This is Trotsky’s tribe and udder,
this is the universe shedding tears in armillaria.
As you lift, so you go,
whether you’re Lenin or Soloukhin.
Humanity is evidence that the stars are rat finks,
even the Lord knows that.
Tiny paroxysms flit across the face of Ahab-cum-Trotsky, Isaac aka Allotment, tiny fistulas, springs-and-wells, the Danube shallow, the Dniester shoaled. That crapper in the Udmurt village, where I dropped the latch made by their grandpa. I had gone there to meet my daughter’s relatives. I had no oriental rugs in my flat, no Aladdin lamps, and I didn’t even speak Hebrew, much to their dismay. And to my own dismay, I wasn’t a carpenter.
One leap is the ocean, another leap is the ocean. One nation is a leap, and not a very long one. One street is an ice pick. Did I say street? Hell, every lighted window! And who are we? The bandage on Trotsky’s forehead, the nails Tashtego used to nail the flag. We are the Lord, his soles, his lyrniks, and kill Biljo.
Mr. Leiderman’s drawing is reproduced here with his kind permission. Translated by the Russian Reader
The Russian Reader covers grassroots political, environmental and social movements, economic and social issues, and independent culture in Russia and the Russian-speaking world. It is not funded by no one except other readers like you. You can click the “Donate” button in the sidebar to make a donation via PayPal or go to my Ko-fi page and buy me a “coffee” or two. Otherwise, I do all work on the website for free and I do most of it myself. Unless otherwise noted, everything published on the Russian Reader can be reproduced elsewhere, so long as the Russian Reader is acknowledged as the source and a link back to the original post is included. || TRR
Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose, 2020. 90 x 90 cm, oil on canvas
Oleg Kotelnikov, La mort en rose
23 October 2020 – 5 December 2020
Curated by Marina Alvitr and Katya Kabalina
Oleg Kotelnikov (b.1958) gained fame in the 1980s as a member of the New Artists, a group founded in 1982 by Timur Novikov.
The show features fifty graphic works, produced in 2020, which continue the upbeat Petersburg necrorealist tradition. “When we are born, we start dancing, and it is the dance of death.” For the artist, a work of art is the movement of life, a set of accidents and overwrites, a “punk scream” here and now.
Oleg says, “Art is contemporary (with time), it reflects time. Art that does not reflect its time is not contemporary.”
To contextualize the era and tell about the culture that Oleg and his friends shaped when a new world was emerged, the show will also feature videos and documentary archives. Buratinovka, an installation produced in collaboration with Irina Venskaya, attempts to interpret these archives creatively.
In addition to Kotelnikov’s works and the collaboration with Venskaya, the exhibition features Kotelnikov’s collaborations with Yevgeny Yufit.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
including gunshot wounds to the head and various body parts and limbs including
the chest, shoulders, forearms, hips, shins, feet, buttocks, belly, including
penetrating wounds to the abdomen with eventration of the small intestine blunt wounds— dozens of cases external injuries to the chest penetrating wounds to the chest penetrating trauma to the chest with damage to the right middle lobar bronchus and the development of hemopneumothorax
the leakage of blood and air into the chest shrapnel wounds to various body parts, including
the face, neck, hands, forearms, hips, knee joints, shins, groin area, lower back, the lower part of the torso, the abdominal wall, the buttocks, including
penetrating shrapnel wounds and multiple shrapnel wounds— dozens of cases trauma and wounds from explosions and mines to various body parts, including
crush injuries to the soft tissue— dozens of cases open pneumothorax the leakage of air into the chest lacerations of various body parts and limbs, including
degloving injuries— dozens of cases stab wounds to various body parts and limbs, including
multiple ones— dozens of cases thermal burns from flames on the upper and lower limbs and the abdomen— several cases; chemical burns to the eyes— several cases; barotrauma to the ears from blasts of pressurized air— several cases ruptured eardrums bleeding from the ears the condition after suffering electrical injury the toxic effect of gases, vapors, fumes— several cases craniocerebral injuries of varying severity including
