Kategorie-Archiv: Literature

Isaiah Berlin: Against the Current. Essays in the History of Ideas.

Against the Current: Essays in the History of Ideas

by Isaiah Berlin

Viking Press, 394 pp., $16.95


Edmund Wilson once described Isaiah Berlin as “an extraordinary Oxford don, who left Russia at the age of eight and has a sort of double Russian-and-British personality. The combination is uncanny but fascinating.” But even these words from such a usually restrained source fail to do justice to the variety of gifts of this civilized and widely admired man who at one time or another has been a philosopher, a political theorist, an acute practical analyst of American and European politics, a historian of ideas, a biographer of Marx and translator of Turgenev, an active and influential participant in Jewish affairs, a long-time director of the Royal Opera House, founder of Wolfson College at Oxford, and President of the British Academy. Those who have been in his presence have witnessed his intellectual gaiety; he is a man of universal learning, a justly celebrated conversationalist, a man who inexhaustibly enlarges the lives of his colleagues, his students, his friends.

The four volumes of Isaiah Berlin’s collected essays and other writings that are currently appearing under the editorship of Henry Hardy should dispel the persistent myth that he has not found much time for scholarly writing among his many activities and that his work consists largely of critical and fragmentary occasional pieces that have no collective shape and express no single point of view.1 Berlin, as these volumes show, is a highly imaginative philosopher and historian of ideas who has repeatedly reminded us not to underestimate the influence of abstract ideas in human affairs, however harmless such ideas may appear when detached from their historical settings and microscopically analyzed by philosophers. He has reminded us that we cannot live without explaining the world to ourselves; that such explanations always rest on a conception of what is and can be; that whether we know it or not, insofar as we care about ideas at all, we are all participants in debates once familiar only to coteries of intellectuals.

Berlin sees his task as one of contributing to our self-knowledge by exhuming, clarifying, and criticizing the main ideas and values that lie behind our current conceptions of ourselves—of understanding historically whence we came, and how we came to be where we are now, thereby diminishing the dangers of being at the mercy of unexamined beliefs. This task requires rare psychological sensitivity, the capacity to enter into the consciousness of men far removed in space and time, and Berlin discharges it with grace and skill in the essays in the history of ideas collected in Against the Current.

In these portraits of thinkers from Machiavelli to Sorel he displays the powers of exposition, analysis, and lucidity familiar to readers of his other work. Berlin’s essays are neither chronicles nor exegetical exercises: he approaches ideas as incarnated in the men who conceived them; his subjects are never mere vehicles. Berlin is thoroughly at home with ideas in their personal and emotional, social or cultural embodiments—whether his subject is a humorless and fanatical reactionary like Joseph de Maistre or a fastidious dandy like Benjamin Disraeli, he manages to achieve an astonishing directness of contact with it.

His intellectual preoccupations and unparalleled gifts of imaginative reconstruction are brought together in these essays on men who dissented from shallow views of human nature: the ambiguous Machiavelli, the heroic and profound scholar Vico, the celebrated savant Montesquieu, as well as lesser known men, eccentric fanatics like Georges Sorel and J.G. Hamann, and the gentle visionary Moses Hess. Berlin, who has himself often stood apart from or against the fashionable trends of his own time, appreciates how all these men were treated by their contemporaries, more often than not, as “immovable, isolated rocks with their absurd appearance of seeking to arrest or deflect the central current.” All of them struggled with, or timidly grasped, or celebrated human freedom and the diversity of human values and patterns of life.

According to Isaiah Berlin, one of the deepest assumptions of Western political thought, found in Plato and scarcely questioned since, is “the conviction that there exist true, immutable, universal, timeless objective values, valid for all men, everywhere, at all times; that these values are at least in principle realizable, whether or not human beings are, or have been, or ever will be, capable of realizing them on earth; that these values form a coherent system, a harmony which, conceived in social terms, constitutes the perfect society.”

We may desire, for example, both expensive missiles to protect “national security” and freedom from burdensome taxation; an excellent secondary educational system for all but not an admissions policy which overlooks merit or the effects of past discrimination; equal rights for all but not unwanted, neighbors. These conflicting sentiments are expressions of more abstract values we prize—justice, freedom, happiness, security, loyalty. It is a common conviction (or hope) that these conflicts are apparent, that our various values can be somehow harmoniously realized—or at least ranked in importance—perhaps by the efforts of some especially clever thinker, a politician or religious savior or sociologist, or by the use of some method, scientific or philosophical, or by some technological invention.

This conviction is familiar enough, but is it true? Berlin thinks that it is not, and his criticism of it is expressed—as so often in his work—through inspection of the ideas of the historical figures he believes were especially prominent in undermining it. His essay on Machiavelli is an eloquent portrait of a man who questioned this psychologically attractive doctrine in uncompromising fashion. As Berlin claims, “it is this rock, upon which Western beliefs and lives had been founded, that Machiavelli seems, in effect, to have split open.” (“The Originality of Machiavelli”)

In Berlin’s view Machiavelli’s central aim was to provide a set of therapeutic maxims designed to help the statesman in restoring Italy to a position of security and stability, vigor and magnificence, to create “a state conceived after the analogy of Periclean Athens, or Sparta, but above all the Roman Republic.” To do so, the statesman must be realistic, “pagan”: he must be prepared to use terrible measures to ensure the general good, be willing to kill the innocent to create a show of strength, to deceive and betray and falsify. Once he has embarked on the course of transforming a diseased society, he cannot be squeamish. As Berlin expresses Machiavelli’s point,

to be a physician is to be a professional, ready to burn, to cauterise, to amputate; if that is what the disease requires, then to stop half-way because of personal qualms, or some rule unrelated to your art or technique, is a sign of muddle and weakness, and will always give you the worst of both worlds.

The code of behavior the statesman must apply is not a game of skill unconnected with morality but a new ethic concerned exclusively with the good of all, with public, not personal, morality—and certainly not with the popular Christian personal morality of Machiavelli’s time, which dictated humility, kindness, compassion, sanctity, and the quest for salvation in personal life.

Berlin finds much to criticize in Machiavelli’s thought: “His human beings have so little inner life or capacity for cooperation or social solidarity that, as in the case of Hobbes’s not dissimilar creatures, it is difficult to see how they could develop enough reciprocal confidence to create a lasting social whole, even under the perpetual shadow of carefully regulated violence.” But Machiavelli’s “vision of the great prince playing upon human beings like an instrument” with the aid of a novel morality condoning murder, hypocrisy, and fraudulence raises a disturbing question which Berlin regards as “the nodal point of Machiavelli’s entire conception.” Can these different moralities—the public “paganism” of the prince and the personal ethics of the Christian—be held by the same man at the same time?

Berlin believes that Machiavelli rightly held the two moralities to be not merely in practice but in principle incompatible. He thus posed a problem of choice: “one can save one’s soul, or one can found or maintain, or serve a great and glorious state; but not always both at once.” Two moralities, two sets of virtues, two ethical worlds—with no common ground—are in collision. Each is coherent and integral; we cannot have both. Machiavelli shocked his contemporaries (and many others since) by frankly renouncing Christian morality, but, Berlin claims, he did so “in favor of another system, another moral universe,” “a society geared to ends just as ultimate as the Christian faith, a society in which men fight and are ready to die for (public) ends which they pursue for their own sakes.”

Machiavelli’s problem of choice, Berlin suggests, has outlasted the specific conflict to which it was addressed and lives with us still, not merely in its obvious applications to such questions as the propriety of the conduct of our statesmen, or indeed any officials authorized to protect the public good, but more pervasively, in a wide variety of cases in which he claims we must, like Machiavelli’s men, choose between incompatible values.

Suppose, he has asked on another occasion, we were placed in charge of a hospital’s supply of kidney machines, costly machines vastly outnumbered by those who suffer from diseases from which they would provide relief: “If there is a great scientist who suffers from a kidney disease, should the only machine we have be reserved for him alone? Should we use the few machines we have for only gifted or important people who, in our view, confer a lot of benefit on society? If some child is dying whom the kidney machine might save, how do we decide between them?”2 In deciding, should we think only of the happiness of mankind and therefore reserve the machine for the scientist, who is more likely to confer greater benefits on humanity than the child? But then doesn’t this clash with the view that all human beings have certain fundamental rights, that we cannot grade lives in importance, that all have an equal claim to be saved? We must decide and yet what are we to do?

Berlin is careful to point out that this kind of conflict is not like the familiar ones we encounter in daily life; it is not like the business of adjusting the demands of work and leisure, or of choosing between a trip to the beach and remaining at home to watch a television program—a conflict that might be removed by having a television set one could take to the beach. The kind of choice in question is radically unlike that in common speech and thought, where we choose among different courses of action—what school to attend, what stock to invest in—with the help of stable, previously held values and standards: living near our families, getting the best return on our money. Such values serve as a secure basis for measuring the merits and demerits of the options.

In the dilemma posed by Machiavelli, we are dealing with a less familiar, more radical, kind of choice: there is no stable background of standards against which we can appraise the alternatives, no common criterion whereby a rational decision between them can be made. There are just the competing alternatives; we must somehow settle for one of them. As Berlin expresses it, such “choices must be made for no better reason than that each value is what it is, and we choose it for what it is, and not because it can be shown on some single scale to be higher than another.” No alteration of our circumstances, no new technology or scientific knowledge can remove such conflicts. “Whom shall I save, the scientist or the child?” is not a fact to be discovered but requires an action, a spiritual movement making one moral attitude to the problem ours—an “invention,” as Berlin puts it, obedient to no pre-existing rules. This radical kind of choice can be protracted and painful precisely because it concerns alternatives we care deeply about.

Machiavelli, says Berlin, “helped to cause men to become aware of the necessity of having to make agonizing choices between incompatible alternatives in public and private life (for the two could not, it became obvious, be genuinely kept distinct).” But, as this remark suggests, the “agony of choice” discovered by Machiavelli is double, not single: the moralities of the personal and public spheres of life are distinguishable; and they can collide. But a choice of the one affects the choice of the other. If we must have “dirty hands” in public life, we may find it impossible to remain Christians in personal life; if we are humble seekers of salvation in personal life, we may find it impossible to pursue the realization of the successful state. We are agonized in two ways: we must choose not merely what we are to consider virtuous in the personal sphere, but in the public sphere as well, and each of these very different kinds of choices inevitably will refer to the other.

And of course the same problem of choice arises within these spheres in addition to arising between them. We could well be forced, for example, to make the sort of choice described by Machiavelli as a part of public morality—to choose, for example, between values like freedom or security. Is not the man who is troubled whether taxation is compatible with individual liberty concerned with a problem of this kind? As for personal life, do we not face Machiavelli’s problem of choosing between incompatible values and ways of life when we ask ourselves whether we should become involved in social issues or “drop out”; whether we should devote our lives to active involvement in a consuming cause or to scholarly research; whether, like Gauguin, we should dismiss our responsibilities to our family and flee to an undisturbed paradise in order to cultivate our genius?3

As Berlin sums up, Machiavelli discovered that “ends equally ultimate, equally sacred, may contradict each other, that entire systems of value may come into collision without possibility of rational arbitration, and that not merely in exceptional circumstances, as a result of abnormality or accident or error—the clash of Antigone and Creon or in the story of Tristan—but (this was surely new) as part of the normal human situation.”

If what Machiavelli wrote is true, “the idea of the sole, true, objective, universal human ideal crumbles. The very search for it becomes not merely Utopian in practice, but conceptually incoherent.” As Berlin interprets him, Machiavelli planted “a permanent question mark in the path of posterity” by his discovery of the diversity and incompatibility of human values—of “pluralism.”

These themes arise again and again, not merely in these essays, but throughout Berlin’s work. “If, as I believe,” he writes,

the ends of man are many and not all of them in principle compatible with each other, the possibility of conflict—and of tragedy—can never be wholly eliminated from human life, either personal or social. The necessity of choosing between a solute claims is then an inescapable characteristic of the human condition.4

These contentions are of immense importance for that branch of philosophy called “moral theory,” many of whose practitioners continue to seek ways to harmonize or systematically order our deepest values. Berlin nowhere, so far as we know, rashly claims that all systems of this kind are necessarily false. Nor, on the other hand, does he merely assert that some such systems have been false. In agreement with the fundamental insight of Machiavelli, Berlin views conflict among values as a permanent feature of life which no system or theory is likely to remove.

To reduce such conflict hastily and artificially by logical or theoretical means is for him a species of self-deception that could be dangerous; as he has written, the notion that “it is in principle possible to discover a harmonious pattern in which all values are reconciled…seems to me invalid, and at times to have led (and still to lead) to absurdities in theory and barbarous consequences in practice.”5


If the “permanent question mark in the path of posterity” planted by Machiavelli is closely scrutinized, important consequences for our conception of human beings seem to follow from it. If it is an “inescapable characteristic” of our lives that we make choices among absolute claims, choices that may have fruitful or ruinous consequences for human life, then are we not in some sense unconstrained, undetermined, “free”? And if so, then doesn’t this indicate an important fact about “human nature,” about man and his actions, individual or collective, past or present? Berlin’s essays on “The Counter-Enlightenment” and on Giambattista Vico explore the historical growth and consolidation of the “pluralist” insights he commends in Machiavelli as they were extended by other thinkers to address this question.

The eighteenth-century French Enlightenment philosophers—Voltaire, Diderot, Helvetius, Condorcet—further developed, according to Berlin, the “ancient and almost universal” philosophical doctrine of the harmony of human values by combining it with a theory of human nature and by invoking the promise of new “sciences of man”:

The central doctrines of the progressive French thinkers, whatever their disagreements among themselves, rested on the belief, rooted in the ancient doctrine of natural law, that human nature was fundamentally the same in all times and places; that local and historical variations were unimportant compared with the constant central core in terms of which, human beings could be defined as a species, like animals, or plants, or minerals….

It was further believed that methods similar to those of Newtonian physics, which had achieved such triumphs in the realm of inanimate nature, could be applied with equal success to the fields of ethics, politics and human relationships in general, in which little progress had been made; with the corollary that once this had been effected, it would sweep away irrational and oppressive legal systems and economic policies the replacement of which by the rule of reason would rescue men from political and moral injustice and misery and set them on the path of wisdom, happiness, and virtue. [“The Counter-Enlightenment”]

In other words, human nature is fixed and determined; underneath the apparent diversities of men lies an unchanging “nature,” endowed with identical needs, motives, values. On this view, Machiavelli must have been in error: ultimate ends could not be in conflict; they are identical throughout the “species” of man, for is it not true that all men seek the satisfaction of hunger and thirst, the realization of security, justice, happiness? If Mongols, Hottentots, and Semites ostensibly differ from Parisians, the Enlightenment thinkers held, the new sciences of man will show this to be a mere surface phenomenon. Human beings can be studied as ants or bees are; what can be applied with success to nature can be applied with equal success to human nature. Everything that exists on this view can be explained and possibly even predicted by general laws.

In opposition to this body of beliefs, a great stream of dissident thought evolved in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, reaching its most astonishing and virulent peak in the work of the German Romantics—J.G. Hamann, his pupil J.G. Herder, F.H. Jacobi, the Sturm und Drang poets, and their assorted idealist and irrationalist successors. These men, who form the core of what Berlin calls the “Counter Enlightenment,” protested the facile transfer of scientific methods from the inanimate realm to the human: could Newton’s methods for plotting the movements of the planets, they asked, explain the efforts of an original artist? Could mechanics or indeed any general scientific theory offer understanding of a moral dilemma, the aspirations of those touched by God, the radical choices performed by the free and creative self—in short, the complex inner life of the spirit? In the case of some of the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers, like the eccentric Königsberg sage Hamann, the preoccupation with the inner life led them to demand the total destruction of Enlightenment values. In his essay on Hamann, Berlin vividly describes how that thinker violently attacked not merely the claim that science has something to say about human nature but its claim to do anything useful at all.

According to Berlin, Hamann saw analysis, classification, deduction, and system as “infantile” efforts to “confine the unconfinable”; nature, he thought, could not be caught by the simple nets put up by the French and English scientists. Hamann held that only the man who feels and loves, the artist and the poet, can fully understand nature: that faith in things unseen was the foundation of true knowledge; art or religion provide truth, not the “stuffed dummy” called “reason” which creates foolish rules—“walls of sand built to hold back the waves of an ocean”—and systems which ignore “the teeming variety of the living world, the untidy and asymmetrical inner lives of men, and crush them into conformity for the sake of some ideological chimera.”

Berlin writes, “No system, no elaborate construction of scientific generalities, will, in Hamann’s view, enable a man to understand what is conveyed by a gesture, a look, a style, or to understand a line of poetry, a painting, a vision, a spiritual condition, an état d’âme, a form of life.” Hamann’s challenge in his fulminations against the Enlightenment was, in Berlin’s words, “How dare these pathetic pedants impose on the vast world of continuous, fertile, unpredictable, divine creation their own narrow, dessicated categories?” (“Hume and the Sources of German Anti-Rationalism”)

Hamann’s celebration of natural variety and the free, rich, spontaneous patterns of the will and the inner life was shared by other German Counter-Enlightenment figures—Herder, and later Schelling, the Schlegels, Novalis, Fichte—and indeed artists and thinkers in other countries like Coleridge and Wordsworth, Blake, Chateaubriand, Stendhal and Emerson, Carlyle.

Berlin is sharply aware of the excesses of the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers—their haste, their gross errors of detail, their eccentric prescriptions, their wild mythologies—but he sees in their work sound intuitions, expressed perhaps most fully and coherently by Herder, but anticipated, with far greater force and depth, a half-century before him by the “obscure, poverty-ridden Neapolitan recluse” Giambattista Vico, a lonely professor of rhetoric “who might have had a decisive role in this counter-movement if anyone outside his native country had read him.”

According to Berlin, Vico was the most powerful of the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers, a man who in a single, complex vision discredited in advance the Enlightenment conceptions of human nature, the perfect society, the progress of humanity, the nature of history, a thinker who has a claim to be the founder of the history of ideas, of comparative cultural history, comparative anthropology, law, religion, aesthetics—indeed, of the modern “social sciences.” Vico set in train the idea, as Berlin puts it, that

history did not consist merely of things and events and their consequences and sequences (including those of human organisms viewed as natural objects) as the external world did; it was the story of human activities, of what men did and thought and suffered, of what they strove for, aimed at, accepted, rejected, conceived, imagined, of what their feelings were directed at. [“The Divorce between the Sciences and the Humanities”]

Vico argued that history is neither a tissue of gossip and travelers’ tales (as the celebrated Descartes had argued a century earlier), nor “a collection of factual beads strung on a chronicler’s string,” nor (as his younger contemporary Voltaire thought) a disparate mass of instructive and entertaining truths retrieved from the past.

Closely linked to this view of history, Berlin claims, was Vico’s bold idea that human nature is not unchanging—as the Enlightenment held; that human nature is not like a fan (or a peacock tail) that opens out over the centuries, with all its qualities and properties present (but hidden) at the beginning. In place of these views, Vico appealed to a radical new principle, that the “nature” of man is his history. Moreover, for Vico, man’s history reveals that human beings have changed over time in vitally important respects: men were once savage brutes; now they are democrats; but—in his famous “cyclical theory of history”—they will be brutes again.

In Vico’s view, shared by Berlin, men have had different values at different times and in different circumstances. They have employed different concepts or categories of interpreting their experience; as these patterns have changed, so have men’s reasons for acting, their ruling conceptions of good and evil, happiness and humor, their duties, their song, art, dance. The values men cherish have changed over time, on this view, as the interests, needs, desires in which these values are rooted change, as the ideas men formulate in response to the questions they ask of the world become obsolete.

History then, for Vico and Berlin, is a process of man’s self-creation, a transforming and correcting process; “a changing pattern,” Berlin writes, “of great liberating ideas which inevitably turn into suffocating straitjackets, and so stimulate their own destruction by new, emancipating, and at the same time enslaving conceptions.”6 Each integral culture or age generates its own unique mode of expressing its response to the world which is intelligible only to those who understand its own internal rules and style. Historical change is a sequence of births and deaths of forms of life, with valuable modes of expression lost irretrievably along the way, with others cropping up continually, not necessarily more valuable than their predecessors: there is no sense, on this view, in speaking of “progress” in history. There is no need to compare and grade on some single scale of merit each cultural phase and its creations and forms of life and action; indeed, it is not possible to do so, for they are evidently incommensurable” (“Vico and the Ideal of the Enlightenment”).

These pluralist views were remarkably original, as Berlin convincingly shows us by comparing them to those of the reigning arbiter of intellectual taste in Vico’s time, Voltaire. But Vico also boldly challenged the claim that scientific method as it was conceived in his time could dominate the entire sphere of human’knowledge, by asserting it was not applicable to history and humane studies. As Berlin puts it, Vico thinks that

to understand history is to understand what men made of the world in which they found themselves, what they demanded of it, what their felt needs, aims, ideals, were: he seeks to discover their vision of it, he asks what wants, what questions, what aspirations determined a society’s view of reality; and he thinks that he has created a new method which will reveal to him the categories in terms of which men thought and acted and changed themselves and their worlds. (“The Divorce between the Sciences and the Humanities”)

The “understanding” yielded by Vico’s new method is entirely different from that offered by the natural sciences: the new method is not just a matter of raising hypotheses and testing them by simple observation or the use of refined experimental techniques, as geographers or microbiologists or mineralogists do. We have, Vico and Berlin claim, a special relation to the objects of our investigation in the humane studies—in history, literary criticism, political theory, in much of anthropology and sociology, and indeed in much of what passes under the name of “social science.” We are, like our subject matter, human; we can claim the understanding that participants in an activity possess, as observers cannot.

If we are to understand a text, an instance of behavior, a historical event (such as Xerxes’ conduct at the Hellespont); if we wish to know why a financial panic took place, why bureaucracy diminishes productivity, why a people rebelled against their authorities; in short, if we wish to understand anything human, we need to do more than exercise our simple perceptions—discriminating differences of pitch and color; we need to do more than examine the physical states of our subjects—their weight, or blood pressure. As Berlin has written, we need also

the capacity for conceiving more than one way of categorizing reality, like the ability to understand what it is to be an artist, a revolutionary, a traitor, to know what it is to be poor, to wield authority, to be a child, a prisoner, a barbarian. [“The Divorce between the Sciences and the Humanities”]

This capacity, Berlin claims, is distinct from, and more complex than, that exercised by a physicist in gathering observational evidence, or testing a theory, in registering points of light, or tracing the tracks of invisible particles. Unlike “simple” perception grasping empirical facts, this capacity is part imagination, part memory, part intuition, always governed by the rich conceptual patterns in which we think of other human beings, and never reducible to inductive or deductive rules of scientific research.

