January 26, 2019

"Down at the base, the dome of the endless sky is its own prison. To look up at it is to see just how far away from God one can be."

"It's not quite hell, a place in which God has a unique, almost competitive interest. It's just a place he would never think to look — a place he ignores, a place where, left to our own devices, we become exactly who we are."

The novelist Gary Shteyngart imagined how it really unfolded, down in Antarctica, where a Russian scientist, Sergey Savitsky, stabbed a co-worker, the welder Oleg Beloguzov, purportedly because Beloguzov was spoiling the ending to the novels Savitsky was reading.

I strongly recommend that you listen to the audio reading (by Shteyngart, who is Russian). It's one of the best things I've ever heard on "The American Life." Transcript here.

I listened once, then listened again, then went to Amazon and bought the Kindle and Audiobook versions of his Shteyngart's novel "Lake Success."

For a journalistic version of the real-life story Shteyngart imagined, here's "Antarctica scientist stabbed colleague for spoiling book endings" (from last October in the NY Post).

33 comments:

rhhardin said...

How did it come out?

gilbar said...

Sergey Savitsky, stabbed a co-worker, the welder Oleg Beloguzov, purportedly because Beloguzov was spoiling the ending to the novels Savitsky.

so, it was justified?

Bob Boyd said...

Fucking welders...

gilbar said...

wait a minute!
he was upset because the guy revealed the ending of Anna Karenina?
Is there a person on Russia (is there a person ON EARTH?) that doesn't know she throws herself under a train?

Ralph L said...

Russians are taking over The American Life! No Way.

There's an old movie version in which Anna and Vronsky take the train into the sunset, figuratively.

Bob Boyd said...

The welder thought he could use the story arc to create a bond, but he misjudged the scientist's mettle.

Sebastian said...

"we become exactly who we are . . . a Russian scientist, Sergey Savitsky, stabbed a co-worker, the welder Oleg Beloguzov, purportedly because Beloguzov was spoiling the ending to the novels Savitsky was reading"

This is confusing. Exactly who are we? Do we become spoilsports or stone-cold killers?

Ann Althouse said...

"How did it come out?"

Been there. Done that.

gilbar said...

thanx Professor Alhouse!
that was a really good story though; especially the ending, where it turned out ...

gilbar said...

Bob Boyd said...
The welder thought he could use the story arc to create a bond, but he misjudged the scientist's mettle.

is see what you're trying to do there Bob!

Ann Althouse said...

"that was a really good story though; especially the ending, where it turned out ..."

Yes, it's very satisfying, a story about endings itself must have an ending, and the potential is tremendous. I loved Shteyngart as a reader, and the shift at the end was very rewarding.

Unknown said...

THIS American Life

JPS said...

Dammit, Gilbar - thanks a lot!

Roy Jacobsen said...

An acquaintance posted about the Antarctic stabbing incident on Facebook, stating that spoiling the ending of a book "is the height of assholery." I replied that I would have thought that, on the assholery scale, STABBING somebody ranked a bit higher than spoiling a book.

Temujin said...

Thanks Professor. It'll give me something to listen to while working on my taxes.

Andrew said...

Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd: The narrator did it.

Bring 'em on, everybody!

Andrew said...

My favorite Christie movie is Death on the Nile, which I will not spoil. (Good book too.) Even though David Suchet later owned the character of Poirot, Peter Ustinov is still wonderful in this movie. Great cast, and a genuine surprise at the end.

JML said...


Bob Boyd said...
The welder thought he could use the story arc to create a bond, but he misjudged the scientist's mettle.

Yes, he thought he had a bead on him.

Ralph L said...

The welder should have wrapped his reading material inside Playboys.

gilbar said...

JML?
are you back to work yet?

tcrosse said...

Is there a person on Russia (is there a person ON EARTH?) that doesn't know she throws herself under a train?

Thanks a lot. Now you've ruined it for me.

Bob Boyd said...

The scientist heard the term "stick welder" and he thought, 'You know, that's not a bad idea.'

Ralph L said...

Imagine spending the long winter in Antarctica, then having to go home to Russia to begin another.

Christy said...

I fell asleep listening to The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Woke back up confused because, didn't I already hear this part? Drifted off repeatedly and finally figured it out. Not who dunnit, of course. For some reason I could not stay awake for that book in spite of the intriguing plot device.

Andrew said...

@Christy,
That's funny.

I read the book twice. The second time was more enjoyable, because you could appreciate the clever plotting and misdirection. The narrator never lied, but just left things out. And of course, he played Watson to Poirot's Holmes, so as you read you could try to perceive when Poirot was on to him. It's a great book to read even if you know the ending, just like Murder on the Orient Express. Not great literature, but certainly skillful writing and great fun.

My favorite Christie novel remains And Then There Were None, perhaps because it was my first. I prefer the original title, Ten Little ____.

Ralph L said...

And Then There Were None

I'd seen the 70's movie, so the new miniseries had a surprise ending.

tim in vermont said...

They want me on the jury. I would acquit.

tim in vermont said...

"The narrator never lied, but just left things out"

Best way to lie.

Mark said...

The novelist Gary Shteyngart imagined how . . .

You mean, the novelist Gary Shteyngart projected how . . .

Andrew said...

@tim in vermont,
True that.

William said...

The plot is the hook and, in a way, the man character of a mystery novel. Sudden twists and a surprise ending makes the book enjoyable. I don't think that's the case with Anna Karenina. I've reread Anna Karenina. You don't need the suspense to enjoy it. Has anyone ever re-read an Agatha Christie novel to savor her insights into the drama of the human condition?........Gone Girl had the best and twistiest plot of any recent movie. Double Indemnity is pretty good, but the problem with Code movies is that you know the bad guys are never gong to get away with their crime.

tcrosse said...

For sudden twists and turns of plot it's hard to beat Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan, available you-know-where.

Tarrou said...

Savitsky did nothing wrong.