Archive for July, 2014

‘Something else shows through…’ (Elena Lapshina)

July 30, 2014

Something else shows through and time goes round the side
but anyone is slandered by their photo just the same:
these girls-teenagers-women who used to be me
are serving out the past, by now they have no name.

But it’s not a matter of time, of its murky behaviour–
it begins quietly, afterwards it rushes at full speed
and it’s not empty memory that will invent, severing the kinship
with the unforgotten ones I would forget gladly indeed.

Past life is the same as clothing–you’ve worn it out and it’s too tight.
Thus a snake crawls out of its skin, out of days lived through
It is not that unfeeling lengthy skin any more
and that fragile black-and-white film is about another, too.

Елена Лапшина

Елена Лапшина

Проступает иное и время идет стороной,

но любой — ненароком — его фотоснимком клеймен:

эти девочки-девушки-женщины, бывшие мной,

отбывают былое, уже не имея имен.

Не во времени дело, не в мутной повадке его —

потихоньку начаться, а после втопить во всю прыть.

И не праздная память приврет, разрывая родство

с незабвенными теми, кого бы и рада забыть.

Что одежда, что прошлая жизнь: поносил и — тесна.

Так змея выползает из кожи, из прожитых дней:

омертвевшая длинная кожа — уже не она,

монохромная хрупкая лента — уже не о ней.

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‘In Lambeth’ Ticket Offer

July 30, 2014

Offwestend.com have sent us details of a £10 offer on tickets for this show at the Southwark Playhouse (usually £18):  Quote OWE to book online or over the phone in advance only.
The offer certainly works, though you could wonder whether the play does.  Mrs Blake’s bottom definitely looked uncomfortable as she sat in the tree, and we were glad that important places like Catford and One Tree Hill finally got a mention on the English stage.

‘The bus went off…’ (Dmitri Vedenyapin)

July 27, 2014

The bus went off, we were left at the entrance to the wood.
There was a smell of flowers, it was silent in the wild.
Along the highway a horseman clattered by–was he really headless?
So indeed it proved! And with his shoulders he smiled,

And disappeared…And again the whirling began: chik-chik, fyut-fyut,
It all started to ring, and to revive.
It took forty minutes to get past the field and meadow
And going through the wood took twenty minutes, maybe twenty-five.

We started to walk along the highway past a meadow with a goat far off
Descriptions are unnecessary, that’s understood
Like, let’s say, Shalamov in Montreux or Nabokov in a cell.
Tomorrow we are going back into that wood.

Дмитрий Веденяпин

Дмитрий Веденяпин

Автобус уехал, мы остались у входа в лес.
Было тихо, пахло цветами.
По шоссе процокал всадник — неужто без?
Так и есть! — улыбаясь плечами,

И пропал… И опять закружилось: чьик-чьик, фьють-фьють,
Зазвенело, ожило.
Мимо поля и луга идти было сорок минут,
Через лес — двадцать, тридцать от силы.

Мы пошли по шоссе мимо луга с далёкой козой.
Описанья бессмысленны — это понятно,
Как, допустим, Шаламов в Монтрё, а Набоков в СИЗО.
Завтра едем обратно.

Meditations (Arkady Perenov)

July 23, 2014

I feed soup to my poet friend,
an ossified pupa of the universe.
And in the age of Torquato Tasso
you stretched your glazed hands out
to the shipwrecked ones, full of unendurable crimson heat.
Feel, she imagines, and forget
(head full of the hours lived through)
how you went, one possessed, through the iron forest,
climbed through the noisy ribs,
squatted on your heels
and looked at the dead cosmonauts,
whispering verses recalled with difficulty.
The cargo of years lived through.
The ticking anxious world of de Chirico.
Silhouettes, outlines of monsters and kneeling animals.
You, shake your head if you agree.
Let’s imagine that life is full of improbabilities
and in the essence there is a delay
before the level white absolute.
You walk along the bottom of the ocean
raking up the salt with your feet.
You embrace imperturbable strangers
and forget them on the spot.
You make efforts to understand
that in the sequence of sufferings
you too are necessary.

