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November/December 2003

Post–Social Realism: Literature from Russia

Post–social realism, a new crop of Russian writers indulges the ironic, the satirical, and the sardonic--anything but the earnest. Wladimir Kaminer writes of trading in all sorts of new markets in "Animal Transport" and of the demise of an iconic Russian fantasy in "Paris Lost"; Boris Fishman interviews him on writing, reading, music, and being an expat in Berlin. Vyacheslav Pyetsukh, Alexander Pokrovsky, and Alexander Selin all make merry with other icons of Russian-ness not yet defunct. Nina Kossman provides new translations of the essential poet Marina Tsvetaeva, writing intensely of nature and the emotions in a world of revolutionary change, while contemporary poets Gennady Aygi and Larissa Miller aim to chart a new course, looking backward and forward at once.

“Bring to me all that’s of no use to others:”
Bring to me all that's of no use to others: My fire must burn it all! I lure life, and I lure death As weightless gifts to my fire. Fire loves light-weighted things: Last year's brushwood, wreathes,…
Translated from Russian
Trees VI
Neither with paint, nor with a brush. Light is his kingdom: his hair is gray. The red leaves tell lies. Here light tramples color. Color is trampled by light. The heel of light crushes the chest of color.…
Translated from Russian
Someone's heading for a fatal victory. Trees gesture like tragedies. Sacrificial dance of Judea! Trees flutter like sacramentals. This–a conspiracy against the era: Against weight, number, fraction,…
Translated from Russian
What revelations, What truths What do you rustle of, The floods of green? With sacraments Of what raving sibyl, What do you rustle of, What do you rave about? What's in your fluttering? But I know–you…
Translated from Russian
“It is not fated that, in this world,”
It is not fated that, in this world, The strong join the strong. Thus, Siegfried parted from Brunhild, A sword stroke instead of a marriage.In the allied brotherly hatred –Like buffalos!–rock…
Translated from Russian
“‘la vie,’ Edith Piaf sings
By Larissa Miller
“La vie,” Edith Piaf sings,“La vie, la vie,” seize the moment . . .And this voice is eternally rightand there’s no threat of it being buried in oblivion.“La vie,”…
Translated from Russian by Richard McKane
“Fate’s little pictures”
Fate's little pictures drawn by a most slender pen, will hang in the damp air on a little spider's web. The rains draw with their own flying handwriting, and the wind shuffles light strokes like…
Translated from Russian
“The wind revels in the quiet night”
The wind revels in the quiet night . . . The Lord has marked the coming day in a black draft, so as to recreate it on a clean white copy, and the sky will be bright in a moment and will flare in a crimson…
Translated from Russian
“All this moves and rustles”
All this moves and rustles, plays and waves, dances blindly to someone's pipe and crowns someone's thought.It plays and sings and beckons with an apple branch and at times sweetly wounds the soul,…
Translated from Russian
“Well, let’s fly . . .”
“Well, let's fly . . .” “Where to and why?” “Just fly to nowhere after that cloud . . .” Just let's rush off nowhere, nowhere, let's listen to the wires…
Translated from Russian
what is watching always comes to an end: and the day! and the world! . . it is the unique the unceasing - is…
Translated from Russian
to N. A. in your presence even the toes are as if they remembered! and the mind more strongly pierces our head in…
Translated from Russian
(after the Grasshoppers of Velimir Khlebnikov and e.e. cummings) to my son Andrey grasshopper-sign flickers over field…
Translated from Russian
in dust is no vowel. . . death is a sound: a shout - to God? he - in the surface of dust: is what then - a gleam? oh…
Translated from Russian
to W. Woroczylski behind my back - it seemed - were islands: of the terror-idea! - as if a certain…
Translated from Russian
oh clearly with gathered force everywhere it shows itself: skyglow of the year like features of the land: drawing: from…
Translated from Russian
to V. S. but you are not the surrounding of such a one but a stair in yourself where poverty is like skyglow: oh ice-holes…
Translated from Russian
whole - with a whisper of ordering of the firmament and as out of the shining face in a time of sorrow - mine - I create it< and…
Translated from Russian
from Picture, Icon, Old Testament
By Sahar Khalifeh
The story began for me when I fled a family marriage arranged by my mother’s brother. In rebellion, I accepted a post in a forgotten village at the city’s far perimeter. But my troubled conscience,…
Translated from Arabic by Marilyn Booth
The Geological-Surveillance Institute Part 1
By Alexander Selin
“Well, let’s fly . . .”“Why, a geologist of course, no question about it,” said the rector with a scowl. “A spy wouldn’t throw himself under a train because of…
Translated from Russian by Nick Allen
from Me and So Forth
By Vyacheslav Pyetsukh
Me and PerestroikaNow I will tell you how perestroika collapsed. To be more precise, it hasn’t collapsed yet, but it definitely will due to the archaic institutions of the family and marriage, which…
Translated from Russian by Dinara Georgeoliani & Mark Halperin
from Mozart’s Third Brain
LV Democracy's secret In free, general elections, with secret ballots There, too, is music's concealment, its inaccessibility, eye to eye Where…
Translated from Swedish
Me and Perestroika
By Vyacheslav Pyetsukh
Now I will tell you how perestroika collapsed. To be more precise, it hasn’t collapsed yet, but it definitely will due to the archaic institutions of the family and marriage, which dominate in times…
Translated from Russian by Dinara Georgeoliani & Mark Halperin
Animal Transport
By Wladimir Kaminer
The eighties began with the Olympics in Moscow. In spite of the boycott by many western countries, Leonid Brezhnev, who was General Secretary at the time, was determined to prevent the whole thing from…
Translated from Russian by Liesl Schillinger
By Alexander Pokrovsky
Nancy was this woman. From America. A woman general. And not just a general, but an advisor to the president. Rumor even had it she could do the same amount of push-ups as any other American general and…
Translated from Russian by Tony Perry
An Interview with Wladimir Kaminer
By Boris Fishman
Boris Fishman interviewed Wladimir Kaminer September 3, 2003.Boris Fishman: Did you start writing before emigrating to Germany? What did you do in the Soviet Union?Wladimir Kaminer: In the Soviet Union,…
Translated from Russian by Boris Fishman
from The Roulette Player
By Mircea Cartarescu
The roulette with three bullets greased inside the chamber fuses in my mind with the events that followed.
Translated from Romanian by Julian Semilian