29 January 2018

Flying Away / Отлёт

Flying Away

… so easy it seemed as I hastened to board that flight,
while at the same time I seemed to be laid out
motionless—and happy, no doubt about this,
the tear-swollen faces bent over me were a surprise;

then suddenly something occurred to me,
dead dull though my mind was, and my fingers flashed a V,
that’s ‘making the horns’ in Russian.
Pray for me, fool that I am.

From Чудесный десант (The Miraculous Raid), 1987

(Translation © 2018 G.S. Smith)

Russian ‘making the horns’ here is guarding against the evil eye. The gesture has other meanings, especially in the contexts of criminality and rock music. It is not the equivalent of the British V-sign, which signifies (if the back of the hand faces towards the gesturer) ‘victory’, as with Winston Churchill; or (if the back of the hand faces away from gesturer) ‘f*** off!’. Incidentally, one of Lev Loseff’s least well known but most characteristic publications is his introduction to Barbara Monahan, A Dictionary of Russian Gesture (Ann Arbor: Hermitage, 1983).


и как будто легко я по трапу бежал,
в то же самое время я как будто лежал
неподвижен и счастлив всерьез,
удивляясь что лица склоненных опухли от слез;

и тогда вдруг что-то мелькнуло в помертвелой моей голове,
я пальцами сделал латинское V
(а по-русски, состроил рога).
Помолитесь за меня, дурака.

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