Reviewed here Dralyuk bdraluk on WordPress has put together an amazing anthology of contemporaneous writing from the 1917 Russian Revolution and its immediate aftermath It opens with the suspicious Marina Tsvetaeva s post February poem You stepped from a stately cathedral the you is Freedom itself, and Tsvetaeva s not sure she s all she s cracked up to be and ends with Mikhail Bulgakov s angry, despairing, yet overly optimistic Civil War era essay Future Prospects he predicts the British will aid the Whites and the Whites will win, but that it will take a long time to restore the standard of living and catch up with the recovering Western Europe In between are poems and short stories and essays from all over the political spectrum The quality of the poetry is generally higher than that of the prose Bulgakov s article is kind of a mess, and I wonder if it would have been included if not for his later work , but the prose introduces us a variety of lesser known in the West writers and gives voice to the defeated as Dralyuk points out, the literature of the Red side really came into its own in the 20 s, outside the scope of this anthology thus, no Babel, a writer Dralyuk has translated extensively elsewhere.In the poetry section, the undoubted standout is Peter France and Jon Stallworthy s translation Spring Rain, a beautiful poem from the hard to translate Boris Pasternak It s a lyric about the rain and the crowd going to the theater, but it s also about the feelings evoked by the February Revolution, feelings of amazement, pride, and beauty Stallworthy and France really unfolded the genius of Pasternak s poetry for me, and even if I have a few quibbles here and there, I am in awe of their ability to make the translation a great poem in English in its own right Their version of the poem ends Not the night, not the rain, not the chorusshouting Hurrah, Kerensky but nowthe blinding emergence into the forumfrom catacombs thought to have no way out.Not roses, not mouths, not the roarof crowds, but here, in the forum, is feltthe surf of Europe s wavering nightproud of itself on our asphalt Alexander Blok is represented here by The Twelve and The Scythians , the latter in a rhyming translation by Alex Miller Though it depends on the opposition of East and West which normally drives me crazy, and though its language is dated in places the term slit eyed recurs it s a powerful piece, a plea for peace and a threat all in one, calling on war torn Europe to hear the summons of the barbarian lyre which is simultaneously the ritual feast and fire of peace and brotherhood You have forgotten there s a love on Earththat burns like fire, and like all fire, destroys We love raw flesh, its colour and its stench.We love to taste it in our hungry maws.Are we to blame, then, if your ribs should crunch,fragile between our massive, gentle paws The prose section is, as I said, mixed Privshin s The Blue Banner , mentioned in the Wuthering Expectations review of the anthology and translated by Lisa Hayden of Lizok s Bookshelf, was definitely a discovery Though I was initially frustrated with its folksiness and slice of life style, it soon shaped up into an interesting allegory as the hapless main character travels to revolutionary Petrograd, winds up jailed by the Bolsheviks on transparently false charges of marauding , hears of a plan to recruit godly thugs to save Russia, and later becomes a marauder in truth albeit that his gang consists of his delusional self and one drunk guy The author was a nature writer and he represents the city itself as a deadly place full of traps both physical and moral.I also enjoyed the humorous stories of Teffi I couldn t help but do so, even when the humor was really not my sort of thing The Guillotine was translated by Rose France, and satirizes the middle class, obsessed with trivialities and minor inconveniences but seemingly indifferent to their own doom At the end, the guillotine victims, distressed by the lack of orderly queuing, think about forming a union Why should it only be other people who enjoy the perks of being guillotine operators It s a dark commentary on human nature, but very funny A Few Words About Lenin was also translated by Rose France, and it s a very cutting portrait of a party and a politician who are unscrupulous and also incompetent failing to anticipate events or spot agents provocateurs, unable to deal with situations not described by Marx and Engels She also goes after their taking advantage of their supporters illiteracy, describing a soldier who, hearing the slogan Down with annexations believes it refers to a woman named Anne Exations I have no doubt that something like this anecdote must have happened unlike the joke about soldiers in 1825 thinking that the Constitution they were demanding was the wife of Constantine but, much like that joke, it s not actually funny when you think about it Anyway, my personal gripe about political and actual illiteracy not being funny aside, Teffi s wit and powers of observation are wonderful.Yefim Zozulya s The Story of Ak and Humanity is a great satire on dictators, their arbitrariness, sentimentality, illogic, and ultimate insignificance But the people, among whom there were some good men, some of indifferent quality and some very poor human material they continue to live to this day as if Ak had never existed and there had never been any perplexing problem about the Right to Life The name Council of Public Welfare in