Author: tkatchev
Posted: Dec 24, 2001
http://www.adequacy.org/public/stories/2001.12.24.131745.41.html
 

([MP3] links fixed, 09.2008)


This time I'm continuing the expose' of Egor Letov's texts. His work can be roughly divided into three periods: the "nihilist" phase (1984-1990),
the "existentialist" phase (1990-1993), and the "communist" phase. (1993-2001) 
 


the "nihilist" phase, (1984-1990)

I present to you the first-ever, as far as I know, translations of Egor Letov to English. Egor Letov is the premier contemporary nihilst and existentialist in Russia; the translations posted here are from his early "nihilism" phase, circa 1984-1989. Admittedly, his later "existentialist" phase is much better, but more difficult to translate. (The poetics gets much more involved and flowery.) 
In any case, enjoy, and remember that you saw it here first. 
 
 

Optimism

You know how to weep -- you're going to die.
Someone's writing on walls -- he's going to die.
She has eyes -- she's going to die.
It is time to relax -- we're going to die.

Someone's writing on walls -- he's going to die.
It smells of spring showers -- someone just died.
They have something to say -- they're going to die.
Someone's quetly laughing -- I'm going to die.

I dared to speak the Word -- I'm going to die.
I dared to sing "fuck!" (*) -- someone just died.
Someone's watching the Sun -- he's almost dead.
Someone's watching my step -- he's ready to die.

  This is optimism.
  Our optimism.
  New optimism.
 

(*) Alternative version: "I dared to take this step" 

(c. 1985, Listen to the original. [MP3])

----------------------------------------------- 
 
 

Children's World

This didn't happen to me, it was only a guess,
Someone smashed my window, someone smashed my glass.
Very difficult to run with a gun strapped to your back,
With a yo-yo in your head and a target on your back.

  Children's World
  It's a Children's World

Someone's crawling in my trench, bloody and a bit unhinged,
But no matter what I do, he will die without my help.
If you tried to draw all this, you would get a sticky stain,
Very large and sticky stain, very hard to know your place.

  Children's World
  It's a Children's World

I will shoot me in the head, get some funny juice to flow,
If you try this game again, it will double all the fun.
When there's nothing left to lose, you can tolerate much more,
You can play the happy game, roam the fields collecting flowers.

  Children's World
  It's a Children's World
 

(c. 1986, Listen to the original. [MP3])

----------------------------------------------- 
 
 

The Zoo

No need to treasure, no need to wait,
No need for faith, no need for lies,
No need to fall, no need to drink,
No need to weep, no need to live.

  I need people like myself,
  Crazy and a little strange,
  Crazy and a little sick.
  Time will come and I will find them,
  We will leave without a fight,
  We will leave you in the night,
  We're leaving the zoo.

Oh baby, baby, you're like a squeak,
You're like a point when you don't speak,
But you're too many, my eyes are dim,
I wish I could just smash the glass.

  I need people like myself,
  Crazy and a little strange,
  Crazy and a little sick.
  Time will come and I will find them,
  We will leave without a fight,
  We will leave you in the night,
  We're leaving the zoo.

More empty sounds, more empty days,
You're one too many, and we are strays,
The hands of children are holding knives,
I'm hoping all this is simply lies.

  I need people like myself,
  Crazy and a little strange,
  Crazy and a little sick.
  Time will come and I will find them,
  We will leave without a fight,
  We will leave you in the night,
  We're leaving the zoo.
 

(c. 1986, Listen to the original. [MP3])

------------------------------------------------ 
 
 

Unclarity of Mind

Dreaming inside-out
I am tripping on level ground
Dreaming inside-out
Strands of hair in the cup of my water

  Dirty bandage and glass after glass.
  Dirty bandage and glass after glass.

I have seen the day
I saw in the sky, there someone was walking
I have seen the day
Wandering windows of waxen lights

  Dirty bandage and glass after glass.
  Dirty bandage and glass after glass.

Please prohibit me
I'm strung out over and over
Please prohibit me
I already feel the high wearing off

  Dirty bandage and glass after glass.
  Dirty bandage and glass after glass.
 

(c. 1987, Listen to the original. [MP3])
 
 



 

the "existentialist" phase (1990-1993), 

This time, I'm continuing to post exclsuive translations of Egor Letov. This is from his "existentialist" phase, spanning approximately 1989-1993. It was marked by much more involved and flowery poetic language, with a new element of folk incroppings. This period is generally considered his best, though people say that this is due to schizophrenia and/or drug abuse. 

In any case, here's another exclusive release for adequacy.org readers: 
 
 

Seven Spunky Steps Over the Horizon, pt. I

The sky is shaking under my feet,
The news are flying off into far-off lands,
Flowered into troubled circles,
The thundering view, the starry dust

  Willful rowboat, obedient stream,
  Seven spunky steps over the horizon.

Following the footsteps of the sworn volunteers,
Into icy depths of dry rivers,
Into flooded waters of dry wells,
Into lollipop fear,
Into unknown fords.

  Long little night, short little day,
  Seven spunky steps over the horizon.

