Posts Tagged ‘Pushkin House’

Russian Reading Group Pushkin House 4 April

March 29, 2011

Pushkin House posted an announcement of this meeting on Friday.  Since ten days is not a great amount of time to acquire and read four books, I thought I’d try to be helpful by pointing out that you can find the texts posted at various places on the Internet.  For example:

Алексей Слаповский «Первое второе пришествие»  here

Олег Павлов. Степная книга  here

Елена Чижова  КРОШКИ ЦАХЕС  here

Олег Зайончовский  «Счастье возможно»  here .

Only trying to be helpful–good luck!

Yuri Kolker Pushkin House 15 March

March 19, 2011

Прочитав несколько своих произведений перед немногочисленной публикой, Юрий Колкер заметил что сейчас все закончено и с русской литературой и с русским языком.  Язык полностью заражен английской болезнью–по части и словаря и синтаксиса и даже интонации.

Когда сам был молодым человеком в Ленинграде, хотя существовали и цензура и (в какой-то мер)е лагери, продолжалась полуподполная литературная жизнь, даже вопреки всем стараниям властей поставить крест на русскую литературу.  Вдобавок, был референтный слой окололитературных деятелей–редакторов, критиков, издателей и т п–которые сохраняли настоящие и вечные ценности русской литературы, хотя не имели возможности осуществить их.

Юрий Колкер назвал Иосифа Бродского самым крупным поэтом времени Бродского.  Вторым после Пушкина русским поэтом он назвал Баратынского, творчество которого еще недоценивают.

Докладчик признался в том, что придерживается силного консерватизма и в литературе, и во всех других областях человеческой жизни.

Russia 88, Pushkin House 2 March

March 3, 2011

**

To start off with, Ludmila Gromova (interpreted by Vitaly Yerenkov) said this was a serious film, on the border between fact and fiction, and had suffered difficulties with the authorities as Russia’s 20-year flirtation with freedom was drawing to an end.  It was of course fictional, but the interviews with people in the street and on trains were genuine…

Then they cleared off and we all shifted to the front to see the subtitles in view of the characters’ realistic mumbling.  The conceit was that a group of Moscow skinheads were making videos to advertise their ultra-nationalist views with the help of their Jewish pal who had the equipment.  And they really didn’t convince me.  Being a Russian fascist seemed to involve hanging around with your mates and beating up people you didn’t like the look of, rather like the Scouts when I was young.  It is hard to express how short a time that lot would have lasted on the streets of South London, even with a rather more extensive selection of weapons.

*SPOILER ALERT*

Then at the end the protagonist Sasha killed his sister’s Caucasian boyfriend and she killed himself and then he killed himself.  I don’t think that kind of deathbound nihilism is going to discourage misguided young men somehow…

Oh yes, H is the 8th letter of (the Latin alphabet), so 88 = HH = Heil Hitler, but you knew that anyway…

Anna Gorbachyova, Julian Gallant, Russian Song Series, Pushkin House 17 June

June 21, 2010

****

Pushkin House

Anna Gorbachyova soprano
Julian Gallant piano

1.  Poulenc Fiançailles pour rire
2.  Richard Strauss Drei Lieder der Ophelia  Op. 67

–pause–

3.  Rachmaninov Six Romances  Op. 38
4.  Duparc L’invitation au voyage

Julian Gallant introduced this recital by putting it in its place in Pushkin House’s Russian Song Series and introducing the singer, Anna Gorbachyova.  In fact, the different pieces were all preceded by a general introduction from Juilan and a more specific one from Anna.

The Fiançailles pour rire were completely new to me, and I was most struck by how good the texts were (by Louise de Vilmorin, who I was aware of only peripherally).  I thought that Anna Gorbachyova here and indeed everywhere showed herself a true opera singer, determined to make her point with all the vocal and dramatic ,means at her disposal.  But in this particular section of a programme, a less declamatory style might have been more suitable.  Then the Three Ophelia Songs showed just how gratefully Strauss wrote for the soprano voice (yes we know that already, but whatever).

After the mini-interval, the Six Romances Op. 38 showed Rachmaninov in quite a progressive mood–as Julian Gallant pointed out–and the texts proved to be a great deal less slushy than in the vast majority of Russian romances.  I also enjoyed Julian’s very fine accompaniment here.  And then L’invitation au voyage–about the only one of these pieces I did know–was jolly good, and not at all declamatory…

Well done Julian, well done Anna!

Disclosure

The author is a Friend of Pushkin House and attended this concert for free.

Molotov’s Magic Lantern (Rachel Polonsky)

May 23, 2010

**

The idea of this book is that the author lives in or visits various places in Moscow and Russia as a whole and tells us about their literary and historical associations.  So we visit various locations on Romanov Lane (in the centre of Moscow)–including the flat where Vyacheslav Molotov lived, naturally enough–the Sandunovskaya bathhouse, the Academy of Sciences ‘colony’ at Lutsino, Mozzhinka (a similar place nearby), Novgorod, Staraya Russa (where The Brothers Karamazov is set), Rostov-on-Don, Taganrog, Vologda, Archangel, Murmansk and Barentsburg, Arashan and Irkutsk, Ulan Ude and Kyakhta.  And we learn about lots of interesting people and things, such as the Vavilov brothers and the fate of science under Stalin, Varlam Shalamov, Dostoevsky, Mandelshtam…

Molotov

So far so enticing.

