Friday, February 14, 2014

Yes, no, maybe, perhaps

Malianov's wife is away, and a friend of hers comes to stay:
...then he poured her another glass of wine. The decision to toast the use of the informal Russian personal pronoun for "you" came up. Without the kissing. Why should there be kissing between two intelligent people? The important thing was spiritual rapport. They drank to using the informal "you" and spoke of spiritual closeness, new methods of birth deliveries, and about the differences among courage, bravery, and valor. The Riesling was finished, and Malianov put the empty bottle out on the balcony and went over the bar for some cabernet. They decided to drink the cabernet out of Irina's favorite smoked crystal glasses, which they chilled first. The conversation on femininity, which came up after the one on manliness and bravery, went very well with the icy red wine. They wondered what asses had decreed that red wine should never be chilled. They discussed the question. Isn't it true that iced red win is particularly good? Yes, absolutely. By the way, women who drink icy red wine become particularly beautiful. They resemble witches somewhere. Where precisely? Somewhere. A marvelous word — somewhere. "You are a pig somewhere." I love that expression. By the way, speaking of witches — what do you think marriage is? A real marriage. An intelligent marriage. Marriage is a contract. Malianov refilled the glasses and developed the thought. In the aspect that a man and wife are first of all friends, for whom friendship is the most important think. Honesty and friendship. Marriage is a friendship. A contract on friendship, understand? He had his hand on Lidochka's bare knee and was shaking it for emphasis.

I am thus far loving Definitely Maybe, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. I love the drunken trajectory of this particular passage.

(I'm slightly puzzled by the pig expression, though, and the use of "somewhere." Perhaps the translation is too literal here. I'll have to ask around. In Polish you can use "somewhere" as an exclamatory expression signifying something between indifference and disbelief. Perhaps something similar is going on here.)

It was originally published in English under the title A Billion Years Before the End of the World. I don't know the rationale for the title change to Definitely Maybe, but I can't help but be reminded of Kraftwerk's 1986 classic, Sex Objekt. (That album is now my reading soundtrack.)

NPR review.

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