The Return of the Buddha

How strange, to sit in a train at night, reading Vsevolod Ivanov’s “The Return of the Buddha”. To read this strange story with the background noise of a train, although a very comfortable modern one. The professor and his Mongolian companions traveling with a Buddha statue in a goods wagon. A story of deterioration. One can feel the chaos of the revolution. The thin layer of civilization is scrapped away like the gold from the Buddha statue in the story. How thin is that layer in the train and the people around me?
Before socialist realism took over, there was some really interesting literature in Russia.


In a recent article, ejwinner wrote: ” If I build a gold-fish bowl, I’m not likely to find any whales in it.”

This reminded me of a book I have (5 Buben + 5 Elephanten). The original is called “Zahrada”, by the wonderfull Czech artist, illustrator and, first of all, puppet animation film maker Jiri Trnka. One of the characters of the book is a whale (“velryba” in the Czech language) who likes to read. That whale started his life in a gold-fish bowl.

I could not find the original picture from the book with the whale in the fish bowl on the internet, but there is an animation film (I think it is drawn by another artist, although Trnka is mentioned in the lead text) showing the history of the whale in the story (and that of the lawn gnome that also appears in the book). This film contains the story of the garden in the book.

You see that story of the whale in the initial part of the film. If you google for “Zahrada” and “Trnka”, you will find some of the pictures from the book. It looks like there are more animation films, a theater version, and other stuff around this story (including an electronic “Kybernetoscope”). It seems to be rather prominent in Czechia’s children’s culture. Well, of course, it is Trnka!

My grandfather was a graphics artist living in East Germany. He had access to the wonderful books the Czech publisher Artia produced and as a result, we have a number of those books, some by Trnka, some by other artists, including this one.

Indeed, it is unlikely to find a whale in a gold-fish-bowl, except in Czech books and films.

Blue Highways

Near my place, there is a public bookcase besides a playground, with a glass door on each side. People can put books inside if they don’t want them any more, and you can take books out. Sometimes, there are interesting books inside. You take a book you don’t know, its like going through a door into a room you did not know existed. You give chance a chance and turn a corner the other way. Yesterday, I found William Least Heat Moon’s “Blue Highways” inside. I like the book.

Nobody could invent such a book. Invented books are a function of the author’s pre-existing knowledge. But reality has more properties than what anybody knows, so a good non-fiction book can be much richer than any fiction.

I am a bit feeverish since yesterday and took sick-leave. But yesterday suddenly summer started. After a cold and cloudy may, the weather suddenly turned sunny, sky is blue without a cloude, and it is warm, even hot. Now I am sitting on my terrace, reading, following the author on his tour arround the USA, along small streets, watching as the author also is giving chance a chance, turning the other way, to go somewhere, again and again.