We hadn’t spent time together in a while. I was already away at college and no longer had much contact with him, and suddenly I realized that I didn’t know him very well—or was that just a feeling I had now, fifty years later, as his image gradually fades from my mind and I could no longer tell you if he was right- or left-handed.
After getting in line at 9 AM and standing under a disgusting fine drizzle for almost three hours, Monique, too, got her shot. Just before nightfall she began to get chills and her temperature went up. After taking one paracetamol tablet and twenty drops of diazepam, she fell asleep.
Soon after meeting P in 2011, I read his first book. The overall mood was utopian, yet pragmatic. Fable-like methods were used to depict bleak truths while avoiding finger-pointing: Once upon a time, farmers cleared a forest; the water table fell, so they dug a well, and it fell some more, et cetera. Red herrings abounded. One memorable paragraph lamented the extinction of Steller’s sea cow, a sluggish 30-foot behemoth that could have provided truly socialist quantities of meat and milk.
I open my eyes. The Colonel stares back at me like a buck’s head mounted on the wall. An abstract painting, blood streams from the old man’s throat down onto Parvin’s Che Guevara poster and over the star on Che’s forehead, where it gets lost in the black shadows on his face to reemerge out of Che’s left nostril.
Translators themselves want to seem inconspicuous, like imperial clerks toiling away in a dark garret, resolving geopolitical issues by working out the finer terms in the draft of a big treaty. The collective need for invisibility creates a language that’s even, parsed out, correct — a language that escorts books out of their country and dresses them up as responsible travelers.
It was 1982. Brezhnev died. Ready also died, after eating rat poison. Olya started her senior year at the Institute and bought herself a violin made by the German master Schneider for 1,600 rubles, telling her poor parents that a girlfriend who’d dropped out of school and married a Georgian had given it to her. She continued to meet Burmistrov at the same apartment. She was so used to Horse Soup’s screaming that she no longer paid any attention to it, focusing only on the food in front of her.