A Wave of Summer Bargains

“On a wave of summer bargains. Up to 80%”

August

Provincial towns, where you’ll never get a straight answer.
What’s it to you? It was yesterday however you cut it.
Outside the elms murmur, nodding to a landscape
Only the train ever sees. Somewhere a bee buzzes.

The knight made a career of crossroads, but these days
Is himself a stoplight. Plus there’s a river in the distance.
And between the mirror into which you gaze
And those who can’t recall you there’s also little difference.

Closed fast in the heat, the shutters are entwined in gossip,
Or merely ivy, to avoid making a blunder.
Bounding through the front door, a sunburnt stripling
Clad in only his swim trunks has come to collect your future.

So twilight’s a long time in descending. Evening’s usually cast
In the shape of a train station square, with a statue, etc.,
Where the glance in which you read “You bastard!”
Is in direct proportion to the crowd that’s not present.

1996

Source: Culture.ru. Image courtesy of Ozon. Translated by the Russian Reader

Petersburg real estate developer and Brodsky museum founder Maxim Levchenko

43-year-old Maxim Levchenko is a managing partner at Fort Group, the developer of a large number of shopping centers in Petersburg and Moscow. His company is one of the largest proprietors of commercial real estate in the country. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, he opened A Room and a Half — a Joseph Brodsky museum located in the communal apartment where the poet lived with his parents. A Brodsky museum has long been the talk of the town in Petersburg. Friends and fans of Brodsky have been trying to open [a museum in the apartment] since the late 90s. A neighbor in the communal apartment [where the Brodskys lived], Nina Vasilyevna prevented it from happening, responding to all requests [to sell her room in the flat to make room for the museum] laconically: “Over my dead body.” That is, until a shopping center proprietor seemingly remote from literature, businessman Maxim Levchenko, showed up at the flat. Brodsky’s fans naturally wondered who he was. Anna Mongayt asked Levchenko to give her a tour of the museum for the program “Patrons” and recount how he managed to persuade Nina Vasilyevna [to make a deal], how architect Alexander Brodsky was involved in designing the museum, and why the businessman wanted to invest in such an unprofitable project.

Watch the thirty-nine-minute program (in Russian, with no subtitles) on TV Rain. Image courtesy of TV Rain. Program synopsis translated by the Russian Reader

Queer Culture (Podcast)

Press release, July 7, 2021

In the Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival’s podcast Queer Culture, festival organizers and invited guests chat with the people creating Russian queer culture. These are cozy gatherings featuring conversations about queer and LGBT topics in literature, cinema, fine art, and art actionism.

The debut issue of the podcast is dedicated to a significant event in Russian literature — the release of the debut novel Wound by Oksana Vasyakina, the first novel published by a major Russian publisher in which lesbian topics are openly discussed.

Oksana Vasyakina. Courtesy of Side by Side Film Festival
We met with the writer and poet Oksana Vasyakina and discussed her book, how it has been received by different communities, the writer’s creative path, and her successes and difficulties on the road to recognition.

Episode #1 features:
Oksana Vasyakina, writer and poet
Ekaterina Kudryavtseva, moderator of the Telegram channel Like a Cultured Person, co-moderator of the Telegram channel Lesbian Lobby and the queer podcast Wide Open
Gulya Sultanova is an organizer of the Side by Side Film Festival

Listen to the podcast Queer Culture wherever is handy for you, subscribe to us on the following apps, and give us your likes!
Buy Oksana Vasyakina’s novel Wound [in Russian]
[Read an excerpt from Oksana Vasyakina’s poetry collection Wind of Fury]

All events and projects of the Side by Side Film Festival, including those online, are for adults only. 18+

Translated by the Russian Reader

Ancient Field

ПОЛЕ СТАРИННОЕ

о Божий
в творении Облика из Ничего
зримо пробивший
и неумолкающий
РАЗ

 

 

 

 

 

 

в образе Поля

Source: Gennady Aygi, Razgovory na rasstoianii (St. Petersburg: Limbus Press, 2001), p. 36

ANCIENT FIELD

o Divine
conjuring Countenance from Nothing
visibly pierced
and indefatigable
ONCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

in the image of the Field

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to KKML for the suggestion and Comrade Koganzon for the assistance.

