Muruzi House

brodThe young woman (left) and the late Russian-American poet Joseph Brodsky (right) have nothing to do with the story, told below, of a Central Asian female migrant, working as a residential building caretaker in Petersburg, and her temporarily misplaced daughter. In recent days, however, this “graffiti” portrait of the Nobel laureate, which was quickly painted over, has been the talk of Brodsky’s hometown. The brutal conditions in which Central Asian migrant workers live in Petersburg and other Russian cities are virtually never the talk of the town, although it is their poorly paid drudgery that makes it possible for the “natives” to lead such rich spiritual and intellectual lives, chockablock with fine poetry and heated debates about “street art” and aesthetics. Photograph courtesy of the Instagram page Dom Muruzi

George Losev
Facebook
May 28, 2020

While I was at work, I found a little girl outside the entrance of a residential building. She was calling for her mother, her mommy. She was lost. Although the girl could speak Russian, she was unable, of course, to say where she lived and when she had last seen her mommy. But she was enjoying playing with a broken plastic motorcycle.

I couldn’t go to the police. Who knew what problems with papers the little girl’s family had? In any case, the police would shake down the girl’s mother and father and rob them.

An old lady in the neighborhood with whom I organized an ACSC (ad-hoc committee for saving the child) agreed with my assessment. During the ten minutes of our existence as a committee, we couldn’t come up with anything. Fortunately, the mother—a local building caretaker—showed up and fetched her daughter.

How disgusting it is to live in a society where you can’t go to the police, because the police are robbers and looters with blank stares.

George Losev is a housing authority electrician and revolutionary leftist activist in Petersburg. Translated by the Russian Reader

Masyanya in Isolation

 

Oleg Kuvaev and patrons present
Masyanya, Episode 142: “Isolation”

Masyanya: That’s that. We’re not going outside. It’s a full quarantine. We’re never going outside again.
Uncle Badya: What, never again?
Masyanya: Oh, come on. There was never anything good about the outside. “Outside.” Even the word says it: “outside” is a nasty word. “Outside” is violence, disease, politics, filth, viruses, rudeness, thievery, and other shit. There’s nothing good out there. Forget it, we’ve over it. Yeah, by the way, this is Brodsky. He’s going to stay on our couch for a while.
Grundel: What? What Brodsky? What the hell! No one asked me.
Brodsky: Don’t leave the room, don’t make the mistake and run.
Grundel: You shut up, bro!
Masyanya: We don’t get asked much in this life. There’s nothing to be done about it, Grundel. You’ll have to live with him.
Brodsky: Things are silly out there . . .

Grundel: And how are we going to get the groceries from the courier?
Masyanya: You cut a little hatch on the bottom so only a box can get through.
Grundel: But I don’t want to ruin the door!
Masyanya: Well, then we’re going to order only thin-crust pizza, so it slides under the door. It’s much tastier, too.

Masyanya: We should have a regimen.
Grundel: We’re lying down, that’s our regimen.
Masyanya: We should do calisthenics every day.
Grundel: Kid now . . . but better at night.
Masyanya: And get up at eight in the morning.
Grundel: And go to bed at eighteen in the evening.
Masyanya: And learn Japanese.
Grundel: Well, kid now, go crazy. Arigato gozaimasu, sou desu ka . . .

Masyanya and Grundel: It’s you again . . .
Masyanya: Stop, bitch! I know it’s you again.

Masyanya: I’ve woken up. And the question is, what the heck for?

Masyanya: I didn’t know you were such a sprat lover, Grundel. Is your maiden name Spratman, by chance?

Grundel: Why the hell do you need so much wine, Masyanya?
Masyanya: The dumbest thing you can do when the world ends, Grundel, is be sober. Capeesh?

Masyanya: Things are going badly, my Japanese friend.

Masyanya and Grundel: It’s you again . . .

