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Summer in Baden-Baden – Leonid Tsypkin

 
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Posted August 8, 2016 by

Summer in Baden-Baden – Leonid Tsypkin – 1981 / 2001

(written between 1977 and 1981, first published in 1981, published in English in 2001)

baden baden

Posted by Guillermo Maynez on 17/7/2006, 19:51:35

I am ready to start discussion of SIBB if you guys are ready too. I finished it minutes ago and I liked it a lot. On one side, it reminded me of Julian Barnes’s “Flaubert’s Parrot”. On the other side, I was much reminded of Sebald’s “Austerlitz”, which we have read in our club and which I also enjoyed very much.

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Posted by Lale on 18/7/2006, 8:32:45

: was much reminded of Sebald’s “Austerlitz”

The style is very much like Austerlitz. I immediately made the connection too.

Then I read Susan Sontag’s introduction and she likens the two books to one another from a completely different aspect. She says Tsypkin wanted to have photos (that he took himself) illustrate the book – like Sebald has later done with his book. For some reason SiBB doesn’t have photos, except for the one at the very beginning (Dostoyevsky’s house), I wonder why he abandoned that idea.

Lale

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Posted by Steven on 18/7/2006, 8:48:23

I enjoyed it very much as well. The style is surprisingly readable; the long, pulsing sentences move the reader forward at a breathless, reckless pace that evokes Dostoevsky’s frantic and compulsive behaviour.

Here is a link to a site I just found that has a very nice biography as well as a gallery of photos of Dostoevsky, his family, and the couch where he died with the Sistine Madonna on the wall.

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~karamazo/dostoevsky.html

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Posted by LadyPurple on 19/7/2006, 10:54:20

I agree with everybody’s assessment here. The style was relatively easy to get used to and then the story just flowed, following the ups and downs of the moods of D in particular.

The parallels in writing style and the approach of the subject are intriguing. Two authors coming up with these unusual techniques independently. I wonder whether Tsypkin knew German – where long roaming sentences are more common than in other European languages. I was tempted to imagine what SiBB would have sounded and read like in Russian but I did not get very far, unfortunately.

We don’t know whether the Russian version had more photos. Although, it might not have done, given the cost involved. A publisher would not want to fork out money for an unknown author that was not “essential” in his view.

Friederike

summer-in-baden-baden-leonid-tsypkin

Posted by Steven on 20/7/2006, 8:28:45

So what does everyone think of Tsypkin’s depiction of Dostoevsky?

Reading in a capsule biography a statement like “Dostoevsky was an epileptic and a compulsive gambler who spent four years abroad to escape from his creditors” is a far cry from the intense experience that Tsypkin gives us. Dostoevsky’s gambling was every bit as self-destructive as a narcotics addition.

It’s difficult to find anything likeable in Dostoevsky’s personality – he oscillates between insufferable rudeness and abject contrition. Had he not been a great writer, would his wife, or anyone else, have stood by him? We can also speculate on cause and effect relationships between his prison experience, his writing, and his personal traits.

I was surprised that the theme of Dostoevsky’s anti-Semitism wasn’t developed any further than it was. I suppose that Tsypkin – to his credit – took it only as far as his source material went.

Has anyone else finished The Gambler yet? It’s incredible that Dostoevsky could write a book such as this BEFORE his self-imposed exile and gambling spree in Germany – almost as though he were living out a role from his own book.

Steven

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Posted by Lale on 20/7/2006, 8:48:47

: It’s difficult to find anything likeable in
: Dostoevsky’s personality – he oscillates between
: insufferable rudeness and abject contrition. Had he
: not been a great writer, would his wife, or anyone
: else, have stood by him?

I was wondering how this woman stayed in love with him. It is understandable for young women to fall in love with an older man even if he is not exactly the looker, as long as he demonstrates some greatness and/or a teacher/doctor/father figure. And we also know that talent attracts women (Paganini once said that women thought he was the most handsome, the most sexy guy in the world, when he was up on the stage and playing). I am not surprised to see a young, pretty woman fall in love with Dostoyevsky. But how did she stay in love with him? He was the worst husband ever!

