Friday, March 16, 2007

Day 8, Moscow: Feeling Rough

Coincidences, dead souls, bloody Ellingham, tat, Sauna Blues

Wake at 9.30 and, as the boys are still asleep, decide to get some serious holiday reading done, as I’d only got through one book so far – Philip Roth’s The Counterlife. Manage to get through 125 pages of Haruki Murukami’s A Wild Sheep Chase before Jamie had got out of bed. I WIN. This is my seventh Murukami, which is weird, as The Counterlife was also the seventh book I’ve read by Roth. Also weird: when I was on holiday in Morocco last year, I read novels by Murukami and Roth as well. Also also weird: these novels seem about as non-Russian as you can get, and yet the former namechecks Dostoevsky on several occasions, while the latter liberally quotes Tolstoy. Spooky.


We head over to the south-west of the city to see the Novodevichiy cemetery. There are famous people buried here, though they’re a bit tricky to spot, as the graveyard is pretty packed with, like, graves and stuff. We missed Stanislavsky, Kropotkin, Eisenstein, Scriabin and Prokofiev, but caught Gogol, Chekhov, Yuri Nikulin (a famous Russian entertainer) Nadezhda Allileuva (Stalin’s wife), Shostakovich and Kruschev.

Yuri've got to be kidding

The President's death
was a Kruschev blow

Gogol, Gogol, Gogol. Oi oi oi!

Apparently when historians checked out Gogol’s grave later on, they found claw marks on the inside of the coffin – he’d been inadvertently buried alive. Oops!


After a rather extravagant lunch involving seafood and caviar, we pop back to Izmaylovo market for some souvenir buying. Except we don’t, getting out at the wrong stop, thanks to a Metro station mislabelling by the Rough Guide. Jamie suggests that “Rough Guide” signifies “Not entirely precise guide”. My confidence in the venerable Mark Ellingham (RG founder) is briefly shaken. But it turns out well, as I end up taking a few rather nice pictures of Izmaylovo Park with my still-image capturing equipment:

We head to the market and buy things that will probably look tacky when we get home. The afternoon ends with another strange coincidence. Only the day before, while watching Stanley Kubrick’s directorial debut The Killing, I’d started talking about a John Malkovich film I’d vaguely heard about about five years ago, a true story detailing the life of a man who went round impersonating the famous director, despite the fact that the imposter looked nothing like him. But I’d never heard it mentioned, or seen a copy of it since. Inevitably, we stumble across a pirate DVD copy of it in the market.


Back home, after a beery evening at Krisis Xhanra, we watch the second part of The Irony of Fate, or Sauna Blues, a popular Russian film from the seventies which tells the story of a man who gets so incredibly drunk in a Moscow bathhouse on New Year’s Eve that he accidentally ends up on a plane and finds himself in an apartment with exactly the same address as his, but in Leningrad. Hilarious consequences naturally ensue. The beautiful woman who owns the Leningrad flat has to explain to her lover why a strange man with no trousers has appeared in her bed. “It’s all an amazing coincidence!” she says.

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