Wednesday, September 07, 2005

August, the Month of Winds

Younger readers may not remember this time too well, but older readers will understand very well when I talk about a time of “Soviet children’s literature” – a time from the 60s to perhaps the mid-eighties when a lot of the children’s fiction we got in this country came out from under the Iron curtain. Ofcourse some of it was in the realm of the ‘nation-building’ genre and focused on building-children-to-be-good-citizens rather than great writing or entertainment. But some of those authors were very good and enjoyable.

One of my earliest ‘favourite’ books was by one of these Soviet authors, Vladislav Krapivin. August, the Month of Winds, a book I still read secretly sometimes, is a wonderful warm book revolving around a group of boys, Gena the leader, Ilka the message runner, Yasha the crafty kid, Vladek the blind boy who wants to be a meteorologist. Krapivin doesn’t moralize though there are undertones of good examples lurking around occasionally. Each character is interesting on his own account, and there is a good feeling for the things that matter in little boys lives – gang fights, kite flying, evading the teacher, the fantasies of running away to Africa, the intricacies of friendship – closeness that is never discussed.

Its also interesting how he presents the childrens’ world as a kind of counterpoint to the serious, focused adult world which dictates that learning a second language is a far superior activity to flying kites and shooting catapults. Gena’s granny scolds him for neglecting his German.

“Didn’t Father tell him, the young devil, not to laze about, to be a man. But he won’t, the shameless good-for-nothing!”
But it wasn’t that he wouldn’t, he couldn’t! He just hadn’t got what it takes. They didn’t teach you music, for instance, if you had no flair for it. But what if a person had no flair for German?
“Be a man.” Couldn’t one be a man without knowing German? And why “be”? Wasn’t he human already?

These monologues in Gena’s head are dispelled when he decides to stash the German book away behind the firewood and not worry until the exams, when he will be found out anyway. All problems can be endured until the time comes when you need a solution…

I doubt most of these books are in print today, and sometimes when I re-read them, they seem incredibly innocent for this age of advertising-fed and video-violence immune kids. For a long time I actually wanted to write to Krapivin to tell him how much I enjoyed the book, but couldnt find anything much online about him beyond this official page.

7 comments:

alchemist said...

that was the one great advantage of the soviet era - and more so of the indo-soviet ties. the russian classics were all available at throw away prices - and there was this phase in school when i got hooked to soviet literature and as much as i hated reading those hard-clothbound volumes in thick print (and each book usually had two volumes) those were the only things i could afford and so many times those were the only ones you could get ... thanks a lot to progress publishers for a wealth of soviet/russian lit

apu said...

yeah..though i was always more into the folk tales and childrens lit (esp some of the sci-fi) rather than classics...

Pavel said...

Today is wonderfull day, as I have read your message!
It is because since the times of the childhood the books of Vladislav Krapivin remain favourite reading for me. And that in India (nowadays very far from Russia) there are people, which just as me secretly re-read his books somtimes, pleases me very much. Now, when I have got access to the Internet and have found out, that in the former USSR not a few people as me, I began to read them not so 'secretly'. :-)

I as well as you, like to read a sci-fi and fantasy, and I try something to write itself too. And as Vladislav Krapivin is considered one of founders of Russian children's fantasy, there is even a contest of the fantastic story for children devoted to him named "The Broken "Tower" (and I usually try to participate in it).

Unfortunately, there too little information at VK official page, but at his Russian site there is much more. Even it contains two books in English - "The Magic Carpet" and "The Pilot for Special Missions" (but I do not estimate translation quality). There are also others Internet resources, for example community on www.livejournal.com. I exactly know, that Vladislav Petrovich reads it, and even answers sometimes.

Thanks you very-very much! Please, excuse me, if that has written incorrectly, it is from bad knowledge of English.

- With the best regards -
- Pavel Greyev -

apu said...

Thanks for the links, Pavel, I will check them out! Good to meet another V.Krapivin reader!

Pavel said...

As I know, Vladislav Petrovich has already read your post! As it is wonderful, when the favourite writer has Internet... :)

apu said...

wow! thats cool! unfortunately the site u sent me links in russian, so i cant read a thing :-(

Anonymous said...

Cool article..I read 'August, the..' from my school library in India. Its a lot like British childrens literature of the same genre, only with an edge of realism that gave it a somewhat darker shade than the average childrens novel.
Now years later and on the other side of the world, that book reminds me of all the time spent in a small but wonderfully fragrant chilrens public library searching for books to read during the school summer vacations.