Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“The Monster” by Lidiya Zinovyeva-Annibal
Card picked: Queen of Hearts
From: The Tragic Menagerie by Lidiya Zinovyeva-Annibal, translated by Jane Costlow
Thoughts: Ten year-old Vera catches a monster in her net. The monster is only a quarter of her pinkie finger long, but it has claws and “armor.” Both intrigued and disgusted by it, Vera puts it in a jar with some bog water that includes frog eggs. Over the course of a few days, the frog eggs hatch in to stubby, comical tadpoles…which is a perfect buffet for the monster. Vera is upset by this, but her older brother tells her
“That’s nature. … A normal person gets used to nature. … Well, but people sometimes want to live in ways they can’t. That means making things complicated, understand, and not even obeying God, understand, God!?”
Vera’s teacher subtly disagrees. Tadpoles and a monster (maybe the larva of a water beetle?) in a jar is not natural. She suggests that Vera dump her pets back into the bog. Vera feels that this will only prolong the life of the tadpoles/young frogs which would be even crueler than their current arrangement. Eventually, it comes down to the monster versus one frog with Vera as the capricious God watching over them all.
About the Author: There’s not a lot of ready information about Lidiya Zinovyeva-Annibal. She was part of the Silver Age of Russian literature. She hosted a salon with her husband Viacheslav Ivanov. She had been married previously and had a daughter named Vera from that marriage (whom Ivanov married after Lidiya’s death at age 40). She also known for her short novel Thrity-Three Abominations which openly discusses lesbianism. What I had assumed might be political allegory in “The Monster” (a pretty good guess when dealing with 19th century Russians) is probably more about sexual mores.