I, a Passer, Close to Everyone, Alien to All 

I, a Passer, Close to Everyone, Alien to All. (“Я – прохожий, близкий всем, всему чужой.”) M.Voloshin

These beautiful lines belong to Maximilian Voloshin,  a Russian poet of Ukrainian-German origin, commonly known as Max Voloshin (1877 – 1932). I just finished re-reading Voloshin’s Faces of Creation (“Лики творчества”), a profound and masterful study of evolution of some art movements, a book which I had admired as a student, and now re-discovered again, nearly 30 years later.

Voloshin_06

“Art is intimate. Art is the artist’s appeal to another
man. The secret of artistic pleasure is always committed
only between two people.” M.Voloshin

Voloshin_01 Max Voloshin was one of the significant representatives of the Symbolist movement in Russian culture and literature. He became famous as a poet and a critic of literature and the arts.

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His poetry is as symbolistic as his paintings, yet it is so besutiful that I keep rolling his words over in my mind again and again. Here are a few lines I particularly like; I tried to interpret them into English for you:

Так странно, свободно и просто      So oddly, so freely, so just

Мне выявлен смысл бытия,              I can grasp secret meanings of things:

И скрытое в семени “я”,                      The semen, revealing my kinks,

И тайна цветенья и роста.                The magic of rising and rust.

В растенье и в камне – везде,           In every creation or being

В горах, в облаках, над горами       In the clouds, beyond, and above

И в звере, и в синей звезде,             I can hear the song of agreeing

Я слышу поющее пламя.                  with the rapturous fire of life.

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Voloshin was known for his brilliant translations of a number of French poetic and prose works into Russian, but amazingly, the Wikipedia article about him hardly even mentions the fact that Voloshin – a critic, a poet, and a philosopher – was also a great artist himself. As a tribute to his artistic talent, here are a few images of his works.

Voloshin_02 “The unconscious is, perhaps, the only reality,” Voloshin used to say. (“Бессознательное – это, может, единственная реальность.”) He believed that when a person’s conscious skills grow, the subconscious “burning” inside her dies out. (Сознательное мастерство растет, подсознательное горение идет на убыль. ) He himself, however, was the master of both, and his beautiful art is a prfect confirmation to this.
Voloshin_05

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Time

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy

eggLike in many other cases, one can begin to understand these words only after having a massive experience of conscious expectation for something significant to happen, and then living through the event as it happens. Only having waited for years to meet the one you really love, you can say that you know the science of being patient and the burden of “feeling” time.

Feeling time is a burden, because it is a torrent that flows through and beyond us; it carries us forward – always in the same direction – and we can do absolutely nothing about it. Time has its powerful plan for every one us, but no one of us has the power to alter anything in the plan.

Doesn’t this make Time the greatest antagonist of all? Mmm, I really need to think about it…

time

 

All Those Omens On My Way (A Short Story)

(short fiction, 4 min. read)

A couple of days ago I suddenly started getting signs of being in luck. Well, unlike many others, I am not superstitious; I mean, finding a thing like a four leaf clover would hardly make me excited. Still, I could not help noticing signs of good fortune, they poured onto me intensely and bluntly, like a powerful stream that rolls down a hill, smashing obstacles on its way.

It began with a bus ticket, a so-called lucky one. While the bus was carrying me to my destination, a few scenes from my middle school years kept floating in my mind. If the sum of the first three digits on your ticket equals the sum of the last three digits, this ticket will certainly bring you good luck, my school friends used to say. If you get a lucky ticket, you should eat it at once… I was summing up little figures printed on the gray scrap of paper when my bus nearly hit a huge truck, making me forget about that ticket at once, of course.

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I did not take a picture of my lucky ticket, but here is one I found on the Internet as an illustration

Later during the day, a bird pooped on my shoulder – a small bird like a tit or a sparrow – it flew away before I could see it, but the fact remains that it spoiled my blouse! Knowing that all of my friends would blindly believe in the good outcome of such accident, I had a good reason to grin, “What a nonsense! Never heard of a more stupid omen than this!” I ignored that omen, too, because at that very moment I found a long awaited letter in my mailbox: it said that my book had been published!

