Senin, 07 Januari 2013

Christmas ain't over until Russia says!

It's that time of year again... Christmas is over, we're all back at work and completely broke after spending way too much over the festive season. Well, not for Russia because many religious holidays are still celebrated on the dates of the old Julian calender, therefore making Christmas day 7th January!

So hip hip hooray it's Christmas again today!!! Only, it's not really Christmas as we know it. Russian's don't tend to make a big deal out of Christmas... it is seen as a religious holiday and so down to the Soviet era's discouragement of religion, Russia never really caught the Westernised “present buying, over-eating, money spending” Christmas bug. Instead, New Years became the big holiday in Russia where trees are decorated, families gather, food is eaten and Дед Мороз (Dyed Moroz/Gradfather Frost - Father Christmas) and his granddaughter Снегурочка (Snyegurochka/The Snowmaiden) give gifts.

So what will be happening in Russia today for Christmas? For Russian Orthodox believers it is a day of long services that begin on Christmas Eve (January 6th). The traditional Christmas dinner is the 'Holy Supper' – 12 dishes to represent the 12 apostles including soup, fish, mushrooms and dumplings.

7thJanuary became a public holiday again after the collapse of communism so most people will do something to mark today. I asked my Russian friends what they will be doing to celebrate Christmas and most of them said that they had already celebrated at New Year so they wouldn't be doing too much today, but they will go and see their family for a meal.

Last year I didn't have a job and didn't really want Christmas to end so decided to hold my own very non-traditional Russian Christmas party! We ate mince pies, drank mulled wine and I even made some Russian doll cupcakes! So if like me, today is your first full week back at work and you are feeling the post-Christmas depression... grab a mince pie guilt free. Christmas ain't over until Russia says!

Selasa, 01 Januari 2013

Pasternak: done, Tolstoy: done. 2013's Challenge? Dostoyevsky.

Hello lovely readers and sorry to have kept you waiting so long. I know you have all been patiently sitting at your desks waiting for my next update... well here it is!!!

I've now been graduated a year, managed to get myself a job which involves going to Russia (score!) and have moved to Nottingham. Incidentally if anyone who speaks Russian and lives in Nottingham is reading this – please do email me, I would LOVE to speak Russian with you!

Since graduation and getting a job my study of the Russian language has drastically reduced... now when I go to Russia the first few days are a guessing game until I get back into it. However, now having the ability to choose what I read means I have managed to finally finish most of the novels on my university first year reading list. Excellent.

At the beginning of 2012 I read Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I actually managed to do a pretty good presentation on this in university without actually reading the book (films are a great resource for any literature modules). Now I've actually read it, I don't have much to say about it... mainly because I can't remember much of it. In my book journal I have simply written “TOO LONG”. So there you go. (FYI this book did actually win the Nobel Prize for Literature and is widely regarded as one of the most important works of Russian fiction... so my review probably doesn't do it too much justice).

The big literary achievement of 2012 was that I read the ENTIRETY of Tolstoy's War and Peace. It took me a long 4 months to complete it and I had to read it on a Kindle (despite hating Kindles... I'm all for real books) as it actually hurt my arm to hold it up... but I did it! The first line I wrote about it in my book journal was “Way too long!”. Clearly I do not have a long attention span with Russian fiction.
However, I did enjoy reading War and Peace overall. The novel is split between depicting the French Invasion of Russia in the 1800s and life in St Petersburg and Moscow society at the time. In a somewhat stereotypical girlish way I found the war chapters dull but loved the chapters on society and family life in the 1800s. The characters I found the most intriguing were Mary; a hard working, kind, country girl and Natasha; the silly, girlish daughter of St Petersburg's Count Rostov. I find that Tolstoy is so good at characterising women in his novels, however it could be said that he does usually write women in the same way. Mary and Natasha are very similar to the characters of Kitty and Anna in Anna Karenina.
One of my favourite quotes of the novel can be found in Book 14, Chapter 1 of the Kindle version I was reading, “The war was being carried on contrary to all the rules – as if there were any rules for killing people.” A comment made in the 1800s that unfortunately is still true of our world today.

Talking of Tolstoy, 2012 saw the release of the new Anna Karenina film. It had some bad points – Keira Knightly was (as expected) not a good choice for Anna. She only has two faces and both of those are pouting. She is not Anna. However, I did really like the concept of the film. Rather than making an epic film to match the epic story, the director Joe Wright went for more of a theatre performance. I've read some reviews that really didn't like it but I thought it was very clever and worked well. I also enjoyed the way that the characters Kitty and Levin were portrayed. Here's a little snippet:

I feel I have exhausted Tolstoy for a while and so in 2013 my challenge is: Dostoyevsky. Crime and Punishment has been lurking on my shelf mocking me for not having the courage to read it for 3 years. Once I've read it I can finally join in the Tolstoy vs Dostoyevsky debate like a real Russian fiction scholar...Or I can just show off about reading it on facebook.