both closed and open— many dozens of cases concussions of the brain hemorrhagic contusions to the brain— dozens of cases traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhaging of the brain with the formation of subdural hematomas, including
acute hematomas— several cases periorbital hematomas— several cases pneumocephalus the leakage of air inside the skull; fractures of various bones in the head and the face the base of the skull, the cranial vault, the zygomatic bone, the upper jaw, the maxillary sinuses, the bridge of the nose, the crown of the head, the frontoparietal region, the temporal region, including
open fractures of the zygomatic bone— dozens of cases fractures of the upper and lower limbs both closed and open, including comminuted fractures and displacement of the bones, rib fractures— dozens of cases compression fractures of the body the vertebrae the dislocation of joints damage to the capsular bags of the joints and displacement of the capsular ligament apparatus of various joints including
the cervical vertebrae including hemarthrosis of the limb joints the leakage of blood inside the joint blunt trauma to the abdomen subcutaneous hematomas, bruising of different parts of the body and the head and the limbs, including
extensive interstitial hematomas including
linear hyperemia including edema and induration blood in the gluteal regions the lumbar region, the posterior surface of the hips, the neck, the posterior and lateral surfaces of the chest, the posterior surface of the shoulders, the posterior surface of the ulnar joints— many dozens of cases contusions, contused wounds, contused abrasions of various body parts, the head and the limbs— many dozens of cases arterial hypertension, hypertensive crisis several cases convulsive epileptic seizures —several cases. decompensated diabetes, (brought from the detention center on Okrestin Lane) including
death before the arrival of paramedics, at 10:35 p.m. 08/10/2020, Pritytsky Square one case* including
There are also still around eighty people missing nationwide in the wake of the arrests. It is quite likely that at least some of these missing protesters died while being tortured in detention centers. (Thanks to Alexei Borisionik for providing these facts.)
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.
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?
others—biological 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 JoanBrooks. 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.
— Паслухай, стары,
нам учора абвешчана воля,
і сёння ад рання
народам запоўнены пляцы,
наперадзе – радасць,
якая нас век не пакіне,
і я назаўсёды з табой
— Паслухай, мой хлопча,
учора зіма пачалася,
і белыя вопраткі
чорныя дрэвы надзелі,
і шэранем ранішнім
ледзь прыцярушаны прорвы,
і холад хавае
ўсялякі ці прыпах, ці пах –
і так будзе доўжыцца
аж да вясновае ўлады –
тады на дарогах
адкрыюцца раны старыя,
як сонца сарве перавязкі…
Крывёю і брудам
вам станецца радасць
і доўга чаканая воля.
А тут, пад зямлёй,
пад заброснелай нізкаю столлю,
на змрочнай сцяне,
будуць мілыя блікі блукаць
маленькай, як жменька,
і вечнай – і вечнай! – надзеі…
… У кніжцы без вокладкі
і без апошніх старонак,
дзе вы, адмыслоўцы шалёнага часу,
я сёння заместа закладкі
ад пекнай герані,
падобнай на кроў і агонь.
— Послушай, старик,
нам свободу вчера обещали,
и нынче с утра
уже площади полны народа,
их радость ведет,
и она нас вовек не покинет,
и с этого дня я с тобою
— Послушай, сыночек,
вчера к нам зима подступила,
и белые платья
решили примерить деревья,
и инеем ранним
чуть проруби сверху покрыты,
и холод скрывает
повсюду и запах, и вонь —
и будет держаться
все это до вешнего ветра —
тогда на дорогах
откроются старые раны,
лишь солнце сорвет с них повязки…
И кровью и грязью
и званая вами свобода.
А тут, под землей,
тут, где низкие своды и плесень,
на темной стене
будут милые блики играть
от зеркала крошечной
светлой и вечной надежды…
Но в книгу, где нет ни последних страниц,
где вы, мастера сумасшедшего времени,
я вместо закладки сегодня
похожей на кровь и огонь.
Translated from the Belarusian by Gennady Kanevsky
yesterday they promised us freedom,
and now, since morning,
the squares are filled with people,
led on by joy,
and it will never abandon us,
and from this day, I want
to part with you . . .
yesterday winter arrived,
and the trees decided
to try on white dresses,
and the ice holes are slightly covered
with early frost,
and everywhere the cold hides
both scents and stink—
and all this will hold firm
until a wind comes from outside—
then, on the roads,
old wounds will open,
if only the sun tears off the bandages . . .
And blood and dirt
will turn out to be the joy
and the freedom you called for.
