The process of “Russification” is almost as old as Russia itself, yet to see it take shape in the present day can be quite distressing. In particular, Vladimir Putin’s recent proposal in Nezavisimaya Gazeta — in which the prime minister called for a “Russian canon” of literary works — has some people worried about its insidious potential for propaganda. Count Alexander Nazaryan among that group.
On August 1st, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia. Also, Franz Kafka went swimming. Moreover, the Metamorphosis author mentioned both events in his diary, writing simply and strangely that “Germany has declared war on Russia — went swimming in the afternoon.” Was this odd phrasing intentional or a sign of the author’s self-absorption? In an article for Open Letters Monthly, Robert Minto reads all three volumes of Reiner Stach’s new biography.
“A very proper letter (‘scrutinized and corrected by the magazine’s fact checkers and proofreaders,’ wrote the Times) was sent to [Robert] Gottlieb, beseeching him to decline the [New Yorker] job,” writes Elon Green in his overview of Gottlieb’s brief stint as the magazine’s editor. How would you feel if Donald Barthelme, Deborah Eisenberg, Ian Frazier, Jamaica Kincaid, Janet Malcolm, J.D. Salinger, and 148 others all told you, “don’t come” to your new job?