According to the forecast, Moscow, Russia and Indiana are having similar weather. Last week, Moscow was actually warmer than it was here in the Midwest as we’ve shivered through the first part of January.
For the Word Nerds Reading Challenge, I’ve selected “The Brothers Karamazov.” I’m almost 500 pages in and I’m enjoying it far more than I expected I would. On Tuesday, I reached the famous Grand Inquisitor section and discovered for myself just why it’s so good.
To complement my January of reading a Russian, I’m also eagerly anticipating attending the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s Midwinter Russian Festival. I love the moody Russian composers — Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, the list goes on. Ever since the ISO announced their season in what, June?, I’ve been eyeing the Festival and finally right before Christmas bought the tickets when they did a great promo offer.
In relaying all this to my Dad on the phone (who is my +1 for for the upcoming performance of Scheherazade), he says, “What are you learning from all the Russians?”
“How to suffer,” I said, somewhat joking and somewhat serious.
And then he tells me this story:
When he was teaching in Moscow in the late 90s, he was working with his translator to prep for a class on deviant behavior, including frustration aggression principle (the idea that when you can’t get what you what through normal channels, you get it in other aggressive ways like theft). His translator comes back to him and says, “I don’t know this word, ‘frustration.'”
Dad, who is great at explaining things to people, is at a loss. How does one define “frustration” without using the word “frustrated”? He fumbles around a bit, trying to explain the concept.
“Oh!” the translator finally says. “We do have a word for that. It’s called ‘life.'”
Really, combined the big Russian novel and all the Russian music is good for this bitter cold January, to sit and sink into these works. It’s not meant to be depressing or self-serving to stoke the winter blues so I can wallow.
Really, it’s about survival. Think about it. The Russian endure — and still endure — through tsars and communism and the fall of the Iron Curtain to new money troubles and let’s not forget it’s COLD. They talk about life in art and literature and music and ways that encompass how big and how hard it is.
And yet, on my recording of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony, as the last note is barely done sounding, somebody (in the audience) lets out this triumphant cheer. It says we did it! we’re still here!
And so are we. Reading and listening and learning.