Loneliness

Masha Ivashintsova, Krasnoi Konnitsy [Red Cavalry] Street, Leningrad, Winter 1977. Shot with a Zeiss Ikoflex 6×6. Courtesy of Facebook
When your weary mind
loses its balance,
when the steps of this staircase
give way beneath your feet
like a ship’s deck,
when your nocturnal solitude
doesn’t give a hoot about humanity,

you can
reflect on eternity
and doubt the purity
of ideas, theories, modes
of art appreciation
and, interestingly, the conception
by Madonna of her son Jesus.

But it’s better to worship what’s given
with its deep graves.
Later,
many years from now,
they shall seem so dear.

Yes, better worship what’s given
with its short roads.
Later you’ll find them
strangely
large,
wide,
dusty,
strewn with compromises.
They’ll seem like large wings.
They’ll seem like large birds.

Yes, better worship what’s given
with its wretched standards.
Later, to the nth degree,
they’ll serve as a railing
(though not a particularly clean one),
keeping your hobbling truths
in balance
on this chipped staircase.

1959

Original text. Thanks to Katya Vidre for the suggestion. Translated by the Russian Reader

Remembering Aron Atabek

Aron Atabek: poet, rebel, Kazakh samurai (People & Nature, 6 December 2021)

The dissident poet Aron Atabek has died in Kazakhstan, weeks after being released from 15 years as a political prisoner.

Atabek, 68, died in hospital on 24 November, where he was being treated for Covid-19. Years in prison, beatings by guards, and long stretches of solitary confinement had taken their toll on his health.

Aron Atabek after his release from prison. Photo from bureau-kz

In the weeks prior to his death, Atabek’s family had released photos of the poet, weighing 50 kilos and emaciated – down from a healthy 85 kilos when he was jailed in 2006.

Atabek had been arrested for his part in defending the Shanyrak shanty town, set up by homeless people outside Almaty – a key chapter in the history of resistance to the authoritarian regime of Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Friends of Aron Atabek, members of his family and participants in opposition movements gathered on 28 November at the statue of the poet Abai Kunanbaev in Almaty. They read poems, and demanded that the Shanyrak case be reviewed.

The human rights campaign group Oyan, Qazaqstan issued a statement, saying:

We believe that the responsibility for the death of the poet Aron Atabek lies entirely with the [Kazakh] authorities. They passed an illegal sentence on Aron when they imprisoned him. The deterioration of Abatek’s health, and his death, is on their conscience. Aron Atabek stayed true to his principles to the end of his life. He did not agree to an amnesty, he did not once beg for forgiveness from Nazarbayev, and he never became disillusioned with what he himself did. For us he remains the same, unbending, a Kazakh samurai.

Atabek had been politically active in democratic and nationalist circles since late Soviet times (the 1980s). In the 2000s, the price of oil, Kazakhstan’s main export, rose, the elite accumulated vast wealth, the gap between rich and poor yawned still wider – and Atabek paid the price for defending the dispossessed.

The Shanyrak shanty-town was a sanctuary for those who suffered most in the oil boom, and the construction frenzy that it financed, when developers grabbed land with scant regard for the law. It is estimated that, when it was destroyed by a violent, illegal police operation, it comprised more than 2000 dwellings with up to 10,000 residents.

The notorious police clearance of Shanyrak took place shortly after the promulgation on 5 July 2006 of the law “On Amnesty and Legalisation of Property”.

The city authorities, citing shanty-town dwellers’ failure to register their properties correctly, ordered them to leave. Atabek and other oppositionists argued that the real reason was that the authorities wanted to make more land available to developers.

Atabek lobbied parliamentarians, wrote articles, organised petitions and reminded the shanty-town dwellers of constitutional rights that protected them. But pleas by Atabek and other activists went unheeded.

Remembering Aron Atabek in Almaty, 28 November. Photo from the-village-kz

The police tried to clear the shanty-town forcibly, and a violent clash ensued in which a police officer died. A round-up of activists followed.

Atabek was tried and convicted in October 2007 of “orchestrating mass disorder” – despite there being no evidence that he was nearby when the clashes occurred. Atabek was offered a pardon in exchange for admitting guilt, but he vehemently refused.

Atabek continued to write in prison, detailing illegal and inhumane prison conditions on his website. An international campaign in his defence was supported by PEN Internationalthe International Times, and others.