Masyanya: So listen to me, people of Cell No. 15, and hear what I say. Basically, there was writer and traveler, Thor Heyerdahl.
Grundel: Sorry, who was “high”?
Masyanya: Cover your ears, children. Heyer, Heyerdahl. That’s a last name, damn it. Open your ears, children. Wait, did you hear that? Whatever. Basically, Thor Heyerdahl . . . sailed off. Cut, cut, cut! So, basically, Thor Heyerdahl, traveler, wrote in his book about traveling on the Kon-Tiki that the crew would sometimes lower on a rope from the back of the ship this little sloop . . .
Grundel: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Sloo-oop.
Grundel: Sloo-oop, Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Quiet! Sloo-oop.
Thor Heyerdahl: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Sloo-oop.
Grundel: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Basically, there would a dude in the sloop who had bugged the shit out of the whole crew, and he’d have a little break from the company of his dear loved ones. Got it? We’re in a similar situation, and so the bedroom is now a sloop.
Grundel: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Sloo-oop. Quiet!
Grundel: Sloo-oop.
Masyanya: Basically, if when anyone gets sick of our company, they have the right to say they have problems, and go there and sit alone. Is everyone clear? Dibs! I’m first!

Brodsky: Don’t leave the room, feign that you’ve caught a chill.
Grundel: Hey, Masyanya, is bro going to have a turn, too?
Brodsky: Don’t be a fool! Don’t be like the others.
Grundel: That’s an interesting thought.

Masyanya: What’s going on outside? Any zombies?
Grundel: No, there’s no one at all.
Masyanya: Uh, what a virus, man, it sucks.

Masyanya: Damn, they don’t have that, they don’t have that, and they don’t have that, either. What are we going to do for chow?
Grundel: I can eat beer.

Grundel: Hey, Shaggy, what are you doing?
Shaggy: I’m fine, I’m dating girls. I even like it better this way.

Grundel: Оh, you’re playing GTA! Basically, you have to shoot everyone, break in there and rob it, and then steal a car . . .
Masyanya: Uh, wait, I’m just strolling. I’m going to the beach, then stop by the store and the café. Why do I need to shoot, kill, and chop up people? That was fun before the virus.

A YEAR HAS PASSED

Masyanya: What, just go outside like that?
Grundel: Yes, the quarantine has been lifted. Go ahead, go for a walk!
Masyanya: Outside . . . Ah, what is that? The sky? Ugh . . . what shit! Listen, Grundel, the outside is nothing but trouble. I’ll show you a forest in VR. It rocks! It’s pretty and there’s no shit. Let’s go back. Let’s nail it back up . . . It was nice.
Brodsky: Lock up and let the armoire keep chronos, cosmos, eros, race, and virus from getting in the door . . . Ouch!
Masyanya: You get the heck out of here, bro. You were to blame from the very beginning. Beat it, bro!

Thanks to Comrade Koganzon for the heads-up and transcribing the Russian. Image courtesy of Masyanya website. Translated by the Russian Reader

mas_fla

 

A Room and a Half

Private Brodsky Museum Opens in Petersburg, Featuring Room Where Poet Lived.  Museum Will Host Tours, Lectures, and Performances
Bumaga
January 25, 2020

brodskyThe furnishings in Brodsky’s room have been recreated using projections. Photo by Anastasia Rozhkova for Bumaga

A private Joseph Brodsky museum opened in the Muruzi House on Liteiny Prospect on Saturday, January 25, according to Maxim Levchenko, the museum’s creator and managing partner at the development company FortGroup.

The museum plans to run closed tours for groups of fifteen people. Visitors will need to register for them in advance, and tickets will be sold on the project’s website. The price of the tour has not yet been set. According to Levchenko, the museum will charge enough to cover salaries and maintenance costs.

The memorial section of the museum occupies the room where Brodsky lived with his family. It was uncoupled from the communal apartment to which it was attached. In his works, the poet dubbed the space “a room and a half.” The furnishings have been recreated using projections.

The second part of the museum is housed in the apartment next door. According to experts, its purchase cost about 35 million rubles [approx. 510,000 euros]. The walls have been stripped, floor boards have been put down, and photographs hung on the walls. An amphitheater, where lectures and performances will be held, has also been constructed.

The museum’s creators note that they are collaborating with the Anna Akhmatova Museum, which will provide them with historical objects in the future.

