The Arousing of Thought

The Russian language, it cannot be denied, is very good. I even like it, but . . . only for swapping anecdotes and for use in referring to someone’s parentage.

The Russian language is like the English, which language is also very good, but only for discussing in “smoking rooms,” while sitting on an easy chair with legs outstretched on another, the topic of Australian frozen meat or, sometimes, the Indian question.

Both these languages are like the dish which is called in Moscow “Solianka,” and into which everything goes except you and me, in fact everything you wish, and even the “after-dinner Cheshma*” of Scheherazade.

It must also be said that owing to all kinds of accidentally and perhaps not accidentally formed conditions of my youth, I have had to learn, and moreover very seriously and of course always with self-compulsion, to speak, read, and write a great many languages, and to such a degree of fluency, that if, in following this profession unexpectedly forced on me by Fate, I decided not to take advantage of the “automatism” which is acquired by practice, then I could perhaps write in any one of them.

But if I set out to use judiciously this automatically acquired automatism which has become easy from long practice, then I should have to write either in Russian or in Armenian, because the circumstances of my life during the last two or three decades have been such that I have had for intercourse with others to use, and consequently to have more practice in, just these two languages and to acquire an automatism in respect to them.

O the dickens! . . . Even in such a case, one of the aspects of my peculiar psyche, unusual for the normal man, has now already begun to torment the whole of me. 

* Cheshma means veil.