31 July 2011

No/Not - Another Translation / Нет - Другой перевод


You’re Russian? No, I am contagious.

My bio consists of missing pages.

I play a drunkard on the stage.

But yes, that’s where I came of age.

You’re Loseff? No, I am a Lifschutz,

the schmuck who always fell for stiff chicks

and pretty honors students smeared

with ink-stains, here and over here.

You’re human? No, I am a sliver,

a cracked Dutch tile out of context,

a weir, a mill, a rustic river –

God only knows what cometh next.

(Translation © Constantine Rusanov)

G.S. Smith's translation and the original are here.

30 July 2011

Still-life / Hатюрморт

A characteristic peculiarity of the Petersburg still-lifes
is that they remained unfinished.  -- Guidebook    

L. Loseff (1937 - 2009). Still-Life.
Paper, typewriter. Unfinished.

Характерная особенность натюрмортов петербургской школы
состоит в том, что все они остались неоконченными.

Л. Лосев (1937 — 2009). НАТЮРМОРТ.
Бумага, пиш. маш. Неоконч.


A characteristic peculiarity of the Petersburg

still-lifes is that they remained unfinished.

-- Guidebook

An onion in bandy slices. A salted cucumber winces. A bread rind bends in round. A rather course green light illuminates everything. There's not enough light from the window, that's where you're lying, asshole: the color of the bottle, the color of the cloth of the army uniform. Well, we won't go south. It costs too much. We're not members of the Academy of Arts nor of Sciences. Let Ivanov and Shchedrin go and paint myrtle bushes. Today we'll think up something simpler. Vaska, where the hell are you? Run over to the shop, Vasenka, and hock the still-life for a couple of roubles, to carry us through 'til the check comes. That light from the Neva is incredible. The candle. The reflected light of the stove. That, please take note, doesn't exist. There's no light in Petersburg. If only we could just sip a bit out of the still-life . . . What are you doing there, Vaska, whimpering with your lousy Finnmug. Greenness. Darkness. Looks like night has rolled round once again. It will remain unfinish There's still another picture A carafe, charcoal ruled, beside a faceted wineglass know an artist a little tipsy he fell asleep didn't wake up.

L. Loseff (1937 - 2009). Still-Life.

Paper, typewriter. Unfinished.


Aleksandr A. Ivanov (1806 - 1858): Russian romantic painter.

Semyon F. Shchedrin (1745 - 1804): Russian landscape painter.

(translation © H. Pickford)

Характерная особенность натюрмортов
петербургской школы
состоит в том, что все они
остались неоконченными.

Лучок нарезан колесом. Огурчик морщится соленый. Горбушка горбится. На всем грубоватый свет зеленый. Мало свету из окна, вот и лепишь ты, мудила, цвет бутылки, цвет сукна армейского мундира. Ну, не ехать же на юг. Это надо сколько денег. Ни художеств, ни наук, мы не академик. Пусть Иванов и Щедрин пишут миртовые рощи. Мы сегодня нашустрим чего-нибудь попроще. Васька, где ты там жива! Сбегай в лавочку, Васена, натюрморт рубля на два в долг забрать до пенсиона. От Невы неверен свет. Свечка. отсветы печурки. Это, почитай, что нет. Нет света в Петербурге. Не отпить ли чутку лишь нам из натюрморта... Что ты, Васька, там скулишь, чухонская морда. Зелень, темень. Никак ночь опять накатила. Остается неоконч Еще одна картина Графин, графленый угольком, граненой рюмочки коснулся, знать, художник под хмельком заснул, не проснулся.

Л. Лосев (1937 — 2009). НАТЮРМОРТ.
Бумага, пиш. маш. Неоконч.

23 July 2011

‘As you get on, you can’t remember names’ / «Под старость забывают имена»

Photo: Lev Loseff, Helsinki, 1965 / Фото: Лев Лосев, Хельсинки, 1965

‘As you get on, you can’t remember names’

As you get on, you can’t remember names.
You try to tiptoe round these personnel mines
in conversation; but it’s deathly mute,
this universe where the anonymous meet.

Nameless rather than senseless is this world.
Just like the town of X, and that is where
XX your obedient servant now observes
the mist rising beyond his black pane’s square.

(Translation © G.S. Smith)

«Под старость забывают имена»

Под старость забывают имена,
стараясь в разговоре, как на мины,
не наступать на имя, и нема
вселенная, где бродят анонимы.

Мир не безумен — просто безымян,
как этот город N, где Ваш покорный
NN глядит в квадрат окошка чёрный
и видит: поднимается туман.

21 July 2011

Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life: Review in The Prague Post

Joseph Brodsky: A Literary Life

Critical biography of Nobel laureate poet

By Stephan Delbos

Almost as soon as he began writing poetry, Joseph Brodsky lived in two worlds at once: Russian and English languages, the East and the West. Even after he emigrated to the United States in 1972, where he would....