РАЗМЫШЛЕНИЯ

Супом кормлю друга поэта,
окостеневшую куколку мироздания.
Ты и во времена Торквато Тассо
так же протягиваешь остекленевшие руки
к крушеницам, полным багряного нестерпимого жара.
Чувствуй, воображала, и забывай
(голова полна прожитыми часами),
как ходил, оглашенный, по железному лесу,
через шумные ребра пролазил,
сидел на корточках
и смотрел на мертвых космонавтов,
шепча с трудом вспоминаемые стихи.
Груз прожитых лет.
Тикающий тревожный мир Де Кирико.
Силуэты, абрисы чудовищ и коленопреклоненных животных.
Ты головою махни, что согласен.
Вообразим, что жизнь полна невероятностей
и в сущности есть отсрочка
перед белым ровным абсолютом.
Ходишь по дну океана,
загребая ногами соль.
Обнимаешь невозмутимых незнакомцев
и тут же их забываешь.
Силишься понять,
что в череде страданий
ты тоже необходим.

Kant’s birds (Elena Katsyuba)

July 20, 2014

Immanuel Kant had a small garden, and every spring he would await the bird’s arrival with agitation.
And if the birds were delayed he used to say, “Evidently, it’s still cold beyond the Apennines.”

When the vertebrae in the spine respond to the sound of water dripping
that means the time is coming to await birds from beyond the Apennines.

Each bird in its beak carries a nest
and in its heart a compass which it has to
install in the fledgling’s heart
otherwise not for anything will any ship find a mooring
and any aeroplane will fly into the wrong corridor
and each train that goes into a tunnel will come out
at the station called Bottom

Of course your mighty intellect can subtract nothing from everything
and multiply everything by zero to get the golden number
but if in the convolutions of your brain there are no outlines of a flock flying
then for you a bird is the intransitive verb ‘to fly’

But if with a strict pencil you cross out the mistake
the garden of expectations will remain
where sky flies the birds

Елена Кацюба

Елена Кацюба

Птицы Канта

У Иммануила Канта был маленький сад, и каждую весну он с волнением ждал прилета птиц. И если птицы задерживались, он говорил: «Видимо, за Апеннинами еще холодно».

Когда позвонки в спине отзываются звону капели
значит приходит время ждать птиц из-за Апеннин

Каждая птица в клюве несет гнездо
а в сердце компас который надо
вмонтировать в сердце птенца
иначе ни один корабль ни за что не найдет причал
и любой самолет влетит в не тот коридор
и каждый поезд войдя в туннель въедет на станцию Дно

Конечно твой мощный ум может вычесть ничто из всего
и все умножив на ноль получить золотое число
но если в извивах мозга нет очертаний летящей стаи
то птица тебе — непереходный глагол «летать»

И если строгим карандашом ошибку перечеркнуть
останется сад ожиданий
где небо летает птиц

From the funeral (Vladimir Gandel’sman)

July 18, 2014

Oh, the flashing claw of cogito
that has seized hold of my being,
got stuck in it! What does the word ‘God’ mean
if not His breathing?

What could be more beautiful than the snow
and a tree in the ramifying chill?
Life resides, the dead man in the grave
is not alone, still.

Has not a new star pierced the blueness
like a firecracker swept up off the ground?
Thy heavenly light will not go out. Amen.
Inevitability. No sound.

С похорон

О, “когито” блеснувший коготок,
вцепившийся в моё существованье,
застрявший в нём! Что значит слово “Бог”
как не Его дыханье?

Что может быть прекраснее, чем снег
и дерево в ветвящемся ознобе?
Жизнь жительствует, мёртвый человек
не одинок во гробе.

Не новая ль звезда вонзилась в синь,
как бы с земли взметённая шутиха?
Не гаснет Твой небесный свет. Аминь.

Неотвратимо. Тихо.

A Winter In The Hills (John Wain)

July 16, 2014

**

winterhills

When Try Books! discussed this, we had a marked difference of opinion between those who came to the meeting and those who emailed their views in.  But first of all let’s see what it’s all about…

Plot

The storyline concerns Roger Furnivall, a washed-up 40-year-old academic who has been caring for his brother Geoffrey, mentally incapacitated after being caught in a flying bomb attack in World War II.  After Geoffrey dies, Roger decides to go to North Wales so as to learn Welsh and hence get a job in Uppsala, where there will be many tall, compliant blonde girls.  Roger is (quite naturally as he sees it) desperate for sex, and in the course of the book we learn about his attempts with Beverley (a young American tourist), Rhiannon (the beautiful and well-dressed hotel receptionist who must be a kept woman) and Jenny (married with two young children, but love will find a way).  We also learn about his past with Margot, a red-haired green-eyed insatiable lover.

