Archive for January, 2014

New Sappho: The Brothers Poem

January 29, 2014

This blog hurries to publish its approximate rendition of one newly-recovered (part of a) poem by Sappho as published by Dirk Obbink:

But you are always saying Charaxos will come
with a full ship. That, I think, Zeus
knows and all the other gods—you should not
think of these things,

but send me and exhort me
to greatly beseech Queen Hera
for Charaxos to arrive here
guiding his ship,

and to find us safe and sound. All the other things
let us turn over to the divinities,
for moments of calm will arise suddenly
from a mighty gale.

And those to whom the king of Olympus
decides to send a daimon helping
out of troubles are blessed
and greatly wealthy.

So will we be, if at some time Larichos
unwearied in respect of his head should become a man
and then certainly he would release us
from much despondency.


‘Without us, the critics will decide….’ (Gennady Rusakov)

January 29, 2014

Without us, the critics will decide
who is who, and who goes here…
And our incoherent victories
occur, as previously, by ear.
They became a kind of anaesthetic,
although they relieve only for a time–
Nabokov’s vivisectionist prose
and Brodsky’s patrician line.
Something simple is wanted! Simple, like time
as it sorts people according to age.
Simple–so you’re together with everyone,
so that the heart breaks over the page.
So it’s not for the mind, but for feeling,
so the word isn’t king everywhere,
so that it teaches compassion, not artifice,
as it closely examines itself there.
So that they don’t look so sadly denuded,
glancing at yesterday that’s had its fill–
both the Petersburg school’s catechism,
and the strophics at their Holstein drill.


Без нас решат литературоведы,
кому куда, когда и кто есть ху…
И наши бестолковые победы
окажутся, как прежде, на слуху.
Вон стали разновидностью наркоза,
но облегчают лишь от сих до сих
Набокова прозекторская проза
и Бродского патрицианский стих.
Простого хочется! Простого, словно время
в его раскладе возрастных полос.
Простого — чтобы вместе и со всеми,
чтоб сердце над строкой оборвалось.
Чтоб не уму, а непременно чувству,
чтоб слово не ходило королём,
учило состраданью, не искусству,
само себя разглядывая в нём.
Чтоб не казались так уныло голы,
косясь на отгремевшее “вчера”,
и катехизис петербургской школы,
и строфики голштинская муштра.

“The gentle clouds’ running-gear…” (Nikolai Kononov)

January 26, 2014

The gentle clouds’ running-gear cannot be repaired
Over the ruins of the arts centre, where the DJ spins his black disc
So the vinyl night runs over my heart as far as a small wound
With a pile of Russian rhymes on the spit of a hopeless doner kebab.

The people itself presses at the smells of free advertisements…
When Camille Paglia has dedicated a sultry paragraph to curly-haired Caucasians,
I will also twist Azeri pelt together with Tajik aroma easily
Into a combustible, flashing, confused footnote–just don’t

Tire me out with Allah akbar, friend–indeed, as fire
Going down the embankment on a skateboard with the kids–I will
Gush into the mass grave of cattle and the forest plantations,
where the lovers lay down head to toe,
As though they had died, but that is quite unrealistic…

Николай Кононов

Николай Кононов

Развал-сходженье нежных облаков неисправим

Над дебрями ДК, где диджей свой кружок накручивает черный,

Чтоб ночь-винил мне по сердцу прошлась до раны небольшой

Всей стопкой русских рифм на вертеле шавермы безнадежной.

На запахи бесплатных объявлений прет сам-народ…

Когда Камила Палья зной-абзац кавказским кучеряшкам посвятила,

Я тоже азерскую шерсть с таджикским духовищем совью легко

В горючую, блеснувшую, смутившуюся сноску — не замай

Меня аллах-акбаром только, друже, — ведь огнем

На скейте вместе с детушками под откос съезжая — брызну

В скотомогильник и в лесопосадки, где валетом залегли любовники,

Как будто умерли они, но это совершенно нереально…


January 19, 2014

To A. S. Pushkin, Gothic poet

“Ẏksehtsr evóc! Krádhtiwm rótseht!”

“Lríhwstini wóhnseht! Gnitsíwt!”

“Ẏrcots nígeb! Titsaeb aekilwón!”

“Lrígaekil speéw! Tiwóndna!”

“Etátsroop nifoór! Ehtnowón!”

“Spálfti! Wártsehtyl! Neddús!”

