Верю (I Believe) by Varlam Shalamov

Off once more to the post:
will I find your letter?
My mind races all night
and daytime’s no better.

I believe, I believe in omens,
in dreams and spiders.
I have confidence in skis,
in slim boats on rivers.

I have faith in diesel engines,
in their roars and growls,
in the wings of carrier pigeons
in tall ships with white sails.

I place my trust in steamers
and in the strength of trains;
I have even dreamed of
the right weather for planes.

I believe in reindeer sledges,
in the worth of a compass
and a frost-stiffened map
when there is no path;

in teams of huskies,
in daredevil coachmen,
in tortoise indolence
and the snail’s composure.

I believe in the powers
of that wish-granting pike
in my thinning blood…
I believe in my own endurance;
and in your love.

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by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов
Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)
(1952)
translated by Robert Chandler

Beneath is the original version in Cyrillic.

Верю

Сотый раз иду на почту
За твоим письмом.
Мне теперь не спится ночью,
Не живется днем.

Верю, верю всем приметам,
Снам и паукам.
Верю лыжам, верю летом
Узким челнокам.

Верю в рев автомобилей,
Бурных дизелей,
В голубей почтовых крылья,
В мачты кораблей.

Верю в трубы пароходов,
Верю в поезда.
Даже в летную погоду
Верю иногда.

Верю я в оленьи нарты,
В путевой компас
У заиндевевшей карты
В безысходный час.

В ямщиков лихих кибиток,
В ездовых собак…
Хладнокровию улиток,
Лени черепах…

Верю щучьему веленью,
Стынущей крови…
Верю своему терпенью
И твоей любви.

Additional information: The reference to a ‘wish-granting pike’ to the Russian folk tale ‘Yemelya the Fool‘ in which the lazy protagonist saves the life of a fish which grants his wishes.

Shalamov notes the poem was “…written in 1952 in Baragon, near Oymyakon airport and Tomtor post office. About this time I wrote another great poem ‘Tomtor’s Mail’ – a ‘paired’ poem for ‘The Hundredth Time’.”

Корделия (“Cordelia, you are a fool! Would it have been…”) by Marina Boroditskaya

Cordelia, you are a fool! Would it have been
that hard to yield to the old man?
To say to him, ‘I, too, O darling Daddy,
love you more than my life.’ Piece of cake!
You wanted him to work it out on his own –
who was the best of his daughters. Proud fool!
And now he’s dead, you too, everyone’s dead.
And Gloucester! Oh the bloody horror –
his eye-sockets – the scene of the blinding –
fingers leafing quickly through the pages
as if through plates of red-hot iron… Here,
read it now. I’ll turn away. You weren’t there
in that Act, were you? Go on, read it,
look what you’ve done, you stupid little fool!
OK, OK, don’t cry. Of course, the author
is quite a character, but next time
make sure to be more stubborn, and resist:
Viola, Rosalinda, Catherine,
they managed – why wouldn’t you? Like a puppy,
pull him by the leg of his pants with your teeth
into the game, into comedy! The laws
of the genre will lead us out into light… Here,
wipe your nose and give me back the hanky.
I still have to wash and iron and return it
to a certain careless blonde Venetian
in the next volume. Sorry I told you off.
Best regards to your father. Remember: like a puppy!

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by Мари́на Я́ковлевна Бороди́цкая
(Marina Yakovlevna Boroditskaya)
(c. 2003)
translated by Ruth Fainlight
Published in the Journal of Foreign Literature, Number 8, 2014

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

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Корделия

Корделия, ты дура! Неужели
Так трудно было старику поддаться?
Сказать ему: “Я тоже, милый папа,
Люблю вас больше жизни”. Всех-то дел!
Хотела, чтобы сам он догадался,
Кто лучшая из дочерей? Гордячка!
Теперь он мертв, ты тоже, все мертвы.
А Глостер? О, кровавый ужас детства —
Его глазницы — сцена ослепленья —
Как будто раскаленное железо
Пролистывали пальцы, торопясь:
На вот, прочти. Я отвернусь. Тебя же
В том акте не было? Читай, читай,
Смотри, что ты наделала, дуреха!
Ну ладно, не реви. Конечно, автор —
Тот фрукт еще, но в следующий раз
Ты своевольничай, сопротивляйся:
Виола, Розалинда, Катарина
Смогли, а ты чем хуже? Как щенок,
Тяни его зубами за штанину —
В игру, в комедию! Законы жанра
Нас выведут на свет. На, вытри нос.
Давай сюда платок. Его должна я
Перестирать, прогладить и вернуть
Одной венецианской растеряхе
В соседний том. Прости, что накричала.
Отцу привет. И помни: как щенок!

