vic fortezza
3 min readMar 13, 2023

I’m fascinated by books about the Soviet Union, the depths to which humanity sometimes sinks. Cursed Days: Diary of a Revolution by Ivan Bunin details what he witnessed in 1918-’19, first in Moscow, then Odessa, before he settled in Paris in 1920. It was written in 1925-’26, translated in 1998. Considered an heir of literary giants Tolstoy and Chekhov, Bunin also published a novel, three novellas, 18 short story collections, seven volumes of poetry, three memoirs and a translation of Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha. He was born on an estate, his family aristocrats who lost much of their fortune prior to the revolution. The diary is rife with bitterness, which is understandable, and a haughty elitism that is shocking and unfortunate. Still, the book is valuable, as it portrays the madness, the chaos of the time. The pages contain many footnotes, supplied by the translator, often too detailed. Many correct errors, false rumors. As usual, I plucked nuggets. I’ll begin quoting from Coda, the third and final part of the book, to give a snapshot of the author’s mindset. “I am not for the left or the right. I have been, am, and will be an implacable enemy of everything that is stupid and divorced from life, of all that is evil, false, dishonest, and harmful, whatever its source.” “… I do not have a high opinion of people.” From the introduction, written by the translator, Thomas Gaiton Merullo: “A modern-day Adam and Eve, they chose to be banished from the Soviet Eden.” From a footnote in the Moscow segment, a view of Trotsky by a diplomat: “…the greatest Jew since Christ.” From Bunin in the Odessa segment: “The ape had awakened in man.” “… I think about how many people are going about in clothes, stripped from the corpses, of those who already have been murdered!” An explanation from someone wearing two sets of clothing: “… the pillaging was in full swing, and he was afraid that someone would take his second pair of pants.” “Forward, native sons, do not count the corpses around you!” And words that relate to America today: “… The doors of the prisons and asylums are flung open, the archives of criminal investigative units are burned — and the orgy begins.” From Coda, an ancient Russian proverb: “We are like a piece of wood. From us come both the icon and the club.” And this from a footnote in Coda, which may explain why some folks will not support Ukraine today: “… before Hitler the greatest mass murder of the Jews occurred in the Ukraine during the Russian civil war.” Estimates range from 35,000–100,000 deaths. And there were rapes, woundings, disease and orphaned children. Bunin was the first Russian to receive the Nobel Prize, 1933. Despite all he suffered emotionally and psychologically during the Revolution, he lived until 83, dying in Paris… Marullo’s translation is first rate, eminently readable outside of the footnotes. Born in Brooklyn in 1949, he has a Master’s and PhD in Russian Literature from Cornell. He has taught at Ithaca College and Notre Dame. Amazon lists three other books in his name, two on Doestoevsky, one on Bunin. Here’s the latter, photo from Google Images:

This doesn’t sound good, headline from “Families of Connecticut victims outraged after state commutes 44 murder sentences: ‘Outrageous’.”

Uh-oh — headline from “Regulators close Signature Bank, second shuttered by feds after SVB disaster.” Let’s hope folks don’t start panicking.

Here’s a cartoon from Michael Ramirez:

Vlad’s insanity continues, headline from NYP: “Bloodbath: Russia loses 1,090 soldiers in possible deadliest day of war.”

Also from NYP, certain to irk his detractors — Yay!: “Song of defiance: Trump and J6 Prison Choir hit №1 on iTunes, boot Miley Cyrus.” He recites the Pledge of Allegiance.

The floating book shop was rained out today.

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vic fortezza

I was born in Brooklyn in 1950 to Sicilian immigrants. I’ve had more than 50 short stories published world wide. I have 13 books in print.