Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Story of a Life - post I

The blurb on the dust jacket makes the claim that what Boris Pasternak managed to do for Siberia Paustovsky is able to do for Southern Russia. So far though there has not been too much of a chance for the countryside to breathe as the chapters fly by and it has rather too much of an episodic feel to it without the depth that you want in certain places.

For instance the book starts with Paustovsky rushing to get to his dying father who is living on a flood cut-off island and he manages to get there before he dies and is told with the dying man’s last words: “I’m afraid…your lack of character…will destroy you.” You want to know why the father might feel that and hopefully the answers will come out in the rest of the book.

Bullet points between pages 1 – 58

* After travelling to see his father for the last time and take place in the burial Paustovsky who is not a boy but is not that old either – probably early twenties starts to look back over his life

* He starts by explaining why the family home was on an island farm that was linked to the rest of the village via a flood prone causeway and recalls how his father came there to live knowing that he only had a few years to live and died of cancer

* In his childhood Paustovsky remembers telling a local peasant girl that he took shelter in his grandfather’s hut in a storm that he would marry her only to overhear his aunt telling someone else that she had consumption and would die

* He remembers his other grandparents who lived in Chenstokhov and the old man was kept in a room because he chained smoked and he ruffled his hair as a greeting and as the total of his conversation

* Because this is the time of the Tsar there are references not only to the social system with those family members looking for advancement joining the civil service or the army and there is a story about his Uncle who spent sometime in Japan and China and his mixed loyalties during the 1905 war between Russia and Japan

* Then there are the gypsies that Paustovsky becomes friends with and his dedication to helping one particular family even melts his mother’s heart and she also goes to visit them and give them charity

More tomorrow…

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