Longreads

Keith Gessen‘s parents left the Soviet Union when he was six, young enough that he speaks unaccented English but old enough that he still knows Russian — which he’s now teaching his son Raffi. In a lovely essay in The New Yorker, he reflects on bilingualism, child development, and why he’s teaching Raffi the language of a country he won’t even take him to visit.

When we started reading books to Raffi, I included some Russian ones. A friend had handed down a beautiful book of Daniil Kharms poems for children; they were not nonsense verse, but they were pretty close, and Raffi enjoyed them. One was a song about a man who went into the forest with a club and a bag, and never returned. Kharms himself was arrested in Leningrad, in 1941, for expressing “seditious” sentiments and died, of starvation, in a psychiatric hospital the following…

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