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I got a package on the mail today. When I saw it I couldn’t stop smiling. When I opened it, the object of my affection slowly crept out of the package and looked at me. It was the book ‘Bottom’s Dream‘ by Arno Schmidt.

I discovered ‘Bottom’s Dream‘ through an article I discovered through Twitter. The article said that the book was thick, it was originally written in German, this was the first time it was getting translated into English, it was translated by the old German hand John E. Woods, and the book had influences of Joyce and Poe. I have a soft corner for chunksters and everything about the book gently whispered to me to get it and I ordered it eventhough it cost me a small fortune. I was thrilled when it arrived today. Dalkey Archive Press, the publishers, say that only 2000 copies of the book have been printed. I am thrilled to be one of the lucky 2000 to have a copy! Yay!

The first thing that hits you when you look at ‘Bottom’s Dream‘ is its size. There is an article by Scott Esposito which describes the book as a ‘chunkster‘, ‘enormous‘, ‘giant‘. Its dimensions are given as 11×14 inches with 1500 pages. Tolstoy’sWar and Peace‘ is that long and so we expect something of that size. But ‘Bottom’s Dream‘ defies all expectations. ‘Chunkster‘ doesn’t begin to describe it. It is HUGE! Comparing it to other novels in terms of size is meaningless. I have seen some huge books during my time, but none like this one. I have around two thousand books in my collection and this is the biggest of them all. I take out ‘War and Peace‘, ‘Les Miserables‘, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo‘ and put them next to it and ‘Bottom’s Dream‘ towers over them all. It towers over even the huge one volume edition of Arnold Toynbee’sA Study of History‘. To give you an idea, if I take a knife and cut it in the middle into two, each of the resulting two books are as big as ‘War and Peace‘ in terms of dimensions and thickness. It is not a ‘chunkster‘ or a giant. The best way to describe it is this. There is a scene in the TV show ‘Game of Thrones‘, in which Daenerys’ dragon flies and descends and lands next to her. The dragon is huge and Daenerys is tiny next to it. ‘Bottom’s Dream‘ is that dragon – it is a book dragon. It dwarfs every other book in sight.

Here is a picture of the book. I have put it on top of today’s newspaper, so that you can see the relative size.

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I took the book out of its slipcase and opened it. It was so heavy that I couldn’t hold it in my hand for long. I put it on my lap. It weighs a little more than six kilograms (thirteen pounds) and I could feel every ounce of it. This is definitely not a book you read when you commute by the subway. It is too big to carry. It is not even a restaurant book, because of its size. This is a book that you can only read in the library or at home after putting it on the table. 

After opening the book, I flipped through the first few pages. Every page had three columns – the main text ran through the middle column, while the left and right columns had notes and comments. The prose was hard to read – it looked like a combination of surrealistic Joycean prose and Burgess’ nadsat. I looked at the last pages of the book and read the afterword by the translator, James E. Woods. Woods describes how he got into translating the book and shares his thoughts on it. It is brief and to-the-point. It is just two pages long. I smiled when I read that, because a 1500-page book might have benefited by a longer afterword. Or maybe a fifty page introduction. But the publisher and the translator had decided not to have any unnecessary words – Arno Schmidt is what you want, Arno Schmidt is what you will get.

Thanks to James E. Woods for taking twelve years of his life to translate this book. Translating epic length books is a labour of love and one can’t pursue it unless one loves the book in question very deeply. There is not much money to be made here. Thanks to Dalkey Archive Press for publishing this work. Bottom’s Dream, Arno Schmidt, thanks for coming to live in my home. I hope you like it here. I am normally bad at taking care of my books, but I will keep you wrapped in plastic sheets, keep you in a dust-free environment and take care of you well. And hopefully, I will read you one day soon. German Literature Month is around the corner and so that day is not as far as you think.

Bottom’s Dream‘ has been sighted in a few other places. Here is an article about it.

Here is an article comparing ‘Bottom’s Dream‘ to other big chunksters which can’t be read in the subway.

One of the books that I eagerly awaited this year was Gae Polisner’s ‘The Memory of Things’. I loved Gae Polisner’s first two books ‘The Pull of Gravity‘ and ‘The Summer of Letting Go‘ and so couldn’t wait to read the new book. It came out this week and that is what I have been reading for the past few days. Here is what I think.

