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The past is a foreign country, and watch out for pigs if you go there

October 11, 2013

Decembrist Man* returns from exile” isn’t much of a story by itself, and I thought that was why Nekrasov extends one such story with “and then he fell asleep while babysitting his grandson, and the grandson was eaten by a pig, and the child’s mother was horrified when scientific-minded local officials wanted to perform an autopsy.” (See “Demushka” in Who Can Be Happy in Russia? in Russian, or for the English go here and search for “A deep groan.”) But maybe children being eaten by pigs was just part of life. Leskov has this in a conversation among old women at an Old Believer party:

Even if a mother should roll over in her sleep and smother her baby, still she does not smother its soul, and its soul will be alive and go to God, but a pig, if it eats a child, it devours it entirely, including the soul, because it does not even look toward heaven, it cannot lift its eyes upward. (book 2, chapter 8 of No Way Out)

Seeing something used in literature for effect doesn’t mean it happened all the time, but it’s presented in an “ordinary tragedy” key; the doctrine about souls might be questionable, but the pig doesn’t seem to be an unthinkable case.

My e-book apparently isn’t good with stress marks. It looked like the last sentence quoted was “очи горе не может возвести” ‘its eyes cannot lift up its sorrow,’ which seemed like a poetic thought about a pig with emotions that’s cut off from God; instead of course it’s “очи горе не может возвести,” so the pig doesn’t feel sorrow, it just can’t look up.

* When I wrote this I was mixing up my returned exiles in Nekrasov. This one was a peasant sent to Siberia for his part in burying a German overseer alive, not someone of the exiled Decembrists’ social status.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Vika Thorstensson permalink
    October 11, 2013 11:43 am

    pigs are dirty animals…

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