As well as the above, Roger also becomes involved with Gareth Jones, proprietor of a one-man bus concern who is the last survivor holding out against Dic Sharp, the local Mr Big, and Madog an epic Welsh-language poet (working in an estate agency) together with a number of other colourful local characters.

The narration is carried on in the third person, but it might as well be the first since we never see any scene where Roger is not present.  The book was published in 1970; since Jenny drives a Mini (which was popular from the mid-1960s) and there is some reference to the possible nationalisation of the buses (which presumably refers to the Labour government of 1964-70) we can take the action to be set at the same time.

The view by email

On this basis one could say (and people did, by email):

I love a bit of romance and a happy ending so this ticked my boxes.

I enjoyed it as a ‘life-affirming’ anti-corporate yarn.

Loved the sense of place and climate, though the descriptions were a bit overdone sometimes. Really immersive. Nice trajectory from sex-obsessed rotter to sex-obsessed local hero and family man.

However, those who were present at the meeting took a rather more critical view, under a number of headings.

Roger the philologist

Roger is presented as a specialist in ‘philology’, but this is a nineteenth-century term, and in this century it would be called historical linguistics.  He actually gives Jenny a pretty good explanation of what historical linguistics is, but that still leaves some serious problems.  If you want to be a historical linguist you need to know the earliest attested languages from various families–for Celtic languages, you need to know Old Irish as a starting point.  Modern Welsh is of comparatively little use, being both modern and contaminated by English.

As well as Roger learning Welsh with implausible ease (but that was necessary for the plot), he also fails to notice any of the many features of Welsh that would force themselves upon the attention of a real philologist.

Roger and the women

In the past Roger has had a relationship with red-haired Margot, which foundered due to her rejecting the proper woman’s role of caring for his disabled brother Geoffrey.  During the course of the book, he persuades Beverley, an young blonde American, to take him up into the mountains on her scooter and attempts to have sex with her.  She rebuffs him and abandons him on the cold hill’s side.  (Castration may have been more to the point.)  Afterwards Roger thinks of her unkindly as that slab of processed cheese from California.

He also tries to get it on with Rhiannon the kept woman, who is beautiful and mysterious and knows everything that is going on, as well as helping Roger find a new home in a converted chapel.  And always seems to be wearing a green suede coat, together with a short black leather skirt and a coral-red blouse, all of which seems to be rather too tasteless even for 1970.  We are also expected to believe that while she lives with her family and half of her village works like her in the nearby town, nobody has told her mother or her father the deacon about her international career as a rich man’s plaything.  A girl like Rhiannon must affect the lives of many men in a few short years, before her beauty faded.

Then we have Jenny, the typical Movement heroine under the heading Girls are nicer than us who is modest and dark-haired and from Lancashire (later changed to Cheshire but these places are all the same) and has already produced offspring for Roger to dote on–they are of course quite unconcerned by a change of Daddies–and sexually insatiable when she meets the right man in Roger.  We note that she also manages to be both innocent (Gerald caught me so young, before I’d had a go at managing life by myself) and experienced (Don’t forget a woman gets very good at detecting line-shooting.  We have to listen to so much of it between sixteen and twenty-five) at the same time–that’s the Eternal Feminine for you, in decorous provincial form and wearing a damson-coloured woollen dress.

We should also put in a word for another kept woman, Fräulein Inge, whose residence Roger occupies in her absence.   Roger catches sight of her as a young woman with pouting, almost bee-stung lips.  She might have been the girl-friend of one of the foreign poets.  Clearly, being a female she couldn’t be a poet herself–she can only manage the childish art-play of Fräulein Inge–and neither could Jenny, who finds her subaltern feminine fulfilment as administrative assistant to the Celtic Poets’ Colloquium (as well as in Roger’s bed).

Under these circumstances, it seems best to pass rapidly over the sub-Lawrentian Bad Sex:

It used to make me feel I’d give anything, anything at all, to get right inside her, into her innermost fibres, right in where she lived, to find the central core that was Margot and nothing else but Margot, find it and shoot hot sperm into it.

and also over

Roger was just about to formulate the thought that there was, after all, something to be said for sexual assault as a pastime for a man in early middle age when Gareth’s voice recalled him to actuality.