In 2011, a six-month strike by Kazakh oil workers was brought to an end by a police massacre at Zhanaozen that left at least 16 dead and 64 wounded. Campaigners linked Atabek’s case to the wider clampdown on labour and opposition groups that followed.

In an obituary of Atabek in The Diplomat, Paolo Sorbello wrote:

At his core, Atabek was a nationalist. He was on the square in December 1986 when students and activists in Almaty protested the appointment of Gennady Kolbin, an ethnic Russian, to head the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic. The police repression of the riots turned the events into a dark page in the country’s history. During “Jeltoqsan” (December in Kazakh), the authorities ordered a violent repression of the demonstrations, which resulted in several dead. The Soviet establishment never allowed for a transparent investigation and trial over the violence.

Aron Atabek at his trial in 2007

On the eve of independence in 1991, Atabek was instrumental in the creation of the Alash National Independence Party. In the 1990s, fearing repercussions for his political positions, he continued his activism from Russia and Azerbaijan. He returned to Kazakhstan in the early 2000s and founded the public association “Kazakh Ulty” (Kazakh Nation), through which he criticised Nazarbayev, at a period of heightened political struggle.

In the mid-2000s Kazakhstan’s most important oil contracts were finally drawing financial windfalls, while Nazarbayev was consolidating his power in the face of growing opposition movements. Furthermore, the economy’s reliance on the US dollar and the housing boom in Almaty were a foreboding tale of the long-lasting effects of the global financial crisis of 2007. The Shanyrak events were essentially an explosive cocktail, the product of the unstable situation in the country.

The repression of opposition movements, the arrest of Atabek, and later on the violent reaction to the strikes in the oil town of Zhanaozen were stepping stones in the consolidation of Nazarbayev’s grip on power and the insurance policy on a season of political stability.

Remembering Aron Atabek in Almaty, 28 November. Photo from the-village-kz

Follow People & Nature on twitter … instagram … telegram … or whatsapp. Or email peoplenature[at]protonmail.com, and I’ll send you updates.

Originally posted on People & Nature on 6 December 2021. Thanks to its editor, Simon Pirani, for encouraging me to repost his obituary here. ||| TRR

Lights Out for the Territory

Dmitry Strotsev
Facebook
November 22, 2021

Lukashenko is obliged to take in the people whom he let into Belarus with a one-way ticket. He is obliged to give them a roof over their heads, find them jobs, and provide them with medical care and social protections. Otherwise, he must admit his irresponsibility and resign. But we all understand that neither the one nor the other will happen. Belarusians, regardless of their political stance, will share responsibility for the criminal actions of the illegitimate authorities. What lies in store for Belarus is a new stage of the humanitarian catastrophe, which will affect everyone, no matter what they think about the migrants.

*

                                For Alexander Skidan

in the autumn park
hungry eyes
leftovers
on
a newspaper
among us
animals breathing
growling in a cage
a rib cage continuous
vagrants german shepherds
among us
say it say it
I am
among
you

September 14, 2009

Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

The Cardiff Album

These are two of my favorite snapshots. I’m pictured here with the phenomenally brilliant Babi Badalov at the opening of his show The Cardiff Album at the Freud Museum of Dreams in Petersburg on November 3, 2008. The pictures were taken by the equally phenomenal Sergey Chernov. Below the second photo is the intro I wrote for the show. ||| TRR

Born in Lerik, Azerbaijan, in 1959, Babi (Babakhan) Badalov is a living embodiment of cosmopolitanism’s dark and spontaneously convivial underbelly. In his world, people do not travel from one country to another with polished ease, flashing their passports to the guards as they pass effortlessly through frontiers and effecting the shift from one language to another with fluency and grace. On the contrary, when you are a refugee, exile, migrant worker or itinerant artist, you manage these transitions as best you can, mangling the new idioms you learn and fusing them with half-remembered tongues you picked up along the way, mingling them with memories of a mother tongue that never matured into adulthood because at a tender age you left your mountain village for the capitals, where encounters with countrymen were few and furtive and somewhat beside the point. In the provincial capital, you learned the official language of artificial nationhood along with the (un)official language of the anti-imperial empire, neither of them your own, both of them suspicious (of you and of themselves). This was violence to be sure, but you turned this violence back upon itself, never fully learning any of these codes well enough to pass for a native. Nativity, after all, is naïveté, an identification both outwardly enforced and grimly self-willed. For an artist, whether of life or the brush, submitting to too many of these identity checks means submitting to kitsch and cliché.

