“And again they’ll order a translation…” by Marina Boroditskaya

And again they’ll order a translation,
and a foreign poet, like an alien spaceman,
space-suit on fire, will enter the atmosphere
and land, as literals, on your writing table.

Get to work then, palms pumping chest,
trying to find life in this strange being,
to start the heart’s rhythm, the lung’s action,
so he can breathe the harsh local air.

This one will probably live, but some die,
and who can you tell later or explain
how the sacred honey congeals in your breast,
refusing to be poured into strange vessels.

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by Мари́на Я́ковлевна Бороди́цкая
(Marina Yakovlevna Boroditskaya)
(c. 2003)
translated by Ruth Fainlight

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Extra information: Marina Boroditskaya was born on June 28, 1954 in Moscow. In 1976 she graduated from the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages ​​named after Maurice Torez. She worked as a guide-translator and taught in a school. In 1978 she made her debut as a translator in Russia’s Иностранная литература (Foreign Literature) magazine.

Since 1990 she has been a member of the Writers’ Union, and since 2005 she has become a member of the Мастера литературного перевода (Masters of Literary Translation) guild.

Marina Boroditskaya works as a presenter on the radio show Литературная аптека (translated as Literary Pharmacy’, ‘Literary First Aid Box’or ‘Literary Drugstore’ depending on your source) on Радио России (Radio Russia). She is convinced that the book is the best medicine.

Россия (Russia) [extract] by Max Voloshin

Great Peter was the first true Bolshevik;

his project: to project his Russia, against

all her customs, all her inclinations,

hundreds of years into some distant vista.

And like us all, he knew no other way

save execution, torture and diktat

to realize truth and justice upon earth.

If not a butcher, you could call the Tsar

a sculptor – his material not marble

but flesh, hacking out a Galatea

and flinging scraps aside. But no man builds

alone. What else was our nobility

but our first Communists? Our nobility

was – all in one – the Party, secret police

and Ivan the Terrible’s Oprichniki,

a hothouse for the breeding of strange cultures.

[…] Bakunin reflects the Russian countenance

in every way – what intellectual boldness,

what sweep of thought, what soaring flights and falls!

Our creativity lies in anarchy.

All Europe took the path of fire – but we

bear in our hearts a culture of explosion.

Fire needs machines and cities, factories,

blast furnaces; an explosion, unless it aims

to pulverize itself, needs the containment

of steel rifling, the matrix of a heavy gun.

This is why Soviet hoops all bind so tight,

why the autocracy’s flasks and retorts

were so refractionary. Bakunin needed

Nicholas – as Peter’s streltsy needed Peter,

as Avvakum needed Nikon. This is why

Russia is so immeasurable – in anarchy

and in autocracy alike, and why no history

is darker, madder, more terrible than hers.

 

by Максимилиан Александрович Кириенко-Волошин

(Maximilian Alexandrovich Kirienko-Voloshin)

(1925)

translated by Robert Chandler