Not fool of facts

Maria, a neglected poet from Moscow, a.k.a“Red Squirrel,” has tagged me to write eight random facts about myself. At this point I can almost see my collective readership heading towards to the little red button in the corner of their browser windows, long suffered already twenty-six facts about me, me, me (Thirteen Facts About Me as a Child and There’s a Sequel in this)—but hey, it’s an official invitation, and self-indulgence a near bottomless topic.

Eight facts about me, possibly involving a Russian theme

  1. One of the courses I enjoyed the most at university was a first year paper entitled“Russian Civilisation,” taken purely by chance and desperation after failing my first semester. It is a mystery to me still why I took Philosophy, Psychology and German (verrückt!), and not entirely a mystery why I failed—passing, I later learnt, requires actual study—but one thousand years of Russian history was something of a hidden gem, and inspiration when such was very much lacking—the Mongol hordes, Peter the Great, music of Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky, authors Dostoevsky, Checkhov, Gogol and Tolstoy, painter Kandinsky, the Revolution and of course Gorbachev—all avidly read, listened and consumed. Attendance of these eagarly awaited, two times a week lectures turned an until this point miserable academic career completely around, and as a bonus, was taught by actual Russians—sadly, the same positive didn’t apply earlier in the German faculty. Career diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs even walked down the road to give guest lectures.
  2. I had a school friend that was Russian. This was somewhat unusual in 1980s New Zealand, and so was he; I was nice to him really because no one else was—I felt sorry for him and the often self-perpetuated misery he was enduring. I even forgave him the time he announced that he had figured me out—“I worked out what you are—you’re pompous!” I tried his caviar sandwiches once but didn’t acquire the taste.
  3. I had a dream once of being in a large school hall surrounded by people from all over the world, feeling happier than I had since childhood, as though I was a child again, sitting on the ground talking to another child, a child who seemed to be my best ever friend—a Russian boy. Almost every aspect of this dream eventually came true.
  4. Despite long wanting I have never been to Russia—except in dream-flight. Another vivid night-time vision, at almost the same time as the previous saw me in Russia, and as a musician. While not exactly booking my flight or practising the piano, I am somewhat curious to see if this will one day come to pass.
  5. I am still waiting for a politician, possibly human being to admire more than Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev. Ronald Reagan stopped the Cold War indeed…
  6. A film and drama major at University—once I discovered how to pass (and study)—I went through something of a Russian cinema phase; the watching of mother and father of modern film montage, Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin (Bronenosets Potyomkin, 1925), course prerequisite and introduction to a host of realistic yet lyrical, near forgotten works. One of my favourites, a example of poetic film-making rare even today is Aleksandr Dovzhenko’s Earth (Zemlya, 1930), which to quote one reviewer:

    Dovzhenko’s“film poem” style brings to life the collective experience of life for the Ukranian proles, examining natural cycles through his epic montage. He explores life, death, violence, love and other issues as they relate to the collective farms. An idealistic vision of the possibilities of Communism made just before Stalinism set in and the Kulak class was liquidated

    Lyrically beautiful, Earth is also deeply tragic, a poignant example of what could have been, in film and in real life; the last film of its kind before Stalin’s iron fist descended.

    I even sat through the dense, almost impregnable works of Andrei Tarkovsky—Ivan’s Childhood (Ivanovo Detstvo, 1962), The Sacrifice (Offret, 1986) and the original Solaris (Solyaris, 1972—Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 remake is surprisingly watchable, and worth it for the soundtrack alone)—all watched but not completely understood; example enough of the graphic realism, lyricism and otherworldly transcendentalism which I dream of one day etching as keywords to my own masterpiece.

    My favourite Russian film of all? Come and See (Idi I Smotri, 1985) by Elem Klimov, a film more brutal than I could stomach a second time, yet containing an near unique, hallucinatory otherworldiness and sensitivity—a young boy wanders in a daze through the countryside and the atrocities of World War II Byelorussia.

