Friday, May 25, 2007

Current reading

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.

8 Comments:

Blogger Nicholodeon said...

My late godmother, Tatiana Nicholaevna, was born in St Petersburg in 1900 in the Imperial Court Hospital. Her father was at court, and she told me of the many times she saw the Imperial Family close up at Tsarskoe.

When the revolution came, Godmother and her family went to Crimea where in 1919 they left aboard ship with the Empress Dowager, who was my godmother's godmother because she attended Smolney in St P. How long ago and far away.

Thanks for the anecdote. But stay away from Russian beer! 'Russian tea' (vodka) is much mo bettah.

10:30 pm  
Blogger Adam said...

I just re-read the Massie book on the Romanovs after having watched--at your mentioning of it some time back--the series "Fall of Eagles." Massie a good writer, and his other 2 books I've read on the origins of the First World War and on its battleships were both very good also.

9:10 am  
Anonymous ellie m said...

If you want more Russian history, my brother has read (and strongly recommends) Massie's "Peter the Great." I haven't gotten around to reading it myself yet, but Massie won the Pulitzer for it, so it must be good!

10:30 am  
Blogger The Bovina Bloviator said...

I love this from the Wikipedia entry on John Bunyan:

Bunyan describes himself as having led an abandoned life in his youth; but there appears to be no evidence that he was, outwardly at any rate, worse than the average of his neighbours: the only serious fault which he specifies is profanity, others being dancing and bell-ringing.

Those satanic bells! Just the same, it's well worth slogging through "Pilgrim's Progress." Bunyan had glorious gift for allegory and the underlying Christian message can be profitably read by all. I read it by oil lantern in a cabin deep in the Maine Woods twenty years ago, which somehow heighted the experience.

Did you know Vaughan Williams composed an opera based on it? You might want to give it a listen. I've been foisting it on my friends for years now but to avail, they all loathe it. I love it. I commend it to you in hopes you might also.

2:14 pm  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

An opera of 'Pilgrim's Progress'! Well, why not? Weren't the old medieval 'Miracle Plays' a bit similar? Very much in the English tradition. I will definitely look it up.

And I'll look for Massie's book on Peter the Great too - I'd be very interested in reading about that period of history.

As a Canadian, I've always thought that WE had the best beer, though I know there are stronger ones around. In India, we used to collect the most outlandish-sounding beer names. 'Thunderbolt', 'Cannon 10000', 'Knockout' 'Godfather' - well, you get the message. Without a big budget for advertising, the NAME is the advertisement, and what they're advertising is "Drink this and get blasted!"

1:48 pm  
Anonymous Priscilla said...

I love that book. I have it on my shelf. I've read is several times. It is such a beautiful book, as well. The binding, the paper, and the feel of it are just wonderful. (I'm just a bookaholic, or in more modern terms, I guess - a bookie)
BTW, I so enjoy your blog. I admire your writing. I occasionally show it to my 8th graders as an example of good writing.

8:54 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember reading Massie's book on NIcholas and Alexandra as a young teenager. A bestseller as I recall in the late 60's and a movie followed.
Massie, whose son, Bob, suffered from hemophilia which prompted his initial interest in N. and A., wrote,"Journey", a book on his son's experience with the disease. Recommended reading for anyone especially those with children with chronic illlness
Bob is/was an Episcopal priest and appears to be in very poor health these days, in desperate need of a liver transplant. Still battling hemophilia and HIV, which came from his frequent blood transfusions.

http://bobmassie.org/

and

http://www.princeton.edu/~paw/archive_new/PAW04-05/15-0608/features1.html

11:46 am  
Blogger Dr. Mabuse said...

Priscilla - Oh my goodness! I'm terribly flattered that you've used my blog in your class! I'll try very hard never to put any swear words in it; you never know who might be reading.

How unfortunate Massie's son also has hemophilia - I knew someone who had it (since died), and every day was a painful struggle. I'll say a prayer for him.

11:55 am  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home