Friday, April 23, 2010

Collage 39

We are all reading the translation by Pevear and Volokhonsky. And of course we are all struck by different aspects. I notice unflattering descriptions of women. This one really got my attention: "with that expression with which women speak when they suppose they have said something witty and insulting". From page 74. This is in the context of a discussion between Prince Vasilly and his cousin Princess Katerina (Cathiche) regarding the will of Pierre's father, count Bezukhov. (Pierre was an illegitimate son.) I have to remind myself that this was written between 1863 and 1868. The Russian surfs were freed in 1861; I don't know the history of Russian women's rights. -- Lola

It is a condescending description, but I read it differently. Katerina seems to care more about what she's going to (or not going to) inherit than she seems to care about her father who is in the next room dying...

Descriptions of Katerina in this scene include words like "dully and fixedly," dry and straight waist," "dry, thin hands," "unchanging, stern and stony expression," etc. Not exactly words that inspire a warm and fuzzy feeling about her.

I read the passage Lola mentions as specific to women like Katerina, not necessarily to all women, so it didn't bother me - I have heard some women speak with an expression as if what they say is witty and insulting...however, men are quite capable of that, too! It's not exactly an attractive quality in a human being. However...equal rights! --Lulu

Lola Baltzell
page 85-86 from original text
made 3/26/10
collage and acrylic paint on paper

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