Archive for March, 2010


March 21, 2010

What has always amazed me about Britain is that almost every single spot of the island may be associated with well-known events of the past or with literary works. In this regard the whole of the island is like a living museum of history and literature. I thought of this when I was standing in the Liverpool harbor thinking about the ships which used to sail from there to the West Indies, to Africa and all over the world. The same strong wind was probably blowing into the faces of sailors in those days – the wind I felt on my face.

When my wife and our friend’s daughter were discussing the film Pride and Prejudice based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, the daughter immediately showed pictures of the place where the film had been shot – the place was about an hour’s drive away.

When you get by train to Keighley and walk from there to Howarth, the Bronte place, when you see the Parsonage at the top of the village, then Jane Eyre and the Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey will become surprisingly near to you.

Of late I was re-reading Three Men in a Boat.

The adventure of the three began at Waterloo Station in London. The modern façade of the Station – the Victory Arch – did not exist at the end of the 19th century but Jerome and Harris might have known Euston Arch with the horse-drawn vehicles in the foreground. In Jerome’s days Waterloo Station was extremely ramshackle. The new platforms which were being added bore the names of “stations” too. Each of these stations-within-a-station had its own booking office. A little-used railway line even crossed the main concourse on the level and passed through an archway in the station building to connect to the South Eastern Railway’s smaller station, now Waterloo East, whose tracks lie perpendicular to those of Waterloo. Passengers, not surprisingly, were confused by the layout and by the two adjacent stations called ‘Waterloo’. By 1897 there were also three separate (and separately-owned) Underground stations named ‘Waterloo’ under or close by the station. Taxi stands and public entrances from the street were poorly marked and the access to the rest of the station was confusing. This complexity and confusion became the butt of jokes by writers and music hall comics for many years in the late 19th century. Let’s enjoy Jerome K. Jerome’s contribution:

We got to Waterloo at eleven, and asked where the eleven-five started

from.  Of course nobody knew; nobody at Waterloo ever does know where a

train is going to start from, or where a train when it does start is

going to, or anything about it.  The porter who took our things thought

it would go from number two platform, while another porter, with whom he

discussed the question, had heard a rumour that it would go from number

one.  The station-master, on the other hand, was convinced it would start

from the local.

To put an end to the matter, we went upstairs, and asked the traffic

superintendent, and he told us that he had just met a man, who said he

had seen it at number three platform.  We went to number three platform,

but the authorities there said that they rather thought that train was

the Southampton express, or else the Windsor loop.  But they were sure it

wasn’t the Kingston train, though why they were sure it wasn’t they

couldn’t say.

Then our porter said he thought that must be it on the high-level

platform; said he thought he knew the train.  So we went to the high-

level platform, and saw the engine-driver, and asked him if he was going

to Kingston.  He said he couldn’t say for certain of course, but that he

rather thought he was.  Anyhow, if he wasn’t the 11.5 for Kingston, he

said he was pretty confident he was the 9.32 for Virginia Water, or the

10 a.m. express for the Isle of Wight, or somewhere in that direction,

and we should all know when we got there.  We slipped half-a-crown into

his hand, and begged him to be the 11.5 for Kingston.

“Nobody will ever know, on this line,” we said, “what you are, or where

you’re going.  You know the way, you slip off quietly and go to


“Well, I don’t know, gents,” replied the noble fellow, “but I suppose

SOME train’s got to go to Kingston; and I’ll do it.  Gimme the half-


Thus we got to Kingston by the London and South-Western Railway

Jerome’s book was originally meant to be a guide-book interlaced with humor – to make it (and, consequently, the sights) more attractive. It looks like the 120-year-old idea could be regenerated and we would follow the routes charted by the author rubbernecking left and right and being thrilled at having the Three Men (to say nothing of the Dog) right behind us.


March 7, 2010

In his book “Exegetical Fallacies” the author D.A.Carson warns the reader against the search for hidden meanings in the Bible which are bound up with the etymologies of some words. D.A.Carson provides a number of quite convincing examples. One of them is from 1 Corinthians 4:1 where Paul writes of himself, Cephas, Apollos and other leaders in these terms: “  Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. The word which in KJV is translated as ministers (or servants in NIV) is associated by some Bible interpreters with the word “oarsmen” due to the word “hyperetas” (servants) originating from the word “eresso” (“to row”). However, by the time when 1 Corinthians was written, the element of “rowing” had been completely absent from the word “hyperetas”. We do not link the meaning of the word “lord” with “the keeper of bread” (“hlaf-ward”), do we?

Giving another example, the author refers to Romans 1:16. D.A.Carson writes: “I do not know how many times I have heard preachers offer some such rendering as this: ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the dynamite (in Bible translations: power) of God unto salvation for everyone who believes’”. The matter is that in the original the Old Greek word dunamis (=(miraculous) power, strength, violence, wonderful work) was used, which in those days certainly couldn’t be associated with the powerful explosive given to us by the Nobel Prize founder 19 centuries later. Consequently, D.A.Carson argues, it is wrong to impart to the word dunamis the meaning it did not possess in the times of the apostle Paul.

While agreeing in principle to what the author of the “Exegetical Fallacies” says, I think of the time some ten years ago when I was listening to an American missionary who was commenting on the Book of Ephesians. “For we are His workmanship…” (2:10) “D’you know what is the Greek for “workmanship?”, the missionary asked, “Poema”.

