Grist to the Mill

27 March, 2004

TURGENEV (again)

Returning to ‘First Love’. Princess Zinaida often plays games (both senses! She’s a twisted l'il Princess) with her admirers. All the suitors fancy their chances and she – aware of this – plays with them ‘as a cat plays with a mouse’:

“…Zinaida interrupted him again. ‘Let’s play a game instead’.
‘Forfeits?’ said Looshin.
‘No, forfeits are boring. Let’s play analogies.’ (Zinaida had invented this game herself. An object would be named, and everyone tried to compare it with something else. The person who thought of the best analogy won the prize.) She walked to the window. The sun had just set. Long red clouds stood high in the sky.
‘What are those clouds like?’ asked Zinaida, and without waiting for our answer said: ‘I think they are like those purple sails on the golden ship in which Cleopatra sailed to meet Anthony. Do you remember, Maidonov? You were telling me about it not long ago.’
All of us, like Polonius in Hamlet, decided that the clouds reminded us of precisely those sails, and that none of us could find a better analogy.”

She’s like a dictator, surrounding herself with a court of ‘yes men’. She’s wily and capricious, but I like her. The following, quite brilliant analogy reminded me of Zinaida’s made-up game and would surely win any prize on offer:

“Philip is a living example of natural selection. He was as fitted to survive in this modern world as a tapeworm in an intestine.”

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