Monthly Archives: October 2016

La fin

It is as though we had been through a long war and it were finally over, and we had had losses but had won, were in a position to pick up our lives again. Perhaps we have been through a long war that is now over, have had losses but have won, and are in a position to pick up our lives again.

Here is Vargas Llosa on Moro:



Filed under News, Poetry

On giving up what you love most

I was saying things about academia, how I dislike it because it requires you to renounce the things you love most about it. That is about working at institutions that work against your programs, of course, and I won’t say this is not a real problem, and that it is not highly irritating. But “renouncing the things you love most” means something more to me, I realized as I heard myself speak.

“I don’t have the money to keep you.” That was what my mother always said, and she kept saying it even though she had the money. We were to be cast out, it was a daily danger, and she was to commit suicide, and that was a daily danger as well. Again and again I prepared myself for these losses and although they did not actually take place, the psychic one kept being repeated. Every day we were told, every day we renounced and steeled ourselves; every day we knew we would be abandoned, and love was withdrawn.

I always appreciated and felt affection for my mother, but I do not remember loving her. One could not love her, she was too coercive, cruel, weak and vindictive too often, and she might commit suicide any day. She was also a potential role model, and that was risky. If I got too close, I feared, I could become death-oriented like her, and I did not want this.

Just now I was thinking irritably about how foolish it is to accuse people of insufficient love (“you don’t love the university enough, if you did, you would put up with this!”) when they have in fact gone so far as to renounce what they most love to prove this love — renounced their own work and their better judgment to be polite to fragile power. I realized suddenly what this meant at another level: it means I must have loved my mother once. I don’t remember when I had to stop but it was very early on, and it must have been very painful because I have repeated it a few times, to try to get over it and also to try to see it; this also explains the reactions I have when I am asked to sacrifice or renounce.

People really should not have children to amuse themselves or to claim an identity. They should also not threaten suicide around their children. With the suicide threats, and also the accusations having to do with our failure to fill an emptiness, I remember renouncing love again and again. I remember the toy I held in my hand one time, watching my mother sail away from me as it were, and saying, “Good-bye, my honey. Good-bye, my honey.”

I can see it now. It must have been devastating, and I know there were many such scenes.



Filed under Da Whiteman

Quintín Lame

We will talk about this. I would like to teach Quintín Lame along with Macunaíma and other Indian things, and perhaps I will.


Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching

An archive on Александр Бари, the Samoilovs, the Aizenmans, and related beings and creations

The article in Our Heritage, with photographs and stories of adventure in the CCCP from 1918 forward
Paintings of Olga Bari-Aizenman [Note: Simeon Aizenman, a lawyer, was from Yalta]
Paintings of Alexei Aizenman [This and most other sites also include family photographs]

A.V. Bari on Wikipedia
Moscow walks past the old factory
Printing press building by A.V. Bari, Centennial Exposition, Philadelphia

Photograph of Henrietta Sergeievna Kahn-Bari

Article on Benjamin M. Bary, the “hot Talmudist opponent”. There is also a 2003 book in Russian, on Schukov, that apparently has a great deal of information on Veniamin Matveevich.
Benjamin M. Bary on Wikipedia

Latvian Holocaust project
Yad Veshem Shoah database

There is so much more, and this post will be an aggregator.



Filed under A.V. Bari

Henrietta S. Kahn


My great-great grandmother from Mitau. She was born in 1822, before the town was swallowed up by Riga. Latvia had been annexed to Russia in 1795. Here she is in the early to mid 1840s. She is with her first son Alexander, who died at 18 months. Her second son Alexander was born in St. Petersburg in 1847.

My great-aunt Valeska met this grandmother in Chicago about 1890. Valeska was tiny then, and it occurs to me that her cousins, of whom I always think as ancient people, would have been small children as well. When they were old, they talked together and did not have parents; small, I imagine them talking without parents as well, like the Peanuts characters.



Filed under News


On an English side of my family is this great-great-great-great grandmother, born in Virginia in 1750. And the corresponding great-great-great-great grandfather, and a child. And me, of course. These ancestors had a daughter who married Francis Scott Key. He wrote the Star-Spangled Banner, and we know a great deal about that song, so this is not the nicest side of the family, of course.


Leave a comment

Filed under News

A partial summary of discoveries

Most of what I know, was always known. All I have discovered is the Aizenman connection. My father’s aunt and uncle were grandchildren of the immigrant, Benjamin Matveevich. They had first cousins in Russia that they stayed in touch with throughout their lives. Benjamin and his wife Henrietta Khan were both born in Riga. He was ethnically German, although the family was originally Belgian. His dissertation director was Alexander von Humboldt and he corresponded with Marx. Riga was Russian, and Benjamin and Henrietta moved to St. Petersburg. They lived in Russia without being Russians themselves, but their children felt Russian.

Benjamin was to be deported to Siberia in 1862 due to the correspondence with Marx, but Henrietta had a friend at court who was able to intervene. Banned from Russia, they went to Zurich and then the US, arriving in 1865. Some of their children, including William Veniaminovich and Alexander Veniaminovich, returned to Russia in 1877. My great-grandfather, Emil Veniaminovich, did not. Alexander’s children, born in Russia from 1879 forward, were my grandfather’s first cousins. My grandfather and his brother and sister were close to them, and I corresponded with one of Alexander’s daughters, Lidia, until she died in 1987. Alexander became a prominent person in Russia and is a historical figure of some interest.

My friend Nicky recently did an Internet search in Russian for Alexander. Alexander is on Wikipedia and people blog about him, as he is a piece of history (he was a friend of Tolstoi, Pasternak; children are later friends of Akhmatova; you can see that they are cultured as well as technologically advanced). There are even people who have designed walking tours of Moscow around him. You can see the old factory, the office, the house, and some important structures (railway stations, the Pushkin Museum, towers) that he and his partner Vladimir Shukhov (a truly major figure, Lenin Prize 1929) built.

It is by following the links in these sites on Alexander that I discovered the art of his daughter Olga and of her son Alexei. Her husband was a professor at Moscow State until the Revolution. Her daughter Tatiana was a folk art critic, and her granddaughter Anna is a sculptor working now. Here we have a long article with news of these cousins we did not know. Those living in cities occupied by the Germans wore yellow stars and were shot. Those living now are friends with me on Facebook.



Filed under News