The Kenyon Review was founded in 1939 and over the ensuing decades came to be known known as “perhaps the best known and most influential literary magazine in the English-speaking world.” It has published many of the world’s leading authors, including Robert Penn Warren, Ford Maddox Ford, Delmore Schwartz, Dylan Thomas, Maya Angelou, Rita Dove, Thomas Pynchon, Bertolt Brecht, Robert Lowell and Flannery O’Connor to name but a few.
Professor Matusevich, who teaches global, cold war and African history, was born in St. Petersburg, emigrating to the United States in 1991 as the former Soviet Union dissolved.
The story, “Arthur or Night on Earth” retraces some of Matusevich’s steps as a young man in the Soviet Union and focuses on his relationship over the years with a friend and fellow student, Arthur. Matusevich writes:
By far, by far he was the most dazzling, the most charismatic man of the cohort. Just a couple of years older than the rest of us, Arthur comported himself with suave dignity. He was tall, lanky, mischievous-looking, with broad, fashionably stooped shoulders. A slight overbite rendered his mouth a perpetual sensual pout. He spoke slowly, deliberately, in a deep baritone (“what a beautiful velvety voice,” my grandma would note each time he called me at home), which presented a strange and alluring contrast to his youthful looks. Arthur advocated self-reliance and independence from parents. He was the only person I knew who rented his own apartment and visited his parents on the weekends. Even though not Jewish he worshipped his mother with whom, he insisted, he conversed in French, the language in which he claimed fluency. He dressed with studied and confusing shabbiness—confusing because even his threadbare suit fit him snugly; he always looked stylish. He was a fartsovschik—a smooth, black- market operator who haunted the hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners with whom he engaged in mysterious commercial transactions. By his own admission he got a particular satisfaction out of “playing on contrasts”—usually coming to class wearing a beat-up pair of shapeless Skorohod shoes, but then showing up the next day at the CP History seminar sporting brand new Swedish snickers and the impossibly cool Lee jeans. Arthur worshipped late-nineteenth-century French poets and German automobile engineering.
Read the full story, “Arthur or a Night on Earth,” in The Kenyon Review.
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