Passages

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Every two months a new passage from one of the eight completed books/manuscripts will be featured on this page.

Read below for a Passage from “THE NORTHERN SPY” (From a letter from Felix Andropov in 1920 Petrograd  to his brother, Semyon, in Moscow)

Yesterday was the anniversary of the storming of the Winter Palace.

Kara and I went to Dvorsovaya Square where we found a way of watching the spectacle from the porch of an acquaintance on Halturina Street.

This acquaintance is another doctor, Semyon, called Vladimir Tubechev.

Last night arc lights were everywhere.

An entire battalion of army troops became performers — thousands of people!  The numbers were far grander than they were on the original occasion.  Their advance towards the palace, which they conducted from the middle of Dvorsovaya Square, was punctuated by the sounds of horns, bells, whistles, and shouting.

It seemed to me that sheer volume had replaced quality in the imaginations of people today.  As if to dramatize this point, there were fifty actors dressed as Kerensky, all making the identical speeches with close-to-identical gestures.  I’m not sure what the intended effect was supposed to be of having fifty people play one man, but I can tell you what I thought.

It celebrated the final consumption of an authentic heart through a sea of imitation.

Semyon, do you remember how Peter the Great regained his sanity after Fontainebleu?   You know, it’s a funny story in its way, but it’s always the first thing that comes to mind when I think about him.  He had been visiting the Comte de Toulouse… a bastard son of Louis XIV who nevertheless had his own chateau.  He had been persuaded to go on a stag hunt — a favorite sport of French nobles — a completely unfair contest carried out against a backdrop of human shouting and the barking of hounds.

Our Peter didn’t like it at all.

And to make matters worse, he fell off his horse.

So he returned to Paris by boat, past the chateau of Choisy where he paused.  And then, instead of going ashore to stay in his Parisian hotel, he continued to sail under all five bridges of Paris.

He chose water for his sanity.  He knew where he belonged.

And as he watched the reflected lights of the city around him, his mind became at once rapturous and placid.

It is at this moment that I can see him most clearly – not as a Tsar, or even as a Russian, but simply as a man.

Semyon, do you know what I am getting at?

To some degree this is what our dialog is about.  What our letters are about.  Our dialog, our letters, describe moments unobserved and unobservable by either the newspapers or the politicians.  These are moments that Bolshevism would label as nonexistent simply because they fall outside the Bolshevik frame of reference.

They aren’t the formal letters of a bureaucracy shaped by politics and compromise.

They’re not the shouts and riots of crowds.

And they are not, God forbid, economic products.

They are the quiet, thoughtful whispers shared between two free men.

This is why we must nurture them.

If we don’t share these occasions between ourselves, then they’ll be lost forever, and mad Guseva may turn out to be right in her warnings.

We are under siege by the shrill wail of caricature.  But we must prevail over this tremendous din with a simple promise to whisper.

I am writing my whispers to you.  And I depend on you to answer my own.

It is up to us, as brothers, to reach beyond our time and share what mustn’t be forgotten within ourselves.

If we can’t do this, we will perish.

But if we succeed, I truly believe that sooner or later the world around us must fall to its knees.

Do not fail me, Semyon.

And I — I promise — will not fail you.