Gennady Aygi (Marina Razbezhkina, director, 2001)

Gennady Aygi (1934–2006), one of the most original of modern Russian poets, was born in the village of Shaymurzino, in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic, some 450 miles east of Moscow. His father was a village schoolteacher, his maternal grandfather a priest of the ancient Chuvash religion. Although he wrote mainly in Russian, he eventually became the national poet of Chuvashia, having published volumes of Chuvash poetry, translations from French, Polish, Russian and other languages, and an Anthology of Chuvash Poetry.

Expelled from the Gorky Literary Institute for his links with Pasternak, Aygi found a society of like-minded artists in the creative Moscow underground. For ten years he worked at the Mayakovsky Museum, organizing exhibitions of modern art, but generally he led a life of poverty, constantly harassed by officialdom; only with the advent of perestroika did he begin to be published in the Soviet Union and to accept numerous invitations to travel to the West. But from the 1960s onwards his Russian-language poetry was published and acclaimed throughout the world, being translated into more than twenty languages. Living mainly in Moscow, he was married four times and left seven children.

Source: New Directions Books

“ever more westerly the distance”

ever more westerly the distance
footsteps steadily darken,
the stars still do not suffice
to think about the water,
but the first bridges —
predawn bridges as it were —
fracture the night
brilliantly nowhere.

child, let’s bid farewell here,
in the coldness of this line
the word’s color is forever white,
only meaning is not eternal.
the february water
is even blacker than the light
looming over it,
more unheard of than the darkness

Vladimir Kazakov, Selected Works, vol. 3: Poems (Moscow: Hylaea, 1995), p. 106. Source: LitMir. Photo and translation by the Russian Reader. Thanks to KKML for the suggestion.

Copyleft

Alexander Blok

[Response to a questionnaire]*

I have no objections to the abolition of literary estate rights.

In a person who is really alive, that is, who is moving forward, not backward, any sense of ownership should of course weaken over the years; all the more should it weaken in the intellectual laborer, and especially in the artist, who is absorbed in finding forms capable of withstanding the pressure of incoming creative energy rather than in scraping together capital, finding support in this endeavor from his loved ones, if they are indeed his loved ones.

When I die, may only hands that can best convey the products of my labor to those who need them be found.

1 January 1918

* Originally published in Novyi vechernii chas, 3 January 1918. The questionnaire was prompted by a December 1917 decree of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, ceding to the state the exclusive rights to the literary estates of writers after they died. In addition to Blok’s, Novyi vechernii chas published the responses of Fyodor Sologub and Dmitry Merezhkovsky in the same issue: arguing that the decree was “gibberish” and “inadvisable,” they called on writers to unite in protest. The responses of Vasily Nemirovich-Danchenko, Teffi, Anastasia Chebotarevskaya, Alexander Kuprin, Alexander Amfiteatrov, and Mikhail Prishvin were published in subsequent issues of the newspaper.

Source: Sergeyev’s Theater Library. Photo of the ramp in the constructivist tower of Laboratory Building “E” at the Moscow Power Engineering Institute (MEI) courtesy of Elena Krizhevskya/porusski.me. Thanks to Alexandra Vorobyova for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Belarusian Children’s Writers Call for End to Violence

Belarusian Children’s Writers Against Violence
Oleg Grushetsky
Novy Chas
September 27, 2020

Belarusian children’s writers have recorded a video message in which they condemn the violent actions of the authorities, demand an end to the violence, and ask for restoration of the law.

