Andrei Navrozov

Andrei Navrozov

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Wednesday’s Child: The Smoking Gun

“If you want to become an optimist and really understand life,” thought Chekhov, “stop believing the things that are said or written about it and just try seeing it for yourself.”  As I’m down with the ‘flu, and all I’m seeing at the moment are the wooden posts and canopy of my Chinese opium bed, it’s a little difficult to understand just how optimism has wormed its way into that sentence. In the morning my near and dear crowd around the bed like bearded worthies in Rembrandt’s anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, reproaching me for past crimes against health...

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Wednesday’s Child: The Quiet Hour

When I was a child, custom required small children to nap for an hour in the afternoon, the Quiet Hour being the accepted euphemism for these postprandial outings in the poppy field.  The rather surprisingly bourgeois practice was also mandatory in Soviet kindergartens, in young pioneer camps, in short, wherever parents, older siblings, or staff wanted to regain a life of their own for at least a portion of the day.  Here in Italy I often think back on that Soviet version of the siesta, which sheds light on a whole variety of goings-on in a country that in so...

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Wednesday’s Child: The Truman Show of Mtsensk

Some fields of cultural endeavor are divided between two gurus, who spring to mind together like Abbott and Costello.  Freud and Jung are a classic example, and when the charlatan who is taking a friend’s money isn’t a Freudian, then in all likelihood he’s a Jungian. Another such pair are the Russian directors Stanislavsky and Meyerhold, who divided twentieth-century theater between them as if it were an inherited set of silver spoons. Stanislavsky worked by induction, holding that if a certain reality is in the actor’s brain, then it will duly materialize on stage.  Meyerhold held an opposite, deductive view,...

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Wednesday’s Child: The Quick and the Dead

If reading the Gospels has taught me anything, it’s that there is no recipe – no algorithm, a scientifically minded person might say – for the salvation of the soul.  Although Christ said many times that He had come to uphold the law, no one can ponder the events described by the evangelists without seeing that He, not the law, is the Savior.  This is why the Gospels are populated with every form of lowlife, from prostitutes to thieves, and why the virtuous and the strong are so often depicted there in moments of abject weakness.  What we most remember...

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Wednesday’s Child: More Garbage

Perhaps the gentle reader remembers the oath I swore a few months back, when, like the ghost of Banquo that passes among the revelers to haunt Macbeth, containers for differentiated trash collection appeared to me on the terrace of a seaside restaurant.  Basically I said that sooner will Birnam Wood come up to Dunsinane than the abomination arrives in Palermo, but that if it does, I shall move to Morocco or Tunis forthwith.  Autumn turned to winter, and suddenly it seemed like no sooner were the words out of my mouth than the huge steel garbage disposal containers all over...

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Wednesday’s Child: Capram et circenses

For Christmas dinner we had ordered a roast baby goat, and consequently the teenage daughter of one of our invited guests regretted on the grounds that she is “a Vegan.”  When the animal, just shy of sixteen pounds in weight, arrived from the local fornaio, resplendent in a cloud of rosemary and a jubilation of potatoes, I must confess I felt a trifle abashed at the spectacle and glad that the girl would not be coming.  The serving platter took up the entire dinner table, with cutlery, plates and wine glasses huddling around its edges like poor relations, and the...

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Wednesday’s Child: Ritual Sounds

Well, gentle reader, the ball has dropped, “Auld Lang Syne” has been sung, corks have hit the ceiling and wishes have been made. “The year is no longer new,” as Pasternak said in a poem of nearly a century ago. “Another, newer, has been promised.” Nursing my morning head will take awhile, possibly all the way through Orthodox Christmas next week and until the Old Russian New Year on January 13.  As Robert Burns’ venerable text suggests, this is the time to reminisce rather than act, and memories, obedient to the call of the bagpipe, are now marching before my...

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Wednesday’s Child: On National Pride

A columnist, but really just about anybody in the talking heads corner who voices opinions with the regularity of a grandfather clock, must be a fool if he doesn’t harbor a measure of remorse.  Opinion in general has something of a sleight of hand about it, in that it presupposes the choosing of subjects on which one believes one has something to say and the leaving out of other subjects, with the result that one appears more confident of one’s view of the world than one really is. Well, I thought that since we’re all on holiday, for today’s peroration...

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Wednesday’s Child: Beauty and the Housewife

A young lady – well, not that young, actually, let’s say about my age – has reviewed my new book in The Spectator, a British literary and political weekly once known for its conservative sympathies.  Suffice it to say that when I wrote for it in the 80’s and 90’s the magazine was under the editorship of a man who was later appointed the authorized biographer of Margaret Thatcher.  But that’s all water under the bridge now. The reviewer, named Sara Wheeler, is a “travel writer.”  In the West, where anybody can travel as easily and as fast as she...