Roger in Wales

In his preface to the reissue, the author’s son states that the novel’s ‘Caerfenai’ is to be identified with Caernarvon, and the original of the village ‘Llancrwys’ was home to the Welsh language writer Kate Roberts, which would make it Rosgadfan.

There are indeed some effective scenes from Welsh life, as of being caught on the mountain when the weather changes or going to visit Gareth’s blind Mam in her cottage and indeed An Englishman’s Christmas In Wales with the roast hare that Gareth has snared himself and the shop-bought pudding with Roger’s whisky burning on it and Gareth’s Mam smelling the snow as violets in the wind.

The question remains as to whether these Welsh characters have any life of their own as opposed to merely furnishing Roger’s solipsistic fantasies.  Gareth as the hunchbacked indomitable son of mountain and slate-mine seems to be meant as some embodiment of Wales, crippled in body as Geoffrey was crippled in mind.  Then we have the colourful inhabitants of Llamcrwys, all surnamed Jones, the colourful hauliers Ivo and Gito, the colourful fat young poet Madog not at all like fat young Dylan Thomas who brings about Jenny’s escape from durance vile through his Colloquium of Celtic Poets.

All of these seem to be merely there as aids in Roger’s path to self-realisation:

he knew at last that Madog’s poem was Gareth’s yellow bus and that he, Roger Furnivall, had ridden up into the mountains now in one, now in the other, and that they had taken him to where he had found himself.

Without Roger, the Welsh characters seem to be unable to do anything for themselves and in particular to stand up to Dic Sharp.  Dic Sharp is allowed to make some good points in his confrontations with Roger–that Roger has not the slightest idea of how to run a business, that having had his fun he’ll be on his way leaving the locals to sort out the mess, even the Brechtian idea that morals are only for rich folk–and he might indeed have become something independent of Roger if he had been further developed.

Among the many plot holes, the main ones concern Dic Sharp’s attempts to force Gareth out of business.  The thing about loosening the nuts on the wheel of Roger’s hire car is complete nonsense, since it could easily have killed him and brought the police swarming all over the place.  Similarly for the device of the evil twin bus taking away Gareth’s passengers, when all they needed to do was to put Gareth’s bus out of action for a few weeks and he would have gone bust.

There seems to be some attempt at symbolic realism in the bus doppelganger, together with Roger’s progress from the Palace Hotel to Mrs Pylon Jones’s holiday flatlet to the converted chapel and then back to the Palace Hotel, and the parallelism between Geoffrey and Gareth, but none of it worked or if it did I didn’t notice.

Conclusion

As it stands this is all Roger’s solipsistic half-drunken fantasy lying alone in his hotel room.  But in that case it’s like the weak wish-fulfilment story that Roger spins Gareth and his Mam about having recently been at the marriage between Geoffrey and Margot, and maybe here the author is indicating that he understands what kind (and quality) of thing his book is, even if we don’t.

The critic who commented wales and middle aged men don’t feature high on my interests was certainly being very sensible.

Symbolic postscript

I think the symbolic dualism is meant to look something like the table below, but unfortunately it’s just not done well enough.

I also very much fear that since it’s Wales we’re in the realms of Arthurian romance:  Geoffrey/Roger have been symbolically castrated by the flying bomb and it is only by journeying to Chapel Perilous [where the sorceress Hellawes unsuccessfully attempted to seduce Sir Lancelot]  that Roger can be restored to potency and the land can be freed from Dic Sharp’s evil [succu]bus.  (So Rhiannon is a sorceress, which explains why she knows everything and wears striking clothes.)   So we identify Roger with Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, who has to travel in a cart driven by a dwarf in order to rescue Queen Guinevere.

‘Jenny Grayfair’  is a transparent pseudonym for Guinevere–‘Jennifer’ is the same name as ‘Guinevere’ in origin, while ‘Grayfair’ sounds like ‘Guinevere’.   And Margot sounds like Morgan le Fay, while Beverley has adopted the standard operating procedure of female spirits in enticing the hero to a remote spot and abandoning him there.  Apart from Jenny the English characters seem to bear the first names of Arthurian authors:  Geoffrey (of Monmouth); Gerald (of Wales); Roger (Lancelyn Green).

TABLE OF SYMBOLIC CORRESPONDENCES

BAD

GOOD

COMMENTS

London

North Wales

 Among other points, Geoffrey is (mentally) crippled in London and Gareth is (economically, socially) liberated in North Wales.

