I don’t write about Russian politics and society much these days. It hurts, in a way. There’s been bad news from the culture front as well: two gentlemen passed away in November whose influence on Russian letters was considerable and benign. Mikhail Gasparov, the prominent Russian linguist and literary scholar, died in Moscow on November 7. Jown Fowles had died two days earlier in Lyme Regis, Dorset.
My delight at reading Gasparov’s Catullus translations (as well as Shervinsky’s and Piotrovsky’s), and the heartache Fowles‘ fiction brought me — these are personal matters. To the Russian literary community, Gasparov gave numerous examples of how to write clearly and dryly on complicated, emotionally “charged” art-related subjects. Fowles — as early as in the 1960s — employed post-modern means to pre-modern, or timeless, ends. This is what several Russian authors/artists have since done above-average success — notably Venedikt Yerofeyev in Walpurgis Night, Victor Pelevin in Omon Ra, and the most recently, a trio made of composer Leonid Desyatnikov, writer Vladimir Sorokin, and (Lithuanian) stage director Eimuntas Nekrosius in their new opera, Rosenthal’s Children.