Archive for June, 2013

‘The wolf is a beautiful beast, yet..’ (Mikhail Grobman)

June 25, 2013

The wolf is a beautiful beast yet
Stupid and given to sweat
Your leg he will gnaw off
But swallow piecemeal rather than scoff
He shouts don’t you dare twitch
You’re stopping me eating bitch
It happens there’s food for once
But you keep turning over ponce
Don’t you twist round and don’t whine
Look for a new leg some time


Волк красивое животное

Только глупое и потное

Отгрызает твою ногу

И глотает понемногу

Ты не дергайся кричит

Есть мешаешь паразит

В кои веки есть еда

А ты крутишься балда

Не вертись и не пищи

Ногу новую ищи

‘A soldier killed a cockroach’ (Yuri Izvekov)

June 23, 2013

A soldier killed a cockroach
Aimed a gun at his very heart
Bang! And shot him right through
Leaving rules and instructions apart.

Oh! But it was so military
So much spark it had in all
And what then? It lies not living
Like a sack. Like a log by the wall.

No need, my friend, for that sorrow
Look in the hole the bullet made there–
See, a mirror, a chair and a bed
And a nude woman sits on the chair.

He mumbles at an unfinished glass,
Bare walls are all he can see
And the cockroach with a hole in its chest
Crawls over his long unwashed knee.


Солдат таракана убил.
Наган ему в сердце направил:
Ба-бах! И насквозь прострелил
В обход всех инструкций и правил.

Ах! Был он такой боевой,
А сколько в нем было задора!
И что ж? Он лежит неживой.
Как куль. Как бревно у забора.

Не надо, мой друг, горевать,
Глянь в дырку, что сделала пуля, –
Там зеркало, стул и кровать,
И голая баба на стуле.

Мычит в недопитый стакан
И пялится в голые стенки,
И с дыркой в груди таракан
Ползет по немытой коленке.

Timlyuy train (Arkady Perenov)

June 23, 2013

The Timlyuy train, coming into town
past ripe villages with tricky eyes like cherry pits.
There was such a time,
that was more doomed to shed the evening one,
shrouding it in fog before the yellow one was turned on.
It poured on everyone the same.
In a green suit, I was still that individual
with hair that spread out to my shoulders, like a priest’s.
The first autumn moon beats a drum
by the terrible palisade fence.
Germans woven from fog get out their knives.
Straining my imagination, I call ‘Anna, Anna’.
You appeared at once.
Slender in the dusty light
you iron children’s clothes with a little iron.
Turning round, you laugh like a bell: “Ding-ding’.
The Karabainovo fields pile up
With stooped villagers tearing the new grass.
The postwoman has climbed off her bicycle and stands, pressed against a shepherd,
a railway worker comes out of the station doors,
He puts on his official cap and waves a baton at the departing carriages.
They are frighteningly empty, almost without people.
With each carriage the ticket inspectors gather gloomy force.
Anna is opposite me.
Her eyes are sad.
Her wristwatch has stopped.
Her body is inert, like a rag doll.
The Timlyuy train gathers speed
and seems to swim through blue valleys.
Her nature is peaceful,
overcome on the railway.


Тимлюйская электричка, шедшая в город
мимо спелых сел с вишневыми косточками заковыристых глаз.
Было такое время,
что обреченнее было ронять вечернее,
Окутывающее туманом перед включением желтого.
Он лился на всех одинаково.
В зеленом костюме я был тот еще экземплярчик,
с волосами, что поповски раскинулись по плечам.
Месяц первый осенний бьет в барабан
у жутких заборов из тына.
Немцы, сотканные из тумана, ножики достают.
Напрягая воображение, зову: «Анна, Анна».
Явилась тотчас.
Тонюсенькая, в пыльном свете,
утюжком гладишь детское,
Оборачиваясь, смеешься как колокольчик: «Динь-динь».
Наваливаются карбаиновские поля
С согбенными поселянами, рвущими мураву.
Почтарка слезла с велосипеда и стоит, прижавшись к пастуху,
из станционных дверей выходит железняк,
Надевает парадную шапку и машет палкой отходящим вагонам.
Они пугающе свободны, почти без людей.
Контролеры с каждым вагонам набирают мрачную силу.
Анна напротив.
Ее глаза печальны.
Часы на руке прекратили свой бег.
Тело безвольное, как у куклы тряпичной.
Тимлюйская электричка набирает ход
и как бы плывет голубыми долинами.
Ее природа спокойна
в железнодорожном преодолении.

‘Dubliners’ and Brockley’s contribution to Irish History

June 23, 2013
112 Tressillian Road

112 Tressillian Road

A discussion of Dubliners at Try Books! led me to point out that Brockley had played an important part in the background to Ivy Day in the Committee Room.  It was at 112 Tressillian Road SE4 that Charles Stuart Parnell used to visit Katharine O’Shea (who was still married to Captain O’Shea since he hoped to get his hands on her money), and the ensuing scandal led to his downfall and to Irish Home Rule disappearing from the agenda.

Probably the house wasn’t divided into flats at that stage, and they weren’t so worried about the fate of Lewisham Hospital.

That would have been in the 1880s.  At the same time, the young Edgar Wallace would have been living with his unmarried actress mother just round the corner, in Tressillian Crescent.  Wallace himself was probably the kind of writer Father Butler had in mind when he reprimanded Leo Dillon in An Encounter:

Let me not find any more of this wretched stuff in this college.  The man who wrote it, I suppose, was some wretched fellow who writes these things for a drink.

parnell (2) parnell (3)

‘After the expulsion…’ (Kirill Koval’dzhi)

June 16, 2013

After the expulsion
of Adam and Eve
in paradise there remained
not one person!


После изгнания
Адама и Евы
в раю не осталось
ни одного человека!

