To Russia with love

Being older than Generation X or Generation Y, I may be one of the few to remember the number of times Doordarshan showed Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker”. The film was about a magical “zone” which had the power to grant one’s deepest desires as a result of a meteor or spacecraft crash from a super-civilization. It was adapted from “Roadside Picnic” written by the brothers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. At that time, DD showed movies from Russia, Cuba or North Korea. Maybe Iran.

Recently, during an interminable flight, I read the Strugatsky brothers’ “Definitely Maybe”. Another meditation on super-civilizations, more nuanced, as a group of scientists in an apartment complex recognize the Godelian impossibility of a super-civilization. From a childhood filled with tales of Baba Yaga the witch, small green mathematics monographs that sold for a rupee from where I learnt Lobachevskian geometry, physics problems from Irodov, science fiction by Stanislaw Lem and the brothers Strugatsky, Dovzhenko’s “Earth” and Paradzhanov’s “Color of pomegranates”,  I moved to the west, read Veblen, but still became an enthusiastic supporter of capitalism.  

As the financial world crumbles,  it is to the brothers Strugatsky that I turn to figure out why super-civilizations are impossible. And console myself with the thought that the most intelligent man in the world is Russian.

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