20 July 2011

2 Poems from "Poems by Students of The Leningrad University" - 1958 - Два стихотворения из "Стихи студентов Ленинградского университета"

Loseff was 19.
Лосеву было 19 лет.

Anyone care to translate?

Excerpt from: “Exile as a Linguistic Event: Joseph Brodsky and Russian Émigré Poetry” by Yakov Klots

This is the final section of Chapter 4: Brodsky's New York and the "New York Text" of Russian Literature. Here Klots discusses Lev Loseff's poetic response to Brodsky's death, specifically in poems commemorating his life in New York.
Brodsky, Loseff and Loseff's Nova, New York 1981

Post Scriptum

            Brodsky’s death in New York on January 28, 1996, brought an avalanche of elegies by his fellow poets throughout the world, written in different languages. But it is in Lev Losev’s poetry that the reaction to the death of his friend seems to be the most intense, genuine and personal. There are several poems by Losev, in which he paints Brodsky’s portrait through Brodsky’s own words and where he depicts his poet-protagonist in his native Leningrad or in Venice, the “ideal” city of Brodsky’s poetry where his ashes rest on the island of San Michele.[1] But there are also two texts that are set in New York and seek to commemorate Brodsky, so to speak, in the language of the city where he lived for the last twenty years of his life and where he died.
The first poem (Text 1 in the Appendix to this chapter) contrasts the atmosphere of the funeral home on Bleecker Street with the outer space of the city orphaned by the death of its citizen. It is the city that pays true tribute to Brodsky in Losev’s poem by keeping a memory of him alive in its streets. The contrast is maintained through the division of the poem into two stanzas, the second portraying the city rather than the interior of the funeral home. Like a dog that has lost its way home, the wind carries down the scents of the poet’s favorite culinary attractions of Greenwich Village (Chinese food and coffee), as well as the air from the ocean and the river, where Brodsky would often go for a walk. It was an especially cold day in New York, and the only warmth in Losev’s poem comes from a coffee shop, a Chinese restaurant and the ocean that surrounds Manhattan:

Словно пес потерявшийся, ветерок переменный,
вместо палки и мячика, разыгравшись несет,
запашок конопляного масла из китайской пельменной,
теплый вздох океана,
пар кофейный
к похоронному дому и от.
                                                (Losev 2005, 22)

The shifting breeze, like a dog playing games with its owner,
is retrieving – not a ball or a stick, but odours:
whiff of sesame oil from a Chinese take-out,
the ocean’s warm exhalation,
coffee vapour,
wafting them up to the funeral parlour and away.

                                                (tr. G.S. Smith; LLA)

In the second poem (Text 2 in the Appendix to this chapter), Losev revisits the place that used to be Brodsky’s favorite in the city – the embankment of the Hudson in the area of the West Village. It was there that Brodsky took his friend for his first walk in New York, after Losev and his family landed at JFK on June 3, 1976:  

Был тихий летний вечер. Иосиф с несколько таинственным видом сказал мне: “Пойдем! Сейчас ты все увидишь и все поймешь.” Мы захлопнули за собой чугунную калитку и повернули налево. Прошли два небольших квартала и оказались на набережной Гудзона. Как бы продолжением Мортон Стрит служит большой, но обветшалый пирс. Справа к нему навечно, как крейсер Аврора, пришвартован корабль, почему-то превращенный теперь в школу кулинарного ученичества. Слева, свесив ноги, сидели рыбаки и парочки. Две девушки в майках крепко и подолгу целовались. “Правда, ужасно похоже?” спросил Иосиф. “На что?” На Ленинград, где-нибудь на Малой Невке.
Непохоже было ничуть! Гудзон очень широк – куда шире, чем Нева у Стрелки Васильевского острова, не говоря уж о Малой Невке. Вдали виднелся обрывистый, скалистый нью-джерсийский берег. Вниз по течению золотился океанский горизонт. Но так же, как в Ленинграде, пахло рекой, так же плескалась вода под пирсом, так же солнце высвечивало ободранный кирпич пакгауза, так же, в конце концов, можно было не спеша, за несколько минут дойти от реки до дому.

