Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Bely's scream


A poem, first. Blok’s The gray sky is still beautiful

And cold lights in the gray sky
Clothed the tsar’s Winter Palace
And the armored warrior in black won’t answer
Until dawn overtakes him

Then, reddening above the watery abyss
Let him lower his sword more gloomily,
To lie dead in a useless struggle
With the savage mob for an ancient fairy tale.

And a story. I found this in Mochulsky’s biography of Andrei Bely, which is, unfortunately, the only one in English.

In 1921, after Blok had died, and Bely was trying to get out of Russia, Bely gave a lecture that was supposed to be on Blok’s poetry. Maria Tsvetaeva was there. She wrote that in the middle of the lecture, Bely lost control and began to scream: “From starvation! From Starvation! Gout from starvation, instead of overeating!” and then he went on to his no doubt astonished audience:

‘ I have no room! I am the writer of the Russian land, and I don’t even have a stone on which to lay my head… I wrote Petersburg! I foresaw the downfall of tsarist Russia, I had a dream of the end of the tsar in 1905!… I cannot write! It’s a disgrace! I must stand in line to get my ration of fish! I want to write! But I also want to eat! I am not a spirit! For you I am not a spirit!.. But I am a proletarian… Lumpenproletariat. Because I am all in rags. Because they did away with Blok, and they want to do away with me. I will not permit it! I will scream until I am heard! A-a-a-a!…’

I will not permit it.
It was on ancient fairy tales, and their bloody destruction, that we have built this artificial paradise. And it will not last. It is dying in our bloodstreams as I write this. And in the sky, the tree branches, in the great migrations. So: what was it for? All this happiness.

I will scream until I am heard.


duncan said...

a worthy manifesto roger.

Anonymous said...

LI, that is some poem by Blok and quote from Bely.

When Bely and Marina Tsvetaeva meet in Berlin, she gives him her book, Separation. After reading it, he writes her a letter:

"you know, it's not a book but a song: a voice, the purest of any I have heard. The voice of longing itself, sehnsucht."



Anonymous said...

LI, ah, one more passage from Marina that the Bely phrase you quoted on Notes from the Zona - " I remained healthy by removing my skin" - makes me think of. Please pardon if I only give the translation in French.

"Je ne suis pas faite pour la vie en effet. En moi tout est incendie. Je peux mener dix relations (bonnes relations) à la fois et soutenir à chacun, du tréfonds de mon être, qu'il est le seul et unique. De sa part, cependant, je ne supporte pas - la moindre tentative de me quitter yeux. J'ai mal, vous comprenez ? Je suis une personne écorchée, alors que vous portez tous une armure. Tous, vous avez : l'art, la vie en société, les amitiés, les distractions, la famille, le devoir, moi, au fond, je n'ai RI-EN. Tout tombe comme une peau, et sous la peau il y a la chair à vif ou le feu : je suis Psyché. Aucune forme ne me convient, même pas celle, très vaste, de mes vers! Je ne peux vivre. Rien ne ressemble à rien. Je ne peux vivre qu'en rêve."

roger said...

une personne écorchée - the skinned person, the écorché, is difficult to translate into English. In my Larousse, they translate it in terms of an anatomical doll, or a cutaway - but in English, skinless is used for chickens. Is this a blessing? Some lack in the repertoire of tortures?

Anyway, I've been on a Bely kick, obviously, Amie. Disappointingly, there is no big bio - not even, as far as I can tell, in Russian. How odd! And everybody says Silver Dove needs to be retranslated. It is hard to imagine, say, James Joyce receiving this treatment. And all Russian speakers seem to agree that Bely was the Russian Joyce.

I found an essay on his death, written in 1943, by an exiled scholar who cites a critic who said, Bely was a lone trapeze artist under the dome of his ego.

Which, of course, reminds me of Hohl's symbol of art, another tawdry circus image.

I'm not sure what I'm getting at. Nothing, probably. I'll end here.