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More beauty August 26, 2006

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.


…to help avoid work and bring on a real nervous breakdown by about Tuesday.

Troitskij Sobor (Trinity Cathedral) in St. Petersburg, which I worked just down the road from, has burnt. Not down. But that wonderful blue cupola has gone. The building seems to have been being repaired for as long as I can remember. It seems now the scaffolding has caught fire and destroyed all their efforts. But it will rise again, no doubt.



1. Blonde at Heart - August 26, 2006

From what I learnt about English buildings, you can say with quite certainty when you do not know what happened to them “they burned down”. You would be about 90% right. Maybe that rule applies also to Russian buildings.

2. BiB - August 26, 2006

…and the other 10% were knocked down in some modernisation frenzy in the 1950s or 1960s. Well, there was a lot of destruction during WWII too, of course.

While we’re on religious buildings, what are the most/more famous synagogues? I don’t know any majorly famous synagogues. Are there some which are particularly famed for their gorgeousness? I remember writing a small article about the one in St. Petersburg – not that far from the building which has just burnt down, actually – and the synagogue’s own literature called the building the third most beautiful synagogue in the world, or something like that. Don’t know which ones beat it to the title…

3. lukeski - August 26, 2006

The Neue Synagogue in Berlin is absolute bliss, and this one in Italy looks rather nice, too. Sorry, I’ll probably be posting all night as I sit here listening to Miles and voiding cleaning the bath.

4. BiB - August 26, 2006

No need to apologise, sir. I’ll be joining you in an all-night computer-sesh (so what’s new?), but I REALLY WILL BE working. Honest, guv.

Do you know, I hadn’t realised the Berlin synagogue you refer to was actually completely demolished and then rebuilt. I thought it was ruined and rebuilt, but not actually demolished and rebuilt. I’ve only been up in the dome, but not inside the actual prayer-rooms.

God, I don’t know this city AT ALL.

5. lukeski - August 27, 2006

Deadline Mondy morning by any chance? I have a real passion for the old religious building as well – I saw parts of mosques in Tunisia that blew my mind – and the Buddhist temples in Hong Kong are also staggering. As (and you will hate me for saying this) are most of the Catholic cathedrals I’ve seen across Europe – darkness, gold, candles and incense do it for me.

6. BiB - August 27, 2006

One for Monday, the other (two) for Wednesday. I’m making such mega-slow progress. How I loathe this job.

I loved the Buddhist temples in Thailand too. Adored them. So ornate, and luscious. Churches in Mexico equally ornate. Gold everywhere. And skulls.

Trying to think of a quick Catholic church which has grabbed me… St. Eustache in Paris is pretty spesh. There’s a fantastic painting in it – I mean, in a frame – of, I think, Jesus’s burial/shrouding (ensevelissement – but can’t find anything on the net). A whiter than white shroud. And the church itself wasn’t all spic and span when I was last there. Don’t know about now.

(WV – Pusov. A Russian with bad skin.)

7. lukeski - August 27, 2006

Having sold dictionaries to translators for a number of years now, I can tell you that it either attracts the mentally unwell, or it turns completely normal people into savants, obsessed with the vocabulary of a particular area. Or both. At the same time.

I am always entertained by linguists who feel the sudden urge to become a translator – a perfectly civilised young English woman had got a job translating metallurgy-related documents from Russian>English. She could not understand that there was not a metallurgy dictionary, and that a mining dictionary would have more general terms than she would require, and that she would have to build her own lexicon. And she didn’t actually understand what metallurgy involved. She thought it was to do with forges, etc… And ws unconvinced when I told her that it was the chemistry side of the metal world. So I would imagine there is a vacancy in London in this area now…

8. BiB - August 27, 2006

Yes, or it has transformed, in my case, a vaguely normal person – allow me – into one of the mentally unwell. I have no interest in the vocabulary of any specialised area. English provides me with all the fun I need. Fortunately, the ludicrous German vocabulary I have learnt has gone straight through my head without the slightest obstacle to its rapid exit.