Lale

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Posted by Steven on 20/7/2006, 10:49:11

: I was wondering how this woman stayed in love with him.

Before judging Dostoevsky too harshly, perhaps we should remember that, in Summer in Baden Baden, Tsypkin is reading Anna’s memoirs and visualizing what he reads. We are seeing only her side of the story. All the same, she undoubtedly had it very rough and is to be admired for her devotion.

Does her situation remind you of Dorothea in Middlemarch? A modest woman marries a “great” man, expecting to become a partner in his life’s work, and instead becomes his nurse and a target for acts of small-mindedness and abuse.

: He was the worst husband ever!

My wife might argue that point.

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Posted by LadyPurple on 23/7/2006, 8:39:19

From what I have been reading over the years about D. Tsypkin characterized him very well in that later phase of his life. Without doubt, D. was a ver complex character and in those days the knowledge of epilepsy was probably limited so that the moodswings and other indicators were not recognized as a part of the illness.

Didn’t D finish The Gambler while in Baden Baden? I read this somewhere that he needed to finish it so that he could get some urgently needed funds. Also, I think he had previous experiences with Gambling. Did he not?

One aspect that comes out also really well, I thought, is D. soft side for the family. Probably very typical Russian at the time, but he was under constant pressure for money from his extended family. I think we should not underestimate a gentle side in him. How often, after being insufferable in his behaviour, does he make up to Anna with small gifts and emotional depth. Anna may have had traits of what we would call today “battered wife syndrom” – she clings from each loving episode to the next. She also is conscious of his litarary genius that has to be supported and that he is sick and she shows her motherly feelings of nurturing for him. She was more independent minded than many young women in Russia at the time, I would think. At least that is the way that Tsypkin presents her – based on her diaries.

Anitsemitism – may be that was more subdued given Tsypkin was Jewish background and also, at the time he wrote the novel antisemitism was pushed somewhat into the background, I think. The anti-German position remained as strong as ever.

Friederike

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Posted by Steven on 23/7/2006, 9:30:57

: Didn’t D finish The Gambler while in Baden Baden? I
: read this somewhere that he needed to finish it so
: that he could get some urgently needed funds. Also, I
: think he had previous experiences with Gambling. Did he not?

According to the introductory material in my copy, Dostoevsky wrote The Gambler in 26 days in November 1866. He had an agreement with his publisher to deliver a finished novel at the end of that period or default something like all his future proceeds for the rest of his life. He had procrastinated until he had no choice but to hire a stenographer to have any hope of finishing the novel by the deadline. That stenographer was, of course, Anna Grigoryevna. It was 1867 when he married Anna and left for Germany.

The Idiot was published in 1868, so that may have been the novel he was working on in Germany.

Yes, he had gambled before he wrote The Gambler. He had gambled away the proceeds from the novel before he even wrote it, which is why he was still broke after he finished it.

~

Posted by Guillermo Maynez on 23/7/2006, 11:24:24

I have read several books by D., which I think is good to have done before reading SiBB. The first book I read by him was precisely “The Gambler”. It left me with no wishes to have gambling as one of my vices, and in fact it’s never captured me, although I have placed my bets (small ones) in places like Atlantic City. It seems to me to be one of the worst ways to go broke (there are other more pleasing ways to be left in the street). Then I read a rare novel called “Stepantchikovo”, about one Foma Fomitch who tyrannizes everybody at a large estate, a kind of satire of tyranny and moral extorsion. Then came “The Brothers Karamazov”, a masterpiece, and another one, “Crime and Punishment”.

SiBB was a captivating read, a painful depiction of an emotionally unstable man, a sick man, a literary genius subjected to a life of suffering, most of it self-inflicted. The character of Anna Grigoryevna is also painful to look at, although I did respect her as a brave and tolerant woman. Hers must have been a difficult life. Does anyone know what happened to her after D.’s death?

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Posted by LadyPurple on 24/7/2006, 5:33:20

Anna Grigoryevna spent her time to look after D.’s estate. She brought his material in order and was doing quite well, also financially. I read this somewhere but need to check the source.

Friederike


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