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The Memory of Things‘ is set on the day of 9/11 and the story continues during the subsequent days of that fateful week. It is a beautiful Tuesday morning and suddenly there is an explosion and initially people ignore it but when more explosions happen and everyone realizes what is happening, people start moving out of buildings. The narrator of our story, Kyle, is a teenager who is presently at school. Once the seriousness of the events become apparent, everyone from Kyle’s school gets evacuated and teachers try to get their students home. Kyle has to cross the bridge to get to Brooklyn, where his home is. He sees something strange at the bridge, which looks like a big bird. When he moves back and tries to take another look, he discovers that it is a girl, who is wearing huge wings. It appears that she might be trying to jump into the river. Kyle rushes and gets her and takes her home. She appears to have suffered temporary amnesia probably because of the shocking events of the day. She can’t even remember her name. We also learn that Kyle’s father and Uncle Paul are officers with the NYPD and are at Ground Zero, his other uncle Matt who used to be at the NYPD is paralyzed because of an accident and lives with them, while his mother and daughter are in LA for an audition.

How does Kyle handle this situation? Who is this mysterious girl whom he feels responsible for but whom he also feels attracted to? Is Kyle able to reach his dad during this day filled with crisis? Is Kyle able to reach his mom? How does the story of each of them pan out? You should read the book to find out.

I loved ‘The Memory of Things‘. I loved the way the book evoked the atmosphere of that time, the fear and uncertainty that followed the disastrous events and also the calm of the people who stood strong. It is a story of everyday heroes who stood strong amidst adversity and handled the situation with grace and dignity. I loved the way the relationship between Kyle and the girl evolved, from being uncertain strangers to friends to something more. I also loved the character of Uncle Matt – though he couldn’t walk or speak much he was a cool character and has a wonderful sense of humour. In one place he says – “Am pah-lyze, Ky-uh. Not brain … dead…” – I couldn’t stop laughing when I read that🙂

I loved the way the story is told, the narrative voices alternating between Kyle’s and the girl’s. Kyle’s voice narrates the story and moves the action along, while occasionally contemplating on life and the deeper meaning of things. The girl’s voice is poetic, dreamy, surreal. Both of them complement each other so beautifully. I liked some of the little things in the book that we discover when we look carefully – like this nod to Dickens – “it occurs to me that, in the middle of one of the worst things that has ever happened to me, is now also one of the best things.” The ending of the story is bittersweet but perfect. There is a note by the author at the end of the book in which she describes how she was inspired to write the book. It was beautiful to read.

I loved many passages from the book. Polisner’s prose is beautiful and I couldn’t stop highlighting passages. Here are two of my favourites.

    “Well, it feels like that, Kyle, back there. Like I’m adrift, in soaking wet clothes that are too heavy with the weight of things I don’t even know. And then the water doesn’t drown me but carries me and, for a second it lightens everything a little, and I feel momentarily hopeful. But always, there are things, beneath the waves, threatening to pull me under. And the land is right there, close enough to swim to—I can see it—but I’m not sure I want to come back to shore again. It’s like I’m here, solid, but I’m not connected to anything. I’m completely untethered. I know that makes no sense,” she says.
      “It does,” I say, “I think I get it. But you’re wrong. You’re tethered to me.”

      Change comes in two ways. The first is the blindside way that comes without warning. Like Uncle Matt’s motorcycle accident. Or the Twin Towers collapsing one Tuesday morning as you’re minding your own business in school. Or a girl showing up out of nowhere, covered in ash, and wearing some costume wings.
      That kind of change takes your breath away.
      But other times, change comes gradually, in that sure, steady way you can sense coming a mile away.
      Or maybe a day away.
      Or, maybe, a few short hours.
      And, since you know it’s coming, you’re supposed to prepare. Brace yourself against the stinging blow. But just because you plant your feet wider, doesn’t mean the blow won’t take you down.

I loved ‘The Memory of Things‘. It is a story about normal people handling extraordinary situations with great dignity and courage. It is also a story about friendship, love and family. It is one of my favourite books of the year. If you haven’t read it already, go get it now🙂

Have you read ‘The Memory of Things‘? What do think about it?

