A FEW THINGS ABOUT MANDELSTAM.

I finally got my very own copy of Clarence Brown’s classic Mandelstam, and I’m reading it with great pleasure and learning all sorts of interesting things. A few of them:
1) From page 2:

…it was in fact [his wife Nadezhda] who had insisted to Mandelstam himself that the poems be written down. In the most literal sense, he was no ‘writer.’ He was contemptuous of paper and ink, kept his poems in his head, and believed so strongly in their objective existence that once he had finished them he had no fear of losing them…. In the autobiographical Chetvertaia proza (Fourth Prose) he furiously megaphones:
I have no manuscripts, no notebooks, no archives. I have no handwriting because I never write. I alone in Russia work from the voice while all around the bitch-pack writes. What the hell kind of writer am I?! Get out you fools!

A writer who doesn’t write!
2) From page 89: “Mandelstam despised translation, especially translation in verse, even though Innokenty Annensky, a poet revered by Mandelstam and himself a masterful translator, had urged him to practise that discipline as a means of learning verse technique.” One result (Nadezhda is speaking):

In Voronezh, he and I translated some Maupassant. I think he did ‘Yvette.’ I took the manuscripts to Moscow and sat down to correct them and proofread what the typist had done, and suddenly I realized that some sort of butler was talking in the story. There wasn’t any in the text. I thought it must be another edition. Took another edition out: no butler. Then it dawned on me what had happened. Mandelstam hadn’t even translated — he’d described one of the illustrations! There was an illustration in the book showing some sort of very dignified butler. I mean, he was so bored by translation that he couldn’t even read the text!


3) Mandelstam kept falling in love with other women, which naturally put a strain on his marriage, though Nadezhda won out in the end. On pages 121-22 Brown writes, “At about this time Mandelstam fell in love with Olga Vaksel, about whom little is known except that she later emigrated to Norway, where she died. He wrote a number of poems to her…. His affair with her, though evidently brief, was very serious. Nadezhda Yakovlevna told me: ‘It was the one occasion in our life when we were on the verge of getting a divorce.’” But now we know quite a bit about Olga; I’ve discovered by googling around that she was Olga Aleksandrovna Vaksel (1903-32), known to her intimates as “Lyutik.” Her father, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, was from an old military family and kept “hussar habits” in his retirement; her mother, Yulia Fedorovna Lvova, was from an old Petersburg family of the intelligentsia (she was a pianist and composer, and her father had been a political exile). Her parents got divorced in 1905. Lyutik had light brown hair and dark eyes—Akhmatova later called her a “blinding beauty.” She had literary and artistic interests; she fell in love quickly and deeply but fell out of love suddenly and irrevocably. Mandelstam’s brother Evgeny was briefly engaged to her and lamented that she had “slipped away.” In 1921 she married Arseny Fedorovich Smolevsky and had a son, but felt trapped and got a divorce. She got a job with the film studio Factory of the Eccentric Actor (FEKS), where she became friends with Mandelstam and his wife (they had previously all met at Max Voloshin‘s place in the Crimea). Mandelstam fell madly in love with her, but she was did not want to betray Nadezhda and refused him. She wound up marrying the Norwegian vice-consul in Leningrad, Christian Irgens Hvistendahl (1903-1934), and going with him to Oslo, where she dictated her memoirs to him, wrote some final poems, and on October 26, 1932, shot herself with his revolver. (If you read Russian, there’s more about her here.)
In the early ’30s, Mandelstam fell for the poet and translator Maria Petrovykh, who turned out to be interesting enough, and a significant enough person in Russian literature, for me to spend part of today writing a Wikipedia article about her.

Comments

  1. John Emerson says:

    I read something once to the effect that Mandelstam owned nothing and lived like the lilies of the field, and at some point applied to the government for an overcoat and was turned down.

  2. John Emerson says:

    I read something once to the effect that Mandelstam owned nothing and lived like the lilies of the field, and at some point applied to the government for an overcoat and was turned down.

  3. BTW, I don’t know if this was already mentioned around here, but Mandelstam’s works seem to have passed into the public domain on January 1.

  4. michael farris says:

    I am so looking forward to denouncing my enemies as a “bitch-pack”!!!!

  5. Hi LH, for those who read Italian, Elisabetta Rasy wrote a beautiful biography of Mandelstam and his wife, entitled La scienza degli addii.

  6. AJP Crown says:

    Isabella Massardo, you ought to comment more often. It’s been bothering me that there are no Italians here, nor few if any fluent speakers of that important literary language.

  7. AJP Crown says:

    Slightly off-topic, but language-related:
    Sullenberger and Skiles described the moment when a flock of geese struck the jet, … “His instinct was to duck,”

  8. at some point applied to the government for an overcoat and was turned down.
    The story is better than that: he applied to Maxim Gorky (who was in charge of all things related to writers and literature) for a sweater and a pair of trousers, the ragged clothing that had sufficed in the Crimea being totally unsuited to freezing Petrograd. As Brown puts it, “In the immemorial manner of bureaucratic chieftains, Gorky allowed half the request, the sweater, but cancelled the trousers, saying something to the effect that Mandelstam deserved no more.”

  9. Did Gorki say that if Mandelstam made a few revisions he might also be awarded pants?
    My “overcoat” probably sneaked over from Gogol.

  10. Did Gorki say that if Mandelstam made a few revisions he might also be awarded pants?
    My “overcoat” probably sneaked over from Gogol.

  11. i confess i’ve never read much of Mandelshtam
    i know only his ” Bessonitsa, Gomer, tugie parusa..” and two-three poems addressed to MT in his Tristia, the other day i’ve tried to read Tristia, i need repeated reading to get it fully i guess
    i’m so glad that his works are now in the public domain, would you post the links, please? if it’s possible

  12. Public domain is kind of irrelevant when it comes to Russian, since pretty much everything is online anyway. You can find just about all his stuff here.

  13. hm, ailaas erexeer avdraa uhaa gej
    which means instead of asking the neighbour look into your cupboard
    i always read libru to read its foreign prose translations, but almost never the russian lit part, strange
    thanks anyway

  14. J. Del Col says:

    It’s a good thing Sullenberger didn’t quail.

  15. AJP Crown says:

    Yesss!

  16. AJP Crown says:

    Sorry I said Italian was an ‘important’ language, like I work for Christies. I’ve been shoveling snow all day (2 feet), and my brain was cold.

  17. To the humble Norse, all other languages seem important.

  18. To the humble Norse, all other languages seem important.

  19. Forever Norsing around. Storking the fires of discontent. Pulling the feathers off the less well-endowned. Snipeing at Hungarians.

  20. Some say that Sullenberger was just promoting his safety consultant business.

  21. Some say that Sullenberger was just promoting his safety consultant business.

  22. They’re just jealous of our pillaging skillz.

  23. Then they take Berlin! (da-da-da, da-daaaaa)

  24. This tribadic “Mandelstam kept falling in love with other women” stuff just doesn’t float my boat, I guess. Hat, could you provide some links to good translations of a thing or two by Mandelstam? You may remember that my Russian was last exercised in 1970. My reading never rose above the level of Дама с собачкой and “A young man’s love for his tractor”.

  25. Not really; Mandelstam, like many Russian poets (hell, like most poets everywhere, I guess) has not been well served by translation into English. I gave it a try here and here, and occasionally I think about doing more. It’s bitchin’ hard, though.

  26. My goodness, Hat! Don’t stop now.

    Take—for the joy of it—out of my palms

    a little sunlight and a little honey,

    as Persephone’s bees commanded.
    The unmoored boat is not to be untied,
    nor are fur-shod phantoms to be heard, nor—
    in this dense life—is fear to be overcome.
    The only thing that’s left to us is kisses:
    furry, like the little bees
    who die in midair, flying from their hive.
    They rustle in the night’s transparent thickets,
    their homeland the dense forest of Taygetus,
    their nourishment: time, honeysuckle, mint…
    Here, take—for the joy of it—my wild gift,
    this necklace, dry and unattractive,
    of dead bees who turned honey into sun.

    I have no idea what the feel of this is in Russian. There was just one thing I balked at, although I agree 100-pro with you on

    (by my own theory of translation) you have to use the same word as you use to render the same Russian word that turns up a few lines later in its basic meaning

    On the assumption that the same word for “fur” occurs in the second and third stanzas, the word pelt came to mind. Maybe this is a way of softening the grate (for me) in “furry kisses” – by a slight Hopkins-twist. Perhaps “The unmoored boat is not to be untied” means something like “you cannot free yourself if you’ve never been tied down”.
    So here my exuberant, slightly impertinent response:

    Take—for the joy of it—out of my palms

    a little sunlight and a little honey,

    as Persephone’s bees commanded.
    The unmoored boat cannot be freed,
    nor pelt-shod phantoms heard, nor—
    in this dense life—can fear be overcome.
    The only thing that’s left to us is kisses:
    brief-pelted, like the little bees
    who die in midair, flying from their hive.
    They rustle in the night’s transparent thickets,
    their homeland the dense forest of Taygetus,
    their nourishment: time, honeysuckle, mint…
    Here, take—for the joy of it—my wild gift,
    this necklace, dry and homely,
    of dead bees who turned honey into sun.

  27. I can’t believe I just did that – sticking my paws into your translation. Sorry, Hat! I am impressed by your translation, otherwise I wouldn’t have … (shut up, Grumbly).

  28. Hat, what would it take to get you to translate more and publish it?
    We got bribes, we got threats. There’s a guy tracking your movements. You’d best cooperate. Nobody wants anyone to get hurt.
    Some of the best translations I’ve ever seen, regardless of the original.

  29. Hat, what would it take to get you to translate more and publish it?
    We got bribes, we got threats. There’s a guy tracking your movements. You’d best cooperate. Nobody wants anyone to get hurt.
    Some of the best translations I’ve ever seen, regardless of the original.

  30. No chocolate milk for you tonight, Grumbly, so off to bed.

  31. No, no, you can stick your paws into my translations any time, I welcome feedback. But you can’t use “pelt” because that’s a very different thing than “fur”; it’s the equivalent of “hide,” and there’s a different Russian word for it (шкура, shkura). There’s pretty much no way to translate мех (mekh) other than “fur.” But it’s not the same word in the third stanza, that’s мохнатые (mokhnatye), which means ‘hairy, shaggy’ and is etymologically related to мох (mokh) ‘moss.’ I’m a little embarrassed about translating it as “furry,” but calling kisses “hairy” or “shaggy” sounded icky. I welcome suggestions. (And I thank everyone for the encouragement; I promise I will try to do some more.)

  32. The unmoored boat is not to be untied, nor are fur-shod phantoms to be heard,
    nor—in this dense life—is fear to be overcome.

    No, I don’t know what “The unmoored boat is not to be untied means”
    If I might venture an interpretation, untying an unmoored boat is like taking a car just because the keys are in the ignition. Easy, but not without consequences. The “fur-shod phantoms” can only be a very early reference to furries, most likely forbidden fruit in those days.
    It could have happened that way.

  33. You can call it “encouragement” if you want, but you know, there may be consequences if these poems don’t get translated.

  34. You can call it “encouragement” if you want, but you know, there may be consequences if these poems don’t get translated.

  35. This morning at work, I’m having to type with my nose, because my paws are all sticky with some sweetish substance. There was even a disgusting dead grumblebee that fell into my coffee when I tried to shake it off.

  36. Victor Sonkin says:

    One should be careful about Nadezhda’s versions of events. She was known to have what one researcher called ‘totalitarian memory’, editing the events and facts in Mandelshtam’s life the way she thought proper. That does not undermine her heroism, of course.

