Happy New Year! С новым годом! Blwyddyn Newydd Dda! Website Update 2022 and a Внутри Лапенко recommendation!

This blog is now 7 years old. Technically the anniversary was in November but I always forget to mark it.

So, what are the plans for the next year?
More of the same really. I’ve recently been trying to post poems around the time their subject, theme or date of creation are relevant but I don’t know if anyone has really noticed it.

I mention each year that I will upload reviews and such but the laptop they were stored on broke. Anyone familiar with my past reviews knows I tend to go a bit overboard with them so I might try to do some concise ones this year rather than include the exhaustive synopses featured in past ones.

So… not so much an update as a confirmation things will continue ticking over. I just fell out of the habit of saying much between poetry uploads over the years as I don’t know if anyone is that interesting in my ramblings so took this opportunity before posting a poem tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this site over the years!

Unfortunately I can’t embed the New Year’s greeting…

As part of this New Year’s post I was going to do a list of poets, authors and media I suggest from Welsh and Russian origins for those looking for starting points or recommendation but realised I need to give it a bit more time and consideration rather than rush out a list of names, brief comments and hyperlinks. So, that will be coming some time this year hopefully.

Instead let me highly recommend Anton Lapenko‘s Внутри Лапенко (Inside Lapenko) series! The first two seasons are available on YouTube with English subtitles. There is also the (unsubtitled) third season, a number of short video sketches and his seasonal special set in December 1886, which was released recently (at the time of posting).

Внутри Лапенко (Inside Lapenko)

Concept

Anton Lapenko, alongside his brothers who stand in when there are multiple people on camera, plays a range of characters in a late era Soviet town. Although a number of loosely connected comedy sketches there are overarching storylines in each season. In the first season an unnamed engineer runs afoul of a local gang leader and events spiral from there. I defy you not to be fully invested in the plight of the Engineer character by the end of the first season! In the second season the gang leader’s ex-wife takes over the town/country with a totalitarian regime and everyone joins together to depose her.

A side by side comparison of scenes from Внутри Лапенко (Inside Lapenko) and Брат (Brother)

The series is filmed to emulate the aesthetics of the late Soviet era and 1990s reflecting the filming style, dramatic beats, technology, culture, fashion and movies of the time with many references to the era (although there are ones more easily recognisable to those familiar with American films also in the second season). It acts as both a satire and love letter to the late Soviet era (mixing elements of the 1980s, 1990s and anachronistic later modern things like Alice – the Yandex equivalent of Amazon’s Alexa or adverts for their sponsors which adds to the surreal nature of scenes) with a soundtrack of popular songs from the time which will quickly become earworms you can’t forget.

Season one consists of 5 episodes of about 22 minutes average length.

Season 2 has 8 episodes which each run a little longer about 25 minutes long each on average.

The Characters

The Engineer, as the central character functions as the classic ‘little man’ of Russian culture (Ма́ленький челове́к). A small man, of low social status and origin, not gifted with outstanding abilities nor distinguished by strength of character, who satisfies himself with the small victories and moments of contentment in life. He waxes lyrical while constantly making plans about how he will spend his life with his Особа (lit. ‘person/individual’ but I personally read it as ‘my girl’ or ‘beloved’ considering the tones in which he speaks about her – if you are more familiar with the use of the term please leave a comment). Importantly we never see her face and there is a fake out at the end of season 2 where we think we have seen her face finally but it proves to be a case of mistaken identity. In fact this is a cameo by the actress, Irina Gorbacheva, who helped promote Lapenko‘s work by sharing his Instagram short videos (some of which are not on the YouTube channel).

Igor Katamaranov: A childhood friend of Engineer’s who now works as a labourer in multiple jobs. He is perpetually drunk on turpentine yet, when Engineer is in danger, is always there when needed while also having his own surreal side adventures in the background of events (including at one point living inside the Alice device somehow). My favourite moment, without spoiling when it happens, has him with a boom box playing «Туман» by Сектор Газа during one of the times Engineer needs his help.

The Journalist (Yuri): Host of ‘The Riddle of the Hole’ trying to uncover conspiracies at every corner. In the first season he has a romantic relationship with Yandex’s Alice device he ‘rescues’ from a cupboard in the Iron Sleeves hideout and in the second with Tatiana causing a love triangle to develop with his boss Richard Sapogov. The song «Время, вперёд!» by Георгий Свиридов serves as his leitmotif and theme of the programme he records.