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This guy does not look quite happy being pooped at! 🙂

Soon, a new “sign of fotrune” arrived as a proof that it was not the end of my journey of luck: I broke my favorite plate by dropping a glass that fell right on it and shattered into small pieces, too. In every Russian home this would be considered a sign of double luck, but, well, not to me. I was growing tired of my little mishaps, so I spit three times over my shoulder and knocked three times on a wooden table – the surest Russian way of keeping lucky till the end of the day.

And then my hand started itching: a sign of an imminent inflow of earnings, welcomed by every Russian, of course! “Not my style, there’s no logic in this,” I thought to myself as I rushed to pick up my buzzing phone: it was a colleague calling to say that our boss had increased my salary by fifty percent! She sounded so excited that I did not recognize her voice at first… another Russian belief, by the way. She screamed into my ear, “You see? This is it! You did not recognize me, and so I am also in luck! I just got a confirmation message about my raise, too!”

приметы 6

I hang up and returned to the kitchen to feed my cat. He was washing his face, and a casual thought slipped through my mind: this means I am going to have a guest in my home.

No, this was too much for one day! I was fed up with those signs, as I was fed up resisting my “fate”. I did not want any more of this stuff in my life, but my mind still kept pestering me by intrusive guesses:

What if I show a coin to the young Moon, which is this night, by the way? Will I become any richer?

If I hit my elbow on a doorway, will my boyfriend finally dare to tell me he loves me?

Is it true that this pigeon looking through my window is going to bring me a romantic adventure?

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A horseshoe and clover are considered to be signs of good luck, internationally

I felt tired and went to bed early that day. I began to believe that there might be some subtle dependence between all those popular omens and real events… at least, they had been forming for ages! “If you believe in something, it will come true,” our ancestors used to say. Who knows? They could be perfectly right, I thought. The pace of my thoughts slowed down and I slept… and I saw a ring in my dream.

Something made me wake up. As I lay there thinking that the ring, by the way, was also a silly omen promising me a whirlwind romance over the night, the sound of the door bell cut into the quietness of my home.

Oh goodness, I thought, who can it be?

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“He stood in the doorway – my boyfriend – all wet from the showering rain.”

He stood in the doorway – my boyfriend – all wet from the showering rain. A few drops reached my face as I touched the rose he was holding between us. Fresh fragrance of the flower made me wake up from my drowsy oblivion, so I opened my mouth to greet him, but he interrupted me by a passionate kiss.

Then he said, “Please, let me in. I happened to have a terrible day: I broke a large mirror, I stupidly walked under a ladder, then a black cat crossed my way… twice, and a friend started whistling right in my home… so many bad luck signs just in one day that I nearly started to believe in this nonsense!” He took my hands in his and looked right into my eyes. “Darling, let me stay here with you tonight. You are my only good luck charm, and let me be yours. It is so much easier to resist evil omens, when love keeps us both, don’t you think?”

I excitedly clutched the stem and a thorn dug deep into my finger (meaning I would marry the guy who gave me the rose). I gasped, then I shook my head.

“This isn’t even an omen,” I said, looking into his eyes and moving my face closer. “Even before this moment I kind of believed that we are about to marry this year.”

приметы9

 

A Few Minutes with Vincent van Gogh

Cypresses

Wheat Field with Cypresses, by Vincent van Gogh (1889, oil on canvas, 73.2 × 93.4 cm).

Millions of people around the world today are ready to travel across continents in order to see original Van Gogh’s paintings. I am a happy one of them: I have done this more than once. Luckily, Van Gogh became appreciated quite soon after his death, so most of his works have been found, restored, and are kept with proper care.

I have been looking through Van Gogh’s paintings, and decided to share a few lines about this amazing man. I believe, these facts about Van Gogh’s life will be new and interesting to you-

His life began with a strange decision made by his parents: they gave him the same name as they had given to their previous child. It appears that Vincent had an older brother who died at birth. His name was also Vincent.