  37. True, with the proviso that we all have such memories.

  38. I’ve given some Mandelstam poems a try here. My translation of the “Take from my hands…” poem is much inferior to yours, I’m afraid, but I did what I could.
    I also love this quote I found recently:

    Никогда я не мог понять Толстых и Аксаковых, Багровых внуков, влюбленных в семейственные архивы с эпическими домашними воспоминаниями. Повторяю — память моя не любовна, а враждебна, и работает она не над воспроизведением, а над отстранением прошлого. Разночинцу не нужна память, ему достаточно рассказать о книгах, которые он прочел, — и биография готова.
    I could never understand the Tolstoys and the Aksakovs … so in love with their family archives, their epic domestic recollections. I repeat – memory for me is not loving, it is hostile, and it works to separate from the past, not to reproduce it. A commoner-intellectual doesn’t need memory; it suffices for him to recount the books he has read – and his biography is complete.

  39. I should say that if the translation is too free, it’s because I oriented it towards reading out loud and so tried to preserve as much of the rhythm as I could. I was only successful occasionally, though.

  40. Slawkenbergius, which era of history do you study?

  41. Slawkenbergius, which era of history do you study?

  42. I’m applying for grad school to study 18th century Russia, but the work I’ve published so far has been on 18th century New York.

  43. I’ve given some Mandelstam poems a try here.
    Wow, those are good—I think I like them better than mine, and they’re certainly better than the published stuff that’s available. Keep it up!
    And I look forward to seeing what you have to say about 18th-century Russia when you’ve become an expert. I often think Russia was never so well governed as by those 18th-century gals, and one of the worst of the many bad things crazy mother-hating Paul did was prevent any woman from taking the throne after him.
    Yeah, Mandelstam had serious family issues; he never brought people home when he was living with his parents, and he never mentioned his brothers in his works.

  44. My favorite Russian historian is Musorgsky. He didn’t make a fetish of “facts” and “accuracy”.
    I’m a Swedish history buff, which inevitably involves Russia. I still think that if Karl XII had been a little more patient, Sweden would be a great power and Russia wouldn’t, and maybe not Prussia either. Or if his supply train had reached him. Or if he had succeeded in marrying a Danish princess right before her father died mysteriously.

  45. My favorite Russian historian is Musorgsky. He didn’t make a fetish of “facts” and “accuracy”.
    I’m a Swedish history buff, which inevitably involves Russia. I still think that if Karl XII had been a little more patient, Sweden would be a great power and Russia wouldn’t, and maybe not Prussia either. Or if his supply train had reached him. Or if he had succeeded in marrying a Danish princess right before her father died mysteriously.

  46. Thanks, I really appreciate it!
    18th-century-wise, I’m mainly interested in Lomonosov, especially his efforts at shaping Russian intellectual culture. I think it’s fascinating that he’s come down in popular history as a kind of Slavophile archetype, whereas in reality he was much more of a classic Enlightenment man of letters. The pickings in this kind of history are much slimmer, but there’s a lot to be learned.

  47. AJP Krona says:

    What would Sweden have had to gain by becoming a great power? Karl 12th may not have known it, but there’s no point for countries that only have twenty people living in them. The economy doesn’t work like it does/did in Prussia or Britain or now the US.

  48. Tell that to Gustavus Adolphus.

  49. AJP Crown says:

    i was at school with a boy called Lomonosov, who had enormous balls. He was very nice. Do you think they could be related, or is it a common name?

  50. AJP Crown says:

    They didn’t know it in the 18th century, but I know better.

  51. AJP Crown says:

    And they certainly didn’t know it it the 17th.

  52. Slawkenbergius, amazing translation of “Take from my hands…”, reading this translation I totally understood the poem for the first time. It’s all a love poem, not just bits of it. Maybe the parallel construction of the English makes that easier to see.
    But the poem is not interesting just because it is a love poem–there’s plenty of those around. That’s why Hat’s translation has made the poem seem so Russian and given it texture that makes it worth looking twice at. I’m not just saying that out of Hattish loyalty. It somehow reminds me of poems like maybe Sandberg’s where the sentence structure is so convoluted you could never diagram it and only a native speaker could read it through from beginning to end with comprehension. And only a native speaker could get all the nuance of the word choices and the dark feeling put into a light subject. Last night when Hat wrote, “But it’s not the same word in the third stanza, that’s мохнатые (mokhnatye), which means ‘hairy, shaggy’ and is etymologically related to мох (mokh) ‘moss.’”… I first started thinking about the translation problem– would “velvet” give the same idea?–it’s used to describe the covering of moose antlers–but then I realized Hat had given the key already by providing some impromptu footnotes and I was already inside this language that I don’t know, understanding the complexity that Mandelstam had put into the poem. Maybe the poem should be published with the original, the two translations, and extensive Hattish footnotes about the etymology of the word choices.

  53. oops, that would be Carl Sandburg.

  54. Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina has beautiful portrayals of the three types in Geertz’s modernization theory: the modernizer (Golytsin), the old school traditionalist (Khovansky), and the purist traditionalist (Dosifei). You also have Peter’s palace guard replacing the old corrupt palace guard (the Strelsy).
    And the fanfare of Peter’s guard (“toy soldiers”) is wonderfully Western compared to all the other music. So is the fanfare in Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, written later. (Khovanshchina was written before the 1812 Overture, but not performed until later.) Finally, Jefferson Airplane in Volunteers of America played a version of the Soviet song Полюшко Поле. And there’s Russian history for you.

  55. Musorgsky’s Khovanshchina has beautiful portrayals of the three types in Geertz’s modernization theory: the modernizer (Golytsin), the old school traditionalist (Khovansky), and the purist traditionalist (Dosifei). You also have Peter’s palace guard replacing the old corrupt palace guard (the Strelsy).
    And the fanfare of Peter’s guard (“toy soldiers”) is wonderfully Western compared to all the other music. So is the fanfare in Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, written later. (Khovanshchina was written before the 1812 Overture, but not performed until later.) Finally, Jefferson Airplane in Volunteers of America played a version of the Soviet song Полюшко Поле. And there’s Russian history for you.

  56. You make a good point, Nijma. Hat’s translation is, I would say, much more philological than mine–and so it allows access to more of the original complexities. I like to ramble about my theories of translation, but when I sit down in front of a text (whether poetry or academic prose) they almost always dissolve completely. At that point I only have one imperative: to make the text sound as natural to me in English as it does in Russian, or at least make it evoke similar feelings. So I end up putting more of myself into it to make up for the lacunae in the literal work.
    I think Russian translators do this very often when translating into Russian; see, for instance, this recent translation of Jack London’s (awful) early poems. You can compare the translation and the original, but they’re quite distant from one another (I’d say the Russian version is better, actually). If it were done literally, the translation would probably be unreadable.

  57. (Although it’s amusing how that translator read “with apologies to Henry of England”–in “He Never Tried Again”–as “мои извинения в адрес англичанина Генри.” Also, it’s probably worthwhile to note that Russians are obsessed with Jack London’s novels to a much greater extent than anyone in the West is, which is what probably gave the impetus for the translation in the first place.)

  58. I think that Slawkenbergius and Hat should collaborate on a book of translations. Probably not work together, just each produce as many translations as they can.
    20 good translations would make a book. I’m sure we could find a publisher, if only at the 500-copy chapbook level.

  59. I think that Slawkenbergius and Hat should collaborate on a book of translations. Probably not work together, just each produce as many translations as they can.
    20 good translations would make a book. I’m sure we could find a publisher, if only at the 500-copy chapbook level.

  60. I was actually planning on eventually producing enough Silver Age translations to make a book, but a cooperative project would be much more valuable and interesting. (I think this week I’ll be putting up some poems by Maximilian Voloshin. I generally put up new work every couple weeks–we have a biweekly poetry reading, and I feel obliged to have something to share.) “The Corresponding Society,” which is our little Brooklyn writers’ collective, is also a press of sorts, although it’s very fly-by-night and we make barely enough to recoup printing costs. Still, we have a couple book projects in the works–and our stuff is even perfect-bound, not stapled! So it’s certainly a possibility.

  61. Seriously, you could sell subscriptions here. I’d be willing to put money up front.

  62. Seriously, you could sell subscriptions here. I’d be willing to put money up front.

  63. Damn, if I were still in NYC I could hang out with your writers’ collective.

  64. I’m sure we could find a publisher
    Isn’t that stuff all done with on-demand printing these days?

  65. There’s better than on-demand of you have any audience at all.

  66. There’s better than on-demand of you have any audience at all.

  67. I’d love to see a hat/slawkenbergius translation chapbook. I don’t read Russian, and these translations that I just read today by the two of them are my first introduction to Mandlestam. They are fabulous. I learn so much more about a poem, and a language, from reading two translations than I ever could from reading one. 20 poems, translated by each of them, with the Russian and an interlinear gloss? Also, re: furry kisses – this has a resonance of beardedness that other options don’t.

  68. this has a resonance of beardedness

    So you’re insinewating that that nice Mr. Mandelshtam wrote that for two Gay Bear friends of his? I don’t think so, Mr. Smartypants! All that pervert stuff only got off the ground back in the 80′s. <puff> So them guys couldn’t die in mid-air when the poem was wrote, even if they was around. It just goes to show. <hack-kaff>

  69. furry kisses
    Why would Mandelstam want to kiss a woman with a beard?

  70. Yeah, I have reluctantly decided that “furry kisses” is wrong, even though I like the sound of it. I’m provisionally going with “shaggy.”

  71. 20 poems, translated by each of them, with the Russian and an interlinear gloss?
    For what it’s worth, this is more or less what I put on the blackboard last weekend for beginning level English. (It serves as an icebreaker, a quick diagnostic in an environment that is becoming more and more multilevel, and the first example of student work I’m supposed to have at the end of the semester for the student file.) The first question in English was “What’s your name?” Above each word in English I wrote the Spanish word as the students translated it for me. So the notes ended up looking like qué/es/tu/nombre. But that’s not good Spanish at all, and it confuses them. When talking about names, Spanish uses a word that means “which one”. So in “good Spanish” it would be “¿Cuál es tu nombre?” So the students get to see what the actual meaning is in their own language (for comprehension), while they start to get an instinctive idea of how to put sentences and contractions together and how to think about names in English. (Maybe that’s a bit meta for the first day of class, but it does get them to put their names on their papers.)

  72. “shaggy.”
    That was a joke…wasn’t it?

  73. Of course, I’ve never kissed a woman, so you’re on your own there.

  74. You can slip up something nasty on мох, so it’s like necking for the first time:


    The only thing that’s left is fumbled kisses:

    failing like the little bees

    who die in midair, flying from their hive.

    ‘Course you don’t die just because the teeth knock against each other. But I don’t know any Russian. Just sayin’.

  75. “fur-tive kisses”?

  76. “fumbled?”
    Are you kidding? This guy was doing marriage AND serial infidelity. Not exactly inexperienced. And even if he was a fumbler, he wouldn’t believe himself to be one. Oh, no, he had something hot enough going to write a poem about it, but it didn’t go anywhere, hence the boat that was left at the dock, even though it would have been easy enough to take it without getting caught.

  77. I’m definitely game for producing a chapbook. Thankfully it’s the kind of project that can be comfortably left on the back burner until it starts growing мох.

  78. How many translations do our two poets have so far? I’m hot to trot.
    I think that a rule to follow is to translate all of the poems that you can translate to your satisfaction, rather than trying to translate everything, or all the most important poems, etc. I believe that that was Rexroth’s practice, and to me he’s the best translator ever.
    it wouldn’t even have to be all Mandelstam. All Russian, though, I’d think.

  79. How many translations do our two poets have so far? I’m hot to trot.
    I think that a rule to follow is to translate all of the poems that you can translate to your satisfaction, rather than trying to translate everything, or all the most important poems, etc. I believe that that was Rexroth’s practice, and to me he’s the best translator ever.
    it wouldn’t even have to be all Mandelstam. All Russian, though, I’d think.

