“It’s an ancient voice, it’s a voice from above…”

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…On a bench in a public garden near the sports palace in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, where I usually walked my poodle Artosha, sat an elderly man wearing glasses, covered with long lasting stubble. At his feet in worn-out sneakers, two gibbous chequered bags laid on the ground, apparently containing all his simple belongings. There was also a plastic flask with cheap red wine. It’s clear: a homeless person, or in French a clochard.

I passed by this reluctant wanderer, but could not help stopping my gaze on the book that he carefully held: War and Peace. A tramp, wanderer, rocker – and suddenly with an immortal Tolstoy’s novel! To be honest, in a modest pocket book version, but still – War and Peace was in the hands not of a noteworthy intellectual from the Boulevard Saint-Germain, but of a tramp beaten by life… I took a closer look – the publication was quite adequate, not adapted like Anna Karenina I once saw in Brazil. Temperamental Latin Americans shortened Leo Tolstoy’s novel and renamed it The Woman Who Loved Too Much.

A homeless literature lover noticed my interest and smiled: “Do you like books?.. Have you read this one?” – “Yes, at school. And I still re-read it…” – “Wow! I see you are a foreigner… And here in France people throw away books. I picked up Tolstoy in a trash heap.”

It was no good for me to disappoint my acquaintance, and I did not tell him that not so long ago in Moscow I saw the complete works of Fyodor Dostoevsky  lying abandoned near garbage cans. In general, I honestly liked this man. I don’t know his name or who he was in his “previous life.” But the very appearance of a more than ordinary Frenchman reading Tolstoy in the street was worthy of respect, even admiration. I could say the same about today’s Russian, German, British – if only they read the classics…

On the other hand, it’s utter wildness, of course. This is me talking about my reaction. Just think: I was surprised by the very fact of a contemporary’s interest in a classic novel! Or have I already, unnoticed by myself, become an anachronism? An artifact, like a pterodactyl claw in a zoological museum?..

One way or another, regardless of us sinners, great literature is still alive. As proof of this, this issue of Russian Mind is largely dedicated to great Russian writers and their work. Moreover, time itself tells us to do so. Because November marks the 205th anniversary of the birth of Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev, and December – the 220th anniversary of the birth of Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev. A selection of materials about him is the main topic of this issue. We will continue, as always, to publish works by contemporary Russian authors, too.

Russian literature used to pass the baton through the centuries, this tradition continues and can never be interrupted. “It’s an ancient voice, it’s a voice from above,” as Tyutchev wrote.

Kirill Privalov

The Publishing House Russian Mind expresses gratitude to the Foundation for Supporting and Protecting the Rights of Compatriots Living Abroad for the support and financial aid provided to the Russian Mind magazine for the purpose of the Special Issue, dedicated to the 220th birth anniversary of the Russian poet, philosopher and diplomat Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev.

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