Monday, April 28, 2008

London's Russian vogue

AOG, London

I have been here for a couple of days only. In these few days I have noticed that Russia is very much at the forefront of the British imagination. Not quite the fever pitch all things Russian acquired in Paris in the aftermath of WWI, but certainly something worth noticing.

The Royal Academy of Arts has just closed its "From Russia" exhibition. Itself
caught in the middle of the on-going diplomatic row between the UK and Russia regarding the death of an ex KGB agent in the UK by the, supposedly, Russian secret service, something Moscow strongly denies and which the exhibition has gone a long way in defusing- at least according to some. However, the hangover still is being felt. Here and there I saw posters of the exhibition still in place.

Perhaps it didn't last too long?

However, the vogue for Russia, in my experience, has gone a bit beyond that in London town. It is common knowledge that, for a few years now, Russia's nouveau riche have set up shop in London.

Something about the city's ambiance marries quite well with the Russian spirit. Perhaps it is that in Russia, as in Spain, it is commonly believed that, if it is the most expensive you can have, it is also the best one you can have. It does not matter if we are talking about books, homes, cars, clothes, horses or what have you.

Expense equals quality. And nowhere in Europe is as needlessly expensive as London. Perhaps that is the interest of the Russia's newfound Anglophilia.

And the Brits return the favor by favoring a certain a la russe state of affairs. My most tangible example was walking into Waterstones and finding a whole section dedicated to Russian literature.

Leo Tolstoy and his "Resurrection"

Dostoyevsky's "The brothers Karamazov"

Olga Grushin's "The dreamlife of Sukhanov"

Yevgeny Zamyatin's "We"

Andreï Makine's "A life's music"

Viktor Pelevin's "The life of insects"

Nabokov's 'Collected Stories'

Andrei Kurkov's "Death and the penguin" (a copy of which I purchased one day later at a second-hand book shop in Victoria)

Nikolai Leskov's "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk"

A collection of "Russian short stories from Pushkin to Buida" and a couple of Gogol titles.

In short, Russia is almost everywhere in London these days.

For some reason, we decided to celebrate my sister's birthday in BALTIC, London's top notch Russian and Eastern European restaurant.

I didn't choose it because of the Russophilia. Instead, I think a slight zeitgeist was at play here.

I for one am quite happy London is so Russia-friendly. I hope it lasts, for everyone's sakes.

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