Monday, October 22, 2012

What's in a name: anatomy of a username

I often get asked where/how I chose my username. I use it across different platforms with some variation. Since I have nothing better to write about at the moment I decided to make a whole post about the genesis of my online handle.

Gather around kids! Grandpa has a story for you!

It's 1861 in Imperial Russia. The river Don is aflush with premium vodka. Tsar (czar/csar/tzar/tswhatever) Alexander II, perhaps taking a break from the vodka-drinking championship circuit, decides to set the serfs free. Freedom and equality for all! Bastille! Oh wait, that's French.

You can imagine the complications this causes. The old nobility, accustomed to sitting on its ass chugging vodka, is not happy. The old fogs are already annoyed with the kids these days. Those darn kids are learning European liberalism in their universities and schools. And now they have to deal with Alex's laws.

In this setting Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev pens what will become an enduring masterpiece. It has a boring name - 'Fathers and Sons'. It is received shittily by the critics. Embarrassed, Ivan drinks some vodka and leaves Russia.

But it's a damn fine story. It made a big impression on my naive and pliable mind when I read it in 2008. So you have two bosom buddies: Arkady (it's ok to forget his name - he is not that important) and Bazarov. They are visiting Arkady's estate after graduating from college (road trip bro!). Bazarov is now a medical student.  He is also a virulent nihilist, meaning he doesn't believe in literally anything (well it's more complicated than that, but we'll leave it at that). Firm and set in his radical ideas, he doesn't have patience for old-school bullshit. Doesn't even need vodka to get into fights with people. Like Arkady's uncle, your prototypical sit-on-the-ass-chugging-vodka nobleman. Good guy Arkady takes Bazarov to the house of Anna Odnitsova, a wealthy family friend. Bazarov starts arguing with her. About love, God, politics, schooling, weather, flowers. Says he doesn't believe in falling in love. Thinks it's all an oppressive social construct maliciously created by the rich.

Tragedy ensues when he does, in fact, fall in love with Anna. Worse, he gets rejected. Disgusted with himself for letting himself fall in love, he goes back home. There he spends months in distress and confusion. Fights with Arkady, his only friend. Gets clumsy with an autopsy and contracts typhus. Soon Bazarov is dead. Clearly Ivan has a flair for the dramatic.

When I read the book, I was clearly drawn to Bazarov's self-assured nature and his insistence on getting rid of extraneous stuff (like meaningless social conventions, old ideas etc.) from life. And there is something to be said about the irony of him dying of love, the very thing he fought with every fiber of his (supposedly) rational, nihilist brain.

I am a big fan of Russian literature and Bazarov was a sufficiently unique name. So I stuck with username. Plus it gives me the opportunity to bore people with a long-winded story each time a question about its origin is raised.

BTW, there is lot more to the novel (some interesting side stories involving Arkady's daddy and uncle, Arkady himself, Bazarov's dad etc.) and I highly recommend it if you are interested in Russian literature or just literature in general.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting, the only Russian literature I have read is War and peace, great novel but an obvious one, I might check it out.