I read this piece recently by Teresa Preston called ‘100 Must-Read Plays Not by Shakespeare’. It made me think about the plays I have read, seen performed and watched adaptations of. I love plays but I haven’t read a lot of them. I thought that I could list them down in a page. And then I could look at the list and feel bad about it. As Woody Allen’s character says in ‘Annie Hall‘ – “I feel that life is divided up into the horrible and the miserable. These are the two categories. The horrible would be like terminal cases. And blind people. And cripples. I don’t know how they get through life. And the miserable is everyone else. So, you should be thankful that you’re miserable. You’re very lucky to be miserable.” I knew that my list of plays was going to be short and it was going to make me feel miserable. Well, I am happy to be miserable. Here is my list of plays – plays I have read, seen performed and watched film / TV adaptations of.

Plays read

(1) The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
(2) Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov
(3) A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
(4) Oedipus by Sophocles
(5) The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan
(6) A Streetcar named Desire by Tennessee Williams
(7) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
(8) The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie
(9) Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie
(10) The Robbers by Friedrich Schiller
(11) Mary Stuart by Friedrich Schiller
(12) Hayavadhana by Girish Karnad
(13) Nagamandala by Girish Karnad
(14) Tughlaq by Girish Karnad
(15) Muhammad bin Tughlaq by Cho Ramaswamy
(16) La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler
(17) Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee
(18) The Homecoming by Harold Pinter
(19) She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

Play performance watched

(1) A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Narrated / performed by my mom

(1) Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Film / TV Adaptations watched

(1) Gods of Carnage by Yasmina Reza
(2) Rabbit Hole by David Lindsay-Abaire
(3) My Zinc Bed by David Hare
(4) Platonov by Anton Chekhov
(5) The Odd Couple by Neil Simon
(6) The Little Foxes by Lillian Hellman
(7) The Petrified Forest by Robert E. Sherwood
(8) Proof by David Auburn
(9) Alfie by Bill Naughton
(10) Hamlet by William Shakespeare
(11) The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
(12) The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
(13) The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams
(14) Closer by Patrick Marber

I think in terms of quality the list is good, actually excellent. Not very diverse, but excellent still. In terms of quantity, bad, very bad. I am not much of a theatre goer and have never been. That is not going to change much. But I hope to read more plays and watch more film / TV adaptations and improve that number above, which stands at 35 right now.

Which are my favourite plays from the above? I loved all the film / TV adaptations except for Patrick Marber’s ‘Closer‘. That one, I didn’t like much, eventhough it had Julia Roberts in it. I loved the performance of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It was, interestingly, performed by an Italian theatre company. ‘Twelfth Night’ was one of our family favourites – my mom used to narrate us the story / perform some of the scenes during dinner time or during weekends when I was a kid. She was a great storyteller. Those were magical times. My mom inspired me to read. She passed on her infectious love for literature to me. I miss her so much. Out of the plays I read, I liked all of them except for the last three. Harold Pinter’s ‘The Homecoming’ was powerful, but I didn’t like it much. Oliver Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer‘ was disappointing.

So, do you like reading plays? Do you like watching performances in the theatre? Which are your favourite plays?

I watched the film adaptation of Edith Wharton’s ‘The Age of Innocence’ directed by Martin Scorsese a few days back. I love Martin Scorsese’s movies. He is more well known for his gangsterish movies and others closer in theme to them. This is a very different Scorsese movie though because he has adapted a classic, a very unique film in his repertoire.
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The basic story is this. The time is 1870s New York. Newland Archer is a young lawyer who is engaged to May Welland. Both of them are happy. And then a third person walks into the scene. It is May’s cousin Ellen. Ellen is married to a count in Europe and so she is Countess Olenska. Ellen has been away for a long time and she is European in thought and manner now. She is independent and liberal and creates a few flutters. She is back because she wants to divorce her husband, the count. Newland ends up handling her case. And before both of them realize, something happens and sparks are flying. What happens between Newland and Ellen? Will Newland’s love for May survive this? Will they get married? Can there be a happy ending to a triangle-love-story? Well, you have to watch the movie to find out.

I haven’t read Edith Wharton’s original novel, though it has been on my ‘To-be-read’ list for ages, and so it is difficult for me to compare, but looking at it independently, I loved this film adaptation. The New York of the 1870s comes alive on the screen, the workings of the high society of New York, the way social power and hierarchy is structured, the said and unsaid social and cultural rules – these are all beautifully depicted. The film won an Oscar for Best Costume Design and we can see why. The casting is mostly perfect. Michelle Pfeiffer is beautiful and perfect and delivers a brilliant performance as Madame Olenska. I think this is my most favourite performance of hers yet and it definitely deserved an Oscar. I can’t believe that the Academy had never awarded an Oscar to Pfeiffer till now. Winona Ryder is wonderful as May Welland. Daniel Day-Lewis is good as Newland – for some reason I am not a big fan of him, though I love his voice. Scorsese’s direction is, of course, perfect.

