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With my sprained ankle, a relatively relaxed schedule, an interesting literature course and access to a good library, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. The three novels I’ve read for the literature course, Cal by Bernard Mac Laverty, Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson, are books that I probably wouldn’t have thought of reading if it wasn’t for the course, but as it turns out I enjoyed them all.

The two books I’ve read outside of class have something in common; they are both novelized biographies. I wasn’t aiming for a theme, it just happened accidentally.

Dreams of My Russian Summers by Andrei Makine is the story of a boy with a French grandmother growing up in the Soviet Union and eventually defecting to France. I didn’t like it at first; it seemed like overly poetic description without a plot, but just when I was about to give up on it I told myself to read a few more pages, and luckily, in those pages the story started moving.

What is the What is, quite simply, essential reading. It is the story of a Sudanese refugee, and if your reaction to reading that is anything like “Well, I’m sure that’s an important book but the world is full of so much suffering and I send money to UNICEF sometimes and what more can I do?” I especially recommend reading it, because it is, in addition to being important, good reading. I just spent an entire Sunday in bed, finishing it. And I’m adding The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation to my “Take Action” links in the sidebar.


I’ve translated another of Kostia’s stories. Well, non-fiction really. The original can be found here.

by A. Kostia
translated from the Russian by Megan Case

Mama was born a year and a half after the war, in a hastily-built hut on a dirt foundation. Her first childhood memory is of a lazy fat cockroach crawling in the half-darkness on the log wall.

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1. Well, of course the first thing I’m going to do is have a nap, and then get drunk. Then we’ve got a fun weekend planned: hosting a housewarming/thesis-turning-in party on Saturday, and the Vyborg film festival on Sunday. 

2. Have a proper summer. Early August is pretty much the end of summer in St. Petersburg. But I’ll be in the U.S. in early September, so I can extend summer a few more weeks.

3. Blog more regularly and more interestingly, both here and on my Russian blog.

4. Start a project based on my thesis: a website for expats in St. Petersburg who are disturbed about the ecological situation, with links to local environmental organizations, information about recyling points in the city, etc.

5. Make time for jogging and yoga again.

6. Translate another of Kostia’s stories into English, which will give him enough material so he can publish the bilingual edition of his book that we first thought of doing two years ago.

And probably some more things too. But first, I’d better go finish the damn thing.

Unrelated: I saw this postcard on PostSecret and it struck a chord…


I had an adventure today, one of the good kind, not the bad kind. I’m going to write about it and post pictures, but tonight I’m too tired. Instead I’m going to curl up with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows – which Kostia heroically went out to find this morning while I was on my adventure – and try to read it all before I see a spoiler on the internet. I almost heard a spoiler on the radio in the marshrutka this morning, but I plugged my ears just in time.

How much does the book cost where you live? Here it costs the equivalent of US$50 – at the current exchange rate, which hit a new all-time low every day last week, which I can be happy about now because I have hardly any dollar savings anymore and am earning big fat rubles. Who ever thought they’d hear someone say that?

I meant to write something about Kurt Vonnegut’s death last week and then got distracted and forgot about it until I saw Josh’s tribute. Anyway, Kurt Vonnegut was the dog’s bollocks. I discovered Breakfast of Champions in my high school library when I was 15 and as I read it I couldn’t believe that they actually had such a book in an American public school library – didn’t the librarians and school administrators know that it was funny and crazy and had swear words in it? Between then and age 19 I read almost everything he wrote. His combination of humor and irreverence and humanity is something this world needs more of. I’m sad that he’s dead, but he was 84 and he lived a good life.

Photo from the New York Times obituary


About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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