This is meant as an informal blog.
When it comes to religious items, I would stress that these are my personal opinions, and not those of the Russian Orthodox Church which I belong to.
Most of what I write is 'friends only' (pod zankom). This is because the informal rules governing public questioning of Church positions are considerably tighter in Russia than they are in Western Europe. There is no tradition of 'loyal dissent' as there is in the Anglo-Saxon world. Which is why I am fairly careful before opening the door.
Russian friends: feel free to comment in your own language... I read Russian, but writing is just too difficult...
Для русских гостей -
Вы можете оставлять комментарии на русском языке, избегая слишком сложных и слэнговых оборотов.
Также в ответ на мои комментарии на английском можно отвечать по-русски.
This is meant as an informal blog.
Out in my ‘desert’, a hard-to-access square kilometre of Belgium, I ask myself what shape the ‘holy man’ or ‘holy woman’ (in Orthodox language staretz/staritsa [RU] or gerondas/gerondissa [GR]) should take today.
I suspect increasingly that his/her skills need to go beyond any particular Christian confession, and perhaps indeed beyond Christianity itself.
His/her task, it seems to me, ( Collapse )
This line of thinking crosses with the whole question of ‘unity’. How do we attain this unity which, we are told, is God’s dearest wish for us? ( Collapse )
This left me with two days less than planned to translate a text from the head of the Brussels Museum of Fine Arts, who is notoriously difficult to translate: his theorizing in rich, high-flying French, sends even me, who reckon to read French as well as any educated native, running for the dictionary. It is a style which allows a writer to conceal approximations and dubious logic behind a finely worked façade, which English readers hate and the English translator inevitably smashes in trying to extract the root ideas. The deadline this time, was imperative, they are already late with printing for a major upcoming exhibition. Panic for three days, everything else, apart from mid-week trip to the country, on hold to make sure it will be completed on time. It will be.
All this begs the question of whether Christianity as we know it will be able to espouse this underlying current, accepting to die to certain no longer viable formats, and to resurrect in new ones. For the spiritually sensitive, this of course begs the question of whether this reformatting is ‘of God’ or not. I am increasingly prepared to wager that much of it is, and that standing, bible or cross in hand, trying to halt a rising tide, is an exercise in futility.
A more complex question for me – and here I admit to being at my own boundaries and operating more at the level of intuition right now – is that I sense this substrate to be full of very powerful energy – a bit like the magma which swirls under the earth’s crust and can break out in volcanoes –itself morally neutral, which it is mankind’s task to harness for good or bad, for weal or woe. It is the energy that demagogues from Napoleon to Hitler to Trump instinctively tap into, but which we ‘good boys’ feel rather helpless to direct. Is there, I ask, a form of very deep prayer – symbolized for me by Mount Athos, hermit prayer and the lone priest saying daily mass – which feeds into this underlying current, and which is essential to keep this energy flowing in a positive way for the world?
Christin and Erlend in Liv Ullman's 1995 film version
The description of the plot in Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kristin_Lavransdatter) makes them sound like pretty nasty characters. But even so, I found the book enormously attractive, perhaps as much in the supporting characters as in the central ones. One senses Undset to be remarkably accurate in portraying the mindset of medieval society, the interplay of formal and informal morality, of law and custom, of religion and superstition, and at its best, a redeeming humanity and goodness. The book moves quickly, especially if you skip some of the nature descriptions, with memorable scenes which you replay in your mind. The ‘feel’ of the book in not unsimilar to Ken Follett’s ‘Pillars of the Earth’, but, for me, richer and more powerful. It comes as no surprise to learn that Undset was received into the Catholic Church (in a staunchly Protestant country), shortly after completing the trilogy. Simply it is a book that I feel better for having read.
I read the first two volumes in the Archer and Scott translation done in the 1920s and the third in the new Penguin Classics translation by Tina Nunnally released in 2005. I definitely prefer the latter, with Archer-Scott’s scattered archaicism which cloud Undset’s clear (so I am told) prose. The first translators also omitted or edited some sexually explicit passages which could have given trouble in their day – an area in which Undset was remarkably forward for her day.
And yes, thankyou for Bishop Seraphim for introducing me to the book.
I muttered to myself on putting the final correct touches to the new bookshelf.
I’m looking forward to re-arranging our books, putting our pretty full collections of French, German and Russian literature all together, and also the Classics texts (Latin and Greek) which we have picked over the years, many off the floor of the flea-market in old French school editions. Makes me feel civilized
I just hope the floor can stand the weight: 24 metres of bookshelves is between 1200 and 1800 books, or around 500 to 800 kilos. Yes, there are a few carpentry mistakes, but I hope that the wow-factor will cover them.
This is me in my woodworking shop in the basement of our house. A controlled chaos in which you can just about swing a 6-foot plank. It started as a makeshift arrangement seven or eight years ago, when I purchased my first workbench and circular saw, and has remained so ever since. Since then I have put together an almost complete range of tools, both hand (many of them from the flea market) and machine.
In fact, joinery is my only occupation that I am officially trained and certified for. I have no degree in translation nor in theology, with which I have earned my living and (perhaps) my salvation over the past half-century.
I’m in the middle of a major project, which I will hopefully complete next week. More pictures then.
I suspect that we have, at least among the educated part of the population once beyond the neophyte stage, to move from ‘teach’ and ‘preach’ to ‘exchange' and 'dialogue’.
Perhaps some divine power should insist that you or I be required to read a book by someone else that for every book of yours or mine that someone reads. My publisher has told me that my one and only book has sold 300 copies so far. Have I read 300 books by other people over the past 10 years?