Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prologue: Insomnia

When I was a small child, I slept so rarely that the school nurse thought my parents were physically abusing me, because she'd never seen circles so dark under an elementary schooler's eyes. I wasn't (just) afflicted with insomnia- as early as third grade I developed a philosophical opposition to sleep, telling myself that it made no sense to lose hours and hours of life every night to unconsciousness, when instead one could be watching television, reading, writing, or simply thinking.

I recall seeing the sun rise after watching an A&E biography of JFK one morning, my eight-year-old self shamefully wiping tears away and trying to process the emotional roller coaster that was learning about JFK's handsome smile, beautiful wife, glamorous legacy, power to inspire, ability to lead, and untimely and tragic death all at once, all in one hour and a half, alone with nothing but the glow of a television, and ultimately, in my third grade perspicacity, pitying everyone who'd slept instead. Pitying, not because they should've seen the documentary, but because I felt so much wiser, more... lived, at the tail end of those ninety minutes, and couldn't everyone do something like that with all their unused seconds?

Nearly a decade and a half later I again find myself confronted with chronic insomnia, and only now have I resolved, like my eight-year-old self, to try to make use of these wakeful hours. I've given up on sleep, for now, and will instead translate, chapter by chapter, Aleksandr Khudoshin's Stories about Russian Saints for Children.

I picked it up at Alexander Nevsky Lavra in Petersburg, and to my knowledge it's as yet untranslated into English. It's an adorable book, and in its own way, and with the proper sort of reader, profound. I'll be typing up the Russian along with my translations, so if you happen to be a Russophone and disagree with any of my translation choices, please let me know! I'm doing this largely to keep up my meager Russian skills in my year off from class. All entries related to the translation will be marked with the tag СРСД (Сказания о Русских Святых для детей).

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