March 14th, 2004

Taras Bulba

is an epic novella by Nikolai Gogol. The hero, Bulba himself, is a Cossack soldier who fights with Tartars and Poles, and who has a very negative attitude toward Jews, although he finds Jews useful.

Gogol is considered the writer who introduced realism into Russian literature, but this book is not in a particularly realistic style. It seemed like it belonged to the Romantic movement in many ways. In English translation, if I didn't know better, I often might have thought I was reading a translation of a poem.

After all the talk about implicit anti-semitism (or not) in Gibson's Passion, I was brought up short to encounter such explicit unarguable anti-semitism in Taras Bulba. At one point, the phrase "Christ killer" even gets tossed into a heated verbal exchange.

Anyway, I found it hard to be sympathetic to the title character. Yes, as a warrior he is accomplished, brave, and a shrewd judge of methods. But the drunkenness and brutality did not much appeal to me. However, I did feel like I was seeing part of how the Russians see themselves.

Rhyme of the day:

They drink away
Their sins each day.