Neighboring World, Yakov Druskin

And there is no end and cannot stop / and everything comes out so that there is no break / and flows like water and finding an obstruction in ice / and the sky is grey / and from here the trams on the bridge go slower / and the bridge itself has lengthened and became boring / and on the bridge a boy goes on the railing and if he falls into the Neva he will smash up on the stone and ice and drown in the water / and the ice goes downstream and ice has hit ice and the ice has broken and on the ice there are stones and bricks and from a stone to a stone and from a brick to a brick an infinity / and more ice went over the ice and the ice went under the ice and went out from under the ice and went on / and the Neva flows and petroleum flows on the Neva: / blue oil and patterns and patches and the head is spinning and it is possible to fall into the Neva head first and smash head upon stone and ice and drown in the water and bricks on the ice and shards of bricks on the ice and from a brick to a brick and from a shard to a shard an infinity and the bridge stretches and it has lengthened and the trams go slower and the granite railings on the Neva and I am lying on the railings it is cold the sky is grey nothing else exists. 

Leningrad, 1927 or 1928
Translated by Eugene Ostashevsky
Read more in Little Star Weekly

Yakov Druskin (1901–1980) was a Russian underground philosopher. He was a friend and supporter of the eclectic group of poets and provocateurs, around Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky, who founded the OBERIU collective in 1928 and managed ten years of mischief (combining readings with elements of theater, circus acts, cabaret, and general mayhem) before being disbanded on charges of confusing the proletariat. Little Star celebrates OBERIU this month on the occasion of a performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music based on Kharms’s novella, “The Old Woman,” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe, directed by Robert Wilson, and using an adaptation by Darryl Pinkney. The poetry and thought of the OBERIU brilliantly challenged conventional ways of imagining and particularly the totalizing aspirations of the ideology that threatened them. Their work, which fully emerged from hiding only in the 1980s, is giving fresh impetus to artists within and beyond their native Russian.

This week we feature Druskin, a school friend of of Vvedensky and the only member of the group to survive the war years. After the siege of Leningrad, his translator Eugene Ostashevsky writes, Druskin “walked across the mutilated city to Kharms’s apartment. Kharms’s wife, Marina Malich, gave Druskin a suitcase with Kharms’s and Vvedensky’s papers. He tied the suitcase to a child’s sled and pulled it back home. This is how the greater part of their surviving work came down to us.” Ostashevsky describes Druskin, “a profoundly original Christian existentialist philosopher,” as “a living window onto an eradicated world” for the young members of the sixties Soviet underground.

The three pieces we feature this week in Little Star (one above and two in our Weekly) reflect on a notion that preoccupied the group, which dabbled in the occult and styled themselves chinari, or “titled ones,” of “neighboring worlds”—worlds that adjoin ours but operate according to different rules—and how to reach them. Messengers? Windows? Kharms’ stories of the old woman also travel in this alternative geography.

Translator Eugene Ostashevsky is a poet and scholar of Russian literature. He is editor, most recently, of Endarkenment: Selected Poems, by Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, translated with Lyn Hejinian and others.


An OBERIU bookshelf:

Eugene Ostashevsky, editor, OBERIU: An Anthology of Russian Absurdism

Daniil Kharms, Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Daniil Kharms, edited and translated by Matvei Yankelevich

Leonid Lipavsky, Conversations with OBERIU, in Little Star #2 (2011), translated by Eugene Ostashevsky

Alexander Vvedensky, An Invitation for Me to Think (poems), edited and translated by Eugene Ostashevsky

Daniil Kharms, It Happened Like This: Stories and Poems, translated by Ian Frazier

OBERIU in Little Star Weekly
June 13 – June 20 – June 27July 4July 11, 2014
November 13, 2015
January 22, 2016









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