I was really impressed by the discovery John Sargent made for me at that moment. Now, after so many years, I understand that his reference to the etymology of the word might have contradicted the rules of exegesis. But even now, with my present understanding, I marvel at the work of the Poet who keeps  steering His oarsmen, His “poems” – He keeps guiding those who believe in the creative dynamite of His Word.

And that thought makes the Bible MY BIBLE.


March 7, 2010

At the moment I’m working at compiling a glossary of terms related to text interpretation. The theory says that a text is consolidated through COHERENCE and COHESION. Coherence is the linkage of ideas and concepts in the text, while cohesion is a chain of closely connected words (like synonyms, or words of the same sphere, or repetition of the same word) that run through the text and keep it “together”. No matter how cohesive a text can be, it cannot be called a text without coherence. It may be illustrated by the following example: “I am going to New York City by bus. The bus is a means of transport and New York is the biggest city in the U.S.A. The U.S.A. is an English-speaking country. There are  some English-speaking schools in Warsaw.” The italicized sentences can hardly be called a text, since this conglomeration of utterances is not coherent.

And then I remembered some essays written in the Soviet times by Vietnamese students who were studying in Moscow and in other major cities of the ex-USSR. The themes to be covered were everyday topics, but the guys from the “fraternal country” used to introduce their own vision into them. For instance, they had to write about a forest in spring. The essay would sound like this: “This morning I got up at six o’clock and listened to the latest news. It was spring. I went to the forest. It is a nice forest. I also liked it because it is a socialist forest. I thought that Vladimir Illich (Lenin) might have been to this forest too. The birds were singing. They were socialist birds too, etc.

Please, trust me: the essay quoted is authentic. I have only translated it from Russian into English.

The teacher of Russian who was grading the paper had considered it to be quite coherent.


March 1, 2010

The first question to be asked: if economically and socially the people in the East of Ukraine live no better, and in many respects even worse, than those in the Center and in the West, why do they vote so resolutely and enthusiastically for Yanukovych who was a supervisor of the region for quite some time in the past? Especially, if you take into account the fact that the difference between the haves and the have-nots is expressed in Donbas even more than anywhere else, more miners are killed here than in any other part of the world, public drunkenness is unrestrained, and there are fewer libraries per 100,000 of population than in the rest of Ukraine. Why do they vote for a repeated criminal, for a crook who has falsified his degrees, for a coward who did not dare to stand in the pre-election debate against another candidate?

To say that Yanukovych comes from those parts and is “theirs” would be only a partial answer. A politician Yuriy  Hnatkevych describes a scene he witnessed at the railway station in Donetsk. Two guys looking like “bomzhes” (from the Russian “Of No Fixed Abode”) are selling some junk.  One of them says to the other: “Petya, will you be willing to sit here instead of me tomorrow?  In two days we have the election. So I’ll rush to my village and cast my ballot – for the “westerners” not to jam their candidate through.”

If Tymoshenko, as the Prime-Minister, says Hnatkevych, enacted a bill providing a free shelter for every “bomzh” plus a daily bottle of vodka for each of them, all the bomzhes in Donbas would still vote for Yanukovych and all the bomzhes in the Ukrainian West for Tymoshenko.

Yanukovych is not so much valued for himself as for his being a symbol. He has never been an independent politician. From what is known about his past, he is more of an action officer, even an automaton, embodying and representing the interests of ordinary “easterners” and the influential money-bags who are behind him and who have monopolized all decision-taking. That explains the secret of his popularity among the electorate at large: he is accepted as a brand-name, as a sign that points to a phenomenon.

What is the phenomenon Yanukovych represents? That is the post-Soviet ideology and the Soviet-speak, the socialist Ukraine as a bantustan within the borders of the USSR, the evil America with aggressive imperialists, the Ukrainian “bourgeois nationalism” which is recognized by everything that is Ukrainian. No one of the previous three presidents offered anything MODERN to the Eastern region to change that mentality. The latest projects of Trypillya and Baturyn are nothing but historically oriented spasmodic contractions, which at present may be interesting mostly from the educational viewpoint. That is why all the fears, worries, dissatisfactions and aspirations of the East of Ukraine required some symbol and they found it in Yanukovych.

Even more powerful in Yanukovych’s success was the economic factor. There is a group of capitalists in Ukraine (mainly in exporting industries – coal-mining, steel-making) who get higher profits within the framework of “un-European” capitalism. This is achieved through the higher degree of labor exploitation, due to the absence of the union movement, by lobbying the interests of big monopolists in Parliament and in courts. In short, this kind of capitalism is oriented towards the Russian style of managing economy “a la Putin.”

It is quite clear that any step (no matter how tiny it may be) towards “ukrainization” will imply Ukraine’s separateness from Russia. Even if you open a second Ukrainian-language school in a city where there is already one “Ukrainian” school among hundreds of Russian-language institutions, there will be an uproar of “indignant protests” magnified by the media which are owned by the capitalists mentioned above. The Ukrainian patriotism is incompatible with the vision promoted by this “collective Yanukovych”. It’s quite natural that they accept the Ukrainian direction as a hostile force and they have already started assault on the Ukrainian language, culture and history. The main reason is that it’s the Ukrainian environment which represents the European orientation of the country, at the same time denying the industrial feudalism and oligarchic pseudo-democracy.

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