And here, under the earth,
here, where there are low vaults and mold,
on the dark wall
dear flecks of light will play
from the tiny mirror
of bright and eternal hope.
But today, in this book, where there are no final pages,
where you, masters of the crazy times,
I will place a leaf
instead of a bookmark
from a wonderful geranium
that resembles blood and fire.
Translated from Gennady Kanevsky’s Russian by JoanBrooks
* * * * *
Tatsyana Sapach (1962–2010) was a Belarusian poet, journalist, and translator, and the author of two collections of poetry. Gennady Kanevsky (b. 1965, Moscow) has published eight books of verse. Many of his poems have been translated into English, Italian, Hungarian, and Ukrainian. Video courtesy of Nexta and Andrey Rysev
Anna Tereshkina has always epitomized, for me, the radical core of the Petersburg underground. Especially since she comes from Omsk, in Siberia. If Chernyshevsky were writing the novel of our times, Tereshkina would be Vera Pavlovna and Rakhmetov all at once.
Tereshkina is an incredibly prolific artist, curator, musician, and poet. She is dedicated to universal justice and solidarity and is particularly attuned to the aesthetic and political performative discourses of queer-feminism. Her work and, most importantly, her life as a work (of art and politics) have been among the most formative for me in terms of opening up to my own queer body and writing.
relaxation as the result of many days of effort. many years of effort. I come here, into the world of feminine bodies to erase my sex, to look at them carefully, so calm, escaping for a couple hours children, husbands, grandsons, debts, poverty and bosses, patience and despair. into the kingdom of heat and silence. everyone is silent, they just breathe like stoves.* and I need to breathe this way, too. today I showed a new woman the ladle and mitt, so she could give us more steam. she said: “toss more,” and I didn’t understand.** then I thought about the division of language and feelings: you can pick over them like grains or you can share them with someone. or eat your kasha with black dots, if you like dots, in particular black ones.*** there’s a strong woman washing her old mother, after the steam room she tells her: sit here a bit. will I ever wash my mother? mine never goes to the banya alone. and then I hear, hear, hear everything breath and motion, breath and motion the electric current pulls the water pumps and the water runs off into the drain. I want to be huge like a stove, so no one can put me in their pocket.
* The poem describes a scene in a Russian public bathhouse or banya on a women’s day. The banya is heated by a large brick stove or pech.
** These lines contrast two infinitives, describing the act of throwing water on the stones in the stove to produce steam. On the one hand, poddavat (to add or increase the steam, with the root meaning “to give”), and on the other hand, podkinut (to toss or throw the steam). Tereshkina told me she had never heard this usage of the second verb before the scene described.
*** The reference is to the black grains that can often be found in a bag of buckwheat kasha. They can be separated out before cooking or simply eaten along with the rest.
Anna Tereshkina, Self-Portrait. Courtesy of the artist
Mama, I want a tattoo, Mama, I’m embarrassed before you Like usual, because I was born, And forced to steal your youth. It was so scary in the 1990s, no scarier than now, lying down looking back, looking forward, We don’t know which of us Lies the most to the other We don’t know which of us Lies the most to themselves.
I like being a girl, but it’s better to be a zemleroika, Anyone born in perestroika, Remains forever there. I like being a girl, who has such little air underwater, everything squeezing me, and no one waiting up above It’s already too late.
Mama, I want to get my nose pierced, so everyone can see I’m grown up and I can pierce everything I want, if I want. Mama, can I come back into your matrix, peek in with one eye, so I can rest, so I don’t have to breathe, so I can run away. Is it shameful to dream of such things?
I like being a girl, but it’s better to be a zemleroika, Whoever was born in perestroika, Remains forever there. I like being a girl who has such little air underwater, everything squeezing me, and no one waiting up above It’s already too late.
* The Russian for “shrew” is zemleroika, which literally means “earth digger,” recalling Hegel’s appropriation of Hamlet’s “old mole” to name the spirit of history. Since “shrew” has such misogynistic connotations in English (and none in Russian), I have left the original word in the translation. Please learn this word (rhymes with perestroika!) and use it in English to replace the dead word “shrew” if you are speaking of a tough, assertive woman.
Translation and commentary by JoanBrooks. If you would like to support the author’s work, please consider donating. Any amount helps. Please include “Tereshkina” in the memo line of your contribution.
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.
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 JoanBrooks. 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.