Of course you submit to these as well—you cannot help but submit: you are an artist, not a fighter—but when you succumb you always go too far, giving the lie to the endlessly tautological chains of self-identity that pass for human speech, which, as Lacan and others tell us, is the inhuman machinery that undergirds and overdetermines our visibly silly search for selfhood. You do not need Lacan to tell you this, though, because you are confronted daily with its external effects, masked as real people in real lifeworlds, who are kind or cruel or indifferent but rarely anything other than language machines. In your poems, you disassemble these machines, heap their parts into great, disorderly piles, and then begin putting them back together in defiance of common sense and good taste and the rules of art. It is worse than that. You get the words all wrong: you pronounce them with the wrong accent; you confuse tenses, case endings, conjugations, and registers. You use, illicitly, the Latin alphabet when you write in Russian, and most of your Russian texts are chockablock with English. When you declaim your poems, whether aloud, in a smoke-filled room crowded with alcoholic crypto-nationalists, or with paste and scissors, as in your collages, it is hard not to escape the impression that a faulty robot has arrived from the island of misfit toys to tell us something we would rather not hear—that all our projects of empire- and nation-building have failed.

Your art is political, personal and politically (in)correct. This is what Adorno meant by the autonomy of art, but if he had met you he probably would have turned away in horror, as he did when his well-meaning German students enjoined him to join them on the barricades.

You ask us to join you on the barricades, but what does solidarity look like from there? It looks like this. For years, you live in wretched conditions in a magnificent squat in the middle of Petersburg. Outside, in the square, stands a monument to the greatest African-American poet of them all, Alexander Pushkin. Your comrades-in-arms are artistic scapegrace outlaws, and their ambitiously unambitious version of conviviality will finally lead to their tiny island’s recuperation by the new powers that be, for whom art is just window dressing for real estate and financial speculation. So when this experiment in direct democracy goes awry, you are induced by your family to return to your “homeland” of Azerbaijan and live the straight life. This is almost too much for me to imagine: for me you are the gayest man on the planet, in all senses of the word. When this becomes unbearable, you use the second half of a double-entry visa to make your way to England, that green and pleasant land that would have been a much duller place throughout its history without adventurers like you.

But you plan this particular adventure all wrong, just as you write poetry the wrong way. You declare asylum as soon as you arrive, but in the New Labour UK—in the midst of a war on terror that has also opened a front running straight down the middle of the country—you are treated both as a potential combatant and an obscure object of bureaucratic desire. At the first asylum center (prison) to which they send you, a riot—complete with helicopters, media coverage, and armored police—breaks out. When you tell the story later, it is quite funny, though of course there is nothing funny about it. After a grand tour of Britain with brief sojourns in another few such oases, your case is officially accepted for review and you are dispatched to Cardiff, where you are given a tiny stipend and a council flat. It is all very civil, except for the weekly check-ins with the UK Border Agency, the more or less constant threat of deportation, and the grinding poverty. That does not faze you, however; or rather it does, but you turn that fazing into art. What kind of art? Dolls made from scraps of fabric; dogs fashioned from Wellington boots; and “visual poems” patched together from clippings and other printed detritus, embroidered with whorls of off-kilter, ham-fisted linguistic ravings, and asylumed on the pages of an old photo album you pick out of a rubbish bin.

This is the Cardiff Album, the diary of your journey through the underside of UK immigration policy. You are the Persian Ambassador (a role you played at an evening in solidarity with Salman Rushdie held in the former Persian embassy in Petersburg in 1995), but the marvels you record on your visits to strange lands look like nothing so much as the end of history having its revenge on the last romantics. Your ambassadorial credentials are recognized only by a ragtag band of Welsh anarchists who make your case their cause célèbre, even though you are a celebrity only in the minds of the people you have stitched together in your wanderings and in “alternative” Azeri news outlets starved for news. When it looks certain that you will be deported, the first half of this inoperative community begins bombarding bureaucrats, parliamentarians, and airline officials with faxes, letters, and e-mails. I have not seen you in years, but I would rather not see you again in such circumstances, so I spend half an hour on the phone telling a Pakistani (or was he Bangladeshi?) call center operator that he should not be party to this horrible crime against human freedom that his airline is about to commit. I tell him to get up from his desk and leave work. What right did I have to tell him that? Rights are not given, they are taken. (Did Bakunin say that? Or was it Kropotkin? Or perhaps it was Gorky? Or maybe no one said it?)