In 2018, Levchenko stated that total investment in the project would amount to more than one million euros. He planned to attract partners after the exhibition was ready.

RBK wrote that the museum would be curated by the people behind Brodsky.online, a virtual memorial to Brodsky, produced in conjunction with the Anna Akhmatova Museum at Fountain House.

Attempts to open a full-fledged Brodsky museum date to 1999, when the Brodsky Museum Foundation was founded. With support from banks and sponsors, it bought almost the entire memorial communal apartment in the Muruzi House. It was not possible to complete the purchase, however, as the proprietress of one of the rooms refused to leave. Because of this, the room where Brodsky lived had to be separated from the rest of the apartment.

Thanks to Eugenia Kikodze for the heads-up. See more photos of the new museum here. Translated by the Russian Reader

Elegy
Once upon a time this southern town
was the place where a friend and I met.
Both of us were young and had agreed
to meet on the seawall,
built in ancient times: we had read
about it in books.
Many waves have crashed against it since then.
Back on dry land, my friend choked on a petty
but bitter lie of his own, while I
hit the road.
And once again I am
standing here tonight. No one
came to meet me, nor do I
anyone to whom I can say, Come
to such-and-such place at such-and-such time.
The gulls scream.
The crashing waves splash.
The lighthouse is more a sight
for the photographer’s sore eyes than the sailor’s.
I stand alone on an ancient stone,
and my sadness doesn’t defile antiquity,
but compounds it. Apparently, the earth
is truly round, since you arrive
at a place where there is nothing but
memories.

Yalta, 1968

Source

Tautology

dovlatov socks

“Dovlatov: I prefer being alonе, / but with somebody next to me.” Image courtesy of SPBsocks. This pair of socks sells for 370 rubles or approximately €5.

Petersburg fashionistas with a snobbish vibe have an additional option available to them: socks emblazoned with quotations by local writers. Socks of this sort have recently gone on sale at SPBsocks, where you will find Joseph Brodsky socks, Fyodor Dostoevsky socks, and Sergei Dovlatov socks.

One of the Dovlatov socks proclaims outright, “I prefer being alone.”

There thus won’t be any more questions to the second sock, whether it is at large under the bed or lost during the wash.

“Dovlatov is the most popular. The recent anniversary, the unveiling of the monument to him in Petersburg, and the 1980 fads have all benefited the writer. We have chosen ironic, edgy quotations. You don’t get anywhere nowadays without a little controversy. Breaking the mold increases sales,” acknowledges Svetlana Suetova, founder of SPBsocks, an online designer sock store, which also runs a showroom in the Golytsin Loft at Fontanka Embankment, 20.

Source: Delovoi Peterburg

____________________

Regardless of whether one is a writer or a reader, one’s task consists first of all in mastering a life that is one’s own, not imposed or prescribed from without, no matter how noble its appearance may be. For each of us is issued but one life, and we know full well how it all ends. It would be regrettable to squander this one chance on someone else’s appearance, someone else’s experience, on a tautology—regrettable all the more because the heralds of historical necessity, at whose urging a man may be prepared to agree to this tautology, will not go to the grave with him or give him so much as a thank-you.

[…]

The philosophy of the state, its ethics—not to mention its aesthetics—are always “yesterday.” Language and literature are always “today,” and often—particularly in the case where a political system is orthodox—they may even constitute “tomorrow.” One of literature’s merits is precisely that it helps a person to make the time of his existence more specific, to distinguish himself from the crowd of his predecessors as well as his like numbers, to avoid tautology—that is, the fate otherwise known by the honorific term “victim of history.” What makes art in general, and literature in particular, remarkable, what distinguishes them from life, is precisely that they abhor repetition. In everyday life you can tell the same joke thrice and, thrice getting a laugh, become the life of the party. In art, though, this sort of conduct is called “cliché.”

