From Russia With Love …. Part 4: He stood and dreamt a mighty dream
So now I can tell you that Moscow is lovely first thing in the morning. After a lazy weekend, Two Brains is up and off to work at 08:30. Me, I wander. I feel. I go and spend some time with Pushkin – the beloved father of Russian Literature as most Russians will tell you. One of the great romantics, I need hardly mention that his most famous works are Boris Gudinov which had us as teenaged tikes in class making silly jokes about whether Boris really was good enough – happy days but faced with his statue in his square overlooking the lovely gardens across from the 8-lane highway, the plinth covered in floral tributes from a people who embrace literature in the way we all should but generally don’t I feel not so clever. The statue is immense, they all are here, and it is rather lovely
– he is depicted tousel-haired, clad as every good poet should be. Indeed, those poets who adopt the stereotyped worn velvet jackety, floppy shirty, caped, deconstructed hatty look are actually aping Pushkin even though they may not realise it. I remember studying Eugene Onegin and falling in love with the young poet Vladimir Lensky … staring at the statue, recalling the narrator and knowing that it was a thinly veiled fictionalisation of Pushkins public persona I am still the starry eyed youngster that I hope I never leave behind. Some describe me kindly as unerringly positive, some less kindly as naive but I protect my romantic spirit against the evils of cynicism at all costs. Lensky for me was the embodiment of that romantic soul and I stand for a while, reminded. I can also close my eyes and see the frankly gorgeous Ralph Fiennes when he played the eponimous hero, Yevgeni, in the movie 15 or so years ago.
Later we take ourselves to Patriki (Patriarshiye Prudy – Patriarchs Ponds). I had to go. Mikael Bulgakov is absolutely one of my literary idles and this is where he lived, where The Master and Marguerita starts with a tram incident by the pond and much of the action is placed here. Its a pretty place and there are many workers sitting taking in the late afternoon sun (it gets warmer day by day here and is now over 70 degrees) drinking, smoking but not creating filth. Children with their mamushi and babushki are playing. We are used to the clean-ness by now. We find what I am looking for – not the statue to Ivan Krylov, Russias best know Fabulist and it has to be said a man of magnificent girth but rather the spoof road-sign – one of two that a disgruntled Bulgakov fan put up because the authorities were stoically refusing to recognise the man with a statue of his own
– it shows Professor Woland and his henchmen and declares that talking with strangers is prohibited. You will understand if you have read The Master and Maguerita. There was talk that the prefecture was going to have them removed but as of late 2012 it has been decreed that one of the two will stay. I’m glad. That the book was unsettling was intentional of course (it concerns the Devil himself visiting Moscow and raising hell for a couple of days and was written over a 12 year period spanning the 1930s but not actually published in book form til 1967). But unsettling or not the book and the author are up their with the greats of Russian literature. What amused us most is the fact that lurking amongst all the characters on the friezes which so clearly depict Krylovs fables are some that are actually from Bulgakov (slipped in by an educated artist with a strong will and a sense of humour, I think).
Having walked and walked and walked (the Patriki are not marked and not easy to find) we walked and walked and walked back towards base all the while looking for a restaurant. Rudely shunning the Bavarian paradise we plumped instead for an Italian (this is like any other city – the hardest thing to find is a Russian Restaurant though Two Brains chose Stroganov which is not necessarily Italian I think). Food was good, it generally is here, their home-made wine far too drinkable but the waitress oh she was the delight. Sweet, kind, smiling and with the grace of a dancer she was quite captivating and the fact that I had puddng was entirely down to her charming manner. Back in our room and I took my converse off to find my feet were bleeding from all the walking in the heat. The last time this happened was the day I met Two Brains and we walked and talked for hours. I can only conclude that this means I had the perfect day – I felt it so.
PS: The title is a line from The Bronze Horseman by Alexandr Poushkin