  7. My favourite author for a period was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the 1970 Nobel Prize winner in literature. His combination of politics, realism, sense of justice, morality, absurdity and irony mirrored my own at the time of reading, and his personal account of some of the darkest days of Russian history are, like a car wreck, compulsive viewing.
  8. My eighth and final fact? Visitors from the Russian Federation rank eighth in the list of visitors to this site. And I really am not making that up.

Feeling quite the spammer already after my last post, I’m not going to personally tag anyone to participate in this meme, but should you want to list eight random facts about yourself, I’m sure you know the drill.

Come and See trialer

  • savannah
    Posted at 15:20h, 17 June

    i’m still working on the last one! i’ll have to add this to the list, john…does the movie dr zhivago count? 🙂

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 15:28h, 17 June

    Hi Savannah. There I go, passing myself off as a film expert, yet Ive never even seen Dr Zhivago! Remember that this particular meme is only“8 Random Facts About Yourself,” which somewhat randomly, I made Russian.

  • Maria
    Posted at 18:23h, 17 June

    Oh wow, these ARE quite… “large-scale” facts. I always feel embarrassed when people from outside Russia know more about Russian cinema than me (and they usually do).

  • alfie
    Posted at 18:02h, 17 June

    You are quite the comrade, da?

    As far as films go, I have only seen Gorky Park, Moscow on the Hudson and The Russians are Coming! The last one was pretty funny.

    In Year 8, I once pretended to read The Brothers Karamazov in an English lesson. We were all supposed to choose a book in the library for the period and read quietly. Not intending to read, I grabbed this solid tome and hid behind it. My favourite English teacher said, “Ah, a bit of light reading,” with a grin.

    As I was checking that I spelt the title correctly I found the following image of the author’s notes for Chapter 5:

    which is a work of art in itself.

    Having watched the trailer to the movie above, i just remembered that I read Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor.

    Of course, who can forget, the Russians love their children too.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 21:52h, 17 June

    Thanks Alf—you almost got eight facts in there yourself!

    I remember Gorky Park well—I was a little young to be watching such “adult” films at the time, which made it even more exciting than it possibly was, but still it is a good film—William Hurt doesn’t often disappoint.

    I haven’t read the Brothers Karamazov, and did my usual trick when asked to read War and Peace and Crime and Punishment in something like a week—write something intelligent sounding without actually doing the reading. One of these days, when time grows on trees, I will get around to reading all the classics.

    I remember a review of Stalingrad when it came out and really, really wanted to read it, but it has yet to happen. Not exactly light reading of course, but neither is Solzhenitsyn.

    Yes, a classic song by Sting—in fact a classic song full stop: I remember it well—I was living in Canada at the time “Russians” came out, and felt alarmingly sandwiched between two antagonist neighbours—so quickly we forget the fact it is not so long ago that the end of the world was actually a thing that seemed possible—from where to where indeed.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 21:55h, 17 June

    Thanks Maria. Don’t feel too bad—I have a degree in film; for 2 years of my life I watched, read about (and wished I could actually make) films by the great directors, and Russia has more than her share of them.

    I bet you could out-fact me on just about any other topic…

  • Paul Martin
    Posted at 03:20h, 19 June

    I’m right with you on Gorbachev. He’s the one who took on all the risk.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 07:16h, 19 June

    Thanks Paul. That’s a very nice looking website you have there, and a most interesting book. All the best for your efforts.

  • Shane Magee
    Posted at 22:13h, 27 June

    Second that on Gorbachev. His autobiography is a must for those wishing to know what makes greatness

  • Aurelius
    Posted at 13:44h, 08 July

    It’s interesting to see a fellow western Russophile. We’re such a rare breed.

  • Jaitra Gillespie
    Posted at 17:13h, 08 July

    Thanks for the comment Aurelius, and for joining me in the red corner 😉

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