Thursday, September 11, 2014

word of the day: realia

The narrator [of the story “Verily He Is Risen” by Mikhail Shishkin] harks back to Soviet-speak when he hears a woman who might have been his schoolmate and recalls the realia of a Soviet schoolchild’s life and the kind of verse they recite. [my bolding]

definition: objects, as coins, tools, etc., used by a teacher to illustrate everyday living.
definition courtesy

source: Marilyn Schwartz’s introduction to her translation of Mikhail Shishkin’s short story which appears in Two Lines: world writing in translation, no. 17

I looked again at the part of the story where the “woman who might have been [the narrator’s] schoolmate” appears. The woman’s way of speaking reminds the narrator of “a girl in my grade at school [who] was the school’s best at reciting the poem about the Soviet passport and ‘I’ve disliked the oval since a child and since a child have drawn an angle,’ and lots of other poems in that vein, and therefore she performed at all the Pioneer and later Komsomol assemblies …” I don’t see where the narrator remembers any “objects … used by the teacher to illustrate everyday living” — unless the translator is referring to a “poem about the Soviet passport.” I understand the Soviet passport wasn’t so much for travel outside the Soviet Union but rather something you had to produce to prove you were allowed to be wherever it was you currently were (even if it was where you grew up). In that case the passport, at least, would be an object of “everyday living.” In the U.S. you only get a passport if you plan to leave the country. Maybe the equivalent in the U.S. would be the driver’s license which is used more frequently for identification purposes than to prove you have the state’s permission to drive.

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