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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.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Women in books - "Thais of Athens" by Ivan Yefremov, translated by Maria K.

The fact that beauty is a highly subjective notion has been acknowledged and accepted since the dawn of time. Sadly, the modern beauty standards appear to be increasingly standardized, and the human kind is poorer for it. Here is a wonderful little scene by Ivan Yefremov, demonstrating that beauty can be found in the most unexpected and illogical forms.


Two girls appeared from behind a hidden door between the statues of two elephants. The dancers wore identical metallic jewelry on their dark smooth bodies including wide, slanting gold sashes, necklaces, anklets, large round earrings and tiaras with glittering rubies in their short coarse hair. Their faces were as motionless as masks. With their narrow, slanting eyes, short noses and wide, full mouths, the two looked like twins. The peculiar build of their bodies was also much alike. They had narrow shoulders, slender arms, small pert breasts and thin torsos. This nearly maidenly fragility was in sharp contrast to the lower portion of the body. They were massive, with wide, thick hips and muscular legs, falling just short of giving the impression of brute force. From explanations made by the elder priest, the Helenians derived that these girls were from the distant eastern mountains beyond the River of Sands. They embodied most clearly the duality of people with their ethereally light upper bodies and massive lower halves, filled with earthy power.

Thais questioned whether they could dance. “Women of small height are always more agile than those akin to coras and imperious statues. I know nothing of these people from the distant eastern mountains and steppes that were never reached by Alexander’s scouts.”

After a brief order, one of the girls sat on the floor with her legs crossed and started rhythmically clapping her hands, her glittering bracelets ringing loudly. The other girl started dancing with the kind of expressiveness that only came from talent refined by years of training. Unlike the dances of the West, the legs took little part in the movement, but arms, head and torso performed astonishingly graceful undulations, and fingers opened akin to flowers.

Thais burst into applause. The dancers stopped, then vanished after a sign from the priest.

“They are so singular, these girls,” Thais said. “But I do not understand their allure. There is no harmony, no likeness to the Kharitas.”

“Ah, I understand,” Lysippus suddenly said. “You see, a man knows that these women combine two opposing powers of Eros.”

“Do you agree, teacher?” Thais doubted it. “Then why do you always follow perfection in your art?”

“In the art of beauty, yes,” Lysippus replied. “But the laws of Eros are different.”

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