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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Women in books - "The Glittering World" by Alexander Grin, translated by Maria K.

This excerpt is a little different, because the moment of observation here takes place not between two characters in the story, but rather between the author and his heroine during her rare moment of stillness.

Alexander Grin have always created interesting female characters, frequently in pairs and connected to the same male character to bring confusion and contradiction into his life.

Tavi Toom of The Glittering World is one half of just such a female duo, and clearly the author's favorite.

Note: Unlike in my previous posts from this series, this illustration is not one of mine. I had a copy for a long time from a very old edition of this book. I have drawn Tavi many times, but could never capture her quite right, and have always liked this version of her much better than my own attempts.

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She was cleaning the room, wiping away dust with the dust rag, noisily moving chairs, washing and drying the dishes, and gradually her delicate cheeks became flushed from all this fussing about. Sensing that her face was burning, Tavi walked up to the mirror, sneezing and snorting.

"Yuck, ugh! I am like a witch or a chimneysweep, I'm no better than a Saracen!"

True, her nose was covered in dust, a soot smear marked her cheek, and her neck was gray from dust. Tavi was just about to grab a towel and wipe her face, but then lowered her hand, shaking her head with a sigh, "I've no one to make pretty for just now, I am good enough as I am."

Yes, truly, she was good enough as she was.

There isn't a more convenient moment to describe a woman, when she thinks about it herself; to catch an opportunity to describe her, so to speak. Once the opportunity is there, it would be wrong to miss it and then wait for another one. A perceptive reader would notice that, when we emphasize the words "she was good enough as she was" - that is still lovely, despite her little face being smeared with dust and soot, we don't mean the classical harmony of features. The latter kind of beauty absolutely cannot be touched by soot, because a smudge of soot would immediately disfigure it. Try conducting an experiment with a statue, having soiled its beautiful features, deprived of any expression save for one of conditional perfection, with something dark, like the very same soot we were talking about - the enchantment will vanish instantly. A stain or a smudge will inflict a destructive feature upon the serenity of perfect marble form, just as mercilessly destroying its completeness, as an ink blot on a white sheet of paper suddenly makes the entire page look untidy. Similarly, a beauty who is perfect from head to toe, a woman of classical and flawless splendor loses it all if some dust gets onto her nose, or her cheek is disgraced with an ink stain; such is the nature of any perfection, as powerful, as it is helpless once it is infringed upon somehow.

However, a lively and cheerful girl with an irregular, yet sweet and gentle face, with a gaze that is luminous and warm, like a quiet bell toll, the gaze whose expression is endlessly variable; a girl constantly weaving around herself an invisible trace of light and carefree movements; slender yet shapely, with clear and open voice, with a smile fluttering like summer leaves, - a girl like that can get dirty and dusty all she wants without any harm to herself; her smile-inducing charm will defeat the black drag of soot because she has more devices for it than a motionless statue or a living goddess with a slow tempo of projected impressions. Can the latter jump up, laughing out loud and slapping herself on the sides? No. But any regular lovely girl can do it quite easily without caring about how such an experiment might look.

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