History has shown charm to be the final ambition of the leisure class. What I do find surprising is that the author of the poem in question could have become a man so obviously without purpose.
From the earliest age, we must learn to say good-bye to friends and family. […] But experience is less likely to teach us how to bid our dearest possessions adieu. And if it were to? We wouldn't welcome the education. For eventually, we come to hold our dearest possessions more closely than we hold our friends.
Thus did the typewriters clack through the night, until that historic document had been crafted which guaranteed for all Russians freedom of conscience (Article 13), freedom of expression (Article 14), freedom of assembly (Article 15), and freedom to have any of these rights revoked should they be “utilized to the detriment of the socialist revolution” (Article 23)!
In the seventeen years since the making of that peace—hardly a generation—Russia had suffered a world war, a civil war, two famines, and the so-called Red Terror. In short, it had been through an era of upheaval that had spared none. Whether one’s leanings were left or right, Red or White, whether one’s personal circumstances had changed for the better or changed for the worse, surely at long last it was time to drink to the health of the nation.
And when the Count's parents succumbed to cholera within hours of each other in 1900, it was the Grand Duke who took the young Count aside and explained that he must be strong for his sister’s sake; that adversity presents itself in many forms; and that if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them.
Ever since its opening in 1905, the hotel’s suites and restaurants had been a gathering spot for the glamorous, influential, and erudite; but the effortless elegance on display would not have existed without the services of the lower floor.
And when that celestial chime sounds, perhaps a mirror will suddenly serve its truer purpose—revealing to a man not who he imagines himself to be, but who he has become.
If he continued along this course, it would not take long for the ceiling to edge downward, the walls to edge inward, and the floor to edge upward, until the entire hotel had been collapsed into the size of a biscuit tin.
For however decisive the Bolsheviks’ victory had been over the privileged classes on behalf of the Proletariat, they would be having banquets soon enough.
For if a room that exists under the governance, authority, and intent of others seems smaller than it is, then a room that exists in secret can, regardless of its dimensions, seem as vast as one cares to imagine.
I should note that despite the brief appearance of the round-faced fellow with a receding hairline a chapter hence, he is someone you should commit to memory, for years later he will have great bearing on the outcome of this tale.
Yes, a bottle of wine was the ultimate distillation of time and place; a poetic expression of individuality itself. Yet here it was, cast back into the sea of anonymity, that realm of averages and unknowns.
Because the Bolsheviks, who were so intent upon recasting the future from a mold of their own making, would not rest until every last vestige of his Russia had been uprooted, shattered, or erased.
With the slightest turn of the wrist the shards of glass tumble into a new arrangement. The blue cap of the bellhop is handed from one boy to the next, a dress as yellow as a canary is stowed in a trunk, a little red guidebook is updated with the new names of streets, and through Emile’s swinging door walks Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov—with the white dinner jacket of the Boyarsky draped across his arm.
Our churches, known the world over for their idiosyncratic beauty, for their brightly colored spires and improbable cupolas, we raze one by one. We topple the statues of old heroes and strip their names from the streets, as if they had been figments of our imagination. Our poets we either silence, or wait patiently for them to silence themselves.
“Who would have imagined,” he said, “when you were sentenced to life in the Metropol all those years ago, that you had just become the luckiest man in all of Russia.”
In 1916, Russia was a barbarian state. It was the most illiterate nation in Europe, with the majority of its population living in modified serfdom: tilling the fields with wooden plows, beating their wives by candlelight, collapsing on their benches drunk with vodka, and then waking at dawn to humble themselves before their icons. That is, living exactly as their forefathers had lived five hundred years before. Is it not possible that our reverence for all the statues and cathedrals and ancient institutions was precisely what was holding us back?
In the end, a parent's responsibility could not be more simple: To bring a child safely into adulthood so that she could have a chance to experience a life of purpose and, God willing, contentment.
The pace of evolution was not something to be frightened by. For while nature doesn't have a stake in whether the wings of a peppered moth are black or white, it genuinely hopes that the peppered moth will persist.
Looking back, it seems to me that there are people who play an essential role at every turn […] as if Life itself has summoned them once again to help fulfill its purpose. Well, since the day I was born, Sofia, there was only one time when Life needed me to be in a particular place at a particular time, and that was when your mother brought you to the lobby of the Metropol.
“Your sort,” he sneered. “How convinced you have always been of
the rightness of your actions. As if God Himself was so impressed with your precious manners and delightful way of putting things that He blessed you to do as you pleased. What vanity.”
It was, without question, the smallest room that he had occupied in his life; yet somehow, within those four walls the world had come and gone.
At that moment, it somehow seemed to the Count that no one was out of place; that every little thing happening was part of some master plan; and that within the context of that plan, he was meant to sit in the chair between the potted palms and wait.