Excerpted from Joseph Brodsky, “Nobel Lecture,” December 8, 1987, trans. Barry Rubin. Source: Nobelprize.org

Another End of an Era: Pinta Shot Bar to Close in Central Petersburg

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Pinta Shot Bar on Stremyannaya Street in Central Petersburg

In the last ten or fifteen some years, signs of the city’s extinction have been coming hot and heavy, tumbling into view one after another. A few more years, and there will be nothing left of the late-Soviet and perestroika-era Leningrad/post-perestroika Petersburg where we misspent so many years of our youth and felt perfectly at home, despite the fact the ex-capital of All the Russias could never be described as homely. TRR

* * * * *

One of Petersburg’s Oldest Shot Bars to Close on Stremyannaya Street
Bumaga
June 27, 2017

One of Petersburg’s oldest shot bars [ryumochnaya], located at 22 Stremyannaya Street, is closing. [Known officially as Pinta or “The Pint,”] it has been in operation for over thirty years.

Sources at the bar confirmed the bar’s impending closure to us, but refrained from revealing the rationale behind the decision. According to unconfirmed reports, the establishment has been purchased by a third party. It will close on Sunday.

Urban legend has it the shot bar on Stremyannaya was frequented during different periods by writers Sergei Dovlatov and Joseph Brodsky, and rock musician Mike Naumenko, since it was near the popular so-called Saigon Café. Historian Lev Lurye told Bumaga that Brodsky and Dovlatov were unlikely to have visited the bar. It opened in the mid 1980s, after both had emigrated from the Soviet Union.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Ksenia Astafieva for the heads-up. Photo courtesy of Foursquare and Ksenia N.

No Poet Is Illegal, No Poem Is Extremist

Poet Alexander Byvshev. Photo courtesy of OVD Info
Poet Alexander Byvshev. Photo courtesy of OVD Info

New Criminal Charges Filed against Ex-Schoolteacher Alexander Byvshev
OVD Info
January 17, 2017

On January 17, 2017, police searched the house of ex-schoolteacher Alexander Byvshev in the village of Kromy, Oryol Region. During the search, law enforcement officers confiscated a computer and other information storage devices. After the search, the suspect was interrogated at the local office of the Russian Investigative Committee.

As Alexander Podrabinek wrote on his Facebook page, Byvshev has again been charged under Criminal Code Article 282 (inciting enmity or hostility, as well as humiliation of human dignity). The charges were filed in connection with Byvshev’s poem “On the Independence of Ukraine,” which was published in February 2015 in several Ukrainian periodicals. As Byvshev himself noted, the poem is a “polemical response” to Joseph Brodsky’s eponymous poem.

On July 13, 2015, the Kromy District Court found Byvshev guilty of inciting ethnic hatred (Criminal Code Article 282.1) and sentenced him to 300 hours of compulsory labor for writing poems supporting Ukraine. He was also forbidden to work as a schoolteacher for two years. In autumn 2014, after one of Byvshev’s poems was declared extremist, Rosfinmonitoring placed Byvshev on its list of terrorists and extremists, and his bank accounts were blocked.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Today’s Sponsored Post

“Government of St. Petersburg. Import Substitution and Localization Center. Rosa, 941-6453. Made by Us, Made for Us. Open Your Own Office at the Import Substitution and Localization Center. www.importnet.ru. Lenexpo, Pavilion No. 4.” Photo by the Russian Reader

Since I have to pay the bills like any other tiresome kvetcher and blogger, today’s post is sponsored by the Petrograd Import Substitution and Localization Center, and by lonely Rosa, who can be reached at the telephone number listed above.

Remember, whatever it is you need—cheese or sex—keep it local! Don’t import when you can make it yourself!

__________

Landwehr Canal, Berlin

The canal where they drowned Rosa
L., like a stubbed-out papirosa,
Has almost virtually gone wild.
So many roses have moldered since that time,
It is no mean feat to stun the tourists.
The wall, concrete forerunner of Christo,
Runs from city to calf and cow
Through fields blood has scoured.
A factory smokes like a cigar.
And the outlander pulls up the native gal’s
Frock not like a conqueror,
But like a finicky sculptor,
Getting ready to unveil
A statue fated to live a while
Longer than the reflection in the canal
Where Rosa was canned.

Source: Radio Svoboda. Translated by the Russian Reader