And When the Ashes Fall From the Sky

‘At first pass (= shot) some ten or so Numbers from our hangar were caught napping beneath the engine exhaust – absolutely nothing was left of them but some sort of crumbs and soot.  I’m proud to note down here that this did not cause a second’s hitch in the rhythm of our work, no one flinched; and we and our work teams continued our rectilinear and circular movement with exactly the same precision as though nothing had happened.  Ten Numbers – that is scarcely one hundred-millionth part of the mass of OneState.  For all practical purposes, it’s a third-order infinitesimal.  Innumerate pity is a thing known only to the ancients; to us it’s funny.’

– Record 19 in Yevgeny Zamyatin‘s novel We, first published in 1924.



I won’t be posting here for a while as I’ve got to have some hospital surgery carried out, I head in tomorrow for blood tests and X-rays before the surgery on Wednesday.  However I have picked my reading wisely for the time I shall be bed bound, so here is a quick list of what I’m taking with me*:

  • Fracture: Adventures of  a Broken Body by Ann Oakley (a re-read).
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
  • The Foundation Pit by Andrey Platonov (a re-read).
  • Notes from the Underground and The Double by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
  • The Human Bone Manual by Tim White and Pieter Folkens.
  • Disability in Medieval History by Irina Metzler (if I can!).

I can’t help but feel I am missing a good travelogue or another novel I can get my teeth in, but The Road and Notes from the Underground are two books I have been meaning to read for quite some time.  Although the reading list does look decided depressing, I shall relish the hours lying down in bed adsorbed in the comfort of a good writer and lost in a world that they have created.  It is perhaps no surprise to see that at least two Russian authors have made the list, but with a new Stephen King novel out I may be doing some asking for that as a cheeky gift!   I have included a few re-reads in the list above, but we shall see if I get those read again.

I shall need to call upon my stoical strength again, but I look forward to writing back here once I am well enough.  Photography by author, taken with a Pentax S1a camera.

I shall need to call upon my stoical strength again, but I look forward to writing back here once I am well enough. Photography by author, taken with a Pentax S1a camera.

* I’ll also be taking a stack of CD’s with me because I am doggedly old fashioned, and, of course, a stack of paper to write letters to friends and to keep notes.

‘The Foundation Pit’

Whilst in the beautiful, brash and busy capital today I found another Soviet writer (and book) to add to my slowly amassing knowledge of Russian writers.  I now greedily grasp ‘The Foundation Pit’, by Andrey Platonov, in my hands and eagerly await spending quality time reading this much maligned author’s work.  The novel was wrote in the late 1920’s/early 1930’s but not published in Russia until the 1980’s due to political and ideological upset caused by the themes of Platonov’s novel and previous writings.  ‘The Foundation Pit’ describes the lives of a group of soviet workers ‘who believe they are laying the foundations for a radiant future’, but are, of course, misled.   In particular it questions the moral authority of the individual, of the collective and of the state, with characters stating their ambivalence towards life itself.

“Wasn’t Truth merely a class enemy?  After all the class enemy was now capable of appearing even in the form of the dream and imagination!” (Platonov’s The Foundation Pit).

Honestly I am already 30 pages in and I do not want it to end.  Since discovering the very much valued work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Mikhail Sholokhov on my father’s bookshelves I have reached deep into the well of beauty that is Russian literature, but my thirst is not yet sated and I am not sure it ever will be.  Visits to the University and local council library have yielded such gems as Anna ‘Karenina’ by Tolstoy and Gogol’s ‘Dead Souls’, but my most treasured reads so far have to Solzhenitsyn’s ‘Cancer Ward’ and Sholokohov’s Don epic.  I have yet to try Dostoyevsky, but ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ is always on my mind.  In the mean time I am sure Platonov will keep me busy.