Monday, January 08, 2007

Our neighbors must've been doing Christmas cleaning today: they got rid of a bunch of books, placing them by the window at the smoking place in the hallway.

Mishah picked up Yulian Semyonov's Seventeen Moments of Spring, on which the legendary Soviet-time film is based (somehow, I always assumed it was a bookless film).

I took something Soviet about the Spanish Civil War (signed by the author, some obscure but high-ranked military guy) - and a few rather old English textbooks, among them a two-volume "Advanced English," published in 1947 in Moscow, in excellent condition, a treasure.

Here's the beggining of the text about London (p. 219, vol. 2):

London, the stronghold of British imperialism and the vital centre of the United Kingdom, was built up gradually in the course of many centuries.

And, closer to the end of the text, something that I knew would be there:

In a somewhat quieter section nearby is the British Museum and its splendid libarry [sic], where Marx, and later Lenin, came to study and write. Marx' London home in Dean Street and the house where Lenin lived in Regent's Square are both within walking distance of the place.

If you think the textbooks that we used 40 years later were much different, you're wrong: for the most part, they were as sickening. No wonder I preferred to study the lyrics of Madonna's songs instead. And Sinead O'Connor's. And lots of really silly pop songs.

"Hazard" by Richard Marx - I heard it on the radio today and was telling Mishah that this song might seem worthless now, but all those years ago, it wasn't all that obvious that "man with a badge" (who "came knocking next morning") was a cop - to figure it out was quite a language exercise.

And the very first song for me was the Beatles' "When I'm 64" - taught to us here in Moscow in 1986: God bless the teacher, Irina Vitalyevna (Makarova, I guess, but I may be wrong) for her creative approach.

And there was also the BBC Russian Service, sometimes jammed, sometimes not, with Seva Novgorodtsev (he's on Nostalgiya TV channel now, by the way), and they also had a show where they presented English-language songs line by line, translating them, and I still remember a tiny bit of a Chicago song they dissected (Chicago the band):

After all of these years
I'm still trying to shake it
Doing much better
They say that it just takes time
But deep in the night it's an endless flight
I can't get you out of my mind...

It was my beautiful music teacher, Lena, who inspired me to listen to BBC - she was studying English that way herself then, getting ready for emigration to the States... She also tried to get me to listen to Joan Baez, but I was too scatterbrained for that at the time... (Thank you again, Lenochka!)

And now everything's so easy: there's the internet, and a thousand different textbooks at every store...

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