Sunday, May 9, 2010

You really don't understand?

"The American colonel had an individual cell in the special block.
[...] He would often talk with Yershov. Sometimes he looked into his
bright, thoughtful eyes and forgot that he couldn't speak English. He
found it hard to believe that a man with such an intelligent face
could fail to understand him - especially when what they were saying
was of such consuming interest.

'I can't believe it!' he would say. 'You really don't understand?'

And Yershov would answer in Russian: 'The old sergeant had a fine
command of every kind of language - except foreign ones.'

Nevertheless, in a language composed of smiles, glances, slaps on the
back and ten or fifteen words of atrociously mangled Russian, French,
German and English, the Russians were able to discuss comradeship,
solidarity, fellow-felling, love of one's home, love of one's wife and
children, with people from dozens of different countries."

Source: Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate, Robert Chandler trans.,
Vintage, 2006, p. 16.