20 July 2012

The Spanish Scene is on Our Side / Испанский пейзаж с нами

The Spanish Scene is on Our Side

                                    A journalist came to Madrid...
                                                         Vladimir Lifshits

With my wife I spun round the Spanish tourist circuit,
drank the bad wine, nibbled the fast-time fare;
as if reading a book in too modern a version,
and too late by far.

From melancholy Barcelona boulevards with their patrician
porticoes, south to the olive groves of Andalus
(giving the short-fuse Basques short shrift) and
on to wordless

Alhambra arabesques, like letters never posted,
and dark reflections in Arabic-ripple pools, then to real
letters scattered about the frozen, dung-spotted
trenches at Teruel.

Of that forgotten war, that first one, what are they screaming?
About that war in which my father wished to die,
why are they silent? Left unsigned, but sealed by
hoof and tyre.

Barely audible — “…beware, the Communists are traitors…”
“… Moroccan firing squad…” — the rustling undertones.
…We strolled, we gawped, we cheerfully traded
our Euronotes.

Next to the word “Spain” let’s put a tick, “done that”,
and have a little drink. And then, why not, OK
that Spanish girl to do her gypsy rat-tat-tat

(Translation © G.S. Smith)

Испанский пейзаж с нами

                           В Мадрид приехал журналист.
                                           Владимир Лифшиц

Как турист прокатился с женой по Испании,
пил плохое вино и закусывал постно,
словно книгу читал в слишком новом издании,
и вообще слишком поздно.

От печальных бульваров с подъездами барскими
Барселоны на юг, к андалузским оливам,
не якшаясь со взрывоопасными басками,
к молчаливым

арабескам Альгамбры, как письмам непосланным,
к тёмным, ряби арабской, в прудах отраженьям —
к тем разбросанным письмам по мёрзлым, обосранным
теруэльским траншеям.

С той забытой, с той первой войны что кричат они?
С той войны, где отец мой хотел быть убитым,
что молчат? — неподписаны, но припечатаны
колесом и копытом.

Еле слышно — «...учти, коммунисты — предатели...» —
шелестит — «...марокканцы поставят нас к стенке...».
...Мы гуляли, глазели и весело тратили

Против слова «Испания» выставим галочку
и по этому поводу выпьем маленько.
Эх, попросим испаночку сбацать цыганочку —

17 July 2012

Two Translations / Два перевода - The Eros Brigade / The Regiment of Eros / Рота Эрота

The Eros Brigade

Our colonel urged us, stickler that he was,

of brandy and boot leather redolent,

not to depetulate the flower of love

with hands impatient.

That’s what I said, you stupid prat—


Off sloped the soldiers, absent without leave,

and came back full of local moonshine,

into the tent where Gdr Lif-

shits L. was sleeping like King Solomon.

Their couple of hundred nostrils snored.

He sang his songs.

‘In my dreamland the trees bear garlands bright,

a neck of water gently flowing,

two swelling and uncharted heights,

a tight entrenchment edged with flowers’.

The colonel gave a nod, enthusiast:

sound, tinkling brass!

The song went on: ‘Lips are grenades, and honey

her words. But in them lurks a serpent...’

And what he loaded in the grenade thrower

flew far away, but failed to hit the target.

(Translation © G.S.Smith)

The Regiment of Eros

The colonel, the lout,

reeking of cognac and boot polish,

begged us not to snap the bud of love

with impatient hands.

What the fuck, you didn’t hear? --

don’t snap it off.

The soldiers would go AWOL

and return, brimming with booze,

to the tent where grenadier Lyova Lifshits

slept like King Solomon.

We wheezed through half a hundred nostrils –

and he was singing psalms.

“In the landscape of dream the trees are twisted,

the neck of the water tower stretches upward,

two nameless heights,

and a slit trench among the flowers.”

The colonel nodded:

Tinkle on, cymbal!

And he tinkled: “Her lips are grenadillas,

and honey are her words. But a sting hides within . . .”

And what he inserted into the grenade launcher

flew far, but failed to hit the target.


“Tinkle on, cymbal!”: Cf. 1 Corinthians 13.

(Translation © H.Pickford)

Рота Эрота

Нас умолял полковник наш, бурбон,

пропахший коньяком и сапогами,

не разлеплять любви бутон

нетерпеливыми руками.

А ты не слышал разве, блядь, –

не разлеплять.

Солдаты уходили в самовол

и возвращались, гадостью налившись,

в шатер, где спал, как Соломон,

гранатометчик Лева Лифшиц.

В полста ноздрей сопели мы –

он пел псалмы.

“В ландшафте сна деревья завиты,

вытягивается водокачки шея,

две безымянных высоты,

в цветочках узкая траншея”.

Полковник головой кивал:

бряцай, кимвал!

И он бряцал: “Уста – гранаты, мед –

ее слова. Но в них сокрыто жало…”

И то, что вставлял в гранатомет,

летело вдаль, но цель не поражало.

13 July 2012

A Park by the Rhine / In a Park by the Rhine / В прирейнском парке

Colonia, Nurnberg, Koberger 1493

A Park by the Rhine
For Vladimir Maksimov

I’m fashioned so I find absurd
a melody that has no words.
Vladimir Ufliand

A band in a park, dividing the spoils.
Conductor with baton making his points
as to which note should be taken by what:
this one bassoon, that clarinet,
this to the trumpet, that to the horn;
tuba, what’s left is for you, old son.

Under the vault of hornbeam and beech
heaping the ill-gotten musical leaves:
black ones from Wagner, red ones from Liszt,
yellow from Mendelssohnorous trees.
A harmony-overload cretin,
you start crediting Marx and Lenin.