The Iron Sleeves gang: The leader, who eventually ends up wheelchair bound, and his henchmen who have the individual habits of being on the phone to their mother, carrying a keyboard around and being a saxophone player. The leader often appears by surprise and greets the Engineer casually saying здарова отец (‘hello father’ but more tonally ‘hey, old guy’ or ‘hiya, governor’ indicating the mat tone of informal non-standard speech gangsters would affect).

Zhilin: The local police captain who seems to be a one man taskforce. He laughs at his own jokes and often imprisons people but doesn’t actually bother to lock the door despite often being unwavering in his dedication in detecting wrongdoing. At one point a pigeon is involved in shooting him.

Crimson Fantomas: The rock band consisting of blonde haired Rosa Robot and the red haired Shershen (lit: Hornet) who live next to the Engineer constantly drinking and annoying him with their noise making. They have good hearts and big dreams but Rosa is clearly an air head and Hornet is too quiet to challenge his wild ideas.

The survival expert: He appears a few times to offer the audience of his show advice how to survive dangerous circumstances like a poisonous snake bite or being shot which often leaves him in a critical condition needing medical aid. He disappears eventually from the show, presumably having died off-screen, only to make a surprise reappearance!

Richard Sapogov: The arrogant, hedonistic and self serving, vain manager of the TV station the Journalist works at. He lives only for enjoying beauty and the better things in life. He and Tatiana appear in adverts in the first season but are much more prominent in the second season onwards due to the love triangle.

Tatiana: Sapogov’s assistant and girlfriend who is initially incapable of coherent speech until, during an all out battle, an arrow lodges in her head. She begins a relationship with Yuri the Journalist when he shows her far greater affection than Sapagov who neglects her. Both she and Sapogov make brief appearances in season 1. Also, she has a collection of wooden sticks she is very fond of.

Natella: The ex-wife of the Iron Sleeves’ leader. She is an active prostitute who appears briefly in season 1 but, in season 2, eventually leads her group the Iron Heels (whose members mirror those of the Iron Sleeves) to take over the town by becoming the totalitarian president of the country!

Vsevolod Starozubov: A popular singer who is an affectionate parody of talent of the era like Eduard Khil (who you might know from the meme Mr. Tro-lo-lo). He often affects odd ‘off to the side’ looks as if constantly posing to capture the right camera he should be looking towards or for ‘cheeky’ looking photos although it humorously comes across more like one of those moving black cat clocks that were once fashionable that would look back and forth with each tick of the clock. (He is also possibly lip syncing which I recall being common in the past with British shows e.g. BBC’s Top of the Pops where people were supposedly performing ‘live’ so can easily imagine it happening in other countries).

Guidon Vishnevsky : An esoteric local artist who unexpectedly provides a surreal method of escape, in desperate times, while struggling with his own issues.

The mesmerist: Another minor character. He assists Natella using his powers to manipulate people.

There are other characters but hopefully that gives you a head start on enjoying the series.

If you are wondering, the time code at the start of each video being 01.09.1986 is an Easter egg referring to Anton Lapenko’s birth date. As for the time stamps which proceed chronologically I have no answer and invite you to speculate.

Август (August) by Boris Pasternak

As it promised without deception
the sun burst through early in the morning
with a slanting saffron strip
from the curtain to the divan.

It covered with a hot ochre
the neighbouring forest, the houses of the village,
my bed, the damp pillow
and the edge of the wall behind the book shelf.

I remembered why
the pillow was damp.
I dreamed that you came one after
the other through the forest to see me off.

You walked in a crowd, separately and in pairs,
suddenly somebody remembered that today
is the sixth of August Old Style,
the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Usually a light without a flame
comes out on that day from Mount Tabor,
and the autumn, clear as a sign,
rivets gazes to itself.

And you went through the thin, beggarly,
naked, trembling alder thicket
into the ginger-red cemetery copse
which glowed like a honey cake.

The imposing sky neighboured
the treetops that had fallen silent,
and the distance echoed and called with the long
drawn out voices of the cocks.

In the forest like a public land surveyor
death stood in the middle of the graveyard,
looking at my dead pale face
so as to dig a grave the right length.

Everyone physically sensed
a quiet voice close by.
It was my former prophetic voice
that resounded untouched by decay.

