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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Words for writers to live by...

Danilo Kis' A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, a sad and moving short story collection that recounts various Soviet-era apparatchiks, traitors, criminals and dissidents, ends with the tongue-in-cheek "The Short Biography of A.A. Darmolatov". The true meaning of this piece, about a minor poet who survives years of Soviet rule without getting sent to a work camp or put on trial, only emerges at the end with this postscript:

He remains a medical phenomenon in Russian literature: Darmolatov's case was entered in all the latest pathology textbooks. A photograph of his scrotum, the size of the biggest collective farm pumpkin, is also reprinted in foreign medical books, wherever elephantiasis (elephantiasis nostras) is mentioned, and as a moral for writers that to write one must have more than big balls.

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