Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The river floes break in spring...


Alexander Blok
The river floes break in spring...
March 1902
translation by Greg Pavlik 


The river floes break in spring,
And for the dead I feel no sorrow -
Toward new summits I am rising,
Forgetting crevasses of past striving,
I see the blue horizon of tomorrow.

What regret, in fire and smoke,
What agony of Aaron’s rod,
With each hour, with each stroke -
Or instead - the heavens’ gift stoked,
From the Bush of Moses, the Mother of God!

Original:

Весна в реке ломает льдины,
И милых мертвых мне не жаль:
Преодолев мои вершины,
Забыл я зимние теснины
И вижу голубую даль.

Что сожалеть в дыму пожара,
Что сокрушаться у креста,
Когда всечасно жду удара
Или божественного дара
Из Моисеева куста!
 
Март 1902

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Why I am a Dostoevskyan Humanist

An explanation in 5 parts, by reference to the works of those who were not.*

'Lo! I show you the Last Man.

"What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?" -- so asks the Last Man, and blinks.

The earth has become small, and on it hops the Last Man, who makes everything small. His species is ineradicable as the flea; the Last Man lives longest.

"We have discovered happiness" -- say the Last Men, and they blink.

They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one's neighbor and rubs against him; for one needs warmth.

Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or men!

A little poison now and then: that makes for pleasant dreams. And much poison at the end for a pleasant death.

One still works, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.

One no longer becomes poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wants to rule? Who still wants to obey? Both are too burdensome.

No shepherd, and one herd! Everyone wants the same; everyone is the same: he who feels differently goes voluntarily into the madhouse.

"Formerly all the world was insane," -- say the subtlest of them, and they blink.

They are clever and know all that has happened: so there is no end to their derision. People still quarrel, but are soon reconciled -- otherwise it upsets their stomachs.

They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.

"We have discovered happiness," -- say the Last Men, and they blink.'
Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra



The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, Hans Holbein

Now, did He really break the seal
And rise again?
We dare not say….
Meanwhile, a silence on the cross
As dead as we shall ever be,
Speaks of some total gain or loss,
And you and I are free
Auden, Friday’s Child

“Wherever an altar is found, there is civilization."
Joseph de Maistre

“All actual life is encounter.”
Martin Buber, I and Thou

* model for composition stolen gratuitously from an online challenge.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Something Amiss

Looks like this curious non-review of the novel Laurus seems to have been referring to "Brahmins" as "Brahman" - I suppose republished to correct the mistake:

​Russian Brahman by Alan Jacobs | Articles | First Things

www.firstthings.com/article/2016/04/russian-brahman
First Things
Russian Brahman. by Alan Jacobs April 2016. Laurus by eugene vodolazkin translated by lisa hayden oneworld, 384 pages, $24.99. Eugene Vodolazkin's ...

​Russian Brahmin by Alan Jacobs | Articles | First Things

www.firstthings.com/article/2016/04/russian-brahmin
First Things
Russian Brahmin. by Alan Jacobs April 2016. Laurus by eugene vodolazkin translated by lisa hayden oneworld, 384 pages, $24.99. Eugene Vodolazkin's ...

Whatever his grasp of Hindu concepts, it's obvious Jacobs knows little to nothing about the tradition of Russian yurodivy, which makes this review overall kind of silly at best. Interested readers can refer to the hagiographies of Xenia of Petersburg or Feofil of the Kiev Caves Lavra to become acquainted with some of the conceptual background to the novel, both published by monastery press in Jordanville, NY in English. As a complement the Pavel Lungin movie Ostrov is worth watching carefully - the film is based partly on Feofil, though like the life of St Xenia, it explores the theme of vicarious repentance. (It was not until the third time I saw the film that I fully grasped it - the visuals are stunning and in many respects a distraction.)

All of that aside, what continues to trouble me in general is the fact that most of the reviews of Laurus that I've seen have been oriented toward theological critiques - endorsements or arguments revolving around the reviewer's reading of what the author might want us to think about religion. And yet it is obvious that Vodolazkin did not write a religious apologetic (Jacobs invokes Karamazov, which is simultaneously a religious argument and a humanistic work - but Laurus is anything but the former). Laurus deserves a review as a work of notable - even great - world literature: which is to say first and foremost an exploration of what Vodolazkin is attempting to accomplish as a writer and what that has produced as a work of literature. The lack of serious analysis is particularly puzzling given the devices Vodolazkin uses to deal with language, identity, personality, relationship, and - yes - time. We could do with a few less sermons and a bit more thought.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Nativity

Shadows flicker against the wall
within the cave it is perpetually night
(I find my vision gets dimmer with age
- when we are alleged to see more sharply -
in the low light of a single candle flame
it is getting much harder to read
year by year)
there is a form I barely am able to perceive.
I wonder if it is better here than the open air
where my eyes would surely be closed against the sun
where all forms find their origin in the one.

2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Brazil

Blown away to get my purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from 10th Planet black belt Alex Canders.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

Genevieve, Protectress of Paris


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Like a white stone in the depths of a well...

Like a white stone in the depths of a well...
Anna Akhmatova
working translation by Greg Pavlik

Like a white stone in the depths of a well
within me there lies one memory.
I can not - and do not - want to expel
this, my greatest joy and my agony.

I think that anyone who closely looks
can see this recollection reads
as harrowing sadness in a tragic book -
a warning, and a sign of need.

I know the gods forever strive
to wreck the body but cannot touch the mind;
assurance that you will forever live
as a memory I can’t leave behind.

Original:
Как белый камень в глубине колодца,
Лежит во мне одно воспоминанье.
Я не могу и не хочу бороться:
Оно - веселье и оно - страданье.

Мне кажется, что тот, кто близко взглянет
В мои глаза, его увидит сразу.
Печальней и задумчивее станет
Внимающего скорбному рассказу.

Я ведаю, что боги превращали
Людей в предметы, не убив сознанья,
Чтоб вечно жили дивные печали.
Ты превращен в мое воспоминанье.