A would-be Russian

If I believed in former lives, I would believe that in a former life I was a 19th century Russian.

I’m 7/8 Swedish and 1/8 Norwegian, but in my heart I am more closely related to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky than I am to Ingmar Bergman and Henrik Ibsen. Back in high school, I read War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov for the first time. In college, I went on a Tolstoy binge that lasted years. I’ve read many of the Russian classics since then, and I’m especially attached to Tolstoy’s folk tales. I even wrote a play for kids based on some of them.

So Diane and I took the kids to The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis to see a play yesterday. The play was okay. It was called Masha and the Bear and was based on a Russian folktale. It was hard to find the folktale behind all the contemporary American references and second-rate Broadway-style songs. We all enjoyed it anyway.

The best part of the day was viewing the paintings in the museum, which were huge realist works by a guy named Geli Korzhev (I think). On the lower level of the museum (which is a converted church sanctuary) were paintings from the Soviet era (error). It was a mixture of stuff that could’ve been used for propaganda and stuff that was probably an attempt to be subversive of communism. Powerful images of wounded soldiers, a dead child, old poor folks, and Lenin. Upstairs were paintings about Don Quixote and pictures of Biblical subjects and themes. It was interesting to see a Soviety-era artist’s representation of Adam and Eve and Judas. The Don Quixote paintings made me want to read that book. I always liked the musical Man of La Mancha, but it’s easier to watch a two-hour movie than to read a 1000-page 500-year-old Spanish novel.

There was a gift shop where the kids got a free treat for attending the play. I walked around and felt like it was the work of my ancestors, more so than those Dala horses, anyway.


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