Sounds without sense. The very pitfall
Nietzsche forewarned about, as we recall:
‘Schubert and Schumann! Achtung! Achtung!
Subverting the will with harmonious junk!
Gents, this sweet song ohne Worte
steals you away, aber where to?’

This park with its music and strolling crowds
figures the Gulag. True, if strange:
my hands itch to roll out the barrow,
my heart echoes pounding of spades.
My soul, you have sold the pass
for a handout of sounding brass!

(Translation © G.S. Smith)

In a Park by the Rhine
To V. Maksimov

I am not fashioned of such whey and curds                        
As to understand a melody without words.
V. Ufliand                      

In the park the orchestra was working on the arrangement.
The conductor waves his baton at them,
allotting one note after the other:
this one to the clarinet, and that one to the bassoon,
this one to the french horn, and that one to the trumpet,
and what is left over to you, tuba.

In the park, under the arches of hornbeams and beeches
accumulate mountains of amassed sounds:
the black of wagner, the red of liszt,
yellow from the meddlesome trees;
you’re turning into a socialist,
stupified by their abundance.

The sounds have no meaning. But
remember, Nietzsche already warned us about that:
“Ah, gentlemen, Schubert and Schumann anesthetize
you with this harmonious noise,
the sweet song without words, gentlemen,
carries you away, but where to?”

In the park filled with music, amid the crowds of flaneurs
flashes the gulag, sound and steady,
hands itching to grab the wheelbarrow,
the shovel’s slap echoes ever louder in your heart.
What’s with you, spirit, you’ll sell me
for a simple tip of buzzing copper?

“liszt” is a homonym of the Russian “list” (“leaf”).
“meddlesome”: original is “medlennosonnykh” (“slow-dreaming”), a near-homonym of “Mendelsohn”.

(Translation © H. Pickford)

В прирейнском парке
В. Максимову

Я вылеплен не из такого теста,
чтоб нонимать мелодию без текста.
В. Уфлянд

В парке оркестр занялся дележом.
Палочкой машет на них дирижер,
распределяет за нотою ноту:
эту кларнету, а эту фаготу,
эту валторне, а эту трубе,
то, что осталось, туба, тебе.

В парке под сводами грабов и буков,
копятся горы награбленных звуков:
черного вагнера, красного листа,
желтого с медленносонных дерев –
вы превращаетесь в социалиста,
от изобилия их одурев.

Звуки без смысла. Да это о них же
предупреждал еще, помнится, Ницше:
“Ах, господа, гармоническим шумом
вас обезволят Шуберт и Шуман,
сладкая песня без слов, господа,
вас за собой поведет, но куда?”

В парке под музыку в толпах гуляк
мерно и верно мерцает гулаг,
чешутся руки схватиться за тачку,
в сердце все громче лопаты долбеж.
Что ж ты, душа, за простую подачку
меди гудящей меня продаешь?

12 July 2012

Joseph Brodsky’s “Gorbunov and Gorchakov” Onstage

Nikita Yefremov, right, is compelling as the sensitive Gorbunov with Smolyaninov as the nasty, evil Gorchakov. Photo: Sergei Petrov / Sovremennik Theater

In the Moscow Times today, a review of Joseph Brodskys “Gorbunov and Gorchakov,” which Yevgeny Kamenkovich mounted on the small stage at theSovremennik Theater – a play which the Nobel laureate never intended to be a play. Rather it’s a 14-part poem of 7,600 words, recalling his stints at the psychiatric hospitals Kanatchikov Dacha and Pryazhka over the Christmas holidays of 1963, while the 24-year-old was awaiting trial in the U.S.S.R. as a “social parasite.” His friends had hoped a diagnosis of mental instability might spare him a harsh prison sentence.  But instead he felt he was indeed losing his mind, and begged his friends to get him out.
The result, written in 1968, was “Gorbunov and Gorchakov,” a conversation between two inmates, which he apparently claimed to have overheard.
Finish reading here: http://bookhaven.stanford.edu/
Read The Moscow Times article here: http://tmt-go.ru/461989

04 July 2012

Kazan, July 1957 / Казань‚ июль 1957

Kazan, July 1957

Public canteen. Bloated flies.
‘After 6 pm no food served’.
Bushes, with something yellowy-violet
that isn’t going to survive.

A palsied veteran, still in army gear,
pokes a finger in my ribs.
‘Scare’? No, it could be ‘spare’.
‘Spare some bread’, he raps.

I let this Deadeye have the bread
left over, and some yellow beer.
He watches with the white bead
he has for a left eye; it can’t see.

Not quite all there, apparently,
he reaches for his borshch using a fork.
It’s nigh on half a century,
and to this day I still backpack

this memory that won’t entirely fade;
it proffers endlessly inside my head
the left cheek of a face—
yellowy-violet, and dead.

(Transaltion © G.S. Smith)

Казань‚ июль 1957

Толстые мухи. Столовая.
«Выдача блюд до шести».
Мелкое, желто-лиловое
тщится на клумбе расти.

Парализованный, в кителе,
тычется в бок инвалид.
«Вытери»? — Нет, вроде, «выдели».
«Выдели хлеба», — велит.

Хлеб отдаю, недоеденный,
желтое пиво, азу.
Смотрит он белой отметиной
в левом незрячем глазу.

Видимо, слабо кумекая,
тянется вилкой к борщу.
Вот уже чуть не полвека я
все за собою тащу

тусклую память, готовую
мне подставлять без конца
мертвую, желто-лиловую
левую щеку лица.