Monday, April 3, 2017

"No, River Ice Is Breaking..."

.



Yevgeny Yevtushenko has left the planet.

I speak and read no Russian, so I can't say I know his poetry, though I've read a great deal of it in translation. Having discussed poetry and the Russian language with Russians in Russia, I know that what you and I read in English is a pale shadow of the original.

Still. In 1961, Yevtushenko wrote a poem after a move to raise a memorial at Babi Yar, a ravine in Kiev, where 33,771 (Stop! Read that number out loud: Thirty-three thousand. Seven hundred. Seventy one) Jews were murdered by the Nazis, was blocked by anti-Semites. Speaking out like that was dangerous. But he loved Russia and knew that she was, or should be, better than that.

You can read "Babi Yar" here. And I really think you should.

Yevtushenko was a brilliant poet and almost as brilliant a politician, as witness the fact that he survived the Soviet Union when so many other brilliant poets did not. I vividly remember when he first came to the United States in the Sixties at the height of the Cold War. At that time, everything was seen as East-West competition and dissident poets were viewed in America as points for Our Side. So all officialdom was hoping he'd have harsh things to say about the USSR. Maybe he'd even defect!

And what did he do? Smile and nod, say nice things, and go drinking with fishermen in Alaska. Afterward, he said that was the best part of America.

To which I can only say:Damn straight, Yevgeny!


And since we're talking about Russian poets....

The second time I went to Yekaterinburg, I met the poet Evgeny Kasimov, who had written a poem with a hidden reference to my novel, The Iron Dragon's Daughter. I of course blogged about the experience. I had filmed his reading on my pocket camera and I threw that on the blog as well. So if you want some idea of the gulf between the poem and the translation, you can go here, read the poem, and then listen to it being read by Evgeny in Russian.


*

4 comments:

TheOFloinn said...

It goes beyond my meager two years of Russian, but here it is. The Russian text is about halfway down:
https://linguafennica.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/babi-yar-%D0%B1%D0%B0%D0%B1%D0%B8%D0%B9-%D1%8F%D1%80-yevgeny-yevtushenko/comment-page-1/

Here it is recited by Yevgeny himself:
http://www.rferl.org/a/28404968.html

Unknown said...

Dear Michael, thank you very much for this post.
The last Giant left us... I'm so sad...

Alexei

HANNAH'S DAD said...

> And what did he do? Smile and nod, say nice things, and go drinking with fishermen in Alaska. Afterward, he said that was the best part of America.

I don't know anything of Yevtushenko myself, but in the light of your comment above...

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/04/05/an-empty-saddle-for-yevtushenko/

"I consider myself a Siberian cowboy" - shades of _Pushkin the American_.

manho valentine said...

thanks for sharing
gclub casino
golden slot mobile
gclub