Chemistry and metals? NEIN!

9. lukeski - August 27, 2006

Scheisse. I will try nd distrct you with vague Slavicism by noting that it all seems to be kicking off in Kosovo again, according to the BBC.

10. lukeski - August 27, 2006

This ‘a’ key is making me puke. Repeatedly.

11. BiB - August 27, 2006

Vell, I mean, ju know, vot kan ju ekspekt ven zere are all zose NATO bastards zere?

12. lukeski - August 27, 2006

Shocking beauty. Shocking politics. Ah, our youth…

13. BiB - August 27, 2006

I wanted to say a few more quotes from Miss Banja Luka, but have censored myself.

(Youth? I was probably older then than you are now. OK, not quite, but not far off.)

(Please keep me distracted all night. Miles who? Davis? Or a posh friend from your public school days who’s released some songs?)

14. lukeski - August 27, 2006

Very much Davis. I have no contact with anyone from my schooldays (except my brother, of course). Miles has actually finished, and I have one eye on Audition at the moment – I’ve seen it before, and, without wishing to spoil it, literally nothing happens for the first hour and fifty minutes. The last twenty are some of the most incredible I hve ever seen. I’m also catching up on maths news and posting about it over at the Diary.

15. lukeski - August 27, 2006

And next they’re showing Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero. Masses of miserable Germans, a ruined Berlin, all filmed in the most incredible neo-realist style. Bliss.

16. BiB - August 27, 2006

Showing on the telly – can’t be ITV or Channel 5 – or are you at some all-night intello cinema with wifi?

I haven’t seen any films since Bambi, but I remember having to translate – oh, that was a nice translating job, actually, but it paid 2p a year – a review of Audition when in St. Petersburg. Speaking of ruined Berlin, I’ve just read A Woman in Berlin. A highly recommendable read.

I’m so going to get crucified for this translation. I just can’t see how I’m EVER going to finish it.

17. lukeski - August 27, 2006

Yep – Film Four – the guy’s just tripped over the bag with the prisoner in it, and he’s about to be needled, foot cut off, etc… Luvverly. I may invest in the book – I’m waiting for Grossman’s A Writer at War to come out in paperback – his best work, seemingly, and up there with Babel’ in terms of revealing the horror behind the Russkii army.

18. BiB - August 27, 2006

Well, A Woman in Berlin is probably a more simple account than A Writer at War. (I see Antony Beevor translated AWaW. He wrote an introduction to AWiB. Clearly WWII is majorly his bag.) I haven’t read a word of Grossman’s. Should I? I’m toiling through some Murakami thing at the moment, longing for it to be over. Wondering if I should have a 700th attempt at reading Don Quixote next. Or finishing, out of politeness, as it was the Russian who (out of spite, no doubt) bought me it, the utterly shit The Shadow of the Wind. No, actually, I’ll wait till winter and then burn it, as everyone did Mein Kampf, according to the non-anonymous anonymous authoress, in AWiB.

19. lukeski - August 27, 2006

I have conciously avoided Zafon – these Latin types have never really done it for me, except Saramgo and Unamuno. I am constantly being told to read Murakami, and a rash of other Japanese authors by my Russian friend, married to a Japanese academic. The greats are proving harder to read the older I get, not helped by the fact that I mainly read on the Tube, so Tristam Shandy is proving particularly difficult to get into. And I’ve never read Don Quixote.

You can probably get most of Grossmann’s stuff over at sovlit.com – here is their summary:

Grossman, Vasilii Life and Fate (Zhizn I sudba, 1960, pub. 1988). Panoramic work centering on the Battle of Stalingrad. Focuses mainly on the Soviet population behind the lines, but Germans, including Hitler, are also portrayed. Draws parallels between Nazism and Stalinism. Novel was arrested by KGB and not published in the USSR until 1985.

