Bildung 3

I spent my childhood and adolescence in a daze, reading everything I could get my hands on, which wasn’t much. Good books were hard to access in the USSR. Party apparatchiks were given “white lists”, which were lists of good books published in tiny numbers and distributed among the important people.

Everybody else had to make do with the idiotic propaganda books sold in bookstores. The only way for regular people to get books was by collecting used paper and bringing it to recycling stations. In return for enormous quantities of used paper, you’d get a voucher that allowed you to wait in a queue for months and finally get a book or two worth reading in exchange for the voucher. There were people who amassed great libraries this way but my parents were too overworked to be able to invest the time and the effort.

I read the entire collected works of Tolstoy, Chekhov and other Russian classics. Books in English were extremely hard to get and for years I had to make do with endless nautical adventures my father had managed to rescue from somewhere.

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