I have to talk about one more thing. The last scene in the movie. I won’t describe it, because you have to watch it yourself. It was so beautiful, brilliant, poignant and perfect, that I couldn’t stop crying. Then I put that last scene on repeat mode and watched it for an hour. It was a perfect ending to the story like the best endings. After watching it, I took down Wharton’s book from my shelf and read that last scene. It was beautiful, but I have to say this. Though I believe that a book is mostly better than its movie adaptation, I have to still say this. Scorsese takes that beautiful last scene from Wharton’s novel, and improves on it and makes it better. He makes it brilliant. It just shows what a great director he is. What a great master he is.

Now the only thing left for me to do is to read Wharton’s book. I can’t wait to do that.

Have you seen ‘The Age of Innocence’?

My first book for Women in Translation Month in August is ‘Barakamon‘ by Satsuki Yoshino. I got it as a birthday present from one of my favourite friends. I read the first part of this multiple volume Manga comic series which has been translated by Krista Shipley and Karie Shipley.

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Barakamon tells the story of a young twenty-something calligrapher, Seishuu Handa. He is successful though he is young, having won many awards for his work. But he loses it when an elderly man criticizes his work and Handa knocks this critic down. Overnight, he becomes a person to be avoided by the calligraphy community. To recover from this, he takes a break and moves to an island. He thinks that the island will be calm and he can practice calligraphy in peace till things become better at home. Unfortunately, he hasn’t reckoned with the islanders. They are curious and intrusive, they walk into his home whenever they feel like it and he discovers that some children have established a base at his home for hanging out and playing games. This annoys him no end and disturbs his peace. But gradually he warms up to the islanders, because they have big hearts and help him when he is in need. Naru, a young girl who is in elementary school, becomes his best friend, always hangs out at his place and is his guide to the ways of life is the island. The experiences and adventures that Handa and Naru have, form the rest of the book.

I loved ‘Barakamon‘ for the way it contrasted city life and island life through the eyes of Handa. I also loved the charming island characters. My favourite character was Naru – she was really cool and awesome, always smiling and always upto something. There were no bad characters in the story and there were no black-and-white situations, and this made the story very realistic, which I loved very much.

In some places I found the translation odd – for example one of the characters said ‘Sonny‘ and many of the characters said ‘Yer‘. I am sure they did not speak that way in Japanese. But there was a note at the end of the book which said that people in that island spoke a dialect which was different from the Japanese spoken in cities and because the translators wanted to highlight that, they used words like this. I was happy to read that explanation, because it shone light on the challenges of translating dialect from one language to another.

I was also reading a Manga comic after a long time and it was an interesting experience to read from the back to the front and read the graphic panels and the dialogues from the right to the left. It annoyed me no end at the beginning, and I frequently found myself reading it the ‘wrong’ way, but at some point I got used to the Manga way and it was fun.

I loved the first part of ‘Barakamon‘. I can’t wait to read the second part.

Have you read ‘Barakamon‘? What do you think about it? Do you like Manga comics?

I have not blogged much this year and I miss it very much. The reason for that is that I have not read much this year. I have been wanting to get back my reading mojo for a while now, because it is one of the favourite parts of my life. When I realized that August is Women in Translation Month, I was excited! Because I realized that it was a good time to get back to my favourite activities – reading and blogging. I had wanted to participate in Women in Translation Month last year, but couldn’t do so because I was distracted by life. I was disappointed because I love reading translated works and I love reading women writers. But this time, I am excited to participate.

The exciting part of participating in any reading event is making reading plans. I always enjoy this part. I looked at my bookshelves, tried picking only one book from one language (I made one exception there), avoided thick books (I so wanted to include Sigrid Undset‘s ‘Kristin Lavransdatter‘ and Julia Franck‘s ‘The Blind Side of the Heart‘, but they are thick and so they  will have to wait for another time) and finally arrived at a reading list. I am happy to say books from East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Western Europe made it into my list. I couldn’t get books from Africa (most of them are written in English), Latin America, Central Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe into my list. Hopefully I will be able to do that next time. I may not be able to read all the books on this list in August, but hopefully I will be able to read some of them. So, here is my reading list for Women in Translation Month.