Beverley

Margot

Because Margot puts out and Beverley doesn’t

Rhiannon

Jenny

Because Rhiannon is a kept woman and Jerry is a wife

Geoffrey

Gareth

Roger is imprisoned through not having been able to save Geoffrey and can only become free by rescuing Gareth

Dic Sharp

Roger

As well as the sexual connotations of the names, these are the only male characters who have children–at the end, Roger has two middle-class English children to Dic Sharp’s Welsh nogoodnik one, thus demonstrating that once magically restored his potency is superior

Dic Sharp

Madog

Thin Welsh businessman v fat Welsh poet—they are the only characters who can make things happen, apart from Roger

Dic Sharp’s impostor bus

Gareth’s real bus

Dilwen

Iorwerth

They both interrupt the action—Iorwerth saves Roger from Dic Sharp’s thugs while Dilwen’s model plane breaks the mood when Roger is about to seduce Rhiannon

Ivo/Gito

Gito/Ivo

The hauliers are inherently paired rather than being good v bad

 

 

Love and a Bottle, Greenwich Theatre 12 July

July 13, 2014

****

Twitpic from Out of Joint

Twitpic from Out of Joint

You can still see this on Monday 14 July and the Out of Joint tweet that kindly supplied the picture above also says that with code OOJ you can see it for £6.  That sounds like a good idea to me, and it would be even without the reduction.

The Saturday afternoon audience enjoyed this adaptation of the first play of the 20-year-old George Farquhar which, underneath the conventional comedy machinery (at one stage I thought we were going to get the finale from The Marriage of Figaro without the music) and references to the Battle of the Boyne is probably about the joys and sheer stupidity of being young.  Here we followed the adventures of one Roebuck, a penniless young  playwright recently arrived from Ireland and trying to avoid both creditors and the mother of his child.  All of course ended happily with moralising and multiple marriages after Roebuck and Kidderton the Drury Lane man had discussed that very prospect from a professional viewpoint; and I enjoyed the meta-theatrical games in scenes like the trainee actresses from LAMDA  playing actresses backstage.  It would have been even better if they had played boys pretending to be actresses, but Farquhar wasn’t Shakespeare and you can’t have everything.

The uncluttered design and fast pace worked well, as did the Irish folk songs.  How much of the proto-feminist repartee was down to adaptor Sheila Feehily as opposed to George Farquhar I don’t know, but it all worked for me.  The playing was of a uniformly high standard, and the young lady who flirted with fluffing a couple of her lines knows who she is…

When the ice melts (Fyodor Svarovsky)

July 11, 2014

when the antarctic ice melts

we will be happy

multitudinous rains will pass

dry bones will become moist

gardens will bloom

in the Queen of Fashion’s land

on Queen Victoria’s peninsula

in the wind white tents

from water to water there are meadows

the bird snatches fish and bread from the hand

everything will be all right

all the dead will come to life

all the good ones

except the bad ones

oh, glass cities

oh, land rising out of the ice

his majesty the emperor

up to the ankles in warm water

along the green bank

comes this way rocking

like a simple emperor

penguin

Федор Сваровский

Федор Сваровский

КОГДА РАСТАЮТ ЛЬДЫ

когда растают льды Антарктиды

мы будем счастливы

пройдут многочисленные дожди

сухие кости станут влажными

зацветут сады

на земле королевы Мод

на полуострове королевы Виктории —

на ветру палатки белые

от воды до воды — луга

рыбу и хлеб птица выхватывает из рук

все нормально будет

все мертвые оживут

все хорошие

кроме плохих

о, стеклянные города

о, поднявшаяся изо льда земля

государь император

по щиколотку в теплой воде

вдоль зеленого берега

навстречу качаясь идет

как простой пингвин

императорский

 

 

‘The trees are drawn up in a row…’ (Vladimir Salimon)

July 10, 2014

The trees are drawn up in a row
and mostly looking the other way
as though peering in the stream below
so blue in the heat of this midday.

They keep on standing, do not give way
upon the river’s stony shore
as for themselves, they will not bathe
and will not let us bathe, any more.

 

Деревья выстроились в линию
по большей части к нам спиной,
как будто бы на речку синюю
они глядят в полдневный зной.

Они стоят, не расступаются,
по каменистым берегам,
и сами в речке не купаются,
и не дают купаться нам.