  80. I’ve got the ones on my website, plus two (to be five tomorrow) poems by Voloshin, plus a translation of Gastev (whom I discovered thanks to this blog!). So I have 26 or so, many of which require considerable editing.
    (I should also recommend A. S. Kline’s collections, which are excellent and difficult to top.)
    I’d prefer it not to be all Mandelstam: I think he’s a great poet, of course, but he doesn’t resonate with me as much as, say, Pasternak does, and I find it hard to read a lot of his poems at once. All 20th-century or all Silver Age would probably be a better plan. Definitely all Russian.

  81. it’s the kind of project that can be comfortably left on the back burner until it starts growing мох.
    I fear for your safety at the hands of Emerson’s Dravidian thugs. Maybe you had better have a plan, or at least SAY you have a plan. Like for instance a virtual Russian coffeeshop where you can sip expresso, if that’s what Russians drink, or maybe even Stoli, on every second Tuesday of the full moon and throw variations of possible translations at each other while the rest of us speculate on the romantic peccadilloes or мохie of the various writers.

  82. Don’t forget to plan for the sequel. Think of what might have happened if they had killed off Darth Vader in the first film.

  83. I’d say all Silver Age, for a reasonable limitation. Otherwise we’ll be diving into Arseny Tarkovsky and Bella Akhmadulina and Brodsky and who knows what all, and we’ll never come up for air.

  84. So do we have a deal? I’ll donate $100, but act quickly before I go broke for entirely unrelated reasons.

  85. So do we have a deal? I’ll donate $100, but act quickly before I go broke for entirely unrelated reasons.

  86. Sure! I don’t think there’s any need to worry about money yet, though. I’d be more comfortable if we had an actual product before we started accepting donations.
    How many poems? 40 pages of originals would be a good number, since it would give us an even 100-page book.
    Also, what about the title? I was thinking “Precious Vintages,” as a reference to Tsvetaeva’s “Моим стихам, как драгоценным винам/ Настанет свой черед.” But I’m open to suggestions.

  87. Why don’t you all give it a title after you see what it is. Then you don’t limit your creativity if it goes in an unexpected direction. Or is that how it’s usually done? You could always give it a “desert storm” sort of secret code name like “the vodka files”. Does everyone in the world except me know what characterizes a “silver age”?

  88. why it should be the vodka files? if it’s a joke it’s a tasteless joke

  89. It wasn’t really ill-intended, read. She was just choosing something random and Russian.

  90. It wasn’t really ill-intended, read. She was just choosing something random and Russian.

  91. something random and Russian being the vodka piles?
    please, whatever suits you etc but not when people are talking about Mandelshtam and Tsvetaeva

  92. Yes, Russia has the best vodka, Stolichnaya. It is the most Russian thing we have here in America. Since Hat said he was sad because he didn’t live in New York anymore, and couldn’t visit their writers group, I was imagining them together in a dark restaurant with a candle on the table and a bottle of vodka, as they gestured wildly and scribbled fragments of poetry.
    The real Russians in Chicago don’t do anything nearly so colorful–the ones I have met like to go here, an incredibly beautiful jewel of a building with light coming through the ceiling and perfect acoustics for those long stand up services with the a cappella chanting.
    What’s so bad about vodka? I know Hat doesn’t really drink; it was just an imaginary scenario.

  93. Nidge, vodka may have a more negative significance in Russia than here. Cheap booze was not been good for the Russians.

  94. Nidge, vodka may have a more negative significance in Russia than here. Cheap booze was not been good for the Russians.

  95. My local cable tv provider NetCologne has a Russian station мтв for expats. Almost every one of the films that I’ve seen (well, watched for a while, since I can’t follow the dialog), both in contemporary and historical settings, has at least 2 or 3 characters who are always boozing and exhibiting drunken behavior – no-goods and wheeler-dealers. Even the other characters consume astonishing quantities of vodka. The films seem to offer more of a realist than a sociocritical take.

  96. “Precious Vintages” is right out; it sounds like some Victorian anthology with a dreamy-eyed Rossettiesque damsel on the cover. But I agree with Nidge: first the product, then the title.
    As for read, he’s not even Russian and shouldn’t be taking offense on their behalf. I like vodka and Russians like vodka. Let the vodka jokes roll!

  97. AJP Crown says:

    Russian station мтв
    Isn’t alcohol advertising on tv regulated (i.e., prohibited) in Tyskland? tysk, tysk, if it isn’t, assuming MTB is for kids, as it is here.

  98. As for read, he’s not even Russian and shouldn’t be taking offense on their behalf.
    Russians wouldn’t say anything out of politeness perhaps, but i don’t care, i always say whatever i feel like defending
    when i think Russia i think first birches, Esenin, Russian songs, not vodka and alcoholism
    when about America, the first thing i recall is Manhattan, The Empire State building’s top in the fog, the first thing i saw from the plane, not racism or lynchings, i think you get what i’m trying to say
    one thing if those jokes are made as ,like, praise of a bohemian lifestyle or something and another as the national stereotypes which always sound degrading imo, even if they are made out of camaraderie
    Russian poetry is really something very pure and noble and like a sanctuary, for me at least, and i’m humorless when the poetry threads degrade into the discussions of Russian alcoholism

  99. Read is a she. And I’ve known other Central Asians who, like her, identify with Russian culture, perhaps the way many Indians identify with British culture. They access world culture through Russian.

  100. Read is a she. And I’ve known other Central Asians who, like her, identify with Russian culture, perhaps the way many Indians identify with British culture. They access world culture through Russian.

  101. Except that Russia(n), like America(n), like Brit(ain), is not a world culture. A world of culture, maybe. A self-contained world with pannoetic, all-embracing, hegemonic tendencies, yes. I’ll have a second helping, thanks – after all, I’ve never had to eat anything else.

  102. i don’t identify with Russian culture, i appreciate Russian literature, poetry, film and animation, the way i appreciate Japanese cratfs, haiku or American music, jazz/rock etc
    i don’t like many Russian things too, their chauvinists, nationalists, ‘Russian’ temperament, exaltation, Russian dance for example i don’t get and won’t perhaps miss if it were to disappear
    i remember my sister told me about a Russian provodnitsa who was reading Tsvetaeva and, like, weeping loudly! and then a little after that demanding bribes from the smuggler-traders, so disgusting
    always recall her when i think about that, “Russian exaltation”

  103. Read is a she.
    Ah yes, I’d known that but forgot. Sorry! As for defending Russian culture, I understand the impulse, but surely you can see we’re all fans of Russian poetry here, and we make jokes about everything. Don’t check your sense of humor at the door.

  104. Grumbly, I read “Nausea” in English. Read read the book in Russian (or maybe Mongolian). Most speakers of the less-prominent languages experience world culture through one of the more-prominent languages, such as Russian.

  105. Grumbly, I read “Nausea” in English. Read read the book in Russian (or maybe Mongolian). Most speakers of the less-prominent languages experience world culture through one of the more-prominent languages, such as Russian.

  106. i read Nausea in English last November only, i started to read in English last two years, before that it was not very serious reading, just detective stories, the bestsellers something
    so my reading was mostly in Rissian, true
    but David Copperfield,for example, Bleak house or Robinson Crusoe i read in Mongolian, so never could read those again in English or Russian, it sounded not the same
    well, Russian is very important language for me, of course, but I don’t identify with Russian culture, real life is my language, literature, reading as something like hobby may be Russian
    well, i shut up about myself now, just JE keeps saying i’m like Russian and i’m not and even think anything prominent in Russian culture was born due to the mix of many influences where ‘our’ contribution was not small
    I like to think that Bunin, Nabokov, Gumilev, Kandinsky,or say Lenin were all of our blood and genes, they simply wouldn’t have existed who they were
    it may sound obnoxious, but it’s true if not Pushkin’s ‘arap’ genes who knows would his poetry become what it is

  107. For some reason I’m reminded of Blok:
    Мильоны – вас. Нас – тьмы, и тьмы, и тьмы.
    Попробуйте, сразитесь с нами!
    Да, скифы – мы! Да, азиаты – мы,
    С раскосыми и жадными очами!
    Для вас – века, для нас – единый час.
    Мы, как послушные холопы,
    Держали щит меж двух враждебных рас
    Монголов и Европы!

  108. (He’s being ironic, of course.)

  109. Sorry Read. I was responding to someone who said that it was none of your business because you’re not Russian. As I have said, I am highly impressed by your cultural breadth, especially given that you are a science or medical researcher of some sort.

  110. Sorry Read. I was responding to someone who said that it was none of your business because you’re not Russian. As I have said, I am highly impressed by your cultural breadth, especially given that you are a science or medical researcher of some sort.

  111. but David Copperfield,for example, Bleak house or Robinson Crusoe i
    read in Mongolian, so never could read those again in English or Russian, it sounded not the same
    well, Russian is very important language for me, of course, but I don’t identify with Russian culture,
    real life is my language, literature, reading as something like hobby may be Russian

    How wonderfully put, read! Particularly real life is my language. That’s exactly my sense of living. It’s what I was trying to say to JE (what up, JE!). I think most everybody on this site works like that.
    Slawkes, you owe us one – such as a rendering of Попробуйте into the site koiné. I’d ‘preciate it. In exchange, I undertake not to burden folks in future with swatches of unmitigated German.
    JE, I also read Nausea in English. But ambition drives me. Last year I read enormous amounts of Sartre and de Beauvoir. Two reasons: I need French, because of the philosophy and sociology I do – though I will never be able to read Proust. And I’ve had to lay Spanish aside. Secondly: I feel I have to put my money where my mouth is. I’m fed up with fat-cat hick hegemony.

  112. The poem’s longer, but the first two stanzas:
    We’re millions. We’re hordes and hordes and hordes.
    Just try to fight against us!
    Yes, Scythians we are! Yes, Asiatics!
    With slanted and avaricious eyes!
    For you–a century, for us a single hour.
    We, like obedient serfs,
    Held up a shield between the two hostile races,
    Of Europe and the Mongols!
    He’s talking about the debate about whether Russian culture belongs to East or West, and mocking the whole idea.
    (I’ve put up the Voloshin stuff, by the way.)

  113. (He’s being ironic, of course.)
    L.N. Gumilev and many others meant that non-ironically perhaps
    but i’m not about our influence only, Blok himself was of German descent, Tsvetaeva of Polish, Mandelshtam i’m not sure, maybe Jewish etc etc
    i mean all these different backgrounds like support my theory of ‘displacement’, one who is displaced geographically, or experiences some kind of cultural shock or it could be any kind of suffering, any strong impulse that could affect one’s worldview, perhaps even not during his lifetime but earlier, gets that much impulse, enlightenment like, to create something extraordinary, to become someone extraordinary, due to the increased gene expression of the genes responsible for that, genius like qualities
    so Russian culture was fed on many different cultures and the blend became something great
    for French, i’m not sure they look more homogeneous for me, but the other day i read about the high prevalence of people with anti-toxoplasmosis antibody among the French and i think their extraordinarity gene stimulation was perhaps something of the different source
    http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Toxoplasmosis#Human_prevalence
    i don’t mean anything derogatory, just it could be something which we don’t know yet what makes genius, it could be anything even reincarnation

  114. I can’t imagine a bigger cultural shock than reincarnation. What a challenge to the immune system! I mean the autopoietic one in my head. Think fast, little buddy!
    Luhmann sez: bleib anschlußfähig. Forster, a while back, said it like this: “Only connect …”

  115. Sleep flies from me, at this:


    But I do not know the joy
    Of being locked in love with only one:
    I abandon everyone, and none do I forget.
    I’ve never disturbed what was growing,
    Never picked a rose
    Or a flower yet unbloomed:
    I take the ripe fruit,
    And lighten the burden of branches.
    And if I have caused pain
    It is only because
    I was full of pity in times
    When I should have been cruel,
    Because I did not want to play to death
    Those who, begging for mercy,
    Prayed with all their heart
    For destruction….
       Voloshin

  116. He’s never, to my knowledge, been published in English (aside from a couple mediocre poems). If you read Russian, his long poem Россия is absolutely incredible.