Well-known Belarusian children’s writers, poets and translators, playwrights, publishers and illustrators, winners of numerous literary awards and creative competitions have made a video message demanding that the Belarusian authorities stop violence and restore the law. Anna Yankuta, Vera Burlak, Nadezhda Yasminska, Natalka Kharitonyuk, Nadya Kandrusevich-Shidlovskaya, Diana Balyko, Olga Akulich,  Andrey Zhvalevsky and Evgeniya Pasternak, and Maria Martysevich recorded the video message. The appeal was supported by Andrey Khodanovich, Maria Bershadskaya, Yuri Nesterenko, Anna Zenkova, and Oleg Grushetsky.

The appeal made by the children’s writers differs from a number of others: it was recorded in a way that resembles the manner of story or fairy tale.

We suggest that you read the text of the message.

Anna Yankuta

Writers can’t be outside of politics, because what we write is politics, even if we write for children. If we don’t fight evil and injustice in life, how will we write about it in books?

Vera Burlak

Children believe books. That’s why it’s important for writers to tell children what they themselves believe. I believe that freedom is necessary: freedom of thought, freedom of imagination, freedom from fear.

Nadezhda Yasminska

Children not only believe in fairy tales, but they also call writers wizards. Their faith is touching and quite precious to us. And we are ready to fight evil, violence, and lawlessness, even though in real life we don’t have magic wands.

Natalka Kharitonyuk

I don’t have a magic wand. But I have a way to take revenge on the security forces and falsifiers, and all the forces of darkness that have gone on the rampage in Belarus. The freedom of children will be my revenge—the freedom that children find in stories and fairy tales. Freedom that cannot be shot or sent to the jail on Okrestin Street.

Nadya Kandrusevich-Shidlovskaya

Children’s literature is a real art that does not tolerate censorship and ideology. Only in a free country can authentic children’s books be freely written, illustrated, and translated. We are against violence, deception and captivity.

Diana Balyko

As it is never too late to have a happy childhood, so it is never too late to realize yourself as a person, as a citizen, and start living in a free country of happy people. And we don’t have to leave Belarus to do this. All we need to do is stop the dictatorship.

Olga Akulich

Children know very well that an adult is not the one who is the strongest, the most evil, or the most cunning. Adults are objective, fair and willing to cooperate. Adults, be adults!

Evgeniya Pasternak and Andrey Zhvalevsky

In fairy tales, good always vanquishes evil. It’s the same way in real life. The evil dragon will slink back into its dungeon. Harry Potter will defeat Voldemort. The Belarusian people will find their fern flower. And a good fellow shall break Koschei’s needle. We will win!

Maria Martysevich

Quiet, mice, quiet, quiet:
We’re being held hostage by a psycho.
Don’t wake the cat with a squeak,
Don’t rock the boat with your paw—
The wolves will come out of the dark,
They’ll kick everyone’s tails.
Only our mice are punks,
Lullabies won’t put them to sleep.
Our mice are flower children,
You can’t break their bouquet like that:
Without the cat, we are in charge.
Shame on you, cats. Long live [Belarus]!

Thanks to Yulya Tsimafeyeva for the heads-up. Translated from the Russian and the Belarusian by the Russian Reader with some assistance from Yandex Translate.

Viktor Yerofeyev: There Is No One in Russia to Support Belarus

Minsk, September 6, 2020

There Is No One in Russia to Support Belarus
Viktor Yerofeyev
Deutsche Welle
September 11, 2020

“Why don’t you speak when you can see this proud little nation is being crushed?”

Svetlana Alexievich, a world-renowned humanist writer of Belarus, is surprised that the Russian intelligentsia is silent about Lukashenko’s state terrorism. Who else, if not with a writer, can we talk about the metamorphoses of spiritual values occurring both to the east and the west of the Belarusian borders?

Svetlana, the Russian intelligentsia is silent because it no longer exists. It was not destroyed by either tsarism or the Soviet government, although the latter tried especially brutally to eradicate it, but it rotted on the stalk when political freedoms came to post-Soviet perestroika Russia. Although these freedoms were scanty, they were simply unprecedented for Russia.