Much as I would rather not seen you again, see you I do a couple days after my stupid conversation with your cleverer immigrant non-brother. You and I have nothing in common, just as no one really has anything in common with anyone else. It is too bad that more people do not realize this sad, happy fact. If more people did, they might actually be able to begin making something in common.

NB. The full Russian version of this text was published in Viktor Mazin, ed., Kabinet Iu: Kartiny mira III (Saint Petersburg: Skifiya, 2010). An abridged English version was published in Babi Badalov, Menilmontant Book (Murcia, Spain: Manifesta 8 & transit.cz, 2010). The Cardiff Album was exhibited in full at the Freud Museum of Dreams (Saint Petersburg) in November–December 2008. Parts of the album have also been exhibited in the group shows Monument to Transformation (City Gallery Prague, 2009); On Geekdom (Benaki Museum, Athens, 2007); Progressive Nostalgia (Centro per l’arte contemporanea Luigi Pecci, Prato, 2007); and The Return of Memory (Kumu Art Museum, Tallinn, 2007).

Source: Chtodelat.org

Kontemporari-myuzikl (Onegin’s Demon)

The contemporary musical [kontemporari-myuzikl] Onegin’s Demon is the most successful assault on the classics and the first production in the best traditions of the Russian theater and Broadway.

The creators have decided to call a spade a spade. Few people remember that the poem “The Demon” was written by Pushkin as one of the chapters of Eugene Onegin.

If, as the musical’s libretto has it, in a house of sorrow in Paris you meet an old, crazy Onegin, forgotten by everyone,  tormented by memories of past mistakes, then none other than his personal alter ego, his dark essence, his Demon lets him see his whole life again … and maybe change it.

He is Onegin’s Demon, the director and puppeteer of this unique musical. The creators have laid bare leitmotifs in the novel that had previously gone unspoken. The musical Onegin’s Demon is thus a bold artistic revelation that firmly etches itself in your memory.

Thanks to the 3D video content, the musical Onegin’s Demon can be safely called a movie musical, in which, unlike the cinema, there is no room for error. The musical Onegin’s Demon is a rare opportunity to see in person how, with no editing or multiple takes, real people resurrect the era of ardent romanticism in real time.

Tremble Pushkin purists: “Satan rules love”!* The play features a scene with a naked Tatyana… And does she stay with Onegin in the end? To whom will Tatyana be given?

You have the opportunity to find out firsthand!

Cast:
Onegin – Vasily Turkin and Ivan Ozhogin
The Demon – Sergei Khudyakov
Tatyana – Alina Atlasova and Anastasia Makeyeva
Lensky – Anton Avdeyev
Olga – Natalia Fayerman
Tatiana and Olga’s Mother – Maria Lagatskaya
Nanny – Manana Gogitidze

Music: Anton Tanonov and Gleb Matveychuk
Book: Irina Afanasyeva, Maria Oshmyanskaya, Andrei Pastushenko and Igor Shevchuk
Choreographer: Dmitry Pimonov
Music Director: Anton Tanonov
Creative Producer: Artyom Gridnev

After the third bell, entrance to the auditorium is strictly PROHIBITED!

The musical is performed with one intermission.

Bileter.ru’s review:

Is it possible to produce theater that combines a musical, a movie, a 3D performance and a phantasmagoria, while being based on classical poetry? A few years ago, the idea might have seemed crazy. However, after the incredible, stunning success of the musical Onegin, the trend of boldly genre mash-ups has really taken off. The creators of Onegin’s Demon have gone even further: their new creation has even fewer references to Pushkin’s work and even more deep psychological plot lines that reveal the essence of Onegin’s personality through the lens of his demons. To understand the authors’ intention, you should see the results of their work in person. To make this happen you only need to buy tickets for the musical Onegin’s Demon at a Box Office Directorate ticket outlet or on our website.

The musical Onegin’s Demon undoubtedly risks breaking its predecessor’s popularity records, because this production has even more mystery, mysticism, amazing music, exciting vocal parts and, of course, ultra-modern special effects. The LDM’s New Stage, no matter how spacious it is, will hardly be able to accommodate everyone who wants to watch this show, so if you manage to get tickets to the musical Onegin’s Demon, you can count yourself lucky.