  117. My Russian is 40 years old. And a good thing, too. I haven’t recovered from the other one – and a good thing, too!

  118. Hat, Slawkes: block Blok, let Mandelshtam stand by – Voloshin’s your man!
    “Never been published in English (aside from a couple of mediocre poems)”. Hear the man talkin’.

  119. Yeah, I should try some Voloshin. Thanks for the link, slawk!

  120. Translation of Blok, via google translate:
    Milony – you. We – the darkness, and darkness, and darkness.
    Try it once with us!
    Yes, the Scythians – we do! Yes, Asians – we
    Since raskosymi and greedy eyes!
    For you – the century for us – one hour.
    We, as obedient Kholopov,
    Holding a shield between two hostile races
    Mongols and Europe!

  121. Oh, wait, that’s the same one Slawk put up yesterday at 04:57 PM. You guys are making Russian so interesting I’m convinced it’s accessible to me, even though I’ve never studied anything about it.

  122. But Google did it better. “Try it once with us!”—it’s a line of poetry and an ad slogan! And where else are you going to find a line like “raskosymi and greedy eyes”?

  123. when i think Russia i think first birches, Esenin, Russian songs, not vodka and alcoholism
    I think Read speaks Mongolian and probably some Russian. I remember she has a friend who writes beautiful poetry and she translated some here. She also translated a little bit of the Mongolian classics, but was reluctant about that, I think maybe because they are classic.
    In Chicago we do not think of Russians as alcoholics. That is for the Irish, although it is not nice to say so. (It is probably not true either, but there are many people here from Ireland.) There are not any Russians here, so our main idea about Russians is communism. I am old enough to remember Boris and Natasha from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon during the Cold War.
    The Russians keep their cheap vodka at home and export their best vodka. The French are the opposite. They keep their best wine at home, but even the cheap table wine in the French restaurants is better than we can buy here. We can get good Polish vodka, but the most expensive (and best) vodka is from Russia. A bottle of Russian Stolichnaya vodka here is about $25 or $30.
    What I was trying to do with imagining Hat and Slawk in a restaurant was “brainstorming”. Brainstorming is a technique for starting a project, like writing a paragraph. The first part of the exercise is to think of everything you can about the topic and write it down. You cannot say anything negative or judge any of the ideas at this point, because that stops the creativity. Even if an idea is not good, it will give someone else a better idea. So you write down all the ideas from everyone until no one can think of any more ideas. Then you start to arrange the ideas and put all the best ideas together.
    Maybe Read has some ideas about the Russian poets to explain to people who don’t know anything about Russian?

  124. where else are you going to find a line like “raskosymi and greedy eyes”?
    Hey it’s better than nothing. At least I get the gist. I really am interested enough to try to follow the conversation.
    But what’s all this “Nidge” business? I hate it. All this -dge stuff reminds me of the “Drudge Report”, which is pretty far from my politics in so far as I might have any. Or maybe William “Refrigerator” Perry, “the Fridge” who played for the Chicago Bears until his weight got out of control. Or maybe Gidget…eewww, I’m not anywhere near a Gidget. And it doesn’t look Arabic at all–dge just doesn’t seem right for ج jeem. When Kron says “Nij” it makes me a little less crazy.

  125. t’ma is translated like darkness and hordes, but it’s used as if counting something, so it’s from our tum, tumen – ten thousands, temnui -so many that it’s dark
    there are many Russian words that are etymologically of our origins Arbat – arvat (ten), Moskva – mushgia, izvilistaya, curved, taiga, gaidar, sibir which mean all what they mean, Baikal – nature, Amur – peaceful, Tyumen, Taishet, so many geographical names all over the Eurasian map
    i wonder whether JE knows this site
    their main page is great too, i post that b/c it contains information about the Mongol impact on Russia or one can always read L.N. Gumilev’s works
    i mention all this b/c feel a bit ‘uyazvlena’(stung?) by slawkenbergius’s ironic comment
    well, no more nationalistic comments from me, hopefully

  126. marie-lucie says:

    Writing poetry in Paris in 1885 with hats
    Those people are not writing poetry, one is a painter and the other one a potential buyer, both dressed for their respective parts. They are not in a restaurant but in the painter’s “atelier”.

  127. Writing poetry in Paris in 1885 with hats.
    *sigh* That was just supposed to be a general impression of the creative process running rampant. It is actually two historical persons drinking absinthe. I thought about using this one but it seemed too crowded and noisy for translation. Maybe this looks quieter, but it is supposed to be the same place. In the end, this is what I was thinking of, but I’m not sure if it has as much atmosphere as the others.

  128. AJP Crown says:

    That’s a great drawing, Nij. It has plenty of the right atmosphere, I think.
    I love that Gauguin.

  129. Usually you see Gauguin’s Tahiti stuff; I always liked the earlier stuff he did in the south of France.

  130. In Chicago we do not think of Russians as alcoholics. That is for the Irish, although it is not nice to say so. (It is probably not true either, but there are many people here from Ireland.)

    Oh, it’s true all right, Nijma, but my understanding is we don’t keep up with the Russians. The Russians manage to create alcoholic Jews, that’s a level of societal commitment to drinking that it would be suicidal to try to match.

  131. AJP Crown says:

    I’m quite surprised that Norwegians drink the least.

  132. Genetic explanation of alcoholism and non-alcoholism are hard to separate from cultural ones. In general, with only a small effort you can become an alcoholic regardless of your genetic background. You should not become discouraged. The Japanese, like the Chinese, are genetically unsuited to alcoholism, but they persevered and now perform quite adequately. The alcoholic people of the world have triumphed in recent centuries, leaving the temperate peoples, to say nothing of the poor Muslims, lagging far behind.

  133. Genetic explanation of alcoholism and non-alcoholism are hard to separate from cultural ones. In general, with only a small effort you can become an alcoholic regardless of your genetic background. You should not become discouraged. The Japanese, like the Chinese, are genetically unsuited to alcoholism, but they persevered and now perform quite adequately. The alcoholic people of the world have triumphed in recent centuries, leaving the temperate peoples, to say nothing of the poor Muslims, lagging far behind.

  134. Note that in Aidan’s chart Mexico and Turkey drink the least. This in itself should put an end to talk about Turkey’s admission to the EU.
    German Catholics in Minnesota regarded Prohibition as religious discrimination, and moonshining as legitimate political resistance.

  135. Note that in Aidan’s chart Mexico and Turkey drink the least. This in itself should put an end to talk about Turkey’s admission to the EU.
    German Catholics in Minnesota regarded Prohibition as religious discrimination, and moonshining as legitimate political resistance.

  136. t’ma is translated like darkness and hordes, but it’s used as if counting something, so it’s from our tum, tumen – ten thousands, temnui -so many that it’s dark
    there are many Russian words that are etymologically of our origins Arbat – arvat (ten), Moskva – mushgia, izvilistaya, curved, taiga, gaidar, sibir which mean all what they mean, Baikal – nature, Amur – peaceful, Tyumen, Taishet

    Those etymologies are almost all wrong (Tyumen’ is indeed from Turkic/Mongol tümän ‘ten thousand’). There are two words t’ma; the first, meaning ‘darkness,’ is pan-Slavic and related to Latvian tima ‘darkness,’ Lithuanian temti ‘to grow dark,’ Sanskrit tamas ‘darkness,’ and Latin tenebrae, among others; the word meaning ‘multitudes’ is probably a calque (loan translation) of Turkic tümän ‘ten thousand; fog, mist, darkness,’ itself probably from Avestan dunman ‘fog.’
    Arbat is of unclear origin, and there are many proposed etymologies; the most likely seems to be that it is from Arabic rabad ‘suburb.’ It is certainly not from Mongolian. Moskva is also of uncertain origin, but is probably from Baltic; again, certainly not Mongolian. Taiga is from Turkic, Sibir’ is probably a Finno-Ugric ethnic name. Baikal is indeed from Buryat Baigal, but that’s borrowed from Yakut, where it means ‘deep water, sea.’ Amur is from Nivkh damur ‘big river.’ Taishet is from Ket ta shet ‘cold river.’
    It’s important to keep nationalism and linguistics separate.

  137. Both Russians and Irish are great drinkers, and each nationality did its part to push me towards alcoholism (to which, apparently, I am genetically resistant, because I hung out with alkies for years and did my best to match them), but just based on my personal experience I’d have to give the palm to the Irish. I had my one and only blackout on Inishmaan (one of the Aran Islands), where at that time there was no electricity and nothing to do after the sun went down but drink.

  138. Well, then I win on keeping nationalism and linguistics apart. I’m an American who knows nothing about linguistics.
    Could it be equally important to keep alcoholism and nationalism apart? As JE points out, alcoholism is essentially a matter of individual initiative. Whereas nationalism is a group project. Did anyone else notice that Russia is not on Aidan’s chart?
    From the report:

    [in Ireland, the recent] rise in consumption has led to increases in alcohol-related harm and disease, and has resulted in more than 1,775 deaths.

    We can think of this as good economic riddance. 10 years ago, in Germany, there was a lot of media hand-wringing about the health insurance expenses caused by heavy smokers. Calculation then showed, though, that smokers actually cost less on the whole, since they die earlier. They don’t vegetate in the old folks’ home, a burden to themselves and a charge to others.

  139. I don’t know why Russia isn’t on the chart, but nobody disputes they have a huge alcoholism problem and have had it for centuries.

  140. It’s important to keep nationalism and linguistics separate
    i remain faithful to our etymology of those words, oral tradition is the strongest and the oldest
    well, and if you are not convinced, still, i should keep reminding people of us, if not us then who will, certainly not Russians or Chinese

  141. It has long been noted that although some nationalities drink more in terms of quantity, for instance where the tradition is to have wine with meals, that is not a good predictor of which nationality will have a higher rate of alcoholics. The case for a genetic basis of alcoholism finally became convincing with studies of twins separated at birth. Someone with an alcoholic twin is way more likely to be alcoholic. The flip side is that even someone with a genetic disposition can avoid an alcoholic destiny.
    Blackouts. Although some people use this term to mean losing consciousness, more properly it means losing memory while not drinking as a result of the long term effects of drinking on the brain. You may ask an alcoholic person if they have heard from their family lately, and they say no, only to find out the family had called and had a lengthy conversation with them less than an hour earlier. The alcoholic isn’t lying; they just don’t remember.
    a burden to themselves and a charge to others
    I worked Hospice for many years–it’s how I paid for my BA on the 27 year plan. I never had the urge to kick anyone to the curb just because they were sick. It was more like “there but for the grace of God go I”.

  142. LH,
    How long did you actually live in Russia? I have Irish ancestry, and have spent time in Ireland, and plenty of time with Irish-Americans – they are pikers compared to Russians. At least in the early 90s the level of public drunkenness in the Russian and Ukrainian provinces was beyond parody. Even in major cities like Nizhnii it was quite common to see drunks stumbling down major avenues at 1 in the afternoon, and the lines for the beer kiosks at 7 am were a sight to behold. Life in rural villages is even worse. At one kolkhoz I visited we all drank shots of vodka from 6 oz tumblers – at lunch time, and for what was supposed to be a business meeting.
    The problem with Grumbly’s analysis of course is that drunks are quite likely to harm or kill others, so alcohol related deaths don’t provide the same economic benefits that smoking related deaths do.