1. Barakamon by Satsuki Yoshino (Japanese) – I haven’t read a Manga book in a while and one of my favourite friends gifted this to me on my birthday. I normally see that Manga comic creators are men and so was happy when I discovered that Satsuki Yoshino was a woman. The story is about a young calligrapher who moves from the city to a remote island and his experiences there. Sounds exciting! It is a multi-volume comic and I hope to read the first volume.

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2. Novel Without a Name by Duong Thu Huong (Vietnamese) – This is a war novel set in Vietnam and the story is told from a North Vietnamese perspective. This was part of last year’s Literature and War Readalong hosted by Caroline from Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. Unfortunately I could read only a little bit of the book last year. Hopefully I can do better this time.

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3. River of Fire by Qurratulain Hyder (Urdu) – One of the greatest Urdu novelists, Qurratulain Hyder weaves 2500 years of history into this ambitious story which stretches across different time periods. I have wanted to read this for a long time. Hopefully I will in August.

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4. The Awakening by Anita Agnihotri (Bengali) – I hadn’t heard of Anita Agnihotri till I got this book. The story is quite interesting – it is about a cobbler who wants to make beautiful idols which are used for celebrations during festivals. Of course, this kind of stuff was not possible in India during the casteist times depicted in the book. What happened to our cobbler hero – I can’t wait to read and find out.

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5. Maryam’s Maze by Mansoura Ez Eldin (Arabic) – Mansoura Ez Eldin is one of my favourite writers and this is her first, and as far as I know, her only novel to be translated into English. It weaves in Egyptian history into a fascinating surrealistic plot. I have read it once before, but it has been a while since I read it. I can’t wait to read it again.

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6. Collected Poems (1944 – 1949) by Nelly Sachs (German) – Time to get into my favourite German writers. I discovered Nelly Sachs by accident. I was reading about the Georg Büchner Prize and discovered that it was seen as an indicator of potential future Nobel Prize winners. Of course, there are always exceptions and Nelly Sachs turned out to be one – that is, she didn’t win the Büchner Prize but won the Nobel. That fact got me interested in her work and I read her Wikipedia page and fell in love with her before reading a single poem of hers. She is one of those beautiful souls who suffered much in life but continued to be positive and kind. It is reflected in her poetry. I can’t wait to read this collection.

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7. Nowhere Ending Sky by Marlen Haushofer (German) – Marlen Haushofer is one if my most favourite writers. Only three of her books made it into English translation. Her most famous work is ‘The Wall‘ which is one of my alltime favourite books. I also loved ‘The Loft‘. This is the third and the last. I have been saving it for a rainy day, but now I think it is time.

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8. Nada by Carmen Laforet (Spanish) – ‘Nada‘ tells the story of a young woman who moves from a small town to Barcelona in post Civil-war Spain. Three of my favourite bloggers recommended it and I can’t wait to read it.

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9. Memoirs of a Bitch by Francesca Petrizzo (Italian) – This is the story of the Trojan War told from Helen’s perspective. I read a retelling from Cassandra’s perspective by Christa Wolf last year and loved it and I am looking forward to reading this one.

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10. Chéri by Colette (French) – I have never read a book by Colette before and this has been there on my shelf for a long time. So I thought it was time to take it out and read my first Colette book.

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11. Come Close (poems) by Sappho (Greek) – We keep using the word Sapphic and I thought it was time to read the works of this legendary poet who gave her name to this famous adjective.

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So, that is my reading plan for Women in Translation Month in August. Are you participating? What are your planning to read?

This is my second Chekhov long story. It is around sixty pages long – the size of a short novella. The narrator of the story is Nikolay Stepanovitch. Nikolay is a professor of medicine at the university. He is over sixty years old. He has a health condition and he feels that he doesn’t have long to live. The story starts with Nikolay describing how his morning starts after a sleepless night (because he has insomnia), how his wife is the first person who meets his while he is still in bed and comes and have a short conversation with him, how his daughter comes next and it goes on to describe his day – his arrival at the university, his meeting with his two assistants, his lecture, his meetings with students, his work at his office, the constant interruptions by students and other doctors who need his favour, the visit by Katya who is like his daughter. While describing his day, Nikolay also describes in detail the various people he meets. They are wonderful character sketches. After describing a typical day, Nikolay goes on to describe his relationship with Katya in detail and how she came to be a kind of adopted daughter to him and the relationship that Katya has with the rest of his family. In this part of the story, one of my favourite passages is the one in which Nikolay describes his thoughts on the theatre (Katya is a former theatre actress). It makes me smile everytime I read it. It goes like this :

“I have never shared Katya’s inclinations for the theatre. To my mind, if a play is good there is no need to trouble the actors in order that it may make the right impression; it is enough to read it. If the play is poor, no acting will make it good.”

