That is not your name: the Kafkaesque world of Russian Duolingo

In preparation for an upcoming Trans-Siberian journey, I’ve been polishing up my rusty Russian with the help of Duolingo.  Initially, I thought the examples had been written by someone with a sense of absurd humor:

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Although there definitely were Russian touches:

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Soon, however, things started to get not just brusque, but positively grim.

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Very grim: it appears that the author was an orphan.

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An orphan scarred for life by growing up in a Soviet Union of austerity, fighting over scraps of dark Russian bread.

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Soon, though, the dialogue becomes positively Kafkaesque.  Imagine the dank Lubyanka cell where this interrogation took place:

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The pitiless KGB interrogator is not fooled by your pathetic attempts to deny your anti-Soviet agitation.

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You are guilty, and so is your entire family.

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And they have ways to make you talk.

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Nice mother you’ve got there.  Would be a real pity if something happened to her.

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The author knows that the laws of survival in the gulag are simple and harsh.

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Yet like Ivan Denisovich, our hero struggles on, overcoming their sentence in the labor camp one day at a time through sheer strength of will.

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2 thoughts on “That is not your name: the Kafkaesque world of Russian Duolingo

  1. carlacantonec February 22, 2018 / 4:55 am

    And why does it say “I work like a dog” when you obviously work “like a horse”?

    • Ted February 23, 2018 / 3:30 am

      That was described as a difference of idioms. The native English speaker would supposedly say “I work like a dog” as in the Beatles song A Hard Day’s night.

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