  143. Apparently I should have given a clearer hint about the –> SARCASM <— in my last paragraph above. The kind of cod-economic argumentation I was relating is not mine – first “oh, it’s so expensive” and then “well, not so expensive, so that’s ok then”. The expense is only one aspect.
    My father was an alcoholic bastard, which is one of the reasons I don’t drink – it makes me tired and I can’t keep the stuff down, is another. Except for the occasional Margarita (Hat, take note). Over the years I’ve given up my rage against alcoholics, and my ignorance about junkies. I’m even more cautious about generalizing over nations.
    The per capita consumption figures for Germany and Ireland are 10 and 13 liters respectively. The widespread view about “the Irish”, and my own experience in Germany, made me expect a much greater difference. The chart is telling us something about what it isn’t telling us – namely that other things must be involved, such as drinking patterns.

  144. As I understand, some of the nations with lots of heavy drinkers also have lots of non-drinkers, so the avergage is brought down. I used to have an Irish co-worker, and she was a non-drinker and absolutely hated Irish drinking stereotypes. I know that the Scandinavians combine lots of binge drinking with anti-drinking crusades.
    That is to say, a nation where almost everyone drinks ten units of alcohol will seem less drunken than a nation where some people drink 20 or 30 units, and others nothing, even if the averages are the same.

  145. As I understand, some of the nations with lots of heavy drinkers also have lots of non-drinkers, so the avergage is brought down. I used to have an Irish co-worker, and she was a non-drinker and absolutely hated Irish drinking stereotypes. I know that the Scandinavians combine lots of binge drinking with anti-drinking crusades.
    That is to say, a nation where almost everyone drinks ten units of alcohol will seem less drunken than a nation where some people drink 20 or 30 units, and others nothing, even if the averages are the same.

  146. Hat: I suppose you know that Döblin practiced as a neurologist/psychiatrist (Kassenarzt für Nervenkrankheiten, promoviert im Fach Psychiatrie) from 1911-1933. His dissertation is entitled “Mental dysfunction in Korsakoff’s psychosis”, in which he defines this “psychosis” for his purposes as “chronic alcoholic delirium”.
    It was reprinted here in Germany in 2006. I just happened to pick it up at my favorite librairie de passage, in the Cologne train station. It’s not long and is worth reading, and there’s a good editorial essay at the back, bringing in Döblin’s literary work. On the occasion of your recent enthusiasms about Döblin, I bought the book again, along with BA, since my effing books are still in storage.
    From the editorial essay:

    Döblin schätzte die Arbeit mit dem psychisch kranken Menschen. “Damals merkte ich”, beschreibt er eine Erkenntnis während seiner Assistenzzeit, “daß ich nur zwei Kategorien Menschen [...] ertragen kann: nämlich Kinder und Irre. Und wenn man mich fragt, zu welcher Nation ich gehöre, so werde ich sagen: weder zu den Deutschen noch zu den Juden, sondern zu den Kindern und zu den Irren”.

    [Döblin's work with the mentally ill was important to him. Describing a realization that came during his internship, he wrote: "Around that time I noticed that there are only two categories of person that I can bear to be with: namely children and the deranged. And if someone asks me about my nationality, I will say: I belong neither to the German nor the Jewish nation, but to the nation of children and the deranged."]

  147. (The litres-of-pure-alcohol-per-capita-per-year figures are from the OECD, which Russia is not in. Yes, there is a substantial minority of teetotallers in Ireland; its size is declining, though, because the movement that was responsible for most of it has gone out of fashion, as has, relatedly, religious observance.)

  148. It’s not easy to deal with alcoholics and junkies, mes semblables, mes frères. Those who find it easy call themselves experts.
    That’s what kept me up last night, when I read those lines of Voloshin:

    I was full of pity in times
    When I should have been cruel,
    Because I did not want to play to death
    Those who, begging for mercy,
    Prayed with all their heart
    For destruction…

    As old Jeremy put it (who knew a thing or two about the subject): The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

  149. AJP Crown (aka 'Old Jeremy') says:

    Ok, Put your hands up everyone whose father was an alcoholic bastard (mine’s up) …

  150. While it is the mark of art (and perhaps the definition of art)that it inspires some personal reaction on the part of the observer, leaving off the first bit of Voloshin’s sentence sort of changes the meaning a bit:

    And if I have caused pain
    It is only because
    I was full of pity in times
    When I should have been cruel,
    Because I did not want to play to death
    Those who, begging for mercy,
    Prayed with all their heart
    For destruction….

    Yeah, right. People really want to be hurt. Especially when they say they don’t. That’s why it’s okay to hurt people; because I, the god-playing poet, can read all thoughts and motives and I know what people are really thinking. People want me to hurt them even when they say they don’t. I myself have no motive but to be a slave to what other people are thinking, as defined by me. Therefore if I hurt them it’s all their fault because they made me do it.
    I was ready to like Voloshin, but it seems he had some issues. Also kind of difficult to read a lot of him at one sitting–after more than 20 lines you feel like stretching your brain. Maybe the book should also be sprinkled with Russian aphorisms. Mom might know some.

  151. What is it with the blockquote function that wipes out the poem’s stanza format? I should have used the italics I guess–or the preview.

  152. Old Jeremy says:

    I dispute your interpolation, Emerson. For 2004 Norwegians are the least drunk. In fact, Mexicans and Turks were apparently so drunk they couldn’t remember their figures. i would love Mexico to join the EU, they would come and live in Europe and we could finally get some good Mexican food. I apologise if that’s somehow a politically incorrect thought.

  153. How long did you actually live in Russia?
    I never lived in Russia, I just visited the place. I’m well aware of the situation you describe, which is why I said “just based on my personal experience.”

  154. Grumbly: I actually did not know that about Döblin, so thanks for educating me!

  155. Put your hands up everyone whose father was an alcoholic bastard
    From overcoats to a twelve-step meeting in 130 comments.
    My father’s parents were totally married (to each other). But I would agree with Hat that alkies are a tremendous amount of fun to hang out with. They can be gregarious risktakers, desperate for attention, and can often get away with things that other people cannot. Often they can provide a sort of social glue that makes their eventual demise all the more bittersweet.

  156. Nijma, I think he’s trying to be allegorical there. He’s a kind of Heraclitean; in other poems, that I haven’t translated, he makes this explicit.
    Огонь есть жизнь.
    И в каждой точке мира
    Дыхание, биенье и горенье.
    Не жизнь и смерть, но смерть и воскресенье -
    Творящий ритм мятежного огня.
    Fire is life.
    And in the world’s every point
    There’s breathing, beating, immolation.
    Not life and death, but death and resurrection–
    The creating rhythm of the rebellious flame.

  157. Jeremy, I can speak for myself and my son.

  158. Jeremy, I can speak for myself and my son.

  159. Nijma: I have a different take on Voloshin, with and without the “and if I have caused pain” line. “Being cruel” is perhaps, might have been, sometimes, now, the better way to meet such praying head-on. But who knows.

    Yeah, right. People really want to be hurt. Especially when they say they don’t. … I, the god-playing poet. …

    We’re not talking Boy George and Annie Lenox here. The heart is DECEITFUL, mi corazón! Hurt is attention. Try putting a big set of scare quotes around the poem, then reading it again.

    alkies are a tremendous amount of fun to hang out with

    Well, I tell ya: I didn’t want to be like my father, so that’s why I didn’t want to drink. I am now like him in more ways than I care to think about, except for the alk. I can be a bastard without the alcohol – there’s evolution for you! It’s possible to be a tremendous amount of fun without beating your kids. Reluctantly, I have discarded the shot-gun solution. But I hope to God I will never be blinded by the bright side of life.

    le soleil et la mort ont en commun de ne pouvoir se regarder fixement. [La Rochefoucauld]

    Voloshin is my blue-eyed boy.

    i would love Mexico to join the EU, they would come and live in Europe and we could finally get some good Mexican food. I apologise if that’s somehow a politically incorrect thought

    My sentiments exactly, Senator!! Damn the censorious twits! I have to make my own tortillas – the Turks market “tortillas” with sugar in them, can you believe the audacity?? And Germans tend to think that “hot” is some kind of linear scale of goodness, as if pouring a bottle of Tabasco into so-called chile con carne made it into Mexican food. Donde están mis serranos, poblanos, anchos, jalapeños, CHIPOTLES?? Dios mío!

  160. My father was non-violent but pretty sarcastic. The cycle of sarcasm continued with me, and I fear for my son.

  161. My father was non-violent but pretty sarcastic. The cycle of sarcasm continued with me, and I fear for my son.

  162. marie-lucie says:

    alkies are a tremendous amount of fun to hang out with
    That’s if one is partaking along with them, so that one’s critical faculties are dulled.

  163. My non-alcoholic brother just times occasions so that he can leave as soon as the fun phase is over.
    The three phases are 1.) lively and funny, b.) goofy, harmless, and not really funny, and c.) unpleasant.

  164. My non-alcoholic brother just times occasions so that he can leave as soon as the fun phase is over.
    The three phases are 1.) lively and funny, b.) goofy, harmless, and not really funny, and c.) unpleasant.

  165. JE: at my current job there’s a strange guy, an employee of the bank, who hangs out with the project lead. I don’t think he actually works. He sort of wanders around, making the occasional extremely witty, sarcastic remark in a quiet voice.
    I started talking with him off and on, since he seemed to be afraid of me. I discovered that he has a very bad stutter. Apparently witty sarcasm helps him suppress it utterly.
    Mabel told me to tell you guys: it just goes to show.

  166. My father’s a teetotaller. I, however, am an alcoholic bastard.

  167. What a stupid mistake to make! Döblin’s dissertation is “Gedächtnisstörungen bei der Korsakoffschen Psychose”:

    “Memory dysfunction in Korsakoff’s psychosis”

  168. If I may sum up provisionally (casting out nines): a dose of seeing irselves as ithers see us is good for the system.
    Metabolized, it becomes a kind of self-irony – which has its own pitfalls, of course. Myself, I find that self-irony sometimes melts into self-pity. I can’t watch the end of Mary Poppins without tears welling up (oh the shame of it!). But I can be a cruel sonofabitch too, to round things out.
    Isn’t it about time somebody else took up the Mexican food plot line??
    The best thing that’s happened to me is my good buddy Ralf, who’s been addicted to heroin for the last few years. He’s such a nice guy, gets along with everybody, and has not a RESENTFUL bone in his body, unlike some I could name. I have not a clue why we get along – except that he’s one smart cookie, without being in any way an egghead, like me. And, as a typical male of the species, he never volunteers his insides, unlike what I’m doing. He hardly ever says anything critical about me – but hanging out with him has given me multitudinous opportunities to shame myself into better behavior. I disagree with all this American “The Shame that Binds – how to get free of it” stuff. Shame is a Good Thing, in my book.

  169. Isn’t it about time somebody else took up the Mexican food plot line??
    Too painful. I was so happy when good Mexican food came to NYC in the ’90s, and now I’ve left it behind. Although a new place that’s opened in Easthampton is said to be good and authentic; hope springs eternal!

  170. (They have huitlacoche, they’ve got to be authentic.)

  171. On the rare occasions when I visit Texas, I buy up cartloads of canned serranos en escabeche, chipotles en adobo etc., and send them on ahead of me back to Tchoimany. Would you believe that hominy is not to be had for love or money here? There’s a hominy and garlic soup that hits you where you live in the winter.
    My sister once sent me some epazote that was growing like a weed outside a Mexican market in East Austin where she sometimes shopped. In fact, it is a weed. You know, that stuff you can cook with black beans, to name but one. It dries and keeps really well, in one of those ziplock bags.
    On the internet I have seen that there are now zillions of mailorder supply houses in America for Mexican ingredients. I think I’ve even seen huitlacoche on offer. Never had it myself – I just grew up on the border, and haven’t been farther in than that. Don’t you have to take care that you don’t pizen yourself with that?