The Russian intelligentsia was a remarkable, myth-making caste that fought for freedom, justice, and grassroots happiness. At the end of the twentieth century, it transpired that everyone had their own idea of happiness, justice, and even the grassroots. Russian society is currently in a state of diffusion. It is divided to such an extent that it is nervously, mercilessly at odds with itself, floundering in internal contradictions. Some people will not shake the hands of certain other people, while a second group of people suspect a third group of making deals with the regime. Meanwhile, a fourth group really has sold out to the authorities, and a fifth group has simply left the game. There was no such confusion in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union, where there were the so-called Sixtiers, the Village Prose movement, and the Soviet dissident movement—that is, different forms of joint opposition to the authorities.

Several conscientious middle-aged writers and courageous groups of committed opposition activists who write letters of protest on various occasions will respond to Alexievich’s letter, or have already responded from Russia, and that will be it. Russian TV viewers do not read these letters. Protests against the beating of Belarusian civilians will be drowned in the wild fabrications of Kremlin propaganda, which, like Zmei Gorynych, the dragon in Russian folktales, has several heads and confuses ordinary people with its “versions” of events.

This applies not only to Belarus. Before our eyes, monstrous things have happened to Alexei Navalny. We also haven’t see much support for Alexei from Russia’s cultural and academic figures, Svetlana.

If there is no intelligentsia in Russia, then “the people” [narod] that the intelligentsia invented, a grassroots crushed by the authorities but dreaming of liberation, also does not exist. We have a populace. They may be outraged, as has happened in Khabarovsk, but these are emotions, not political maturity.

Even words of support for Belarus offered by independent Russian figures show that the events in Belarus have taken them by surprise, that they did not expect such a turn of events, and that Belarus and Europe are incompatible things for many Russians. Meanwhile, in the wake of the events in Belarus, we (the Russian post-intelligentsia) are now turning from an older brother, cultured and wise, into a younger one, who has not wised up yet. So let’s set aside our hopes for the best until later.

Meanwhile, around us, above us, and sometimes even inside us, a regime that identifies itself with Russia has firmly ensconced itself, and instead of Louis XIV, who said that he was the state [“L’etat c’est moi”], Russia has a president about whom the head of the Duma has said that he is Russia, and Russia is him. Putin’s cause is alive and well. His system has been maturing and running for twenty years, and its direct impact on Belarus could be militarized, devouring, and fatal.

This system has issued a challenge not only to its rebellious neighbors, but also to the entire west. This system is pushy, quick on its feet, and confident that it speaks for the truth, which has an exceptional spiritual basis (Russia Orthodoxy) and the finest moral and material capacities in the world (which Russian TV trumpets rudely and sweetly).

Oddly enough, the west shies away, as if frightened, from the “flying troika” of the Putin regime. The west manifests outrage, it threatens sanctions and imposes them, and then it splits into groups based on national, economic, anti-American and other interests. Western democracy, which has deep philosophical roots and defeated communism, clearly does not know what to do with Russia, and is outplayed by it when it comes to agility and reckless decision-making. And it is also too painful for the west to part with large-scale joint economic projects.

Russia’s future remains a mystery. A new generation will grow up, and it may follow the Belarusian and European path. Or perhaps the strong-arm techniques, bribery, corruption, and ideological emptiness inherited from the Russian intelligentsia will suggest to Russia a different career: the career of western civilization’s perennial antagonist.

But in any case, dear Svetlana, the peaceful uprising in Belarus is a great historical event, and I bow down to the heroines and heroes of your rebellion.

Viktor Yerofeyev is a writer, literary critic, TV presenter, author of the books Russian Beauty, The Good Stalin, The Akimuds, The Pink Mouse, and many others, and a Chevalier of the French Legion Of Honor.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“Belarus’s increasingly isolated president, Alexander Lukashenko, flew to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin. After attempting to rig elections in August, Mr Lukashenko has faced over a month of protests, responding with violence. Russia has backed him throughout. At the meeting, Mr Putin offered Belarus a $1.5bn loan. While they met, joint Belarusian-Russian military exercises began in western Belarus.”
—The Economist Espresso, 15 September 2020

A Statement from Svetlana Alexievich, Nobel Laureate and Chair of Belarusian PEN
Belarusian PEN Centre
September 9, 2020

There is no one left of my friends and associates in the opposition’s Coordination Council. They are all in prison, or they have been thrown out of the country. The last, Maksim Znak, was taken today.

