Знаю, не убьет меня злодей,… (I Know That A Gangster…) by Ivan Elagin

I know that a gangster will not murder me
In some dark alley,
But a bullet shall shatter my skull
In the name of somebody’s ideas.

And some individuals or other will
Administer my trial and verdict:
And they won’t simply seize and kill me, mind you,
They will bump me off for the sake of ideals.

I will yet be lying in a puddle,
Sniffing the stones by the roadside,
When instant beatitude and
Heavenly harmony will descend to earth,

As well as fruitful plenty,
Felicity, and justice for all –
All these things which I hindered
And desperately opposed while alive.

And then my fellow servant of the Muses,
Who likes to worry about Truth and Justice,
Will recall the eggs that have to be broken,
And recall the omlette which has to be made.

By Иван Венедиктович Елагин
(Ukrainian: Іван Венедиктович Єлагін)
Ivan Venediktovich Elagin
(a.k.a. Ivan Matveyev)
translated by Helen Matveyeff

Знаю, не убьет меня злодей,…

Знаю, не убьет меня злодей,
Где-нибудь впотьмах подкарауля,
А во имя чьих-нибудь идей
Мне затылок проломает пуля.

И расправу учинят, и суд
Надо мной какие-нибудь дяди,
И не просто схватят и убьют,
А прикончат идеалов ради.

Еще буду в луже я лежать,
Камни придорожные обнюхав,
А уже наступит благодать –
Благорастворение воздухов,

Изобилье всех плодов земных,
Благоденствие и справедливость,
То, чему я, будучи в живых,
Помешал, отчаянно противясь.

Амнистия (Amnesty) by Ivan Elagin

The man is still alive
Who shot my father
In Kiev in the summer of ’38.

Probably, he’s pensioned now,
Lives quietly,
And has given up his old job.

And if he has died,
Probably that one is still alive
Who just before the shooting
With a stout wire
Bound his arms
Behind his back.

Probably, he too is pensioned off.

And if he is dead,
Then probably
The one who questioned him still lives.
And that one no doubt
Has an extra good pension.

Perhaps the guard
Who took my father to be shot
Is still alive.

If I should want now
I could return to my native land.
For I have been told
That all these people
Have actually pardoned me.

By Иван Венедиктович Елагин
(Ukrainian: Іван Венедиктович Єлагін)
Ivan Venediktovich Elagin
(a.k.a. Ivan Matveyev)
translated by Bertram D. Wolfe

Амнистия

Еще жив человек,
Расстрелявший отца моего
Летом в Киеве, в тридцать восьмом.

Вероятно, на пенсию вышел.
Живет на покое
И дело привычное бросил.

Ну, а если он умер –
Наверное, жив человек,
Что пред самым расстрелом
Толстой
Проволокою
Закручивал
Руки
Отцу моему
За спиной.

Верно, тоже на пенсию вышел.

А если он умер,
То, наверное, жив человек,
Что пытал на допросах отца.

Этот, верно, на очень хорошую пенсию вышел.

Может быть, конвоир еще жив,
Что отца выводил на расстрел.

Если б я захотел,
Я на родину мог бы вернуться.

Я слышал,
Что все эти люди
Простили меня.

Additional information: Ivan Elagin (December 1, 1918 – February 8, 1987); Ukrainian: Іван Єлагін, Russian: Иван Венедиктович Елагин, real name Ivan Matveyev) was a Russian émigré poet born in Vladivostok. He was the husband of poet Olga Anstei (Ukrainian: Ольга Анстей), best remembered for writing about the Holocaust.

Elagin’s real surname was Matveyev; his father was the poet Venedikt Mart of Vladivostok, and he was himself the uncle of the Leningrad poet Novello Matveyeva. He was preparing to be a physician when his medical education was interrupted by World War II, and in 1943 he found himself as a forced labourer in Germany, working as a nurse in a German hospital. Knowing he would be arrested if he returned to the Soviet Union, he remained in Munich after the war and published her first books of poetry, Po doroge ottuda (The Road from There) in 1947 and Ty, moio stoletie (You Are My Century) in 1948.

In 1950 he emigrated to the United States to work as a proofreader for the New York Russian-language newspaper Novoe russkoe slovo. The earned a Ph.D. And taught Russian literature at the University of Pittsburgh, were he was surrounded by a few dedicated students. Elagin reportedly was held for a long time after World War II by American intelligence in a displaced-persons detention camp under the suspicion that he had been planted by Soviet Intelligence. Hence to some people his poetry seemed to have double directions and meaning.

