I always cry on vacation. It’s not a big deal. It’s the unwinding after months of tension.
In the city you don’t think. You get up, take pills (Advil), work. Everything is on a level.
But on vacation everything dips and wavers. Ride your bike in the country for five hours and you’re sunburned. And it’s not because you don’t slaver on enough SFP 50 sunblock. Nobody smears on a whole tube of sunblock before going out on the trail. You drink three bottles of water and still have signs of heat sickness. But you don’t complain, except to say you’re not sweating.
“You’ll sweat on the way back.”
“It’s only X number of miles.”
“We could make it to X if you just hung on awhile.”
But then we’d have to come back from X.
Normally I can ride six, seven hours steady. But there’s something wrong today. It’s the sun.
The bank clock in the small town says 96 degrees.
“But it’s NOT 96 degrees.”
And then we bet on the temperature, because the bank clock is always wrong.
It only got up to 90.
At one point I simply had to sit on the trail in the shade of a tree behind a farmhouse and rest. I opened my Nook and read part of Smoke.
Rudin is beautifully written, lyrical and charming. Not much happens, but what does is perfect. It starts with a walk.
She moved without haste and as though she were enjoying the walk. The high nodding rye all round her moved in long softly rustling waves, taking here a shade of silvery green and there a ripple of red; the larks were trilling overhead. The young woman had come from her own estate, which was not more than a mile from the village to which she was turning her steps.”
The walker is Alexandra Palovna Lipin, a widow who lives with her brother, a retired cavalry officer, Sergei Pavlitch Volintsev. She is on her way to help a sick, poor old woman. Alexandra Palovna, probably the sweetest character in the novel, accepts rural life as it is and does her duty, as does Lezhvyon, the intelligent, eccentric landowner who is in love with her.
These two are contrasted with their neighbor, Darya Mihailovna, a rich, high-powered hostess who needs stimulation and and holds a kind of salon at her summer country house, where most of the action, really just conversation, takes place. Her guests include a crusty old man, Pigasov, who dislikes everyone and everything, an obsequious socialite sponger, Pandavlevsky, and the passionate tutor, Bassistoff. Her teenage daughter, Natalya, is intense and impressionable.
When Rudin arrives, a stranger sent by a friend, Baron Muffel, who cannot make the party, he quickly becomes the center of attention.
Rudin is brilliant, well-educated, and a sparkling conversationalist. He has an irresistible appeal for the women, especially the young Natalya. Rudin has Western European ideas, and knows German philosophy. According to Edward Garnett, Rudin “typifies the failure of the Russian intelligentsia of the forties to do more than talk.”
The men, however, dislike him. He is a threat. Poor Volintsev is in love with Natalya, and she falls for Rudin. Lezhvyon knew Rudin from college, and had bad things to say about him. basically Rudin has been unable to stick to anything. He can talk, but not act.
We’ve all known people like this, who make a great impression, and then alienate everybody.
I have the Constance Garnett translation. It’s lovely, and though I see there are still a Penguin and an Oxford edition in print, perhaps we need a new translation of Rudin.