Thursday, October 29, 2009

Childhood follies

When I was a kid, I used to love reading "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This short story depicts the passage of a particular day for a prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov in the Soviet labor camp in the Stalinist era. I liked the story so much that I read it again and again and yet again. Needless to say, I read the Japanese translation (by Hiroshi Kimura) at that time.

Towards the end of this novel, the protagonist is lucky enough to get hold of a piece of sausage from his fellow prisoner, Tsezar Markovich. Tsezar is rich, and from time to time receives a box of goodies sent from his family. Ivan Denisovich is poor, but he has his wits and enterprising spirits which occasionally earn him the bonuses.

Now, at the end of yet another long and laborious day, Ivan Denisovich is able to taste the delicious food that has become his.

"He himself took the lump of sausage — and popped it into his mouth. Get the teeth to it. Chew, chew, chew! Lovely meaty smell! Meat juice, the real thing. Down it went, into his belly."

(from the translation by H.T. Willets)

I was fascinated by this description of the joy to be discovered in the simple act of eating a piece sausage. Then I had to put imagination into practice.

In those days, they sold a small piece of "salami" sausage in the stores. When I got the feeling, I would buy a piece of salami,
and gingerly come back home. Imagining that I was Ivan Denisovich himself on the prisoner's bed, I would chew the sausage slowly, and then finally swallow it.

"Meat juice, the real thing".

I remember I repeated this ceremony many, many times.

Those childhood follies taught me, in essence, that there is glory and joy even in the darkest moments of deprivation.

4 comments:

(ma)gog said...

Truely, what a vivid and sedcucing description of eating a piece of sausage! I wish I had had encountered the story of Ivan Denisovich as a child, too.

The key to the happiness lies probably in discovering such a thrilling fulfillment in the miscellaneous daily life.

Monica said...

This reminded me of my childhood. I didn't like eating rice at all. But after watching a Japanese drama called "O-Shin", which talked about how a Japanese girl suffered in her childhood because of the World War. When she could eat a bowl of white rice which was very scarce during such a hard time, she showed her most satisfaction of having that bowl of white rice. Since then, every time when I have rice, I will remember her and the rice becomes the most delicious food!

EdoRiver said...

Yes, you should look at that juicy sausage and think of the god contained in it. As you bite the sausage the god is also torn into pieces, his blood drips from your chin, his flesh is digested into your stomach and the remains come out your other end. The god is sacrificed for the sake of the man, and so life continues on this earthly plane.

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