‘I can’t do serious books by now’ (Gennady Rusakov)

June 15, 2013

I can’t do serious books by now
I write schoolboy verse any old how–
in every line the letters slope three ways.
I’m leading myself by my lapel
–Save me, Oh Lord, from going to hell!
And receive me at the end of days.–

Or am I not a wordsmith so fine,
didn’t I handle girls and waste lots of time
didn’t I play in a folk group somewhere?
It’s been and it’s gone: I ate and drank to the hilt
my potion of youth is all gone and spilt
and the injured and little ones I did not spare.

The devil tricked me, memory led me astray
–not to remember the old things in the right way–
I garbled my fate, giving twelve lines in all.
There was: life, war, a wife, our land
Some people’s years, some people’s names…and…
Now here’s that song, The Little Blue Shawl.


Мне уже не до серьезных книг:
я пишу стихи, как ученик —
у меня в строке по три наклона.
Я себя за лацканы веду:
— Помоги, Владыка, пропаду!
И прими в отеческое лоно. —

Или я не ухарь-словодел,
дев не мял и в окна не глядел,
не играл на гуслях и цимбалах?
Было-сплыло: квасил-пировал,
молодое зелье проливал,
не жалел обиженных и малых.

Бес попутал, память подвела —
не упомнить старые дела,
переврал судьбу в двенадцать строчек.
Было: жизнь, война, жена, страна.
Чьи-то годы, чьи-то имена…
Да вот песня “Синенький платочек”

That Is All You Need To Know, Greenwich Theatre 08 June

June 9, 2013



Ubiquitous image for this show

That Is All You Need To Know (which ran for 80 minutes or so; no interval) told the story of the Bletchley Park codebreakers and the parallel story of how enthusiasts struggled to preserve and restore the place in recent times.  I thought it was highly effective, making good use of projections and recorded extracts to establish time and place, and a rather more numerous than normal audience in the Greenwich Theatre agreed with me.

The main male characters (Hugh Alexander, Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman) were effectively characterised, although doubling of the female ones made them a bit less clear.  Many weighty themes were touched on lightly and skilfully–the fate of Alan Turing, for instance, or Gordon Welchman as being a kind of reflection of Oppenheimer–and I think the story of the preservation attempts showed that we were still confined within a frame of eternal England, rather than reducing it all to complete bathos, which it might easily have done.

I liked the fact that the contribution of the female wireless operators in intercepting and transcribing signals was recognised, and also that of the Poles in making initial breakthroughs and managing to pass on the necessary results and hardware.  I was disappointed that there was no real attempt to illustrate the regularities in the Enigma-induced mapping that allowed it to be broken–explain would have been too much to ask, but a couple of visuals might have done the trick–the thing at the beginning about Turing pedalling backwards once every twenty revolutions might have been an allusion, but that was about it.

Well worth seeing!

Trash Cuisine, Young Vic 1 June

June 2, 2013
Picture from sponsume

Picture from sponsume

I went along to this preview of the new show from  Belarus Free Theatre out of curiosity rather than expecting I was going to like it.

The first thing to say is that it was in the nature of a franchise, since the cast certainly included non-Belarusian actors who got to play the main (speaking!) parts.   The piece itself proceeded in the familiar devised show fashion.

To start with, an introduction from a seedy compere promised us a tour of the world’s culinary delights, especially those involving meat.  Then two women, apparently of East Asian and African background respectively, sung operatically a scene from Richard III before eating strawberries and cream in the guise of a Thai and a Belarusian executioner….Later on, the cast disposed as a cabaret audience lip-synched an account by Clive Stafford-Smith of an execution he had failed to prevent…

After that, a scene of a nervous impressionist doing different methods of execution was rather effective.  Towards the end, Russian and Belarusian began to break in, and there followed the story of Vladislav Kovalev (executed for terrorism in 2012) with family photos projected on the back wall and movingly concluding with a Belarusian folk song.

Then a massacre of onions.

And my reaction was the same as last time:  you need to stick at something you know long enough for the story to twist round and draw the audience in.  Also if you attach what you are trying to say to the details of a particular episode it is too easy for the audience to hold it at a distance:  We did not do that.  There are surely two ways of opposing evil by way of theatre:  try to change the audience so that they are less capable of evil,  or you can let them go on thinking they are fine but rouse their indignation at what other people do.

I think the second was being attempted here, but there were too many and disparate other people for it to be effective.   In the final analysis, it was neither a universal history of infamy nor a tract about capital punishment, since we had episodes concerning Liam Holden (who was certainly brutalised, but not executed) and the Rwandan genocide, which hardly counts as a judicial proceeding.

As for the culinary devices:

London is full of chickens on electric spits,
Cooking in windows where the public pass.
This, say the chickens, is their Auschwitz,
And all poultry eaters are psychopaths.

Well, no, not really…

And see here for what I know about Russian plays in London.

Postmodernism (Valery Lobanov)

June 1, 2013

province priggishly prigov
sorokin on a white steed
a little green leaf from a fig tree
[she is smiling at me indeed]

you people hardly can see
the beasts are much more smart
[in flight in flight in flight
is her intrepid heart]

after friday comes the weekend
stubble is bristling the field
[freedom freedom freedom
the secret she needs to shield]

nature culture vulture
[and the bird that burns in his flight]
and all of our writing
and all of our writ



провинция пригород пригов
сорокин на белом коне
листочек зелёненький фигов
[она улыбается мне]

вы люди навряд ли поймёте
верней понимает зверьё
[в полёте в полёте в полёте
отважное сердце её]

за пятницей грянет суббота
поля ощетинит жнивьё
[свобода свобода свобода
заветная тайна её]

натура культура мультура
[а птица горит на лету]
и вся наша литература
и вся наша литерату