Anton Chekov, on cultured people

January 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

A delightful piece of writing…

—via Brain Pickings—

Anton,26 writes to his older brother Nikolai,28.

MOSCOW, 1886.

… You have often complained to me that people “don’t understand you”! Goethe and Newton did not complain of that…. Only Christ complained of it, but He was speaking of His doctrine and not of Himself…. People understand you perfectly well. And if you do not understand yourself, it is not their fault.

I assure you as a brother and as a friend I understand you and feel for you with all my heart. I know your good qualities as I know my five fingers; I value and deeply respect them. If you like, to prove that I understand you, I can enumerate those qualities. I think you are kind to the point of softness, magnanimous, unselfish, ready to share your last farthing; you have no envy nor hatred; you are simple-hearted, you pity men and beasts; you are trustful, without spite or guile, and do not remember evil…. You have a gift from above such as other people have not: you have talent. This talent places you above millions of men, for on earth only one out of two millions is an artist. Your talent sets you apart: if you were a toad or a tarantula, even then, people would respect you, for to talent all things are forgiven.

You have only one failing, and the falseness of your position, and your unhappiness and your catarrh of the bowels are all due to it. That is your utter lack of culture. Forgive me, please, but veritas magis amicitiae…. You see, life has its conditions. In order to feel comfortable among educated people, to be at home and happy with them, one must be cultured to a certain extent. Talent has brought you into such a circle, you belong to it, but … you are drawn away from it, and you vacillate between cultured people and the lodgers vis-a-vis.

Cultured people must, in my opinion, satisfy the following conditions:

  1. They respect human personality, and therefore they are always kind, gentle, polite, and ready to give in to others. They do not make a row because of a hammer or a lost piece of india-rubber; if they live with anyone they do not regard it as a favour and, going away, they do not say “nobody can live with you.” They forgive noise and cold and dried-up meat and witticisms and the presence of strangers in their homes.
  2. They have sympathy not for beggars and cats alone. Their heart aches for what the eye does not see…. They sit up at night in order to help P…., to pay for brothers at the University, and to buy clothes for their mother.
  3. They respect the property of others, and therefor pay their debts.
  4. They are sincere, and dread lying like fire. They don’t lie even in small things. A lie is insulting to the listener and puts him in a lower position in the eyes of the speaker. They do not pose, they behave in the street as they do at home, they do not show off before their humbler comrades. They are not given to babbling and forcing their uninvited confidences on others. Out of respect for other people’s ears they more often keep silent than talk.
  5. They do not disparage themselves to rouse compassion. They do not play on the strings of other people’s hearts so that they may sigh and make much of them. They do not say “I am misunderstood,” or “I have become second-rate,” because all this is striving after cheap effect, is vulgar, stale, false….
  6. They have no shallow vanity. They do not care for such false diamonds as knowing celebrities, shaking hands with the drunken P., [Translator’s Note: Probably Palmin, a minor poet.] listening to the raptures of a stray spectator in a picture show, being renowned in the taverns…. If they do a pennyworth they do not strut about as though they had done a hundred roubles’ worth, and do not brag of having the entry where others are not admitted…. The truly talented always keep in obscurity among the crowd, as far as possible from advertisement…. Even Krylov has said that an empty barrel echoes more loudly than a full one.
  7. If they have a talent they respect it. They sacrifice to it rest, women, wine, vanity…. They are proud of their talent…. Besides, they are fastidious.
  8. They develop the aesthetic feeling in themselves. They cannot go to sleep in their clothes, see cracks full of bugs on the walls, breathe bad air, walk on a floor that has been spat upon, cook their meals over an oil stove. They seek as far as possible to restrain and ennoble the sexual instinct…. What they want in a woman is not a bed-fellow … They do not ask for the cleverness which shows itself in continual lying. They want especially, if they are artists, freshness, elegance, humanity, the capacity for motherhood…. They do not swill vodka at all hours of the day and night, do not sniff at cupboards, for they are not pigs and know they are not. They drink only when they are free, on occasion…. For they wantmens sana in corpore sano [a healthy mind in a healthy body].

And so on. This is what cultured people are like. In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read “The Pickwick Papers” and learnt a monologue from “Faust.” …

What is needed is constant work, day and night, constant reading, study, will…. Every hour is precious for it…. Come to us, smash the vodka bottle, lie down and read…. Turgenev, if you like, whom you have not read.

You must drop your vanity, you are not a child … you will soon be thirty.
It is time!
I expect you…. We all expect you.


Friends, life and time – a poem

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Let us speak not of you or me
Of what has been said or unspoken yet..
Lest it violate that which is sacred

But with each step forward
Reminisce awhile
For memories time reclaims with every dusty mile

And maybe in a moment or an eternity
You will see…

A thousand adieus
But in vain my dear friend
For in your deepest
You know
We ll meet again.