Elagin was the most talented poet of postwar emigration from the Soviet Union. He related with great sympathy to the post-Stalin generation of poets, and his poetry bears a resemblance to the younger generation’s, with its resounding rhythms and alliterations, in spite of the difference in age and experience. Though he wished to visit his country he declined invitations because of the ideological conformity they would have required. He translated American poets into Russian, including a brilliant rendering of Stephen Vincent Benét’s monumental John Brown’s Body. Unfortunately, during his lifetime no American poet chose to translate him, and he remained unknown to Americans. Since 1988 his poetry has been returning to Russia.

Biographical information about Elagin, p.673, ‘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).

Не выходи из комнаты (Don’t Leave The Room) by Joseph Brodsky

Don’t leave the room, don’t blunder, do not go on.
If you’re smoking Shipka, what good is the Sun?
Outside, all is meaningless, especially – the cry of joy.
To the lavatory and back straightaway, old boy.

O, don’t leave the room, don’t call for a cab, my friend.
Because Space is a corridor that will end
with a meter. And, if your dear, delight expressing,
walks inside, kick her out without undressing.

Don’t leave the room; pretend that you have a cold.
Four walls and a chair entice like nothing else in the world.
Why leave the place that you’ll surely return to late in
the night, as you were, only more – mutilated?

O, don’t leave the room. Enchanted, dance bossa nova
in shoes worn on bare feet, in a coat draped over
your naked body. The hall reeks of ski wax and cabbage.
You’ve written a lot; more would be extra baggage.

Don’t leave the room. Let only the room imagine a little
what you might look like. And besides, incognito
ergo sum, as form itself learned from substance once.
Don’t leave the room! Outside, you will not find France.

Don’t be a fool! Be what others weren’t. Remain.
Don’t leave the room! Let the furniture have free reign,
blend in with wallpaper. Bolt the door, barricade in place
with a dresser from chronos, cosmos, eros, virus, race.

.

by Иосиф Александрович Бродский

(Joseph Aleksandrovich Brodsky a.k.a. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky)

(1970)

translated by ??? (I’ve lost track of who did this translation so any aid in attributing the appropriate credit would be greatly appreciated)

Brodsky reciting his poem in Russian

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Не выходи из комнаты

Не выходи из комнаты, не совершай ошибку.
Зачем тебе Солнце, если ты куришь Шипку?
За дверью бессмысленно все, особенно — возглас счастья.
Только в уборную — и сразу же возвращайся.

О, не выходи из комнаты, не вызывай мотора.
Потому что пространство сделано из коридора
и кончается счетчиком. А если войдет живая
милка, пасть разевая, выгони не раздевая.

Не выходи из комнаты; считай, что тебя продуло.
Что интересней на свете стены и стула?
Зачем выходить оттуда, куда вернешься вечером
таким же, каким ты был, тем более — изувеченным?

О, не выходи из комнаты. Танцуй, поймав, боссанову
в пальто на голое тело, в туфлях на босу ногу.
В прихожей пахнет капустой и мазью лыжной.
Ты написал много букв; еще одна будет лишней.

Не выходи из комнаты. О, пускай только комната
догадывается, как ты выглядишь. И вообще инкогнито
эрго сум, как заметила форме в сердцах субстанция.
Не выходи из комнаты! На улице, чай, не Франция.

Не будь дураком! Будь тем, чем другие не были.
Не выходи из комнаты! То есть дай волю мебели,
слейся лицом с обоями. Запрись и забаррикадируйся
шкафом от хроноса, космоса, эроса, расы, вируса.

Another recital of the poem by the Russian actor and activist Алексей Девотченко (Alexei Devotchenko)

Additional Information:

Here is an interesting article, with an alternative translation of this poem, by Alexandra Berlina regarding Brodsky and the timeliness of this poem at the moment.

In particular this translation note, from the article, where she discusses the choices faced in expressing wordplay successfully to an audience unlikely to be familiar with the original cultural context:

the original second line says ‘Why should you need the sun (solntse) if you smoke Shipka?’ Both Solntse and Shipka were brands of Bulgarian cigarettes. I decided against attempts along the lines of ‘You read The Guardian, why should you need the sun?’, Brodsky being a Russian chain smoker rather than a British liberal.

Alexandra Berlina