A Russian in the closet.

I think, actually, I’m pretty sure, I am Russian. How else could you explain all these traces of my Russian, how should we put it, homeland? Mother country? Native land? Everything in my kitchen, and there lives the soul, not in the living room, not in the drawing room (if you have so many rooms to pick a drawing room), no, these are only for showing off your good taste and status, but the soul of one’s home is to be found in the kitchen, there you find the things that define you, in my case, Russian teas. Admittedly, I bought most of the boxes not in Moscow but in Paris at La Grande Épicerie de Paris or, quite a tinier shopping experience, at the little Kusmi shop on rue de Seine, but who cares. The varieties are called St.Petersburg, Prince Vladimir or Russian Morning No. 24. Does it get any more Russian? I think not. Then there’s my Russian tea glass, ancient and hoary, from the time we still had the Czar. And everything’s red, red!, the most Russian colour of them all: the toaster, plain red, my salad cutlery (okay, it’s more to the lobster side of red, but still red), my cheese cleaver, my chopsticks (agreed, these are oxblood, a blue-ish oxblood, but still, they’re red) and even my detergent’s red. Have I given enough evidence? If only I spoke Russian to wish you a nice day in my mother language…

An essay on Russia and winter.

When lighting one of my scented candles, I felt the need for some olfactory inspiration and thought tuberoses might do the trick, I took a look outside and couldn’t help but be startled by the chair on my fifth floor balcony, I’m only mentioning the storey because everything fifth has such a nice 5th Avenue sound, anyway, I was really puzzled by the chair’s colour, you see, I’m pretty sure that chair was red when I bought it last year, bright red, a vivid and joyful colour, contrasting the olive trees’ matte green, not of this strange non-colour that makes it look like it had been done with some leftover paint from the time when Russia’s economy was still a planned one, when colour pigments were still considered a despicable bourgeois extravaganza, but since red is so damn socialist a colour, they had to try anyway, and that colour on my chair is all they could achieve, poor bastards, but I seem to digress, anyway, it’s not Russia to be blamed here, communist Russia at that, one has to be reasonable, it’s winter, and more precisely so, it’s January, the month known for its days without daylight, January, the most rotten month of them all. I hate January. But as I am writing this, the candle does seem to fulfill its purpose, it’s setting me in a better mood already. I wonder if tuberoses were ever an issue in communist Russia, survival-wise, I mean.

My life’s travels.

Books. Love them. They are the only thing capable of transporting you anwhere you want to go, or rather not, where they take you is your own responsability, they took me from cover to cover, the journey was always the true destination, I was unstoppable, I left Berlin in a hurry for Zurich when Hitler stole pink rabbit, I never returned, I can’t forget the living wallpaper design in Zurich either, it’s stuck in my mind forever, I still feel the fever, too, and the icy rejection of Paris’ avenue Foch residents, I lost my trust in relatives that day, haven’t changed my mind since, that dislike of kinfolk was cemented when I went to Brideshead, I often returned happily, nonetheless, to Charles Ryder’s Brideshead, that is, to Sebastian Flyte’s not so much, many years later, I injected morphine, through my trousers, in a taxi in Zurich, just in time before complete break down, the relief was ever so painful, in rehab, I spent time in the GDR, in Dresden’s Weißer Hirsch, a residential area whose villas overlook the town, the tower, we called it, political resentments ex cathedra, always followed by the Staatssicherheit, some pale blue ink in a lady’s hand brought me back to early 1900’s Vienna, waltzing while turning to the left as well as to the right, ever so elegantly, my experiences are vast, I’m proud to say, I know what snow and war feels like, never lost a limb, though, but hell, I know what that feels like, too, or a broken heart, my Russian soul found itself described, so well, and, for once, understood, what a comfort, over the years, I became a close friend of Coco Chanel’s friends, and foes, and an even more intimate one of Thomas Mann, I know all about his wet dreams and sudden fears, which I happily forget about when being stuck again in an endless stream of my truth’s consciousness.

Russia’s splendour in the fog.

IMG_6320

Stalin, like any other dictator, had a thing for grandeur, and it spread, every satellite state wanted to contribute to his glory, and so, in the 1950s, Berlin, the capital of the GDR, had its Stalin-Allee constructed, a magnificent architectural endeavour, let’s no longer praise God or anybody in power by His grace, let’s praise Stalin, our real saviour, and let’s do it in style, midcentury neo-classicism with a touch of gingerbread, somehow reminiscent of Karl-Friedrich Schinkel, a reflection of proletarian power, adorned post-revolutionary self-importance rather than self-confidence, miles of praise of somebody who soon would be politically incorrect, even in Russia, but let’s not worry about that, there’s still Karl Marx to be proud of, philosopher, economist and saint to the communists, a saint who stated religion was the opium of the people, let’s honour him and have the boulevard renamed. Today, long after the Berlin wall has come down, long after communism has failed entirely, it’s still called Karl-Marx-Allee, the magnificent bookshop on it bears his name as well, it made it even into a favourite movie of mine, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s “The Life of Others”, which won an Oscar for best foreign language film in 2007, but I seem to digress, anyway, Stalin’s persona non grata for all eternity, but Karl Marx is still among us, as he has never killed anyone, let alone millions, and so the communist era still hasn’t lost its splendour, at least not on Berlin’s Karl-Marx-Allee.

IMG_6338IMG_6366IMG_6349IMG_6367IMG_6353IMG_6370IMG_6375IMG_6407IMG_6344IMG_6347IMG_6404IMG_6418