“Etáloot túo! Rellevárt aekilwón!”

“Spátti! Wodníw! Ruotaní!”

Арсен Мирзаев

Арсен Мирзаев


А. С. Пушкину, балтийскому пииту

«Теоркóбен! юолгмя́руб!»

«Ятуркéын женсирхúв!»
«Теовáзан! оревзкáкот!»

«Ятидкáкте чалпазóт!»

«Йóлаш тéвбо! éлвор кóпот!»

«Тимушáзйом олосгýрдв!»

«Й́ы́лад зóпаз! кúнтуп кáкот!»

«Тичутсáзок шоковмáнк!»

Flight, Brockley Jack 15 January

January 19, 2014


I  think that this production would give you an idea of what the play by Bulgakov was about without being the thing itself.  The action follows a group of assorted characters during the Russian Civil War as they flee from the Red Army through the Crimea and on to Constantinople and even Paris–the title is flight as in ‘run away’, not ‘flap wings’.  The play was never actually staged in Bulgakov’s lifetime, though it did appear in the Soviet Union from the 1970s.  It’s meant to be the typical Bulgakov grotesque comedy, where the characters are both…er…grotesque and pitiable, but here it was all far too matter-of-fact.

For instance, great play is made of the row of victims the Whites have hanged at the railway station where the early scenes occur, and when I last saw the play in 1992 or thereabouts we did indeed have a line of draped figures with nooses around their necks.  Here we had suitcases.  Suitcases.  Well, OK, suitcases.  Or maybe trunks.

And the playing was generally at the phlegmatic one-thing-after another level:  the one exception was Michael Edwards, a late replacement in the part of Khludov, the White Chief of Staff tormented by his past atrocities.  Even though he wasn’t necessarily word-perfect all the time, he did at least manage to play at the right emotional level.  I sometimes thought he was playing George Gordon, Lord Byron at the right emotional level, but he got a great deal nearer to what was required than anybody else.

Without asking for a naturalistic portrayal of Russian mores, you need to ask yourself:  What kind of people would say and do these things?  Consequently, In what manner would that kind of people say and do these things?  The plodding regularity of the action also meant that nothing was emphasised and nothing was a surprise…

I’m not going to complain about the White Minister of Trade and Industry speaking French badly, or about the soldiers and officers failing to move and bear themselves like soldiers and officers.

At least the actors were not made to speak with comedy Russian accents this time.  Turkish and Hungarian-Irish, maybe…

See here for what I know about other Russian plays on in London.

Some views along Whitehall

January 19, 2014
HMRC/HMT building

HMRC/HMT building

The problem with this building is that it’s neither large and imposing enough to frighten people who’ve never actually been tortured in the basement, nor is it sufficiently run-down and derelict to dissuade those who want to ask for money. We say: bring back the good old days, when Government offices spent their time being blown up by the IRA and nobody was going to waste money on maintaining them…

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

If Cromwell really was a dictator (as some assert), then he wouldn’t be standing outside Parliament defending our immemorial English liberties from kings, idolators and wandering Antichrists now would he? Stands to reason…

Banqueting House

Banqueting House

Charles I was apparently executed in front of the Banqueting House, though there is no conclusive evidence as to the location. If there happens to be another King Charles in future, that will be good reason for an action replay and then we’ll know…

‘There, for example…..’ (Nikolai Red’kin)

January 12, 2014

There, for example, are the lake and the swans
The clouds, trees, and the light.
Children by the water.
–What are you making,
–Easter cakes mister, all right?

Or then the sunset behind the shops,
The rubbish bins and homeless men
Adolescents with necks like geese
Who cannot spell ‘here’ or ‘then’.

And finally–the winter with wine, snowdrifts
And salad, and vomiting, and a salute
And a fit of rage, and why don’t we
All drop dead!

…but not this time, not this route.

Николай Редькин

Николай Редькин

Вот, к примеру, озеро и лебеди,
Облака, деревья и лучи,
Дети у воды.
— А что вы лепите,
— Лепим, дядя, куличи!

Или вот закат за магазинами,
Мусорные баки и бомжи,
И подростки с шеями гусиными
Пишут через “ы” все “жы” и “шы”.

А в конце — зима с вином, сугробами,
И салат, и рвота, и салют,
И припадок бешенства, и чтобы мы
Все подохли!

…но не так, не тут.

