Friday, August 15, 2008

Bucketfuls of Experience

Most of my reading in the past month has been in philosophy, pleasant in its way, but since some of the books were rather difficult I decided to switch gears for a moment to catch my breath before beginning the last few on my list. So I am re-reading Mykhalo Osadchy's CATARACT. It is the account of his arrest, trial and imprisonment for the crime of reading an article written in his native tongue of Ukranian. The "internationalist" policy at the time required those in all Soviet lands to use Russian.

Despite the horror of the situation, his account so wonderfully mocks the mediocrity of a system that imprisons poets that the whole tenor of the book is uplifting rather than depressing. One comes away outraged at the powers, but thoroughly encouraged by the persistence of beauty even in brutality and squalor and rotten cabbage soup.

In the following episode he relates the reaction of the Jewish/Russian poet Yuli Daniel to a vicious mauling by a group of guards.

"They're afraid I'll complain and they'll get hell. They think I'll complain." Daniel is cradling his injured hand on his breast. "Those cowards are afraid. They couldn't control the animal that's inside them. It would be ridiculous to go and complain. I have suffered, but I will bear my pain alone. I don't want to lessen it with a pitiful gesture of revenge. The pain will go away the way your love for a woman goes away when you find her in bed with another man. I need this pain as much as I need those odd zeks [prisoners] who ask me to recite poetry and who doze off when I begin to read. Laughter in paradise. I'll be free someday, and I don't want to come out empty-handed. I'd rather be carrying two bucketfuls of experience when I meet people."

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