Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Recommended Reading - A. Kostia

I spent some time this Sunday reading a series of interesting short stories by a talented Russian author. If you aren't already familiar with him, I hope the recommendation might encourage you to read the works of A. Kostia.

Excerpted from the short story, "Channel 5":
...I showed up at the school and subjected both classes to a written survey on the Russian-Georgian relationship.

Everyone was herded into the cafeteria after the sixth lesson. One of the two class tutors, a monumental woman speaking in a bass voice, was making sure that nobody cheated. The survey was anonymous, which resulted in a third of the respondents signing their questionnaires “Anonymous”, “Anonnimous” and “Ononameous”. One respondent, in wiggly boy’s handwriting, signed “Paitriotic Russian girl”.

At the end I asked them to indicate their class with a letter. I envisioned a thought-provoking article, charged with the spirit of international humanism. Despite presidents and governments’ squabbling, in the face of state propaganda and the ban on Georgian mineral water, living side by side teaches the children to disregard meaningless ethnic labels etc.

My humanistic project ended in one bitch of a fiasco. “Do you think that Georgia is an enemy of Russia?” got an overwhelming “yes”. Only a couple of the more doubtful believed it possible that Georgia simply wasn’t behaving itself, “but it’s not actually an enemy”, it “has been seduced by America”.

“How should we treat Georgians who live in Russia?” inspired responses like “we should take from them all the money they stole and diport them back”, “the police should watch them”, “let them go to the Chukchies”, and “yanki go home!” To be fair, the questionnaires of most of Vanya Saradzhishvili’s classmates came with certain reservations. The Paitriotic Russian girl, for example, wrote in his response: “but if they have become Russian, everyone should treat them well”. Some versions were more specific: “if they obey Russian laws and don’t work at the market, for example our classmates Vanya and Tamara Saradzhishvili’s parents, then they can be considered Russian and shouldn’t be beaten up”. And so on.

Out of the responses to “What is the difference between Georgians and Russians?”, only the five honest “I don’t know”s and one “Russian girls are prettier” were humanism-compatible. “No difference, both are plotting rotters!” left me ambivalent. As for the rest, I don’t really feel like talking about them.

Much more important, though, was the headmistress’s return from a conference for the heads of the best schools in the region.

‘We don’t need any articles’, she decreed. ‘Ours is the best school in the district, we’ll sort it out ourselves. There’s no need to wash our dirty linen in public.’
Just so you won't doubt, this is definitely a story worth finishing.

For those who are interested, A. Kostia's book can also be purchased here.


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