  172. I have a friend who liked his dad better alcoholic than teetotalling.

  173. I have a friend who liked his dad better alcoholic than teetotalling.

  174. Don’t you have to take care that you don’t pizen yourself with that?
    I just eat what they put before me and figure if it kills me, my loved ones will sue the restaurant.

  175. Many of us have figured out that we’re worth mor dead than alive. A lot of moral hazard there.

  176. Many of us have figured out that we’re worth mor dead than alive. A lot of moral hazard there.

  177. He’s a kind of Heraclitean; in other poems, that I haven’t translated, he makes this explicit.
    So he’s sort of trying to imitate another writer or type of writing. I understand this was a popular pasttime in medieval Andalusian Spain, when all the mystical kabalistic stuff got written and probably other time periods as well. They didn’t have our notions of plagiarism, but the idea was to write something as if another author had done it, so that the lines between who wrote what got blurred, and new ideas were accepted as if they were classic. Sort of like being a contributor to Encyclopedia Britannica. I’m pretty sure that happened with neo-Platonists too. They were very much into the Word and all of that.
    Maybe instead of Russian adages, the margins and headings of your broadside should have little boxes explaining stuff about Heraclitus. And vodka recipes.

  178. AJProphet Jeremiah: they would come and live in Europe and we could finally get some good Mexican food.
    Be careful what you ask for. One of my classes spans the lunch hour and the students bring sandwiches. They’re always giving me food. I always eat it and say it was wonderful so they don’t stop doing it, but you really take your chances. If you’re lucky it will be tinga or napoles or flan, but you might just as easily get salad made from some sort of pork skins or 5-alarm jalapeños. Then you are left murmuring “¿hay mas café? or “voy a morir”. At first the supermarket situation looks brighter as you realize how easy it is to get cartons of mango or pear juice, or you see huge displays of quesadilla cheese. But supermarkets don’t have infinite space, and if they put something in, they have to take something else out. The only low fat cheese I can get is mozzarella, and I have to ask for the Havarti behind the counter. For Brie or Camembert, forget it. If you can get “pan”, those sweet pastries filled with camote or the gingerbread flavored soft pig cookies, your selections for a healthy whole wheat loaf will be limited.

  179. The hominy soup is pozole, acompañado con chiles jalapeños rellenos.[sigh] I bet that “salad made from some sort of pork skins” was plain ol’ chicharrón. Visiting my grandfolks (the Baptist preacher) in Mississippi in the 50s, I could get pork cracklins at the grocery store. A little salt on, and off you go.

    gingerbread flavored soft pig cookies

    Ick! Is that supposed to be “fig”? That would still be icky enough.
    But perhaps we can draw a curtain over the subject. This is not a foodie site, and I myself am a simple, home-cooking kind of guy – none of your quails’ egg soufflé hamburgers for me. I just thought it was time to change the subject before we start goose-stepping to the 12-point polka.

  180. I do wonder about Wernicke-Korsakoff (as our textbooks call it); it’s due to a deficiency in thiamin, and another and more famous disorder due to lack of thiamin is beri-beri, known for crippling Japanese ships at the start of the 20th century since the enlisted men lived on polished rice and polished rice only (and of course, unpolished rice, which they looked down on, would have addressed it). The symptoms of both are general and similar, it may well be that they’re the same thing, and it’s called Wernicke-Korsakoff in alcoholics and beri-beri in East Asians living in poverty.
    Ah, Wikipedia seems to agree with me, now I look closely at the first article. But my textbooks don’t!

  181. Ol' Jeremy says:

    supermarkets don’t have infinite space
    The only thing I ever learned from the car guys program on NPR (apart from how to talk Bostonian) was ‘What goes in must come out, or stay inside’. It doesn’t only apply to cars, obviously. That mango and pear juice stuff is a complete con (here, at least) in the fine print it says it’s 90% grape, hence the (lack of) flavor.
    Emerson, from experience, I agree — the pen being mightier than the sword — that sarcastic drunken dads are a special, scary case of psycho behavior. But that does not deter me from sarcasm. It’s a dirty, unrewarding job, but someone’s got to do it. I’m worthless, dead or alive; in fact, my last hope is to be put on a ‘wanted’ list.
    You don’t sound like a simple, home-cooking kind of guy to me, Grumbly. Tell that one to Mabel.

  182. Ol' Jeremy says:

    I, however, am an alcoholic bastard.
    This is because you are a medical student. You probably smoke three packs a day and play rugby, too.

  183. But that does not deter me from sarcasm. It’s a dirty, unrewarding job, but someone’s got to do it. I’m worthless, dead or alive; in fact, my last hope is to be put on a ‘wanted’ list.

    [sigh] How true. But I’m a bit ahead of you here, OJ. I’m already on several ‘unwanted’ lists.
    My father, a radiologist, did have a nice way with homespun doctoral expressions, I have to say. From early on, I was treated to the full saying: “Colder than a witches tit in a brass bra”. The younguns nowadays know only the first part of that. Also, as an alternative to “surreptitious” – but this is hard to slip in casually in a conversation – “the cat crept in, crapt, and crept out again”. And gory doctor jokes during dinner! Laughed so hard, I pissed myself at table on more than one occasion. My mother was horrified.
    Aidan, here’s advice from my father’s days as a medical student: on the Monday after, you hook yourself up to an infusion of good electrolyte stuff, take a few turns with the oxygen mask, and you’re ready to go.

  184. Wait a minute, this all suddenly sounds so familiar… Did we all go out on a whinge binge last night, and are now manfully recovering from excess??

  185. AJP Crown says:

    le soleil et la mort ont en commun de ne pouvoir se regarder fixement. [La Rochefoucauld]
    Grumbly, I think this is completely wrong. If you enjoy whodunits, there are few things that are as much fun as thinking about the consequences of death. If it is just the events leading up to dying that are difficult to face then I’d say that’s squeamishness, dislike of illness, etc. The process — the white light, etc. — seems fine to me.

  186. i like Esenin’s ‘prednaznachennoe rasstavanie obeshaet vstrechu vperedi’

  187. OJ: The fixedly regard = stare is the point, as I take it. You stare at the sun, you go blind, you can’t see anything anymore. You stare at death, you get obsessed, you lose your perspective. That doesn’t happen when you stare at a chile relleno, for example. With the Big Stuff, you need to look sharp, and keep moving.
    The German philosopher Sloterdijk published a set of fabulous dialogs with H.-J. Heinrichs entitled Die Sonne und der Tod – monologs, actually, with Heinrichs as ball boy. Sloterdijk’s like that, but I like that, and have read nearly everything he’s written in German.
    Have you read the novel Blindness by Saramago? I urge it on you. The English title is chicken-shitty, though. I read the book in Spanish where, as in Portugese, it’s called Essay on Blindness (Ensayo sobre la ceguera). A novel!
    prednaznachennoe rasstavanie obeshaet vstrechu vperedi
    read, what does that say?

  188. Ol' Jeremy says:

    ‘A predestined parting promises a reunion ahead’? Yeah, but he committed suicide.

  189. AJP Crown says:

    I have his Critique of Cynical Reason, but i didn’t understand a word when I read it, almost 20 years ago. Should i try and read it again?

  190. Jeremy AJP Crown says:

    Sorry. This is getting confusing, posting under 2 names.

  191. Oh, like you’ve ever worried about that before.

  192. Jeremy AJP Crown says:

    You stare at death, you get obsessed,
    A morbid interest? I’m interested in death, but I don’t think I’m obsessed. Some people are obsessed by chile rellenos, but more from smell than from staring, I’d have thought.
    Blindness by Saramago
    Thanks for the recommendation. No, i haven’t read it.

  193. JAJP Crown says:

    Oh, like you’ve ever worried about that before.
    Ok, but I’ve never posted under ‘Jeremy’ before. It’s confusing to see your real name out there with your imaginary friends.

  194. AJP Crown says:

    Sloterdijk seems to come up with good titles, anyway.
    You know, i still haven’t got over all those Americans who are called things like Dykstra. The Friesian islands seem to have sent disproportionately high numbers of immigrants to the United States.

  195. Yeah, but he committed suicide.
    it’s not contradictory, he wrote it the day before his death, b/c of how he was going to go
    maybe he knew something about what’s after

  196. ne jaleyu, ne zovu , ne plachu…
    i’m not sure about its translation, but i just so love this poem, to death!
    sure it’s so famous, but it does not make it any less great

  197. I respect Esenin, but sometimes I can’t help agreeing with Bukharin’s assessment:
    Есенинская поэзия по существу своему есть мужичок, наполовину превратившийся в «ухаря-купца»: в лаковых сапожках, с шелковым шнурком на вышитой рубахе, «ухарь» припадает сегодня к ножке «государыни», завтра лижет икону, послезавтра мажет нос горчицей половому в трактире, а потом «душевно» сокрушается, плачет, готов обнять кобеля и внести вклад в Троице-Сергиевскую лавру «на помин души». Он даже может повеситься на чердаке от внутренней пустоты. «Милая», «знакомая», «истинно русская» картина!
    Идейно Есенин представляет самые отрицательные черты русской деревни и так называемого «национального характера»: мордобой, внутреннюю величайшую недисциплинированность, обожествление самых отсталых форм общественной жизни вообще.
    Esenin’s poetry, in its essence, is a little muzhik who’s half-turned into a “jolly merchant”: in his lacquered boots, with a silk cord on his embroidered shirt, the “jolly merchant” will be at “Her Majesty’s” feet one day, licking an icon the next, and the day after rubbing mustard under a servant’s nose in a tavern, only to afterwards be “soulfully” contrite, cry, be ready to embrace dogs and contribute funds to the Trinity-Sergius Monastery for a mention in their prayers. He might even hang himself in the attic out of the emptiness of his soul. A “well-loved,” “familiar,” “truly Russian” scene!
    Ideologically, Esenin represents the most negative features of the Russian countryside and the so-called “national character”: frequent beatings, enormous internal indiscipline, and the deification of the most retrograde social formations in general.

  198. that’s some nasty things to say about Esenin, no wonder he earned what he earned for that alone, his fate, karma is like a very fair thing!
    i mean Bukharin, never knew about him much and don’t want to know perhaps

  199. just, i mean

  200. I, on the other hand, found that very lively reading and would like to read more Bukharin (who, lest we forget, protected Mandelstam as long as he could and made possible the last glorious outpouring of his poetry). I had thought Trotsky was the only Soviet leader with a decent prose style.

  201. Bukharin’s theoretical works are fairly boring reading, though, compared to some of his contemporaries, he was positively Shakespearean. His real gift was polemic. Fortunately, the works he polemicized about are now mostly forgotten and irrelevant, but you can enjoy some hilarious examples here, here, and here.