In the humane studies, Berlin claims, the understanding of subject matter (and possibly some ways of testing—as against discovering—of hypotheses concerning this subject matter) consists to a large degree in the exercise by investigators of distinctive, imaginative capacities of this kind, capacities—or, as Berlin sometimes calls them, “knacks”—which allow these investigators to enter into the lives and outlook of other human beings and cultures, past and present, to acquire the sense of what “fits” and what does not in an interconnected body of human activities, to acquire the sense of anachronism they employ when, upon reading Shakespeare, they know straight off the passage could not have been composed by a Manchu or a Sumerian.

The investigator using this “new method” is able to obtain an “inner,” direct grasp of events akin to self-knowledge because he, like his subjects, is a thinking, planning, acting being. The “knowledge” that results from his efforts

is quite different from that in which I know that this tree is taller than that…. In other words, it is not a form of “knowing that.” Nor is it like knowing how to ride a bicycle or to win a battle, or what to do in case of fire, or knowing a man’s name, or a poem by heart. That is to say, it is not a form of “knowing how.” It is more like the knowledge we claim of a friend, of his character, of his ways of thought and action, a species of its own, based on prior personal experience, memory, imagination, and communication with other human beings.

In Against the Current and in the more abstract writings collected in Concepts and Categories Berlin claims that the discovery by Vico of this special “mode of perception”—he admits that “knowledge” might be too strong a word for an activity “so obviously fallible” and in need of “empirical research to justify its findings”—marks the discovery of a central difference between the natural sciences (which need not employ it) and the humanities (which inescapably do), and confutes the possibility of a “scientific history.”

Berlin is, of course, entitled to claim that there may exist particular modes or capacities of cognition unique to the humanities. If the historian must understand what it is to be poor, the physicist is not concerned with what it is to be an electron. Still his account may be contested, and not only because he has not, as he acknowledges, explained exactly how people with radically different categories of thought “enter into” and “inwardly grasp” each other’s views. (Nor did Vico.) It may be that Berlin is tacitly assuming too superficial a conception of the natural sciences when he draws a sharp distinction between scientific “experience” and that brought into play in humane studies. If recent researches in the philosophy of science by T.S. Kuhn and others are correct, even ordinary experimental interpretations in science are laden with preconceptions, with concepts and categories, that may undergo radical change in the course of scientific development. To understand different comprehensive scientific theories or deal with new data, natural scientists might also have to use “the capacity for conceiving more than one way of categorizing reality” and perform efforts of “resurrection” and reconstruction similar to those cited by Berlin as distinctive of humane studies.

If even natural scientists can, and indeed may have to, grasp radically different ways of interpreting the natural world, and if even their observations are “theory laden,” the objectivity of science in some of the senses described by Berlin is open to question. Berlin himself in his earlier writings attacked the oversimplified accounts of historical knowledge as objective that were in vogue between the 1930s and the 1950s. It seems ironic that some philosophers would argue that his earlier account could in part be transposed to scientific knowledge as well and thereby challenge some of the distinctions he draws between the natural sciences and the humanities.

The issues are far from settled and often not even clearly understood. Berlin might claim that whatever difficulties there may be in the understanding of new scientific theories they can, once understood, be objectively tested; not so for all theories and hypotheses in the social sciences and humanities. There is much current debate about the kinds of cognitive skills and commitments that are involved in the understanding, testing, and accepting of scientific theories and hypotheses. The old empiricist claim that essentially the same methods can be used to test hypotheses in both the natural and social sciences is far from dead.

It should in any case be clear why the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers, taken together, are of such importance to Berlin. As he says in these essays, they, more than any other group of thinkers, saw how intellectual confusion can result from the deliberate or unconscious application of scientific (or pseudo-scientific) methods and doctrines where they do not apply; and, despite their obvious shortcomings, they clearly saw that scientific methods could not adequately answer fundamental questions about human values. But perhaps even more important, they first set in motion ideas which provided the philosophical underpinning—the reasoned justification—for the facts Berlin claims were pointed out by Machiavelli: if men can choose, by their own lights, among incompatible alternatives, then their behavior could not be explained by appeal to a set of general laws—as some Enlightenment thinkers believed. They could not be the “mechanical” systems Condillac and perhaps in our own day B.F. Skinner take them to be; they could not be like computers or calculators. Their history must be an open process of self-creation, without a large strategy or inevitable trend.

This idea, half-expressed by the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers, lies at the heart of Berlin’s work, and he has often expressed it with eloquence—the idea, as he once put it, that man is

incapable of self-completion, and therefore never wholly predictable: a fallible, a complex combination of opposites, some reconcilable, others incapable of being resolved or harmonized; unable to cease from his search for truth, happiness, novelty, freedom, but with no guarantee, theological or logical or scientific, of being able to attain them: a free, imperfect being, capable of determining his own destiny in circumstances favorable to the development of his reason and his gifts.7

But if human beings are, as the combined insights of Machiavelli and Vico suggest, free, spontaneous, choosing beings, with widely diverse values and cultural embodiments of these values, what political arrangements are best suited to their nature? How ought they to live in political association? We shall examine Isaiah Berlin’s views on these questions in a second article.

Peter Handke. The Stranger in Love.

Peter Handke in the garden of Bartenstein Castle, Schrozberg, Germany, 1999
Isolde Ohlbaum/laif/ReduxPeter Handke in the garden of Bartenstein Castle, Schrozberg, Germany, 1999

The Moravian Night might seem like the inevitable English title for Peter Handke’s 2008 novel Die morawische Nacht, but it is actually rather misleading. Moravia is the eastern region of the Czech Republic, whose largest city is Brno; Mähren in German, it is called Moravia in English (and Latin) after the Slavic name of its major river, the Morava. But Handke’s title does not use the word mährische, and in fact it is not Moravia that he is writing about in this book. Instead, he is referring to a different Morava River, far to the south, in the heartland of Serbia. It is on this river that the story begins and ends; here is where the unnamed protagonist of the book, known only as “the former writer,” has taken up quarters on a houseboat.

To most American readers, the difference between two Central European rivers with the same name might seem unimportant. But in this case, it is crucial to recognize that Handke is writing about Serbia and not Moravia. For Handke, one of the German-speaking world’s leading writers since the 1960s, is now perhaps even more widely known as an apologist for the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milošević. Starting in 1995, when he traveled to Serbia in the last days of the Yugoslav civil war, Handke has written and spoken voluminously in defense of the Serbs, who are generally—and in his view, unjustly—regarded as the instigators of a genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing. The Moravian Night ranges widely over the continent of Europe, as the former writer travels from the Balkans to Spain and back, but at its core is a defense of his highly idiosyncratic vision of what Serbia, and the Balkans in general, mean or ought to mean.

It is still mysterious just why Handke decided to cast himself as the Western world’s most vociferous defender of Serbia’s actions during the Yugoslav war. At the time Milošević died, in 2006, the deposed Serb leader was in prison in The Hague, where he was being tried for genocide and war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This did not deter Handke from attending Milošević’s burial, back home in Serbia, and even delivering a speech, in which he mused: “I don’t know the truth. But I look. I listen. I feel. I remember. This is why I am here today, close to Yugoslavia, close to Serbia, close to Slobodan Milošević.

The willed ignorance of this endorsement—“I don’t know the truth”—is the keynote of Handke’s writings on the subject, starting with his controversial 1996 book A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia. (The original German title of this brief text names four rivers, including the Morava.) Here Handke records a brief visit to Serbia in the waning days of the Yugoslav war, just before the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords. The war had made the world familiar with previously obscure places like Vukovar, a Croatian city besieged by the Serbs for three months, at the cost of two thousand lives, and Srebrenica, a Bosnian city where Serbs massacred eight thousand Muslims, the worst war crime in Europe since 1945. These events were very recent at the time of his visit—the Srebrenica massacre took place in July 1995, just three months before Handke’s arrival—but he displays no interest in investigating them. Instead, he issues unsubstantiated challenges to the truthfulness of all the reporting on these events: “Why such a thousandfold slaughtering? What was the motivation? For what purpose?” he demands, as though he has seen through a conspiracy that has taken in the rest of the world.

Really, however, what the Serbs did or didn’t do is not what matters to Handke. What he is doing in A Journey to the Rivers is, rather, evolving a myth, which is immune to factual rebuttal because it operates on a “deeper” level than the daily news. And it is the news—newspapers, journalists, and pundits in America and Europe—that Handke sets out to attack, much more than Croats or Bosnians, for whom he seems to have at least some compassion. Clearly, the Yugoslav war attracted him because it allowed him to set his own intuitive and literary perception of Serbia against the images purveyed by the media, which he sees as shallow and inauthentic.

This opposition between the novelist and the journalist has a long history in German and Austrian literature, and it has often been involved with anti-Semitism. As the scholar Paul Reitter has shown, the litterateur, the feuilletonist, was often seen as the rootless Jewish opponent of the rooted German artist. This makes it notable that most of the writers Handke attacks by name in A Journey to the Rivers are Jewish—in particular, Alain Finkielkraut, André Glucksmann, and Bernard-Henri Lévy, the French “new philosophers” who were among the most vocal condemners of Serbian war crimes. To Handke, these belong to a new species of “contemporary philosophers who are everywhere and nowhere”—one might even say, rootless cosmopolitans. They stand in pointed contrast to the Serbs themselves, whom Handke praises in historically loaded language as a Volk: “an entire, great people, Volk, that knows itself to be scorned apparently throughout Europe, and experiences that as insanely unjust.”

Is Handke, an Austrian born in 1942, using the Serbs here as a surrogate for the Austrians and the Germans themselves—both “great peoples” who during his formative years were “scorned throughout Europe” for their war crimes? Is he trying to recuperate certain ways of thinking about nationhood—as something organic, rooted, mystical—that were banished from respectable discourse in postwar Europe? Certainly Handke is doing with the Yugoslav war what Thomas Mann did in World War I, turning a historical event into a parable about the superiority of Kultur to Zivilisation, which parallels the superiority of the artist to the mere litterateur.

This complex of ideas forms the background to The Moravian Night, and the book, in all its portentousness and grandiosity, is best understood as a restatement of Handke’s myth of the Balkans. This involves a nostalgic resistance to modern life, progress, and homogenization—in short, to everything associated with the European Union and the borderlessness it sponsors. In The Moravian Night, even the former Yugoslavia itself is not immune to the siren song of this Europe. Late in the novel, the “former writer” finds himself in one of Handke’s own favorite places—Slovenia, his mother’s native country, which he wrote about extensively in the novel Repetition.

In this book Handke pointedly avoids using the name Slovenia, however. In keeping with the book’s defamiliarizing language, he refers to it only as “the karst,” the region of the country that gave its name to a type of rocky landscape full of caves and sinkholes. Back when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, it stood politically as well as geographically outside the European mainstream. But now, the former writer finds it pathetically eager to join the banal prosperity of Central Europe: “In the entire karst and the surrounding area everything Balkan or even distantly reminiscent of the Balkans was frowned upon, from foods to clothing to music.”

If it is possible to be un-Balkan even in the Balkans, so too it is possible to be Balkan outside them. One might say that The Moravian Night is the story of a Balkan soul in search of Balkanness wherever he can find it. The episodic tale begins in a region of Serbia that Handke refers to as “the enclave,” a word that implies both isolation from and resistance to the outside world. But the real enclave in the book is the soul of the man known as “the former writer.” As we get to know him, we learn that he has diligently shunned every human attachment, especially to women, in the service of an exalted idea of what it means to be a writer. Handke, of course, is not a former writer but still a productive one; he has published four books in German since the appearance of The Moravian Night. In other respects, however, the character is meant to resemble his creator: he is an Austrian, a famous writer, and an inveterate wanderer.

Indeed, many of Handke’s books take the form of estranging travelogues, in which a solitary figure roams through an alienated landscape. This pattern can be traced all the way back to his early, reputation-making book The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1970), which is a kind of Austrian reimagining of Camus’s L’Étranger. Like Meursault, Joseph Bloch, the antihero of Handke’s story, is an ordinary sensual man who commits a murder in what seems like a fit of absentmindedness. Bloch leaves the scene of the crime and finds himself in a town near the southern border, where he wanders aimlessly from place to place, gradually losing his grip on reality and on language itself. In one passage, Handke replaces words with pictograms, to suggest how Bloch has ceased to be able to perceive the world in linguistic terms.

More than four decades later, in The Moravian Night, Handke is still suspicious of narrative, of words that tidy up and paper over the cracks in day-to-day reality. The novel begins as a group of unnamed friends gather on the houseboat of the former writer, in order to hear him recount his recent journey across Europe. This framing device connects the book with the most ancient kind of storytelling—a tale told face to face—and the idea of a journey and homecoming is inevitably archetypal, evoking the Odyssey.

Yet Handke wants nothing to do with the traditional instruments of storytelling, such as continuous plot and developed character. What interests him is the evocation of very brief moments, epiphanic instants when the trappings of the world fall away and a more immediate, intuitive truth shines forth. “Which time, which tense, which type of time was the operative concept for the former writer’s round-trip?” he asks early on, and replies that it can only be told in “seconds”:

Not minutes, not hours, and also not, definitely not, tenths and hundredths of seconds: only my, your, his, our, your, their moments, the quivering, crackling, alarming, reassuring seconds. The seconds that mean both what comes after something, what follows it, as well as the primary thing, the thing that precedes it, that combines what precedes and what follows. Praised and feared be the second.

As this suggests, Handke does not set out to give us a realistic account of a journey across Europe in the twenty-first century. Among the former writer’s audience there is one listener who regularly interrupts with banally factual questions, asking how much things cost, or what the weather was like, or how he got from place to place; but we are meant to understand that this is a low kind of curiosity. Such details are beside the point, in just the same way that it is not Handke’s purpose to visit any big cities or tourist destinations. What draws him are scenes of rural neglect and poverty, places forgotten by the onward march of capitalist progress. Not for nothing does he embark on his journey in an old, beat-up bus still painted with the defunct colors of the Yugoslav flag, a caravan of obsolescence.

Kosovar Serbs arriving by train in the town of Obilić, Kosovo, 2001
Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum PhotosKosovar Serbs arriving by train in the town of Obilić, Kosovo, 2001

The first stage of the former writer’s journey takes him to a village that has been the victim of ethnic cleansing. In this case, however, it is the Serbs—never named, but identifiable from various clues, such as their use of the Cyrillic alphabet—who were evicted from the village, rather than being the evicters. There is a powerful scene in which the Serbian passengers on the bus, stopping in the village that used to be theirs, mutely regard their former neighbors, who are presumably Kosovar Muslims. This is a highly tendentious identification of victim and victimizer, but it is partly redeemed by the way Handke deliberately refuses to openly identify either group. We are left with a timeless emblem of displacement—former neighbors turned unforgiving enemies, both attached to the same plot of ground. “Nation and hatred go together,” the bus driver observes.

This is an unimpeachably liberal sentiment; one of the goals of the European Union has been precisely to drain the national ideal of its pathos, in order to lessen the potential for hatred. But it is not really the spirit in which Handke writes about the question of nationality in The Moravian Night. His ideal is not the dissolution of national boundaries, but a harmony of nations each contributing its different timbre to a common chorus. This vision, which owes much to the early Romantic nationalism of Johann Gottfried Herder, is dramatized in a surreal way when the former writer finds himself at a tavern that is hosting a world convention of Jew’s harp players. The Jew’s harp is a primitive instrument that exists under different names in many cultures, and in this convention Handke seems to be creating his own model for a multicultural art:

Although the players had come from all corners of the globe as individuals, not as representatives of those corners, now, toward the end, each of them struck up a melody from his or her land of origin, plucking, striking, pounding out, not just any tune but one that stood for that country, such as a national anthem….

This conception of the nation depends, however, on each group retaining its integrity by remaining, in James Joyce’s famous formula, “the same people living in the same place.” That integrity is threatened by immigration, and when the former writer returns to his native town in Austria, he is disturbed to find a new population of Muslim immigrants there:

For an entire hour nothing homelike revealed itself to him, not in the dwellings and especially not in the inhabitants…. This village seemed to be inhabited by people of all human races except the one native to the region, so to speak. And the majority were…people who were, as would have been said at one time, “from the Orient.”

Crucially, Handke writes, “they were alien to him not because of their dress and appearance but because they were strangers to themselves in the region.” As immigrants, they are deracinated, unable to be their true selves. But this kind of deracination can also afflict people who stay home, if they choose to take the bribe of modern development and turn themselves into global citizens, or model Europeans.

This is what the former writer finds at the end of his journey, when he finally makes his way back to the real, geographical Balkans. The place he formerly cherished as an “enclave” is now full of people who look like every other European—wearing tracksuits, driving new cars. “At one time he had thought all these ‘new folk’ came from another planet, were extraterrestrials,” he reflects ruefully. “But no: they came from here and were firmly anchored in the here and now. The planet belonged exclusively to them.”

A world so homogenized and bourgeois has no place for the former writer, who conceives of his calling in the old, high, sacred terms. As he roams from place to place, he reflects on themes from his own life, including his inability to sustain a romantic relationship with a woman. This loneliness had something noble about it, since it was the result of his single-minded obsession with literature. Only now, late in life, when he has cast off the burden of writing, can the former writer begin to contemplate a true marriage of souls. Indeed, in the course of his journey he finds a woman—referred to only as “the woman”—who seems his perfect mate. Yet even she is sent away when the former writer’s wanderlust overtakes him, and on one occasion he either beats her up or fantasizes about doing so—the line between reality and imagination being always porous in this novel. All of this adds up to an idea of the great artist that is, if not actually misogynist, then certainly redolent of a stale masculinity.

Of course, Handke knows perfectly well every criticism that can be made of his politics and his art. He anticipates them in one of the oddest episodes in The Moravian Night, when the former writer encounters a man whom he decides to call Melchior, after one of the biblical magi who visit the infant Jesus. The magi came “from the East,” and this Melchior too is an Eastern figure of indeterminate ethnicity: Handke writes that he has “thick lips” and that when he prays he bows “to the east,…to Mecca as well as to Jerusalem.” This figure, who could be Arab or Jewish or African but is certainly not German, starts out seeming friendly, but then he rounds on the former writer and starts denouncing him. For Melchior, it turns out, is a journalist, an arch-journalist, and he is violently hostile to the former writer’s sense of his own calling as sacred:

We’ve had enough of you writers and your dignity. Any writer today must make a point of being undignified. Yes, those of us writing today have jettisoned dignity once and for all. The Holy Ghost no longer has any part in what we do.

In this way, Handke seals himself in his own self-righteousness: anyone who criticizes his art or his politics is a petty, spiritless cosmopolitan. Luckily he will always have the Balkans to go back to—if not the real Balkans, then the ones he has built for himself out of obstinacy and pride.

In response to:

The Stranger in Love from the February 9, 2017 issue

To the Editors:

Adam Kirsch’s review of Peter Handke’s The Moravian Night [NYR, February 9], like Joshua Cohen’s review of the novel in The New York Times, rightfully relates it to Handke’s previous work set in the former Yugoslavia, but (like Cohen) Kirsch is so obsessed with reading through that lens that he pays scant attention to other aspects of the novel at hand.

Kirsch’s case against an author he describes as a self-righteous, obstinate, proud nationalist and as an anti-Semitic Serb lover leads him to misread a scene at a world convention of Jew’s harp players during which each musician plays his or her national anthem. Because he wants to brand Handke as a nationalist, Kirsch doesn’t quote the rest of the section in which the performances of national anthems raise the protagonist’s ire: “abusing the jew’s harp to play mendacious harmonies: that was impermissible”; the national anthems are a kind of “melodic demagoguery.”

With a defamatory purpose that veils other aspects of the text, Kirsch ignores the language of a novel that is about language (Handke describes his work, all of his work, as “a slow, inquiring narration; every paragraph dealing with and narrating a problem, of representation, of form, of grammar—of aesthetic veracity”). Let me give just one example of Kirsch’s blindness in this regard. When describing the work’s search for narrative experience that manifests itself in seconds rather than in minutes or hours, Kirsch quotes this sentence from the translation: “The seconds that mean both what comes after something, what follows it, as well as the primary thing, the thing that precedes it, that combines what precedes and what follows.” The translation makes little sense as it misses the fact that it is the seconds that combine (unify) the before and after, not the singular “thing that precedes.” Kirsch quotes the mistake without batting an eye. The translation, as a matter of fact, is riddled with mistakes and awkward phrasing, but that is uninteresting to a reviewer intent on castigating a writer for attending the funeral of Slobodan Milošević. (For specific examples of problems with the translation, see my review of the translation in the December Open Letters Monthly.)

Kirsch marshals his case with great certainty, claiming that Handke defends Austrians and Germans and Serbs as “great peoples” scorned by others for their war crimes. Because Handke works dialectically, critics like Kirsch easily find objectionable statements in his work. That they settle on the problematic statements without the dialectical context marks them as ideologues rather than readers. “Austria,” Handke once wrote, “the lard that chokes me.” Critics who don’t have the patience or capacity to read give me that same feeling.

Scott Abbott
Professor of Integrated Studies,
Philosophy, and Humanities
Utah Valley University
Woodland Hills, Utah

Adam Kirsch replies:

Scott Abbott criticizes my reading of The Moravian Night as ideological, but it seems to me that the novel demands to be read in such terms. It is hardly possible to understand Handke’s book, which is primarily set in Serbia and advances an unmistakable critique of liberal European modern life, without reference to Handke’s past interventions in Yugoslav politics. If Mr. Abbott and other admirers of Handke object to a reading that attends to the ideological dimension of the book, perhaps that is not because the ideology isn’t there, but because they would be hard put to defend it?

Noam Chomsky: ‘Who Rules the World?’: An Exchange

In response to:

A Case Against America from the June 9, 2016 issue

To the Editors:

I am sorry that Kenneth Roth found the book of mine that he reviewed, Who Rules the World? [NYR, June 9], “infuriating.” I have of course looked with interest at his reasons, but do not find them convincing.

His first case charges “sloppiness” in my observation that the Obama administration was considering reviving military commissions while in fact they continued to operate. The observation was accurate: it referred, explicitly, to what the Obama administration was considering in 2009, citing the news reports of May 2009.

