|Дом Книги (Dom Knigi—the House of Books) - Moscow|
If you’ve never been to Russia, you probably don’t know how incredibly generous the Russian people are. You have to be careful about what you admire, because they’ll give it to you. Before I realized this, I was given several classical LPs and some books. (Both were subsidized in the USSR.)
I still have all but one—a tiny volume, about 1 1/4" by 2", of poetry. I mentioned it to an academic librarian friend who was excited about having recently received a box of miniature books. She looked it up in the World Library Catalog. She discovered only one or two other libraries possessed it. I decided to give it to hers, as there was little chance I’d ever try to read it. The print was way too small!
One of my favourite stories from my youth is about books and Russia, though not Russian books. I went to the USSR twice, with student groups. On one of those trips, among my fellow-travellers (not in the Commie sense) was Sean, a young Irishman. When we reached the border, everyone had to get out, not only for customs but because the Russian railways’ gauge is wider than standard European so we had to change trains.
And go through Customs, in a large shed populated by grim-faced Soviet agents. Actually, Westerners tend to see all Russians as rather grim—the easy American smile of greeting is just not part of their culture. If you get a smile from a Russian, he really means it.
He beckoned to the nearest man, who came over. They studied the cover together, flipped through the book, consulted each other, and went off with all the books to show them to—presumably—the boss. Several more gathered around to take a look. Sean was green by that time.
We wondered if they’d arrest just him or our entire group... But they returned all the books to him. He packed them up and we went on our way.
On the way home, in the boat-train from Dover to London, Sean disappeared for a while. When he rejoined us, he was wearing a full Red Army uniform, including the cap with the Red Star. He had swapped the James Bond books for it.
What with one thing and another, I would love to see some of my own books in Russian. I wonder if they’ll change my name, as a Czech publisher did (to Carola Dunnová), or leave it as is, like the Polish translator. At least I’ll be able to tell, unlike the Hebrew version of one of my Regencies, where I could only read one page—the copyright page, where they had spelled my name wrong!
If they invited me to a launch party at Дом Книги (Dom Knigi—the House of Books) in Moscow, I’d go like a shot.
|Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies. The paperback edition of Superfluous Women is coming out in June.|