Lightness of Being, Darkness of Literature

Svetlana Bunina

June 17, 2022

History doesn’t operate with good times. One day you find yourself standing right in front of the upcoming darkness and brutality. War or hunger, which happens in other regions right now, just casually pass you by. Your life is equally as fragile as those unfortunate people, and your empathy towards others is the range of your intellectual honesty.

Finally having lost my stability in 2013, when I left Putin’s Russia because of my beliefs, I don’t calculate my defeats and victories on the way to liberation. Writer of Russian language and Ukrainian roots, forever homeless professor of nothing (let’s call it Slavic philology), with Jewish grandparents and Big Terror family memories, I held onto Nabokov’s “Speak, Memory” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Kundera. They were before, like a first experience of meaningful losses. The matter of text always served me as a second home, although sometimes I feel like an emigrant even there.

Now, when my heart is suffering for Ukraine, when I ask everybody to help Ukraine as palpably as possible, I start to publish here my essays on the history of words. Words, which, according to the Bible, were “in the beginning”. “Take it easy, – says the playful name of this blog. – It’s just Lit. aperitif”…  Take it easy, because we need our forces for real life and deeds. And maybe will need more and more forces soon. 

But sometimes in the darkness of texts we can find a word to support us. The one, which truly unites us with the other humanity. 

I am incredibly thankful to my co-author Shon Wims, whose intellectual bravery pushes my heart to beat stronger.