I was loved!

I was loved!

After spending most of her childhood exiled in Siberia, much of it as a half-starved orphan, Maria is finally rescued by a distant aunt who takes her in and gives her a loving home for the first time in her life. “Oh my little birdie …” my aunt would...
A bouquet of kindness

A bouquet of kindness

This Russian writer remembers moments in her harsh Siberian childhood where someone showed passing kindness and in so doing, made her and her sister feel they were recognised as human beings.  Coming as they did from a family of political exiles, in a system where the...
The urge to play

The urge to play

This excerpt from an interview with a Russian writer brought up in Siberia, due to the political exile of her parents, demonstrates the child’s deep need to play and the imagination which led her to create her own dolls, despite poverty, exclusion and general...
A grandfather’s love

A grandfather’s love

The Hungarian poet Faludy gives an enticing description of his grandfather, seen through a boy’s eyes.  I like how he pitches his speech appropriately for a child, consciously or not.  Also the idea that his words sunk into the young mind, and were understood...
Every journey starts somewhere

Every journey starts somewhere

James Rebanks had a childhood awakening when accompanying his grandfather on a tractor, making the connection between his family, their farm, and the gulls and the plough.  It’s a fitting start to a heartfelt journey from that ‘ancient farming world’...
Freedom from alarms

Freedom from alarms

One of the joys of leaving a job is the growing awareness that waking becomes a natural process, rather than an aural shock.  This doesn’t necessarily mean waking late, just naturally, and I still get up as early as I ever did, about six in the winter and five...
Ice-cream walk

Ice-cream walk

A lovely moment on a children’s walk – I like how they follow the instructions with such verve; meeting a boy selling ice-cream, they stop him and practically buy up his stock. Also can’t resist the inevitable pun that comes of combining...
Tartar laughter

Tartar laughter

The boy Gorky was much impressed by a group of Tartars he met with his buddies, and in particular of their capacity to laugh.  I liked his description of their untrammelled merriment, despite the roughness of their lives. Carry on laughing!  Their laughter was...
A great love

A great love

Hard not to love someone who is known, and even mocked, for his great love of trees and grass.   Gorky met many unusual characters in his childhood and thanks to his memoirs, they have not vanished without trace, but can be liked and admired by succeeding generations...
A grandmother’s stories

A grandmother’s stories

Gorky’s grandmother probably ensured his psychological and possibly physical survival, somehow rescuing him with her luminous spirit and her fantastic story-store. There seems to have been no end to the stories she spun, though it isn’t clear whether she...
Singing her words

Singing her words

A magnificent description of those most ephemeral of physical traits, a person’s way of speaking and the expression of their eyes.  Gorky’s grandmother was a wonderful character and I hereby nominate her for a Nuannaarpoq Award.  (Soon I will line up a...
A luminous human

A luminous human

Certainly the strongest and most loving influence on Gorky’s troubled childhood was his grandmother.  Her capacity to maintain her belief in life and humanity despite repeated evidence of its worst aspects, is astonishing.  Here Gorky pays tribute to the power...
The habits of small birds

The habits of small birds

I’m with Gorky on this one, and spend plentiful moments watching the birds in the garden.  Their cheeriness and resilience even on blastingly cold winter days never ceases to impress me.  Mainly, we have blackbirds, coal- and blue-tits, a feisty robin, and perky...
Life surprises

Life surprises

An impressively positive assertion coming from someone who both witnessed and directly suffered from the ‘seething layer of bestial refuse’ of which humans are capable.  Gorky’s childhood memoir is a testimony to emotional and physical resilience in...
A perfect awakening

A perfect awakening

There are many such luminous moments, often in the presence of his resilient, joyous grandmother, in the childhood memoirs of Gorky.  These stand out all the more given the often staggering levels of cruelty to which he, and even she, were subjected.  It was a world...
An inmate of this active universe

An inmate of this active universe

This current and timeless phrase – with that curious ‘inmate’ alongside the energetic ‘active’ – comes from Wordsworth’s image of himself as an infant, tapping into some greater connectivity than mere wifi systems and smart...
Cheer up, you have escaped

Cheer up, you have escaped

Here Durrell describes the woman who became his second wife, who joined him in Rhodes after the war.  I was struck by the comment that a ‘sad childhood is poor preparation for unexpected happiness’, particularly as there were large parts of my childhood...
The happiest time of life

The happiest time of life

A beautiful description of the sheer, unbounded joy of being alive in a small mongrel dog who finds herself on the streets of a Russian city. Grossman’s capacity to imagine the mind and feelings of animals is concentrated in this essay and another in the same...

Pin It on Pinterest