Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Something Amiss

Looks like this curious non-review of the novel Laurus seems to have been referring to "Brahmins" as "Brahman" - I suppose republished to correct the mistake:

​Russian Brahman by Alan Jacobs | Articles | First Things

www.firstthings.com/article/2016/04/russian-brahman
First Things
Russian Brahman. by Alan Jacobs April 2016. Laurus by eugene vodolazkin translated by lisa hayden oneworld, 384 pages, $24.99. Eugene Vodolazkin's ...

​Russian Brahmin by Alan Jacobs | Articles | First Things

www.firstthings.com/article/2016/04/russian-brahmin
First Things
Russian Brahmin. by Alan Jacobs April 2016. Laurus by eugene vodolazkin translated by lisa hayden oneworld, 384 pages, $24.99. Eugene Vodolazkin's ...

Whatever his grasp of Hindu concepts, it's obvious Jacobs knows little to nothing about the tradition of Russian yurodivy, which makes this review overall kind of silly at best. Interested readers can refer to the hagiographies of Xenia of Petersburg or Feofil of the Kiev Caves Lavra to become acquainted with some of the conceptual background to the novel, both published by the monastery press in Jordanville, NY in English. As a complement the Pavel Lungin movie Ostrov is worth watching carefully - the film is based partly on Feofil, though like the life of St Xenia, it explores the theme of vicarious repentance. (It was not until the third time I saw the film that I fully grasped it - the visuals are stunning and in many respects a distraction.)

All of that aside, what continues to trouble me in general is the fact that most of the reviews of Laurus that I've seen have been oriented toward theological critiques - endorsements or arguments revolving around the reviewer's reading of what the author might want us to think about religion. And yet it is obvious that Vodolazkin did not write a religious apologetic (Jacobs invokes Karamazov, which is simultaneously a religious argument and a humanistic work - but Laurus is anything but the former). Laurus deserves a review as a work of notable - even great - world literature: which is to say first and foremost an exploration of what Vodolazkin is attempting to accomplish as a writer and what that has produced as a work of literature. The lack of serious analysis is particularly puzzling given the devices Vodolazkin uses to deal with language, identity, personality, relationship, and - yes - time. We could do with a few less sermons and a bit more thought.

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