much to do

Not feeling much like writing this week because of being busy with life. Not overly busy, but just doing things. Here’s a run down:

I’ve been continuing with trying to learn Russian, but now I’ve decided to use two different websites instead of relying on just one. The one I’ve added (Memrise) has the benefit of having recordings of actual people saying the words and phrases, which you’d hope is more accurate and true to real Russian.

If I try to do even just a little bit of learning every day, I’m hoping I can get decent level in a few years or so. I have a book of Russian stories I’d like to be able to read one day, but I know that day is quite far away (unless I really dedicate a significant amount of time to learning).

As for other reading, after realising that I haven’t been sticking to my own advice to someone else about reading a little bit every day, I’ve been trying to make sure I read a bit whenever I can. Sure, it’s not quite back to a daily habit yet, but I think I’m making more progress with War and Peace than I was, say, a month or two ago.

Speaking of War and Peace, I’ve discovered that I’m more engaged with the book in the parts about the relationships between people, and their lives in Russia. On the other hand, my brain seems to tire more quickly from reading about battles and warfare. Only when there is some description of the individual human experience in the war, do I become more captivated. I think perhaps it’s just harder for me to picture the landscapes and battalion manoeuvres and whatnot than to picture a bunch of people sitting around a drawing room or dining table. 

Either way, I’m still enjoying the book overall, and am far enough along that I can start to have delusions of possibly finishing the book by the end of the year. Only thing I want to add is that I read in the introduction or blurb or somewhere that Pierre is the character most like Tolstoy himself. However, I’ve so far found Pierre to be one of the least likeable characters, which I think is confusing my brain because in Anna Karenina, Levin was the most autobiographical character, and he was my favourite.

Writing this post, I’ve really come to realise that I’ve given myself a lot of things to do that require consistent and frequent effort. The next on the list is piano. I’m very aware that I need to practise piano a lot more than I have been if I want to ever get any good at it, and be able to play the kind of music that I want to play. Of course, in this I have no delusions, as I seem to spend more time on learning Russian and reading books, which seem a lot easier.

Perhaps another area that has been a bit neglected is the garden. After all this rain, the plants are flourishing, but so are the weeds. And I think too much rain builds that complacency of “we don’t need to worry about watering the garden today”, and it quietly slips from the daily routine.

But the clouds have dispersed for now, and the sun has come out. It is the start of the week-end, and there is much to do!

the start of my Russian journey

Before I started learning Russian, I had some confidence that if I could pick up Farsi/Persian, then Russian, surely, could not be much harder. Ever since reading Anna Karenina a few years ago, I wanted to learn Russian. Since (obviously) I read an English translation of the novel, and I’ve had very little exposure to the Russian language before, my desire to learn the language was based almost solely on how lovely all the Russian names sounded.

When I actually started learning Russian (about a month ago now), I was quickly dismayed by how hard it was to learn the alphabet. Of course, I knew their alphabet was different, but I thought it would be reasonably easy to pick up since they look similar to English characters. And, yes, several of the letters do look very much like English letters, but a lot of these also have completely different pronunciations.

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dear friend

Last Friday, I went out to buy new running shoes. The reason I needed new running shoes warrants a post of its own, so I’ll leave that for another time. Anyway, as I was already out, I figured I’d stop by at the Lifeline Bookfest. I’d gone the week-end before with a friend, but hadn’t found anything I wanted, so I left empty-handed. This was kind of to make up for that, and I was sure I’d find something.

After much wandering, I found a Russian for Dummies book, which will hopefully be a good introduction to Russian whenever I decide I’m finished with learning Persian and want to move on to Russian; and I also found a decent copy of The Hobbit, which I bought because I’ve been wanting to re-read the Lord of the Rings trilogy for ages, and had started Fellowship of the Ring earlier this year, but stopped after a few pages because I thought I really should re-read The Hobbit first. Continue reading

The Idiot

Last week I finished reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I think it took me about four months to finish it — not just because it’s a difficult book, but because I haven’t had a lot of time and energy for reading, which, in itself, is a shame.

This is not the first Dostoevsky I’ve read, but it’s the first I’ve read in over ten years. I read both Notes from Underground and The Grand Inquisitor while I was still in high school, and found it fascinating (or so my notes at the time say), but my reading tastes went in other directions, and didn’t return to classic Russian literature until I picked up Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina a couple of years ago.

Although I tried to allow a bit of space between these two tomes, my mind is naturally going to compare the two. This, of course, might be quite unfair, especially since I rank Anna Karenina as one of the best novels I’ve ever read. Continue reading

and so it begins

I just started reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s been about two weeks, and I’ve just finished Part One. I honestly don’t know what the whole story’s about (that’s my preferred way to read classics – or any book, really – I never really extensively research about the storyline, themes, characters, etc beforehand) so I’m just talking about Part One here.  Continue reading