Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Homage to Poland

This a tribute to the Polish president Lech Kaczynski, his wife and other people who died in a plane crash near Smolensk. They were flying to attend a ceremony at Katyn that was meant to be a great conciliatory moment between Poland and Russia.

On a visit to Poland Yuri Trifonov, the great Russian writer of the post-war period, was asked if Polish literature had influence on him. 'None', he recalls thinking at first. Then he remembered how as teenager he was reading non-stop the historical adventure epics of Henrik Sienkiewicz. And the more he remembered the more he became aware how deeply that Polish writer affected him.

I haven't read much by Senkevich, but I love Polish poetry. The singer Ewa Demarczyk has also introduced me to Russian women's poetry which I had ignored completely - until I heard her singing to Marina Tsvetayeva's verse in a Polish translation. 

Here she sings 'Cyganka' (Gypsy Girl) by the Russian poet Osip Mandelshtam (tr. Jerzy Pomianowski). English translation of the verse below the video. Please read the Russian version of this post here with Ewa singing Tsvetayeva's 'Your Name' dedicated to the poet Alexander Blok.

"The monks drink tea sweetened with salt
And the gypsy girl sits and teases them all
The gypsy girl sits on sheets of white
Flashing her eyes from side to side
Grinding a humble request on her lips
Until dawn among them she sits
Asking: Golden Sir, please, some gift
A shawl, anything, even a handkerchief (...)"

transl. by William Brand

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