Lost Influence No. 2: The Russians

        Strap yourself into your seat, as I’m about to give you the instructions for traveling back in time.  It’s quite easy, I’ve even done it myself many, many times.  The first step is to think of a specific time and place in the past.   Ok, I’ve got my place: Nineteenth Century Russia.  Now, how do I get there?  How do you get to the place that you just thought of?  That’s where step two comes into play.  For step two, you need to find out who the great writers were of the time and place in question.  For me they would be Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Ivan Turgenev.  You may have to do some research, but I’m sure you’ll find whom you are looking for.  If you want an authentic experience it’s best to go with a realist, or as close as you can find; otherwise you might lose your way and find yourself in an undiscovered country. (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that it’s just something other than time travel.)   Ok, now it’s time for step three: read, read, read.  Then read some more.  That’s all you have to do.  Who knew time travel could be so simple?  Who knew that time machines were all around us?

        If books, especially the realist variety with their attention to the details of everyday life, can in fact be viewed as time machines then what better guide would there be than Leo Tolstoy?  Tolstoy probably understood, and was able to relate, his time and place into writing better than just about any other writer.  For an aspiring writer that is very good news.  It means that you can both draw on Tolstoy for inspiration, and breath a sigh of relief.  That sigh of relief is due to the fact that you don’t have to understand and relate everything from your time and place into your writing.  Tolstoy has already done that, and there’s no topping him.  No, it’s just a matter of finding your niche.  A place for your piece to fit into the giant jigsaw puzzle of literature.   My niche, well, that’s a story for another day.  But I will tell you, like all puzzle pieces it has many curves and recesses.

        When it comes to traveling back in time, though, you’ll need more than just one guide.  It’s always good to understand multiple viewpoints on any one issue, or subject, lest you become an absolutist.  When it comes to the past, the more viewpoints you explore the easier it will be to find the truth in its favorite hiding place: the middle.  That being the case, my second guide on my journey into Nineteenth Century Russia is Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  Not only is Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment an interesting read, but it also showcases one of my favorite types of conflict: the internal struggle.  In the novel, Raskolnikov’s punishment for the crime that he committed is in many ways having to live with it.  Or, perhaps, not being able to tell someone that he got away with it.  Either way, Raskolnikov cracks in the end and turns himself in.  Along the way, of course, we get to experience life in the Petersburg slums of long, long ago.

        Capping of my journey into Nineteenth Century Russia is a trip through Turgenev’s novel Fathers and Sons.  As you may have noticed from my poetry, I find the relationship between fathers and sons to be intriguing.  I also find the relationship between one’s fatherland and individual members of society to be intriguing as well.  Of course, what I really learned from Fathers and Sons is this: we’re all different, but we’re all the same.  We have different beliefs, politics, ages, socioeconomic situations, etc…  Still, though, we’re all human.  We all share a common bond that ties us together if we let it.  We just need to see this commonality in each other, regardless of our differences, and before it is too late.  Otherwise, we may find ourselves lying on our deathbed sometime in the future realizing it is too late to change the past; and finally understanding that it is easy to see the faults of others, but quite challenging to see our own.

        There you have it (in more ways than one).  Now you know how to time travel, and you know three more of my lost influences.  Six chairs have been filled, and three sit empty.  Next month, I will reveal the last three influences.  After that, it will be time to calmly and coolly walk into the future.  Oh, I almost forgot one of the most important rules of time travel.  It is important that you “Come As You Are.”  Otherwise you might find yourself, well, right where you are.

16 thoughts on “Lost Influence No. 2: The Russians

  1. Fine authors, although I haven’t read any Turgenev I do have Fathers and Sons on by book case. Grossman and Pasternak are also on the list and looking likely for a read next time I take a plane trip. At the moment I am travelling back to ancient India with the bhagavad Gita.

    • Fathers and Sons started out kind of slow, but then I really got into it. Your trip back to India sounds very interesting. I think I’m going to have to take a trip there myself sometime soon.

      • It’s very spiritual, which is nice because I thought i had no soul! I will definitely give Turgenev a read soon…in fact I need to get my read on in all subjects.

    • Metaphorical time travel is fun, especially when it takes hold in your dreams. I suppose that is a story for another day, though. Thank you for your comment.

  2. I have read most of the major Russian writers. However, re-reading Tolstoy’s ‘war and peace’ I found I could not get back into it again. There are only so many horse drawn carriages and so many footmen that I could still cope with today. However, the influence of Russian writers reading them in my youth did leave a lasting impression. The same with American writers. Steinbeck especially. Updike etc.
    A good read from you too Cody McCullough. Thank you.

    • Thank you. I’m glad to hear that you love reading, and that you liked my post. Your comment brings warmth to my heart on a cloudy day.

    • Interesting. I wonder what the artist would come up with for the sightless in contemporary America as we move from democracy to plutocracy Our legislators are much more likely to listen to their rich campaign contributors than to their constituents. They can no longer see us because big $’s blocking the view.

  3. I just wrote you a comment but somehow left the page without posting so let me just say I agree with your post, I adore Dostoyevsky and really developed a deeper understanding of the European class structure of those times. He was a character genius as far as I’m concerned. Thanks for a wonderful post.

    • No worries. I make more mistakes then I can even remember…. I’m glad you did come back to comment. I appreciate that you like my post. It makes me happy when people like what I write.

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