In 1909 The Italian Impressions by Alexander Blok came out of print. Blok wasn’t impressed to say the least, and his sentiments, in spite of his support of the revolutionary efforts of his own country, were rather negative the industrial development of Italy or, indeed, any other country. Below is an extract of my translation of this essay.
Alexander Blok, The Italian Impressions.
Time flies, civilization grows, mankind progresses.
19th century is the Iron Age. This is the age when a train of heavy-loaded carts runs along the cobbled road, drawn by exhausted horses pushed by people with mellow, pale faces. Their nerves are ruined by hunger and need, their open mouths extort swear words, and yet neither swearing, nor cries are heard. Only whips and reins can be seen, and every sound sinks in the deafening noise of the iron lines loaded on carts.
This entire century shakes, trembles and rumbles – like the same iron lines. People, these slaves of civilization, tremble in terror in front of its very face. Time flies; with each year, day and hour it becomes clearer that civilization is about to come down upon its own creators and to crush them; yet this doesn’t happen. Insanity continues: everything is forethought and predestined, and death is inevitable but it doesn’t hurry to arrive. What must be is not; what is ready is not happening. Revolutions strike, then calm down, then disappear. People always tremble in terror. They used to be human but no longer are they, only appearing such. They are slaves, animals, reptiles. What was called people is no longer protected by God, groomed by Nature, or pleased by Art. Those who were people no longer demand anything from God, Nature, or Art.
Civilization grows. At the start of the century Balzac spoke of “human comedy”. In the mid-century Sherr spoke of “tragi-comedy”. Today we have a street spectacle. The farce began when the first airplane took off.
The air has been conquered – what a magnificent sight to behold! One pathetic dandy whirled up in the sky. So a hen decided to fly: she spread her wings and flew over a pile of shit.
Do you know that every nut in the machine, every turn of a screw, every new technical achievement produces the masses of plebeians? Of course, you don’t know this, for you are “educated”, and “nobody compares to an educated person in his shallowness”, as your kind-hearted Ruskin once blurted out.
Translated into English © Julia Shuvalova 2012.
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