Then, according to a common tradition, Van Gogh was supposed to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor. Luckily, he was strong enough to choose his own way in life. Here is a photo of young Vincent.

vincent-van-gogh

Van Gogh did not start drawing in early childhood, like many famous artists did. He was 27 years old when he painted his first piece. Before that, he had been failing as an art dealer and engaging in missionary work. He was mostly self-taught and he started out by painting dark and sad depictions of peasants. Only later he started drawing light and life-welcoming pictures, like First Steps, after Millet (1890, oil on canvas, 72.4 x 91.1 cm)

VanGogh_First_Steps

In late 1885, interested in honing his skills as a figure painter, Van Gogh left the Netherlands to study at the Antwerp Academy in Belgium. Three months later, he departed for Paris, where he lived with his brother Theo, an art dealer with the firm of Boussod, Valadon et Cie, and for a time attended classes at Fernand Cormon’s studio. Van Gogh’s style underwent a major transformation during his two-year stay in Paris (February 1886–February 1888). There he saw the work of the Impressionists first-hand and also witnessed the latest innovations by the Neo-Impressionists Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. His  Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat is a good illustration of the Impressionists’ influence on his work.

vincent-van-gogh_auto_straw_hat

Between 1886 and 1889 he painted over 30 self-portraits. Was he trying to understand himself this way or was his own face just the handiest object to draw? We will never know.

In May 1889, fearing a new breakdown, Van Gogh voluntarily entered the asylum at Saint-Rémy, where, over the course of the next year, he painted some 150 canvases.

(Corridor in the Asylum. Vincent van Gogh , September 1889. Oil color and essence over black chalk on pink laid (“Ingres”) paper. Dimensions: 65.1 x 49.1cm. The Met Museum)

corridor

In the time frame of only 10 years, he created nearly 900 paintings! A number of them are now considered the greatest works of art ever created.

Everyone knows that during his lifetime Van Gogh sold only one painting, this one:

(The red vineyard (Arles. November, 1888), By Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890), oil on canvas; 75 x 93 cm, © The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia)

The-Red-Vineyards-in-Arles-2

He painted Portrait of Dr. Gachet in 1890.  In May 1990, the portrait was sold for $148.6 million dollars. As funny as it may sound, neither the artist, nor Dr.Gachet could ever imagine such a pile of money.

(Vincent van Gogh, “Docteur Paul Gachet, 1890, private collection)

Portrait_of_Dr._Gachet

M. Bulgakov’s Immortal Book

Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita was written in the 1930-es, but remained unpublished until 1967. The author died in 1940, unaware that his book would be read by hundreds of millions, translated into all world’s languages, and named one of the best novels of the 20-th century.  Bulgakov started writing it in 1928, but burned the first manuscript in 1930, seeing no future as a writer in the Soviet Union, and then restarted the novel again in 1931. His personal drama was reflected in the book, along with numerous other dramatic and comical topics, drawn so brilliantly that, once having started reading, you cannot take a break and read it to the end.

M&M2

The book is full of strikingly wise and amazingly precise thoughts. Below are a few phrases which I tried to translate from Russian with minimal loss of meaning, along with a few well-known illustrations of the book.

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“What would your good do if evil didn’t exist, and what would the earth look like if all the shadows disappeared?”

M&M0

“Fact is the most stubborn thing in the world.”

M&M1

“There is no greater misfortune in the world than the loss of reason.”

M&M3

“…the one who loves must share the fate of the one he loves.”

M&M9

“Everything will turn out right, the world is built on that.”

M&M8
― Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita

 

OMG! Leo Tolstoy Never Stops Tweeting!

I keep finding more and more twitter-long quotes of the great writer! Here are a few more. I can’t help sharing them, they are wonderful!

tolstoy_prokudin-gorsky

Happy is the one who is happy in his home. (Счастлив тот, кто счастлив дома.)

The strongest people are always simple. (Сильные люди всегда просты.)

It’s better not to do anything than to actively do nothing (Лучше ничего не делать, чем делать ничего.)

The best people are always among those, who are being condemned by the world. (Ищи лучшего человека среди тех, кого осуждает мир.)

While doing good, be grateful for this (opportunity). (Делая добро, будь благодарен за это.)

To be happy, one’s got to believe that happiness exists. (Надо верить в возможность счастья, чтобы быть счастливым.)

He who does not do anything, always has numerous assistants. (У того, кто ничего не делает, всегда много помощников.)

The only condition of success is patience. (Единственное условие, от которого зависит успех, есть терпение.)

The Striking Truth of Life in Leo Tolstoy’s “Tweets”

The greatest Russian thinker has been known for writing mindblowingly long sentences. To break this myth, I continue to publish short lists of Tolstoy’s quotes, which are only as long as ordinary tweets, yet are really massive in meaning.