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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.

“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.

Папиросники (Cigarette Pedlars) by Sergey Yesenin

Avenues so wretched,

snowbanks, bitter frost.

Desperate little urchins

with trays of cigarettes.

Wandering dirty avenues,

enjoying evil games –

all of them are pickpockets,

all are jolly thieves.

That bunch takes Nikitskaya,

this – Tverskaya Square.

They stand, sombrely whistling,

the livelong day out there.

They dash to all the barrooms

and, with some time to spare,

they pore over Pinkerton

out loud over a beer.

Let the beer be bitter –

beer or not, they’re soused.

All rave about New York,

all dream of San Frantsisk…

Then again, so wretchedly,

they walk out in the frost –

desperate little urchins

with trays of cigarettes.

.

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by Сергей Александрович Есенин (Sergei Alexandrovich Yesenin)

a.k.a. Sergey Yesenin / Esenin

(1923)

translated by Boris Dralyuk

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A recital of the poem by the actor Кирилл Радциг (Kirill Radzig).

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

Папиросники

Улицы печальные,
Сугробы да мороз.
Сорванцы отчаянные
С лотками папирос.
Грязных улиц странники
В забаве злой игры,
Все они — карманники,
Веселые воры.
Тех площадь — на Никитской,
А этих — на Тверской.
Стоят с тоскливым свистом
Они там день-деньской.
Снуют по всем притонам
И, улучив досуг,
Читают Пинкертона
За кружкой пива вслух.
Пускай от пива горько,
Они без пива — вдрызг.
Все бредят Нью-Йорком,
Всех тянет в Сан-Франциск.
Потом опять печально
Выходят на мороз
Сорванцы отчаянные
С лотками папирос.

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Information:

Nikitskaya is a radial street that runs west from Mokhovaya Street to Garden Ring in Moscow, between Vozdvizhenka Street (south) and Tverskaya Street (north).

Tverskaya Square is a square in Central Administrative Okrug in Moscow. Belorussky railway station faces the square. The streets which terminate at the square are, in counterclockwise order, Leningradsky Avenue, Gruzinsky Val, 2nd Brestskaya Street, 1st Brestskaya Street, 1st Tverskaya-Yamskaya Street, Lesnaya Street, and Butyrsky Val.

Pinkerton likely references to Allan J. Pinkerton (25 August 1819 – 1 July 1884) who was a Scottish–American detective and spy, best known for creating the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He produced numerous popular detective books, ostensibly based on his own exploits and those of his agents. Some were published after his death, and they are considered to have been more motivated by a desire to promote his detective agency than a literary endeavour. Most historians believe that Allan Pinkerton hired ghostwriters, but the books nonetheless bear his name and no doubt reflect his views.

Мужья со своими делами, нервами… (‘Always busy, plagued by anxiety…’ a.k.a ‘Husbands with their doings and nerves…’) by Boris Slutsky

Always busy, plagued by anxiety,

guilt-ridden, duty to be done –

husbands should be the first to die;

never the ones who’re left alone.

.

Wives should grow old slowly. Aim

for the four-score-and-twenty mark, even;

not every day, but from time to time

remembering their men.

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You should not have left the way

you did. That was wrong.

With a kind smile on your face

you should have lived on,

you should have lived long.

.

Until their hair turns white –

for wives, that’s the way to wait,

.

getting on with things around the home,

breaking the odd heart if they can,

and even (well, where’s the harm?)

toasting the memory of their old man.

.

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by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий

(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(1977)

translated by G. S. Smith

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Here is an alternative translation of this poem by Gerald S. Smith.

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

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Мужья со своими делами, нервами…

Мужья со своими делами, нервами,
чувством долга, чувством вины
должны умирать первыми, первыми,
вторыми они умирать не должны.

Жены должны стареть понемногу,
хоть до столетних дойдя рубежей,
изредка, впрочем, снова и снова
вспоминая своих мужей.

Ты не должна была делать так,
как ты сделала. Ты не должна была.
С доброй улыбкою на устах
жить ты должна была,
долго должна была.

Жить до старости, до седины
жены обязаны и должны,

делая в доме свои дела,
чьи-нибудь сердца разбивая
или даже — была не была —
чарку — в память мужей — распивая.