Saturday, May 04, 2019

Disquiet In The Soul

Here are the Kindle notes I highlighted from the book I finished recently: Soul by Andrey Platonov.

Background: It's 1935 Russia, a writer is sent to find and reunite the cultural people of his youth, who had been dispersed and lost in the deserts between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. They don't want to be found, however, don't want to be reunited. They haven't the will to live or the energy to die. And yet...

Sound depressing? Well, it isn'... OK, well it is a little bit. Naturally I loved it, mainly for lines like these:


"We can live without thinking anything and pretend we’re not us.”

There are no living people here, only people who haven’t yet died.

They sat on the ground and fell into thought, even though, given their advanced years, they had already had more than enough time to think everything through and arrive at truth.

Sigh. I should be wise by now.

“Things just say themselves in my mouth—I don’t know why.”

...from them came the sounds of ... people carrying on their old discourse with one another, an eternal conversation, as if they lacked the wit to come to a definite conclusion and fall silent.

...this master of samovars was unable to forget what, even just once, had touched his heart, and anyway life is too short — you can’t forget everything.

The song told how every human being has their own pitiful dream, some beloved insignificant feeling, that separates them from everyone else — and this is how the life inside us closes our eyes to the world, to other people, and to the beauty of the flowers that live in the sands in spring.

"I’m not a rich man, I’ve nowhere to live but my own body.”


You get the idea.


Doesn't that all sound like Fernando Pessoa? His Book of Disquiet - I've blogged about him before - sits on my bedside table. The Portuguese multi-poet-personality from the same era as Platinov. It must be a modernism thing. I wonder if anyone has ever linked them before?

Here are some Pessoa quotes (pasted from Goodreads, not me - you want me to get up, go to the bedside table 12 feet away, pick up the book and find some quotes myself? What are you on? OK maybe later.):

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life.”

“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd - The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”

“No intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed in with it”

You get the idea. Life is shit, people are shit, but hey, Tim Tams make an excellent chocolate straw for your white Russians, and someone else is always more unhappy with things than you are (or are pretending to be).

Pretending? Just ask



James said...

Those quotes hit home, rather hard. I have never heard of these two but added both to my to-read pile. Such compacted wisdom and insight. Lately I've been depressed and angered by all the Intelligent Commentators on social media and elsewhere who brag about their reading lists and point out that they don't read fiction.

expat@large said...

Thanks for you comments James. Nothing like reading depressing literature to cheer you up, I always say. It's a schadenfreude thing.
Pessoa is a modern legend, but so many lines in Platinov just stunned me.

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