20. BiB - August 27, 2006

Sounds like a jolly old read. Maybe I’ll read a Kylie biog instead, or something of equal intellectual rigour and vigour. Or just sleep for six months. I’m slightly desperate for it to be October. (September – a million things: trips, weddings, stag-dos, aeroplanes, English airports, buses, trains. Plus the Russian away. By October, I should also have finished this translation. Aaaaarrrrgggggghhhhhh.)

21. BiB - August 27, 2006

I’m hopeless with our Latin cousins too, by the way. Give me a Russian or German any day. The Murakami is wank, but quite entertaining wank, and sometimes touching and funny. But I think one review mentioned the world’s greatest cunt, Quentin fucking Taranfuckingtino, and I haven’t been able to psychically delete the association.

22. lukeski - August 27, 2006

I shall leave you now, as I’ve just realised that I have to do my Czech homework for tomorrow – and I should really try to get up at some point tomorrow. Gute Nacht…

23. BiB - August 27, 2006

Czech homework? Tell me so much more.

Good night, and thank you for the company!

24. lukeski - August 27, 2006

Or a French, or a Pole – we hve just got masses of Central-East European fiction in that I am slowly working my way through – Bulgarian bestseller, anyone? Masses of Yugo and Magyar stuff – I’ve just been reading a book on the role of intellectuals and artists in the formation of a Southern Slavic state, and the role they played during and after Tito and the wars. Absolutely fascinating reading. God, the Slavs, a crazy bunch. What would we do without them?

25. BiB - August 27, 2006

Well, I slightly wish the homosexual contingent of Slavdom could show an emotion more than, say, once every 26 years, but otherwise, yes, I think they are a great good amongst the nations and peoples of the world. (I thought Yugo, as a ‘project’, was started by some royals or other. The Karađorđević brigade? Or did they get in on the act later?) (Still pretty high up the list to accede to the throne in old Blighty, by the way.)

26. Bowleserised - August 27, 2006

Beevor’s book about Berlin made me cry many times. I must read the one on Stalingrad too.
The dim sum at Ed’s chum’s place is mighty fine – when you’re out of the work-hell and the place has actually opened, we’ll have to go there!

27. Blonde at Heart - August 27, 2006

It is weird to comment after such a long conversation, but anyway: no, I do not know of any very famous beth knesset (that’s synagogue for you. I refuse to use this term). In Poland I visited some, but it was only to show how beautuful the building WAS and how the Nazis ruined it.

About translators being mentally-unwell: it is true, but I do not mind making my living from my craziness.

28. BiB - August 27, 2006

B., I’ll be free again one day. I’m convinced of it. Then I’m gonna drink tea and have dim sum if it kills me.

I think the Russians aren’t majorly impressed with Beevor, seeing as he wrote about Berlin events I think they’d rather weren’t mentioned. Do read A Woman in Berlin. Her relationship with various Russians is incredible. Almost comical, at times. And so extreme, which is how she finds the Russians themselves.

BAH, I’d rather apply my unwellness elsewhere. Almost anywhere else.

OK, onwards and upwards…

29. lukeski - August 27, 2006

Noch nicht fertig, then? Can you not become a P.G. Wodehouse for our generation? Or write for Plotki – they would love you as a Slavophile with the Russian in (old) East Berlin? I guees you need to find the time to do it in…

30. BiB - August 27, 2006

Only fertig in the sense of knackered.

I’m trying to be self-controlled and have shut down outlook express and am only checking e-mail/blogs/tennis scores, say, once every six minutes.

I’ve got a 500g tin of Danish biscuits giving me succour.

