Monday, December 12, 2011

We are the 146%!

Ah, Samovar! So good to be back together with you. We feared change, but Alex, the Samovar’s new manager, with the full support of owners Roman and Larisa, seems to be on the right track. The lambburgers (lamburgers? help me, Spellcheck! Spell check?) came with perfectly sautéed mixed veggies, and a savvy customer could ask for a Georgian equivalent of wasabi if ketchup didn’t seem right. Yes, there are indeed new Georgian items on the menu, including an elegant and tasty, if rather petite, version of the classic cheesy pastry, khachapuri. So much to explore here, folks. Join the 146% of us who will be stuffing our bellies, if not our ballot boxes, at the Samovar. 

But the best was when, somewhere in the middle of a plain old Sunday night, it happened again!  An opera singer I am authorized to identify only as Kostya took it into his head to treat us to a few traditional Russian songs—and with the sensitive, funny and marvelous accompaniment of pianist Vladimir Silantiev, plus a cameo by a soprano friend, a bit of opera as well. Magic!

P.S. I do realize that the above video is dark and mostly sideways. That's how the Samovar was last night.

Farrar, Straus & Giroux Reading Tonight

7pm. Samovar. Will Hermes (sounds forceful, yet divinely luxurious) and Ellen Ullman (her reading will be entirely in vowels and semi-vowels!).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Platonov Scholars Bring "Style, Context, Meaning" to the Samovar

I was going to title this entry “The Sluices of Epiphany”—wouldn’t it be clever, after all, to nod at one and the same time to the short story by Andrei Platonov and to the way ambrosia flows through the Samovar? In the context of “Andrei Platonov: Style, Context, Meaning” (the first North American academic conference devoted to that author), the participants of which stylishly chose to close the proceedings (where else?) in the heart of New York’s Russian-American literary life? But then I thought I had better read the story first, to see what kind of parallel I would actually be implying. Dear reader, if you do not know Russian your best hope is that nobody ever takes it into his or her head to translate this dark and linguistically very challenging work into English (although here I must immediately contradict myself by saying that Robert Chandler and his collaborators have done an amazing job with Platonov, and if Chandler happens to take on this story as well, so might you). It’s something like Silent Spring meets the GuLAG Archipelago, but compressed into a fraction of the length, and told in a mix of early 18-century-like idioms that will make your head spin. But “The Sluices of Epiphany” was published in 1927, when Rachel Carson and Alexander Solzhenitsyn were running around in short pants. Well, okay, Carson was old enough to vote. Honestly, I can hardly believe it was published, so clearly (albeit allegorically) does it condemn the Great Soviet Engineering Project and the human slavery said project entailed. And you can guess what kind of life was in store at this point for Platonov and his family.

Meanwhile, back at the Samovar… Because of what Platonov does with language in service of humanism—and you can read about that in Joseph Brodsky’s essay, “Catastrophes in the Air”—his work attracts some of the nicest, smartest and, yes, well, most idiosyncratic Slavists in the world, many of whom came together at the Samovar to relax after the conference. The Samovar was an especially meaningful venue, as Brodsky, a co-founder (see this previous entry), was an avid admirer and promoter of Platonov’s work. In the photo below of brilliant Slavist Jonathan Brooks Platt, sitting in “Brodsky’s corner,” you can see (if you look closely) that even Brodsky joined merrily in the general celebration of Platonov’s North American academic conference debut, going so far as to don a lampshade.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tomorrow: Fundraiser for the Brodsky Fellowship Fund



January 27, 2011 № 6

Photo by N.Sharymova  
Joseph Brodsky's Memorial 
15 years without the Poet 
Russian Samovar
Friday, January 28th
7 pm  
 "Brodsky's Venice" and "Brodsky in Lithuania" Presentation
To honor Joseph Brodsky, the great poet and writer, Nobel Prize Laureate, M.I.Miltchik, editor-in-chief of the project and the head of The Fund on Creation of Brodsky’s Museum in St. Petersburg and  Perlov Design Center released two books:"Brodsky's Venice"(2010) and "Brodsky in Lithuania"(2010). Today Perlov Design Center and Mikhail Miltchick, Yasha Klots and Natasha Sharymova plan to create a new book of the series - "Brodsky's New York". The project needs informational support of Russian New Yorkers such as photos and video.

Poetry reading
 Ina Blisnetsova, Andrey Gritsman, Roman Kaplan, Ann Kjellberg, Irina Mashinskaya, Maya Pritsker, Alexei Tsvetkov

The guests of the evening will have an opportunity to order the mentioned books and make donations to Joseph Brodsky Memorial Fellowship Fund (New York).

Russian Samovar
256 West 52nd Street