The Mushroom That Stands at the Steps to Our World Irina Polianskaia and the Languages of Nature

Publication Title

Russian Studies in Literature

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Environmental Studies

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In her 1998 novel The Passing of a Shadow [Prokhozhdenie teni], Irina Polianskaia tells the tale of a young woman's friendship with a group of blind musicians, all of them students at a conservatory of music in southern European Russia. At one point the narrator attempts to render the landscape of sharp mountain escarpments and turbulent water that surrounds them, the landscape of Russia's border with the Caucasus. The attempt to represent the landscape in language meets not with failure, exactly, but with the conundrum of a world already so densely described that the language of poetic and political tradition becomes a scrim through which the physical features of the world must always be viewed: "it had been too frequently sung about by poets, too burdened with legends, for one to perceive it truly as a river."


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