Bir sum, bir som, bir manat

They brandish sabers and dig themselves trenches in the Caucasus,
they stride out on the balcony half-naked to admire the sunset,
they are lermontovs duelling on mount mashuks
and putins trading rubles for soms and manats,
they are an endless mishmash of Dostoevsky and ant, fancying themselves the universe’s biggest riddle,
they are a plague posing as a wacky mixup and a joke,
they are you, they are them, they are all of you, and — may you croak, you reptiles

Source: Yuri Leiderman, Facebook, 30 May 2022. Thanks to him for his kind permission to translate and publish his poem, which he says was inspired by this Facebook post, an “explainer” for Russians traveling to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, to secure non-Russian bank cards (and thus be able to pay for services outside of Russia, whose payments and bank system has mostly been severed from the rest of the world). The author includes recommendations for “cultural fun” along with detailed advice on how to secure the desiderata. Images courtesy of Wikipedia. A commenter (on Mr. Leiderman’s Facebook page) wrote that the explainer “reeked of cannibalism.” Translated by the Russian Reader

Becoming Animal

To become wolf, wild boar,
badger or marten,
dig a hole secretly at dawn,
lie all the way down,
eat ravenously, and praise
the lumps of red loam.
The sun shall rise and say,
Tarry there,
Russian soldier.
Those the butchery has belched out
are not welcome anywhere.
Give a thought to your daughters:
don’t drag a scoundrel of a father
back home.
Become newt, wood snake, hare.

To become whelk, walleye,
seahorse, sturgeon,
sink into the Black Sea
far beyond the buoy.
The sun shall rise and say, Oh!
Well done, soldier, lesson learned.
You were a mediocre monster,
but now it’s the reverse:
you’re a magenta medusa,
a winsome bottlenose dolphin.

To be pelican, oriole,
wood grouse, seagull,
you don’t need to do anything at all:
you can just jump and yell.
You can flock together in a beautiful V,
sing in unison in a shambolic choir,
dwell among oak and snowball trees,
mountains and springs,
fly over what was recently a town,
but is only ashes and blood now.
The sun has risen long ago:
turn into hawks and loons.

There’s no need to return home.
Why would we want a murderer in the house?
Start squirming, crawling,
growling, chirping, branching,
pollinating lime trees and chestnuts,
gobbling mice,
bellowing outside the window in April
so that someone barefoot runs out into April
and gets cross
that they were woken.

Dana Sideros, 4 April 2022

Source: Michael Basin, Facebook, 5 April 2022. Thanks to Leonid Gegen for the link. Originally posted on VK by Dana Sideros on 5 April 2022. Meta deleted a post containing the poem from Sideros’s Facebook page. Various attempts to get them to restore the post have failed, apparently. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader.

Joseph Brodsky’s Playlist

Arzamas recorded a concert in which members of the project Brodsky Ad Libitum played the poet’s favorite pieces and discussed his relationship with music.

“Una furtiva lagrima” (1832)
Nemorino’s aria from Gaetano Donizetti’s opera L’elisir d’amore
Arranged by Alexei Chizhik

“La Cumparsita” (circa 1914)
Tango by Gerardo Matos Rodriguez
Arranged by Alexei Chizhik

“A-Tisket, A-Tasket” (1938)
Jazz standard by Ella Fitzgerald and Al Feldman

“Lili Marlene” (1938)
Norbert Schulze (music), Hans Leip (words)
Arranged by Alexei Chizhik

Minuet in G minor (1725)
Johann Sebastian Bach
Arranged by Alexei Chizhik

Stabat Mater (1736)
First movement (“Stabat mater dolorosa”) of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s cantata
Arranged by Alexei Chizhik

“Joy Spring” (1954)
Jazz standard by Clifford Brown and Max Roach

“Remember Me” (1689)
Dido’s aria from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas

Arranged by Alexei Chizhik

Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in E Minor
Saverio Mercadante
“Rondo Russo”
Arranged by Alexei Chizhik

Brodsky Ad Libitum:
Irina Chizhik – project designer
Alexei Chizhik – vibraphone
Stanislav Chigadayev – piano
Vladimir Volkov – double bass
Anton Alexeyevsky – flute

Producer: Yulia Bogatko
Operators Sergei Tishchenko, Sergei Davidyak, Alexandra Kallistova, and Utromedia Studio
Sound engineers: Sergei Yermakov and Yulia Glukhova
Editing: Alexander Kallistov
Motion design: Seryozha Okhta
Editor-in-chief: Victoria Malyutina-Lukashina

Arzamas thanks Anatoly Naiman for his voice and photograph, as well as Anna Narinskaya, Anna Malenkova, Anton Alexeyvsky, and the Room and a Half Joseph Brodsky Museum for their help in filming.

