EMPTY DAY by Tatiana Tolstaya (translated from Russian by A. Ibrahim)

This morning I have read this piece written by Tatiana Tolstaya about the first day of the new year. It resonated with the feelings I had on the 1st of January. Bizarre feelings. The piece resonated with me so much, that could not help myself, but had to translate it into English. I don’t know if you feel the same sentiment. I do. Every single year. The New Year’s day is a day of blissful laziness, a day that is empty and yet so precious. Enjoy!

literary translation. Tatiana Tolstaya (translation: A. Ibrahim)

Empty day

This morning is nothing like any other. It’s not even a morning, only a sliver of the first day: an attempt, a free sample, a foretitle. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. Pointless starting anything new, as the old is not yet fully put away: plates, table cloths, gift wraps, pine shed on a carpet.

You go to bed at dawn and get up at dusk, hang around the house, staring through the window. The sun in Moscow and Saint Petersburg sets on the 1st of January at 4pm, leaving us with a wisp of grayness dusted with tiny undergrown snowflakes, or a red and painful retreat of a sunset, promising nothing other than fast approaching darkness.

Strange feelings. We have just rushed and fussed, hastily pouring champagne, trying hard to raise glasses at midnight or during the slow imperial chime of the bells, trying to grasp and comprehend the moment of the magical transition, when the past turns as if to dust but the future is not there yet. We cheered, as expected in such a moment, and yet we were nervous as if unsure if we could do it, if we could leap through this invisible closing door. But, as always, we managed, we got through. Now, opening our sleepy eyes, just as the new sun starts to set, we enter this unusual state of mind – neither that of admiration, nor sadness. Neither that of excitement, nor regret. Neither freshness nor tiredness or hangover.

This day is the odd one out. Just like an unwanted gift: nice to receive, but what do you do with it? It is a short day. Much shorter than the rest in the year. You don’t cook on this day – there is still plenty of food from the night before. And you eat only once too – all that’s already there, it doesn’t matter: a selection of salads that, by the time of the next sitting, have long changed their taste; the dried up pastry, which someone forgot to cover to save it from drying, the stuffed eggs if there are any. Is it a breakfast – but with the traditional dinner vodkas; or is it a dinner – but without its equally traditional soup? It is a quiet day: we laughed and cheered it all off last night. It is the day of weakness.

It is good to spend this day in the country, at the dacha, in a village. It’s nice to wear old shabby clothes, an old and ripped around the edges coat; a ragged jacket that no one would wear in the city, a pair of valenki. It’s nice to get out and just stand there without a thought in your head. Just to stare into the sky, or, if you’re lucky, at the stars. It’s nice to feel Your Self: not anyone’s, not fully understood, not even by you; to feel cosy, six year old and eternal. It is nice to love without a catch. It is nice to lean on: either a porch post or on another person.

This day will not be remembered, it is so empty. What did you do? – Nothing. Where did you go? – Nowhere. What did you talk about? – Not much. You will remember only the emptiness, the shortness, the dimmed lighting and the precious idleness, the cute sloppiness and the sweet boredom, jumbled up thoughts and deep early morning sleep.

How would we live if there wasn’t a day like this! How would we cope with life with all its deafening and merciless roar? With the entire avalanche of meanings, which we simply do not have the time to comprehend; with all the battery of days clocking up Julys, Septembers and Novembers!

The odd one out, the empty, the bizarre day, a short stripe among the three and a half hundred of the proper ones, as if shoved into the shopping basket for us – the shrewd, the curious, the searching for meaning, explanations and excuses. A day without a number, a day outside of human notice, a day just like that – Blissful.

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