 2008 e-mail to a family member, I wrote:

I did a Google search to find some remarks Hemingway made about his early influences in writing.  In his memoir of post WWI Paris, he writes that he discovered Russian literature, really for the first time.  The two paragraphs below describe the impression names like Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Tolstoy, etc. had on him.  Honestly, reading what Hemingway had to say made me really desire to see/tour the homes of some of Russia's writers when we were over there (2007).  And, as I walked around and tried absorbing what I could, I felt both inspired and depressed - dejected because of the reality that no matter how much I could write or how much I trained myself to write, I would not ever even come close to being a near-beer in comparison.  I wouldn't even be a near-beer to near-beer.
Without Garnett, the nineteenth-century "Rooshians," as Ezra Pound called them, would not have exerted such a rapid influence on the American literature of the early twentieth. In "A Moveable Feast," Hemingway recounts scouring Sylvia Beach's shelves for the Russians and finding in them a depth and accomplishment he had never known. Before that, he writes, he was told that Katherine Mansfield was "a good short-story writer, even a great short-story writer," but now, after reading Chekhov, she seemed to him like "near-beer." To read the Russians, he said, "was like having a great treasure given to you."

In Dostoevsky there were things believable and not to be believed, but some so true they changed you as you read them; frailty and madness, wickedness and saintliness, and the insanity of gambling were there to know as you knew the landscape and the roads in Turgenev, and the movement of troops, the terrain and the officers and the men and the fighting in Tolstoy. Tolstoy made the writing of Stephen Crane on the Civil War seem like the brilliant imagining of a sick boy who had never seen war but had only read the battles and chronicles and seen the Brady photographs that I had read and seen at my grandparents' house.
  - Sourced off of the Internet somewhere

Tribute to Russia literature at closing Sochi Winter Games.  For more, click here.

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