Andrei Navrozov

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Waugh After Waugh

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From the October 1998 issue of Chronicles.

When, after a stint in the British Army which left him crippled for life, Auberon Waugh went up to Oxford in 1959, by his own admission he knew nothing of the place apart

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Mnemosyne’s Tricks

Writers incline to solipsism, and I’m no exception.  To write is to presume that your words matter to others, and this places you at the center of the universe you’re describing, with its sun, its Earth—to say nothing of the

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Fruitarian Logic

A reader had written in to reproach me for “punching down” in a recent post, and on reflection I can find no reason to disagree. I like fruit that hangs low, the kind that weighs down the branches until it

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Together à la russe

A singer by the name of Masha Rasputina, who, when a good deal younger and not quite as surgically enhanced, used to thrill nascent Moscow bourgeoisie by appearing on stage in latex lingerie, has just recorded a new song. A

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Smound No5

There is only one smell commonly found on earth that is worse than the chemical smell of rotting orange rinds.  This, oddly enough, is a woman’s perfume—Chanel ?5.  As it recently emerged from World War II archives that Mademoiselle Chanel

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Thus Spake Chuka

There’s a young lad who has been called the Barack Obama of Britain, and this may be indictment enough for many of my enlightened readers, but it is his actual name, rather than what he has been called, that fascinates

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My Thermopylae

A tooth I had been neglecting lashed out at me last week like a woman scorned, and through clenched teeth I can report that only renal colic hath more fury. I remembered the time they gave me morphine in a

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Love’s Labour’s Lost

With less than a month before Britain’s general election, a squib on the subject is apposite. As a sometime betting man, I can share the news that the Conservatives are presently at 4/9 and Labour is on 13/8, with the

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Some Dare Call It Fact

My two score years in the West have led me to conclude that, of all the factors impeding the political thinking of its elites, few are more pernicious than the set of prejudices amalgamated with the notion of “conspiracy theory.”

Biting the Bullet
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Biting the Bullet

The flyleaf of this book sports a quote (“One finally gets the musical whole of Dostoevsky’s original”) from an enthusiastic notice in the New York Times Book Review of a new translation of The Brothers Karamazov, which the Pevear-Volokh

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At the Movies

I’ve been watching, spellbound, a German documentary released in the wake of the Nazi occupation of the Sudetenland. It’s entitled Sudeten Deutschland kehrt heim (“German Sudetes Come Home”), and I’m going to gloss over the debating point – delicious, though

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More Wittgensteinian Readings

“The truly apocalyptic view of the world,” wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein, “is that things do not repeat themselves. It is not absurd to believe that the age of science and technology is the beginning of the end for humanity; that the

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A Wittgensteinian Reading

Increasingly I find myself in the position of the dissident in an old Soviet joke, protesting against the regime on a street corner by handing out leaflets. A passerby takes one, sees that it’s a blank sheet of paper, and

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Black Op, Continued

Last Wednesday I wrote in this space that Chechnya’s strongman Ramzan Kadyrov put pay to my own feeble attempts at black humor when he said there was “not the slightest doubt” that the assassination of Nemtsov had been the work

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Black Op, Black Humor

What is it with people? Offing themselves like death’s going out of fashion! First Litvinenko poisons himself with green tea in a sushi restaurant in the middle of London and blames radioactive polonium. Then Berezovsky strangles himself with a scarf

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People of the Book

Sometimes one opens the morning newspaper and, instead of fires, floods, or declarations of war, finds a parable.  This one hit me with the force of a subway train back in January, and I duly rushed it off as a

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Sleepwalkers Awake

The House of Lords European Union Committee is chaired by Lord Tugendhat. I don’t know anything about the man, and it may well be that his is a noble title going back to the Battle of Hastings, but I think

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Non si muove più

Being consistent has the consequence of being predictable, a quality welcome, perhaps, in husbands and dogs, but somewhat a defect in journalists – at least as far as their readers, desirous of truth yet relentless in pursuit of variety, are

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The Barren Groves

There once was a minor poet, writing in Russia in the 1920’s, who had been educated at the University of Heidelberg yet never acquired the airs of a German pedant. I recently ran across a short fable of his, and

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French Lessons

The French government has approved a budget of some half a billion dollars to finance new initiatives against terrorism. Among the early fruits of this campaign is an “infographic,” or poster in plain English, headlined “Radicalisation Djihadiste, les premiers

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Unquantifiable Differences

The biggest mystery and conundrum of our time is not whether Stalin died a natural death, or why the CIA had Kennedy killed, but the difference between the types of individual that rise socially in the West and, respectively, in

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Je Suis Charlie Baudelaire

We men of good will had a little scare last week when it was announced that the Sun – a venerable British newspaper whose prose style makes America’s National Enquirer sound like an excerpt from a late Henry James novel

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Parable of the Day

Begun in 1879 under the auspices of the University of Oxford and published in 1928 by Oxford University Press, A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, now better known as the Oxford English Dictionary, is one of the

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Partisan Games

Irony has been in the news these past few days, when a couple of guys not only refused to share a Frenchman’s joke at the expense of the Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon him, but actually gunned down

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Stock Taking

Today, as it happens, is Christmas Day in the Orthodox calendar, and so, instead of carrying on with the holiday marathon of Manlio Orobello’s Lays of Sicilian Life, I thought I would pause and take stock. A new year

Adrift in Eminent Domain
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Adrift in Eminent Domain

I begin with a flourish of disclosure, which gives me great pleasure as a gesture of wistful recollection.  Professor Baldwin was my roommate at university, occupying the bunk above mine.  The wall space over that prisonlike fixture of canvas ticking

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Manlio on the Lightness of Touch

“A professor of engineering I knew, a specialist in reinforced concrete, was a man who showed me a great deal of kindness at what was obviously a difficult stage of my life. Construction is a prime mover of our region’s

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Manlio on the Value of Introductions

“Apart from an eleventh-century Norman castle, my birthplace, latterly a town of some ten thousand inhabitants, is famous for having once had as many as a hundred churches in its precincts and for the way our people have with mutton.

