02 January 2007

Rasputin's Daughter

Robert Alexander, in his historical fiction Rasputin's Daughter, uses this fragment of a poem by Russian poet Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Blok as Rasputin's favorite:

To sin shamelessly, endlessly,
To lose count of the nights and days,
And with a head unruly from drunkenness
To pass sideways into the temple of god.

A great motion, to pass sideways into the temple of god, after all that sinning.

Rasputin here is as debauched as popular legend would have it, yet also a healer. Not so holy though, despite his desires. Or perhaps, more truly, as holy as any of us.

He is a healer, though it doesn't seem to have anything to do with god. And why should the gift of healing depend upon some standard of personal holiness? Does Tiger Woods' gift of golf talent depend upon his purity? Or Bill Clinton's gift of intelligence and charisma? Obviously not...

Rasputin's Daughter is a good read. Robert Alexander lived and traveled in Russia and the Soviet Union for decades, and he puts his intimate knowledge of Leningrad, aka Petrograd and St. Petersburg, to good use. Rasputin is filthy and compelling; and his daughter loyal and brave. Using her as the person see Rasputin in his final week in 1916 was a clever point of view.

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