Don Gil of the Green Breeches, Arcola Theatre 9 January

January 11, 2014


A pensive Don Gil in Bath, but still the wonderful Hedydd Dylan

A pensive Don Gil in Bath, but still the wonderful Hedydd Dylan

This was a preview, or even a preview of a preview, but it wasn’t since the three plays of The Spanish Golden Age had already had an extended run-out in Bath.  As one would, I was expecting a kind of Shakespeare without the poetry or psychological probing, and indeed we did get Rosalind, very tall and dressed in green.  Here she was Doña Juana, whose beloved Don Martin has left her in Valladolid  to go to Madrid and make an advantageous marriage with Doña Ines.  But he has to call himself  Don Gil.  So she has to go to Madrid herself disguised as another Don Gil so as to outwit the stupid men and other second-tier comic characters and reclaim her true love.  But she wears green breeches, so she has to be the special Don Gil.  (Plot summary here.)  Remember that women cannot help falling in love with a delicate stranger, in Madrid or anywhere else…

It turned out that Tirso de Molina’s strengths here lay in keeping the exuberantly silly plot moving swiftly and convincingly and in providing excuses for the appearance of many green Don Gils of different sexes.  The audience found it very funny, and applauded enthusiastically at the end to make up for their lack of numbers.  Indeed, I could even sit  in one of the two rows that give you a frontal view of the production (and the row behind seemed to be playing host to the claque, while director  Mehmet Ergan had exiled himself to the outer reaches of the bleachers).

This blog heartily recommends Don Gil of the Green Breeches–it could easily reach five-star level with a few more outings in its new home.

Some errors in ‘Mathematics of Life’ by Ian Stewart

January 11, 2014


This book was interesting overall–I thought the most engaging part was the argument about why genetic engineering is hazardous, while I was disappointed that it didn’t really address the question of why and how far maths was relevant to biology, merely giving a number of topics as examples.  There were also some alarming errors that I noticed:

More precisely, what leaks is ions:  charged atomic nuclei.  (p161)  Since we’re talking about nerve conduction, I suppose that must be Na11+–doesn’t sound too healthy…

Experience shows that continuum models are very effective provided  the discrete components are much bigger than the effects being described.  (p178)  ‘Bigger’ as in smaller, I guess.

The light green [lacewings] are more common on grass, so light green females encounter light green males; similarly for dark green insects on conifers…The end result is identical:  assortative mating can occur, opening the door to sympatric speciation.  (p236)

...assortative mating.  Organisms in a given group share similar habits, eat similar food, and therefore meet up more often than they do with members of the other group.  (p239)

That’s ‘assortative’ as in associative–the opposite.

Finally, on page 256 we have this diagram:

mathslife1_0002_NEWwhile the corresponding text on page 257 says:  Two neighbouring cells with low levels of Notch activity never occurred.  And the caption says that the white cells are the ones with low Notch activity.  Go figure.

‘Our train was falling behind schedule…’ (Vladimir Vasil’ev)

January 11, 2014

Our train was falling behind schedule
At a junction it was shunted aside
And over a piled-high heap of gravel
An overhead crane spread clumsy legs wide.

A stopping train passed the opposite way
A goods train stood to load by a shed
The controllers then began the roll-call–
People each with a bucket on his head.

Out of boredom I studied the timetable
And I was thinking about how your keen poet
Will invariably apply his condition
To every subject he can get to show it.

The attendant began on some cleaning
Her rag crossed the glass in a flash
The crane started, its winch began bleating
And its bucket fell on gravel with a crash.

Over the gentle bare slopes
Wind scattered the old vapour trail
And a gipsy pushed her way through the carriages
With a thousand-year-horoscope to retail.

Поезд наш выбивался из графика
И на станции стал узловой,
Над высокою кучею гравия
Раскорячился кран козловой.

Электричка проехала встречная.
На погрузке стоял товарняк.
Завели перекличку диспетчеры —
Люди с ведрами на головах.

Я от скуки смотрел расписание,
Рассуждая о том, как поэт
Неизменно свое состояние
Переносит на каждый предмет.

Проводница уборку затеяла.
Завизжало под тряпкой стекло.
Кран поехал, лебедка заблеяла,
Ковш на гравий упал тяжело.

Над пологими лысыми склонами
Ветер дымный развеивал след.
И цыганка проперла вагонами
С гороскопом на тысячу лет.