Sex with a Japanese woman and helpful Chinese: how Russian writers traveled the world

“There is no place more boring than Italy”

Writer Nikolai Gogol passionately loved Italy, where he lived for more than five years. “Whoever is in Italy should say ‘forgive’ to other lands. He who is in heaven will not want to descend, ”the classic believed.

The first impression of Italy reminded Gogol of his native Little Russia. In particular, he noticed a similar desire for conservatism in everyday life among the local population:

“It is as if I stopped by the former Little Russian landowners. The same worn-out doors in houses, chalk-painted clothes with many useless holes; antique candlesticks and lamps in the shape of a church. So far I’ve seen the picture of change everywhere; here everything stopped in one place and will not go any further.

Knowing Rome better, Gogol began to perceive the city as his spiritual Mecca, and the Italians – “the first people of the world had such an aesthetic sense that they could only be understood by fiery nature.” In addition, the writer admired the intelligence of the Italian people, but at the same time recognized the regularity of life and alien laziness to northern Europeans.

Literary critic Yuri Mann noted that Gogol especially liked the feeling of freedom in the local population adjacent to the open opposition to the authorities. The author admitted that he remembers the maxim published for the celebration of the Roman carnival: “God is pleased with the carnival, but not the cardinal.”

The Russian classic quickly learned Italian and even learned how to cook spaghetti perfectly, according to Gogol, the owner of his favorite cafe. For several years the Apennine Peninsula became his second home. However, soon ardent feelings were replaced by more mundane ones, and Gogol returned to his homeland. Still, he wrote his opus magnum, Dead Souls, in Italy.

Denis Fonvizin, the author of another Russian classic, The Undergrowth long before Gogol, also had mixed feelings about this country. On the one hand, he liked the cultural and historical monuments of Rome and valued Italy itself as the birthplace of humanism.

“The more I see her [Рим]seems to keep watching for more, ”the author noted.

But at the same time, he described the life of ordinary Italians as “unbearable boredom”, disturbed by his careless lifestyle.

“In general, it can be said that there is no more boring country in the world than Italy: no society and stinginess are stingy,” Fonvizin summed up.

“Japan is a prison with beautiful nature”

In the stereotypical view of 19th-century Europeans, Japan was an inaccessible country with unprecedented treasures – in fact, the country had been completely isolated from the rest of the world for two centuries. Writer Ivan Goncharov was one of the first to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun as part of the Russian diplomatic mission aboard the Pallada frigate in 1853. The purpose of the delegation was to establish commercial, economic and diplomatic relations between the countries.

“Here is this locked coffin, the key missing, a country where people have looked so far in vain to persuade them to recognize gold, guns and cunning politics. <...> Here is a large handful of human families who deftly escape the ferula of civilization, who dare to live by their own reason, stubbornly rejecting the friendship, religion, and trade of foreigners, laughing at our efforts to illuminate its statutes. ” the country described the first meeting with Goncharov.

In general, the author described what he saw as absolute stagnation: the country was deprived of historical and economic development. According to him, this was facilitated by the political course of the shogunate:

“There is almost a prison here, although nature is beautiful, man is smart, ingenious, strong, but still does not know how to live normally and reasonably.”

The Japanese, on the other hand, seemed to Goncharov like old men, occasionally returning to childhood, childishly curious, but also sleepy and slow.

But Anton Chekhov, contrary to popular belief, never went to Japan: he had to cancel his trip to this country due to the cholera epidemic. However, while he was still in the Russian Far East, he learned something about its inhabitants:

“The Japanese woman understands humility in her own way. He does not put out the fire, and when asked what this or that is called in Japanese, he answers directly, and at the same time he has little understanding of the Russian language, he points with his fingers and even takes it in his hands, and at the same time is unbreakable and unflinching like the Russians. It shows incredible skill in business, so you don’t use it to you, but participate in high school riding. As she finishes, the Japanese woman pulls a piece of cotton paper from her arm with her teeth, grabs you by the “boy” and unexpectedly gives you a massage and tickles your paper stomach. And all this is coquettish, laughing,” wrote Chekhov.

Wild Sri Lanka

Anton Chekhov visited a number of British colonies during his long voyage from 1890-1891, starting with Sakhalin Island – Singapore, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka, which he mistakenly referred to as part of India, and the Sinhalese as Indians. At the same time, Sri Lanka seemed like a paradise to Chekhov. During his journey around the island, the writer even came across a regiment of the Christian organization “Liberation Army”.

“Girls in Hindu dress and glasses, drums, harmonica, guitar, banner, crowd of black naked men, behind a black man in a red jacket … Virgins are saying something wild and drum – boo! hoot! And all this in the dark, by the lake,” said Chekhov, describing the procession in a letter to a friend.

