Friday, September 21, 2007
At one time I immersed myself in Russian Literature, particularly Dostoyevski, as a strange means to create an imaginary dialogue between myself and an imaginary other.
I learnt Russian, or rather, I attempted to.
I dressed in a long grey dress, red tights and boots and lurched around all winter with my nose in the pages of Crime and Punishment, or Anna Karenina. This kind of set me apart in my little beach community: I have written a short story called The Dostoyevski Sandhill, which I rather like, set in that time and place. One day I will bunch a handful of those stories together.
I never really learnt to speak Russian very well, but I can still decipher Cyrillic. It has always been my dream to retrace the steps of Raskolnikov, or stand outside Nabokov’s house, or to waltz through the Hermitage.
Once a man who loved me bought me a costly book about the Hermitage. With citations in Cyrillic, and he knew I didn’t love him back, but he gave it to me anyway: I still blush when I look at it.
He is now a sculptor, somewhere near Bathurst: Roberto.
I still look at the book, and stroke the illustrations with the flat of my hand, the Cyrillic lettering makes an impression on the paper very slightly.
On a sunny afternoon, not too long ago, I strode into the travel agent in the little cluster of shops near the beach, carrying a bag of green apples and Turkish Bread.
I bought a ticket to St Petersburg.
I went to the Russian Consulate today, and collected my passport, inside of which was a wonderfully arcane and indecipherable visa.
I was reminded of an incident I had in July i Perisher Valley.
This season there were a bunch of new ski instructors from Slovenia.
I decided, as you do from time to time, to do what is called a mountain workshop. Equipped with an instructor, you are led off and taught some special trick. (once, a very old Austrian tought me to ski backwards while singing the blue danube out loud, which is very handy)
This instructor turned out to be the Slovenian National Champion. With three adolescents and myself in the group, he attempted to teach me to do jump turns down a vertical face, with the instruction: "jump to the left, then jump to the right, don’t fall down, or you’ll kill yourself."
Anyways, his name was Alyosha.
“That’s not a Slovenian name” I observed, and he explained how his parents had called him a Russian name.
“Yes, Alyosha, from Dostoyevsky” I shouted into his bewildered face, my tangled brain going haywire, I remembered something Meli had written:
“The Holy Fool!
“You know, the Idiot! Alyosha the Idiot..
oh, hang on he was one of the Brothers Karamazov”
He looked at me, horrified.
Looking back, I think I have just about figured out why he took me up a cliff face and made me jump down, though later he must have forgotten, cause we did helicopters.
And that was fun.
Alyosha and friends, Perisher 2007
illustrations: Ilya Glazunov