The second example is that I was “simply confused” in quoting Jessica Mathews [NYR, March 19, 2015], attributing to her the view quoted “when in fact she was criticizing that perspective.” Roth does not take into account the sentence that immediately follows the passage we are discussing. It reads: “At its extreme, this reasoning holds that the US should not be bound by international rules….” Mathews does indeed criticize the “extreme” perspective that she describes, which is clearly and explicitly distinguished from the “non-extreme” position that I quoted and attributed accurately and properly. The text elsewhere contains no qualification. If there is any interest in further details, I will be glad (with his consent) to release the extended correspondence in which the New York Review editor repeatedly made the same point, and I responded in detail.

Roth’s next point is that my “preoccupation with American power seems out of date” because its limits are so apparent—as I discussed at considerable length, but with what seem to me far more significant examples than the ones he gives. These raise their own questions. Thus it is hardly controversial (Fawaz Gerges, ISIS: A History, and many other sources) that “the emergence of the Islamic State” to which Roth refers is a direct outgrowth of what he calls a “blunder” but what I would prefer to call the major crime of this century, the US invasion of Iraq. Similarly, I never called the Russian invasion of Afghanistan “a blunder” (though it was); rather, a crime.

I won’t continue, but if anyone is interested in other cases mentioned, I’ll be glad to consider them.

Noam Chomsky
Cambridge, Massachusetts

To the Editors:

As a longtime reader of The New York Review who first became acquainted with the writing of Noam Chomsky when reading his 1967 article about the responsibility of intellectuals, I was pleased to see Kenneth Roth’s review of Who Rules the World? I believe this was the first of Chomsky’s books to be reviewed in these pages since The Hateful Triangle was published over thirty years ago. Hopefully, the review will introduce new generations of readers to Chomsky’s arguments and analysis.

I want to take issue with one criticism Roth makes because it actually brings into focus one of Chomsky’s major points about the responsibility of American citizens when it comes to the actions of our government.

It is very easy (and rewarding) for Americans to look with a gimlet eye upon the failings of other nations and political figures, say, for example, to identify the criminality of a dictator like Bashar al-Assad in Syria, as Roth does in his review. Americans who write critically about such individuals can always expect a warm and respectful hearing from the political, journalistic, and intellectual gatekeepers. Chomsky’s point has always been that citizens of any country have a unique responsibility to be critical of their own country’s actions because, depending on the political form prevalent in the country, these citizens have the most influence over (and responsibility for) the actions of their own government.

If we live in a country (or are citizen-expatriates), we pay taxes to finance the activities of our government. If the country has democratic forms (a free press, competitive free elections) then the actions of the government can, at least in part, be laid to active support (or at least acquiescence) on the part of the citizenry. Unlike totalitarian societies such as the former Soviet Union, American citizens have enormous personal freedom—especially the freedom to fully inform themselves. With this freedom combined with the potential to actually influence what the government does (unlike in the former Soviet Union or, to give an example from Roth’s review, modern-day Syria) comes extraordinary responsibility.

It is from this position of responsibility and personal freedom that Chomsky has written critically about US government policy for over fifty years. It is why his omission of condemnations of the role of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin in today’s Syrian conflict is not a failing of his book or his approach. Chomsky may be prolific in his criticisms of US foreign policy, but he has never set himself up as a one-man Amnesty International. As an American seeking to awaken his fellow citizens to US policies for which in some way we are all responsible, he certainly has done more than his fair share of good works, as the substance of Roth’s review makes clear.

Michael A. Meeropol
Cold Spring, New York

Kenneth Roth replies:

Noam Chomsky takes issue with my criticism of his one-dimensional focus on what he sees as America’s nefarious role in the world. If Chomsky had entitled his book “America’s Evil History,” I would have accepted his exclusive focus. However, he entitled it “Who Rules the World?” yet goes on to write as if the United States is virtually alone as the cause of all the world’s problems.

Chomsky cites the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, which he says is “a direct outgrowth” of George W. Bush’s invasion. There is no doubt that the invasion and subsequent occupation and dismantling of the state were a disaster that greatly contributed to the rise of ISIS in Iraq, where it now controls the country’s second-largest city, Mosul. But that ascendancy is also the product of many other factors, such as the discriminatory and abusive laws and policies against Sunnis by the government of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Its indiscriminate bombing of Sunni areas and other sectarian abuses after the withdrawal of US troops at the end of 2011, well before the rise of ISIS, led many Sunnis to see ISIS as a lesser evil.

Other factors include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s targeting of civilians in opposition-held parts of his neighboring country, breeding antipathy that helped to encourage the rise of ISIS there and provided a base for operations in Iraq; Iran’s, Russia’s, and Hezbollah’s backing of Assad’s indiscriminate attacks; funding for ISIS as well as extremist interpretations of Islam emanating from the Gulf; and Turkey’s border policy allowing jihadists to join ISIS.

Chomsky doesn’t mention any of this. History did not stop with US crimes in Iraq. Nor in an increasingly multipolar world can the United States control everything.

Chomsky also disputes the sloppiness I found in his book. Much of it is due to his decision to compile a series of his essays without bothering to date or update them. According to a “publication history” included in an advance copy of the book but omitted from the published version, many of the essays had appeared previously, over half on a website called TomDispatch. Chomsky notes there that the chapters earlier appeared “in somewhat different form” but the unspecified modifications evidently did not include changing arguments that are now out of date. And there is nothing in the published version of the book to let the reader know the reason for including these dated arguments. The result is a disjointed reading experience.

For example, Chomsky makes repeated references to what he perceives as a misguided and overblown US response to the Iranian nuclear threat (pp. 50, 81–82, 131, and 140–141) but doesn’t mention the July 2015 nuclear deal until p. 218. Similarly, Chomsky’s claim that the Obama administration was considering reviving the Bush military commissions in Guantanamo, made on p. 40, is never updated in the remaining 250 pages to explain that Obama has in fact used them, to much detrimental effect, during most of his tenure in office. Yes, a reader checking footnotes could have found a May 2009 citation for Chomsky’s assertion about the military commissions and surmised that it may no longer be true, but a less sloppy (or lazy) approach to the book would have filled in that crucial subsequent development.

One might justify publication of a series of dated essays if their dates were clearly indicated and the book were billed as an exposition of Noam Chomsky Thought as it has evolved. The book purports to be a study of the current world order but does not analyze each topic addressed in light of the most up-to-date information.

As for Chomsky’s claim that Jessica Mathews was embracing instead of criticizing the view that the US government advances “universal principles” rather than “national interests,” I simply refer the reader to the tenth paragraph of her review in the March 19, 2015 issue of The New York Review (available online), where to most other than Chomsky her meaning is obvious in the midst of a critique of unilateralism as opposed to the multilateralism that she prefers. Chomsky seems to find her next sentence to favor his interpretation—“At its extreme, this reasoning holds that the US should not be bound by international rules”—when in fact she is providing an added reason to reject the misguided unilateralists.

As for Michael Meeropol, I agree with his point (and said so in my review) that Americans have a special responsibility to press their government to act in more principled and defensible ways. That has rightly been a longtime concern of Chomsky. However, by dwelling on only the negative, his latest book leaves the impression that America can do no good—that withdrawal and isolationism are the best we can hope for.

I do not accept that implicit prescription. Given the enormous evil done by some other nations, and the proven capacity of the United States sometimes to mitigate that harm, I would have preferred a more holistic and nuanced assessment of America’s part in the world. That would help readers understand not only how to deter American misconduct but also how to encourage positive American conduct. We need to do both.


The Ghosts of Christmas: Was Scrooge the First Psychotherapy Patient?


The Ghosts of Christmas: Was Scrooge the First Psychotherapy Patient?

The New Yorker

Elif Batuman has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2010.

For much of my adult life, I believed, inaccurately, that I knew the story of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”—that I remembered it from childhood. It was about a miser called Ebenezer Scrooge who, when wished a “Merry Christmas,” always said, “Bah, humbug.” Then three ghosts came, from the Past, Present, and Future, and showed him how he was, and had previously been, an asshole. Then he saw his own grave and understood that Christmas was real, so he finally spent some of his money and bought a giant turkey for a disabled child.

I might never have realized how much was missing from my recollection had I not read in a “Christmas Carol” marathon at the Housing Works Bookstore earlier this month. My assigned passage was the one in which the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to revisit a scene from his childhood. I was totally unprepared for how sad it was. The two of them fly out a window in London and arrive at the underheated country schoolroom where Scrooge, as a little boy, has been left alone for Christmas, after all the other boys have gone away on ponies. Scrooge weeps “to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be,” reading alone in a corner. Then the Ghost shows him some of his favorite literary characters, the ones who kept him company as a child, and he laughs with delight. This is also depressing, because the characters include Robinson Crusoe’s parrot and Friday, and what could be sadder than an abandoned kid reading Robinson Crusoe alone over Christmas? As if realizing this himself, adult Scrooge, “with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character,” feels a new wave of pity for his child self—and, with it, regret for how, the previous day, he had chased away a child who was singing Christmas carols at his door.

Something about the passage seemed so familiar and emotional as I read it in the bookstore: the sad, repetitive nature of Scrooge’s early memories; his rapid transition from tears to laughter and back; his conviction, as each scene rises magically before him, that “it was all quite correct; that everything had happened so.” The Ghost in particular reminded me of someone, with his kindness and spookiness, the way he said almost nothing, except to repeat back to Scrooge his own remarks. A few days later, I figured it out, and told my therapist: the Ghost reminded me of him. He didn’t reply, only smiled gently, in a way that I interpreted to mean, “I’m an Israeli Freudian, please don’t make me talk about ‘A Christmas Carol.’ ”

That night, I decided to read the full text. Thanks to my robust personal experience with depression of both the normal and the holiday variety, I immediately recognized Scrooge’s condition, in a way that I had been unable to as a child. (Dickens himself was depressive, and probably bipolar.) I realized that I had misremembered Scrooge as gleeful in his miserliness, a human version of Scrooge McDuck, whose exuberance is eternally preserved in the cultural imagination by the image of the “money dive.” In fact, Scrooge takes no joy in anything. His London is a dystopian hellscape riddled by sickness, injustice, cold, and want. Money is the only protection—frail and inadequate—against these horrors, and Scrooge’s only thought is to work as hard as he can, every day, to store up as much money as possible.

Christmas, in such a mental state, makes no sense. Suddenly, in the dead of winter, all these crazed zombies start insisting that it’s a holiday; they actually want to stop working—to stop doing the one thing any human can do to ward off chaos. (“My clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas,” Scrooge mutters: “I’ll retire to Bedlam.”) “Bah, humbug” isn’t an exclamation of glee; it’s an indictment. “What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry?” Scrooge demands of his nephew, whose debts exceed his income. How is it possible that everyone on Earth suffers from the delusion that life isn’t a giant vale of sorrow?

All of Scrooge’s thought processes, especially the miserly ones, follow the “logic” of depression. Scrooge is outraged to think that his clerk will feel “ill-used” if he has to work on Christmas, but that nobody considers him, Scrooge, ill-used when he has to “pay a day’s wages for no work.” When asked to donate to the poor, he argues that his job is to work and pay taxes, while the job of the poor is to go to prison or to the workhouse, or simply to die and “decrease the surplus population.” In the depths of depression, the idea of a “gift” loses its meaning. We’re all in a deadlock, corpses passing the same things around and around and calling them “gifts.” In this mental state, just think how Scrooge must feel when some starving urchin shows up on his doorstep, singing, “God bless you, merry gentleman! May nothing you dismay!” Is he kidding? “You just dismayed me!” I imagined Scrooge shouting. “You just did it!”

How is the Ghost of Christmas Past able to change Scrooge’s mind—to make him feel affection and pity for the carolling urchin? What magic happens when they revisit his childhood? I avoided talk therapy for many years, largely because I didn’t see how talking to a stranger about my childhood could possibly change my experience of being alive as an adult. I was particularly repelled by the idea of feeling pity for my childhood self. One of the worst, most boring parts of depression is self-pity, and the prospect of paying someone an hourly rate to help me experience more of it was too dire to contemplate. Then, at some point, I did it anyway. I talked about my childhood, and I even managed to feel some pity for tiny nineteen-eighties Elif, with all her books—and something changed.

At the beginning of “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge embodies one of the central tenets of depression: that one has always been this way, and always will be. The Ghost shows him that, in fact, he, like every other adult, was at one point a physically much smaller person, who dressed, walked, and spoke differently, and whose defenses and carapaces hadn’t been built up yet; a person who later built up those defenses and carapaces for a reason. If change happened once, under certain circumstances—if everything wasn’t always inevitably like this—then further change is possible. When the Ghost of Christmas Future points at the writing on the tombstone, Scrooge understands for the first time that it can be erased and written differently: what seems to be etched in stone isn’t.

When I consulted Google, I found that the similarity between Scrooge’s experience and talk therapy has been remarked upon by numerous clinicians (see here, here, and here), as well as by literary critics. At first, it seemed strange to me that such a Jewish discourse should be anticipated so plainly by a Christmas story—one written a decade before Freud was born. But when I thought about it more, it started to seem less strange. Freud read and admired Dickens; his first gift to his fiancée, in 1882, was a copy of “David Copperfield.” Why wouldn’t he have read “A Christmas Carol,” which is so much shorter? O.K., he was Jewish, but he was secular. He had a Christmas tree. When I was little, my parents also bought a tree every year, and we would put presents under it, and it was a little bit magical, even though we weren’t Christian. Wasn’t that a big part of Freudianism: that magic is often displaced, but never destroyed? In the old days, people saw ghosts and had visions, and then Freud came and said that everything was actually memory and imagination: nothing was coming from God or the dead. But that didn’t mean the magic was gone. Maybe it had just been somewhere else all along.

What We’re Reading This Fall

In the past few weeks, I’ve read some astonishing books: Lucia Berlin’s “A Manual for Cleaning Women,” a story collection that’s raw and funny and breathtakingly great; “The Visiting Privilege,” by the bright-bleak grand master of short stories, Joy Williams; and Álvaro Enrigue’s brilliant “Sudden Death,” which will be out in February and is about a tennis match between the Italian painter Caravaggio and the Spanish poet Quevedo, wherein they use a ball made out of Marie Antoinette’s hair. (It’s also about colonialism, utopias, and sex.) And I’ve been so distraught that there are no more Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante to come after the fourth, “The Story of the Lost Child,” that I’ve re-read the entire grand novel project.

—Lauren Groff

People might expect that, as a copy editor, I’d be absorbed in the new usage manual by Frank L. Cioffi, “One Day in the Life of the English Language,” or the latest book on punctuation by David Crystal, “Making a Point.” They wouldn’t be that far off. As it happens, I have a sudden rage to read a work of fiction about a proofreader: “The History of the Siege of Lisbon,” by José Saramago, translated from the Portuguese by Giovanni Pontiero. It’s been on my shelf, approximately, since 1998, when Saramago won the Nobel Prize. The first sentence begins, “The proof-reader said, Yes,” and it goes on for five pages. The other book I’m eager to read is something I acquired more recently, at Parnassus Books, in Nashville: a novella titled “Parnassus on Wheels,” by Christopher Morley, first published in 1917 and reissued by Melville House in 2010, in a beautiful little paperback. The Library of Congress has it catalogued under the following subjects: booksellers and bookselling, travelling sales personnel, single women, women farmers, brothers and sisters, women booksellers, and tramps. What a progression!

—Mary Norris

If I’m being honest, most of the non-work-related books I actually manage to finish these days are the ones I read aloud, to my five-year-old. I’m enjoying “The BFG.” (He finds it a little scary.) I cried at the end of “Charlotte’s Web.” (He didn’t, and was alarmed at the idea that his father might be the kind of emotional basket case who gets weepy over a kids book about farm animals.) Lately we’ve graduated to Tintin. On my own, I’ve been re-reading Peter Robb’s extraordinary book about corruption and rot (and food and art and beauty), ”Midnight in Sicily,” and I just started Benedict Kiely’s “Proxopera,” a slim, haunting novel about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. I’m very much looking forward to my colleague Larissa MacFarquhar’s “Strangers Drowning,” which has just come out. And, on a plane some time later this month, I will officially become the last person on earth to read Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.”

—Patrick Radden Keefe

My current subway book, which I’m just about to finish, is “The Long Loneliness,” the autobiography of Dorothy Day, who co-founded the Catholic Worker movement. I started it before Pope Francis mentioned Day in his speech to Congress—a fact I’m mentioning here out of a twinge of pride, although reading a book called “The Long Loneliness” on the train can be a miniature lesson in the “poverty of spirit” that carried Day through the “tireless work” that the Pope mentioned. The book may not be the most thorough account of Day’s life; she leaves out some formative events—such as the abortion she had as a young woman—and, in her enthusiasm for writing about her fellow-travellers, it sometimes becomes unclear what she did, exactly. She notes in the introduction that writing such a book, like going to confession, is hard, “because you are ‘giving yourself away.’ ” But she’s generous with her memories and feelings. She provides a front-row seat to the early-twentieth-century social-justice movements and to the scene in New York City, and she writes plainly and frankly about her own dealings with the despair, sadness, and, especially, the loneliness that she sees at the core of the basic human struggle.

Andrea DenHoed

Sternberg Press’s “On the Table” series, edited by the culinary historian Charlotte Birnbaum, combines exquisite design with the most delightfully esoteric subject matter: the art of napkin-folding, Bernini’s set design for the feasts held at the Vatican in 1668 in honor of Her Most Serene Majesty Christina Queen of Sweden, and a recipe for peacock-testicle pie. The most recent addition is a new translation of the Italian artist F. T. Marinetti’s “Futurist Cookbook,” originally published in 1932. As New York City inches toward winter, I will resist the siren song of pasta, which Marinetti calls “a passéist food,” responsible for making its consumers “heavy” and “brutish,” and dine instead on the Sant’Elia Architectural Meal, the Futurist Aeropoetic Meal, and, if I dare, the White Desire Dinner.

On another note, a friend, the writer Robin Sloan, recommended the New York Public Library’s @NYPLRecommends service to me: on Fridays at 10 A.M., you tweet at them with a book or two that you liked, and a librarian responds with two or three more recommendations. I have already read and loved one of the novels they chose for me (Meg Wolitzer’s “The Interestings”), so I have high hopes for the other two: “The Autobiography of Us,” by Aria Beth Sloss, and “Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald,” by Therese Anne Fowler.

—Nicola Twilley

All of the Elena Ferrante books have now sent me on to finally read the so-often-recommended to me Elsa Morante; I’m starting with “History” and “Arturo’s Island.

Rivka Galchen

I’ve just read Tom McCarthy’s ”Remainder,” which is a sort of anti-novel. Technically, it has characters and a plot, but the characters are what E.M. Forster would call “flat”—in fact, they’re practically cardboard cut-outs, which is appropriate in a book about superficiality—and it’s often difficult to distinguish what is “actually” happening from what is merely a fantasy in the narrator’s brain. In the end, it doesn’t much matter. It’s a novel of ideas, but one refreshingly devoid of windbaggery.

—Andrew Marantz

I’m planning to re-read Orwell, especially “Down and Out in Paris and London,” which was given to me years ago one Christmas by George Trow, when I was trying to be a writer. He also gave me “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” by James Agee. Both books are written in the first person, and George was providing me with a model of how I might do that. Agee is ornate, and Orwell is not, and I could see from their books that what mattered, and it seemed to be all, was to get the thing down right on the page, if I could. Reading him again, I hope to recover parts of someone I remember being.

—Alec Wilkinson

I’m reading Mary Karr’s new book, “The Art of Memoir,” for a second time (I saw an earlier version in manuscript). Karr is such fun to read—who else would combine the name Nabokov and the phrase “out the wazoo” on her very first page?—that it’s hard to resist getting drawn into it again. She takes you on a brilliant literary tour of great memoirs, and launches a two-fisted defense of truth in the form, and talks about the sometimes excruciating conversations a memoirist has to have with her family.

—Larissa McFarquhar

My reading habits are improvisational, mainly governed by the accidents of ownership and inclination, rather than by the schedule of new releases. But there’s a new biography of Orson Welles coming in November, “Young Orson,” by Patrick McGilligan, which takes the directorial hero from his birth to the threshold of “Citizen Kane.” I’ve only just started it and can so far confess to fascination and pleasure; the wealth of detail and the measured tempo are up to the Shakespearean complexity of Welles’s character.

Meanwhile, the New York Film Festival will be screening “Miles Ahead,” a bio-pic about Miles Davis, that stars and is directed by Don Cheadle. Advance reports indicate that it’s anchored in the second half of the nineteen-seventies, the time of Davis’s withdrawal from public performance, and that it dramatizes his friendship with a journalist (played by Ewan McGregor) who helps to coax him back to the stage. There is at least one journalist, the late Eric Nisenson, who was in fact befriended by Davis in just that interregnum; Nisenson wrote a book, “ ’Round About Midnight: A Portrait of Miles Davis,” which I’ve started to read. It’s both a biography and a view of Davis’s life in a sort of self-imposed exile. Whether it maps onto the movie or just coincidentally coincides with it, we shall see.

—Richard Brody


Primo Levi’s Indestructible Humanity

Primo Levi’s Indestructible Humanity
A Critic at Large September 28, 2015 Issue
The Art of Witness
How Primo Levi survived.

By James Wood

Primo Levi did not consider it heroic to have survived eleven months in Auschwitz. Like other witnesses of the concentration camps, he lamented that the best had perished and the worst had survived. But we who have survived relatively little find it hard to believe him. How could it be anything but heroic to have entered Hell and not been swallowed up? To have witnessed it with such delicate lucidity, such reserves of irony and even equanimity? Our incomprehension and our admiration combine to simplify the writer into a needily sincere amalgam: hero, saint, witness, redeemer. Thus his account of life in Auschwitz, “If This Is a Man” (1947), whose title is deliberately tentative and tremulous, was rewrapped, by his American publisher, in the heartier, how-to-ish banner “Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity.” That edition praises the text as “a lasting testament to the indestructibility of the human spirit,” though Levi often emphasized how quickly and efficiently the camps could destroy the human spirit. Another survivor, the writer Jean Améry, mistaking comprehension for concession, disapprovingly called Levi “the pardoner,” though Levi repeatedly argued that he was interested in justice, not in indiscriminate forgiveness. A German official who had encountered Levi in the camp laboratory found in “If This Is a Man” an “overcoming of Judaism, a fulfillment of the Christian precept to love one’s enemies, and a testimony of faith in Man.” And when Levi committed suicide, on April 11, 1987, many seemed to feel that the writer had somehow reneged on his own heroism.