31. Welshy - August 27, 2006

Oh, I feel so bad for you that I almost want to pull an all-nighter in support!
My viola professor in Weimar gave me a copy of Miles Davis’s autobiog (or was it biog? not sure) when I came back to the UK. I’m not sure why he chose Miles but it was a fab read…

32. BiB - August 27, 2006

I can feel myself shrouded in dimness with every further cultural reference. I know nothing about Mr. Davis. (Was he Welsh?) And why haven’t I been to Weimar? And why do I know so little about the Weimar Republic? And I haven’t read Beevor. Or been to a beth knesset in Poland. Or even read the Kylie biog (or blog), if there is one. At the moment, I am a mean, (not) lean (I have unintentionally given up smoking because I’ve been too busy. But not too busy to eat, mysteriously), translating machine. (Have temporarily swapped from German-English to Russian-English, and it’s a tea-party in comparison, let me tell you.)

33. Welshy - August 28, 2006

Everyone should go to Weimar! Everyone! It is too beautiful not to. Go! Now, in fact – no translation could be that important, surely?!

PS I don’t think he was Welsh. Davis is spelt wrong if he was…

34. BiB - August 28, 2006

I’d adore to go to Weimar now. Once, pretending we were in a film, my ex and I woke up of a summer’s morn – we were students at the time, so could allow ourselves such fripperies as this – and decided that, rather than go to our horrid summer jobs, we’d go to France. And we did. That day. Bliss.

Well, just another couple of days’ utterly boring slog, and then I’ll get fantasising.

35. Blonde at Heart - August 28, 2006

The best cure to boring translations is to pretend they are very important. It usually helps me with long, boring editorials where every word in them was said elsewhere.
Fool yourself a little and in no time the translation will be done.

36. BiB - August 28, 2006

BAH, yes, that sounds like a good trick. Sometimes, I think as deadlines loom, I can get myself ‘into the zone’, so to speak, where I just become a mindless robot and that’s sort of OK. Yesterday, I managed to do about quadruple the work I’d done the previous however many days combined. Oh well, today and tomorrow it’s more of the same, and tomorrow, perhaps this is just as well, as my beloved abandons me FOR A MONTH. At least I won’t notice for the first couple of days…

37. Blonde at Heart - August 29, 2006

Where is he going? (and why you do not join him?)

38. BiB - August 29, 2006

He’s just gone to Russia (via Finland). I don’t know why I never join him. Well, he doesn’t really invite me to Russia, perhaps knowing that I don’t want to go. Maybe I’ll go again one day, though I don’t currently feel like making an effort to get a Russian visa. I’d rather stay in Berlin.

39. Blonde at Heart - August 29, 2006

To get a visa really makes the whole thing less spontanious and fun. Have a good time on your own, do all the things he hates you do, eat all he does not like and you do, etc. It may be fun after all.

40. BiB - August 29, 2006

Yes, I’m already thinking I might not even make the bed as perfectly as if it was in some horrible chain hotel, which he insists upon. I wish it wasn’t so freezing, then there’d be more of a holiday atmosphere.

41. Bowleserised - August 29, 2006

I predict that by the end of the month you’ll be fed up with a messy bed and have begun to make it all spinky-spanky every day.

I just made up spinky spanky, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

42. BiB - August 29, 2006

The Russian has this idea that the bed, as just itself, is unpresentable, so there is this extra cosmetic blanket thing which is placed on the bed every morning – to cover the bedding – and then removed every night. Which I think is an awful waste of time and labour. I don’t think a duvet is anything to be ashamed of. I’ll hurl the duvet on vaguely neatly and that’ll be my lot. I’m greatly looking forward to the reduced washing up. (The Russian uses four saucepans to make a slice of toast.) But not to my diet for the month. Though, hopefully, bananas and weetabix will see the Bauch drop off. But I need to start smoking again. Am eating like a horse since accidentally provisionally giving up.

43. chendaberry - August 29, 2006

Bananas make you fat.

44. BiB - August 29, 2006

Chen, you don’t MEAN it! Or do you? I got thin on them once, but I think it was because I ate nothing (or little) else for some months. Actually, I was thinking of vaguely blogging about that. Weight and boyfriends and being deported around the globe. I’ll see what I can do…

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