                                    (transcript of Losev’s radio essay for Voice of America; LLA)

It was a warm summer evening. With a slightly mysterious look, Joseph said: “Let’s go! Now you’ll see and understand everything.” We shut the cast-iron gate behind us and turned left. Walked two short blocks and ended up at the embankment of the Hudson. As a kind of extension of Morton Street there is a large albeit dilapidated pier. A ship, which for some reason has now been turned into a culinary school, is moored to the right-hand side of the pier forever, like the cruiser Aurora. On the left-hand side, legs dangling, sat fishermen and couples. Two girls in T-shirts were kissing and for a long time. “Looks terribly similar, doesn’t it?” Joseph asked. “To what?” “To Leningrad, somewhere on the Malaia Nevka.”
            It was not similar at all! The Hudson is very wide – much wider than the Neva near the Strelka of Vasilievsky Island, to say nothing of the Malaia Nevka. In the distance loomed the steep, rocky shore of New Jersey. Down the river, the ocean horizon shone golden. But just as in Leningrad, there was the smell of a river, the water splashed under the pier just the same, the sun was illuminating the shabby brick of the warehouse exactly the same, and finally, in exactly the same way, you could unhurriedly, from the river, in several minutes’ time, walk home.

Brodsky on the Morton St. parking pier on the Hudson, July 1977, Photo: Lev Loseff

As in the previous text, here, too, the city serves as a metonymical substitute for the poet: the very landscape of Greenwich Village near the Hudson seems to be irreparably distorted by Brodsky’s death. The river, which used to reflect his features, carries Losev’s memory of his friend down into the ocean, leaving only a faceless “concrete skeleton” where the pier used to be:

Было да сплыло, на то и вода.
Зря вот я трезвым приплелся сюда,
зря не напился.
То, что “сейчас” – это было “потом”.
Тупо гляжу на железобетон.
Нет больше пирса.  

                                    (Losev 2005, 45)

To be and to go; that’s what water is for.
To come here sober was no good at all—
I should have got pie-eyed.
What is ‘here and now’ was ‘later’ then.
So I stare dully at a concrete skeleton.
The pier has disappeared.

                                    (tr. G.S. Smith; LLA)

Two Poems by Lev Losev

Text 1. “В похоронном дому расшушукалась жизнь-выдвиженка...” (Losev 2005, 22). English translation by G.S. Smith (LLA):

* * *

В похоронному дому расшушукалась жизнь-выдвиженка,
и как много ее –
с кучей мертвых цветов Черномырдин, с ТВ Евтушенко,
с Брайтонбича бабье,
и треножники камер, как тонкие ноги карамор,
налетевших на свет, и толпа,
положившая глаз на аристократический мрамор
желтоватого лба.

Словно пес потерявшийся, ветерок переменный,
вместо палки и мячика, разыгравшись несет,
запашок конопляного масла из китайской пельменной,
теплый вздох океана,
пар кофейный
к похоронному дому и от.

* * *

The funeral parlour’s abuzz with life risen up from the ranks,
and more than a little:
Chernomyrdin with bunch of dead blooms, Evtushenko fresh from a telecast,
Brighton Beach biddies,
and camera tripods like lean-legged mosquito marauders
that swarm towards the light. The crowd
casts an eye on the aristocratic marble
of that yellowish brow.

The shifting breeze, like a dog playing games with its owner,
is retrieving – not a ball or a stick, but odours:
whiff of sesame oil from a Chinese take-out,
the ocean’s warm exhalation,
coffee vapour,
wafting them up to the funeral parlour and away.

Brodsky and Loseff on Staten Island Ferry, New York, July 1977

2. “Пирс испарился” (Losev 2005, 45). English translation by G.S. Smith (LLA):

Пирс испарился

Серый линкор отражен в синеве.
Парочки мирно воркуют себе,
гетеро и гомо,
и, как всегда у любой воды,
старый мудак на конце уды.
Тут мы как дома.

Доски повыщерблены. Линкор
на вечном приколе, в нем кулинар-
ная школа.
Плещутся волны. Смех поварят.
Баржи уходят за поворот
плавно и скоро.

То-то сюда мы ходили вдвоем,
друг мой, влюбленный в любой водоем,
я – тоже вроде.
Было да сплыло, исчезло, прошло.
Что вы там плещете, волны, назло?
Что вы там врете?

Было да сплыло, на то и вода.
Зря вот я трезвым приплелся сюда,
зря не напился.
То, что «сейчас» – это было «потом».
Тупо гляжу на железобетон.
Нет больше пирса.  

The Pier that Disappeared

A grey warship reflected in dark blue.
Couples who calmly bill and coo,
both hetero and homo;
plus what by any water you always find:
an old geezer at the end of his line.
This is where we felt at home.

The planking had seen better days. The warship
permanently docked, refashioned
as a catering school.
The waves lap. The cub cooks laugh.
Disappearing round the curve, barges plough
swift and smooth.

This is where we used to come, he and I.
My friend who adored water of any kind,
as I do too—well, sort of.
Now, all that has been and gone, disappeared, passed on.
Why do the lapping waves taunt me so?
Why do they tell tall stories?

To be and to go; that’s what water is for.
To come here sober was no good at all—
I should have got pie-eyed.
What is ‘here and now’ was ‘later’ then.
So I stare dully at a concrete skeleton.
The pier has disappeared.