Levi was heroic; he was also modest, practical, elusive, coolly passionate, experimental and sometimes limited, refined and sometimes provincial. (He married a woman, Lucia Morpurgo, from his own class and background, and died in the same Turin apartment building in which he had been born.) For most of his life, he worked as an industrial chemist; he wrote some of his first book, “If This Is a Man,” while commuting to work on the train. Though his experiences in Auschwitz compelled him to write, and became his central subject, his writing is varied and worldly and often comic in spirit, even when he is dealing with terrible hardship. In addition to his two wartime memoirs, “If This Is a Man” and “The Truce” (first published in 1963, and renamed “The Reawakening” in the United States), and a final, searing inquiry into the life and afterlife of the concentration camp, “The Drowned and the Saved” (1986), he wrote realist fiction—a novel about a band of Jewish Second World War partisans, titled “If Not Now, When?” (1982)—and speculative fiction; also, poems, essays, newspaper articles, and a beautifully unclassifiable book, “The Periodic Table” (1975).

The publication of “The Complete Works of Primo Levi” (Liveright), in three volumes, represents a monumental and noble endeavor on the part of its publisher, its general editor, Ann Goldstein, and the many translators who have produced new versions of Levi’s work. Although his best-known work has already benefitted from fine English translation, it’s a gift to have nearly all his writing gathered together, along with work that has not before been published in English (notably, a cache of uncollected essays, written between 1949 and 1987).

Primo Levi was born in Turin, in 1919, into a liberal family, and into an assimilated, educated Jewish-Italian world. He would write, in “If This Is a Man,” that when he first learned the name of his fateful destination, “Auschwitz” meant nothing to him. He only vaguely knew about the existence of Yiddish, “on the basis of a few quotes or jokes that my father, who worked for a few years in Hungary, had picked up.” There were around a hundred and thirty thousand Italian Jews, and most of them were supporters of the Fascist government (at least until the race legislation of 1938, which announced a newly aggressive anti-Semitism); a cousin of Levi’s, Eucardio Momigliano, had been one of the founders of the Fascist Party, in 1919. Levi’s father was a member, though more out of convenience than commitment.

Levi gives ebullient life to this comfortable, sometimes eccentric world in “The Periodic Table”—a memoir, a history, an essay in elegy, and the best example of his various literary talents. What sets his writing apart from much Holocaust testimony is his relish for portraiture, the pleasure he takes in the palpability of other people, the human amplitude of his noticing. “The Periodic Table” abounds with funny sketches of Levi’s relatives, who are celebrated and gently mocked in the chapter named “Argon,” because, like the gas, they were generally inert: lazy, immobile characters given to witty conversation and idle speculation. Inert they may have been, but colorless they are not. Uncle Bramín falls in love with the goyish housemaid, declares that he will marry her, is thwarted by his parents, and, Oblomov-like, takes to his bed for the next twenty-two years. Nona Màlia, Levi’s paternal grandmother, a woman of forbidding remoteness in old age, lives in near estrangement from her family, married to a Christian doctor. Perhaps “out of fear of making the wrong choice,” Nona Màlia goes to shul and to the parish church on alternate days. Levi recalls that when he was a boy his father would take him every Sunday to visit his grandmother. The two would walk along Via Po, Levi’s father stopping to pet the cats, sniff the mushrooms, and look at the used books:

My father was l’Ingegnè, the Engineer, his pockets always bursting with books, known to all the salami makers because he checked with a slide rule the multiplication on the bill for the prosciutto. Not that he bought it with a light heart: rather superstitious than religious, he felt uneasy about breaking the rules of kashruth, but he liked prosciutto so much that, before the temptation of the shop windows, he yielded every time, sighing, cursing under his breath, and looking at me furtively, as if he feared my judgment or hoped for my complicity.

From an early age, Levi appears to have possessed many of the qualities of his later prose—meticulousness, curiosity, furious discretion, orderliness to the point of priggishness. In primary school, he was top of his class (his schoolmates cheered him on with “Primo Levi Primo!”). As a teen-ager at the Liceo D’Azeglio, Turin’s leading classical academy, he stood out for his cleverness, his smallness, and his Jewishness. He was bullied, and his health deteriorated. His English biographer Ian Thomson suggests that Levi developed a sense of himself as physically and sexually inadequate, and that his subsequent devotion to robust athletic pursuits, such as mountaineering and skiing, represented a self-improvement project. Thomson notes that, in later life, he recalled his mistreatment at school as “uniquely anti-Semitic,” and adds, “How far this impression was coloured by Levi’s eventual persecution is hard to tell.” But perhaps Thomson has it the wrong way round. Perhaps Levi’s extraordinary resilience in Auschwitz had something to do with a hardened determination not to be persecuted again.

On the basis of the first chapter of “The Periodic Table” alone, you know that you are in the hands of a true writer, someone equipped with an avaricious and indexical memory, who knows how to animate his details, stage his scenes, and ration his anecdotes. It is a book one wants to keep quoting from (true of all Levi’s work, except, curiously, his fiction). With verve and vitality, “The Periodic Table” moves through the phases of Levi’s life: his excited discovery of chemistry, as a teen-ager; classes at the University of Turin with the rigorous but not unamusing “Professor P.,” who scornfully defies the Fascist injunction to wear a black shirt by donning a “comical black bib, several inches wide,” which comes untucked every time he makes one of his brusque movements. Levi admires the “obsessively clear” chemistry textbooks that his teacher has written, “filled with his stern disdain for humanity in general,” and recalls that the only time he was ever admitted to the professor’s office he saw on the blackboard the sentence “I do not want a funeral, alive or dead.”

Throughout, there are wittily pragmatic, original descriptions of minerals, gases, and metals, as in this description of zinc: “Zinc, zinco, Zink: laundry tubs are made of it, it’s an element that doesn’t say much to the imagination, it’s gray and its salts are colorless, it’s not toxic, it doesn’t provide gaudy chromatic reactions—in other words, it’s a boring element.” Levi writes tenderly about friends and colleagues, some of whom we encounter in his other writing—Giulia Vineis, “full of human warmth, Catholic without being rigid, generous and disorderly”; Alberto Dalla Volta, who became Levi’s friend in Auschwitz and seemed uncannily immune to the poisons of camp life: “He was a man of strong goodwill, and had miraculously remained free, and his words and actions were free: he had not lowered his head, had not bowed his back. A gesture of his, a word, a laugh had liberating virtues, were a hole in the stiff fabric of the Lager. . . . I believe that no one, in that place, was more loved than he.”

The most moving chapter in “The Periodic Table” may be the one titled “Iron.” It recalls a friend, Sandro, who studied chemistry with Levi, and with whom he explored the joys of mountain climbing. Like many of the people Levi admired, Sandro is physically and morally strong; he is painted as a headstrong child of nature out of a Jack London story. Seemingly made of iron, and bound to it by ancestry (his forebears were blacksmiths), Sandro practices chemistry as a trade, without apparent reflection; on weekends, he goes off to the mountains, to ski or climb, sometimes spending the night in a hayloft.

Levi tastes “freedom” with Sandro—a freedom perhaps from thinking, the freedom of the conquering body, of being on top of the mountain, of being “master of one’s destiny.” Sandro is a powerful presence on the page; aware of this, Levi plays his absence against his presence, informing us, in a beautiful lament at the end of the chapter, that Sandro was Sandro Delmastro, that he joined the military wing of the Action Party, and that in 1944 he was captured by the Fascists. He tried to escape, and was shot in the neck by a raw fifteen-year-old recruit. The elegy closes thus:

Today I know it’s hopeless to try to clothe a man in words, make him live again on the written page, especially a man like Sandro. He was not a man to talk about, or build monuments to, he who laughed at monuments: he was all in his actions, and when those ended nothing of him remained, nothing except words, precisely.

The word becomes the monument, even as Levi disowns the building of it.

One of the most eloquent of Levi’s rhetorical gestures is the way he moves between volume and silence, appearance and disappearance, life and death. Repeatedly, Levi tolls his bell of departure: these vivid human beings existed, and then they were gone. But, above all, they existed. Sandro, in “The Periodic Table” (“nothing of him remained”); Alberto, most beloved among the camp inmates, who died on the midwinter death march from Auschwitz (“Alberto did not return, and of him no trace remains”); Elias Lindzin, the “dwarf” (“Of his life as a free man, no one knows anything”); Mordo Nahum, “the Greek,” who helped Levi survive part of the long journey back to Italy (“We parted after a friendly conversation; and after that, since the whirlwind that had convulsed that old Europe, dragging it into a wild contra dance of separations and meetings, had come to rest, I never saw my Greek master again, or heard news of him”). And the “drowned,” those who went under—“leaving no trace in anyone’s memory.” Levi rings the bell even for himself, who in some way disappeared into his tattooed number: “At a distance of thirty years, I find it difficult to reconstruct what sort of human specimen, in November of 1944, corresponded to my name, or, rather, my number: 174517.”

In the fall of 1943, Levi and his friends formed a band of anti-Fascist partisans. It was an amateurish group, poorly equipped and ill trained, and Italian Fascist soldiers captured part of his unit in the early hours of December 13th. Levi had an obviously false identity card, which he ate (“The photograph was particularly revolting”). But the action availed him little: the interrogating officer told him that if he was a partisan he would be immediately shot; if he was a Jew he would be sent to a holding camp near Carpi. Levi held out for a while, and then chose to confess his Jewishness, “in part out of weariness, in part also out of an irrational point of pride.” He was sent to a detention camp at Fòssoli, near Modena, where conditions were tolerable: there were P.O.W.s and political prisoners of different nationalities, there was mail delivery, and there was no forced labor. But in the middle of February, 1944, the S.S. took over the running of the camp and announced that all the Jews would be leaving: they were told to prepare for two weeks of travel. A train of twelve closed freight cars left on the evening of February 22nd, packed with six hundred and fifty people. Upon their arrival at Auschwitz, more than five hundred were selected for death; the others, ninety-six men and twenty-nine women, entered the Lager (Levi always preferred the German word for prison). At Auschwitz, Levi was imprisoned in a work camp that was supposed to produce a rubber called Buna, though none was actually manufactured. He spent almost a year as a prisoner, and then almost nine months returning home. “Of six hundred and fifty,” he wrote in “The Truce,” “three of us were returning.” Those are the facts, the abominable and precious facts.

There is a Talmudic commentary that argues that “Job never existed and was just a parable.” The Israeli poet and concentration-camp survivor Dan Pagis replies to this easy erasure in his poem “Homily.” Despite the obvious inequality of the theological contest, Pagis says, Job passed God’s test without even realizing it. He defeated Satan with his very silence. We might imagine, Pagis continues, that the most terrible thing about the story is that Job didn’t understand whom he had defeated, or that he had even won the battle. Not true. For then comes an extraordinary final line: “But in fact, the most terrible thing of all is that Job never existed and is just a parable.”

Pagis’s poem means: “Job did exist, because Job was in the death camps. Suffering is not the most terrible thing; worse is to have the reality of one’s suffering erased.” In just this way, Levi’s writing insists that Job existed and was not a parable. His clarity is ontological and moral: these things happened, a victim witnessed them, and they must never be erased or forgotten. There are many such facts in Levi’s books of testament. The reader is quickly introduced to the principle of scarcity, in which everything—every detail, object, and fact—becomes essential, for everything will be stolen: wire, rags, paper, bowl, a spoon, bread. The prisoners learn to hold their bowls under their chins so as not to lose the crumbs. They shorten their nails with their teeth. “Death begins with the shoes.” Infection enters through wounds in the feet, swollen by edema; ill-fitting shoes can be catastrophic. Hunger is perpetual, overwhelming, and fatal for most: “The Lager is hunger.” In their sleep, many of the prisoners lick their lips and move their jaws, dreaming of food. Reveille is brutally early, before dawn. As the prisoners trudge off to work, sadistic, infernal music accompanies them: a band of prisoners is forced to play marches and popular tunes; Levi says that the pounding of the bass drum and the clashing of the cymbals is “the voice of the Lager” and the last thing about it he will forget. And present everywhere is what he called the “useless violence” of the camp: the screaming and beatings and humiliations, the enforced nakedness, the absurdist regulatory regimen, with its sadism of paradox—the fact, say, that every prisoner needed a spoon but was not issued one and had to find it himself on the black market (when the camp was liberated, Levi writes, a huge stash of brand-new plastic spoons was discovered), or the fanatically prolonged daily roll call, which took place in all weathers, and which required militaristic precision from wraiths in rags, already half dead.

“Business is terrible.”

Many of these horrifying facts can be found in testimony by other witnesses. What is different about Levi’s work is bound up with his uncommon ability to tell a story. It is striking how much writing by survivors does not quite tell a story; it has often been poetic (Paul Celan, Dan Pagis, Yehiel De-Nur), or analytical, reportorial, anthropological, philosophical (Jean Améry, Germaine Tillion, Eugen Kogon, Viktor Frankl). The emphasis falls, for understandable reasons, on lament, on a liturgy of tears; or on immediate precision, on bringing concrete news, and on the attempt at comprehension. When Viktor Frankl introduces, in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” the subject of food in Auschwitz, he does so thus: “Because of the high degree of undernourishment which the prisoners suffered, it was natural that the desire for food was the major primitive instinct around which mental life centered.” Along with this scientific mastering of the information comes something like a wariness of narrative naïveté: such writers frequently move back and forth in time, plucking and massing details thematically, from different periods in and outside the camps. Surely, Frankl’s rhetoric calmly insists, “this material did not master me; I master it.” (This gesture can be found even in some Holocaust fiction: Jorge Semprún, who survived Buchenwald, enacts such a formal freedom from temporality in his novel “The Long Voyage”; the book is set on the train en route to the camp, but breaks forward to encompass the entire camp experience.)

Levi’s prose has a tone of similar command, and in his last book, “The Drowned and the Saved,” he became such an analyst, grouping material by theme rather than telling stories. Nor did he always tell his stories in conventional sequential fashion. But “If This Is a Man” and “The Truce” are powerful because they do not disdain story. They unfold their material, bolt by bolt. We begin “If This Is a Man” with Levi’s capture in 1943, and we end it with the camp’s liberation by the Russians, in January, 1945. Then we continue the journey in “The Truce,” as Levi finds his long, Odyssean way home. Everything is new, everything is introduction, and so the reader sees with Levi’s disbelieving eyes. He introduces thirst like this: “Will they give us something to drink? No, they line us up again, lead us to a huge square.” He first mentions the now infamous refrain “The only way out is through the chimney” thus: “What does it mean? We’ll soon learn very well what it means.” To register his discoveries, he often breaks from the past tense into a diaristic present.

The result is a kind of ethics, when the writer is constantly registering the moral (which is to say, in this case, the immoral) novelty of the details he encounters. That is why every reader who has opened “If This Is a Man” feels impelled to continue reading it, despite the horror of the material. Levi seems to join us in our incomprehension, which is both a narrative astonishment and a moral astonishment. The victims’ ignorance of the name “Auschwitz” tells us everything, actually and symbolically. For Levi, “Auschwitz” had not, until this moment, existed. It had to be invented, and it had to be introduced into his life. Evil is not the absence of the good, as theology and philosophy have sometimes maintained. It is the invention of the bad: Job existed and was not a parable. Levi registers the same astonishment when first hit by a German officer—“a profound amazement: how can one strike a man without anger?” Or when, driven by thirst, he breaks off an icicle only to have it snatched away by a guard. “Why?” Levi asks. To which comes the answer “Hier ist kein warum” (“Here there is no why”). Or when Alex the Kapo, a professional criminal who has been given limited power over other prisoners, wipes his greasy hand on Levi’s shoulder, as if the other man were not a man. Or when Levi, who was fortunate enough to be chosen to work as a chemist, in the Buna laboratory, comes face to face with his chemistry examiner, Dr. Pannwitz, who raises his eyes to glance at his victim: “That look did not pass between two men; and if I knew how to explain fully the nature of that look, exchanged as if through the glass wall of an aquarium between two beings who inhabit different worlds, I would also be able to explain the essence of the great insanity of the Third Reich.”

Levi frequently emphasized that his survival in Auschwitz owed much to his youth and strength; to the fact that he understood some German (many of those who didn’t, he observed, died in the first weeks); to his training as a chemist, which had refined his habits of curiosity and observation, and which permitted him, in the last months of his incarceration, to work indoors, in a warm laboratory, while the Polish winter did its own fatal selection of the less fortunate; and to other accidents of luck. Among these last were timing (he arrived relatively late in the progress of the war) and what seems to have been a great capacity for friendship. He describes himself, in “The Periodic Table,” as one of those people to whom others tell their stories. In a world of terminal individualism, in which every person had to fight to live, he did not let this scarred opportunism become his only mode of survival. He was wounded like everyone else, but with resources that seem, to most of his readers, unfathomable and mysterious he did not lose the ability to heal and to be healed. He helped others, and they helped him. Both “If This Is a Man” and “The Truce” contain beautiful portraits of goodness and charity, and it is not the punishers and sadists but the life-givers—the fortifiers, the endurers, the men and women who sustained Levi in his struggle to survive—who burst out of these pages. Steinlauf, who is nearly fifty, a former sergeant in the Austro-Hungarian Army and a veteran of the Great War, tells Levi, severely, that he must wash regularly and keep his shoes polished and walk upright, because the Lager is a vast machine that exists to reduce its victims to beasts, and “we must not become beasts.”

Above all, there is Lorenzo Perrone, a mason from Levi’s Piedmont area, a non-Jew, whom Levi credited with saving his life. The two met in June, 1943 (Levi was working on a bricklaying team, and Lorenzo was one of the chief masons). For the next six months, Lorenzo smuggled extra food to his fellow-Italian and, even more dangerous, helped him send letters to his family in Italy. (As a “volunteer worker” for the Reich—i.e., a slave laborer—Lorenzo had privileges beyond the dreams of any Jewish prisoner.) And as crucial as the material support was Lorenzo’s presence, which reminded Levi, “by his natural and plain manner of being good, that a just world still existed outside ours. . . . Thanks to Lorenzo, I managed not to forget that I myself was a man.”

You can feel this emphasis on moral resistance in every sentence Levi wrote: his prose is a form of keeping his boots shined and his posture proudly upright. It is a style that seems at first windowpane clear but is actually full of undulating strategies. He is acclaimed for the purity of his style and sometimes faulted for his reticence or coldness. But Levi is “cold” only in the way that the air is suddenly cold when you pull slightly away from a powerful fire. His composure is passionate lament, resistance, affirmation. Nor is he so plain. He is not afraid of rhetorical expansion, particularly when writing forms of elegy. “If This Is a Man” is shot through with sentences of tragic grandeur: “Dawn came upon us like a betrayal, as if the new sun were an ally of the men who had decided to destroy us. . . . Now, in the hour of decision, we said to each other things that are not said among the living.” He loves adjectives and adverbs: he admired Joseph Conrad, and sometimes sounds like him, except that, while Conrad can throw his modifiers around pugilistically (the heavier the words the better), Levi employs his with tidy force. The Christian doctor whom Nona Màlia married is described as “majestic, bearded, and taciturn”; Rita, a fellow-student, has “her shabby clothes, her firm gaze, her concrete sadness”; Cesare, one of those morally strong, physically vital men who sustain Levi in time of need, is “very ignorant, very innocent, and very civilized.” In Auschwitz, the drowned, those who are slipping away into death, drift in “an opaque inner solitude.”

This is a classical prose, the possession of a civilized man who never expected that his humane irony would have to battle with its moral opposite. But, once the battle is joined, Levi makes that irony into a formidable weapon. Consider these words: “fortune,” “detached study,” “charitably,” “enchantment,” “discreet and sedate,” “equanimity,” “adventure,” “university.” All of them, remarkably, are used by Levi to describe aspects of his experiences in the camp. “It was my good fortune to be deported to Auschwitz only in 1944.” This is how, with scandalous coolness, he begins “If This Is a Man,” calmly deploying the twinned resources of “fortuna” in Italian, which combines the senses of good fortune and fate. In the same preface to his first book, Levi promises a “detached study” of what befell him. The hellish marching music of the camp is described as an “enchantment” from which one must escape. In “The Drowned and the Saved,” Levi describes a moment of crisis when he knows he is about to be selected to live or die. He briefly wavers, and almost begs help from a God he does not believe in. But “equanimity prevailed,” he writes, and he resists the temptation. Equanimity!

In the same book, he includes a letter he wrote in 1960 to his German translator, in which he announces that his time in the Lager, and writing about the Lager, “was an important adventure that has profoundly modified me.” The Italian is “una importante avventura, che mi ha modificato profondamente,” which Raymond Rosenthal’s original translation, of 1988, follows; the new “Complete Works” weakens the irony by turning it into “an ordeal that changed me deeply.” For surely the power of these impeccable words, as so often in Levi, is moral. First, they register their contamination by what befell them (the “adventure,” we think, should not be called that; it must be described as an “ordeal”); and then they dryly repel that contamination (no, we will insist on calling the experience, with full ironic power, an “adventure”).

In the same spirit of calmly rebellious irony, “If This Is a Man” ends almost casually, like a conventional nineteenth-century realist novel, with cheerful news of continuity and welfare beyond its pages: “In April, at Katowice, I met Schenck and Alcalai in good health. Arthur has happily rejoined his family and Charles has returned to his profession as a teacher; we have exchanged long letters and I hope to see him again one day.” That emphasis on resistance makes its sequel, “The Truce,” not merely funny but joyous: the camps are no more, the Germans have been vanquished, and gentler life, like a moral sun, is returning. There may be nothing more moving in all of Levi’s work than a moment, early in “The Truce,” when, after the months in Auschwitz, a very sick Levi is helped down from a cart by two Russian nurses. The first Russian words he hears are “Po malu, po malu!”—“Slowly, slowly!”; or, even better in the Italian, “Adagio, adagio!” This soft charity falls like balm on the text. (But „Pomalu“ (not „Po malu“) is polish, not russian.
In russian it would be:     медленно/medlenno, or:  тихо / ticho, or  постепенно / postepenno. Note: JSB)

Saul Bellow once said that all the great modern novelists were really attempting a definition of human nature, in order to justify the continuation of life and of their craft. This is preëminently true of Primo Levi, even if we feel, at times, that it is a project thrust upon him by fortune. In some respects, Levi’s vision is pessimistic, because he reminds us “how empty is the myth of original equality among men.” In Auschwitz, the already strong prospered—because they were physically or morally tougher than others, or because they were less sensitive, and greedier and more cynical in the will to live. (Jean Améry, who was tortured by the S.S. in Belgium, averred that even before pain we are not equal.) On the other hand, Levi is no tragic theologian. He did not believe that the “pitiless process of natural selection” that ruled in the camps confirmed man’s essential brutishness. The philosopher Berel Lang, in one of the best recent inquiries into Levi’s work, argues that this moral optimism makes him a singular figure. Lang says that Levi can be turned into neither a Hobbesian (for whom the camps would represent the ultimate state of nature) nor a modern Darwinian (who must struggle to explain pure altruism, except as camouflaged biological self-interest). For Levi, Auschwitz was exceptional, anomalous, an unnatural laboratory. “We do not believe that man is fundamentally brutal, egoistic, and stupid in his conduct once every civilized institution is taken away,” Levi writes forthrightly. “We believe, rather, that the only conclusion to be drawn is that in the face of driving need and physical privation many habits and social instincts are reduced to silence.”

