May 16th, 2009

A Birthday

La Russie en 1839

La Russie en 1839 by the Marquis de Custine.

Which I have been unable to read in an unabridged version on account of not being able to get my hands on an unabridged version.

The particular one I have just read is Journey for Our Time: The Russian Journals of the Marquis de Custine.  But I've read a different one in the past, which helps fill in the gaps.

This one came with an introduction by someone who worked in the American embassy in the Soviet Union and reported that many of them found it the most enlightening book for purposes of understanding the Soviet:  a book written by a French traveller in the early nineteenth century, who visited for three months and never learned a word of Russian.

Chock full of interesting (and, for a  writer, eminently pilferable) description and incidents and accounts.  A vivid picture of life under an absolute monarchy by someone to whom this is new.  (And since the writer had lost his grandfather, his father, and nearly his mother to Reign of Terror, he wasn't exactly predisposed to hate the notion.)