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Friday, April 11, 2014

Korolenko: The Blind Musician (Слепой музыкант)

Короленко: Слепой музыкант
illustration by V. Lukashov, 1978
no copyright infringement intended

Korolenko published his Слепой музыкант in 1886: the story of a blind boy gradually overcoming the handicap by opening his inner to the beauty and harshness of life: contacting more and more intimately the reality in what's just natural and just challenging, befriending reality, assuming it - opening his soul like opening his eyes. A boy born into an upper class family some part in the huge Russian Empire, as huge as nothing else seems to exist anywhere (actually that part where the boy was born was Ukraine, the same as the birthplace of Korolenko himself, who masterfully manages the everyday talk in the novel to continuously slip back and forth between Russian and Ukrainian).

The overbearing presence of the mother marking the boy's first years. Fortunately an uncle being there and balancing the picture, taking great care of the boy, leading him slowly toward independence - an uncle being now an old crippled man, while preserving the determination and great heart of his young years, his revolutionary past in the detachments of Garibaldi.

The boy discovering his out of ordinary musical gift. Then a girl from nearby, befriending the boy, the two going on throughout childhood and adolescence, developing their bond.

It was not enough for the boy to become a guy of his own. Challenged by his uncle, he leaves home and joins a band of blind musicians, traveling with them from place to place, enduring good and bad weather, good and bad experiences, meeting the good and the wrong guys, the good and the wrong places. After a while the boy returns, now an accomplished man and accomplished musician.

A movie was made based on the book, in 1960. I watched it in those years; I was a teenager. I found recently a copy on youTube. So I watched it for the second time in my life, now that I'm in my late sixties. I enjoyed it again, though maybe the actors are a bit too pathetic sometimes, or maybe it's just difficult to create the movie counterpart for a good book. I found then an English translation of the novel, published in 1891:

Aline Delano (the English translator of the book) tells us  that Korolenko built the characters of this novel starting from three real cases: a blind girl whom he had known as a child; a boy, a pupil of the author, losing gradually his sight, and a professional musician, blind since his birth, intellectually gifted, scholarly, and refined. It is a fascinating example of the way the real characters (the raw material so to speak) are transformed throughout the process of creation, how their singularities are shifted, unified, separated.

The Blind Musician (Слепой музыкант), 1960
(video by Humanitarian Eclectic)


(Russian and Soviet Cinema)



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