In normal existence, Levi argues, there is a “third way” between winning and losing, between altruism and atrocity, between being saved and being drowned, and this third way is in fact the rule. But in the camp there was no third way. It is this apprehension that expands Levi’s understanding for those caught in what he called the gray zone. He places in the gray zone all those who were morally compromised by some degree of collaboration with the Germans—from the lowliest (those prisoners who got a little extra food by performing menial jobs like sweeping or being night watchmen) through the more ambiguous (the Kapos, often thuggish enforcers and guards who were themselves also prisoners) to the utterly tragic (the Sonderkommandos, Jews employed for a few months to run the gas chambers and crematoria, until they themselves were killed). The gray zone, which might be mistaken for the third way, is an aberration, a state of desperate limitation produced by the absence of a third way. Unlike Hannah Arendt, who judged Jewish collaboration with infamous disdain, Levi makes a notable attempt at comprehension and tempered judgment. He finds such people pitiable as well as culpable, because they were at once grotesquely innocent and guilty. And he does not exempt himself from this moral mottling: on the one hand, he firmly asserts his innocence, but, on the other, he feels guilty to have survived.

Levi sometimes said that he felt a larger shame—shame at being a human being, since human beings invented the world of the concentration camp. But if this is a theory of general shame it is not a theory of original sin. One of the happiest qualities of Levi’s writing is its freedom from religious temptation. He did not like the darkness of Kafka’s vision, and, in a remarkable sentence of dismissal, gets to the heart of a certain theological malaise in Kafka: “He fears punishment, and at the same time desires it . . . a sickness within Kafka himself.” Goodness, for Levi, was palpable and comprehensible, but evil was palpable and incomprehensible. That was the healthiness within himself.

On the morning of April 11, 1987, this healthily humane man, age sixty-seven, walked out of his fourth-floor apartment and either fell or threw himself over the bannister of the building’s staircase. The act, if suicide, appeared to undo the suture of his survival. Some people were outraged; others refused to see it as suicide. The implication, not quite spoken, was uncomfortably close to dismay that the Nazis had won after all. “Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years later,” Elie Wiesel said. Yet Levi was a survivor who committed suicide, not a suicide who failed to survive. He himself had seemed to argue against such morbidity, in his chapter on Jean Améry in “The Drowned and the Saved.” Améry, who killed himself at the age of sixty-five, said that in Auschwitz he thought a great deal about dying; rather tartly, Levi replied that in the camp he was too busy for such perturbation. “The business of living is the best defense against death, and not only in the camps.”

Many contemporary commentators knew little or nothing about Levi’s depression, which he struggled with for decades, and which had become desperately severe. In his last months, he felt unable to write, was in poor health, was worried about his mother’s decline. In February, he told his American translator Ruth Feldman that his depression was, in certain respects, “worse than Auschwitz, because I’m no longer young and I have scant resilience.” His family was in no doubt. “No! He’s done what he’d always said he’d do,” his wife wailed, when she heard what had happened. In this regard, one could see Levi as a survivor twice over, first of the camps and then of depression. He survived for a very long time, and then chose not to survive, the terminal act perhaps not at odds with survival but continuous with it: a decision to leave the prison on his own terms, in his own time. His friend Edith Bruck, herself a survivor of Auschwitz and Dachau, said, “There are no howls in Primo’s writing—all emotion is controlled—but Primo gave such a howl of freedom at his death.” This is moving, certainly, and perhaps true. Thus one consoles oneself, and consolation is necessary: like much suicide, Levi’s death is only a silent howl, because it voids its own echo. It is natural to be bewildered, and it is important not to moralize. For, above all, Job existed and was not a parable. 


Das Feld, das russische Feld: Joseph Brodsky und Alexander Sergejewitsch Puschkin über Ukraine, Nikita Mikhailkov über Vladimir Putin / Field, Russian field: Nikita Mikhailkov’s speech on Vladimir Putin, Joseph Brodsky and Alexander Sergejewitsch Puschkin about Ukraine / Поле, русское поле: Никита Михалков о Владимире Путине, Иосиф Бродский и Александр Сергеевич Пушкин об Украине (german, english, russian)

Eltville 2012 © by Julian S. Bielicki 120x80cm oil in canvas

Eltville 2012 © by Julian S. Bielicki 120x80cm oil in canvas

Das Feld, das russische Feld: Joseph Brodsky und Alexander Sergejewitsch Puschkin über Ukraine, Nikita Mikhailkov über Vladimir Putin.


In Zeiten der Globalisierung würde man denken, daß Menschen versuchen Andere zu verstehen. Von wegen! Ganz und gar nicht, der menschliche Idiot versucht gar nicht, andere zu verstehen, denn dazu müßte er sich informieren, wie die Tatort-Kommissare immer sagen, nach allen Seiten und ergebnissoffen ermitteln, dazu ist aber der menschliche Idiot, der moderne Tartuffe, zu faul und zu unfähig, denn er hat nur gelernt Andersdenkende mit einem Meinungs-Lynch-Mob medial mundtot zu machen. Zuzuhören, nachzufragen, sich zu informieren, in Folge eigene Meinung zu bilden und eventuell zu ändern, das alles ist ihm zu stressig, dafür hat er keine Geduld, das springt nicht sofort aus seinem App heraus, da hat er nicht sofort einen kognitiven Samenerguss, dann macht er das auch nicht. Allmähliches Erarbeiten von etwas verschwindet immer mehr, alles muß sofort passieren. Schwarzbrot hat keine Konjunktur, alles muß mundgerecht kleingeschnitten geliefert werden, das moderne Gehirn will nur noch schnell Hapa-Hapa machen. Aber sofort passiert nur Blödsinn, sofort kann man nur in die Hose machen, deswegen geht es den meisten auch beschissen.

Ich versuche es aber Mal, hier etwas zu erklären, was nicht sofort einsichtig sein wird, sondern erst allmählich, in der resignierten Hoffnung, das es doch vielleicht jemand macht. Kauen, meine ich.

Also, Rußland ist in Allermunde, nun versucht Mal Rußland etwas zu verstehen.

Versucht Menschen zu verstehen, für die das Wichtigste in ihrem Leben das Feld ist. Huch?Ja, Sie haben es richtig verstanden. Das Feld. Das russische Feld. Dieses Feld wird in Russland geliebt und besungen, „Das russische Feld“ ist eins der bekanntesten russischen Lieder. Hier können Sie es hören:

Sehen Sie bitte auch „Weisse Naechte des Brieftraegers Alexei Trjapizyn“ / “Белые ночи почтальона Алексея Тряпицына” / „The Postman’s White Nights“

und lesen Sie die Rede von Nikita Mikhailkov über Vladimir Putin, und jeweils ein Gedicht über Ukraine, von Joseph Brodsky und von Alexander Sergejewitsch Puschkin.

Und dann überlegen Sie, wie Sie sich mit Menschen verständigen, für die ihr russisches Feld so wichtig ist. Und die sich ihr russisches Feld nicht von irgendwelchen dahergelaufenen ukrainischen Nazis und westlichen Neocons samt ihrer Nato-Merkel und Flintenuschi versauen lassen wollen. Der langsam daherbrabbelnde Steinmeier ist ihnen dagegen egal.

Damit haben Sie für das kommende Wochenende genug zu tun! Viel Spaß! JSB


Worte Inna Goff, Musik von Jan Frenkel


Das Feld, das russische Feld,

es scheint der Mond oder der Schnee fällt,

Glück und Schmerz mit Dir verbunden,

nein, mein Herz vergisst Dich in 100 Jahren nicht.

Russischess Feld, russisches Feld,

wie viele Wege ich gehen musste,

Du bist meine Jugend, Du bist mein Wille,

das was geschah,

was im Leben geschah.

Dir gleichen weder Wälder noch Meere,

Du bist bei mir, mein Feld,

Ein hoher Wind weht kühl,

Hier ist mein Vaterland,

Ich sage es, ohne es zu verstecken,

Grüße Dich, russisches Feld,

Ich bin Dein kleiner Halm,

Das Feld, das russische Feld,

obgleich ich schon lange ein Stadtmensch bin,

Geruch vom Wermutkraut,

Regenschauer im Frühling

Plötzlich nässen mich mit

Vergangener Wehmut durch.

Das russische Feld,

das russische Feld,

ich, wie Du, lebe durch die Erwartung,

ich glaube dem Schweigen,

wie einem Versprechen,

an dunklem Tag

sehe ich das Grauen.

Dir gleichen weder Wälder noch Meere,

Du bist bei mir, mein Feld,

Ein hoher Wind weht kühl,,

Hier ist mein Vaterland,

Ich sage es, ohne es zu verstecken,

Grüße Dich, russisches Feld,

Ich bin Dein kleiner Halm.

Feld, das russische Feld…


Field, Russian field: Nikita Mikhailkov’s speech on Vladimir Putin, Joseph Brodsky and Alexander Sergejewitsch Puschkin about Ukraine.


One might think that in these times of globalization, people would make efforts to understand one another. Yeah right! It’s absolutely not the case – the human idiot doesn’t even attempt to understand others, for that would require research things, in the same manner that crime scene investigators are supposed to, i.e. in all directions and open-ended. But the human idiot, being the modern hypocrite that he is, is much too lazy and unable, for all he was trained to do is to mediumistically silence the different-minded with a lynch mob of opinions. Listening, asking question, getting informed and in conclusion creating a personal opinion, or perhaps changing it, all that is too stressful, he has no patience for that.. It doesn’t jump right out of his app offering an immediate cognitive ejaculation, so consequently he has no interest in doing it. Gradual acquisition of something is in steady decline, everything is expected to happen right away. Brown loaf doesn’t comprise business activity, everything is to be delivered cut into little bite-sized portions, so that the modern brain may limit its action to a quick and easy yum-yum. However, rubbish is the only thing that happens immediately, wetting one’s pants is the only thing that can happen from one moment to another, which is why most people are doing quite shitty.

I will try to explain something here, which won’t immediately be perceived as insightful, but will in time, thus I’m doing this in the weary hope that maybe someone will indeed begin to do it. Chewing, that is.

So, everyone’s talking about Russia then try and understand Russia a little bit.

Try to understand people to whom their fields are the most important thing in life. Huh? Yeah, you got that right! The land. The Russian land. This land is beloved and sung about in adoration, “The Russian Land” is one of the most well-known Russian songs. You can hear it here:

Please also take a look at: „Weisse Naechte des Brieftraegers Alexei Trjapizyn“ / “Белые ночи почтальона Алексея Тряпицына” / „The Postman’s White Nights“

And read Nikita Mikhailkov’s speech on Vladimir Putin,

as well as poems about Ukraine: One by Joseph Brodsky and one by Alexander Sergejewitsch Puschkin.

And then think about how you communicate with people, to whom their Russian land is so incredibly important. And who won’t allow their Russian land to be butchered by some washed-up Ukrainian Nazis and western Neocons, including Nato-Merkel and Gun-Uschi. However, they don’t really ccare about that slow-babbling Steinmeier.

Now you have plenty to do this weekend! Have fun! JSB



Words Inna Goff, music of Jan Frenkel


Field, Russian field…

The moon shines or snow fall –

Happiness and pain associated with you,

No, do not forget your heart for ever.

Russian field, Russian field…

How many roads I had to walk!

You are my youth, you’re my will.

What happens, then, that in a life come true!


Does not compare with you or forest, or sea.

You’re with me, my field, the Studite the wind temple.

Here is my Motherland, and I will say openly:

„Hello, Russian field,

I’m your thin wisp!“


Field, Russian field…

Let me long time ago man-city

A smell of wormwood, spring showers

Suddenly would burn me the same longing.

Russian field, Russian field…

I, like you, expectation live –

Believe молчанью, as обещанью,

Overcast day I see the blue!


Does not compare with you or forest, or sea.

You’re with me, my field, the Studite the wind temple.

Here is my Motherland, and I will say openly:

„Hello, Russian field,

I’m your thin wisp!“


Field, Russian field…


Поле, русское поле: Никита Михалков о Владимире Путине, Иосиф Бродский и Александр Сергеевич Пушкин об Украине.


Можно было бы предположить, что сейчас, в эпоху глобализации, люди станут прилагать усилия для налаживания взаимопонимания друг с другом. Ну да, конечно! Все совсем не так – человекообразные идиоты даже не пытаются понять других людей, потому что для этого им понадобилось бы проникнуть в суть вещей, провести скрупулезное исследование сродни работе следователя на месте преступления, т.е. работать одновременно во всех направлениях и принимать во внимание множество различных вариантов. Но человекообразный идиот, этот современный лицемер, каким он и является, слишком ленив и немощен, поскольку единственное, чему он обучен, – затыкать рот инакомыслящим с видом медиума и линчевать толпой противоположные мнения. Слушать, задавать вопросы, получать информацию и составлять или даже менять свое собственное мнение исходя из этого – это все слишком тяжело и на это ему не хватает терпения. Все это ему неинтересно, ведь гораздо проще получить готовое для восприятия решение, которое выпрыгнет, как чертик из табакерки. Неуклонно снижается интерес к постепенному восприятию и изучению, все должно происходить немедленно. Никаких огромных порции информации, все подается мелконарезанными порциями для усваивания за один раз, поэтому мозг современного человека может ограничить всю свою активность быстрым и простым пережевыванием. Но единственная информация, которую можно усвоить немедленно, – это всяческий хлам, а единственное немедленное действие – обмочить штанишки, поэтому большинство людей ведут себя, как настоящее дерьмо.

Я попытаюсь кое-что объяснить, нечто, чью ценность и поучительность вы осознаете со временем, а не прямо сейчас, поэтому я делаю это в смутной надежде, что хоть кто-нибудь действительно сделает это. Поразмыслите над этим.

Итак, все говорят о России, поэтому попробуйте понять Россию хотя бы немного.

Попробуйте понять людей, для которых их просторы являются самым важным в жизни. Что? Да, вы все прекрасно поняли! Земля. Русская земля. Эту землю любят и поют о ней с восхищением, «Русская земля» – одна из самых известных русских песен. Вы можете послушать ее здесь:

Пожалуйста, взгляните сюда:


И почитайте речь Никиты Михалкова к Владимиру Путину, а также стихи об Украине: одно, написанное Иосифом Бродским, а второе – Александром Сергеевичем Пушкиным.


А затем подумайте, как вы общаетесь с людьми, для кого русская земля чрезвычайно важна. И с теми, кто не хочет, чтобы на их русской земле устраивали резню украинские нацисты с промытыми мозгами или западные неоконсерваторы, включая НАТО-Меркель или милитариста-Уши. Однако, их не очень волнует тугодум и балобол Штайнмайер.


Теперь у вас есть чем заняться на этих выходных. Приятно провести время! ЮСВ



Автор текста (слов): Гофф, Инна Анатольевна, Композитор (музыка): Френкель, Ян Абрамович


Поле, русское поле,

Светит луна

Или падает снег,

Счастьем и болью

Связан с тобою,

Нет, не забыть тебя

Сердцу вовек.

Русское поле,

Русское поле,

Сколько дорог

Прошагать мне пришлось.

Ты моя юность,

Ты моя воля,

То, что сбылось,

То что в жизни сбылось.

Не сравнятся с тобой

Ни леса, ни моря,

Ты со мной, моё поле,

Студит ветер висок.

Здесь Отчизна моя

И скажу, не тая,

Здравствуй, русское поле,

Я твой тонкий колосок.

Поле, русское поле,

Пусть я давно

Человек городской,

Запах полыни,

Вешние ливни,

Вдруг обожгут меня

Прежней тоской.

Русское поле,

Русское поле,

Я, как и ты, ожиданьем живу.

Верю молчанью,

Как обещанью,

Пасмурным днём

Вижу я синеву.

Не сравнятся с тобой

Ни леса, ни моря,

Ты со мной, моё поле,

Студит ветер висок.

Здесь Отчизна моя

И скажу, не тая,

Здравствуй, русское поле,

Я твой тонкий колосок.

Здесь Отчизна моя

И скажу, не тая,

Здравствуй, русское поле,

Я твой тонкий колосок.

Поле, русское поле…



Nikita S. Michalkow (Schauspieler, Filmregisseur, Drehbuchautor und Filmproduzent) über Putin

Heute feiert unser Präsident Wladimir Putin seinen 55. Geburtstag. Ich weiß, dass manche der Meinung sind, es sei nicht sehr geschickt Äußerungen über einen Leiter auszusprechen. Ich aber fürchte mich auf keinem Fall, weil ich überzeugt bin, dass sehr viele Menschen in unserem Land, dem Präsidenten ihr Leben anvertrauend, heute ehrlich sagen mögen, dass dieser Mensch einen wirklichen Einfluss auf ihrem Leben gehabt hat.

Ich bringe wenig Verständnis für die Regierung von Boris Jelzin auf, aber zwei Handlungen aus seinem Leben haben mich sehr getroffen. Die erste Handlung kam am 12. Juli 1990 an der 28. Sitzung der Kommunistischen Partei der Sowjetunion vor. Dieser Mensch, von Macht überwältigt, nahm auf einmal seine Parteiausweis in die Hand und legte ihn auf den Tisch nieder. Das macht den Menschen rücksichtslos, da er sich nicht vorstellt, womit das alles enden könnte. Und die zweite Handlung, die mich auch stürzte, kam am Sylvester 1999 vor, als Boris Jelzin eine Neujahrsansprache aufnahm und dabei seinen freiwilligen Rücktritt aus der Politik und die Übergabe der Macht Wladimir Putin meldete. Solch eine Tat war in der Geschichte unseres Landes fast nie vorkommen. So passierte es, dass nur Stunden vor dem Beginn des Jahres 2000, ein komplett neuer Mensch zum Kreml angekommen ist.

Was war ihm befallen? Lassen Sie uns einfach eine kurze Zeitreise zu den Tagen unternehmen in einem Versuch, die Gefühle dieses Menschen, auf dessen Schultern solch ein Kreuz gelegt wurde, zu verstehen. Ja, ein Kreuz, und keine Träume von Macht. Was war das für eine Zeit? Das war eine Zeit von Verzweiflung, von furchtbaren Kriminellen, die Beute spürten. Es war eine Zeit von fast kompletter Armut, als Spargeld verschwand. Mehr als ein Drittel der Bevölkerung lebte unterhalb der Armutsschwelle. Russlands Auslandsschuld wuchs auf 160 Millionen Dollar zu. Leute warteten zehn Monaten auf ihr Gehalt, länger sogar. Terrorismus, der Nordkaukasus – das war ein Problem für Russland seit immer, aber jetzt verwandelte es sich in eine blutige pulsierende Wunde. Es war die Zeit, als Basayev und Khattab versuchten, den ganzen Nordkaukasus von Russland wegzureißen. Und was war mit unseren Streitkräften? Einem riesigen Heer von fast anderthalb Millionen Soldaten gelang es mit Schwierigkeiten 65 Tausend Menschen aus allen Regionen, aus allen Wehrbereichen zu sammeln um das, was damals passierte, zu einem gewissen Grad anzuhalten. Was war mit unseren Luftwaffe unterwegs? Flugzeuge standen auf der Erde, es gab keinen Brennstoff, Piloten lernten auf festem Boden, sie konnten nicht fliegen. Das gleiche passierte bei der Flotte: Schiffe gingen nicht aufs Meer, Matrosen worden vorbereitet, ohne je auf den Wellen gerollt zu haben. Das war im Großen und Ganzen der Anfang einer großen Tragödie für solch einen Land wie Russland.

„Kursk“ war ein Teil dieser Tragödie. Es war eine Prüfung für das ganze Land und natürlich besonders für die, die von jenem furchtbaren Unglück unmittelbar betroffen wurden. Wie sollte man das aushalten? Wie sollte man das ertragen? Wie sollte man sein ganzes Sein, Herz und Seele auf dieses wenden und auf sich Verantwortung für das Ganze nehmen? Das hast Du letzten Endes getan.

Das war der Zustand des Landes. Und ohne Rücksicht darauf, ob Du Recht oder Unrecht hattest, ob Du schuldig oder unschuldig warst, auf Dich schauen alle wie auf den Menschen, der für alles verantwortlich ist. Du solltest mit Witwen reden, obwohl ich denke, dass es sehr hart sein könnte, wenn es nicht formell getan wird. Wie sehr hatte General de Gaulle Recht als er sagte, „Einsamkeit ist das Schicksal derer, die die Spitze politischer Kraft erreichen, von den Stürmen der Staatsinteressen geweht!“ Ich erinnere mich an eins von meinen Gesprächen mit dem Präsidenten (Putin Anm.JSB). Plötzlich sagte er mir einen wunderbaren Satz, „Schau auf den, der ich war, wer bin ich überhaupt? Und warum bin ich hier? Warum bin ich hier? Wozu bin ich hier? Naja, sicher nicht um die Reste, die andere übriggelassen haben, aufzufressen!” Diese Worte blieben bei mir, weil ich hinter ihnen die sehr ernste und wichtige Lebensfrage eines Menschen sah. Nicht wie man leben sollte, nicht was für eine Residenz und Büro man haben wird, was für einen Schlips und Anzug man trägt, sonder wozu man leben soll. Und dort schien es mir, dass menschliche Unsicherheit und Einsamkeit, besonders die Einsamkeit der Macht, sie ist die wirkliche Einsamkeit, wie ich es sehe, weil für die, für die Macht ein Traum ist, wird sie sofort von anderen Träumen umringt, von Menschen die denken, „jetzt geht es wirklich los…“ Erinnern Sie sich an die sieben Bänker, die Jelzin durch die Wahlen von 1996 geholfen haben, als das Land auseinandergerissen wurde, als alles schon verteilt worden ist, als kluge und schlaue und gescheite Leute allmählich verstanden haben, dass sie jetzt alles, ihr Ganzes Geschäft, ausüben konnten? Dort steht er (Jelzin Anm. JSB), als Marionette der Politik, als diese Menschen den RGW (Rat für gegenseitige Wirtschaftshilfe) gründeten, also in der Tat einen Rat für Wirtschaftshilfe eines sterbenden Landes.

