Following on from Tom Chidwick's
article on Michael Parkinson (6 September): My son, Grant, caddied for Michael and his wife on Royal Dornoch quite a few years ago when Grant was probably still in his teens and didn't know too much about him. Afterwards, Grant was exhausted as they had talked all the way, as if on one of his chat shows but this one lasted nearly five hours. He extracted every detail about Grant, the golf club, the area and its history. While putting the clubs in the car boot, Grant said he liked the car (a top of the range Jaguar, I think) so Michael showed him all its plus points. Grant considered Michael to be the most interesting and interested person he ever met on the golf course.
Last Sunday, BBC 4 gave us the chance to re-watch the magnificent film of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya
shot during Covid lockdown in London. As the masterpiece unfolded, one could not help ruminating on that extraordinary period in Russian artistic history. Tolstoy, Gogol, Pushkin, Turgenev, Chekhov and Dostoevsky were a parade of quality difficult to match.
War and Peace
, Crime and Punishment
, Dead Souls
, The Brothers Karamazov
, Anna Karenina
– no decent bookshelf was complete without them. No decent bookworm could rest until they had been explored and enjoyed. Sholokhov, Nabokov, Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak followed in their footsteps. And then? In the 1990s, Shishkin, Polozkova, Pelevin, Sorokin and others were all writers of huge talent dealing with demanding themes.
In the Putin era, truth, as usual, became one of the first victims of war but it seems to have been joined by internationally distributed literature as well. I may have been dozing but there does not appear to have been a rush to encourage reading of the contemporary Russian authors who portray evil as the new good.
'Morality is much broader than what we understand by it, or rather it simply does not exist. What in one state is a sin, in another is an act of higher morality,' to quote from a novel by Sharov. Or, to quote, Konstantin Krylov: 'We must develop an industry to produce an anti-Western myth, glorifying and celebrating mythological characters who play the role of bad guys in the West'.
Now those are ideas that escaped earlier Russian writers. If you want to wallow in genuine greatness, Uncle Vanya
can be streamed for another couple of weeks from the BBC.
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