Arzamas is a cultural history education project. You can listen to our courses and podcasts on the Radio Arzamas app.

To keep from missing new material, follow us on social media:
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Translated by the Russian Reader

“Lishnii cheloveks”

‘The cast is a collection of privileged, mournful lishnii cheloveks (as the “superfluous men” in 19th-century Russian literature were known) in late middle age, squabbling in rural exile, wondering what the world is coming to and regretting the past.’

‘We are all lishnii cheloveks.’
Guardian Weekly, 4 February 2022, p. 57

Pushkin Square, on Pushkinskaya Street in Petersburg’s Central District. Photographer (or artist?) unknown. Thanks to Sveta Voskoboinikova for pointing it out to me. Our house is on the right side at the end of the street, and I miss it and the view from it (which includes the square) very much. I’m prejudiced, but I think our Pushkin is the most fitting monument to Russia’s national poet because he is the most human and humane of the ones I’ve seen. Our Pushkin stands above us, of course, but he’s also our neighbor rather than a (literal) titan towering over us. ||| TRR

“One Person and God Are Already a Majority”: The Petersburg Teacher Fired for Reading Kharms and Vvedensky to High-Schoolers

“She had never read Vvedensky. It was so disgusting that I still feel physically sick.”Teacher Serafima Saprykina recounts how Kharms and Vvedensky were put on trial during an emergency meeting at a Petersburg high school • Venera Galeyeva • Fontanka.ru • February 6, 2022

The class in which tenth graders listened to poems written by “fascist accomplices” and “enemies of the people” was guest-taught by the young teacher-organizer, who had been invited by the social studies teacher. Everything started because the school’s “literary sector was lagging” and they had been having a hard time finding a library director.

Serafima Saprykina, whose Facebook post detailing the unusual approach of the 168th Gymnasium’s principal to the avant-garde OBERIU poets has gone viral, spoke to us about what exactly the director didn’t like about the work of [poets Daniil] Kharms and [Alexander] Vvedensky, why she decided to make the story public only now, and what she hopes will come about as a result.

Serafima Saprykina

Serafima, why did you decide to tell the story of your departure from Gymnasium No. 168 just now?

I watched the latest film from [journalist] Katerina Gordeyeva, about the children of people who were persecuted [under Stalin]: Mama Won’t Come Back: Women of the Gulag. I became terribly ashamed, I even started crying. I realized that I was doing the wrong thing. I had a chance to stand up for the repressed and I didn’t do it. I don’t hold a personal grudge against the person who fired me, otherwise I would have made the situation public right away. I just want evil to be called by name.

So why did you keep mum back in December?

I figured that I would go on working in the school, or maybe in a different one. And if I told the story no school would ever hire me. But after working in various schools for seven years I have seen all kinds of things and I understand that school, the system that schools are part of, is not going to change. When I was in school in Volgograd I was subjected to bullying. I was different, I read a lot and my classmates disliked me. I would never have thought that I would become a teacher myself but at a certain point I found my calling there.

How did you come to teach the OBERIU poets?

I wrote a dissertation about religious imagery in the work of the OBERIU poets for my master’s at the St. Petersburg State University philosophy department. I’ve been into this topic for a long time and wanted to tell the kids about it. But this wasn’t a one-off lecture, it was part of a series of lessons. The first one was about the [classical modernist] Silver Age poets, then the OBERIU poets, then a lesson about the stadium poets [of the late 1950s—Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Bella Akhmadulina, and others—trans.] and [Joseph] Brodsky, with contemporary literature at the end. Unfortunately, I only got to the second lesson. The series had been officially approved and accepted by my immediate supervisor, head teacher Tatyana Nikolayevna Golerbakh.

The lesson on the OBERIU poets came after the students’ regular classes?

No, I taught it in place of their social studies class—the teacher had invited me to take over that hour. This is standard procedure at the school, the librarian must ask the other teachers for permission to run a “library hour” during their classes. But I didn’t talk to the kids about the precise circumstances in which Kharms and Vvedensky died after their arrests in 1941, or about the arrests either. What’s the point in scaring the kids like that, anyway? I told them about the OBERIU group.

