November 01, 2004

The Discreet Charm of Avos

The Discreet Charm of Avos

Fatalism (фатализм) is widely considered one of the most indispensable Russian character traits. Human lives are geared in one direction or other by fate (судьба), chance (случай), luck (удача) and other mysterious, supernatural (сверхъестественный) forces. A person is not responsible for her own actions; she can only watch life take unpredictable (непредсказуемый) twists and turns and either exclaim blissfully “Как мне повезло!” (“How lucky I am!”) or sigh with regret, “Как меня угораздило!” (“How could I have ended up this way!”).

Note the use of the impersonal, passive voice here: the pronoun is not я (I), but меня (me).

I lost my wallet (“Я потерял кошелёк”). No, why take the blame for the wallet’s mysterious disappearance? There is always a safer way to put it. The wallet was lost (“Кошелёк потерялся”). Fate should have it this way. “Так получилось.”

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