Lena Berson. “In the darkest times…” Translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya

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Lena Berson. “In the darkest times…” Translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya
Illustration by Lucy Milko
Lena Berson. "In the darkest times..." Translated by Anna Krushelnitskaya

 
In the darkest times, neverthecursed before,
All you can think is this: war, war.
All you can do… not a damn thing anymore.

In case of airstrikes – there’s more use in a sandbag,
Than in my body in which my tongue starts to sag,
Not a language left in which it could still wag.

Our mother tongue, still the same (not the same, no)
No more makes us kin than do spittle bubbles we blow,
Or the way our fingers grow and our bellies grow.

Same speech, stuck to us like a suckling tick –
I wish your mutterances were muffled and thick,
Unlike the knell in their ears: shoot, maim, murder, quick;

Be as hushed as the ash after a flash of flame,
Like rain in the window hole, through the gaping door frame,
On the grass in the yard which was burned down in your name.
 

* * *
 
В темнейшие, темнеменьшие времена,
Все то, что ты можешь думать: война, война.
Все то, что ты можешь делать… да ни хрена.

На случай обстрела – полезней мешок с песком,
Чем тело мое с коснеющим языком,
Который уже не мелет ни на каком.

Родимая речь, все та же (не та, не та),
Роднит нас не больше пены у края рта,
Наличия пальцев, наличия живота.

Привычная, присосавшаяся как клещ,
Ты лучше бы стала невнятная немтыречь,
Чем биться в ушах: стреляй, убивай, калечь.

Шуршала бы ты не громче золы в костре,
Дождя по оконной бреши, дверной дыре,
Травы на сожженном во имя твое дворе.
 

About the Author:

Lena Berson
Lena Berson
Israel

Lena Berson, born in Omsk, graduated from Moscow State University with a major in journalism; worked as a co-editor of “Sharmanshchik”, a newspaper of the Theater of Music and Poetry of Elena Kamburova. Her poems have been published in many Russian literary journals, such as Arion, Jerusalem Journal, Etaji, Novyi Mir, etc. Since 1999, she has lived in Israel. She works as a news editor.

About the Translator:

Anna Krushelnitskaya
Anna Krushelnitskaya
Ann Arbor, MI. USA

Anna Krushelnitskaya (b.1975) lives in Ann Arbor, MI. Anna’s original texts and translations appear in Russian and in English in various print and online publications. She has authored two collections of poems in English. Anna’s most voluminous work is the 700-page bilingual interview collection Cold War Casual/ Простая холодная война (2019).

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Lena Berson Лена Берсон
Bookshelf
by Victor Enyutin

A book of poems in Russian by Victor Enyutin (San Francisco, 1983). Victor  Enyutin is a Russian writer, poet, and sociologist who emigrated to the US from the Soviet Union in 1975.

by Anna Krushelnitskaya

This collection of personal essays by a bi-national Russian/U.S. author offers glimpses into many things Soviet and post-Soviet: the sacred, the profane, the mundane, the little-discussed and the often-overlooked. What was a Soviet school dance like? Did communists go to church? Did communists listen to Donna Summer? If you want to find out, read on!

by Anna Krushelnitskaya

“Cold War Casual” is a collection of transcribed oral testimony and interviews translated from Russian into English and from English into Russian that delve into the effect of the events and the government propaganda of the Cold War era on regular citizens of countries on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

by Julia Wiener

Julia Wiener was born in the USSR a few years before the Second World War; her youth was spent during the “Thaw” period, and her maturity coincided with the years of “Soviet stagnation”, which, in her case, ended with her emigration to Israel in the early 1970s. Her wartime childhood, her Komsomol-student youth, her subsequent disillusionment, her meetings with well-known writers (Andrei Platonov, Victor Nekrasov, etc.) are described in a humorous style and colorful detail. Julia brings to life colorful characters – from her Moscow communal apartment neighbors to a hippie London lord, or an Arab family, headed by a devotee of classical Russian literature. No less diverse are the landscapes against which the events unfold: the steppes of Kazakhstan, the Garden of Gethsemane, New York, Amsterdam, London.

by Julia Wiener

Julia Wiener’s novels focus on those moments when illusory human existence collapses in the face of true life, be it spiritual purity, love, old age, or death.

by Nina Kossman

A collection of poems in Russian. Published by Khudozhestvennaya literatura. Moscow, 1990.

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