But I had severe problems with the book.  In spite of reading the beginning portion  twice,  I couldn’t really work out how the conceit of  Molotov”s magic lantern,  showing pictures of bygone times and places, defines the structure of the book:  I don’t think the locales chosen were necessarily either connected with Molotov or displayed by his magic lantern.  There were also many occasions when I had problems with the English:  this started at the very beginning, where Romanov Lane is called simply ‘Romanov’, which we don’t do in English and continued with such things as:

His chiselled gaze, straining over some imagined battlefield, meets the blank side wall of the Kremlin Hospital.  ‘So who is going to take Berlin, we or the Allies?’…(p 17)

‘Straining’ is right…chiselled gaze just doesn’t make sense and we or the Allies isn’t English.

Rachel Polonsky

I have the impression of a frightening number of such examples:  outwardly static but secretly moribund (p 17 again)–moribund implies static; lined with trophy art…brought back after the Soviet victory from the ransacked castles of East Prussia (p 28); in English that’s ‘looted art’, but then you really need to leave one of  ‘ransacked’ and ‘looted’ out since they’re saying the same thing; [human!] honey-makers (p 168); Anti-Semitic pogrom (p 171) [tautology];  bodies of children dead in infancy (p 234) [tautology]; drove past in his armoured car with the windows open (p 247) [presumably ‘bulletproof car’ rather than ‘wheeled tank’];  aquarelle portraits (p 350) [that’s ‘watercolour’ in English] and many many more…

As well as these lexical Russianisms, there are sentences where a non-English level of syntactic complexity leads to confusion (confused me at least), for example:

Of all the European magi of what was known as theory among the gatekeepers to the world of ideas who taught me in Cambridge twenty-five years ago, Benjamin is the only one I have read since with pleasure. (p 53)

This implies to me that Benjamin was in fact one of her teachers….

3 Romanov Lane--home of Molotov and of Rachel Polonsky

I also had problems with the content of the book.  For a start, there are many places where Polonsky describes pictures she has seen, or even herself in the act of photographing things, but there are no illustrations in the book.  How can that be?  Copyright problems (surely not for her own photos)?  Cost? I don’t understand…

For instance:  [Khaldei’s] lens absorbed the strange mineral gleam of the Kola in the shimmering reflections of seven caped and helmeted soldiers trudging past a pool of still water on the rocky shore (p 299).  And here we are:

Now that didn’t hurt, did it?

Again, there is no systematic  referencing.  So I came across many interesting facts and statements, without being able to follow them up.  Irritating, and I don’t think it would  have happened in a book published in the US.

So we are deprived of objective truth.  We are also deprived of subjective truth: Polonsky mentions her husband and children and a [female] companion who travels with her to sketch, and that’s about it.  One thing that we do learn is that she is very uneasy about the subject of prostitution (this is rather to her credit), but the uneasy euphemism of

The slender heels of Moscow’s loveliest demi-mondaines tap the pavenent as they make their way, shining for the evening in diamonds and air-soft sable skins, on a narrow pathway of granite flagstones set with green cat’s eyes, from the luxury health club in the basement of No. 4 to their chauffeur-driven cars (p 24)

doesn’t help anyone (and to me ‘slender heels’ are parts of a woman, not of shoes, while ‘skins’ in place of ‘furs’ causes similar confusion).

The mentions of Kontantin Simonov and Konstantin Rokossovsky only served to remind me of what a brilliant book The Whisperers is…

Note

The page numbers here refer to a hardcover edition from Faber UK published in 2010, ISBN 9780571237807.

Update

Since I posted this entry, Rachel Polonsky has emailed me to say that she doesn’t agree with the points I make above.  She will also be giving a talk based on the book on 31 March 2011 in Pushkin House; details here.

Oleg Tyrkin: ‘Arms And Wings’ Private Viewing, Pushkin House 3 March

March 4, 2010

For the First Time (Oil on canvas; 130 x 150; 2009; £12,000)

This was the first time I had been to a private viewing, and it wasn’t that frightening.  I equipped myself with a glass of wine and some crisps and wandered around looking at the paintings–I think I managed to escape the attention of everyone, even Julian Gallant.

The illustration above shows you the kind of thing–paintings with lots of space, reflecting Tyrkin’s earlier career as a military helicopter pilot.  What you can’t very easily see is the Frank-Auerbach-style impasto, which reflects the intensity that Oleg’s  interpreter/minder said was integral to his conception of space.

The sums on the Price List ranged from £ 1,500 to £ 12,000–at least one visitor felt this was pretty cheap, since you could easily pay £4,000 for a decent handbag.  But I wouldn’t know!

The exhibition runs until 26 March, and you can see the official details here.