November 01, 2018

Looking for Tolstoy

My Russian tutor, Dina, believes in teaching her students “monologues,” verbal islands from which we can paddle out and demonstrate our conversational and grammatical range. While I read Russian daily, I almost never speak it – out of shyness and fear of making mistakes. Dina’s goal is to get me comfortable enough to not fuss over mistakes, believing it is better to have listeners smile at my mistakes than to shake their heads in frustration as I clench up. Here is the monologue (more or less) that we crafted before I set off for Samara last summer:

I always wanted to go to Samara, for the simple reason that Tolstoy went there several times (more precisely seven times) in the 1970s of the century before last.

Tolstoy adored this place, that is, the farm on the steppes. He loved the Bashkirs and Kirghiz. At that time, they often had it very hard, because there was a famine. Tolstoy helped them as much as he could. He bought horses from them, bustled about for them, and spent a lot of time with them.

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