At the moment, I'm reading "Nicholas and Alexandra" by Robert K. Massie. I don't know just where I obtained this book, but it's turned out to be quite an interesting read. It's a sympathetic portrait of the last of the Romanovs. As you can imagine, it's a pretty grim tale, but I think I came across the one funny story in the entire book - it made me laugh, anyway. It concerns the British Ambassador to Tsarist Russia, Sir George Buchanan:
Sir George Buchanan was an old-school diplomat, distinguished by discretion, silvery hair and a monocle. Seven years' service in Russia had left him weary and frail, but with a host of friends and admirers, including the Tsar himself. His only handicap in fulfilling his post was his inability to speak Russian. This made no difference in Petrograd, where everyone who mattered also spoke French or English. In 1916, however, Buchanan visited Moscow, where he was made an honorary citizen of the city and given a priceless icon and a massive silver loving cup. "In the heart of Russia," wrote R.H. Bruce Lockhart, the British Consul General, who was assisting in Buchanan's visit, "he had to say at least a word or two in Russian. We had carefully rehearsed the ambassador to hold it up and say to the distinguished audience, 'Spasibo', which is the short form of Russian for 'thank you.' Instead, Sir George, in a firm voice, held up the cup and said, 'Za pivo' which means 'for beer.'"After I finish this, I'm going to go back and finish reading 'Pilgrim's Progress'. I'd started it, but when I picked up this book it interrupted my reading, so I'll go back to it later. I think I must have read it a long, long time ago, but after "Phantastes", I felt I needed to jump into a REAL allegory.