Loving Russia

The Massachusetts Review will publish my essay “Loving Russia” in its summer 2023 issue. The title comes from a 2001 New Yorker essay by Susan Sontag called “Loving Dostoyevsky” and is an attempt to address — this does not feel like the right word — my own conflicted feelings regarding a subject to which I have devoted many years of my life.

Sontag’s piece helps me to do this in several ways, one of which I highlight in my epigraph, quoting her: “Loving Dostoyevsky, what is one to do — what is a Jew to do — with the knowledge that he hated Jews?” It is of course not the same question as the one I want to ask, but it’s a start.

I frame the essay by an exhibit of sand sculptures I happened upon in Tottori, Japan in the summer of 2014. The sculptures are just mentioned in the essay, not linked, so here they are for anyone who might be interested. This was a couple of years after I had ferried from Wakkanai in Hokkaido to Korsakov on Sakhalin, and then taken the train from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg. For most of that trip my compartment companions were an elderly couple named Anya and Fedya from Spassk-Dal’nyi, who were on their annual trip to visit relatives in Ukraine. I don’t imagine they do that anymore.

I asked the editors if the essay could be linked on line, and they agreed. When it’s out, I’ll update this post or put up a new one with the link.


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