Everyone dreams to change the world, but no one sets the goal to change themselves. (Каждый мечтает изменить мир, но никто не ставит целью изменить самого себя.

The least simple are the ones who prefer to look simple. (Менее всего просты люди, желающие казаться простыми.)

Real knowledge comes to us through our hearts. We know only the things which we love. (Настоящее познание дается сердцем. Мы знаем только то, что любим.)

Ambiguity of words is an invariable sign of obscurity of thought. (Неясность слова есть неизменный признак неясности мысли.)

Speak only about the things that are clear to you; otherwise, keep silent. (Говори о том только, что тебе ясно, иначе молчи.

People look silly to each other mainly due to the fact that they want to look smarter. (Люди кажутся друг другу глупы преимущественно от того, что хотят казаться умнее.)

Fiction Readers’ Preferences in 2017: What Are They Like?

I just ran across a short article by Mia Botha on WritersWrite*, and while I was studying a table illustrating it (below), a thought flashed through my mind that lately, witout realizing this, I have been in the mood of writing short fiction. It was an intuitive, subconscious intention, very similar to the feeling which I generally have when I experience a disturbing urge to write (every author knows the feeling), but in this season – surprisingly – I have been more apt to writing in short, completed, self-sufficient fictional pieces, which could be valuable in meaning, like parables, but emotionally challenging, like poetry.

shortstoryscheme

(* The above scheme taken from http://writerswrite.co.za/what-exactly-is-a-short-story-and-how-do-i-know-if-i-am-writing-one)

A short story is an etude in creative writing, writing one is similar to rehearsing before a big concert. However, it never occured to me before that short stories and flash fiction as independent genres of creative writing are inevitably going to attract more and more of readers’ attention in the nearest time. Why? Because the world’s pace is accelerating and the readers’ traditional patterns about what, when, and how to read have been changing.

In 2017, an average book lover may only have a few short intervals of time for reading during the day (while having a meal break, while waiting to pick up a kid from school, or simply to break concentration between two working meetings). During each of such intervals, the reader would love to acquire a high-quality, finished, practically useful, yet sensible and emotionally satisfying piece of knowledge. Readers are no longer satisfied with reading for the beauty of the style, they need a lot more. In fact, what they crave for today is an informative, action-packed, imaginative, emotionally captivating, and smartly composed how-to (or how-not-to) presentation of a topic of their particular interest, be it a romance story, a detective plot, a fantasy, or a sci-fi piece. This is why I believe that the readers’ preferences will continue to shift toward reading short stories and flash fiction rather than the longer works of fiction.

I would love to hear your opinion on this. You are very welcome to leave your comments below.

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A Few More “Twitts” by Leo Tolstoy

Life without love is easier. But without love it makes no sense. (Без любви жить легче. Но без неё нет смысла.)

I don’t have everything that I love. But I love everything that I have. (У меня нет всего, что я люблю. Но я люблю всё, что у меня есть.)

The world moves forward thanks to those who suffer. (Мир движется вперёд благодаря тем, кто страдает.)

To start believing in good deeds, one needs to start doing them. (Чтобы поверить в добро, надо начать делать его.)

The most hurtful form of selfishness is self-sacrifice. (Самая обидная форма эгоизма — это самопожертвование.)

The real power of man is not in the movements of soul, but in unbreakable calmness. (Истинная сила человека не в порывах, а в нерушимом спокойствии.)

Leo Tolstoy and His Twitts – 2

A few more phrases by the great thinker Leo Tolstoy: short, and smart, and thought-provoking:

  • I am sure that the sense of life for everyone of us is simply to grow (mature) in love. (Я уверен, что смысл жизни для каждого из нас — просто расти в любви.)
  • It is not enough to be smart to live wisely. (Недостаточно быть умным, чтобы жить умно.)
  • Thinking is the ability to deviate from instincts and realize these deviations. (Ум — способность отклоняться от инстинкта и соображать эти отклонения.)
  • Always look for the best side in people, not the worst. (Ищи в других людях всегда хорошую сторону, а не дурную.)
  • Come up with as many things to keep yourself busy as you can. (Придумывай себе как можно больше занятий.)

Woman thinks on the background of blackboard

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