Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This is a post about many things. First of all, I don't really feel I can write anything without saying something about the massacre that took place here recently. Everyone knows everything about it already, so I thought I would just mention the spontaneous march of roses that took place the day before yesterday. I think it is what most people would prefer to remember from this week, and it was truly impressive. Some guy started a Facebook event, encouraging people to join in a march in honor of the victims. When I signed up, the same day the event was started, we were 37,000. The next day at six, 150,000+ people showed up. Oslo has 500,000 inhabitants. Shops, even grocery stores, closed so that the staff could participate. Of course, there could be no march, because the entire city was jammed with people, so there was no space to actually march on. I don't know how long it took us to even get from the City Hall to the Cathedral (usually a five-minute walk or so), where a great collection of flowers had been started day before. When we got there, we had to spend perhaps 10 minutes trying to get to the front row in order to put our roses down (that someone had given to us at the City Hall since we did not have any of our own). People also had sunflowers, orchids, lilies - there were no more roses to be found in the city. Flowers were put everywhere around the city, on police cars, on statues, along the roadblocks put up around the bombed area, etc. You should really have a look at the pictures presented here ("A City of Love"), it's quite impressive. I wonder who's going to clean it up. Especially the sea of flowers at the cathedral makes me wonder (Check out no 25). I will just add one pictured here.

UPDATE: This is the link you really want to go to! 360 degrees panorama of the sea of roses in front of the Cathedral of Oslo (there's actually a trafficated road there!).

Now - other things.

Rita and Zhenja, the second generation of the series.

I finally finished И всё-таки я люблю. In the beginning, I thought this was going to be a cheerful, cute kind of series. How wrong one can be. If something sums this series up, it's "shit happens, life goes on and then you die". Somewhere around episode seven everything started going to hell, and continued to do so until episode 25, with some brief periods of hope in between. I always thought things would just fix themselves, but quite obviously Russia is not Hollywood, and things do not necessarily end happily. Still, I'm quite impressed with this series. The actors got better and better, the setting is extremely well done, and you really get drawn in, more so than by many other series I've seen and enjoyed. The story is very complex and so are the characters. A lot of them are frighteningly unsympathetic, and then all of sudden show some sort of humanity - and you start liking them. The main characters (on whose side you are) also have moments of... "weakness". In the first part, which deals with Vera, I actually started thinking about Justine (which I still haven't finished!). Again and again she is fooled into something, deceived by people she trusts, driving her deeper and deeper into misery. I'm really happy I'm finished with this series now, cause it was a bitch to watch and kept me up too late some evenings, but I'm also very glad I got to see it. I regained some respect for Russian TV and I got lots of listening practice. And I fell completely in love with Zhenja.

So how about Tadoku and old church Slavonic? Well, I haven't been reading a lot the last couple of days, and since finishing my last Russian book, I have somewhat lost motivation for the competition. After trying a couple of different books I am now finally reading Раковый Корпус (Solzhenitsyn). Most of all I want to read something in Norwegian or English, but I guess that has to wait a couple days. After seeing the new version of Jane Eyre yesterday (I really liked it!) I want to read some more Brontë, because there are actually a couple of books I haven't read yet. Staying Russian/German is veeeery difficult right now.

The reason I haven't been posting a lot is that I'm constantly busy working (I never seem to have time off, and when I do, I have to go somewhere or do something). More and more Russians have been coming to Oslo, meaning I get to speak more Russian at work, and when I get home I have to try to analyze some sentences for the university project. I'm really hoping I will benefit from it when I start my old church Slavonic class, because I don't really feel like I have any time to actually study the language now.

The second Russian book I read for the competition was Реки by Гришковец. It's more like novella, and it didn't take very long to read. I can't really say it has touched me greatly, even though it has some stylistic things I like. I was sometimes annoyed by the narrator's narrowmindedness, his failure to relate to things as long as they touched upon another reality than his. He did have some interesting remarks on identification and group mentality.

I've also been listening to some Russian music lately. I find Anna German very soothing and somehow uplifting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another attempt at modern Russian literature.

I finally feel like I have actually read a novel in Russian. Not that I haven't read many books in Russian before, but either they have been classics or I haven't liked them. This book I actually like. I don't like it as much as I like the books of Magda Szabo, who also writes these kinds of books (dealing with life in all its variations), because I feel like Rubina sometimes just goes a little bit too far. It is still within what is plausible (most of the time) - you don't necessarily start thinking about how improbable the story is or something like that, but you aren't too far from doing it.

Even though I like it, I have some comments to make. Firstly, the author is a bit too fond of using metaphors, something that may turn out to be a bit tiresome. Describing something does not always have to imply comparing it with something in order to get your message across.

Another thing, which is much more serious, is that I have some trouble keeping up with the different parts of the book. Some are in the first-person, some in the third, and for a great part of the book I was sometimes confused, believing I had misunderstood who I was reading about. It does become clear in the end, but somehow this still felt unsatisfying. At one instance, I thought I was reading about the character in the female first-person narrative that had previously appeared (a woman connected to the United States) when all of a sudden I realized that past tense verbs were all in the masculine... I'm still not really sure who it was or about. It doesn't help that the author tries to interweave these stories, the destinies of different people, by the means of introducing characters that appear in the separate parts. Common friends, people randomly met on the street, etc. Perhaps it's because I'm not Russian, but I can't remember the random names mentioned here and there with intervals of perhaps 50 pages. Often I know I'm supposed to recognize the name, but among the perhaps five female names that have popped up somewhere along the way, I just can't remember which one it is.

Somewhere in the middle of the book, something weird happened. I think I lost focus for a while, and this may have been somewhat detrimental to my continued understanding of the book. All of a sudden, one of the characters starts telling the stories of different people that she or he has somehow been connected to. I found this both a bit boring and confusing.

I'm guessing the main problem I have with this book is that it tries to be a bit too complex. It could have dropped a lot of the "let's make this an epic drama"-attempts and been none the worse off for it. This is what I feel is the difference between this book and Magda Szabo's books - Szabo doesn't try so hard. She keeps it rather simple. All the people in this book have fantastic destinies, accomplish great things and go through huge changes in their lives. As such, they kind of come across as not really... real people.

Still, this was a very nice read. It wasn't necessarily very easy, and sometimes, when the author strayed away from the ordinary narrative - even though I was understanding what it was reading - I could read three pages without getting anything substantial out of it because of the metaphysical (or whatever) character and endless metaphors. So what do I like? I absolutely love that it's about Tashkent, so that I get some insight into other parts of the Soviet world. I also like how different people perceive Taskhent differently, and how there seems to be so much hospitality and so few connections to ordinary subjects often touched upon in books set in the Soviet Union (and there is a hint that that towards the end of the book). There is no lack of interesting characters, and it's interesting how, in changing from one generation to the next, the first becomes through and through evil, whereas you previously did have sympathy with it. There is, as a matter of fact, no lack of unsympathetic characters.

Now, the ending... I think I'm just going to forget about that one. It was not at all what I expected, and not in a good way, more of a "oh please, don't go there, don't ruin it now". So I'll just forget about it. It didn't add anything to the story and was completely irrelevant.

Of course, there's a movie. And I must see it, even though it doesn't look very good (poor acting). The actor playing Vera is a very good match. The one playing Lenja, on the other hand...