We interviewed Alexei Kondratiev on March 16, 1999 for almost an hour. The beginning of the show had a short news segment, then we interviewed Alexei, then took listener phone calls.
Alexei is the creator and writer of Vidorix the Druid for Evolution Comics. His book "The Apple Branch" had recently come out, while his comic book series had been out for several years. Both can usually be found on eBay. He talks about writing fiction and nonfiction, comics and prose and many aspects of Celtic culture from religion to history. The other voices you hear are Ken Gale and Ed Menje.
I divided the show into sections to make it easier for those of us with dial-up modems and also put the whole interview in one file, for those of you with fast downloading.
Alexei Kondratiev 1999 Part 1 10:15. Introducing the show & Alexei, a little bit of news, the difference between writing prose and comics
Alexei Kondratiev 1999 Part 2 11:39. The story of Vidorix the Druid, why a 20th century storyline, introducing The Apple Branch, on the environmental crisis
Alexei Kondratiev 1999 Part 3 9:42. Why *A* "Path to Celtic Ritual," spring holidays, no snakes in Ireland
Alexei Kondratiev 1999 Part 4 8:54. Roman vs. Irish Christians, using real religions, Second Sight, about The Grid
Alexei Kondratiev 1999 Part 5 13:45. Some excellent listener phone calls with discussion of in-jokes in Vidorix, Stonehenge, Golden Ages of the Celts, Lugh & Robert E. Howard. Closing and the News begins
The entire show 54:14 min. mp3 format.
Alexie Kondratiev was surely the most interesting man I have ever known. I had him on the air many times, about many different topics, sometimes with very short notice, because he was knowledgeable in so many areas and was so good at communicating that knowledge. Topics included birds and birding, Celtic culture, languages, anthropology, comic books, mythology, science, many religions and spiritual paths, the environment, science fiction, the United Nations, global history, the history of Christianity, and I know I'm leaving things out.
If there was one thread that unites all of his appearances on the air, and indeed of all the aspects of his life, it's teaching. He was more interested in communicating than in showing off his knowledge. Every conversation with him was fascinating in some way and I often based whole radio shows on a phone conversation we had. He would make wonderful connections between different things, yet most people who knew him knew only a fraction of the things he was interested and knowledgeable in.
The show you can hear from this page points out just a few of his interests. He did not limit himself to fiction or nonfiction when he read it nor when he wrote it and saw the merits in both.
Alexei spoke over 60 languages and was fluent in 13 to 20 of them, depending on your definition of fluency. I would define it closer to 20; he would define it closer to 13. I used to ask him all kinds of questions because of that. For example: Did you know that very few languages have taboo words? In most languages, if you want to curse someone, you utter an actual curse instead of a taboo word. That's another reason people prefer to curse in English.
Alexei was one of the foremost Tolkien scholars in the U.S. (I had him on the air at least twice with that in mind). He could go into detail about the roots of Tolkien's work from culture to language. Same with C.S. Lewis and most (probably all) other fantasy authors. I did a show with him on that, too. He was a long-time member of the Mythopoeic Society, an international organization which takes a scholarly approach to fantasy literature.
He considered himself both Christian and Pagan. He went beyond mere tolerance and compared it to speaking more than one language. There are advantages and disadvantages to different religions as there are to different languages. Knowing more than one path is understanding their compatibility and following each path on its own merits.
It was Alexei who brought me on to the Board of the Celtic League American Branch. As an organization educating about all aspects of all Celtic countries from religion to music to politics to history to language, CLAB could have been made for him. He was surely the most important person in the organization and I don't know if it can continue without him. I hope it can.
Anyone who took his courses at the Irish Arts Center in Celtic Mythology, Celtic Christianity, Celtic Music or Irish language will never forget them, although there was so much information it's impossible to remember every word and fact. A lot of anthropologists teach the facts of a culture. Alexei told their stories, including the personalities of the Gods and heroes of the stories. He made everything come so alive. It's why I asked him to write comic book stories when we decided to start Evolution Comics.
He was a master birder. He could identify hundreds and hundreds of species in an instant by sight or by song alone. And he taught others such as myself how to be a better birder. In the '80s, he taught a free beginning birding course at NYC Audubon. More recently, he was sometimes a section leader for the Queens County Bird Club's annual Christmas Count. I had him on two of my birds and birding episodes of Eco-Logic and after one, one of the other guests said with a bit of awe in his voice, "Where did you find him?" There are certain species of birds that will always remind me of him, for different reasons.
He was also an excellent cook, especially cuinsines from various Asian countries. He often said you can't understand a culture just by its language, you must learn to cook the food.
I've even talked about heavy metal guitarists with him! He was not a snob about ANYthing.
He passed away of a heart attack Early Friday morning of May 28, 2010 in Queens, NY. He was 61. He left behind a mother, four sisters, a brother, a niece and nephew, his lover, Len and tens of thousands of people around the world who were touched by him in some way. I will never completely get over the death of Alexei Kondratiev. Never. Eventually there will be a web site in his honor. Right now, a search engine will turn up thousands of links.
--Ken Gale, NYC, July 3, 2010
I also wrote more personal memories of Alexei and linked them from my home page.
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