Andrei Navrozov

Andrei Navrozov

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Wednesday’s Child: Fishingate

I used to mistrust Boris Nemtsov, suspecting him of being a sanctioned opposition figurehead, until he was publicly executed on Putin’s orders. It’s quite amazing what martyrdom does for a man’s reputation.  After the Nemtsov assassination I switched my mistrust to Alexei Navalny, who, gallingly, persisted in living as though to show that he cared nothing for my opinion of him.  Yet a recent investigation published by Navalny’s foundation (FBK, or “Fight Against Corruption”) is so delightfully boisterous – so adventurous in delving into subjects no ordinary politician would touch with a bargepole – it has persuaded me that I...

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Wednesday’s Child: American Nightmare

A Russian painter friend of mine, who had followed our family into exile in the United States yet never went back on his contention that English articles are a petit bourgeois nuisance, used to joke that the American Dream is “finding Rembrandt in garbage can.”  Although the major actors in the nightmare I record here are about as American as Confucius, and the dream object in question a Da Vinci rather than a Rembrandt, in the past few days my friend’s quip ran through my mind more than once. Let me begin from afar.  It is a rule of life...

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Wednesday’s Child: Porky’s Revenge

To my readers it would probably come as something of a disappointment to learn that I had actually watched the film entitled The Death of Stalin before I formed an opinion of it.  Indeed, a trailer of 2 minutes and 27 seconds’ duration was more than sufficient to confirm me in that endangered species of prejudice which is born of experience. The film is advertised as a comedy, with the 1:1 proportion of swear words to cheap shots typical of the genre in its contemporary interpretation, namely, absurd slapstick made by people without a sense of humor for people without...

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Wednesday’s Child: The Rotten Thread

For the better part of the last ten years, in the California town of Perris – which is probably how you pronounce “Paris” if you’re a child molester, though this conjecture is, I admit, of little relevance to the larger argument here – a couple enslaved and abused thirteen persons of various ages, allegedly their own biological offspring, keeping them in chains and starving them in ways that would make Mr. Bumble take pity on poor Oliver Twist. This is all happening in America, in 2018, yet the only reaction to the madness, apart from the grinding of the wheels...

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Wednesday’s Child: The Driving Fail

If one cares to understand something about the South of Italy, I suggest spending four minutes of one’s time viewing this masterpiece of daily life on YouTube.  It has all the truthfulness, spontaneity, and absurdity of an early Chekhov story, and it explains something central about individual liberty – something missing in Burke on the right as well as in Mill on the left.  In short, it’s a good illustration of why this is still the best place to live in Europe. Neither I nor my wife drives, so we’re well placed to observe disinterestedly, without the bitter rancor that...

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Wednesday’s Child: A Truth that Bears Repeating

I overdid it at Christmas, which for the Russians was this past Sunday, remaining incapacitated – catatonic is the usual term – and incapable of writing anything new this week.  So here are some old jottings.  Through the fog of champagne and grappa there dimly glimmers in them, I trust, a truth that bears repeating in the New Year. Reading all the various, though scarcely varied, opinions on the “crises” that Moscow throws the West’s way – after 100 years of Russian misrule one might think the word would be safely devalued, but no, they use it like St. James’s...

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Wednesday’s Child: The Coffee Mill

Like many great men, Signor Baldo, whose skills with the ancient San Marco espresso machine recall the illustrious surgeons or perhaps even the famous generals of history, is used to adulation.  The morning bar crowd here is what in marketing is called a quality-conscious clientele, and these people are cognizant and appreciative of the fact that the machine is entirely manual, with nobody but its operator to be either blamed or applauded for the result.  None of that press-the-button stuff for Signor Baldo’s customers. Once in a while a tourist wanders in, and though I can see that the coffee...

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Wednesday’s Child: Zone 2

I fear the gentle reader may have concluded from my last post, where I confessed to having watched fifty hours of old Russian television in a single week, that my idleness has finally got the better of me. Yet Zone, as I sought to explain, is no ordinary television, but a pivotal historic event, and one, moreover, that presages the latest political developments in Moscow. On the day my post appeared, December 20, a remarkable anniversary was being celebrated by the millions of Russians in the covert or overt employ of the police state.  It was the centenary of the...

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Wednesday’s Child: A Zone Too Far

I just finished watching the last episode of a fifty-episode Russian television series entitled Zone.  This epic series was made ten years ago, and represents a kind of symbolic watershed in Russia’s political progress from the authoritarian horizontal of the 1990’s to the totalitarian vertical of today.  To make such a production in the country’s present climate would be just about unthinkable, as witness the scandal around Zvyagintsev’s 2014 film Leviathan, acclaimed in Cannes yet politically a much weaker statement than Zone. It occurs to me that, having sunk 50 hours of my time into this situation tragedy, I may...

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Wednesday’s Child: Fire in the Reichstag

A black pimp in a red velour hat by the name of Ben Okri – black is a statement of fact, pimp is an expression of opinion, conjunction of the two is my constitutional right, and the red velour hat, I admit, is only there for literary verisimilitude – has written a poem for a new art museum called the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opens next week.  “A great story unites us all,” writes Okri, actually a British writer born in Nigeria who has won many literary prizes for his absurd twaddle, “beyond colour and creed and gender. / The...