Aber gut, so ist es. Wir teilen mit euch, und dafür ihr… Und das Land findet sich fast in die Knie gezwungen von verschiedenen Menschen. Es soll ihnen seine Erde, sein Öl, sein Gas, seine Wälder, seine Gewässer überreichen, weil wenn es alles nicht überreicht, dann weiß keiner, wie er kämpfen soll. Aber sie wissen, wie sie auftreten sollen. Und sie lassen Dich nicht sterben, Land. Aber dafür zahlst Du mit allem, was Du hast. Die damalige Stimmung im Land kann mit einem Rezept verglichen werden, das vor zehn Jahren, vor fünfzig Jahren abgelaufen ist!

Innerhalb von acht Jahren ist Russland eine der zehn bedeutsamsten Wirtschaftsnationen der Welt geworden! Heute hat die Mehrheit der Regionen vergessen, was es heißt, arbeitslos zu sein, und wie öde das Leben dereinst aussah. Auf Initiative des Präsidenten (Putin) sind nationale Projekte entstanden und haben sich entwickelt. Ihr Ziel ist es der Medizin, Wissenschaft, Bildung und Landwirtschaft Leben einzuhauchen. Die Drohung, dass Russland auseinanderfallen könnte ist Teil der Geschichte geworden. Eine andere Stadt ist drohend geworden, eine Stadt die der ganze Nordkaukasus neidet. Das heißt aber nicht, dass die Probleme weg sind, sie sind geblieben, sie werden noch lange mit uns sein. Gleichzeitig aber hat sich ein Gefühl der Stabilität entwickelt. Die “Ost-” und “West-” (russischen) Bataillonen in die die Tschetschenen sich untergeordnet haben kämpfen nicht nur würdig um den Kaukasus, sondern für Russland auch im Libanon. Die Streitbeilegung in Tschetschenien wurde von der ganzen muslimischen Welt unterstützt und akzeptiert. Tausende von russischen Pilgern unternehmen jedes Jahr den Haddsch. Die Hauptsache ist, dass alle traditionelle Bekenntnisse vereinigen sich wieder um einen Staat, um Russland. Wir leben jetzt in einer Ära, in der Russland seinen Platz findet. Und das ist dasselbe Russland, das in einer wirklicher Welt führend werden kann, weil Russland die einzige Brücke zwischen Ost und West ist.

Noch etwas muss ich erwähnen. Ein Ereignis ist vorgekommen, dessen Wirkung wir noch gar nicht bewerten können. Das ist die Wiedervereinigung der Russischen Ausländischen Kirche mit unserem Moskauer Patriarchat. Seit Jahrzenten war das eine Wunde im seelischen Leben unserer Landsleute hier und im Ausland. Es kann sein, dass wir es nicht gespürt haben, aber es war da. Niemand hat sich wirklich vorstellen können, dass jetzt, vor unseren Augen, ein Wunder passiert; diese zwei unversöhnliche aber sehr bedeutungsvolle Kräfte haben sich wiedervereinigt und dabei eine riesige Anzahl von Menschen, ihren Gläubigen, sozusagen unter der Kuppel der orthodoxen Kirche vereinigten. Das kam aber nicht einfach so vor. Riesige, belangliche Änderungen fanden statt, die, auch wenn das nicht glaubwürdig scheint, mit dem Namen des Präsidenten (Putin) eng verbunden sind. Ob wir das wollen oder nicht, so ist es. Sie sind mit seinem Namen und seinen aufeinanderfolgenden, fortschreitenden, schöpferischen Bewegungen durch Zeit und Raum verbunden. Das sind persönliche Charakteristika, keiner hat ihm gesagt, „Ja, das ist Ihre Pflicht, Ihre Verantwortlichkeit.“ Das sind persönliche Eigenschaften, die Eigenschaften eines Sportlers, könnte man sagen. Einmal sagte er mir etwas Ausgezeichnetes, „Um Zweifel bei dem (Sport-) Richter zu vermeiden, muss man nicht nur gewinnen, sondern herausragen.“ Eine fabelhafter Satz! Und die Hauptsache ist, dass es nicht nur ein Satz ist, sondern eine Lebensweise.

Für mich erklärte vieles über unseren Präsidenten sein Auftritt in München. Verstehen Sie, plötzlich wurde vieles klar. Auf einmal meldete dieser Mensch im Namen des Landes Interessen jenes Landes, über die Hürden, die das Land behindern, seinen Interesse zu folgen und darüber, dass Gerechtigkeit keine einseitige Sache ist, dass man die Dinge verschleiern kann und Handlungen formulieren kann. wie man will, aber im Wesentlichen bleiben sie unverändert… Wozu macht man das? Wozu Kosovo? Wozu Irak? Zu welchem Zweck? Sind sie sicher, sie wissen was sie da machen? Braucht das jenes Volk, dem sie das antun? Haben sie es gefragt? Und ich sah den Saal, ich sah Menschen, die dasselbe gedacht haben, aber gefürchtet haben, es zu sagen, ich spürte schweißige Fäuste, ich habe Menschen gesehen, denen man zum ersten Mal sagte, „Sie sind ein Dieb.“ Und viele wollen wirklich nicht verstehen, dass diese ‚Barbaren‘ in der Tat nicht so sehr barbarisch sind. Es stellt sich heraus, sie können sich verteidigen. Es stellt sich heraus, sie können alles so sagen, wie es ist. Es stellt sich heraus, sie können nicht nur drohen, sondern ruhig ein Angebot machen, das man einfach nicht ablehnen kann. Keine kleine Rolle spielt der Mensch, der diesem Land vorstellt und weiterführt, der seine Rede ruhig und hemmungslos in mehreren Sprachen aussprechen kann, wobei er alle damit überrascht, weil sie sich einfach nicht daran gewöhnen können, dass wir wirklich ruhig und auf Augenhöhe, sogar in ihrer Muttersprache mit anderen Menschen sprechen können.

Nach wenigen Monaten tritt der Präsident ab. Diese Entscheidung ist schon gefallen und es ergibt kein Sinn sie hier zu bewerten. Aber was kommt mir als Wichtigstes vor? Mir scheint es, dass wer auch immer unser Präsident wird und womit auch immer er sich beschäftigt, wohin auch immer das Schicksal ihn führt, egal in welchem Zustand er sich befindet, mit wem auch immer er in Besprechung kommt, über egal welches Thema oder Aspekt seines Lebens, ich möchte glauben – und ich denke viele, sogar die Mehrheit der Menschen, die in unserem Land wohnen diesen Glaube mit mir teilen, – dass er das alles mit der Würde charakteristisch für diesen Mann und Offizier machen wird. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!

Nikita S. Mikhalkov (a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, actor, and head of the Russian Cinematographers‘ Union) on Putin.


Today our president Vladimir Putin celebrates his fifty-fifth birthday. I am aware that some people may feel it’s not very smart to speak out about a leader, but I am not in the least bit worried because I am convinced that an enormous number of people in our country today, trusting their life in the hands of President Putin, may honestly say that this man has had a remarkable influence on their lives.

I have mixed feelings about Boris Yeltsin’s leadership and find it difficult to relate to. Two events in Yeltsin’s life, though, really affected me. The first took place on 12 July 1990 at the 28th congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, when this man, wielding enormous power, suddenly gets out his party membership and throws it on the table. This shows the man to be reckless, not imagining where things might lead to. The second event, which also shocked me, happened on New Year’s Eve 1999, when Boris Yeltsin recorded a festive message to the Russian people and included an announcement that shook the whole country, that he would voluntarily step down from his post, something that had almost never happened in the history of our country, and would hand the reins of government over to Vladimir Putin.

Thus hours before the dawn of the new millennium a completely new man arrived at the Kremlin. What had befallen him? Let us quickly return to those years to attempt to understand what the man across whose shoulders lay such a heavy cross may have been feeling. And not dreams of power, but precisely a cross. What sort of a time was it? It was a time of confusion, of frightening criminals who could sense victims. It was a time in which people felt poverty, when savings disappeared. More than a third of Russia’s population fell below the poverty line. The country was in debt 160 million dollars. People waited ten months for their salary, even longer; terrorism, the North Caucasus – a problem that had always been a thorn in Russia’s side, but which now escalated into a giant bloody pulsating wound.

It was a time in which Basayev and Khattab tried to wrench all of the North Caucasus away from Russia. And what happened to the army? A huge army almost 1.5 million strong manages with difficulty to raise 65 thousand people from all ends of the country, from all regions, from all military districts in order to stop as far as possible what was going on at that time. What’s going on in the armed forces? Aeroplanes are grounded; pilots learn on the ground, they can’t fly. The same thing happens in the fleet: ships don‘t take to sea, sailors train for the navy without even getting seasick. By and large it was the beginning of a great tragedy for Russia. The “Kursk” disaster became a feature of this tragedy. It became a trial for the entire country and especially, of course, for those who were directly involved in this terrible catastrophe. How to live through this? How to weather the storm? How to turn your whole existence, your heart, your soul to the situation at hand? How to take on such responsibility? Well, you did it. This is what the country had come to. And regardless of whether you are right or wrong, guilty or not, everyone looks to you as to the person who answers for all of this. You ought to talk to widows,though I think that could be quite painful if done informally. How right de Gaul is, who said, “Loneliness is the lot of those who climb the political ladder, buffeted by the icy winds of public interests!”

I remember one of my conversations with the president. He suddenly said the following, “Look, that’s who I was, but who am I really? And why am I here? To what end am I here? Well hardly to eat up others’ leftovers!” These words struck me because behind them I saw the man’s very serious and essential life question. Not how to live, what kind of residence you will have, what kind of office, what kind of suit and tie, but what to live for. And here it seemed to me that human insecurity and loneliness, the loneliness of power – this is real loneliness, in my opinion, because for those to whom power seems like a dream, it immediately becomes surrounded…How should I put it? By other dreams, it is immediately surrounded by people thinking, “Now things are really starting…”

Remember the seven bankers that got Yeltsin through the 1996 election, when the country was being torn apart, when everything had already been shared out, when the clever and cunning and intelligent realized that they could conduct whatever business they wanted to. And here he finds himself, just a puppet on strings, when these people create the so-called Comecon (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) i.e. Council of Economic Aid for a Dying Country. Well okay, fine. We’ll share with you if you… And the country finds itself practically brought to its knees before a handful of people. It should give them its soil, its oil, its gas, its woods, its water, because if it doesn’t hand them over, no one knows how to deal with such a force. Whereas they know how to act. And they won’t let you die, country. But for this you pay them with everything you have. The atmosphere in the country – compare it to a ten-year-old prescription, a fifty-year-old prescription!

In eight years Russia became one of the ten most economically powerful countries in the world. Nowadays most regions have forgotten what it means to be unemployed and what a dreadful existence they led. National projects are created and developed on the president’s initiative with the aim of breathing life into medicine, science, education, agriculture. The threat of Russia’s collapse receded into the past. A different city became threatening, a city that all of the North Caucasus envy. Though this doesn’t mean that the problems have disappeared, they remained, they are going to stick around for a while yet. But a certain feeling of stability has emerged. The “West” and “East” battalions that the Chechens formed are not only warring over the Caucasus, they also represent Russia in Lebanon. Settlement in Chechnya was supported and accepted by the entire Muslim world. Thousands of Russian pilgrims complete the Hajj every year. Most importantly, all of the traditional confessions unite again around a state, around Russia. We are now living in an era in which Russia is concentrating its forces. And it is this Russia that can become a real world leader, because Russia is the only real bridge between East and West.

There is one more thing that must be mentioned; an event has occurred whose meaning we cannot even guess at. This is the reunion of the Churches – of the Russian Church Abroad and our Moscow Patriarchy. For decades this was a wound in the spiritual lives of our compatriots, at home and abroad. We may not have felt it, but it was there. No one could imagine that really, now, before our very eyes a miracle would happen with the union of these irreconcilable but very spiritually important forces. One could say that the united Orthodox faith had brought an enormous quantity of people, its penitents, under one roof. But it didn’t happen just like that; it took deep-seated changes of a great magnitude. And though the connection may seem frail, these changes were to a greater or lesser extent linked to the president’s opinion. They were linked to his opinion and his successive, progressive and constructive movements in time and space. These are personal characteristics. No one said “Yes it’s necessary, your duty!” These are personal characteristics, the characteristics of a sportsman, if you like. He once said a wonderful thing to me, “To avoid an argument over the refereeing, you need to wipe the floor.” A great phrase! And not just a phrase, but a way of acting.

For me personally what really summed up of a lot of things about our president was his appearance in Munich. Suddenly everything became clear, he set the record straight. This man was speaking on behalf of our country. He outlined our country’s interests and raised the obstacles connected with them. He said that justice does not only work in one direction and that you can sweep as much as you like under the carpet and dress things up in any way you like but their fundamental essence remains… Why do that? Why Kosovo? Why Iraq? What for? And are you sure you know what you’re doing there, that what you’re doing is really in the best interests of the country in which you’re doing it? Did you ask them? And I saw the hall, I saw people who were thinking the same thing, but were afraid to say so, I sensed sweaty palms, I saw people who were being told for the first time, “you’re a thief.”And many people really, really don’t want to know that these “peasants” are not actually all that peasant-like. It turns out they can stand up for themselves. It turns out they can say everything to your face. It turns out they are able not only to make threats, but to quietly make an offer that one can’t refuse. And to put things lightly, the figure who is representing and leading this country plays no small role in its fate. This is a person who can calmly and freely put forward his opinion in several languages, thus surprising everyone because they still cannot get used to the fact that we can calmly and in an even tone talk to foreigners in their own language.

The president is leaving office in several months. The decision has already been made, and passing judgement or speculating on this decision does not make sense. But what seems most important to me? I think that whoever our president may become, wherever his fate may lead him, whichever situations he may find himself in, with whomever he may need to communicate and about whichever subject, about whichever aspect of his existence, I would like to believe – and I think that many people share this belief, the majority of people living in our country – that he will do everything with the dignity characteristic of this man and officer. Happy birthday!


Михалков, Никита Сергеевич (советский и российский актёр, кинорежиссёр, сценарист и продюсер, народный артист РСФСР) о Путине.

Сегодня исполняется 55 лет нашему президенту Владимиру Владимировичу Путину. Я понимаю, что у кого-то может возникнуть ощущение того, что не очень ловко говорить в лицо руководителю какие-то слова, но я абсолютно не боюсь, потому что убежден, что огромное количество людей в нашей стране, доверившие свою жизнь президенту Путину, сегодня могут честно сказать, что этот человек реально повлиял на их жизнь.

Я по-разному и сложно отношусь к правлению Бориса Николаевича Ельцина, но два поступка в жизни Ельцина меня, честно говоря, поразили. Первый поступок произошел 12 июля 1990 года на XXVIII съезде КПСС, когда человек, облеченный огромной властью, вдруг вынимает свой партийный билет и кладет на стол. Это делает человек безоглядно, не представляя себе, чем это кончится. И второй поступок, который меня тоже потряс, произошел в канун 2000 года, когда Борис Николаевич записал поздравление российскому народу и сделал потрясшее всю страну заявление, что он оставляет свой пост добровольно, чего не было почти никогда в истории нашей страны, и передает бразды правления Владимиру Путину. Так в канун 2000 года в Кремль пришел абсолютно новый человек. Что же ему досталось? Давайте просто проведем легкую экскурсию в те годы, для того чтобы попытаться ощутить, что же может испытывать человек, на плечи которого лег этот тяжелейший крест. И не мечта о власти, а именно крест. Что же это было за время? Это было время растерянности, это было время лихих разбойников, почуявших добычу, это было время почти полного обнищания людей, когда исчезли накопления. Более трети населения России оказались за чертой бедности. 160 миллиардов долларов – внешний долг страны. Люди сидят без зарплаты по 10 месяцев, больше. Терроризм, Северный Кавказ – проблема, которая всегда была достаточно кровоточащей для России, а здесь она превратилась в разорванную кровавую пульсирующую рану. Это было время, когда Басаев и Хаттаб пытались оторвать весь Северный Кавказ от России. А что происходит с армией?

Огромная, почти полуторамиллионная армия с трудом может набрать 65 тысяч человек со всех концов, со всех регионов, из всех военных округов для того, чтобы каким-то образом приостановить то, что происходило в то время. Что происходит в Военно-воздушных силах? Самолеты прикованы к земле, нет горючего, летчиков учат на земле, они не могут летать. То же самое происходит на флоте: корабли не выходят в море, моряки обучаются на флоте, никогда не испытав даже качки морской. Это по большому счету начало гигантской трагедии для такой

страны, как Россия. Трагедия „Курска“ стала определенной чертой. Это стало испытанием для всей страны, и в первую очередь, конечно, для тех, кто имел непосредственное отношение к этой ужасной беде. Как выдержать это? Как это перенести? Как включить свое существо, свое сердце, свою душу, как взять на себя ответственность за это? Ведь, в конце концов, не ты это сделал. Это все то, к чему пришла страна. И все равно, прав ты или не прав, виноват ты или не виноват, – на тебя смотрят как на того, кто за это отвечает. Ты должен разговаривать со вдовами. Но, я думаю, что если к этому подходить неформально, то это стоит очень дорого. Как прав де Голль, который сказал: одиночество есть удел тех, кто достиг вершин политической власти, овеваемых ледяными ветрами государственных интересов! Я вспоминаю один наш разговор с президентом. Мне он вдруг сказал такую фразу, он говорит: смотри, ну вот я был, вообще, кто я? И почему я оказываюсь здесь? Почему я оказываюсь здесь? Для чего я оказываюсь здесь? Ну неужели для того, чтобы доесть то, что не доели другие? Эта фраза меня поразила, потому что за ней я увидел очень серьезный и ключевой вопрос жизни человека. Не как жить, какая у тебя будет резиденция, какой у тебя будет кабинет, какой галстук и какой костюм, а зачем жить. И вот здесь мне показалось, что человеческая неуверенность и одиночество, а одиночество власти – это истинное одиночество, на мой взгляд, потому что для тех, для кого власть является мечтой, она сразу обрастает, так сказать, присными, она сразу обрастает людьми, которые, ну вот сейчас начнется… Вспомните семибанкирщину, когда рвалась страна на части, когда все уже поделили, когда умные и хитрые и толковые стали понимать, что сейчас, в этой растерянности, можно сделать все, весь свой гешефт, весь свой бизнес. Вот он здесь находится, вот только дерни за нитки, когда эти люди создают, так сказать, СЭВ (Совет экономической взаимопомощи), так сказать, Совет экономической помощи умирающему государству. Ну хорошо, ладно. Мы с вами поделимся, но за это вы… И страна оказывается почти поставлена на колени перед несколькими людьми практически. Она должна им отдать свои недра, свою нефть, свой газ, свои леса, свои воды отдать, потому что если не отдать, то с этим никто не знает, как поступать. А они знают, как поступать. И они тебе не дадут умереть, страна. Но за это ты расплатишься всем тем, что у тебя есть. Атмосфера в стране – сравните ее с десятилетней давностью, пятнадцатилетней давностью! За восемь лет Россия вошла в число десяти крупнейших экономик мира! Сегодня большинство регионов забыло, что

такое безработица, а это был страшный бич. По инициативе президента возникли и развиваются национальные проекты. Их цель – вдохнуть реальную жизнь в медицину, в науку, в образование, в сельское хозяйство. Угроза распада России ушла в прошлое. Грозный стал другим городом – городом, которому завидуют весь Северный Кавказ. Причем это не значит, что проблемы ушли, они остались, они будут еще долго. Но там возникло определенное ощущение стабильности. Батальоны „Восток“, „Запад“, сформированные из чеченцев, не только достойно воюют на Кавказе, но они еще и представляют Россию в Ливане. Урегулирование в Чечне было поддержано и принято всем мусульманским миром. Тысячи российских паломников ежегодно совершают традиционный хадж. Главное, все традиционные конфессии вновь объединяются вокруг государства, вокруг России. Мы сейчас живем в тот период, когда Россия сосредотачивается. И это есть та самая Россия, которая может стать реальным лидером в мире, потому что Россия – единственный реальный мост между Востоком и Западом. И еще одно, что невозможно не отметить. Произошло событие, значение которого мы еще даже не можем оценить. Это воссоединение церквей – Русской Зарубежной Церкви и нашего Московского Патриархата. В течение десятилетий это была кровоточащая рана в духовной жизни наших соотечественников – и здесь, и за рубежом. Мы могли ее не чувствовать, но она была.

Никто не мог себе представить, что реально вот сейчас, на наших глазах произойдет диво, когда эти две непримиримых силы, но очень значимых духовных силы, объединились, как бы вновь накрыв куполом православной веры огромное количество людей, ее исповедующих.

