A short bit from the book...
The Tretyakov Gallery
Taken from 'How To Marry A Russian Bride', pp.s 248-250
"And now that Dave is in his nineteenth-century romantic mode, he takes the metro to 'Tretyakov' station on the yellow line, in order to visit the Tretyakov Gallery, that artistic monument to Russia's Silver Age from about 1870 to 1900, to that gentler Russia, that lost world of Tchaikovsky, Chekhov and Dostoevsky.
And so Dave wanders among these exhibition rooms as though in a happy dream; for these pictures are like postcards from the time of Gogol, Turgenyev and Goncharov. Here there is no mechanised murder on a scale too vast to imagine; no millions dead from mad ideologies, no forced labour camps and deportations.
Instead Dave sees a lost pastoral beauty untouched by collectivisations. This is an older and simpler time, a time of quaint religious observances and country sextons, of the Orthodox church and peasants wearing loose-fitting shirts and birch-bark shoes. How innocent this pre-revolutionary world looks! How innocent and beautiful!
And of course the Tretyakov is devoted to the beauty of nature, because so many of the middle class painters whose works line its walls were themselves devoted to the beauty of nature, like Ivan Shishkin, Russia's most famous painter of woodland scenes.
And so Dave sees innumerable paintings of the Russian forest, until eventually he realises he is looking at something quite different to what he is used to. For here he sees the magical wilderness, unchanged since the days of the woolly mammoth: a canvas simply consisting of a huge sweep of coniferous trees as far as the eye can see: an untouched vastness which has no counterpart in western Europe.
And more generally, here among these pictures of the Tretyakov, Dave glimpses a little of the Russian heartland, that world of the village and the hamlet a thousand miles from Moscow. This is the other Russia: the land of the bear and the forest wilderness called the taiga, the Russia of four mighty seasons, of burning heat and dust and devastating cold. And Dave realises how puny and insignificant the seasons are in Britain - often called eternal autumn by Russians.
And for Dave all this is a near-mystical experience, a sudden unfurling of a radically different history, geography and culture, a glimpse of another world - partially a lost one insofar as the Tretyakov is a monument to Russia's Silver Age - but also a fascinating reminder of the natural and immutable vastness and greatness of Rus - which is still there, and has hardly changed at all since the great rivers first began to flow.
And so a magic carpet picks up Dave and carries him around this great gallery - this artistic monument to Russia's silver age. What greatness! What beauty! What wonders are to be found here in the Tretyakov! Here in the central district!"
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