‘Farewell, azure of the Transfiguration,
and gold of the second Salvation.
Soften with a woman’s final caress
the bitterness of my fateful hour.

Farewell, years of hardship,
we will say farewell to the woman throwing
down a challenge to the abyss of humiliation!
I am your battlefield.

Farewell, spread out sweep of the wing,
free stubbornness of flight,
and the image of the world, presented in the word,
and creation, and miracle-working.’

By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1953)
from До́ктор Жива́го
(Doctor Zhivago)
translated by Richard McKane

Additional information: The poem is featured in the novel До́ктор Жива́го (Doctor Zhivago) as if written by it’s protagonist Yuri Zhivago.

The poem read by Александр Феклистов (Aleksandr Fleklistov).

Август

Как обещало, не обманывая,
Проникло солнце утром рано
Косою полосой шафрановою
От занавеси до дивана.

Оно покрыло жаркой охрою
Соседний лес, дома поселка,
Мою постель, подушку мокрую,
И край стены за книжной полкой.

Я вспомнил, по какому поводу
Слегка увлажнена подушка.
Мне снилось, что ко мне на проводы
Шли по лесу вы друг за дружкой.

Вы шли толпою, врозь и парами,
Вдруг кто-то вспомнил, что сегодня
Шестое августа по старому,
Преображение Господне.

Обыкновенно свет без пламени
Исходит в этот день с Фавора,
И осень, ясная, как знаменье,
К себе приковывает взоры.

И вы прошли сквозь мелкий, нищенский,
Нагой, трепещущий ольшаник
В имбирно-красный лес кладбищенский,
Горевший, как печатный пряник.

С притихшими его вершинами
Соседствовало небо важно,
И голосами петушиными
Перекликалась даль протяжно.

В лесу казенной землемершею
Стояла смерть среди погоста,
Смотря в лицо мое умершее,
Чтоб вырыть яму мне по росту.

Был всеми ощутим физически
Спокойный голос чей-то рядом.
То прежний голос мой провидческий
Звучал, не тронутый распадом:

«Прощай, лазурь преображенская
И золото второго Спаса
Смягчи последней лаской женскою
Мне горечь рокового часа.

Прощайте, годы безвременщины,
Простимся, бездне унижений
Бросающая вызов женщина!
Я – поле твоего сражения.

Прощай, размах крыла расправленный,
Полета вольное упорство,
И образ мира, в слове явленный,
И творчество, и чудотворство».

1953 г.

A 1954 recording of Boris Pasternak himself reading the poem.

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.

.

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’.”

Весна (Spring) by Boris Pasternak

What hundreds of buds – gluey, blurry –
stuck on twigs like cigarette-butts!
April is kindled. The park sends out
a mood of maturity, woods shout back.

And the forest’s neck is tightly noosed
by feathered throats – a buffalo netted,
groaning the way a cathedral organ,
steel gladiator, groans in sonatas.

Poetry! Be a Greek sponge with suckers –
I’ll pull you down on the damp green
plank of a garden bench beneath
all this sticky foliage – grow

lush frills and enormous fringes,
drink clouds in, absorb ravines.
And, poetry, at night I’ll squeeze you out
to the health of thirsting paper.

.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1916)
from Over the Barriers
translated by Angela Livingstone

.

Additional information: Not to be confused with the other Spring poem by Pasternak from the collection Themes and Variations. This is an alternative translation to that of Jon Stallworthy and Peter France of the same poem. This translation only covers the first part of the poem but below is the full original version in Cyrillic.

.

Весна

1

Что почек, что клейких заплывших огарков
Налеплено к веткам! Затеплен
Апрель. Возмужалостью тянет из парка,
И реплики леса окрепли.

Лес стянут по горлу петлею пернатых
Гортаней, как буйвол арканом,
И стонет в сетях, как стенает в сонатах
Стальной гладиатор органа.

Поэзия! Греческой губкой в присосках
Будь ты, и меж зелени клейкой
Тебя б положил я на мокрую доску
Зеленой садовой скамейки.

Расти себе пышные брыжжи и фижмы,
Вбирай облака и овраги,
А ночью, поэзия, я тебя выжму
Во здравие жадной бумаги.

2

Весна! Не отлучайтесь
Сегодня в город. Стаями
По городу, как чайки,
Льды раскричались, таючи.