The punished son never grew up,
The capricious oar is refusing to row,
The stubborn parachute didn't open on time,
The flittery boomerang decided to believe that,
  Well, there just isn't any going back,
  No, there isn't any going back.

No, you better listen
To the rain biting into my palms,
Listen to the mouse running over my throat,
Listen to the breach forming under my heart,
To the winter crawling into my guts,
To the lichen crawling onto my spine,
To the water springing into my eyes,
To the persistent dandelion ripping into concrete,
To the steady rusting of crystalline doors.

Listen to the rye growing into my skin,
Listen to the mouse running over my throat,
Listen to the laughter bubbling forth from my gut,
Listen to the rainbow flowing into your swollen veins,
  Sweet little rainbow, late little rainbow.
To the apple-tree giving birth to a star,
  Tiny little star, forgotten, domestic, and cute.
Listen to the movements in abandoned towns
Of uncontrollable choruses of wooden brides.

Listen to the rye growing under my heart,
Listen to the mouse running over my throat,
Listen to the night swelling into my guts,
To the grass biting into my palms,
To the milk drying on my lips,
To the worms stirring in my spleen,
To the grasshoper stirring in amber stones,
  Submerging himself into races from nowhere to noplace.

Yeah, things are going just great,
The nameless bunny is afraid
Under the eyeballs of the fences of the stuffy
Corners of your own dank insides.

The sky fell under my feet,
The news flew off into far-off lands,
Ruptured into molten circles,
The thundering plain, the starry swamp.

  Willful rowboat, obedient stream,
  Seven spunky steps over the horizon,
  Seven icy bridges over the horizon,
  Seven rainy days over the horizon.
 

(c. 1992, Listen to the original. [MP3])
 
 
 



 

"communist" phase. (1993-2001)

This distinction is a fairly arbitrary one, and mostly represents a shift in the poetic stlye of expression more than it signifies any sort of change in ideology. This time, I'm posting a few translations from Letov's "communist" period. Strangely enough, this phase is characterized by a more relaxed, lyrical poetic language, with a very heavy descent into phonetic and rhythmical experimentation. At one point, he got involved in pro-communist / nationalist propaganda, even going so far as to create a "national bolshevism" political party; most of this was done as an elaborate provocation. ("Troll", if you will.) For this reason, his later work is considered "communist", even though the majority of his songs are actually pacifist and/or anti-Soviet. 
(Note: Text in square brackets signifies a more phonetic translation, though not necessarily a more correct one from a semantic point of view.) 
 
 
 

New Dawn

Mischievous sparks sunk into cinders,
The air of my land smells of bitterness.
  There will be a dawn.
  Clear-eyed morning dawn.

Fires and stars burned to the ground,
By the nighttime dew, in the rawness of wind.
  There will be a dawn.
  Clear-eyed morning dawn.

Sweet revenge, [Dangerous zone]
Tossed bone,
Stolen rule, [Weight of stone]
Scarlet brooks,
Fallen rooks,
Mud worn to the heel.
Forbidden truth, [Misplaced trust]
Concrete dust,
Settlements for sale. [Oversold over distance]

  Everything's fine, except it's all to fucking lousy...
  Stuffy in heaven.

Roads and pathways worn out in the dusk,
Shadow rules over the breadth of my land.
  There will be a dawn.
  Clear-eyed morning dawn.

Sweet revenge, [Dangerous zone]
Tossed-out bone,
Stolen rule, [Weight of stone]
Scarlet brooks,
Fallen rooks,
Mud worn to the heel.
Forbidden truth, [Misplaced trust]
Concrete dust,
Settlements for sale. [Oversold over distance]

  Everything's fine, except it's all to fucking lousy...
  Stuffy in heaven.
  Dirty in heaven.
  Nauseous in heaven.
  Smelly in heaven.

The denser the twilight, the brighter the battle.
The darker the nightfall, the clearer the day.
  There will be a dawn.
  Clear-eyed morning dawn.
 

(c. 1995, Listen to the original. [MP3])

------------ 
 
 

To Live

How easy is hunger when starving?
How easy is silence when mute?
How easy is hiding for corpses?
How easy to search while alive?

  Waiting for an answer:
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives?

How easy to burn up in the dawn?
How easy to glow by the window?
How easy to sparkle with snot?
How easy to stink of shit?

  Waiting for an answer:
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives?

How easy to stuff on turkey?
How easy to swallow the bite?
How easy to battle with zits?
How easy to trample on sand?

  Waiting for an answer:
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives well?
  Who in this world lives?
 

(c. 1995, Listen to the original. [MP3])
 
 

Important note: The classical Russian poet Nekrasov wrote a famous poem in the 1870's titled "Who in Russia Lives Well". It was a sharply political piece, critical of the state of Russian government and society at the time; here, Letov twists the famous quote around to communicate a much deeper and universal message, a sort of existentialist extension of the ideas of the nineteenth century. This can be considered a sort of illustration of the evolution of political thought through the last century -- something like "monarchism -> dissent -> utopianism -> totalitarianism -> chaos -> existentialist dread". 
 
 
 



 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 


 

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