As the work on my first novel progresses (I will work with a professional editor on it in February) I feel closer to my father, than I ever did since he died. But maybe also since I have ever consciously known him. I was only ten when he died, so I never got to know him in my adolescent or adult years.
I am very grateful to having been inspired to write this book. At the beginning I thought that it was too sad or too heavy of a topic. And then somewhere (I don’t remember exactly where, maybe in “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott) I read the following advice (reproduced with my own words): “If there is something you fear most or are most uncomfortable with, write about it”.
So this is what I did and as already said, I am very thankful and glad about it. During this process, I discovered many beautiful and joyful pieces in my father’s story.
Although many gaps between true events are filled in with my imagination, or maybe because of it, I felt often as though my father was present, when I wrote this book.
I always idolized my father. I guess this feeling grew stronger after he passed away. Most people start appreciating something or someone when they are not there anymore. And this appreciation is sometimes distorted by imagining them being ideal or even close to divine. This ideal picture of those who passed make them even farther away than they already are.
We all thrive for divinity but we feel the closest to all human.
And this what happened when I researched about my father and wrote the book. I started to see him more and more human with his possible flaws and fears. And with this, his picture, memories of him became vivid and alive.
One of the sweet discoveries about my father was that he was just a boy when he was young. You might smile about this discovery and ask “Who else could he be?” So let me explain.
Having grown up in an orphanage, my father didn’t know his exact date and place of birth. So he chose both deliberately. For his birth date he chose January 10th, the birthday of Alexei Tolstoy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksey_Nikolayevich_Tolstoy). As many of those who grew up in Soviet Union, I knew of Alexei Nikolayevich Tolstoy mostly because of Buratino, his version of Pinocchio. But the bulk of his work was science fiction and fantasy. As soon as I read about this, I knew that my father must have enjoyed science fiction as many children and teenagers, especially boys, do. This discovery made me smile and think: “He was just a boy”.
Fueled by the discovery of my father’s favorite author, I am now reading the English translation of “Count Cagliostro” and I simply love it. The subtle humor, the seeming simplicity but at the same time beauty of descriptions (“The wet grass in the garden looked silver in those places where the light from the windows fell upon it. The air smelled of dampness and flowers.”), as well as briefness and precise strokes on dialogues are very capturing and intriguing.
See for example the following definition of magic uttered by the Count Phoenix, also known as Count Cagliostro: “There are no miracles. There is merely the knowledge of nature’s elemental powers, namely fire, water, earth and air; the states of the substances, namely solid, liquid, soft and gaseous; the forces of nature – attraction, repulsion, motion and rest; the elements of which there are thirty-six and finally of nature’s energies: electric, magnetic, light and sensual. All this is subject to three fundamentals: knowledge, logic and will …”
But isn’t the ability to write something like this with such simple words and with subtle reflection of the world as a wonder, a miracle in itself?
Picture: my father in his young years.