Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dream detectives and Russian thrilllers

In my dream adventures, I often seem to be a kind of detective, investigating complex intrigues in many times and places. Last weekend, Robert the dream detective was again in Russia, a recurring locale. He was following the threads of a secret operation code-named "Griboyedov". 
    The name was very clear, and I recognized it on waking. It is the name of a colorful nineteenth-century Russian poet and writer who was sent as a diplomat to the court of the Shah of Iran. When Armenian girls escaped from the Shah's harem and took refuge in the Russian embassy, an angry mob stormed the building; Griboyedov died fighting them, sword in hand. He was decapitated by a kebab seller and his head was put on a stick at his killer's market stall. Not sure why his name would be used as a code today, but my mind goes to all those angry mobs attacking U.S. embassies across the Middle East.
     The plot of my Russian thriller thickened and changed in my second cycle of sleep dreams. Now the character my dream self was tracking was a sleeper agent planted in the West in Soviet times. He has gone rogue, unknown to his Russian handlers, and gives them a very nasty surprise. A key name in the second part of this double feature was "Verezhensky".
     This name was quite unknown to me, so I tried it out on a highly literate Russian friend. She gave me this intriguing instant feedback: "Ha! If this were my dream, I would think that Verezhensky is a perfect name for a villain in the story. It is a rare name, so there are fewer chances to get sued by its bearers, it sounds sophisticated - and it is derived from the archaic form of 'to harm'."
     She informs me that Вередить means to do harm, to bother, create mischief or even to cast a bad spell. The modern form is "вредить". There is also an expression "бередить раны", to open old wounds. The name is also related to two villages Verezheny in northern Moldova, near the border with Ukraine. 

     Full disclosure: I wrote spy thrillers, including some with Russian themes and characters, back in the 1980s. It seems that while I follow my present path, there is an alternate Robert who loves reading and writing superior cloak-and-dagger stuff, out there gathering fresh material. 

1 comment:

kym said...

This is Kym. when i was in fourth gshort story. I treasured it in my desk rade in 1964 i loved james bond to a startling degree and he was everywhere. One day during school lunch i went over to the little store nearby and bought a magazine that contained an ian fleming bond and read it when I had a moment. in the story bond is sent to assassinate a defecter in berlin who is going from east to west. he sits high and totally alone in an attic waiting for the defector who is one of many people working in a factory across the street. as he watches these people hour after hour he develops a deep cush on a beautiful blond who is working there. finally the moment comes, the defector makes a break and bond must kill. and...yes, it's the blond. bond has to kill a woman he loves. that story fused itself into my ten-year-old brain and i never forgot it. years later i lived in dallas and heard that after lee harvey oswald assassinated president kennedy they discovered oswald's name on the check-out card for every ian fleming book in the dallas public library. I wondered if he had also read that superb short story and if he thought about it in his dark, twisted mind while he sat up there with his rifle waiting for kennedy's entourage to come rolling by at parade speed. I hope not. I think ian fleming wrote that one just for me from the astral plane and it only appeared in that little store by magic. by, now.