I am trying to decide what title to give to the book of this blog, shortly to be published by Moffat Book Enterprises with a lovely cover design - a sinuous tree with books for 'leaves' - by Nicola Forsyth. If I were Fyodor Dostoievsky whose birthday it is today I might choose: The Idiot or The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoievsky's breakthrough novel was Crime and Punishment, which he himself summarised in 1864, as he embarked on writing it, thus: "It is the psychological report of a crime. The action is contemporary, set in the present year. A young man, expelled from the university, a petit-bourgeois in origin and living in the direst poverty, through light-mindedness and lack of steadiness in his convictions, falling under the influence of the strange, 'unfinished' ideas afloat in the atmosphere, decided to break out of his disgusting position at one stroke. He has made up his mind to kill an old woman, the wife of a titular counselor who lends money at interest. The old woman is stupid, stupid and ailing, greedy [...] Almost a month passes after this until the final catastrophe. No one suspects or can suspect him. Here is where the entire psychological process of the crime is unfolded. Insoluble problems confront the murderer, unsuspected and unexpected feelings torment his heart. Heavenly truth, earthly law take their toll and he finishes by being forced to denounce himself." Moffat Book Events has been invited to support the Moffat Museum Group's application for funds via LEADER, the EU community initiative which enabled (for instance) the launch of the wildlife reserve and the bikers welcome scheme in D&G. The museum wants to collect oral histories in Moffat. What a good idea. Reverting for a moment to Crime and Punishment: one of the most thrilling episodes in my involvement with Russian creative industry was when a Russian theatre director, Yuri Liubimov came to direct a stage version at the Lyric, Hammersmith, starring Bill Paterson as the detective and Michael Pennington as the murderer. He had a beautiful and excitable young Hungarian wife and small son, Petya in tow who we had to hide in our house when it was feared that heavies from the Russian Embassy were looking for the child to kidnap him and thereby force the director to return to Moscow to answer for his crimes - which were criticising the Soviet government. We took the family to Aldeburgh where the cellist Slava Rostropovich and his wife the opera singer Galina Vishnevskaya were installed at Benjamin Britten's Red House, and the two men went and sat in a Russian steam bathhouse in the garden to discuss their plight. For the record, Galina - one of the great dramatic sopranos of her day - did not put her pinny on and peel potatoes. We went into town and got takeaway fish and chips for everyone. To this day I remember the production, which was very effective, including the way Paola Dionosotti, the actress playing the landlady and had the line: 'That's bad blood acting up in you', played her part for some reason in a northern accent. Petya went on to Eton and then read psychology at Bristol University, I believe.
Ideas for a title of my collected blog entries include:
Pages from a Bibliophile's Notebook
Ramblings from A Booklover
From Aldeburgh to Alaska via Azerbaijan – travels in my room
The world in a grain of sand
Can You Hear Me At The Back? -
Do You Read Me, Moffat?
Life and other accidents
A Moffat Miscellany
Marriage, Moscow and Moffat
Grist to My Mill
With love from Moffat
Preferences on a postcard please