Andrei Navrozov

Andrei Navrozov

6

Wednesday’s Child: Letter from London

“Now, when our enemies hear the F-35 engines, when they’re roaring overhead, their souls will tremble and they will know the day of reckoning has arrived.” Now that I am in London, I see it all rather more clearly. In Palermo in September, such things tend to get veiled in sea mist, and the fragrance of roasting peppers wafting upward from the apartment below does little for the sharpness of the geopolitical picture. From this perspective, the morbid irony of an American president elected on a ticket of isolationism who speaks in the idiom of Kim Jong-un, or perhaps of...

0

Wednesday’s Child: Cocktails on the Veranda (Free to the Public)

Desmond and I were for a time neighbors when I lived in London, and one really comes to know a person when one’s drains clog up.  We used to lunch together – Desmond was the only acquaintance whom I encouraged to take me to Indian restaurants, as he was born in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, and knew the best places this side of the Thames – and it was refreshing to have as my vis-à-vis a man who made me feel like an adept of teetotalism.  Before pudding he would finish a bottle of Scotch, of which I had claimed...

12

Wednesday’s Child: A Metaphorical Addiction

Last week a reader complimented my parody of “preternaturally American” English, a patois favored not only by gum-chewing schoolgirls and their future husbands, but also by demagogues of every persuasion, notably Russian propagandists broadcasting to the West.  A key element of its sentence structure is the word “like,” at times roughly equivalent to the traditional locution “that is to say,” but most often an interjection signaling approximation, relation, or equivalence. It occurs to me that the almost universal acceptance of this word in its neologistic role has a significance that runs deeper than mere misuse of language.  It is to...

2

Wednesday’s Child: A Virtual Mess

A couple of weeks ago, in Moscow, about a thousand people gathered in Pushkin Square to demonstrate against internet censorship.  Conceptually, of course, I saw their action as flawed, if only because, given the internet’s intangible and mercurial nature, it would have been truer to genre if they had marched only virtually, made virtually inflammatory speeches, and in the end got themselves virtually arrested by the virtually secret police. A less spurious reason why that march was misconceived is that, as the Russian proverb goes, “having lost the head, no sense crying about the hair.”  The proverb is wise in...

2

Wednesday’s Child: A Fair Name

In Italy, a sagra is a local fair, festival, or fête, usually – oh, but let us be truthful, invariably – dedicated to food, and sometimes accompanied by a historical pageant, a sporting event, a marionette show, or some other spectacle that may aid digestion. There is a Frog Festival at Casteldilago near Arrone, an Onion Festival at Cannara, a Stuffed Eggplant Festival in Savona, a Lattarino Festival on Lake Bolsena, in homage to a local fish by that name and now in its forty-second year, a Frico Festival in Friuli, involving an italianized cheese-and-potato rösti, and an almost infinite...

15

Wednesday’s Child: A Portrait of the President as a Young Man

As a young jobbing journalist in London I used to do a lot of book reviewing for The Times, then still the pre-eminent paper in Britain.  They paid me £1 a word, which meant that even at the rate of two or three pieces a month body and soul could be kept together, with a bob or two left over for cigarettes and booze.  Last week I was trawling through old photocopies of some of my clippings and found one that made me giggle, dated April 8, 1989 and entitled “Diary of a Nobody.”  I’m quite sure that Rupert Murdoch,...

0

Wednesday’s Child: Letter from Sardinia

A capital delusion of the rich, to the effect that money can be transmuted into beauty, is dwarfed by a mass delusion of the poor, to the effect that beauty can be transmuted into money.  As in the case of nuclear transmutation in physics, neither of the two processes is an impossibility. Yet scientists warn that while particle bombardment can easily turn gold into a base metal like lead, the reverse, though possible in theory, is far too costly and time-consuming to be of any practical benefit to the avaricious. An alchemist, or for that matter anybody who’s got his...

8

Wednesday’s Child: Letter from Tuscany

  I am hardly revealing a secret when I say that, despite the century-long attempt at imposing federalism on Italy – with law, education, and mass communications among the means at the central government’s disposal – this, thankfully, remains a uniquely fragmented European country.  Time and again the visitor is reminded that it is regional autonomy, de facto if not de jure, that makes this so tolerable a place to live or even, provided one speaks some Italian, to visit, to swim, to suntan, and to eat.  An American may well reflect that his own United States, had history played...

0

Wednesday’s Child: Surreal Sports

I have in my library a dictionary of Russian criminal and jailhouse slang, an evolved argot that retains the syntax and grammar of conventional speech, but replaces many verbs and most of the nouns with occult formations based on a number of European languages and dialects, from Lithuanian to Yiddish.  When one flips through this dictionary, one is struck by the fact that a good quarter of the nouns, even if their primary significance is to do with the business of thieving or fencing, have the derogatory meaning of “passive homosexual.” This, of reflection, is hardly surprising.  The environment of...

7

Wednesday’s Child: An Unwritten Letter

Last week a sympathetic soul had written to me from London, urging me to pitch a book, or at the very least a proposal for one, to a publisher in his circle of acquaintance.  I was grateful for the attention and did not want to be uncivil, so I muttered some generalities of a philosophical sort by way of reply and left it at that.  In hindsight, however, it occurs to me that my response could have run along the following lines. Me, pitch?  No, my dear fellow, let them pitch. Because the question is not – and I’m now...