First they seized our country, and now they are seizing the best of us. But hundreds of others will come and fill the places of those who have been taken from our ranks. It is the whole country which has risen up, not just the Coordination Council. I want to say again what I have always said: that we were not attempting to start a coup. We did not want to split the country. We wanted to start a dialogue in society. Lukashenko has said he won’t speak ‘with the street’ – but the streets are filled with hundreds of thousands of people who come out to protest every Sunday, and every day. It isn’t the street, it is the nation.

People are coming out to protest with their small children because they believe they will win.

I also want to address the Russian intelligentsia, to call it by its old name. Why have you remained silent? We hear very few voices supporting us. Why don’t you speak when you can see this proud little nation is being crushed? We are still your brothers.

To my own people, I want to say this: I love you and I am proud of you.

And now there is another unknown person ringing at my door.

Ekaterina Zakharkiv: A Sharpened Grammar

In many ways, Ekaterina Zakharkiv is my favorite contemporary Russophone poet. While her verse is manifestly avant-garde, there is something about the way she combines different lexical and stylistic registers into a seamless and, one could say, “collectivist” idiom that always reminds me of Alexander Pushkin and the revolution he led in Russian poetic discourse. Born in Magadan, Zakharkiv graduated from the Gorky Literary Institute in Moscow and is currently a graduate student at the Institute of Linguistics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She is an editor at F-Writing, Dream, and the new Almanac Fire, which focuses on the intersection of writing and music.

Ekaterina Zakharkiv

These three translations were published last year in Lana Turner #12. The issue is now available for free as a pdf, so I decided to put them up here as well, hopefully bringing Zakharkiv’s work to a broader audience online.

***
strange weapon of the body, promising to assemble under the targeting apparatus of itself
into the composite noun of the square, the collision of adversaries without confusion of sides
this is touching openness, you say that love is touching
openness
don’t love me then

separation opening division of
po
lice bu
dget re
lations
trucks for an incomplete project
last shots on the national TV stations
last mechanisms last montage
right here, atop the wreckage of the signal, I touch the dust of our collective text
move my fingers over your skin mottled with italics “in the failure of time”

under the smoke-filled sky of an invisible Orleans, doubled maidens unfurl their banners
in the heart’s murky fissures

on the squares of our city the long since melted schedule
of movements, instants of matter
surmounting information

at the crossing of places
in a sundered embrace, a gold lord looks back at the eye
the cool mouth of rose sor
rows of speech
can’t close
even night
even the thin air of night

***
[you’ll forgive me, won’t you, especially if you recognize]
how crooked flames rise and fall from the black sky into the mowed carpet of the conference room
the endless weight that takes the bandages off voids of armchairs, sheets of A4 paper and the exits
if you recognize the fear that buildings stand in, immersed in the hypnosis of context and
the tall aquarium building in spreading cracks, artificial landscapes
through the rolled back ceilings of the music hall, washed out in rays of cold light
especially if you recognize how the constantly changing architecture of hybrid groups
is quietly penetrated by catastrophic panoramas

colonnades, metro tunnels, auditoriums, houses of culture,
an agalma of reinforced plastic

a boarded-up door on the outskirts of language, torn down by a construction brigade
they see thresholds, taste dust
fix the flowing water of the day, a concrete mass, object number 446
everything seems to recoil somewhere, they hear only the deaf breath of the smog above the construction site, leaning on steel railings
only the long peal of this floating, a wind of rubbish, turned inside out
you’ll forgive me this elusive idiom in the flickering of a uniform, especially
if you see the aerial views of history’s treachery, if you can stop
the wire and roses, ripping up the wrappings