the story is clearly a mix between the Soviets, or literally Councils, of 1917 and the Committee of Public Welfare from the French Revolution The translation was done by Emma Goldman s partner, the anarchist Alexander Berkman.In The Dragon , Yevgeny Zamyatin, author of We, which I recently reviewed here, showcases his imaginative powers but doesn t really tell a complete story there s something ultimately unsatisfying about his sketch of a city beset by dragons of the void, who speak in the Bolsheviks slangy, casually violent idiom This piece is translated by Mirra Ginsburg.Mikhail Zoshchenko s A Wonderful Audacity , translated by Rose France, is built around a simple idea the country wanted a strong government, and in the Bolshevik dictatorship, it got it Be careful what you wish for Punchy one and two sentence paragraphs and simple yet vivid rhetoric make his point They were weak and you cried, Stronger And now your wish is granted Kiss the whip that is raised above you.It s cruel, you say Yes, but, on the other hand, it is powerful There is a lot of blood, you say Perhaps there is Perhaps there is.But then again, not so much that we shall drown in it. POETRY Marina Tsvetaeva Zinaida Gippius Osip Mandelstam Anna Akhmatova Boris Pasternak Mikhail Kuzmin Sergey Esenin Mikhail Gerasimov Vladimir Kirillov Aleksey Kraysky Andrey Bely Alexander Blok Titsian Tabidze Pavlo Tychyna Vladimir Mayakovsky PROSE Alexander Kuprin Valentin Kataev Aleksandr Serafimovich Dovid Bergelson Teffi Vasily Rozanov Aleksey Remizov Yefim Zozulya Yevgeny Zamyatin Aleksandr Grin Mikhail Prishvin Mikhail Zoshchenko Mikhail Bulgakov Stories And Poems From The Russian Revolution Is A Collection Of Literary Responses To One Of The Most Cataclysmic Events In Modern World History, Which Exposes The Immense Conflictedness And Doubt, Conviction And Hope, Pessimism And Optimism Which Political Events Provoked Among Contemporary Writers Sometimes At The Same Time, Even In The Same Person This Dazzling Panorama Of Thought, Language And Form Includes Work By Authors Who Are Already Well Known To The English Speaking World Bulgakov, Pasternak, Akhmatova, Mayakovsky , As Well As Others, Whose Work We Have The Pleasure Of Encountering Here For The Very First Time In English Edited By Boris Dralyuk, The Acclaimed Translator Of Isaac Babel S Red Cavalry Also Published By Pushkin Press , Includes Works By Some Of The Best Russian Writers Some Already Famous In The English Speaking World, Some Published Here For The Very First Time It Is An Anthology For Everyone Those Who Are Coming To Russian Literature For The First Time, Those Who Are Already Experienced Students Of It, And Those Who Simply Want To Know How It Felt To Live Through This Extreme Period In History POETRY Marina Tsvetaeva, You Stepped From A Stately Cathedral , Night Northeaster Roar Of Soldiers Roar Of WavesZinaida Gippius, Now , What Have We Done To It , December Osip Mandelstam, In Public And Behind Closed DoorsOsip Mandelstam, Let S Praise, O Brothers, Liberty S Dim LightAnna Akhmatova, When The Nation, SuicidalBoris Pasternak, Spring RainMikhail Kuzmin, Russian RevolutionSergey Esenin, Wake Me Tomorrow At Break Of DayMikhail Gerasimov, I Forged My Iron FlowersVladimir Kirillov, WeAleksey Kraysky, DecreesAndrey Bely, RussiaAlexander Blok, The TwelveTitsian Tabidze, PetersburgPavlo Tychyna, Golden HummingVladimir Mayakovsky, Revolution A Poem Chronicle , To Russia , Our MarchPROSE Alexander Kuprin, Sashka And YashkaValentin Kataev, The DrumAleksandr Serafimovich, How He DiedDovid Bergelson, Pictures Of The RevolutionTeffi, A Few Words About Lenin , The GuillotineVasily Rozanov, From Apocalypse Of Our TimeAleksey Remizov, The Lay Of The Ruin Of RusYefim Zozulya, The Dictator A Story Of Ak And HumanityYevgeny Zamyatin, The DragonAleksandr Grin, UprisingMikhail Prishvin, Blue BannerMikhail Zoshchenko, A Wonderful AudacityMikhail Bulgakov, Future Prospects 4,5 stars.I m a bit like Bob Dylan at the moment Speechless.A wonderful collection of excellent prose I m not a regular non fiction anthologies reader But I enormously enjoyed this collection.I saw some names that mean a lot to me, and I became curious Russian Soviet classic in English Why not The end result I stayed AWAKE the half of the night I was hooked, I was amazed, I was proud to be able also to read ALL of these authors in the original language But I have to admit that I didn t know many names, and I googled and as a result I learned a lot.And OMG how UP TO DATE these stories are Boris Dralyuk made a great job The important historical facts that give insights into this turbulent and fateful period of time, that filled the places between the stories and poems, and brilliantly chosen literary fragmentsWOW. I received my DRC for this collection courtesy of Net Galley and Pushkin Press I thank them for the opportunity to read and review this compilation of poetry and prose will be for sale on December 13, 2016 What a crying shame it s so negative.There are a few of us left out here dinosaurs, to be sure that regard the initial two or three years of the Russian Revolution as an inspirational time, a time when the working class and the Russian peasantry cast off their shackles, ran the brutal, entitled royal family and their minions out of power and eventually to a richly deserved death, and took control of their lives and their nation When I saw this collection, I believed that this perspective would be represented