Found this poem on my long-dead other blog I used to have ages ago. Time affects people in every different way. Friends sometimes grow apart or are forced apart by life and distance. Or misunderstandings. But true friendship always lasts… through thick and thin!

A list of books. – Italo Calvino

November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

     I recently read Italo Calvino’s 1979 book  ‘If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler‘ . It was a very unique book to say the least. it can be said that the book is about reading. But it is also about the reader – you. And it is also about another reader. Along with that it is a book in fragments that makes a whole at the end. Or you might find it does not come together for real. Each chapter can be read individually. Or in continuation.
     In one instance, the author is describing a list of books you might find at the bookstore, while you rummage through them trying to find his book. It’s marvelous. Anyone who reads will appreciate this.
-Books You Haven’t Read
-Books You Needn’t Read
-Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading
-Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written
-Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered
-Books You Mean to Read But There Are Others You Must Read First
-Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered
-Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback
-Books You Can Borrow From Somebody
-Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too
-Books You’ve Been Planning to Read for Ages
-Books You’ve Been Hunting for Years Without Success
-Books Dealing With Something You’re Working on at the Moment
-Books You Want to Own So They’ll Be Handy Just in Case
-Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer
-Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves
-Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified
-Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Re-read
-Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them
-New Books Whose Author Or Subject Appeals To You
-New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Not New (for you or in general)
-New Books By Authors Or On Subjects Completely Unknown (at least to you)
Also, I really like the book cover on the top. Unfortunately I have the new one. Which is this…
But the new one is good too now when I see it.
In case I have piqued your interest in the books….heres an excerpt- at the beginning…
You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, “No, I don’t want to watch TV!” Raise your voice–they won’t hear you otherwise–“I’m reading! I don’t want to be disturbed!” Maybe they haven’t heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell: “I’m beginning to read Italo Calvino’s new novel!” Or if you prefer, don’t say anything; just hope they’ll leave you alone.
Its an interesting read. Maybe a little frustrating. It breaks the idea of a book in your mind. Worth a read at least for the novel idea of a different book.

something written two years ago.

October 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is something I’d randomly written in september 2010. No point or conclusion. But there doesn’t need to be any. But now I suddenly had the urge to complete the story to some conclusion. Or at least take it further. But I don’t know how. How to write a good story start to end?!


Here’s to encounters…


A sudden beam of light hit him. He paused mid way and exhaled. After a moment he put the cigarette back between his lips chewing the end. It was more of an unconscious habit these days. Sometimes he didn’t even care to breathe in. The light broke  into his thought. Was it white? Or perhaps yellow? He’d never liked white. He liked the yellow beam when its bright enough to hit your senses. He could trace the light to the light house further down. It was a moonless night. The days were balmy and hot but the nights were cooler. He breathed in and felt it go down his throat in swirls. Leaning on the railing he stared at the lighthouse.

How long had it been standing there? Wait… and how long was he standing there? The beam hit everything in its path with a vengeance. Illuminating a couple of houses and dark shadows of trees for a moment. The other side it destroyed nothing. Nothing there except the ocean. He watched it go round again. Had a rhythm about it. Perhaps he could use the light and the rhythm.

The sound of light footsteps broke his reverie. He dragged his eyes away from the light and looked into the darkness. The light went around again and hit the road to show a woman walking towards him. He liked her short hair. Made her face more… sharp and angular.

– Got a light?

She held it between her fingers and stared at him trying to figure out something. A moment later she seemed to have sorted the puzzle and finally took  a drag.

-I liked your play.

-What about it.

-That he lights the house.

They looked at each silently and turned to face the lighthouse.

It was a play that brought him there. He never liked to travel with the troupe but this time he felt he had to get out of the city. And ended up staying out of the country for months. The day’s play was not one of his best. His friend had dug it up from his earliest works. -I think it’s lousy and I don’t think it’ll work.. he had told him. But it had. And they toured… charming little towns. And cities. It was a change. But he needed the chaos of home to think straight.

-Anyway. I don’t want to think straight.

It went round again.

– What if that ship over there doesn’t see the light? It’s harsh weather don’t you think.


And that’s where my friend called me and it’s just sitting there on a page. I don’t like the fact that he smokes, or that he’s black and not grey. Isn’t grey more versatile? But then… he’s flawed. And that’s just right.


What on earth happens next?!

Zadie Smith gives her list of ten rules of writing.

October 8, 2012 § 3 Comments

Zadie Smith gives her list of ten rules of writing. Via Brain Pickings. (thank you for the wonderful content you publish Maria is very enriching!)

  1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
  2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
  3. Don’t romanticise your ‘vocation’. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no ‘writer’s lifestyle’. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
  4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
  5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
  6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
  7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.
  8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
  9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
  10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

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