Moscow: history and literature

After browsing around the monastery of St. Peter on the Hill (more divinity-powered icons), we paid hommage to a more recent summoner of magical forces, Mikhail Bulgakov, by a visit to Patriarchs Ponds, the opening scene of Master and Margarita, which Susana has been reading. From her descriptions (I haven't got into it yet), its miracles and black magic are even weirder than the stuff in the churches.

From there it was only a short walk to the Museum of Contemporary History (an oxymoron in its English translation — what the Russians mean by современной истории is "recent" history, since Alexander II - 1856-1881 — to today). Fascinating collection of objects and images, including film footage of battle scenes and troops in World War I, political rallies and fighting in 1905 and 1917 and following. All the explanatory labels were in Russian and we had only an hour before closing time, so I had hardly time to consult my dictionary for some of the more curious exhibit cases, but we didn't really need to to get the gist of a history we've long studied from other sources. It could all have been made much clearer with a better arrangement, and more information in other languages — Japanese tourists, for example, would surely be interested in the section on the Russo-Japanese war, a military and financial disaster for the Russian Empire that largely provoked the 1905 revolution. Still, the exhibits as a whole helped us imagine those lives and that history more vividly.

Then a longer walk to the twin bookstores at 18 Kuznetsky Most, where I was hoping to find a bilingual edition of some classical or contemporary Russian literature. But no. One store had only Russian, the other only foreign languge (mostly English), no bilingual editions in either. And no store clerk in either store who really understood English, so I was forced to exercise my pitifully minimal Russian. I remembered a book that had made a powerful impression when I'd read it in translation and decided to find the Russian text: Isaac Babel's "Red Cavalry".  And I made myself understood— I bought a 1986 paperback collection that includes not only the 34 very short stories in Конармия but also his Одесские рассказы (Odessa  stories). And to create my own bilingual experience, I searched on-line for a translation in some language I can read, and was delighted to discover on Kindle a 1928 translation into French on which Babel himself (who spoke and wrote French fluently) had collaborated. The translator seems to have known Babel well, and his introduction is a delight. More on that later — potom, as the Russians say.

Meanwhile, on another much in the news and people's concerns:
US-Supported "Good Guys" Firing Ballistic Missiles in Ukraine?

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