***
I catch the blood of the tags by the dim coat check
and walk to the ancient academic rows
exercises in freedom of the approach
of one hundred and forty people, among whom а seeing wolf calls:
you know, they’re asking for you

name a sharpened grammar and, hesitating, become a smoldering heap of broken translation
everything whipped up into living smoke, steel-grey, impersonal
a floor crumbling in the sky above us, yet one particle of the murky front, fed with a spoon of nuclear structure, asks:
where are the centuries that took my younger sky?

othersbiological colonies
endure, no longer being
a large insect pollinates zero which must be plucked
despite certain stalks of long sadness
it’s better if he roam the web links

when we’re trying to sleep and we touch
nothing, resisting nothing
fallen body convulsive
like speech, murdered measure
not stanzas
but nervous fire
more often than not
during the extortionate night

basically, what Nikita’s saying is that you have to capture the moment
when you begin to be the text, and at the same time the not-text
and hold it
then you will attain equality
well, he doesn’t say that so much, or not exactly that
and also I read: the beginning is the negation of what it begins
I would like to capture this moment
and touch the plainness of equality in our given historical paradigm
instead of a splicing of two autonomies
instead of economized language, instead of brotherhood, brother
sister, instead of sisterhood, instead of this very gesture of “stand down.”

Source: Ekaterina Zakharkiv, Felicity Conditions (M.: ARGO-RISK, 2017), pp. 7-8, 5-6, 13-14. Photo courtesy of HSE. Translation and commentary by Joan Brooks. If you would like to support the author’s work, please consider donating. Any amount helps. Please include “Zakharkiv” in the memo line of your contribution.

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Two Fairytales

Alexander Skidan
Facebook
May 25, 2020

Yesterday, with my own eyes, I saw a crow escorting a hedgehog across the highway, pushing him along with his beak. I was so dumbstruck, the thought never even occurred to me to get out my phone. The most touching thing happened at the curbside. The hedgehog couldn’t overcome it right away, the crow was very upset, and she* jumped onto the curb and tried tried tried tried tried while the cars** were going going going going past, and then she jumped down and again tried tried tried, but the hedgehog found a spot a bit lower and all by himself himself himself himself himself jumped up, and off he went.***

________________

*The word for car in Russian, mashina, is equivalent to the word for “machines,” which I believe is significant for the allegorical reading of the tale.

**The word for crow in Russian, vorona, is grammatically gendered feminine. This does not necessarily mean the crow was anatomically female. Hedgehog, yozhik, is gendered masculine.

***I consulted with Skidan, and we translated the folkloric formula i byl takov as “and off he went.” However, another variant would be “and that was the last anyone ever saw of him.” The word-for-word rendition of the idiom is: “and he was such.”

Solidarity and mutualism are the only future we have. But hedgehogs need to let the crows get on with things, I reckon. They just need to lower their expectations and get up and go on their own.

hedgehog in fogA still from Yuri Nornstein’s animated film Hedgehog in the Fog (1975). Courtesy of Pikabu.ru

Darya Apahonchich
Facebook
July 1, 2020

Once there was a certain dictator who had prepared everything for annulling himself: a new armchair, a festive cigar, a little cognac, and lots and lots of medals to sprinkle over his generals (he had also stored up some smackdowns for other people).

He sat down at his favorite desk, and, at exactly 11:59 PM, he closed his eyes tight and hit the main annulment button. And at that very second he turned into a newborn baby. He plopped down in the chair and started screaming (well, that’s what babies are supposed to do), and all his bodyguards rushed in to see who was screaming and then bang! They were also annulled and turned into babies. What horror!

It was a good thing that the carpet was soft and they didn’t hurt themselves when they fell. And, after them, the senators, the ministers, and all the members of the government were annulled back into babies. This would have been the end of all of them, but the cleaning lady came into the office and gasped: what a calamity! And she set all the little ones down carefully in a line and called for help. But curses! If any deputy ran into the office, he was immediately annulled, so they all ended up that way in one day. Only a few survived because they had skived off work that day, but now they said they were giving up their powers. Times were tough, and the succession of power all the more so—it was time to give up their seats in parliament to young people.