here somewhere Instead, we read poetry about the Tsar s wine Oh, no They destroyed all that expensive wine Give me a break Millions of peasants freed from bondage, and all we hear about is the wine casks, and some sorrowful reflections that lament the defeat of the Mensheviks the party that tried to halt the progress of the revolution and create a bourgeois democratic state All those sorrowful White Russians weeping into their vodka.Do I have a bias Of course I do, but unlike our editor here, I admit mine The introduction to this thing, which is overlong and somewhat duplicitous, tells us that rather than relate the various political positions that were held during this cataclysmic time, we should instead look at feelings, at experiences But everyone s feelings during this tremendous upheaval, a time when the news footage at the time of the revolution shows throngs of joyful Russian workers screaming with enthusiasm, is apparently either sorrowful aw geez, the poor royals or conflicted Not one person is glad it happened Poetry and prose are, at their root, political, and in rewriting history, Dralyuk demonstrates this This collection is revisionist dross One other comment I d make is that when editors decide to republish historic writing, they are often deluded as to how much of their own prose readers are looking for For every piece, for every author, there is way too much introductory narrative I really just want to read the work itself, not so much Dralyuk s discussion of them Had I enjoyed most of the poetry and prose, I would have upgraded this review to three stars and stated that it is hard to find the original work amidst the rambling discussion Generally, the poem is short, the introduction is long lather, rinse, repeat The same is true of the prose.So to those lonely Marxists out there hoping for literature, for poetry that s in English and available readily in the US, I have to say, put that plastic away, because this isn t that. 1917 Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution by Various Authors, edited by Boris Dralyuk3.5 stars 7 out of 10I have read several books already about the Russian Revolution, and was interested in reading this volume in order to expand my knowledge of this era.The first third of the book is poetry The poems are arranged into six sections each has an introduction regarding the poets in that section, placing them in context not only covering the period of the poems, but also relating to the rest of their lives I found these introductions very clear and very interesting Whilst some of the poets, such as Akhmatova and Mandelstam, were known to me, many of them were new to me I was pleased to have this opportunity to read samples of so many poets work However I don t feel the urge to read anything further by any of these new poets My favourite poem of them all was The Twelve by Alexander Blok.The second part of the book is prose works, again with explanatory introductions to each section Although the title of the book suggests that these works are all fiction, several of them are not This part was much interesting than I expected It ranged from the acerbic nature of The Guillotine by Teffi, to the drama of Zamyatin s The Dragon.I found this volume interesting and informative.Thank you to Pushkin Press and to NetGalley for an ARC. ARC review4.5 tantalising in a good way I loved this anthology of writings from the time of the Russian Revolution and the two years after the immediacy of reactions, and seeing the variety of opinion and genre that was around at the time I took a while to get around to this ARC, and as a result feel there is not much to add in terms of description to Warwick s excellent review of it from October last year simply that I am overwhelmingly positive about the decision to include only works from in the thick of it, 1917 19, which gives it a fantastic rawness that makes it compelling in general, and perhaps especially so at a time of political upheaval which was likely barely envisaged at the time the project was started.I was delighted that pulpier writings were in the anthology, not only the Silver Age greats one would expect like Bulgakov, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva et al These pageturners were all in the form of adventure stories likely to appeal to boys those who argue that genre romance does not get its critical due to the same extent as stories for a male market would not be pleased, but adventure seems inherently likely to include current political events at a level of detail relevant to a collection like this one.Also adding to the readability is having lively short essays introductions to each set of two or three authors the switch between fiction and non, and always having context in front, rather than hidden in footnotes This would be an excellent commuting read not finished awaiting further quotes notes to be added Exactly what it says it is a collection of poetry and prose written by leading Russian authors at the time of the 1917 revolution Comprehensive and varied, well translated, and certainly a treat for Russian literature enthusiasts, it s also an accessible and enjoyable anthology for those less well acquainted with the writers featured. A timely and, for me, revelatory collection of poems and short stories from revolutionary Russia, including contributions from famous names Mandelstam, Pasternak, Bulgakov, Akhmatova as well as from many fascinating and obscure writers like