Monday, October 19, 2009


The first snow of the season was on the 12th of October, it snowed the next day, too. This is a good omen, my dad said: for once, the the snow came before Pokrov, it means the winter will come soon. Cold, snowy winter is what we want, it's what makes the next year's crops come in stronger. Although Pokrov is celebrated as a Russian Orthodox holiday on October 1st by the "old" church calendar and on October 14th by the current Gregorian calendar, the holiday predates Christianity, it comes from older slavic pagan feasts marking the end of the harvest season. And indeed, the harvest has been harvested: last weekend, my friend Konstantin helped me and my dad to gather apples from our apple tree. The type of apples we grow is called "autumn stripes" and, as far as I know, it's unique to Petersburg? Russia? Former SU? Europe? In any case, I know of no "Western" equivalent to this yellow and red striped apple, tart and sweet, hard at first and softer the more ripe it gets.

When we arrived to the country house this weekend, the snow was still on the ground. In the city, the first snow melts right away: the earth is still warm, and the air temperature is above freezing. But in the country it always stays longer. It lay on the grass still green (later in the fall it grows dirt-colored), on the trees that have only began yellowing, on the blooming roses and hydrangeas in my mom's garden. "Ikebana Russian style," joked my parents' friend who has just returned from a holiday in Barcelona where she was swimming in the Mediterranean and sunbathing. My dad and I were going to replant a young chestnut tree -- we had replanted one two weekends ago, but the second one was left over -- and will probably stay left over until the spring. Everyone is predicting a long, harsh winter.

We spent the night and then returned to the city Sunday evening to attend Roman Viktiuk's staging of Jean Genet's play The Maids. Viktiuk stages dramatic repertoire Meyerkhold style, with actors whose faces are masked (painted white, in this case) and movements are choreographed and turn into dances several times during the performance: it's as far removed from representational theatre as anything I have seen on stage. The only problem, this staging is quite old: they first performed it in 1988, and it seems they haven't updated it very much since then. All four of us (my brother included) fell asleep at different points of the production. The play ended with a dance routine to retro music, including for some reason what sounded like a Turkish melody (none of us could tell what language it was) and male dancers dressed in Genie-style robes. Why?? What was this a commentary on? The repertoire of this troupe also includes M.Butterfly, and so they should know all about East-West sexual/power stereotypes, but I can't figure out how this relates to Jean Genet.

Sometimes the local habit of reading between the lines makes us blind to the actual words on the page. My mom says that in Viktiuk's interpretation, this play aquired a dimension of relevant political commentary ("the slaves must always hate each other"), but I wonder if this is not happening at the expense of the play itself.

I am taking a night train to Moscow tonight, will spend 2 days there and will return on another night train Thursday morning. Before I leave today I must replace my cell phone. Yes, one more thing broke during this trip: my Russian cell phone. It has served me for 6 years, and it's mostly working still -- except now whenever I receive or make phone calls, all I hear is silence. And what is there to do in Moscow without a working cell phone?

1 comment:

  1. the falling asleep is hilarious. great writing, Olga. you have to publish this stuff on paper somewhere....