Here I was in New York, city of prose and fantasy, of capitalist automatism, its streets a triumph of cubism, its moral philosophy that of the dollar. New York impressed me tremendously because, more than any other city in the world, it is the fullest expression of our modern age.
When the whole world is falling to pieces, I only seek to comprehend what happened and why it happened. Beyond that, I still have everything that gives me joy: music and painting and clouds and doing botany in the spring and MimiHer cat. and you and much more besides. In short, I am immensely rich and intend to remain so until the end. Surrendering oneself to sorrow is intolerable and incomprehensible to me.
I tried to induce him (Nabokov) to give me some decisive answers on the question of war and peace. But in vain. Nabokov is in thrall to the idea of pacifism while simultaneously believing it “necessary to see the war through to the end”. As if this “end” were not also the end of everyone of his own ilk, and more generally speaking, the end of a culture which, berate it though we might, we ultimately love. At any rate, we cannot expect that the madman propelled by fate to the country’s very zenith will heed the voice of reason, or even simply the imperative of self-preservation – his own no less than that of the entire country with which he has been entrusted!
I feel quite played out –– I don't suppose I shall come to life again till after the war. The world is so beastly –– Wilson is the one bright spot –– and he is very bright.
For the first time since the New Year I painted today at the Zvantseva SchoolA private drawing school founded by Elizabeth Zvantseva, a childhood friend of Luba. The school taught many well-known artists: Bakst, Petrov-Vodkin etc.. Petrov-Vodkin led the day’s session. He corrected a number of paintings, but not mine. After the session finished and the students left we argued.
It’s bitterly cold again, so I didn’t venture out. Paid a visit to the wounded. The Latvians fought excellently and would have pushed on to Mitava, were it not for the fact that in one of our regiments, which had taken their place in the trenches, everyone ended up drinking themselves silly! Everyone without exception, starting with the officers. The soldiers wanted to continue the offensive, but there was no one to command them; they followed the example of their superiors, and the Latvians were forced to retreat!!!
There is no real military presence in the capital. The Petrograd Garrison consists of many, too many, men, but instead of disciplined soldiers one finds only a dissolute, undisciplined, and leaderless mass of untested recruits and reservists.
Old Prince Kurakin, a master of necromancy, has had the satisfaction of raising the ghost of Rasputin the last few nights.
He immediately sent for Protopopov, the Minister of the Interior, and Dobrovolski, the Minister of justice; they came at once. Since then, the three of them have been in secret conclave for hours every evening, listening to the dead man's solemn words.
What an extraordinary creature old Prince Kurakin is!
With his bowed frame, bald head, hook nose, pallid complexion, piercing and haggard eyes, hollow features, halting, sepulchral voice and sinister expression, he is the typical spiritualist.
At Count Witte's funeral two years ago, he was seen gazing fixedly for several minutes at the dead man's haughty features (the coffin being open in accordance with orthodox rites). Then the sepulchral voice was heard "We'll compel you to come to us to-night!"
The Tea Shop on Bolshoi Uregshskoi Street was shut down yesterday on the orders of the governor. The tea shop, which belongs to Mr Dodesh and had been shut down once before on 17 November for failure to prevent the smoking of opium on the premises, was found to have opened again under a different name. Declaring the continuing existence of a tavern at the address to be undesirable, the governor once again ordered the tea house to be shut down and gave further instructions to ensure the establishment remained closed.