The satirist noted his attitude towards local women at the end of his vacation in Ceylon:

“I’ve had enough of palm forests and bronze women. When I have children, I will proudly tell them: “<...> I once had an affair with a black-eyed Hindu… where? In a coconut field on a moonlit night.

The author brought mongooses from Ceylon. However, already in Moscow, Chekhov delivered animals to the zoo. The author could not cope with the free and restless nature of animals, who often run away from home.

“There is no one more humble than the Chinese”

During his voyage with the frigate Pallada, Ivan Goncharov also visited Shanghai, China, which was under the great influence of the Europeans.

“Ships and junkyards, beautiful European buildings, gilded shrines, Protestant churches, gardens – all these crowds are in a dark heap, devoid of any perspective, as if the church was on the water and the ship was in the street,” he said. first impressions of the city.

The Chinese stunned the traveler with both their fishing skills and their active activity. Goncharov noted that you will not meet a local on the streets who is not busy with any business.

At the time of Goncharov’s visit to China, the British were doing business there with might and merit, and Hong Kong was a colony of the British Kingdom. The author was disgusted that the British were attracted to the Chinese, because “They do not regard these peoples as humans, but as a kind of working cattle”. At the same time, the Chinese, surprising him, behaved politely and obediently.

“Of course, there is no one more humble, more humble and kind than the Chinese,” said Goncharov.

But Anton Chekhov had a different opinion. In Hong Kong, he saw the “gentle care” of the British for their staff, which was expressed in the development of the city. The author especially remembered wonderful coves, wonderful roads, a museum and botanical gardens.

“I drove a generic (rickshaw –, ie. in public, he bought all kinds of garbage from the Chinese and was enraged, listening to how my Russian friends scolded the British for exploiting foreigners. I thought: yes, the British exploit the Chinese, the sepoys, the Indians, but they give them roads, water pipes, museums, Christianity, and you also exploit, but what? He wrote.

Chekhov saw the Chinese he knew as good-natured and funny, but some connotations were very unpleasant:

“The Chinese remind me of kind, pets. Her braids are black, long, like those of Natalya Mikhailovna (Chekhov’s teacher –

America, Gorky and Yesenin

Maxim Gorky went to the USA in 1906 on behalf of Vladimir Lenin. The author’s first impression of New York was very warm.

“I feel at home. I haven’t been here for even an hour, but I already felt that this is the biggest city and that the United States of America is the biggest country in the world,” he said.

But soon his relationship with this city began to deteriorate. The New York World newspaper published an article stating that Gorky was a bigamist and anarchist. This caused a resonance in the puritanical segment of American society: the writer was kicked out of the hotel and his authority shaken.

“In America they only think about how to make money. A poor country whose people are preoccupied with one thought: how to get rich <...> The meaningless and shameful pursuit of money and the power that money gives is a disease that people suffer from everywhere, ”Gorky said after the scandal.

Poet Sergei Yesenin, who accompanied his wife, dancer Isadora Duncan, on tour in 1922-1923, also did not like America very much. However, as with Gorky, the first impressions of the poet were completely positive.

It is believed that when their steamboat passed the Statue of Liberty, Yesenin cried out in his heart: “I am so glad for you, old lady!” After the first walk on Broadway, Yesenin even said that after that “he fell in love with poor Russia.” But at the same time, the Americans did not make a great impression on the poet – he saw in them limitations. The language barrier only heightened the suspicion that he was constantly ridiculed.

His fondness for alcohol during Prohibition forced Yesenin to buy and drink bad wine, and his reckless anger caused quarrels and insults at the national level.

Yesenin wrote in his memoirs that he felt very bad there about the USA.

“The best thing I’ve seen in this world is still Moscow. Only pigs can be driven on Chicago’s 100,000 Street. This is probably why there is the best slaughterhouse in the world,” he wrote in a letter to the poet and writer Anatoly Mariengof.

Before leaving for his homeland, Yesenin described the United States as “the most terrible garbage”, in which he felt “alien and unnecessary”.

However, Ilya Ilfa and Yevgeny Petrov, who visited the United States as reporters for Pravda newspaper, were also impressed by the fast pace of life that was foreign to Russia at that time:

“People did not pass in front of us, they ran. And we ran too. Since then, we have not stopped. We lived in New York for a month and always ran with all our might.

Nikolai Gogol admired the intelligence of the Italians, Denis Fonvizin was disgusted by their boring life. Anton Chekhov likened the Chinese to pets and praised Japanese women for their courage in bed. offers to look at the world through the eyes of Russian classics.

Source: Gazeta


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