Vasily Rozanov, Alexander Grin, or Mikhail Prishvin All these contributors are contextualised well by editor Boris Dralyuk s excellent chapter introductions it will be a dull reader indeed who doesn t get through his potted biographies without feeling a strong need to pursue some of their subjects further.He limits this anthology to works written before 1920, which is quite a severe limitation given that current events rarely intrude into literature until some years after the fact A comparable anthology of War on Terror literature published within three years of 9 11 would, for instance, exclude DeLillo s Falling Man, Pynchon s Bleeding Edge, Hamid s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, McEwan s Saturday and Foer s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close So what we have here is less a considered literary verdict and a jumble of immediate, often visceral, reactions.The poetry for me worked less well than the prose, though perhaps it s just harder to translate Even here there is plenty to enjoy, though I particularly liked the measured serenity of the Osip Mandelstam poem which begins In public and behind closed doors we slowly lose our minds, and then the brutal winter offers us clean, cold Rhine wine.Most of the extracts either adopt a tone of near apocalyptic tragedy over the events of 1917 or, by contrast, get swept up in feverish excitement at the possibilities A few have the poise to look at things with narrative distance most notably the examples from Teffi, who has now gone to the top of my reading list One is a satire about a near future where citizens must present themselves to be executed trying to get to the guillotine on time, the protagonists haggle with their taxi driver and complain about queue jumpers It is full on Pythonesque, and very funny The second piece is a sort of political sketch from among the crowds, where we get an amazing first hand look at some of the slogans being shouted by activists on street corners We don t need Anne Exations To hell with her They re not going to bring in that woman again Down with Anne Exations, to hell with her They re not going to bring in that woman again.The soldier honestly thought that Anne Exations was some woman who was going to be brought in.The settings presented in the collection range from the streets of Moscow and Petrograd to what Alexey Remizov rather beautifully describes as the wild mountains and boundless Gogolian steppes of rural Russia some even take place in fantasy worlds Though, as I said, there are some writers here who find the whole thing undeniably exciting, it has to be said that most of them are at best sceptical about the Bolshevik takeover, and many are horrified by it.But for or against, almost everyone profiled here seems to have agreed that what was happening was supremely Russian Perhaps that s why so many of the poems and stories seem to focus on some essential idea of Russia a Russia that for some of them was struggling to be born, and for others was gone forever The prospects that the new regime held for literature are illustrated well by considering how many of Dralyuk s biographical summaries end rather early, with a sentence about Stalinist cultural purges.But when the alien candle burns down and it too will burn down in accordance with the laws of history , we shall gather up from the candlestick the remains of the old Russian wax And we ll make a new thin candle, a two copek affair But we ll hold it in our hands, even if it s old and decrepit And let this be the dying candle that the sick man holds in his hands And we shall hold it and we shall die Vasily Rozanov, Apocalypse of Our Time Having spent the last decade writing a novel set during the Russian Revolution, I was thrilled to come across this brand new anthology of poetry and prose not just about those events, but written while they were still taking place There are times in life when historical change is so great that people can barely take a breath, let alone get perspective or bearing on their moment in history.The late twenties were full of marvelous books about the Revolution and the Civil War, such as Babel s Red Cavalry and Bulgakov s White Guard, novels and poetry written from both the migr and the Soviet perspective But this book fills a unique place on the bookshelf because it helps us understand how it feels to be in the midst of such overwhelming change, without any idea how it will all settle out It s a lot like being in a rollover car accident as everything you ve tossed onto the floor begins to rain down your head The immediacy of these poems and short fictions is what grabs you, the way people tried to understand what was happening as the events were occurring It speaks a lot to our own time of unbelieveably rapid political shifts, and how one might find something to say about this experience 2017 is the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution and the echoes to the present day are everywhere The book s poems and fictions are grouped in fascinating and surprising ways Certain writers one would never think of in the same breath like the cosmopolitan, openly homosexual Mikhail Kuzmin and the precocious bad boy peasant poet Sergei Yesenin, yet their poems both embrace the revolution and are invigorated by it, though Kuzmin perfectly exemplifies the confusion of such rapid change It seems a century has passed, or just one week What week A single day Its editor, Boris Dralyuk, wonderfully