It’s A Gas: My Uncle Napoleon by Iraj Pezeshkzad (1973).

I’ve never been drawn to comic literature, and the number of Middle Eastern novels that I’ve read I can just barely count on a hand and a couple of fingers.  But when a friend suggested My Uncle Napoleon, a novel that has become  a classic of contemporary Iranian literature, I jumped at the suggestion.   My Uncle Napoleon […]

Introduction To Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture

Do-dah, Do-dah, Do-dah, dum, dum, dum.  Along with snippets from the Marseillaise, that nine note refrain sticks.  The overture, written by Tchaikovsky in 1880,  memorializes Russia’s defeat of Napoleon’s invasion.  It famously incorporates actual cannon shots and ringing of bells along with melodies from Russian hymns, folk music, and God Save the Tsar. Tchaikovsky famously […]

Cycle of Violence: Sankya by Zahkar Prilepin (2006).

If Svetlana Alexievich hadn’t already drummed in the lesson that for a heck of a lot of people life in post-Soviet Russia sucks, Zahkar Prilepin would have. The protagonist of Zahkar Prilepin’s award-winning novel Sankya, twenty-two-year old Sasha Tishin (Sankya to his family), is a member of a radical group in post-Soviet Russia known as […]

Drink Up! Ten Things To Know About Vodka

Although consumption of vodka is supposedly on the decrease with imbibing of wine and beer on the rise, my forays into recent Russian literature left me astonished at the level of drinking in Russia. According to the World Health Organization, as of a few years ago, one-in-five Russia men died due to alcohol-related causes. The […]

It’s Literature, But Is It History? Svetlana Alexievich’s Secondhand Time: The Last Of The Soviets (2013).

Svetlana Alexievich is a  Belarusian journalist.  She’s also a Nobel Laureate, winning the prize for literature in 2015.  I had trouble squaring these two facts until I learned that unlike other awards such as the Pulitzer Prize or the Man Booker Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature isn’t limited to fiction.  Bertrand Russell scored the […]

Russian Vinaigrette Salad: Pickles & Root Veggies

Russian Vinaigrette Salad has two wonderful virtues:  it’s a potato salad without mayo and a vegetable salad that includes potatoes.  Root vegetables and pickled foods are staples in Russian cuisine.  Root veggies can survive the cold climate and pickled foods remain preserved during the long winters.  Russian Vinaigrette Salad combines beets, onions, potatoes, carrots, sauerkraut, and […]