Columbia University Press

Propaganda, the Absurd, and the Truth in Andrei Platonov’s Plays

In post-Communist Bulgaria, where I grew up, I often encountered traces of the fallen regime’s language. Houses marked “Exemplary Home” with a special blue plaque. Old newspapers reporting that agricultural brigades had overfulfilled their quotas. An inscription on a monument claiming that our republic needs friendship with the USSR just as every living being needs air and sunlight. The most ridiculous slogans, once posted on factory walls, are now circulated as internet jokes: "Communism is inevitable." "Every jar of compote: a fist in the face of imperialism!"
Columbia University Press

The Conflict between North and South Korea, on an Intimate Scale

The plot unfolds over a few days in Yanji—in a hotel, a couple of restaurants, and on the bank of the Tumen River, which separates North Korea and China. In addition to the two long-lost brothers, we meet a Chinese Korean woman from Yanji who is bitter about the prejudice she experienced in the South; the overly zealous “Mr. Reunification,” who bores his companions with his utopian pronouncements; and a cynical businessman engaged in mysterious trade with the North.
Columbia University Press

Existentialism, the Russian Soul, and the Modern Metropolis

The figure of the nineteenth-century urban explorer, popularized by the likes of Charles Baudelaire and Walter Benjamin, embodied a new, detached way of being. The Parisian flaneur would drift through the crowds, keeping a low profile, and record small dramas of urban life such as a prostitute negotiating with a client, flirtations in private boxes at the opera, or the bodies of wretched folk pulled daily out of the Seine. Like a detective without a case, the flaneur would stroll down the tree-lined boulevards or sit in cafes, cool and alert, observing the new social relations and the overall waning of affect. Not so in Russia, judging by Alexei Remizov’s 1910 tale, Sisters of the Cross. In Remizov’s novel, Marakulin, an unemployed clerk, finds a reason for living in being present for those around him and witnessing their suffering.
Ant Rozetsky

St. Petersburg, Capital of the Nineteenth Century

The protagonist of Sisters of the Cross, Marakulin, falls on hard times and leaves his nice apartment in the Burkov House to move into a rented room three floors up. This change in circumstances gives him a new perspective on the city. He is exposed to the city’s noise — “that wearisome sound of iron hitting against stone,” and to black soot that accumulates between his windowpanes. Burkov House’s various faces reveal the strikingly different life-worlds contained within St. Petersburg’s fabric.

Пиеро, добрият пират

Имало едно време един пират. Той се казвал Пиеро Златния зъб. Неговият кораб също си имал име - Лорета Скъсаното платно. Пиеро бил порядъчен пират, при това капитан на малък екипаж от пирати. Весело си живеел той със своите събратя; обикалял седемте морета, ограбвал стотици кораби, пиел грог и се веселял с екипажа си под звуците на акордеон и една вехта цигулка, задигната от Венеция.
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