[1] For example, in “Iosif Brodskii, ili oda na 1957 god” [Joseph Brodsky, or ode to the year 1957], Losev paints the portrait of a young Brodsky standing at an intersection in his native Leningrad that appears to be a rhymed list of concepts that inhabit Brodsky’s mature poetics, set in italics as if to mark a quotation: “душа крест человек чело / век вещь пространство ничего / сад воздух время море рыба / чернила пыль пол потолок / бумага мышь мысль мотылек / снег мрамор дерево спасибо” [soul cross person forehead / age thing space nothing / garden air time sea fish / ink dust floor ceiling / paper mouse thought moth / snow marble tree thank you] (Losev 2000, 274). In Losev’s poem “Gde vozdukh ‘rozovat ot cherepitsy…’” [Where the air is pinkish from the tiling], written three months after Brodsky’s death, Brodsky is back in Venice, accompanied by his own poetic images of the Italian city: “поди поймай, когда ты там повсюду – / то звонко тронешь чайную посуду / церквей, то ветром пробежишь по саду, / невозвращенец, человек в плаще” [it’s useless trying to catch you there as there you’re everywhere – / at one time touching the china / of the churches, at another running like the wind across the garden, a non-returner, a man in an overcoat] (ibid., 329).

Text © Yakov Klots

Brodsky, Garry Voskov, Loseff on Morton Street, New York 1978
Yasha (Yakov) Klots is a literary scholar, translator, and amateur photographer. His interests include Russia and Eastern Europe, Russian émigré literature and culture, linguistics and language philosophy, and New York City. He is currently working on an anthology of Russian poetry about New York. He is the author of Joseph Brodsky in Lithuania (St. Petersburg: Perlov Design Center, 2010; in Russian), which includes his photographs of Lithuanian towns and rural landscapes. Together with Ross Ufberg, he co-translated intro English Tamara Petkevich’s Memoir of a Gulag Actress (DeKalb: Northern Illinois UP, 2010) and Sergei Dovlatov’s The Outpost: Notes of a Correspondent (under submission). He lives in New York City and teaches Russian language and literature at Yale University.

19 July 2011

Lev Loseff Reads '1911' (Russian only, Video by N. Sharymova)

Lev Loseff reads 'Antologia' (Russian only, Video by N. Sharymova)

Jelena Jangfeldt sings Mandelstam's "I Returned To My City."

Jelena Jangfeldt's musical version of Mandelstam's "I Returned To My City."

I returned to my city....
  by Osip Mandelstam

I returned to my city that I know like my tears,
Like my veins, like childhood's swollen glands   

You've come back here, so swallow at once
The cod liver oil of Leningrad's river lamps,

Recognize, right away, the brief December day,
Egg yolk commingled with ominous tar. 

Petersburg! I'm not yet ready to die!
You've still got my telephone numbers.

Petersburg! I still have the addresses
Where I can call on the speech of the dead.

I live on a back staircase, and the clapper
Yanked out with flesh hits me in the temple,

And all night through I wait for precious guests,
Rattling like shackles the chains on the doors.

December 1930

(translated by:)

Я вернулся в мой город....
Осип Мандельштам

Я вернулся в мой город, знакомый до слез, 
До прожилок, до детских припухлых желез.

Ты вернулся сюда, так глотай же скорей 
Рыбий жир ленинградских речных фонарей,

Узнавай же скорее декабрьский денек, 
Где к зловещему дегтю подмешан желток.

Петербург! я еще не хочу умирать! 
У тебя телефонов моих номера.

Петербург! У меня еще есть адреса,
По которым найду мертвецов голоса.

Я на лестнице черной живу, и в висок 
Ударяет мне вырванный с мясом звонок,

И всю ночь напролет жду гостей дорогих, 
Шевеля кандалами цепочек дверных.

Декабрь 1930

Untitled / Без названия

Photo: Lev Loseff, 1960 / Фото: Лев Лосев, 1960


My native city has no name;
the fog that shrouds it stays the same—
it’s skimmed-milk white all over.
Lips hesitate to speak out loud
of him who thrice denied his Lord,
yet counts among the holy.

And what’s my country called, you say.
Why the obsession with these names?
—The land I come from, comrade,
is where no road can lead to Rome,
and where the sky is smoke and fume,
and snow stays frozen solid.

(Translation © G.S. Smith)

Без названия

Родной мой город безымян,
всегда висит над ним туман
в цвет молока снятого.
Назвать стесняются уста
трижды предавшего Христа
и все-таки святого.

Как называется страна?
Дались вам эти имена!
Я из страны, товарищ,
где нет дорог, ведущих в Рим,
где в небе дым нерастворим
и где снежок нетающ.