Saturday, June 22, 2013

They believed in this paper with all their might

I fell into a vivid and deep sleep: I dreamed I was in literature class at my gymnasium; I was sitting, as usual, at the desk with Shtiurmer; the classroom was flooded with rays of sunlight; outside the clean windows it was the beginning of summer; utter silence reigned in the classroom; the only thing audible was the scratching of pens and the measured steps of our literature teacher Vikenty Semyonovich, walking slowly between the rows as we wrote a final composition. I understood that this dream was from my old life long forgotten by me; for that reason it seemed funny and pitiful, but I was watching it because I was very tired; everyone is sitting, leaning over their desks; before me is a sheet of lined paper with the blue insignia of our school in the corner; my hand writes the title of the composition on it, "Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky"; I dip the pen into the inkwell, hold it over the paper, and suddenly realize that I have completely forgotten who Dostoevsky is; I raise my head and see the large portrait of Dostoevsky leaning against the classroom blackboard; I look at it intently; but the more intently I look, the more clearly I realize — before me is the depiction of a bearded, gloomy man with a massive forehead, who is entirely unknown to me; he gazes at me seriously. I look around: everyone is writing compositions about Dostoevsky; I try to remember and understand: What did this gloomy gentlemen do? Why are we writing an essay about him? Who is he? But my memory is silent; not knowing what to do, I glance at my classmates: they are wasting time, I nudge Shtiurmer with my elbow; he turns unwillingly: "Who is that?" I ask, pointing at the portrait with my eyes; he retrieves a thick book from his desk — the collected works of Dostoevsky — and hands it to me; I take it, open it, and suddenly realize clearly that this book, the sum of life of the bearded man with the serious gaze, is only paper covered with combinations of letters: it is about this book, this paper covered with letters, that we are writing our final exam essay. Only about paper — and nothing else! Everything becomes incredibly funny to me, now that I have to describe this paper in an essay; I start laughing and interrupt the dream.

Lifting my head, I opened my eyes: I was in the reading room. But in actuality, I was sleeping. And was already in another dream. All around sat the same people and the quiet rustle of paper. I raised my eyes. Four large portraits hung in their places. But instead of the writers in frames, there were strange machines. They were created for writing books, that is, for covering thousands of pages of paper with combinations of letters. I realized that this was the dream that I wanted to see. The machines in the frames produced paper covered with letters, that was their work. The people sitting at these tables were engaged in another kind of work: they believed in this paper with all their might, they measured their life and learned how to live from this paper — learned how to feel, love, worry, calculate, create, solve problems, and build, in order to teach others later how to live according to this paper.

— from Bro, first book of Ice Trilogy, by Vladimir Sorokin.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever going to finish this book. For something that reads so seemingly swiftly, it is incredibly dense and slow going.

The book begins June 30, 1908. The Tunguska Event awakened the primordial light that existed before time. It fell to Earth and evolved and seeped into life. It could now be found in the form of 23,000 human beings scattered across the Earth. Alexander, born the day of the Event, was part of Kulik's expedition to search for the meteorite, and he was awakened and became Bro. He spends the bulk of the first book of the trilogy searching for and awakening his brothers and sisters in light. Many of their activities are possible only because they have the cover of official Party business.

The above excerpt is interesting as it represents a new kind of awareness. Bro has been able to recognize light and non-light, but now he is suddenly able to see into things and into people to see their true nature. Plus it's a direct attack on Russian Literature. The whole of this chapter is pretty awesome actually. Bro discovers that man is a meat machine.

I can't say I'm not curious to see how the trilogy plays out, but it's going to take me a while.

Review: Lizok's Bookshelf

Related: Big Bang in Tunguska (documentary)

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