contextualizes each group of two or three writers, bringing the reader into a literary scene marked by circles like families into which these works were born In general, the poems in this volume are well known than the fiction Poets can respond very quickly to changes in events, where fiction writers often take years to digest events Many of these poets were already in their maturity at the time of the Revolution in what s known as the Silver Age of Russian literature Pushkin s being the Golden Here are the fiery, iconoclastic Tsvetaeva, the decadent, rancorous Zinaida Gippius, and the clarity of deeply cultured Mandelstam There s a beautiful translation of his famous Let s praise O brothers, liberty s dim light the great and somber year A forest of thick snares is plungedinto the boiling waters of the night.You are ascending into god forsaken years,O people sun and judge..We have bound swallows into warring legions now we cannot see the sunHere s the grave, brave dignity of Anna Akhmatova, in a stunning new translation of one of her most famous poems When the nation, suicidal a poem about the temptation to emigrate I heard a voice It called to me come here, it spoke consolingly, and leave your senseless, sinful land,abandon Russia for all time.I ll scrub your hands free of the blood,I ll take away your bitter shame,I ll soothe the pain of lossand insults with a brand new name But cool and calm, I stopped my ears,refused to hear it,not letting that unworthy speechdefile my grieving spirit There are also worker poets like Gerasimov, including his beautiful poem, Iron Flowers I forged my iron flowers beneath a workshop s smoky dome Most impressive, there are two brand new full length translations of the great Silver Age poet Aleksander Blok s monumental long poems The Twelve and The Scythians The Twelve, about twelve Red Guardsmen making their tour of Revolutionary Petrograd St Petersburg streets during a blizzard, uses the language of the street and the Revolution in a brand new way, and it seems less obscure in this translation than it usually does And the lesser known poem, The Scythians, about Russia s historical role to be a buffer between Europe and the invading Mongols, is Blok going out in a blaze of glory.For me, the jewel of the poetry section, and probably the book as a whole, is a single translation Pasternak s Spring Rain Pasternak as a nature poet was every bit the equal of rambunctious Yesenin, yet than that golden hooligan, Pasternak was a deep, cultured, subtle thinker to rival Mandelstam, with an enormous heart all his own Although Pasternak s Dr Zhivago, his great novel about the Revolution, published in the 1960 s in the West, shows much of his poetic ability, and his descriptions of nature are always glorious, I often find his poetry difficult This translation of Spring Rain helped me get my mind around Pasternak the poet and how he writes He s like a garden laid out by a master, so that the whole isn t visible from any one point, you have to walk down its paths, and let it unfold for you slowly, until you can take in the whole It grinned to the bird cherry, sobbed and soakedthe gloss of carriages, the flutter of pinesUnder the bulging moon, fiddlers in single filemake their way to the theater Citizens, form lines Puddles on stone Like a throat full of tears, deep in the heart of a rose s furnacedamp diamonds burn, and on them, on clouds,on eyelids, the wet lash of happinessThe second half of 1917 is devoted to prose work It would be a few years before the great novels and collections about the Revolution would began to emerge Yet Boris Dralyuk has found wonderful examples of stories and other prose from the period, such as the ascerbic humorist Teffi, who makes her appearance with two pieces One A few Words about Lenin, certainly will sound familiar actually, if Lenin were to talk about a meeting at which he, Zinoviev, Kamenev and five horses were present, he would say, There were eight of us In a short story The Guillotine, Teffi presents an absurdist little tale about how the bourgeoisie makes way for its own destruction It begins as a friend of the family drops in at dinnertime and is invited to stay No, I can t I m in a hurry I only popped in to say goodbye I m due to be guillotined tomorrow But Vera darling we exclaimed What a wonderful coincidence We re all scheduled for tomorrow Spend the night at my place, I said We can all go together Sasha and Yasha by Kuprin is a classic, its heroes a pilot and his little sister s pet stuffed monkey which becomes his totem The Drum by Kataev, which follows a boy in cadet school who joins the school orchestra so he can visit his girlfriend an extra hour a week, shows the sudden changes in the boys lives as the revolution breaks out There s a sobering small essay by Bulgakov, who fought on the White side in the South, and a furious little piece by Zoshchenko, who later became a well known humorist, bemoaning the worship of the strong very resonant for our times Stories by Zamiatin, Alexander Grin, and Prishvin, were other favorites in the collection It is a gripping and emotionally challenging experience to read these Russian writers struggling with and reacting to the turmoil of their times exactly one hundred years ago, and to see many of the same issues which are coming back to haunt us in different clothing.
Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the
- 236 pages
- Boris Dralyuk
- 22 October 2017 Boris Dralyuk