  202. JJ: My speculation was right, then! The way you latched onto Jerimi(ah) made me think the J in AJP must stand for Jeremy. I also, by happenstance, learned what Hat’s name is. There’s a site reachable by a link from this one where he exposes himself. I’m a bit tired of this Grumbly business, but Stuart is already taken. Tonight I will be conjuring the ghost of Emily Post, to ask what one does in such a situation.
    You wouldn’t want to be reading Sloterdijk in English. Unfortunately, I think it’s very hard to do justice to his ideas in English, because they are transported by a stately, sustained Baroque, full of content-resonances (not stylistic ones). At least no satisfactory translator has turned up. For now, it is easier to read Sloterdijk in German, I suspect. Maybe one of the shorter things, which are actually reworked public talks – or else Die Sonne und der Tod, where Sloterdijk lets down his hair a bit. Checking at amazon, I see that very little has been translated into English. Don’t bother with “Theory of the Post-war Periods”, one of his latest – as a Sloterdijk groupie, I find it embarassingly banal.
    Heidegger in the English-speaking world is another puzzle to me. A few years back, I bought a number of translations in English by and about Heidegger, including “Heidegger for Dummies”, to see what up. Disaster! How can people solemnly study all that gibberish? Heidegger writes like a double-dose Hopkins, poetry of a very intricate order, full of fabulously suggestive word-play and knock-you-on-your-ass ideas. Even the standard idea of Geworfenheit is supported by an extended play on German words: animals werfen, people (animals) make Entwürfe. So we have “whelpèdness” and “plans / un-whelpings”. For years I have thought about how to get around this on miniscule passages, but have gotten nowhere. Forget the giant behemoths – somebody’s going to have to disinter Hopkins.

    You stare at death, you get obsessed
    A morbid interest? I’m interested in death, but I don’t think I’m obsessed.

    No, just staring is obsessive, not interest. Nothing morbid about death itself, or interest in death. But it’s fatal to do nothing but stare – at the sun or …. They’re special that way – you have to study them, approach them indirectly, to get a handle on them. This is NOT A PROFOUND OBSERVATION, in one sense.

  203. I should have specified that I was talking primarily about Sein und Zeit. In contrast, Heidegger’s university lectures,the ones I’ve read anyway, are straightforward, clear and non-German-professorial (of these last, Adorno was one of the worst – but he was a complicated, unhappy guy, so I give him a break).
    But that’s enough end-paper blurbing on non-linguistic matters.

  204. what a boring read, those excerpts, i recalled our philosophy classes where we had to do conspects of the latest KPSS, MRP siezds
    but i find Pasternak boring and busy so i can’t be trusted in my judgements of course

  205. AJP Crown says:

    I don’t think Adorno is terribly sympathetic, but better a complicated unhappy guy than a simple unhappy guy. And he did lead me to the late string quartets and piano sonatas of Beethoven. That’s worth quite a lot.
    Now I come to think of it, the woman who recommended Sloterdijk to me in the first place said it was much better in German. However, if I were up to reading philosophers in German, I’d probably start with dear old Nietzsche.
    And the subject of this blog is ‘language’ and ‘hats’, not ‘linguistics’. It’s a subtle difference, maybe, but an important one (I think). There are thousands of linguistics blogs, but only one Language Hat.

  206. AJP Crown says:

    If you don’t like ‘Grumbly’, you could have a competition to find a new name, but you’ve got to have something good as a prize. That frying pan was worth $200, apparently.

  207. marie-lucie says:

    the subject of this blog is ‘language’ and ‘hats’, not ‘linguistics’. It’s a subtle difference, maybe, but an important one (I think). There are thousands of linguistics blogs, but only one Language Hat.
    True, AJP, but I think you exaggerate about the number of linguistics blogs around. I love Language Hat (language, hats, and everything in between), but sometimes you need a little bit of linguistics to make sense of language. I don’t see much linguistics in this particular thread though, so perhaps you are confusing it with another one.

  208. If you ever start reading philosophers in German, read Schopenhauer. Nietzsche without Schopenhauer is futile at best (at worst… well, let’s just say you do NOT want to be haunted by ole Arthur’s ghost). And then, Schopenhauer is eminently readable, a rare distinction among German philosophers.

  209. slawkenbergius: Thanks! I burst out laughing as soon as I read the first sentence of the first link: “На мою книгу ‘Теория исторического материализма’ пошли в поход многочисленные Мальбруки…” I like a man with a good line in invective.
    Schopenhauer is eminently readable, a rare distinction among German philosophers.
    I may give him a try, then. Nietzsche is one of the very few philosophers I enjoy reading.

  210. На мою книгу ‘Теория исторического материализма’ пошли в поход многочисленные Мальбруки
    Google translate: “In my book ‘The theory of historical materialism,’ went on a camping trip many Malbruki.”
    what.
    Maybe this will make sense with more sleep. I spent too much of the night calling the police repeatedly on account of loud, clueless tenants, finally retreating to the couch for a few hours, and today trying to teach possessive adjectives while trying not to crash and burn. Perhaps my aforementioned neighbors are inconsiderate Malbruki. When I recover from the crash and burn I will be ready to conduct a twelve-step exorcism.
    Walter Kaufmann–the best translation of Nietzsche. Schopenhauer I didn’t care for, maybe a bad translation?–Heidegger worse. I read all I care to of Atlas Shrugged standing in a used book store, however this has a cult following and book dealers say used copies sell quickly.

  211. Мальбрук = Marlborough.

  212. A.J.P.von Bodelschwingh says:

    Marie-Louise: I think you exaggerate about the number of linguistics blogs around
    All right, hundreds then. I’m often very interested in the comments by the linguists, you especially, Marie-Lucie, but I like to hear other ways of making sense of language (criticism and commentary and so on) which are not available at Language Log. ‘Hats’ could be expanded in the future to include wigs.
    M: Мальбрук = Marlborough.
    That’s interesting. It came via the French pronunciation?

  213. A.J.P.von Bodelschwingh says:

    Lukas, i’ve read Schopenhauer in English. I feel there’s a great book or film — probably book, a comedy –to be made about his relationship with that awful Professor Hegel.

  214. SnowLeopard says:

    Interesting to hear that Heidegger’s lectures are more approachable. I suppose that makes sense, because Richard Feynman’s lectures on physics and Arnold Schoenberg’s instructive writings on traditional Western music theory (especially Theory of Harmony) are also brilliant in their own respective fields. I once tried Being and Time, on my own, in English, with the aid of a commentary and found it very tough going despite having written my undergraduate thesis on the application of Kant’s Critique of Judgment to the aesthetics of classical music and so thinking I had at least rudimentary skills to bring to the project. Very different sorts of animals, I suppose. What do people recommend by Schopenhauer?

  215. A.J.P. Crown says:

    He wrote a very funny book called something like ‘How To Win Arguments’. Well, it’s not that funny, but it’s a good insight into exasperation and how to avoid it.

  216. SnowLeopard says:

    The Art of Controversy?
    For example, should he defend suicide, you may at once exclaim, “Why don’t you hang yourself?” Should he maintain that Berlin is an unpleasant place to live in, you may say, “Why don’t you leave by the first train?” Some such claptrap is always possible.
    Sounds like yesterday’s board meeting.

  217. - Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung
    - Parerga und Paralipomena

    Nietzsche without Schopenhauer is futile at best (at worst… well, let’s just say you do NOT want to be haunted by ole Arthur’s ghost)

    What is “futile” supposed to mean here? Schopenhauer was a sweet old Grumbler. I suppose you folks know that he was a closet Buddhist as well? But from the way he snorted and fumed, it was pretty obvious he was in there. That Nietzsche took off from Schopenhauer is clear – but he also took off from Dallas-Fort Worth. He boarded any plane that took him where he wanted to go.
    Nietzsche is not a “philosopher”. He does not write the “tulgey German prose of Professor Aschloch” (Bonfiglioli). He is a philologist, psychologist and brilliant essayist of customs and times. This is so utterly patent in his writings, that I never cease to be amazed at the way he is read in most of the secondary literature I’ve seen, even in Germany.
    Deleuze, in “Nietzsche et la Philosophie”, makes ol’ Friedrich sound like Heraclitus. French intellectuals, in cahoots with French academic publishers, often have this superior way of omitting to identify sources in their text or in footnotes (one is supposed to know already). I finally figured out, more or less, that Deleuze had been reading “Der Wille zur Macht” – that fabrication by Fred’s sister and that other smoochhead to make more dough out of The Brother, as he languished in the mental asylum, bereft of reason and a good lawyer.
    I mistrust all systematicians, and cross the road at their approach. Every determination to be systematic is a lack of probity.

  218. Interesting to hear that Heidegger’s lectures are more approachable.
    I found this to be true of Derrida as well; I could never make head nor tail of his writing, but when I heard him lecture in New Haven I found him funny and eminently comprehensible. (Alas, when I returned to his writings I still found them unintelligible.)
    Marie-Louise
    Kron! You’re doing it again! Once more und ve shall throw you in ze dungeon!

  219. A.J.P. Crown says:

    The much better translation of the title is The Art of Always Being Right: Thirty Eight Ways to Win When You Are Defeated by Arthur Schopenhauer (and A.C. Grayling, who wrote the introduction or something.)
    I’ve got it somewhere, but I hid it because of the title. No need to look like an asshole in your own home. Grayling raises the question of whether he meant the title ironically, but I feel quite certain that he did.

  220. Marie-Louise
    marie-lucie is an easy enough name to mistype, I have done it myself, but not intentionally. I bet it would be possible to put both “Marie-Louise” and “Nidge” in the spam filter, but I’m sure none of Hat’s gentle readers would type someone’s name in a nasty way just for spite.

  221. I don’t think Adorno is terribly sympathetic, but better a complicated unhappy guy than a simple unhappy guy. And he did lead me to the late string quartets and piano sonatas of Beethoven.

    Sometimes the two get along nicely. I can remember, almost to the hour, who introduced me to Beethoven’s late string quartets, in the year of our Lord 1973. It was a rough-and-tumbly 28-year-old worker in a brick factory, who lived in a council house in Stirling near Edinburgh. Every wall was papered with a different pattern. Later, we listened. His mother, still at work but only just, was not partial to music, so I didn’t stay as long as I would have liked.
    At the Edinburgh bookstores I loaded up on Ruskin (Unto this Last), Ryle, Hume and Trollope. Haven’t been the same since. I still put on 131 and read Barchester Towers when I feel like feeling feely.

  222. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Nietzsche is not a “philosopher”.
    Doch, doch. Well I agree he is best thought of as an essayist, and he’s not a writer of philosophy like, say, Schopenhauer, but it would be mind-numbingly pedantic to think of him as a philologist. To see him as a philosopher, read the Philosophical Biography of Nietzsche by Rüdiger Safranski — oh, and don’t forget he said ‘I mistrust all systematisers’ (Walter Kaufmann trans.).
    Someone said, somewhere, that what in England was written in the nineteenth century as novels was written by the Germans as philosophy. Only whoever it was put it slightly better than that.

  223. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Every wall was papered with a different pattern.
    This really sounds like an artist. Brick making was his day-job, like yours is waitressing.

  224. that awful Professor Hegel

    Phänomenologie des Geistes I found to be unreadable – although every good German intellectual refers to it in the most casual manner. That’s not typical Hegel, though. His lectures, in particular the “late footnotes” to Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, are lucid to a degree.
    To bring the Russian element back in – there’s a Russian philosopher/art-theorist named Boris Groys, who’s been in Germany since around 1984. A recorded seminar by him on the Phenomenology (my German site has links to the MP3s) actually made parts of it understandable to me. I now have an idea of how I need to read it. The only small problem is, Groys speaks German with a Russian accent so thick you couldn’t cut it with Uma Thurmans Japanese sword. As chief editor, he has published several weighty (but Suhrkamp paperback) collections of very detailed analyses of Russian writers and wild men from the late 1900′s to the 1930′s. That’s how I know about Nikolai Fedorov, Obshee delo, Tsiolkovsky and the resurrection of the dead to pack them off into outer space as astronauts.

  225. This really sounds like an artist.

    No, that’s the strange thing. The Beethoven didn’t fit in with anything else. I had been living in Germany for several years at the time, and I remember thinking: “It’s like America, where you never know whom you’re dealing with. In Germany, everybody wants to seem to be what they think they are – there are no hidden passageways.” That’s more or less what I think today. In a way it’s restful. In another, it makes me frantic – all that probity!
    Later, somebody told me the wallpaper stuff was typical, low-class council housing style.

