Zipping through wood s lot, trying to get through my blogroll so I can set to work on my editing job, I was stopped in my tracks by this:

Bruno Schulz

Sergei Kruglov
Tr. Vitaly Chernetsky

The sun outside the window, a redhead lilith
Laughing, devoured the names of the three angels.
But I’m but a child, and I won’t get scared,
Father! I’ll draw her,
An incantation: pencil, paper.
On a metallic branch outside the window sits that Stymphalian bird
The spring of 1942
Filled with melancholy yearning, begging for flesh

You know, father, if God really is
A rabbi from Drohobycz — then we are done for!
But if He is just G-d,
With the bleeding meaty emptiness of “o” (as if
They tore out, clinging tightly with crooked fingers
Eight pages right from the very middle
Of the dense, piquant, quivering moist-rose-like
Book) — then
It’s all right, perhaps we’ll somehow come back to life.

Sometimes I get a strong sense from a translation that I’ll like the poet in the original, so I googled around and found the original, which I did indeed like (it’s below the cut if you read Russian—I got it from here). There’s more of Kates’s Kruglov here; it’s part of a section of Jacket devoted to “New Russian Poetry.” It’s always good to discover a new poet.


Солнце за окном — рыжая лилита,
Смеясь, имена трёх ангелов сожрала.
А я-то — ребёнок, а я не испугаюсь,
Отец! я её нарисую,
Заклятие: карандаш, бумага.
На металлической ветке за окном тоскует, просит плоти
Стимфалийская птица весна
Сорок второго года.

Знаешь, отец, ведь если Бог — и в самом деле
Раввин из Дрогобыча, то мы пропали!
Но если Он — просто Б-г,
С кровоточащей мясной пустотой «о» (словно
Вырвали, плотно скрюченными пальцами уцепившись,
Восемь страниц с рисунками из самой середины
Плотной, пряной, трепещущей, как влажная роза,
Книги) — то
Ничего, может, ещё оживём.


  1. может, ещё оживём.
    i read in the morning Texts for nothing 8-9-10, it was all about that

  2. i didn’t know what is msheloimstvo, something religious, staroobryadnoe/tserkovnoe?

  3. Мшелоимство is new to me too; I guess “avarice” is the closest English word. It’s from an old Church Slavic word мшел ‘profit.’

  4. read,
    Here’s a quote from the monastic statute of the Holy Trinity Monastery of Ryazan (source):
    Монашествующим не должно заводить в келье лишних вещей, впадать в грех мшелоимства. Лучшим украшением иноческой кельи служат святые иконы и книги Священного Писания, а также творения Святых Отцов. Келья монаха содержит крайний минимум всего, без чего нельзя обойтись в ней. Келья должна быть красной не вещами, а духом веры и молитвы живущего в ней инока. Светские же и мирские вещи и принадлежности не должны находиться в келье.
    The religious should not keep unnecessary things in their cell, [or] fall into msheloimstvo. Holy icons and the Holy Scripture, as well as the writings of the Holy Fathers, best decorate a monastic cell. A monk’s cell contains a bare minimum of essentials. The cell’s beauty must be, not in things, but in the spirit of faith and prayer of the monk who lives there. Worldly goods must not be present in the cell.

    Замшелый (zamshelyj) means ‘overgrown with moss’, and ‘за-‘ is a prefix with the meaning, here, roughly equivalent to ‘over-‘, so msheloimstvo is something along the lines of ‘mossgrownhaving’…

  5. > It’s from an old Church Slavic word мшел ‘profit.’
    Hah! Thank you Hat. Serves me right for being too lazy to learn OCS…

  6. great LJ, i wish i never knew about Gaidar’s feats though, but this kind of disappointments are no news since perestroika, so shocking, i remember only thinking how he always looked so childish, the face, very open like
    i liked more Dikaya sobaka Dingo, Povest’ o Zoe and Shure, Molodaya Gvardia, a lot of great soviet children books, Tri berezu na kholme i remember, Zakhoder, Marshak, Chukovsky, and other names i don’t remember from children’s magazines, Murzilka

  7. parvomagnus says

    What a nice correspondence in the words for god! I’d never thought before about how not to write words in other languages. If this bit out of wikipedia’s to be believed, it’d be hard to translate this into Spanish – no emptiness.

  8. marie-lucie says

    The problem of how to not write words for “god” (as opposed to the name of the deity in a religion where the deity does have an actual name) seems restricted to a tiny section of society. Most people will never need consider the problem. But by analogy with the French instances given, it seems that all one would need to do in Spanish would be to remove the i of Dios.

  9. parvomagnus says

    Well, though I’ve got no problem with writing god, the ‘g-d’ in the poem works for me because I’m aware of the practice. If no one in Spain who’d want to write ‘d-os’ does that, but instead just adds a dash, then those two lines would, I think, seem puzzling, as the ’emptiness’ of ‘b-g’ or ‘g-d’ isn’t in ‘d-ios’.

  10. A.J. P. Tffo says

    D-os gives added meaning to the concept of dualism, though.

  11. marie-lucie says

    parvomagnus: then one could also try di-s for Spanish.

  12. one could also try di-s for Spanish.
    D-s seems to be preferred. If you look at the last paragraph here:

    los judíos se refieren a Dios con circunloquios o abreviaturas como Tetragramatón (Tetra=4, grama=letras), D-s, el Señor, etc.
    then again here:
    “nermizra” says D-s, but “La Mas Bella Y Linda de Todas” says Di-s.
    No conflicts with the Trinity there.
    As far as Google hits:
    nombre de dios D-s — 380,000
    nombre de dios Di-s — 628,000
    but yikes, nombre de dios D-os comes up with 9,640,000
    All the initial hits are about place names, and looking at the first three pages of hits, NONE is a theological discussion and I cannot locate the D-os target language within the websites in question. So something is wrong with this search method, and the Trinity is safe, at least for now.

  13. John Emerson says

    I like the way the Russians, in order not to say the true name of {{!!GOD!!}} aloud, just insert the letter “sp”: “gospod”.
    Thus leading to my joke about the dyslexic Russian cynic agnostic who had lost his faith in Dospog.
    A joke which Hat has heard before.

  14. John Emerson says

    “the letters ‘spo'”

  15. solus rex says

    Gospod’ means “Lord”, JE.

  16. marie-lucie says

    That’s why it’s a joke, SR. You need to pick up a few grains of salt before you respond to JE.

  17. A.J.P. Exxon says

    JE rules.

  18. John Cowan says

    The corresponding term for Western monks was proprietarius ‘property-owner’. Thus Pollock & Maitland:

    We have to remember that in the eye of ecclesiastical law the monk who became a proprietarius, the monk, that is, who arrogated to himself any proprietary rights or the separate enjoyment of any wealth, committed about as bad an offence as he could possibly commit.

    There’s no English equivalent, because monks ceased to be special subjects of English law before the law transitioned from Latin to English, particularly the ecclesiastical law.

  19. Fascinating — thanks for the added information!

  20. I once had a cat named “Spo”. She was named for a lamppost in a Roz Chast cartoon.

Speak Your Mind