I am happy to announce the blog’s very first rubric – the author of the month. We have already greeted the spring’s arrival with Charles Dickens and now, let’s congratulate one of the most compelling “children of spring” – Alexander Belyaev.
It is such a lucky coincidence to introduce both my blog and Russian literature with this incredible author’s help.
Since the first impression is another crucial element of a good relationship, I’ll do my best to introduce him properly.
Rereading his biography recently, I came to an instant thought that Belyaev would certainly love our modern world, and one of the main reasons would be the super-hero universe.
A boy from Smolensk with boundless imagination always dreamt about adventures and super abilities that Studio Marvel’s characters possess. I frankly was not impressed by this part of the author’s biography until I found out about an “intriguing” detail. Our dear author was so absorbed with the idea of superpowers that one day he simply jumped from the roof, hoping to fly out in the sky. Goodness! The poor young man just could not find what he wanted in the adventure novels.
Sincerely, I wish now that someone would ask with whom from the past I wish to meet because I would by no means answer – with Belyaev in the movie theatre binge-watching superhero movies.
Deviating from some sort of funny peculiarities of the author, Belyaev certainly was not prudent with this decision. In fact, attempting to gain out of this world power, he was condemned to spend a significant part of his life in bed with the hurt spine. I do not wish to say that these circumstances were a blessing in disguise, but his sickness produced one of his most famous novels – Professor Dowell’s Head.
Once looking for a job, one of the main characters, Marie Laurent, finds an odd opportunity – lab assistant sharing a company with a man’s head. All that the employer needed from her is being quiet and tough with her nerves. Regardless of the offer’s peculiarity, the bold girl takes the opportunity and joins the scientist Kern in his experiments of “reviving” different parts of the human body. The first patient Marie encounters is a yet non-verbal Professor Dowell – or precisely the rest of him – who will turn all her life around as well as herself.
The book is an essential piece of literature, in my opinion, since It exemplifies the way writing worked during the Soviet suppression.
Belyaev himself was a politically-inclined man and was even searched once as a figure posing a “potential threat” to society. However, science let him escape from the unsatisfying reality of governmental dominance and his own illness.
This aspect might have been the reason why the novel has no concrete setting. For instance, we know that there are some events in Paris, some in London, but the time and politics of the novel’s world remain unknown. This factor might also draw us back to the author’s illness and how science absorbed him at this unfortunate stage of his life. It is an interesting matter that Belyaev’s story finds its roots in the hospital, where he spent his sickness feeling nothing but his own head.
Maybe, he just wanted the reader to comprehend the power of science, as he once did? Perhaps it is the message that science is an entirely different universe that should not be mixed with the ambiguous man’s desires but rather exist as a simple way to create order in this chaotic world?
Reflecting on the novel’s main ideas, I would certainly recommend it to all the lovers of science, infinite philosophers, and the seekers of the dynamic and unique plot! As for any other book, I cannot guarantee absolute satisfaction, but I think Belyaev is one of the best ways to dip into Russian literature besides the golden classic.
Music: I would suggest listening to the album Bless the Woman by Eugen Doga, a widely-known composer from Moldova, whom I usually choose to create a “Russian spirit” setting.