Thursday, August 6, 2015

Toska for Moskva

I returned from Moscow on Saturday, and then spent the better part of three days languishing around my parents’ house. I’m normally impervious to jet lag (or so I like to think), so I suspected there was more to my malaise than just a lack of sleep.

“It’s toska,” I said broodingly, and directed my family to a Nabokov quote that would better define my word choice.
“No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.” – Vladimir Nabokov 
Even with the untranslatable Russian translated, my sister dismissed my moodiness. “Write a blog about it,” she said. So here we are.

Resting toska face

I thought I was ready to say goodbye to Moscow, or that I would be by August 1. But Moscow in the summer is a magical place. The sun shines, the river sparkles, and long days stretch into short nights. There’s a sense of foolish optimism in the air, as though everyone has forgotten the rapid half-life of a fickle Russian summer, which is nearly over as soon as it begins.

Summer lovin’ outside the Kremlin

Hipsters and fairy lights at Mishka

The “beach” at Gorky Park

I know I’ll forget all about Moscow when I land in Texas next Wednesday, but for now, I’m still in a Russian state of mind. I made a batch of kvass on Monday (which was a disaster and had to be thrown out), read the memoirs of an American journalist who was accused of espionage and thrown in a Soviet prison, and have been listening to a lot of moody Russian music. I even booked a last minute flight to Cleveland so I could attend a Russian-American wedding in two weeks. Because Cleveland is basically Moscow, right?


  1. Ah, I'm totally with you on the toska. We left Ukraine a year ago and it still calls to my heart! By the way, if you're headed to Houston there's always this:

    1. No immediate plans to visit Houston, but I'll keep that in mind :) Thanks!