By evening the cleaning lady and the cafeteria lady had taken all the deputies back to their families. These women weren’t very young, but they were strong and experienced. They remembered how to change a diaper, how to rock a baby, and after one day they were terribly tired. Then, in the morning, when they arrived at work, there were new babies in the office. Apparently, some other people had snuck in at night, hoping to become president, and they were also annulled.

The worker-women sighed and returned these little ones to their homes as well.

And so (not right away, of course!), all the remaining deputies and politicians decided they didn’t really want to be presidents, and, since someone still had to do this work, the cleaning lady and the cafeteria lady shared it between themselves. They came to an agreement about the schedule and vacation days.

And life slowly went on. It was like the old life but better. No one waged war anymore or acted like a dictator. Of course! Who wanted to crank the old barrel organ of diapers, kindergarten, and school all over again? No, people were sick of being annulled. It was time to just live a quiet life.

________________

I don’t think this remarkable tale about the constitutional amendments and the annulment of Putin’s term limits needs any commentary.

Translation and commentary by Joan Brooks. If you would like to support these authors’ work, please consider donating. Any amount helps. Please include “fairytales” in the memo line of your contribution.

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Stanislava Mogileva: Doing Perfectly Nothing Imperfectly

mogileva
Stanislava Mogileva

This text about quarantine life by the poet Stanislava Mogileva made me weep with spiritual feeling (umilenie).

[24.05.20 17:42]

how to do nothing imperfectly and, what is most important, perfectly nothing,* nothing faster, better, with higher quality, more effectively or interestingly. nothing is the only important thing, besides nothing there is nothing else. the lurid blood of festivals and the tough meat of days of the week have ended, but there remain the sugary pits of dates, numbers. what remains, as usual, is what there was before the imagined excess. the flow, become invisible and insensible, hasn’t been interrupted so long as to stop completely. beyond the limit it’s clean, empty, and not lonely at all, me alone,* it turns out, is completely enough. not too much and not too little—just right, just as much as possible so as not to carry off, not take, not grab, and not saddle. I am lying on the couch, I can’t get up from the couch, and I don’t get up, and this is wonderful. bring me a coffee and a sandwich, my little son. do you know how to make coffee? there’s no cheese and sausage in the house? then give me bread and water. you’ve already learned how to turn on the faucet and open the breadbox, right? excellent, bring it then. good morning.

* “как можно быстрее […] не делать и, главное, не сделать ничего.” I have added the words “imperfectly” and “perfectly” to compensate for the lack of verbal aspect (imperfective and perfective) in English. This is a word-by-word rendition: “how possible faster, better, higher quality, more effectively and interestingly not do [imp.] and, important [nom. adj.], not do [perf.] nothing.” The best (indeed, sublime) discussion of Russian verbal aspect is Boris Gasparov, “Notes on the ‘Metaphysics’ of Russian Aspect,” which tragically doesn’t seem to be online.

* This is the only place in the text that indicates the speaker’s gender as feminine. Since Russian is typically swimming in gendered inflections, this is worth noting.

My readerly associations with this text are overflowing, but let me just say that Mogileva has two sons (4 and 6), as do I (8 and 14), and her text really captured something for me about how, amid all the horrors and traumatizing effects of the corona crisis, my boys are adapting to (evolving/devolving through) the new “idleness” and, I think, doing very well. Suddenly, I see the release of a blocked emergence and independence. And it is helping me unlearn everything I was ever taught about parenting.

Fetch your mom a coffee, my little son. She’s writing a text.

For the original text in Russian and more, see Mogileva’s Telegram channel.

Translation and commentary by Joan Brooks. If you would like to support Stanislava Mogileva’s work, please consider donating. Any amount helps. Please include “stanislava mogileva” in the memo line of your contribution.

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