Земля, земля волнуется,
И катятся, как волны,
Чернеющие улицы,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

По ним плывут, как спички,
Сгорая и захлебываясь,
Сады и электрички,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

От кружки плывут, как спички,
Сгорая и захлебываясь,
Сады и электрички,-
Им, ветреницам, холодно.

От кружки синевы со льдом,
От пены буревестников
Вам дурно станет. Впрочем, дом
Кругом затоплен песнью.

И бросьте размышлять о тех,
Кто выехал рыбачить.
По городу гуляет грех
И ходят слезы падших.

3

Разве только грязь видна вам,
А не скачет таль в глазах?
Не играет по канавам –
Словно в яблоках рысак?

Разве только птицы цедят,
В синем небе щебеча,
Ледяной лимон обеден
Сквозь соломину луча?

Оглянись, и ты увидишь
До зари, весь день, везде,
С головой Москва, как Китеж,-
В светло-голубой воде.

Отчего прозрачны крыши
И хрустальны колера?
Как камыш, кирпич колыша,
Дни несутся в вечера.

Город, как болото, топок,
Струпья снега на счету,
И февраль горит, как хлопок,
Захлебнувшийся в спирту.

Белым пламенем измучив
Зоркость чердаков, в косом
Переплете птиц и сучьев –
Воздух гол и невесом.

В эти дни теряешь имя,
Толпы лиц сшибают с ног.
Знай, твоя подруга с ними,
Но и ты не одинок.

Сосны (Pine Trees) by Boris Pasternak

In grass, among wild balsam,
Dog-dasies and lilies, we lie,
Our arms thrown back behind us,
Our faces turned to the sky.

The grass in the pine-wood ride
Is impenetrably thick.
We look at each other and shift
A shoulder-blade or a cheek.

And there, for a time immortal,
We are numbered among the trees
And liberated from aches,
Disease, and the last disease.

With deliberate monotony,
Like blue oil from green eaves,
The sky pours down on the ground,
Dappling and staining our sleeves.

We share the repose of the pines
To the ant’s accompaniment,
Inhaling the soporific
Incense-and-lemon scent.

So fiercely the fiery trunks
Leap up against the blue,
And under our resting heads
So long our hands rest too,

So broad our field of vision,
So docile all things on all sides,
That somewhere beyond the trunks
I imagine the surge of tides.

There waves are higher than branches,
And collapsing against the shore
They hurl down a hail of shrimps
From the ocean’s turbulent floor.

And at evening, the sunset floats
On corks behind a trawler
And, shimmering with fish oil
And amber mist, grows smaller.

Twilight descends and slowly
The moon hides all trace of day
Beneath the black magic of water,
Beneath the white magic of spray.

And waves grow louder and higher
And the crowd at the floating café
Surrounds the pillar whose poster
Is a blur from far away.

.

by Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к

(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)

from On Early Trains

(1941)

translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

A recital of the poem in Russian. Read by E. Pasternak

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

Сосны

В траве, меж диких бальзаминов,
Ромашек и лесных купав,
Лежим мы, руки запрокинув
И к небу головы задрав.

Трава на просеке сосновой
Непроходима и густа.
Мы переглянемся и снова
Меняем позы и места.

И вот, бессмертные на время,
Мы к лику сосен причтены
И от болезней, эпидемий
И смерти освобождены.

С намеренным однообразьем,
Как мазь, густая синева
Ложится зайчиками наземь
И пачкает нам рукава.

Мы делим отдых краснолесья,
Под копошенье мураша
Сосновою снотворной смесью
Лимона с ладаном дыша.

И так неистовы на синем
Разбеги огненных стволов,
И мы так долго рук не вынем
Из-под заломленных голов,

И столько широты во взоре,
И так покорны все извне,
Что где-то за стволами море
Мерещится все время мне.

Там волны выше этих веток
И, сваливаясь с валуна,
Обрушивают град креветок
Со взбаламученного дна.

А вечерами за буксиром
На пробках тянется заря
И отливает рыбьим жиром
И мглистой дымкой янтаря.

Смеркается, и постепенно
Луна хоронит все следы
Под белой магией пены
И черной магией воды.

А волны все шумней и выше,
И публика на поплавке
Толпится у столба с афишей,
Неразличимой вдалеке.