Archive for Paris

Questionable joke of the day

Posted in Cultural Impressions, Russian humor with tags , , , on June 7, 2010 by Alec

Here’s a translation of today’s “Anecdote of the Day” from

“Paris, 2030.  A tourist asks a man in a turban:
– I can’t by any means track down the Eiffel Tower …
– Look, there it is showing through the minarets …”


Sorokin’s “The Eros of Moscow”

Posted in Russian Literature, Translation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2009 by Alec

moscowI’m heading to Moscow this weekend to soak up the smoggy sun and revel in the post-Armageddon sprawl of the Soviet megalopolis.  Some of our goals in Europe’s biggest (or second-biggest, damn you Paris) city are honourable, some are less than honourable, but all promise to range from just-barely-let-a-grin-slip amusing to electric bull-ride uproarious.

My personal goal is to complete the tasks postmodernist Moscow writer Vladimir Sorokin lays out in his essay “The Eros of Moscow,” which describes the city’s seven most meaningful (according to the extended metaphor of erotic pleasure) places for the author.  To prime the pump, I’ve translated the essay into English and will present it in eight parts.  Today, the introduction:

The Eros of Moscow
By Vladimir Sorokin

Cities, like people, turn out to be sexual and frigid. You can live your whole life with a person never having understood his eros, never having felt it. And so any city is capable of making you tremble with orgasmic pleasure or the just the opposite – doom you to tens of years of dreary existence together.

I lived a year-and-a-half in Tokyo, but to this day I have not opened for myself the eros of this extraordinary city. Berlin gave herself to me after half a year. Saint-Petersburg – after a week. Paris – after 12 hours.

Each city has its own eros.

Moscow for me is not a city. And not a country. And not even inland Russia.

Moscow is a sleeping giantess. She lies on her back in the middle of Russia. And sleeps a heavy Russian dream.

In order to enter into her, you need to know her erogenous zones. Or else she will rudely throw you off and forever close herself off to you.

For each Muscovite there are his own tender spots on the body of the capital. But you have to really want to find them. Then the giantess will give herself to you.

For me these erogenous zones on the body of Moscow number seven. I started to instinctively grope for them back in my student days. Before those, like hundreds of thousands of Moscow inhabitants, I saw in Moscow only the “capital of our motherland,” the place where my parents and friends lived, a “comfortable city with a developed infrastructure,” a “historical monument,” the “Third Rome,” the “center of Russia, to which all paths lead” and other such banalities.

But my intuition hinted that with Moscow things weren’t as simple as they seemed. And I wasn’t mistaken. It took almost 12 years to find and touch Moscow’s mysterious and tender places.

Now I can truthfully say that I learned this city. And I’m ready to share its secrets.

There are seven erogenous zones on the body of Moscow. It’s better to touch them in the summertime …

*I’ll post an untinterrupted version of the whole translation when all is said and done.