Archive for Russian Literature

I’m in Tbilisi

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 25, 2013 by mikhailych

I’m in Tbilisi

-Yuri Iofe

All damned poets,

Will be able to understand this.

I wander about Tbilisi,

Back and forth,

And gnaw on impressions,

As a dog would on scraps,

And pick subjects,

With readied rhymes.

Everything is strange and new to me,

Incomprehensible and wild,

Even the Eastern sky,

The color of indigo paint,

Blind alleys,

In blinding light,

As winding as letters,

In a Georgian newspaper.

Here, the law is irrelevant,

A European mask!

Now night is falling,

Like an Arabian fairy tale.

And I observe it all,

From bottom to top,

Delirious with rhyme,

I wander about Tbilisi.

In this madness,

All life is crumpled.

But this is something,

That all damn poets will be able to understand.

Tbilisi, 1960

Translated by me.



A quick bio of Vasily Grossman

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2011 by mikhailych

A few months ago, actually, more like half a year ago, I did a biographical sketchman Grossman for Suite101. The text of that article canbe found here:


In commemoration of the 64th anniversary of the end of WWII…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2009 by mikhailych

The First Death

You know,
        There is in our soldierly fate,
That first death, Of a classmate, or a friend…
We waited for the patrol to return, in the muggy hut, 
 We were silent,
       Passing around a lone cigarette butt.
Potatoes roasted in a cast iron pot.
I rolled a cigarette,
       And handed it to my neighbor.
You know,
       We have a rule in the war:
To wait for the patrol’s return,
       And eat dinner together.
“Well, how are the guys doing out there?… 
      “Will they make it back?…”
Each one of us repeated the phrase.
He entered.
        Handed a machine gun off to the sergeant.
                 “Serezha is dead…
                              In the head…
And if you ever, 
        Had friends at the front,
You will understand this truth:
                            I expected him to return,
The way, 
        He did in the forests outside Moscow,
Wrapped in machine gun rounds. 
I waited for him in the morning.
       A snowstorm noisily raged.
                  He has to come.
                                I made breakfast.

But somewhere,
        In the deep,
                   Smolensk snowdrifts,
Lies the frozen body,
        Of my brother-in-arms.
You know,
        There is in our soldierly fate, 
That first death…
        We went around in a circle,
Talking about only one thing,
        Not a word about ourselves,
                 Only about avenging,
                               About avenging, Our friend.

1942 -Semen Gudzenko (Translated by me)


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2009 by mikhailych


By Yuri Nagibin


            There are people for whom stars hold a great significance…


            “My dear, I approach the window and see through the whirling and swirling clouds, the lone stars of the never ending heavens. No, you will not fall! God keeps you and I safe in his heart. I see the stars of the Waggoner, the most inviting of all the constellations,” wrote Werther in his last letter to Lotte, after which a shot rang out.


            Werther was the pseudonym of young Goethe and all of Goethe’s passion and torment was bestowed upon him.


            “Yuri was a strange boy,” recalls Anna Timofeevna Gagarina. “He was always pestering me, ‘Mama, why are the stars so beautiful?’ He’d clench his fist so pitifully, as if his heart hurt. ‘Well why? Why are they so beautiful?’ I remember once, still during the occupation, I told him, ‘The people call them out with divine dew or divine tears.’ He pondered that, shook his head and said, ‘If there were a God, we wouldn’t have the Germans.’ He didn’t give the stars back to God…”


            When Gagarin was already a sergeant at the flight academy he visited his parents while on leave. Having heard that her son had a fiancé in Chkalov, Anna Timofeevna constantly asked him, “Well, what’s out future daughter-in-law like?”


            “Well how can I explain it?” said Gagarin shrugging.


            “But it’s so terribly interesting!”


            “But I already showed you her photograph.”


            “What’s a photograph? Nothing but a dead picture. Of course she has a pretty face, but what’s behind it? What’s she like?”


            “I don’t know how to express it,” he said lost.


            The conversation turned to stars that shined above them on that clear August night. Gagarin looked up and was blinded by a large dazzling and radiant star.


            “There, she’s like that star!” he exclaimed joyously.


            His mother seriously and unblinkingly looked at the twinkling light of the star.


            “I understand. Marry her sonny; she’s a very good girl…”


“A unique human document.” That’s the recording of Gagarin’s communication with the Earth. Between Cedre and Dawn during that famous fight. The whole of Gagarin’s courageous, joyful, and deep soul is in that conversation. He was at times sentimental, at times sarcastic, and at times cheeky. Like when he recognized the voice of Leonov and yelled, “My regards to Blondie! I’m going further!” How sincerely, honestly, and trustingly he expressed it, “I now see a star in the right illuminator…The star is gone, its going, its going!”


When German Titov returned from his flight he told Gagarin, “You know, in space the stars don’t twinkle.”


Gagarin became a little pensive.


“You know I didn’t get a chance to notice,” he replied with a sigh. “I made all of one orbit.”


“You’ll see next time.”


“Just you wait…”


However there was no next time and Gagarin himself became a star. More welcoming than the most welcoming stars of the Waggoner; in the “heavens guarded by God.”


No date – From an anthology published in 1977


Translated by me…also published in Sovlit’s Thin Journal

New issue of Sovlit’s Thin Journal is out…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on March 5, 2009 by mikhailych

thin10 is the web’s best site for Russian Literature

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 11, 2009 by mikhailych


The people at Beekser have voted the web’s best spot for Russian Literature:
Congrats to Eric Konkol, who runs a great site, and was the first person to publish my work.

Ulbandus 11 – High/low

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2009 by mikhailych


Everyone should check out the newest issue of Ulbandus, Columbia’s Slavic Review: