Monday June 11, 2012 – Eisensteinian technique

As M. and I are starting to wear out, I suggest two modest goals for travelling today: to see a big nearby bookstore, and to visit Lentiseev’s, a beautiful supermarket. The bookstore is fine but nothing spectacular; I like seeing their large historical Soviet cinema section, but most of that’s available online now. Their antiquarian books are, not surprisingly, from many different publishers rather than Progress Books, the foreign-language publishing house that published all Soviet books in the West. In the politics section I find a biography of Trotsky and a copy of Permanent Revolution (I can translate the title), which I’d like to think is highly significant in a country where just to mention his name made you a suspect. But they’re buried on a shelf beside hundreds of others, including conspiracy books about the CIA.

After taking us on a short-cut that turns into a long detour, and eating chocolate at what turns out to be Pushkin Square, we find Lentiseev’s. It’s more ornate than the Tsar’s palaces.

It’s not just pretty: it has fine cheeses, prepared salads, coldcuts, chocolate, and a massive liquor section that, while not cheap, has a selection of French cognacs and Scotch whiskeys that outshines anything I’ve seen in Canada. I start planning how I could rent a flat across the street and live on salads, sparkling mineral water and imported British beer.

Since effective montage is all about contrast, now would be a good time to describe what happened on one of our walks back from the Arbat to the flat. It was Russia’s National Day weekend, so people were out partying every day we were strolling. One night we were walking along the ring road as BMWs and Audis rushed past us. The incredibly fancy Hotel Lotte was about to loom up on our right. Some men approached, moving quickly and talking excitedly. In this stretch the sidewalk didn’t exist – it was more a space of asphalt in front of stores without cars on it. It was narrow, you couldn’t avoid people. These guys ran up to me and presented a sandwich to my eye level. It was a 12 inch submarine bun – with a giant dead rat inside. The tail was hanging out the side. Fortunately I found it the funniest thing ever and burst out laughing. They laughed too and walked on.

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