Кончусь, останусь жив ли… (I’ll Be Finished…) by Boris Chichibabin

I’ll be finished, if I’ll survive –
what kind of grass will grow over the gap?
On Prince Igor’s battlefield the grass faded.
The school corridors
are quiet, not ringing…
Eat your red tomatoes,
eat ’em without me.

How did I survive to such prose
with my bitter beaten head?
Each evening a convoy
leads me to interrogation.
Stairways, corridors,
cunning prison graffiti…
Eat your red tomatoes,
eat ’em without me.

By Борис Алексеевич Чичибабин (Boris Alekseyevich Chichibabin)
Born: Полушин (Polushin)
(1946)
translated by Albert C. Todd and Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Кончусь, останусь жив ли…

Кончусь, останусь жив ли, –
чем зарастёт провал?
В Игоревом Путивле
выгорела трава.

Школьные коридоры –
тихие, не звенят…
Красные помидоры
кушайте без меня.

Как я дожил до прозы
с горькою головой?
Вечером на допросы
водит меня конвой.

Лестницы, коридоры,
хитрые письмена…
Красные помидоры
кушайте без меня.

Additional information: Boris Alekseyevich Chichibabin (Russian: Бори́с Алексе́евич Чичиба́бин, Ukrainian: Бори́с Олексі́йович Чичиба́бін; 9 January 1923, Kremenchuk – 15 December 1994, Kharkiv; born Polushin, Russian: Полу́шин) was a Soviet poet and a laureat of the USSR State Prize (1990), who is typically regarded as one of the Sixtiers.

He lived in Kharkiv, and in the course of three decades became one of the most famous and best-loved members of the artistic intelligentsia of the city, i.e., from the 1950s to 1980s. From the end of the 1950s, his poetry was widely distributed throughout the Soviet Union as samizdat. Official recognition came only at the end of his life in the time of perestroika.

Chichibabin was imprisoned during Stalin’s time. Though released and rehabilitated he was “daring” enough in the Brexhnev era of stagnation to write a poem in 1971 in memory of Aleksandr Tvardovsky, who had been attacked by literary rivals until his death; the poem resulted in his expulsion from the Writers Union. He was not published for fifteen years and worked as a bookkeeper in a tram park. As time passed, the growing significance of his work became apparent.

Chichibabin’s character is very Russian, but at the same time he is blessed with the quality of compassion for the world. His poetry is filled with astonishing penetration into the pain of other nations and peoples, whether Tartar or Jews.

In 1990 the unheard-of happened: the State Prize for literature was awarded to a book of his poetry which he had published privately. He was reinstated into the Writers Union in 1986, a very shy, humble man who never dealt with politics, but with a humane conscience in the midst of moral degradation – a de facto political dissident.

Biographical information about Chichibabin, p.719, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).
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MrHearne

Russian and Welsh poetry. Updated every Sunday. Also reviews of literature, films, theatre, food and drink, etc. Any support or engagement is appreciated.

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