Events in the story move at a steady pace after that and I am not going to describe what happens – you should read the book.

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I had a couple of problems with the story. The first one was the title. I don’t know whether Chekhov was trying to say something with that title – that there is more to the story than meets the eye. The story was anything but dreary. The character sketches were masterfully done, Nikolay is a wonderful narrator and the beautiful Chekovian passages keep flowing throughout the book. The second problem I had was with the ending. The ending had two parts. I loved the first part. The second part – I couldn’t understand it. I don’t know whether one needed to be Russian to understand it. If you read the story, do let me know what you think.

The story had many beautiful passages. Some of them come when the narrator shares his thoughts and others come in the middle of a conversation between some of the characters. I think the novella length suits Chekhov very well. It gives him room to tell a story and sneak in many beautiful passages and thoughts. One of my favourite passages was about teaching and lecturing. I think it is the finest passage on giving lectures that I have read. Here it is :

To lecture well – that is, with profit to the listeners and without boring them – one must have, besides talent, experience and a special knack; one must possess a clear conception of one’s own powers, of the audience to which one is lecturing, and of the subject of one’s lecture. Moreover, one must be a man who knows what he is doing; one must keep a sharp lookout, and not for one second lose sight of what lies before one.

A good conductor, interpreting the thought of the composer, does twenty things at once : reads the score, waves his baton, watches the singer, makes a motion sideways, first to the drum then to the wind instruments, and so on. I do just the same when I lecture. Before me a hundred and fifty faces, all unlike one another; three hundred eyes all looking straight into my face. My object is to dominate this many-headed monster. If every moment as I lecture I have a clear vision of the degree of its attention and its power of comprehension, it is in my power. The other foe I have to overcome is in myself. It is the infinite variety of forms, phenomena, laws, and the multitude of ideas of my own and other people’s conditioned by them. Every moment I must have the skill to snatch out of that vast mass of material what is most important and necessary, and, as rapidly as my words flow, clothe my thought in a form in which it can be grasped by the monster’s intelligence, and may arouse its attention, and at the same time one must keep a sharp lookout that one’s thoughts are conveyed, not just as they come, but in a certain order, essential for the correct composition of the picture I wish to sketch. Further, I endeavour to make my diction literary, my definitions brief and precise, my wording, as far as possible, simple and eloquent. Every minute I have to pull myself up and remember that I have only an hour and forty minutes at my disposal. In short, one has one’s work cut out. At one and the same minute one has to play the part of savant and teacher and orator, and it’s a bad thing if the orator gets the upper hand of the savant or of the teacher in one, or vice versa.

One of my other favourite passages came at the end of the story. It is beautiful, philosophical and very Russian. This is how it goes :

      When I have wanted to understand somebody or myself I have considered, not the actions, in which everything is relative, but the desires.

“Tell me what you want, and I will tell you what manner of man you are.”

And now I examine myself : what do I want?

I want our wives, our children, our friends, our pupils, to love in us, not our fame, not the brand and not the label, but to love us as ordinary men. Anything else? I should like to have had helpers and successors. Anything else? I should like to wake up in a hundred years’ time and to have just a peep out of one eye at what is happening in science. I should have liked to have lived another ten years…What further? Why, nothing further. I think and think, and can think of nothing more. And however much I might think, and however far my thoughts might travel, it is clear to me that there is nothing vital, nothing of great importance in my desires. In my passion for science, in my desire to live, in this sitting on a strange bed, and in this striving to know myself – in all the thoughts, feelings, and ideas I form about everything, there is no common bond to connect it all into one whole. Every feeling and every thought exists apart in me, and in all my criticisms of science, the theatre, literature, my pupils, and in all the pictures my imagination draws, even the most skilful analyst could not find what is called a general idea, or the god of a living man.

And if there is not that, then there is nothing.

I loved ‘A Dreary Story’. I will be reading my favourite passages from the story again. This is the third Chekhov long story that I have read. There are still four more to go. I feel sad that there are only four more.

Have you read ‘A Dreary Story’? What do you think about it?