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Manlio on Conflict Resolution

“The problem with having a car is that one gets into accidents. However trifling, these may have unexpected consequences.

“One bright winter day my bumper grazed a pedestrian, who promptly fell to the ground. I got out to make sure

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British Bread and Circuses

In the 1980’s my father wrote extensively of the distribution of mental resources in the West, comparing its patterns with those of the Soviet model. In my own turn I took up the subject in several newspaper articles, as well

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…And a Little Hypocrisy

Detecting hypocrisy, among other faults, in the conduct of another is a perilous enterprise, as Christ reminds us in the allegory of the mote and the beam. It’s a bit like reprimanding somebody for bad manners, which is worse manners.

A Question of Fairness
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A Question of Fairness

It all comes down to questions of fairness.  On January 27, 2007, a journalist by the name of Peter Finn published in the Washington Post an interview with Ivan Tolstoy, a literary scholar distantly related to the famous writer.  The

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A Little Misogyny…

Last week the British government stopped considering the usual trifles – Ukraine, ISIS, UKIP, the budget deficit, as well as the unsurprising news that, now according to Forbes, America’s nuclear arsenal is a pile of rusting junk – and

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A Subtle Difference

Four years ago, when, from the relative safety of my Sicilian bolthole, I was writing a weekly column for Snob, then still a leading organ of Moscow’s bien pensants, a strange thing happened. I published a column entitled

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Silk Stockings 2.0

“Any incidence of offense or insult directed against the Soviet Union or its institutions, irrespective of where the incident may take place (in the street, in a shop, at the theater or cinema, or elsewhere), must be reported immediately to

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Another Manlio Story

“When I was arrested, they brought me to the newer of the two prisons, which is by far the less comfortable. At the old prison, when an inmate has meetings – with a visitor, a psychiatrist, a lawyer – he

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Soul Searching

Russians have bragged to themselves about their souls for ages, but for the past hundred years or so—roughly since Nietz­sche discovered Dostoyevsky, Henry James discovered Turgenev, and the assorted Bloomsbury folk discovered Chekhov—other European nations, Britain foremost, have been pitching

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Politics as Mutant TB

My mind having regained, in the wake of last week’s contretemps in the airport queue, some of its former suppleness, I turned to the November issue of Chronicles, with its theme of “Politics as Reality TV.”  There I was

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The Devil’s Nanny

It was Chesterton, if I’m not mistaken, who said that nothing narrows the mind like travel. As I had to fly to London over the weekend, to collect some money that I was owed – my alleged debtor’s contrary view

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manlio on discretion à la sicilienne

One day I got myself lost in what was a very small town. It was an afternoon in late spring, and the sun was beginning to bake. I was walking through a labyrinthine part of the town, having followed a

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From Round Here

Manlio Orobello, one of my oldest and truest friends in Sicily, has dictated his memoirs to me. The result is a book of some eighty stories, written in English and entitled From Round Here: Lays of a Sicilian Life.

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Annus Felix

The Independent Orders of Zhukov, Lenin, and October Revolution Red Banner Operational Purpose Division of Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia – yes, my friends, there is such a thing – has just been given back

A Strange Dearth
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A Strange Dearth

In 1985, in the wake of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War, a plaque went up in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner, commemorating Richard Aldington, Laurence Binyon, Edmund Blunden, Rupert Brooke, Wilfrid Gibson, Robert Graves, Julian Grenfell,

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An Island in the Aegean

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“Why go to the Greek islands? Why go to Greece? Why not sit for a few minutes under a sunlamp, nip over to the supermarket for a slab of plasticized feta, and get some sirtaki going on your iPod?” The

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The Saxon Soul

Russians have bragged to themselves about their souls for ages, but for the past hundred years or so – roughly since Nietzsche discovered Dostoevsky, Henry James discovered Turgenev, H. G. Wells discovered Tolstoy, and the assorted Bloomsbury folk discovered Chekhov

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An Armenian Joke

In my childhood there was a soi-disant “Armenian” joke that we used to tell, and it went more or less as follows. Is it true, one Armenian asks another, that Sarkisyan won a million in the state lottery? “Yes, it’s

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Popping Balloons

In one of my posts earlier this month, Pasternak’s Zhivago came up, a scandal from the late 1950’s that resulted in the poet, by then long extinguished as the once-in-a-millennium genius he had been, receiving the Nobel Prize for a

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A Thing in Itself

My Sicilian friend Manlio has something in him of the late Curtis Cate, who was a mutual friend of mine and Tom Fleming’s and a frequent contributor to these pages.  When Curtis died in 2006 aged 82, I did not

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Nations at Sea

I spent last weekend in Tuscany in what was once an abandoned seaside resort, now a glittering showcase for everything that is repugnant about global tourism. I leave out its name because the locals, though no less greedy and unprincipled

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Madame Claude’s Forebears

“She was vicious,” commented the Paris Match journalist Dany Jucaud. “She reduced the entire world to rich men wanting sex and poor women wanting money.” Jucaud was speaking of a famous brothel keeper, Madame Claude, to whose life and times