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Showing posts from September, 2016

This poor man's marble - Joseph Brodsky

Most of us approach poems in translation as one is supposed to approach a captured animal - from the side, not headfirst. Warily, we move through a world of angles and oblique, pacific gestures. We calm the text, ease it out of its origins, and consume it at a distance. We are aware of how much we are missing in translation, and find ourselves trapped in paradox: on the one hand, we want a translation to be as faithful as possible; on the other, we want it to read well as an English poem in its own right, which thus might not be very faithful after all - a paradox caught by Borges's quip that Edward Fitzgerald's version of the Rubaiyat is clearly too good a poem to be a good translation.

In practice, when we lack, say, Russian, and read Mandelstam's poems in English, we convert them out of their poetic forms, and scan them as pieces of ornate prose. Instead of a voice, a music, an exact precision, we look for evidence of a literary mind, verbal refinement, intellectual comp…

Andrey Voznesensky: Nostalgia for the Present-Real

I don't know about the others,
But I for one feel the most strict
nostalgia, not for the past but
nostalgia for the present moment.

As though a penitent seeking God,
but access is only to the ferryman—
just so I am pleading for access.

As though I've created something odd,
or perhaps not even I—but others.
I'll collapse in the meadow and sense
a nostalgia for the living grass.

No one will separate you and I.
But when I embrace you in my arms,
I embrace you with such longing,
as though I will be deprived.

The doors of my tool shed flung wide
open into the garden won't redeem 
my isolation. I long not for great art;
I am deprived of air for the present.

When I hear the selfish tirades
of a fallen, misguided comrade,
I seek not a likeness but the original,
and pine for him, for the real.

All's formed of plastic, even the pilgrim's
tattered rags. I'm bored of living in
a sketched draft. You and I will not exist
in the future but the little country church....

And when the idiotic mafia la…

Nikolai Lugansky - Rachmaninoff - Piano Concerto No 2 in C minor, Op 18

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Valentin Serov and Leon Bakst. Seeking an ideal

Valentin Serov (1865-1911) appeared reserved, earnest, and sombre; Leon Bakst (1866-1924) was vibrant, unpredictable and a little funny - a dedicated dandy. What was it that brought together these two artists, so unlike one another? Why did their fondness for one another grow in the years after they met while publishing “Mir Iskusstva” (World of Art) magazine? The answer seems simple and complicated at the same time: deep down, they were looking for something indiscernibly similar. While their public personas were so different, both used them to protect their respective creative selves from the rude intrusions of outsiders. Both artists were successful and famous, each in his own unique way; both were chasing their dreams and looking for new paths and expressions, while remaining honest and true to themselves in their artistic pursuits. Almost exactly the same age - Bakst was a year younger then Serov - they became friendly in the second half of the 1890s, when a new art magazine was c…