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Andrei Navrozov

Andrei Navrozov

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Wednesday’s Child: Sicilian Defense 4

The title of the present series of posts, as I’m confident the gentle reader realizes, refers to a popular chess opening whereby Black, who by the rules of the game is a move behind, essentially cedes to White control of the center, using its energies to build up a rival alternative until the timing may be right for a Sicilian Vespers.  The Sicilian’s motto, “lie low,” is writ large upon this strategy, and the knack of invisible resistance to domination by central government – whether Arab, Norman, or a myriad others leading up to the present day – is dormant...

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Wednesday’s Child: Sicilian Defense 3

The word “weather” (in German, Wetter) is by etymological transmutation the Russian for “wind” (veter), and as it happens a Sicilian scientist has just come out with what to me is a very plausible explanation of why northern Italy is now the global epicenter of the Chinese plague.  Hubei, the man suggests – the region where the virus first spread – is geomorphologically analogous to the Pianura Padana, if only in that both are windless enclosed flatlands, now under cloudy winter skies.  Let us not laugh before we take aboard a few more suppositions. Wind and light are the reasons,...

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Wednesday’s Child: Sicilian Defense 2

Some years ago I used to joke, with reference to my own character, that as a white heterosexual male with formidable conservative credentials I was destined to die of AIDS in Africa while fighting for socialism.  It is not that my character is perverse, or that I think one thing and do quite another, it is simply that extreme opposites are strangely congruent and I have always been drawn to their invariant properties. 

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Wednesday’s Child: Sicilian Defense

I was intending to say nothing more of the plague, except to poke fun at it now and again for being such a pathetic contender for the title of the Black Death – much the way a book by somebody like Henry Miller might aspire to the eminence of the Great American Novel – but, as the gentle reader will presently see, I have succumbed. The Great American Novel, by the way, is in my humble opinion You Play the Black and the Red Comes Up, written in 1938 by an Englishman named Eric Knight and known to millions of...

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Wednesday’s Child: Werewolves in Epaulettes

Our irreproachably highbrow editor has confessed in a recent post to “have read thousands of mystery novels without a single blush,” and I’ve taken that as a sign, nay, as a command to confess my own flirtations with the lowbrow.  Chief among these, given that age and marital status no longer permit me to wake up in haystacks with strangers and hangovers, is a fascination with a particular kind of Russian television series that may be described as a shoot-‘em-up soap opera.  The main purveyor of these, since the end of the 1990’s, is a channel called NTV, founded in...

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Wednesday’s Child: To Lynch a Ghost

“Giorgio Armani: provocative outfits are a kind of rape,” was yesterday the banner headline in a British newspaper.  Another newspaper went with current events instead of applied philosophy: “Rapist Harvey Weinstein is rushed to hospital in the ambulance that was transferring him from court to prison after shouting ‘I’m innocent’ as he was convicted.” Armani has never made a piece of women’s clothing that is even remotely feminine, so his ploy to exploit the me-too trend for personal gain is just good business practice.  The other headline is more poignant.  It has the characteristic breathlessness that accompanies reports of popular...

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Wednesday’s Child: Letter from Messina

To one who has never visited it before, Messina comes as a shock. Even if the visitor comes from elsewhere on the same island – Palermo is about three hours away by car or by train – the shock is seismic, and yet it is exceedingly difficult to analyze or to describe.  Perhaps it is the air, which, unaccountably, reminds one of the Italian Alps, so crystalline it is, as though suffused by vernal sunlight reflecting off freshly fallen snow.  Locals say the clarity of the air is due to peculiar currents of wind and water in the Strait, where...

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Wednesday’s Child: An Organ of the Senses

The renowned organist Marianna Vysotskaya has been staying with us while my wife, who is a friend of hers, is away in Moscow, preparing for a recital at the Rachmaninov Hall of the Conservatory.  Marianna is here in Sicily to play three concerts, one at San Pietro in Trapani, one at the Palermo Cathedral, and one next Sunday in Messina. The sailing has not been smooth, as everyone in the district, on seeing me in the company of an unknown woman, feels duty bound to mention my wife in a preternaturally loud voice.  “When is Olga back?” thunders Signor Baldo...

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Wednesday’s Child: Eau de Vie, Eau de Mort

Well, Brexit did happen in the end, contrary to my son’s prediction of a Thirty Years’ War, and we toasted the news with vodka.  I spent the following week recovering and reading up on the history of that magic potion, learning much about it I had not known.  No Russian I’ve ever met, for instance, would tell you that the word itself, “vodka,” is scarcely more than a hundred years old.  Instead, for many centuries, and well into the nineteenth, the term “bread wine,” or simply “wine,” was generally used to describe forty-proof alcohol made from grain. Strangely enough, when...

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Wednesday’s Child: A Gretesque Worldview

Winter has been even milder than usual here, and I would be happy to hail global warming were it not for the inconvenient fact that over the last 40 years average world surface temperatures have not changed, while during the 40 years before that, from 1946 to 1975, they actually fell, by one-tenth of one degree Centigrade to be precise.