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Tout va très bien Madame la Marquise March 16, 2009

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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The Russian, who has asked that I refer to him here as ‘my lovely husband’, but I have had to stick to the old version, call me anal, because while he is, by all accounts, almost unbearably lovely, he is not technically my husband, and we can’t just go around lying to all and sundry, is away. I don’t think, even though it isn’t a family trip and he is still somewhere on Germany’s hallowed soil, it’s a complicated ruse for the sake of an affair. Ostensibly, it’s to do with academia. Going off somewhere to do study in a group. Can you imagine anything more ghastly?

The trouble being, of course, his fellow students. The Russian had the misfortune to meet me at a tender age. Though perhaps any age would have been a misfortune, though naturally I tell him on an almost daily basis that I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to him. And the trouble with youthfulness, and my being older, is that he must have, at some unhealthy level, held me in some sort of esteem. Not my words or opinions, necessarily. But in the early days of our courtship, shortly before emancipation of the serfs and just as Avdotya Potapovna was about lo leave our service, I suppose I was, technically, the grown-up. The one with a job and some qualifications behind me. And, fatefully/fatally, for the Russian’s future happiness, translation was the profession this exotic grown-up, whom he also happened to be in love with, was beholden to.

When it came to emigrating from St. Petersburg and the Russian deciding what to study in Berlin, the only way of him staying here or, indeed, getting here in the first place if we wanted to play Germany by the book, which we did, neither of us having an imagination, call me strict, but I don’t think the Russian took the procedure all that seriously. There was a couple of minutes of fingering through the university prospectus. “Mongolian Studies?” “Darling, don’t be ridiculous.” “Scandinavian Studies?” “Darling, do you even like foreign languages especially? Why not something computery? You love computers. Or proper cooky-cheffy training. You’re a whizz in the kitchen.” “Translation?”

Without hesitation or explanation, I went to St. Isaac’s Cathedral to throw myself off the dome but was thwarted by the entry price, which was 400 times more expensive for foreigners than for Russians, and then counted my blessings that poverty had prolonged my life on this occasion and made my way home to reason with the Russian. “If you study translation in Germany, you’ll go blind from the glint off all the translatrices’ glasses within the first term,” I prepared internally as my killer punchline, deciding against throwing myself in a canal as a plan B as I remembered Rasputin’s ignominious end. Anyway, I can swim.

“Darling, if you study translation in Germany, you’ll go blind from the glint off all the translatrices’ glasses within the first term,” I remonstrated, the padded inner front door barely closed behind me. Silence. I was pleased that the Russian was stunned so by my excellent reasoning. Only to find a note tucked between the samovar and the collected works of Vladimir Ilyich.

“Gone post-office. I choose tryenslayshn for staady. I syend off epplikayshn.”

Forty years later and here we are, the Russian allegedly nearing the end of his studies. And thank heavens, for the world needs as many translators as it can get.

“All going well down there?” I wrote to inquire, assuming this translation outing must be taking place as close to hell as geographically feasible. “Or have you been blinded by the glint off translatrices’ glasses?”

“Almost blind,” came his immediate reply, only to be followed by a stream of incomprehensible typos, a translatrix with particularly dazzling eye-wear having presumably loomed into view.

While alone, I have worried my inability to be a grown-up might have terrible consequences. In a chaos-theory, butterfly-effect way. That, say, I might wobble my body along in an attempt at rhythm to Good Shoes and that the current of air created by my flapping double chins might make the curtains billow and catch light off a candle and before you know it the whole castle house would have burnt down.

I’ll probably be all right though.