OBERIU (the Association of Real Art—Obedinenie realnogo iskusstva) was a group of writers and cultural figures that existed between 1927 and the early 1930s in Leningrad (now Petersburg).

When we got to Vvedensky, I gave the kids his poem “I regret that I’m not a beast” [Mne zhalko, chto ia ne zver’]. And that really sparked the whole situation that followed. All the people who participated in the emergency meeting called by the principal, including the director of the school museum, had been working with me for half a year and had nothing but praise for me. If the principal had said that I needed to quit because she didn’t approve of my work, I would have understood. But she said, “What a filthy title: he regrets, you know, that he’s not a beast.” She had never read Vvedensky. It was so disgusting that I still feel physically sick.

Actor Boris Dragilev reading Alexander Vvedensky’s poem “I regret that I’m not a beast” at the Anna Akhmatova Museum at Fountain House in Petersburg in 2013. Courtesy of Fontanka.ru

Your Facebook post went viral within three hours, it’s all over social networks and the media. What has changed in your life since then?

Absolutely everything in my world has changed. When I was writing the post, I thought that I’d get like five likes and three comments, with two of those claiming I was making it all up. I didn’t think that my post would elicit such a response and that people would start calling me a hero. What kind of hero am I? I haven’t even read all the messages and comments yet. But I am sure that the homeroom teacher for the tenth-grade class where I taught the Kharms/Vvedensky class will confirm that I didn’t tell the kids anything horrible during the lesson.

How long did you work at the 168th?

I was hired there in late August of 2021. The school was looking for a library director, and they saw my resume on a recruiting site and liked it. The principal called me and said that the school was very interested in me. At the interview she explained that their literary curriculum was lagging, and they really needed lessons on extracurricular reading, which I as library director could teach. When I came in to get registered for employment, it turned out that they couldn’t hire me as director without my having librarian experience or education, so they hired me as a teacher-organizer and tacked on 25% of the librarian salary.

Surely that is no grounds for firing someone?

Within this system it’s enough for there to be even a hint that they don’t want you around anymore. And whatever you do after that, however hard you try, you just have to leave. I’ve never had a serious conflict with anyone in my life, that’s just not who I am. This is just the systematic stigmatization of teachers with initiative. It’s happening everywhere.  

What exactly were your duties at the 168th?

What does the school library director do? There are two options. Either she just sits there and doesn’t let anyone into the library, and if a pupil comes and asks for a book, silently hands it over. Or she doesn’t [hand it over], if the book isn’t in the library. Or the director runs classes on extracurricular reading, reading competitions, talks about what’s going on in contemporary literature. For instance, I invited Kira Anatolyevna Groznaya, head editor of [youth journal] Aurora, and she talked to the kids about literary journals and how to publish in them. They really liked it.

And how much were you paid for this work?

Schools pay well, I never had any problems with how I was paid. But I won’t tell you exactly how much. Even if I never have work ever again, it won’t turn me into a person who thinks the wrong way. I really want to do research, to do graduate study. And more than anything I would like to work for Memorial (an organization declared to be an “NGO-foreign agent” by the Russian Justice Ministry and liquidated in December 2021 by order of the Russian Supreme Court—Fontanka.ru), to help keep alive the memory of repressed people. But Memorial is gone. I really love my country and don’t want to emigrate. Everyone is ruled by fear right now. You asked what I experienced in the three hours after publishing my post. It would be better to ask what I experienced during the month and a half since getting fired. And what I experienced was, probably, everything that a person in the 1930s experienced.

Why? No one’s being lined up for the firing squad and there’s no Gulag, right?

It seems like that, yeah. But meanwhile I’m being fired for reading poems by “enemies of the people.” And I’m afraid that no one will hire me again if I speak up. But what does it mean for me to speak up? My voice is the voice of one little person who wants to live her little life. I’m not a hero. I’m a coward who was brave enough to speak up one time. But the worst thing already happened — I got fired, because the principal thinks that Kharms and Vvedensky are “German accomplices” and “enemies of the people.” There is plenty of work out there, I’ll find something. And if I can’t, I’ll just live with my husband. But maybe with my silly little voice I can inspire others to speak up as well. And then we definitely won’t find ourselves back in 1937.  

Are you not afraid that the school will accuse you of making everything up? You don’t have a recording of that meeting, after all.

No, I’m not afraid. I know I’m telling the truth. One person and God are already a majority. Now I’m not afraid of anything. And you shouldn’t be either.

Translated by the Fabulous AM. Photo courtesy of Fontanka.ru via Serafima Saprykina

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.