Но случилось это не просто так и не на ровном месте. Произошли огромные и очень серьезные перемены. И как это ни покажется, так сказать, излишним, эти перемены так или иначе связаны с именем президента. Хотим мы того, не хотим, но это так. Они связаны с его именем и с его последовательным, поступательным, созидательным движением во времени и пространстве. Это личные качества. Как бы там ни говорили, да, так сказать, обстоятельства, ответственность, – это личные качества, это качества спортсмена, если хотите. Однажды он мне замечательную сказал фразу. Я что-то там, ну как так можно, что-то такое взбунтовался, он говорит: для того чтобы не сетовать на судейство, нужно выигрывать с явным преимуществом. Потрясающая фраза! И самое главное, что это не только фраза, это руководство к действию. Для меня лично итоговым, что ли, во многом итоговым было выступление нашего президента в Мюнхене. Вы понимаете, вдруг ясно, просто были

расставлены точки над i. Вдруг человек от имени страны заявил об интересах страны и о том, что мешает, чтобы эти интересы соблюдались, и о том, что справедливость – это вещь не односторонняя, и о том, что можно вуалировать сколько угодно и как угодно формулировать те или другие поступки, но их суть, этих поступков… Для чего это делается? Для чего делается Косово? Для чего делается Ирак? Для чего это делается? А вы уверены ли в том, что вы там делаете, это нужно тому народу, с которым вы это делаете? А вы у него спросили? И я видел зал, я видел людей, которые думают так же, но страшно сказать, я чувствовал потные ладошки, я видел людей, которые первый раз услышали, когда им сказали: вы вор. И очень, очень не хочется вдруг понять многим, что, оказывается, эти „варвары“ – не такие уж и варвары. Оказывается, они могут за себя постоять, оказывается, они могут сказать все в лицо, оказывается, они могут не пугать, а тихо предложить то, от чего трудно отказаться. И немаловажную роль, мягко говоря, здесь играет личность, играет человек, представляющий и возглавляющий эту страну, который имеет спокойную возможность на нескольких языках легко и непринужденно сказать свою речь, удивив тем самым всех, потому что не могут еще привыкнут к тому, что мы можем совершенно спокойно и на равных говорить с людьми на их же языке. Президент уходит через несколько месяцев. Это вопрос решенный, и оценивать его, и обсуждать его не имеет смысла. Но что мне кажется самым главным? Мне кажется, что кем бы ни был и чем бы ни занимался дальше наш президент, куда бы ни забросила его судьба, в каких бы он ни оказался ситуациях, с кем бы ему ни пришлось общаться и по какому поводу, в любом качестве своего существования, я хочу верить, я думаю, что эту веру разделяют многие люди, большинство живущих в нашей стране, – все это он будет делать с достоинством, присущим мужчине и офицеру. С днем рождения!


Joseph Brodskys Gedicht „Auf die Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine“

Lev Balashov

  1. Brodskys Gedicht „Auf die Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine“ und die heutige Welt

Aus dem Buch I. O. Glazunowas „Joseph Brodsky: Amerikanisches Tagebuch“ (2005, S. 72-73)

Im Februar 1994, nachdem die Ukraine Mitglied des NATO-Programms „Partnerschaft für Frieden“ geworden war, schrieb Brodsky das Gedicht „Über die Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine“, das die Vorstellung, er sein ein Migrantendichter, der sich für immer mit Russland und seiner Vergangenheit getrennt hatte, in die Luft sprengte.


Man kann sich auf verschiedenste Art zum Gedicht Brodskys verhalten, wie ansonsten zu Puschkins „An die Ehrendiebe Russlands“. In diesem Gedicht ist es aber unmöglich, die Wut eines Menschen in Zusammenhang zu dessen Land, das auf solche Weise behandelt wurde, dass die Geschichte der Zusammenarbeit zwischen zwei Ländern in Zweifel gezogen war, nicht merken. Warum aber war es die Mitgliedschaft der Ukraine in NATO, und nicht die Georgiens oder Usbekistans, die bei Brodsky solch eine wütende Ablehnung auslöste?


Die Antwort ist offenbar: das Verhalten eines nahen Menschen (in diesem Fall eines Vertreters der slawischen Einheit) verletzt immer tiefer und wird eher auf einer sinnesgemäßen Ebene empfunden. Die Leichtigkeit mit der die Ukraine bereit war, ihre Verbindungen mit Russland wegen Aussicht auf sehr kurzfristige Vorteile (Kriegsbedrohungen für sie gab es nicht und konnte es nicht geben) aufzuopfern war, jagte den Dichter in die Luft und schenkte ihm ausgesprochen harte Worte:


Lieber Karl XII, die Schlacht um Poltawa

Gott sei Dank ist verloren. Wie der Stotternde damals sagte,

Mit der Zeit sehen wir „die Mutter von Kuzka“, Ruinen

Der Knochen nachgelassener Freude mit dem Beigeschmack der Ukraine.


Was nicht grün ist, ist offenbar mit Isotopen verdorben,

Die Blau-Gelbe flattert über Konotop,

Aus Leinwand ausgeschnitten; Kanada hat sicherlich aufgestockt.

Gratis – ohne Haken, aber das brauchen die Ukrainer nicht.


Hei Karbonawez-Tuch, Sonnenblumenkerne in einer verschwitzten Faust.

Nicht unsre Aufgabe ist es, sie stattdessen zu beschuldigen.

Selbst mit Gottesglauben siebzig Jahren in Rjasan

Mit wässerigen Augen wohnten sie wie Zuchthäusler.


Wir zeigen Euch wo es hin geht, mit Pausen zwischen Schimpfen

Weg mit Euch, Ukrainer, auch auf schlechtem Weg.

Geht von uns in Eurem Volkstracht und wagt es nicht sie Montur zu nennen,

Geht dahin wo der Pfeffer wächst; die Adresse sollt Ihr kennen.


Lass es jetzt ein Chor von Hunnen mit den Polen zusammenkommen,

Um Euch auf vier Knochen herunter zu bringen, wie Ihr in euren Lehmbauen hocken

Für Euch sollen wir bitte den Kopf hinhalten,

Das Hähnchen aber von der Suppe will man lieber alleine knabbern


Auf Wiedersehen Ukrainer, wir wohnten schön zusammen, jetzt war’s!

Was denkt Ihr, wenn man in den Dnepr spuckt, wird es vielleicht rückwärts fließen,

Uns stolz verabscheuend, so flink, er hat

Das Aufteilen des Landes, die Erbitterung der Epochen satt?


Gedenkt uns nicht schlecht, euer Brot, euren Himmel

Wollen wir nicht, auch wenn wir auf Fruchtschalen verschlucken

Wozu das Blut verderben, das Hemd von der Brust reißen?

Die Liebe zwischen uns, wenn es je eine gab, scheint vorbei zu sein


Wozu nach den Wurzeln herum graben?

Euch wurde ein Land geboren, Erde, schwarze fruchtbare Erde.

Jetzt reicht es, auf ihren Rechten herumzutreiben, uns noch ein Garn zu spinnen,

Diese Erde wird Euch keine Ruhe geben.


Ach du Wald am Ufer, Steppe, Mädel, Wassermelonenfeld, Knödel

Wohl habt Ihr mehr Leute als Geld verloren,

Irgendwie kommen wir ohne Euch zurecht. Was unseren Tränen angehen,

Können wir sie nicht befehlen, auf eine andere Zeit zu warten

Sei Gott mit Euch, Kosaken und Adler, Hetman, Bewacher

Nur wenn Ihr dar zu sterben seid, ihr Riesen

Werdet Ihr flüstern, Eure Hände an den Seiten der Matratze greifend,

Verse Alexanders, und nicht des quatschenden Taras


Das Gedicht, vorgelesen am 28 Februar 1994 in Quincy College (USA) und 1996 in der Zeitung „Vecherni Kiev“ veröffentlicht, empörte die Ukrainer. Wahrscheinlich aus ethischen Gründen wurde das Gedicht im Sammelband „Die Werke Joseph Brodskys“ (Sankt Peterburg, 2001) nicht aufgenommen und ist zur Zeit nur im Internet lesbar. Es bleibt aber unklar, nach welchen Maßstäben der Sammelband redigiert wurde und warum Brodskys Gedichte, in denen Russlands Verhalten negativ beschrieben wird, („Fünftes Jubiläumsjahr“, „Der Entwurf“, „Die Vorstellung“) miteingeschlossen wurden.

Es kann kaum sein, dass die Gefühle eines fremden Volkes uns mehr kümmern, als die unseren eigenen, oder?

Man soll eine nicht belanglose Tatsache in Erinnerung behalten: obwohl Brodskys Gedicht förmlich „Auf die Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine“ heißt, wurde das Gedicht nicht in Hinsicht der erst neulich gewonnen unabhängigen Staatlichkeit des Landes geschrieben, sondern wegen des voreiligen Wunsches ihrer Staatsführer an den bis vor kurzem Hauptgegner Rußlands sich anzuschließen. Der Wunsch der Ukraine ein Mitglied der NATO zu werden, war quasi eine Anmeldung, dass sie jetzt zu jeder Zeit gegen Russland, ihren ehemaligen Bundesgenossen, aufmarschieren könnte. Gerade diesen Schritt empfanden nicht nur Brodsky, sondern viele seiner Landesleute als einen Schuß in den Rücken. Sicher deswegen wird der Verrat im Laufe des ganzen Gedichts thematisiert.

Am Anfang des Gedichts erinnert der Dichter an die für Russland tragischen Ereignisse des Großen Nordischen Kriegs (1700 – 1721), als das ukrainische Militär unerwartet auf die Seite des schwedischen Königs Karl XII wechselte („Lieber Karl XII, / die Schlacht um Poltawa, / Gott sei dank, ist verloren. / Wie der Stotternde damals sagte, / mit der Zeit sehen wir die Mutter von Kuzka.“ (Einem Kuzmas Mutter zeigen; russisches Idiom, das eine Bedrohung ausspricht.)) und vergleicht die Verhaltung der Ukraine mit den Antragen Lenins (des „Stotternden“), der während des ersten Weltkrieges sein Land zur Niederlage rief aus dem Grund, dass eine imperialistische Regierung Russland in jenen Krieg geführt habe[203]. Die Erinnerung an die Mutter von Kuzka (drohende Faust) ist ein Hinweis auf die tragische Aufeinanderfolge der Verhaltung der sowjetischen Staatsführer, die in ihrer Bestrebung an der Macht zu bleiben oder wegen ihrer nationalistischen Leidenschaften, die Interessen ihres Landes oft vernachlässigten. Chruschtschows berühmte Versprechung, Amerika die Mutter von Kuzka zu zeigen (Faust zu zeigen), hatte in der Tat das Umgekehrte zur Folge: die territorialen Rechte Russlands wurden beschränkt dadurch, dass die Halbinsel Krim der Ukraine 1954 (von demselben Chruschtschow in Schnapslaune, im betrunkenem Zustand eigenmächtig übergeben wurde. )

Die nächste Strophe des Gedichts, „Die Blau-Gelbe flattert über Konotop,“, führt auf der einen Seite das Thema des Verrats von Mazepa weiter (er führte die Gelb-Blaue Staatsfarben der Ukraine vom schwedischen Königen Karl XII ein, nachdem während des Großen Nordischen Krieges sein Heer auf die Seite des Bedrohenden gewechselt hatte) und auf der anderen den Leser zurück in eine vergangene Zeit führt.

Mitte der 17. Jahrhunderts der Krieg, der für Bohdan Chmelnyzkyj so erfolgreich anfing (die Saporoscher Kosaken schlugen polnische Streitkräfte mehrmals nieder) endete mit Niederlage für die Ukraine in der Schlacht bei Berestetchko (1651), wobei der Hetman Chmelnyzki Russland darum betete, Kleinrussland )wie die Ukraine damals genannt wurde. Anm.JSB) ins Großfürstentum Moskau einzuschließen. Nach vielen Bedenken bejahte Russland die Bitte des Hetman. Die Bedenken Russlands waren damit verbunden, dass nach der Union Russlands mit der Ukraine ein Krieg mit Polen unumgänglich wäre. Diese Sorgen wurden auch bestätigt: 1654 wurde die Ukraine mit Russland vereinigt; 1654 bis 1656 führte Russland gegen Polen einen Krieg, um ukrainisches Territorium zu befreien.

Nach dem Tode des Hetman Bohdan Chmelnyzkyjs änderte sich die Situation in der Ukraine. Bohdans Nachfolger, Hetman Wyhowskyj, unterstütze Polen; nachdem er einen Vertrag mit dem Khan der Krim unterschrieben hatte, agierte er gegen Moskau, als Resultat dessen eine harte Niederlage für die Russen bei Konotop wurde, an welche Brodsky in seinem Gedicht erinnert. Über diese Schlacht schrieb C. M. Solowiew:


„Das Beste der Moskauer Ritter, die `54 und `55 gesiegt hatten, starb an einem Tag; ungefähr fünf Tausend Gefangener nahmen die Siegreichen; diese Unglücklichen führten sie ins Freie und töteten wie Wildschweine: so handelten Landesgenossen untereinander –der Khan der Krim und das Saporoscher Militär!“[204].


  1. O. Kluchewskovo beschreibt in seinem „Kurs über die russische Geschichte“ die Ereignisse bei Konotop so: „Kleinrussland zog Moskau auch in seine ersten Konflikte mit der Türkei mit ein. Nach dem Tode Bohdans fing offener Krieg zwischen den Starschina Kosaken und den Schwarzmeerkosaken an. Bohdans Nachfolge Wyhowskyj machte sich zum König und zusammen mit denTataren vernichtete bei Konotop die besten Streitkräfte des Zaren Alexei (1659). Dadurch ermuntert und dank der Unterstützung Moskaus von den Schweden befreit, wollten die Polen ihnen nichts von dem, was sie gewonnen hatten, zurückgeben. Ein zweiter Krieg mit Polen fing an, der zwei üble Untaten für Russland zur Folge hatte: die Niederlage des Grafen Chowanskyj in Weißrussland und die Kapitulation von Scheremetew bei Tschudniw als Ergebnis des Verrats der Kosaken. Litauen und Weißrussland waren verloren“[205].


In wenigen Strophen verbirgt Brodsky die Fülle der Zusammenarbeit zwischen den zwei Ländern. Und obwohl nicht alles in dieser Zusammenarbeit schlicht und ohne Fehl und Tadel war, das gute hat das Schlechte wohl überschnitten. Und dieses Gute, laut der Vorstellung des Dichters, wurde mit dem offenen Wunsch der neuen Staatsführer der Ukraine, ein Mitglied von NATO zu werden, dem bis vor kurzem allgemeinen Feind Russlands, vernichtet.

Das gegebene Buch umfasst keine ausführliche Recherche über die Zusammenarbeit zwischen der Ukraine und Russland, aber wenn wir das Werk des Dichters näher anschauen, werden wir natürlich die Gründe, die ihn zur einen oder anderen Handlung führten, verstehen wollen. Man darf nicht zufrieden sein und nur eine Seite verstehen wollen, im gegebenen Fall die der „veschnupften“ Ukraine; unbedingt muss man den gegenüberliegenden Ausgangspunkt in Betracht ziehen. Und hier wird ein Rückgriff auf die Geschichte unumgänglich. Und diese Geschichte ist leider auf keinem Fall eine glatte.

Die Tatsache, dass Brodsky sich auf solch eine emotionale Weise äußerte, kann man auch verstehen – da die Handlung der Ukraine, die auch der Grund des Gedichts war, aus den Rahmen der moralisch-ethischen Prinzipien der Zusammenarbeit zwischen zwei Ländern, die durch die Geschichte festgelegt wurde, herausging.

Im Laufe eines bedeutend langen historischen Zeitraums baute Russland eine Beziehung beruhend auf der Idee der slawischen Einheit mit der Ukraine auf, oft trotz Verrat ihrer eigenen Interessen – es ist kaum nötig zu erwähnen, dass man potenziellen Feinden Territorium nicht verschenkt. Es ist möglich, dass Brodskys abschlagender Wortschwall nicht gegen die Ukraine, sondern gegen sich selbst gemeint war, gegen einen Naiven, einem der dieses Land wie einen nahen Freund und Landesgenosse empfing, auf den man sich immer verlassen könnte. Freunde zu verlieren ist wie Illusionen zu verlieren; es ist immer schwierig und kaum passiert es, dass es einem Betroffenen gelingt, einen unparteiischen Erzählungston und die tadellos abgemessene Abstand eines Beistehenden dabei zu bewahren.


Lev Balashov



Lev Balashov – Mein Kommentar:


Wie sehr dieses Gedicht Joseph Brodskys zur heutigen Zusammenarbeit zwischen der Ukraine und Russland passt! Euromaidan führt die üble Tat Maperas (den „ Schuß in den Rücken“) weiter. Wohl wollen sie nicht nur eine Assoziation mit der europäischen Union. Sie wollen das auf Kosten des Auseinanderfallens tiefer historischer, verwandtschaftlicher und ökonomischer Verbindungen der Ukraine mit Russland. Da liegt der Hund begraben!

Und neulich (Ende Januar 2014) wird noch eine Tendenz sichtbar: die zum Bürgerkrieg, zum Auseinanderfallen der Ukraine, zur harten Eskalation eines Konflikts zwischen Russland und dem Westen, da Russland die prorussischen Streitkräfte in der Ukraine unterstutzt.

Danke Olga Glazunowa! Mir war zunächst das Gedicht Brodskys unverständlich. Aber Olga hat sich mit allem auseinandergesetzt und alles erklärt. Dank dieses Gedichts achte ich ganz anders Joseph Brodsky. Es stellt sich heraus, dass er ein wahrer Patriot Russlands ist und kann ganz im Stil von Puschkins Gedicht „An die Ehrendiebe Russlands“ auftreten. Es bleibt nur ungewiss, warum er Taras Schewtschenko ablehnte (quatschenden Taras) und ihn unserem Aleksander Puschkin gegenüberstellte.

Es wäre wohl nicht überflüssig, Puschkins Gedicht von An den Ehrendieben Russlands hier ins Gedächtnis zu rufen:


Worüber grübelt Ihr, Dichter der Nationen?

Weshalb bedroht ihr uns mit Anathema?

Was besorgt Euch? Die Sorgen Litauens?

Lasset diesen Kampf zwischen Slawen untereinander,

Einen heimischen Kampf, vom Schicksal schon bestimmt,

Eine Frage, auf die Ihr keine Antwort findet.

Schon seit langem untereinander

Streiten diese Völker;

Oft litten sie unter dem Ungewitter,

Mal ihre, mal unsre Seite

Wer bleibt im ungleichen Kampf stehend,

Patziger Pole oder treuer Russe?

Fließen die slawischen Ströme zusammen ins russische Meer?

Ist es aber ausgetrocknet? Das ist die Frage.

Lasset uns: Ihr habet nicht gelesen.

Jene blutige Tafel

Ihr könnt das nicht verstehen, Euch ist das fremd

Dieser Familienkampf

Für Euch bleiben stumm der Kreml und Prag:

Und Ihr hasset uns…

Warum? Antwortet daran. Deswegen,

Dass auf den flammenden Ruinen Moskaus

Erkannten wir nicht mit frechem Wille,

Den, unterdessen Ihr zittertet?

Deswegen, dass in einen Abgrund gossen

Wir das über Nationen lastende Götterbild,

Und mit unserer Blut büßten

Für Europas Freiheit, Ehre und Pax?..

Ihr droht mit Wörtern, versucht es in der Tat!

Heißt es, das alte Held, auf seinem Bett liegend

Schon unfähig ist, sein Bajonett aus Ismail festzuschrauben?

Oder sind die Wörter eines russischen Zaren schon belanglos?

Oder sollen wir erneut mit Europa kämpfen?

Oder hat der Russen sich vom Sieg entwöhnt?

Oder gibt es von uns wenig? Oder von Perm bis zur Krim,

Von fröstelnden finnischen Bergspitzen bis zum feurigen Kolchis

Vom angegriffenen Kreml

Bis zur Mauer unbeweglichen Chinas

Seine Stahlborste glänzend

Erhebt sich nicht das russische Land?

Schickt auf dem Weg zu uns, Dichter

Eure verbitterten Söhne

Es gibt für sie auf den Feldern Russlands Platz

Unter für sie nicht unbekannten Graben



Mein Dank an Nicholas Simons, London,


für dessen Übersetzung beider Gedichte, von Brodsky und Pushkin und des Textes von Lev Balashov aus dem Russischen. Julian S. Bielicki



Anhang zum Gedicht von Brodsky:

Жовтоблакытный (ukrainisch) – gelb-blau; auch der Name der ukrainischen Flagge.

Карбованец  /Karbowanez/ – eine ehemalige (zu der Zeit als Brodski das Gedicht schrieb, gängige) Währung der Ukraine

Хохлам (хохол) /chochol/ – ein Spitzname unter den Russen für die Ukrainer. Seinerzeit rasierten die Saporoscher Kosaken den Kopf, ließen aber vorne einen Haarschopf, den die Russen „chochol“ nannten. Die Träger jenes Haarstils begannen sie auch „chochol“ zu nennen, und von ihnen wurde dieser Spitzname auf alle Ukrainer übertragen.

Кацапам(кацап) /kazap/ – ein verächtlicher Spitzname unter Ukrainer, Polen, Slowaken, Weißrussen und sogar Südrussen für ethnische Russen. Anders wie die Ukrainer, trugen die Russen Bärte, worauf beruht der Spitzname: auf ukrainisch bedeutet das Wort цап /zap/ ‘Bock’, der natürlich einen Bart trägt. Das ukrainische як зап /jak zap/ bedeutet buchstäblich „wie ein Bock“. Später wurde das zu кацап /kazap/.

Гансы(ганс) /gans/ – Spitzname für die Deutschen

Жупане(жупан) (vom Polnischen żupan) – warme Außenbekleidung von Männern in der Ukraine getragen

Мазанке (мазанка) Eine Lehmbauhütte

Левада /lewada/ – eine mit Bäumen und Büschen bewachsene Grube hinter den Blumen oder Gemüsegärten am Ende des Grundstücks eines Kosaken,.

Краля (vom Polnischen krala) – eine schöne Frau; beruht auf das polnische Wort krala (‚Königin‘).

Баштан (aus den Persischen bostan) – ein Feld, Garten oder anderes Grundstück auf dem Wassermelone, Melone und Gürken angebaut werden

Вареник /warenik/- Ukrainisches nationales Gericht aus im Wasser gekochten Teig mit verschiedenen Füllungen: Frischkäse, Kartoffel, Zwiebel, Kraut, Pilze, Früchte (Apfel oder Kirsche).

Казаки – Kosaken; aus den Türksprachen entlehnt, auf der früher das Wort die Bedeutung „freier Mensch“ trug

Гетьман – Hetman; seinerzeit in der Ukraine war er der Führer des Kosaker Militär und oberster Gewalthaber

Вертухай – Gefängniswärter

Брехню (брехня) – Lüge; aus dem Altslawischen брехать /brechat/ (bellen)

Кузькину мать; «Показать кузькину мать»Einem Kuzmas Mutter zeigen; russisches Idiom, das eine Bedrohung ausspricht. Es wird oft scherzhaft und ironisch gemeint. Nikita Chruschtschow hat den Ausspruch in Gesprächen mit amerikanischen Politikern oft benutzt, zum Verzweifeln seiner persönlichen Übersetzer. „Kuzmas Mutter“ wurde auch ein Spitzname für die AN602 ‚Zar‘Bombe, die 1961 detoniert wurde.