  226. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I’ve never read any Hegel, although I’m quite sure he has his good side. I’ll look up Boris Groys.

  227. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Oh, yeah, he wrote about Ilya Kabakov. Apparently he teaches at NYU too.

  228. Say, Mr. JJ, I think you’re under an allusion as to the bussin’ skills of that there Grumbleby. He can’t carry a tune in a handbasket, much less an armload of dirty dishes. Still, you shouldn’t be throwin’ them bricks around too much, cause he’s a real good catch. I mean, he good at the old repartee – otherwise, he’s not much of a catch for a gal like me.

  229. Oops, got carried away there, fellas, got myself mixed up with Mr. G.

  230. A.J.P. Crown says:

    typical, low-class council housing style.
    That’s one reason why artists love that kind of thing.
    You’re right that the op.131 was an unusual touch, though. I first heard Casals playing Bach’s Suites for Cello, in a taxi from Kennedy to Manhattan. It was the perfect way to enter the city.

  231. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Now I’m going to make dinner for my daughter. We need your services here, Mabel.

  232. Just don’t carry too many plates at once, and put them down gently-like on the table

  233. I bet it would be possible to put both “Marie-Louise” and “Nidge” in the spam filter, but I’m sure none of Hat’s gentle readers would type someone’s name in a nasty way just for spite.
    Well, I see a considerable difference there, in that Marie-Lucie is her actual name and “Marie-Louise” is out-and-out wrong, whereas Nijma is just an alias and Nidge is an affectionate shortening, like Hat. But since for reasons hard for me to grasp you find it offensive, I will try to avoid it.

  234. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Ouch, I never thought I might be dragged through a spam filter. She doesn’t like Nidge, but she doesn’t mind Nij. It’s got something to do with her refrigerator. I do hope Marie-Lucie doesn’t take offense.

  235. an affectionate shortening
    Aww, how sweet. But Nidge just doesn’t look right, in the same way that a misspelled word doesn’t look right. (Nij doesn’t seem terribly objectionable, or Nijmasson, except that I wasn’t the one to think of it first.) No one has yet disagreed with my discussion of -dge words as somehow faintly unfitting: drudge (as in the right-wing blog) fridge, Gidget..and there’s also budget, dodge, dredge, pudgy… It’s not playing around with names that I object to, it’s getting glued with one that doesn’t fit. The j seems much more Arabic as a transliteration of ج jeem, kind of like in Djinn.
    I think of “Hat” as more of a surname. I think I started out with “Mr. Hat” but that just doesn’t seem right for someone who ponders monkeys’ armpits. Might be useful in the future though if I need a distancing device to express mild disapproval. Some people use “Language” but I really don’t feel like I’m on first name/family basis. And LH is more impersonal, sort of like passive voice.

  236. if I need a distancing device to express mild disapproval.

    “In English, we are exposed to all weathers of address.”

    Sie and du,
    vous and tu,
    How I value what you do!
    Mi and tu,
    Mein and dein,
    Everybody feels just fine.

  237. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Is that your own work, Grumbly? We may want to enter you in competition. Is there a tune to go with it?
    ‘Mr Wig’ is a real name, at least in another spelling. There was a Labour MP in England called George Wigg, later Baron Wigg, he is supposed to have been a very nasty and rude man. It was he who first raised the Profumo affair in Parliament. George Wigg was, hypocritically and much later, arrested for curb-crawling in Park Lane. He was involved at another point in his career in a public argument with another very disagreeable man, the Attorney General, Lord Dilhorne (pronounced Dillon), whose name was Reginald Manningham-Buller — known (from his school days) as Reginald Bullying-Manner (the origin of this is wrongly ascribed to Bernard Levin, in Wikipedia).
    One of his daughters, Eliza, was a spy and later the head of M.I.5. His wife trained carrier pigeons that, according to the wiki entry on Eliza,

    … were used to fly coded messages in World War II. The pigeons were dropped in wicker baskets with little parachutes over France and Germany and were they were used to fly back to her mother’s pigeon loft carrying intelligence. One of the pigeons won the Dickin Medal, and one brought back intelligence of the V-2 rocket project in Peenemünde.

    Of Eliza’s husband it says,

    She is married to David, whose surname has never been disclosed publicly; he has five children by his previous marriage, who are Lady Manningham-Buller’s stepchildren. “Her husband, David, is the son of a former lieutenant-colonel and a former lecturer in moral philosophy at St Andrews University. He has recently retrained as a carpenter. An Irish Catholic by birth, he is said to have once held strong left-wing views”.

  238. A.J.P. Crown says:

    It is unclear to me whether it is David or David’s mother who taught moral philosophy. If it is as written (his mother), then what did he do before he was a carpenter? Perhaps he was a spy too.

  239. It’s intended to be sung to the German childrens’ melody “Hänschen Klein”.
    In C major:
    G-E-E-[]-F-D-D -[]
    C-D-E-F-G-G-G-[]
    G-E-E-[]-F-D-D -[]
    C-E-G-G-C
    [Libretto by G.]

  240. A.J.P. Crown says:

    We would ask
    Sie or du
    To say tschüss or toodle-oo.
    English ‘you’
    Is quite polite,
    We don’t need that möglichkeit.

  241. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: I’m often very interested in the comments by the linguists, … but I like to hear other ways of making sense of language (criticism and commentary and so on) which are not available at Language Log.
    That is exactly why I love Language Hat! You (I mean one, or whoever) are not talking shop all the time, there are many other shops to get acquainted with.
    p.s. I am not “offended” if people make mistakes with my name, as I am sure they are not doing it on purpose, but it annoys me, especially since it is so easy to get it right.

  242. childrens’ melody
    Grumbly! Mind your toes on the hoop, going through. That can only be children’s melody. That is indeed a famous one. I remember it blown through a squeaking Sopranblockflöte, dimmed now by the decades.

  243. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Goethe spielt Flöte auf Schiller sein Diller.

  244. Hi, fellas! Just thought I’d pass on that Grumbly is moue-ing at a corner table of the diner, so he may not make it tonight. Says he thought some He Who Stickles was still on vacation. Grumbly was playing with the kids, and sorta fell on his face. Apparently this Mr. Stickle is some kinda dancin’ mister who just come back surprise-like from the Say-chells, and thought G. was flubbin’ at his enter-shats practice. I sez to G., I sez, well, were you s’posed to be practicin’ or what? He got a little sore then, so I eased away back to the cash register and opened a fresh pack of Menthols. <drag>

  245. Here’s a little alexandrian production, based on the retort “Wir haben die Schweine nicht zusammen gehütet, glaube ich!”. You use this to put down someone who says “du” to you when you consider that out of line.

    Sie teilten sich in jüng’ren Tagen in ihre Arbeit: Schweinehüten.
    Der eine studierte. Heute tut er nur noch eins: bei Heidegger brüten.
    Der andere ward zum Kellner. Verflogen, einstige Grunzidylle!
    Vorbei die Zeit des Freundesworts: “Reich mir die Pulle”!
    Es gilt denn heute, solch’ frecher Dachsigkeit zu trutzen:
    “Ich habe Ihnen nicht erlaubt, daß Sie mich duzen.”

  246. The form “Diller” is unknown in the Rheinland. “Piller” is what you call that thing, or rather “Pillermann”. There’s also “Pimmel”, “Schniedelwutz” and a dozen more. There are more elaborate expressions referring to physiological states of the same, such as “ich krieg’ einen dicken Hals” (which can also mean to get pissed off). Anything tumescent is fair analogical game.
    But I won’t tire you with further erudition on this tawdry topic.

  247. A.J.P. Crown says:

    “Wir haben die Schweine nicht zusammen gehütet, glaube ich!”
    I love Berlin, both the city and some of its inhabitants, and I expect I’m just in a bad mood, but I just thank god I’m not obliged to live in Germany any longer. The last thing I need is being around smartasses who like to abuse each other with phrases like ‘wir haben die Schweine nicht zusammen gehütet, glaube ich’.
    Some people think this ‘duzen’ thing is an unalterable question of language. That it’s like the weather, in other words; nothing you can do except move away. It seems to me — the Scandinavians are an obvious example — that it is a social matter, one of choice. It’s more akin to altering what form of government you have than it is to say, abolishing distinctions of gender.
    I do like your poem, though. I learned the Diller one in Hamburg.

  248. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Does anybody know of any difference between the meaning of unalterable and inalterable? I would look it up in the lovely M&W usage book if the snow were not three feet deep, it’s in the other building.

  249. any difference between the meaning of unalterable and inalterable?

    Curious. Neither OED nor MW tries to distinguish them.
    inapplicable
    (?)unapplicable (Amurrican if at all, unlettered)
    insanitary
    unsanitary
    improbable
    unprobable (Amurrican if at all, unlettered)
    impatience
    unpatience
       (8,410,000 google hits)
       1913 online Webster’s Dictionary

  250. I don’t think there’s any difference in meaning, but I have no backup for that.

  251. На мою книгу ‘Теория исторического материализма’ пошли в поход многочисленные Мальбруки
    Google translate: “In my book ‘The theory of historical materialism,’ went on a camping trip many Malbruki.”
    We never found out where the invective in this was. Going camping with Marlboro?

  252. It’s a reference to the famous French song “Malbrouck s’en va-t’en guerre” (the source of the tune of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”).

  253. marie-lucie says:

    “Malbrouck s’en va-t’en guerre”
    It is Malbrough (silent gh) and is inspired by the famous British general the duke of Marlborough (an ancestor of Winston Churchill) who won several battles against the French in the 18th century. The song describes Malbrough’s death and funeral, and the grief of his wife: all this must have been wishful thinking as the duke did not die on the battlefield but of a stroke, long after the battles. The tune is lively and not funereal at all, it must have been a marching song composed and added to by French soldiers.

  254. Yes, I googled all of that before–really, you can’t read anything here without a google toolbar–but it didn’t make any sense…invective? Maybe I need more coffee.

  255. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Can anyone explain why there are so many spellings of Marlborough? Is it that, because of the Duke, the name became popular in many different countries at a time (the late 17th, early eighteenth centuries) when there was little or no regulation of spelling?

  256. I spelled it like the cigarette, having forgotten exactly where in the thread the word had appeared.

  257. It is Malbrough (silent gh)
    I have heard French persons say /malbruk/.

  258. It was also widely interpreted, in the context of the Napoleonic Wars, as an ironic reflection on Napoleon’s failure–and that’s clearly the sense Bukharin has in mind. See here.

  259. That article includes an amusing Russian couplet from the Napoleonic-era version:
    Marlborough went off to war,
    A shadow chasing him.
    By evening he had shat himself
    And died that very day.

  260. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I have heard French persons say /malbruk/.
    Me too. That’s how they said it in France. Everyone knows that.

  261. marie-lucie says:

    LH, AJP: I wonder who “they” were. Those people were uneducated in the most basic traditions and must have been hypercorrecting. Did they sing the song in front of you?

  262. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Not the song, the name.

  263. marie-lucie says:

    Malbrough: Today I asked a colleague who grew up in the same general area as I did what the name of the protagonist of the song was (without telling him what name I remembered) and after some hesitation he said “Malbrou … Malbrout” (pronouncing the t). I had never heard this variant before either. I mentioned that I had just run into “Malbrouck” on the web, as I thought he might be misremembering that variant, but he did not recognize it. Obviously there must be several variants, but since the English name ends in a vowel sound (hence the variant “Marlboro”), it would not be surprising that the French pronunciation also ended in a vowel, which is the way I have always heard and pronounced the name.
    In the area where I grew up there was a noble family headed by le marquis d’Olliamson (pronounced as if written in French “Olianson”), a descendant of an Irish family called Williamson who had settled in France in the 17th or 18th century.

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