Why Roads?

Why Roads?

I chose this title, or, rather, it presented itself to me, the way these things do, early in the writing of the book. There are the obvious associations – the family’s journey, from their homeland into enemy country, along unfamiliar paths leading to unknown destinations, moving, by whatever means, to the next stop.

It refers to actual roads, of dust and stone and asphalt, grassy forest paths and railroad tracks. But also to metaphorical ones, progressing toward self-knowledge, compassion; traversing the torment of guilt toward the promise of joy. Roads to love, and to death.

Behind all that, for me, there was a song.

My father was a factory worker; he spent his days assembling machinery, reading blueprints drawn by other hands not, to his infinite regret, his own. He was well-liked, a quiet, deep-thinking yet sociable and witty man. Gradually, as the effect of the war years receded, he filled our home with books, and with music. His vast record collection encompassed opera and spoken word (I will never forget how the elephant got his trunk), and stacks upon stacks of folk songs. These ranged from romantic renditions of  Soviet recording stars to the virile sound of the Red Army Chorus and the defiant protest songs of Bulat Okudzhava and Volodya Vysotsky.

When I started work on Roads, these songs, this soundtrack to my life, were always with me. One in particular, Dorogi, played in my mind again and again, bringing with it a sense of history, and more levels of meaning than I can begin to describe.

2 thoughts on “Why Roads?”

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts this way. It’s a powerful video with a soul expressed in music with words that I don’t know, yet felt that I understood. There’s something deeply moving about the blend of his voice and the music. Also, I’ve often found that not knowing the words causes me to focus more on the music. By the way, I found a number of sites with translations. I tried to cut and past the link here, but the differece in alphabets caused problems. I Googled “Dorogi lyrics in English”

    1. I found several translations online, Ken, but they’re all awful. The song came out in 1945; it’s about friendship, the horrors of battle, about homesickness and death. As you say, you don’t have to understand the words to feel the longing, the sadness.

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