The Pushkin era — its fancy-dress balls, luxurious horse-drawn carriages, duelists and love letters — does not merely come to life on stage. We watch Onegin’s entire biography through the eyes of the character himself, now in his old age. We see with horror and pity what this romantic and slightly bored dandy has become. What are his sins? For what does this half-crazy lonely old man blame himself? And who is he really? Isn’t he the same evil demon who nurtured Eugen’s most negative character traits in his youth?

Many books have been written about alter egos, the individual’s mystical second self, about the ability of soul and body to split: just recall Jekyll and Hyde or the beautiful Dorian Gray. The story of Onegin’s demon is shrouded in the same mysticism and sinister mystery. The creators have made sure that the audience feels the madhouse atmosphere and the painful awareness of their own irreparable mistakes to the tips of their toes. Onegin/The Demon is excruciatingly beautiful, and he is complemented by the musical’s other characters. The stunning voices and fantastic music cause not only the hearts of the audience members who buy tickets to Onegin’s Demon skip more than once. They also make the walls of the LDM tremble.

Source: Bileter.ru

Translated by the Russian Reader

*  The line “Satan rules love” does not appear in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. As rendered by James Falen, chapter 4, stanza 21 of Pushkin’s great novel in verse reads as follows:

Of course the love of tender beauties
Is surer far than friends or kin:
Your claim upon its joyous duties
Survives when even tempests spin.
Of course it’s so. And yet be wary,
For fashions change, and views will vary,
And nature’s made of wayward stuff—
The charming sex is light as fluff.
What’s more, the husband’s frank opinion
Is bound by any righteous wife
To be respected in this life;
And so your mistress (faithful minion)
May in a trice be swept away:
For Satan treats all love as play.

Source: Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse, trans. James E. Falen (Oxford UP, 1995). The emphasis is mine.

P.S. Stanley Mitchell’s rendering (Penguin, 2008) of the same stanza is even niftier, as my mom would say:

The love you get from tender beauties
Is surer than from kin or friend:
However turbulent its duties,
Your rights are honoured in the end.
That’s so. But then there’s whirling fashion
And nature’s wayward disposition,
And what the monde thinks is enough…
And our sweet sex is light as fluff.
And then, it is to be expected
That virtuous wives will all be true
To husbandly opinions, too;
Your faithful mistress has defected
Before you know it: love’s a joke
That Satan plays on gentlefolk.

A System of Absence

Late Soviet-era co-op apartment buildings on the Smolenka River in northwest Petersburg, near the Primorskaya subway station. Photo: Roman Bezjak/Hatje Cantz Verlag. Courtesy of Business Insider

* * *

Along with the heating, in every building
there is a system of absence. Concealed in the walls,
its noiseless radiators
flood the apartment with unadulterated emptiness
the year round, whatever the weather.
Connected to the main, it apparently runs
on fuel supplied by death, arrest or
simple jealousy. This temperature
rises towards evening. One turn of the key
and you find yourself in a place where there is
no one: like a thousand years ago,
or somewhat earlier—in the Ice Age,
before evolution. Usurped space
never relinquishes its
uninhabitedness, thus reminding
the upstart monkey
of emptiness’s primordial, pre-glacial right
to housing. Absence is merely
the home address of nonexistence.
Being bourgeois,
in the long run, at curtain call,
it prefers wallpaper to boulders or brown moss.
The more elaborate the wallpaper’s jungles, the unhappier the monkey.

1993

Original text. Translated by the Russian Reader

“And the old hag will sob in her hut on chicken-leg timber”

◊ ◊ ◊

I don’t hear what you’re saying to me, but a voice’s echo.
I don’t see what you’re wearing, but the snow’s even expanse.
And this isn’t a room where we sit, but the polestar’s shadow.
Plus our footsteps leading away from it, not hence.

Once I knew by heart all the spectrum’s colors.
Now I can make out only white, to my doctor’s disbelief.
But even if the little ditty is truly over,
One might still recall its leitmotif.

I would gladly lie down with you, but that’s mere idle splendor.
If I lie down, it will be with the turf, warm and snug.
And the old hag will sob in her hut on chicken-leg timber
And cook herself up a soft-boiled egg.

Once I used soda instead of other stain removers.
It always worked, like talcum powder on a mole.
Around you nowadays the riffraff crash like breakers.
You wear brightly colored dresses. And I mourn.

Source: Odnoklassniki. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader

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