 Joseph Brodsky Schmähgedicht auf die Ukraine
Genie und Narr
Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 21.2.2015
Als 1991 die Ukraine die Unabhängigkeit erklärte, verwandelte sich der Lyriker Joseph Brodsky in einen russischen Patrioten.
Als 1991 die Ukraine die Unabhängigkeit erklärte, verwandelte sich der Lyriker Joseph Brodsky in einen russischen Patrioten. (Bild: Giorgia Fiorio / Contrasto / Dukas)
Als 1991 die Sowjetunion auseinanderbrach und die Ukraine ihre seit dem 19. Jahrhundert ersehnte Unabhängigkeit erlangte, geriet darüber ein antisowjetischer russischer Dichter in Zorn, dem man solches nicht zugetraut hätte. Joseph Brodsky schrieb ein Schmähgedicht, das 2014 erneut Karriere machte.

Wie sehr beschimpft man die Ukrainer in den russischen staatlichen Fernsehprogrammen, und welche entsetzlichen Verbrechen wirft man ihnen vor! Nach der Einnahme von Slawjansk durch ukrainische Truppen wurde angeblich ein russischer Bub gekreuzigt und seine vor Leid verrückt gewordene Mutter an einen Panzer gebunden und über den Asphalt geschleift. Märchen von den Greueltaten der ukrainischen Militärs – sie heissen immer nur «Faschisten» «Bandera-Leute» und «Vergeltungskommandos» – füllen ganze Sendestunden der wichtigsten russischen Nachrichtenprogramme, und Talkshow-Teilnehmer sprechen der Ukraine schlicht das blosse Existenzrecht ab. Putin selbst machte nach der Annexion der Krim Ansprüche Russlands auf den ganzen Südosten der Ukraine geltend und nannte ihn in seiner Rede «Neurussland».

Die russischen «Informationstruppen», welche die unter Jelzin herangewachsene journalistische Kultur ersetzen, sind wohl mit die wichtigste Waffe in dem «hybriden Krieg», der gegen den Nachbarstaat entfesselt wurde. Die von ihnen betriebene Hirnwäsche macht Millionen Fernsehzuschauer zu Zombies und verwandelt Putins Krieger des Äthers – hier haben die Oppositionellen zweifellos recht – in potenzielle Kriegsverbrecher.

Schroffe Veränderung

Aber lässt sich eine so schroffe Veränderung des Verhältnisses zu einem Brudervolk allein mit der Effektivität der Propagandamaschinerie erklären? Oder sollte man den Ursprung dieser Effektivität nicht auch in den unbewussten Einstellungen des Auditoriums suchen, an das sie appelliert?

Ich bin mir sicher, in keinem anderen Land als Russland hätte die Propaganda vergleichbare Resultate erzielt. Sie bringt das an den Mann, was die Leute zumindest teilweise selbst hören wollen, sie erweckt ein Virus zum Leben, das sie schon in sich tragen. Die Mehrzahl der Infizierten weiss im Normalzustand nichts davon, aber bei Berührung mit den Bildern der Aggression, welche die Massenmedien verbreiten, wird die Sache virulent.

Als Indiz führe ich einen Fall an, in dem das imperiale Virus ohne alle Propaganda in einem Mann zutage trat, dessen Immunität dagegen bis dahin unangezweifelt geblieben war.

1991/1992, als die Sowjetunion zerfiel, war der sowjetische Exil-Schriftsteller Joseph Brodsky «poeta laureatus» der Library of Congress Washington DC. Sein ganzes Leben hatte er sich, so ein Freund des Dichters, durch «extremen Individualismus, Selbständigkeit im Denken, Originalität und vielleicht sogar Exzentrik» ausgezeichnet. Das Sowjetimperium bestrafte ihn zuerst wegen Schmarotzertums, dann schickte es ihn ins Exil. Viel hatte Brodsky für dieses Reich nicht übrig, ganz im Gegenteil. Er erzählte gern, wie er halb im Scherz die Frage parierte, von wo aus man am besten auf den Kreml schauen sollte: «Aus der Kabine eines amerikanischen Bombers.»

Sein Leben lang hatte Brodsky – vor allem als Dichter, aber auch im Alltag – in sich den privaten Menschen kultiviert. Seine Nobelpreisrede begann er 1987 mit den Worten: «Für einen Privatmann wie mich, für einen, der sein Leben lang die private Existenz jeder Rolle von sozialer Bedeutung vorgezogen hat (. . .), für einen solchen Menschen stellt es eine unbequeme Herausforderung dar, sich auf diesem Podium wiederzufinden.»

Der Dichter durchkreuzte jeden Versuch, die Autoren für die Verbrechen der politischen Regime, unter denen sie lebten, verantwortlich zu machen. «Wir sind Schriftsteller, und wir lassen uns nicht durch unser politisches System definieren», erklärte er auf einer Konferenz in Lissabon 1988. Und als Milan Kundera sich 1985 erlaubte, Dostojewski – wegen der aggressiven Sentimentalität seiner Figuren – eine indirekte Mitschuld an der Okkupation seiner Heimat durch sowjetische Panzer 1968 zu geben, fuhr Brodsky aus der Haut. Ja wie konnte dieser Tscheche es wagen, dem grossen russischen Romanschreiber dergleichen vorzuwerfen! «Soldaten repräsentieren nie die Kultur, geschweige denn die Literatur – sie tragen Knarren, keine Bücher», schrieb Brodsky.

Als «poeta laureatus» begründete Joseph Brodsky 1991/1992 das American Poetry and Literary Project, das dafür sorgte, dass an Bahnhöfen, in Schulen, Hotels und Supermärkten mehr als eine Million Lyrikbände kostenlos verteilt wurden. Ziel des Projekts war, die poetische Kultur des Durchschnittsamerikaners zu heben.

Der Zerfall der Sowjetunion hätte diesen inspirierten Diener der Poesie und Individualisten nicht besonders aufgeregt, wäre nicht dieser eine Umstand gewesen: Die Ukraine erklärte ihre staatliche Selbständigkeit!

Anfangs verstand Brodsky nicht, warum ihn dieser Akt so heftig traf und in Wut versetzte: «Alles, was schlecht ist für die Sowjetunion, ist absolut richtig», hatte er seinerzeit über die Bombardierung Kambodschas durch die Amerikaner gesagt. Der Zerfall der UdSSR, so könnte man glauben, hätte ihn freuen müssen, aber nichts dergleichen: Denn die Ukrainer haben sich von Russland und seiner grossen Kultur abgespalten! Wie aus dem «Bollwerk des Sozialismus» plötzlich Russland wurde, hätte Brodsky vermutlich auch selbst schwer erklären können. Ja, diese Reaktion ist emotional und unlogisch und widerspricht allem, was er früher gepredigt hat. Aber die Wut, die tiefe Kränkung verflogen nicht, sondern verstärkten sich noch, und er setzte sich hin und schrieb das Gedicht «Auf die Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine».

Brodsky sagte von sich: «Ich bin Jude, russischer Dichter und amerikanischer Staatsbürger.» Jetzt machte sich der «russische Dichter», der Bewahrer der grossen Kultur, im Juden und amerikanischen Staatsbürger (ein solcher war der Dichter schon seit 1977) mit unerwarteter Stärke bemerkbar. Der Dichter ging daran, den ukrainischen «Chochols» («Schopf», nach dem Haarschopf der Saporoscher Kosaken) im Namen aller Russen zu antworten.

Tödlich beleidigt

Am schwersten war es für Brodsky, eine kollektive Identität anzunehmen, zum russischen «Kazap» (Bezeichnung für die Russen nach einer Bartmode des 18. Jahrhunderts, von der die Ukrainer meinten, sie liessen den Träger aussehen wie eine Ziege, «kak zap») zu werden. Das stand im Widerspruch zu all seinen poetischen Instinkten und seinem Credo als Person, dem Schreiben im eigenen Namen. «Elitär» und «absolut einzelgängerisch» hatte ihn dafür Alexander Solschenizyn einmal genannt. Bei seiner Verwandlung in einen Kazap muss sich der Dichter ähnlich gefühlt haben wie Doktor Jekyll, der zu Mister Hyde wird. Aber der beleidigte Nationalstolz war so gross, dass er sich schliesslich, wenn auch mühsam, in den Kollektivkörper zwängte und mit der Figur des Durchschnittsrussen, des Kazap, verschmolz. Vielleicht erinnerte er sich in diesem Moment an die Worte des von ihm geschätzten Boris Pasternak: «Und Kunst kann hier nicht länger weilen, Hier atmen Erde und Geschick.» Eine so weitgehende Metamorphose hatte Brodsky sein Leben lang noch nicht durchgemacht.

Aber Joseph Brodsky war ein begabter, ein «gottbegnadeter» Dichter, und nachdem er sich in die ungewohnte Figur eingefunden und eingelebt hatte, standen ihm der passende Wortschatz und die passende Intonation bald zur Verfügung.

Dass die Ukrainer einfach ihre Unabhängigkeit gewonnen hatten und selbständig geworden waren, daran glaubte Brodsky nicht eine Sekunde – woher sonst übermannte ihn diese Selbstquälerei: Die Chochols haben, und auch nicht zum ersten Mal, die russischen Brüder gemein betrogen und sich auf die Seite der Feinde geschlagen! Das Gedicht beginnt mit einer Anrede an den Schwedenkönig Karl XII., dessen Armee 1709 bei Poltawa geschlagen wurde: Ja, will der Dichter sagen, damals habt ihr verloren, aber heute, fast dreihundert Jahre später, habt ihr uns dennoch besiegt. Schaut, über der Ukraine flattert die Flagge in denselben Farben, wie eure schwedische: «Gelb-Blau». Aber Schweden liegt ja weit weg von der Ukraine, dagegen sind Polen und Deutschland gleich nebenan, und eben mit den «Fritzen» und den «Polacken» oder «Ljachen» haben die undankbaren Chochols diesmal die Russen verraten. Dort aber erwartet sie nichts Gutes! Mit beispielloser Bosheit, um nicht zu sagen mit Sadismus, zeichnet Brodskys tödlich beleidigte imperiale Phantasie eine Szene der kollektiven Vergewaltigung der Verräter: «Sollen euch jetzt in der Hütte die Fritzen im Chor / Mit den Polacken auf alle Viere stellen, Dreckspack.»

Dann kippt der Dichter über die Chochols, die Russland angeblich verraten haben, das ganze Arsenal von Ukraine-Klischees aus, über das der Durchschnitts-Kazap verfügt. Dieses Arsenal ist extrem dürftig und banal: Ruschnik (ein besticktes Handtuch), Karbowanez (ukrainische Währungseinheit bis 1996), Borschtsch (Randensuppe), Ganovenbraut und Knödel. Brodsky, der Aristokrat des Geistes, schreibt diesmal im Namen des gemeinen Mannes; daher die Fülle volkstümlicher Wörtchen und Wendungen.

«Das Kürbismelonen-Volk»

Eine bestimmte Logik lässt sich in Brodskys Schöpfung aber erkennen. Die Ukrainer sind demnach ein Volk des Erdreichs, das keine eigene «hohe Kultur» hervorgebracht, sondern diese vom grossen russischen Volk erhalten hat. Und hier macht sich der Dichter mit den Chochols keine Umstände: «Euch hat das Erdreich geboren: der Boden, Schwarzerde mit Kalkbrei. Die Erde gibt euch, ihr Kürbismelonen, nie Ruhe.» Brodskys Hauptvorwurf an die Chochols läuft darauf hinaus, dass sie, das Kürbismelonen-Volk (Wasser- oder Zuckermelone oder Kürbis), das unmittelbar dem Erdreich entwächst, mit ihrer verbalen Unabhängigkeitserklärung in Wahrheit frech Russland verraten und die Nabelschnur durchtrennt haben, durch die sie sich kulturell ernährt haben.

Wie immer bei Brodsky gibt es in dem Gedicht eine Menge verborgener Bedeutungen, historischer Verweise und Wortspiele, aber die «Todsünde» der Ukrainer besteht für ihn in ihrer Abkehr von der grossen russischen Kultur. Fragen der sozialen Organisation, der Politik und selbst der Moral interessieren den Dichter und Kulturenthusiasten nicht: Das Ästhetische steht für ihn unendlich höher als die Prosa des Lebens.

In seiner sowjetischen Jugend wurde Brodsky wegen «Schmarotzertums» verurteilt und ins Gebiet Archangelsk verbannt. Dort fand er in einer Anthologie englischer Poesie einen Vierzeiler von W. H. Auden, der fürs ganze Leben zu seiner Devise wurde: «Time worships language and forgives / everyone by whom it lives: / pardons cowardice, conceit, / lays its honors at their feet» (Zeit / huldigt der Sprache und vergibt / jedermann durch den sie lebt: / entschuldigt Feigheit, Arroganz, / legt ihnen zu Füssen ihre Honneurs). Seine Nobelpreisrede widmete der Dichter dem Lob der Sprache, besonders der Poesie, die quasi über allem schwebt, was die Menschen verbindet – Politik, Ökonomie und Moral. Ihren Gipfelpunkt erreichte diese Sicht in seiner Ode «Auf die Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine». Hier aber zeigte sich auch ihre ganze Begrenztheit.

Im letzten Vierzeiler ruft Brodsky den Ukrainern pathetisch in Erinnerung, was sie durch ihre Abspaltung von der russischen Kultur verloren haben und was sie vor dem Tod noch bitter bereuen werden: Auf dem Totenbett, so droht er den Chochols, «werdet ihr röcheln, an den Rand der Matratze gekrallt, / Die Verse von Alexander und nicht den Stuss von Taras». «Alexander» ist natürlich der russische Nationaldichter Puschkin, und «Taras» der ukrainische Nationaldichter Schewtschenko. Der Dichter prophezeit zuletzt dem ukrainischen Volk einen schweren Tod auf der nackten Matratze und ein verspätetes Begreifen seiner grossen Schuld vor der russischen Poesie.

Vom Grossen bis zum Lächerlichen ist es wahrlich nur ein Schritt!

Gestänker statt Gespräch

Der Versuch, im Namen aller Kazaps zu orakeln, enthüllte einerseits die völlige Untauglichkeit von Brodskys privater Poetik für politische Zwecke und unterstrich andererseits die banale «imperiale Arroganz» des Dichters. Das Gespräch wurde zum Gezänk, zum Gestänker, das der einen Seite, den Ukrainern, jedes Rederecht bestreitet.

Für mich ist das Gedicht in anderer Hinsicht interessant. Im Altertum schrieb man den Dichtern die Gabe des prophetischen Blicks zu, doch heute glauben nur noch wenige daran. Die Ode «Auf die Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine» aber erlangte nach der Annexion der Krim und dem Krieg im Donbass offensichtlich ein neues Leben, sie gewann einen zweiten Atem, sehr viel mächtiger als der erste. Man erklärte die Ode zum «wichtigsten Gedicht des Jahres 2014», man diskutiert darüber und kommentiert sie. Natürlich geht es dabei nicht um die Form, sondern um den Inhalt.

Brodsky selbst schämte sich ein wenig für dieses Werk, er hat es ein paar Mal vorgetragen, aber seine Publikation kategorisch abgelehnt (der einzige Fall von Selbstzensur in seinem Werk). «Man wird mich falsch verstehen», erklärte er seine Ablehnung, in Wahrheit aber fürchtete er wohl eher etwas anderes, das Gegenteil: dass man ihn richtig versteht. Und tatsächlich, im Jahr 2014 überwältigen Millionen Russen für die Chochols dieselben Gefühle, die einst den Dichter im Exil ergriffen. Sie verstehen nichts von Poesie, aber sie lesen aus Brodskys Ode die eigenen Emotionen heraus. Die Zeit hat offengelegt, was der «lebende Klassiker» in sich selber nach Kräften zu ignorieren suchte: Mit seinen starken imperialen Emotionen kann man sich identifizieren, selbst wenn man nichts von Poesie oder hoher Kultur versteht.

Imperiale Anästhesie

Beim Kommentieren des Gedichts «Auf die Unabhängigkeit der Ukraine» blickt man unwillkürlich argwöhnisch auch auf sich selbst. Was wundern wir uns über die antiukrainische Hysterie in Moskau, wenn, zwanzig Jahre nach seiner Emigration, ein Nobelpreisträger und Kavalier des Ordens der Ehrenlegion, der sein Leben lang Privatmensch sein wollte, was ihm auch gelungen ist, ein «absoluter Einzelgänger», sich plötzlich – mit über fünfzig Jahren! – nicht mehr in der Hand hat und ein solches Gedicht in die Welt setzt? Bist denn du dir, fragt man unwillkürlich sich selber, so sicher, dass du dem Grosser-Bruder-Komplex, der «imperialen Arroganz» nicht erliegst? Besser erst einmal nichts versprechen.

Die Lektüre dieses Gedichts ist ernüchternd: Man versteht plötzlich besser, warum alte russische Bekannte, gestern noch zurechnungsfähig, trunken sind vom Glück der Inbesitznahme der Krim, dafür die ganze Welt brüskieren und in ihrer Ekstase gar nicht merken, wie sie buchstäblich zusehends verarmen. Man wundert sich weniger über die Wirkung der imperialen Anästhesie, wenn man weiss, dass auch der berühmte Dichter, unter Gefährdung seines Rufs als freier und aufgeklärter Denker und von vornherein überzeugt, man werde ihn «falsch verstehen», zum Schreibtisch eilte und auf dem Papier Gefühlen ihren Lauf liess, die er nicht beherrschen konnte. Man möchte seinem Beispiel auf keinen Fall folgen.

Der russische Philosoph und Schriftsteller Michail Ryklin, 1948 in Leningrad geboren, lebt in Berlin. Zuletzt erschien von ihm 2014 auf Deutsch im Suhrkamp-Verlag: «Das Buch Anna». – Aus dem Russischen von Gabriele Leupold.




Brodsky’ Poem To The Independence of Ukraine in The World of Today

O.I.Glazunova, Joseph Brodsky: American Diary (2005, pp. 72-73): “In February 1994, after Ukraine had become a part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme, Brodsky wrote his poem To The Independence of Ukraine, which exploded representations of him as the émigré poet who had forever broken ties with Russia and his past.

Just like Pushkin’s poem To the Slanderers of Russia, we can approach Brodsky’s poem in many different ways. It is impossible, though, to ignore in his verses the wrath of a man whose country was the victim of an act that cast doubt on the history of two countries’ cooperation, on all amicable relationships that had existed between them. But why was it Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO, not Georgia’s or, for that matter, Uzbekistan’s that provoked such an angry rebuff by Brodsky?

The answer is obvious: the behaviour of someone close (in this case a representative of the Slavic community) always cuts deeper and is felt on a more emotional level. The lightness with which Ukraine was ready to sacrifice its relationship with Russia for the sake of short-term interests (there was no military threat toward Ukraine and there could not be one) enraged the poet, and granted his words a particular harshness:

Dear Karl XII, the battle of Poltava,

Thank God is lost. As that stutterer did say,

Time will show us Kuzka’s mother, ruins,

A bone of posthumous joy with an aftertaste of Ukraine.


If it’s not green it’s obviously been wasted by isotopes,

The old yellow-blue flutters over Konotop,

Fashioned from canvas; Canada has probably stocked up.

Completely free – there’s no catch, but the Ukrainians don’t need this.


Hey you cloth Karbovanets, a sweaty fist of sunflower seeds.

It’s not up to us Russkis to blame them instead.

Believing in God themselves with glittering eyes they

Did their seventy-year stint in Ryazn.


We’ll tell them where to get off, with strict pauses between insults:

Hit the road, Ukrainian rednecks, and take your pretty napkins with you.

Get going in your national costume, and dare not call it military uniform,

The address? Just two letters – read between the lines!


May a choir of Huns now join the Poles

To bring you mud hut dwellers to your knees.

When it’s your neck on the line, let’s go it together,

But it’s sweeter to pick the chicken out of the borsch all on your own.


Say your farewells, Ukrainians, we’ve done our stint – that’s it!

Will spitting in the Dnieper really make it flow backwards,

Proudly shrinking from us in disdain, so swiftly, fed up

With redrawing the lines on the map and with the scorn of ages?


Remember us kindly! We have no earthly need

Of your bread, sky; though we may choke on our pith.

It’s not worth spoiling the blood, tearing the shirt from your back

Love, it seems, if ever such were present, is dead and done with.


Why go digging around for your roots?

Unto you a country was born, a soil, rich black soil

It’s time to stop riding on your “rights”, spinning us just one more yarn.

This soil will grant you no rest.


Hey you riverside forest, steppe, lass, where watermelons grow, dumpling,

You probably lost more people than money.

We’ll get by without you. As for our tears,

We cannot abate them until another time.


Godspeed, eagles and Cossacks, Hetmans, prison captains

Only when he comes and your time is up, giants,

Only then will you mutter, clutching at the sides of the mattress,

Verses of Alexander’s, and not barking Taras.


The poem, which was read out on 28 February 1994 at Quincy College (USA) and published in 1996 in Vecherny Kiev caused an uproar in Ukraine. It is probably due to ethical reasons that it was not included in the collection of Works of Joseph Brodsky (2001, St. Petersburg) and is currently only available online. By and large, though, it is unclear what the editor’s reasoning behind this was and why Brodsky’s poems that give a negative description of Russian reality (Fifth Anniversary, A Sketch, Imagine), are included.

Do we really care more about a “foreign” people’s feelings than about our own?

We mustn’t forget one important fact: although Brodsky’s poem is formally called To the Independence of Ukraine, it was not written in connection with the country being recognized as an independent nation, but instead with its leaders’ rash decision to side with an enemy they had until so recently shared with Russia. Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO were in fact a statement that it could it at any moment oppose Russia, its former partner and ally. It was precisely this step that not only Brodsky but many of his compatriots considered a stab in the back. This is probably the reason that betrayal is a recurrent theme throughout the entire poem.

In the initial lines the poet remembers the events of the Great Northern War (1700 – 1721) that were tragic for Russia, when Ukrainian forces unexpectedly went over to the side of the Swedish king Karl XII (“Dear Karl XII, / the battle of Poltava, / thank God is lost. / As that stutterer did say, / time will show Kuzka’s mother.”), and compares the behaviour of the Ukrainian Hetman with Lenin’s (the stutterer’s) petitions during the First World War that called for his country’s defeat on the basis that an imperialist government had led Russia into that war[203]. The reference to “Kuzka’s mother” is a reminder of the sad continuity in the behaviour of communist leaders who, in their attempt to hold on to power or narrow nationalistic ideals often neglected the interests of their country. Krushchev’s famous threat to show America “Kuzka’s mother”, was in fact followed by an infringement on Russia’s territorial rights with the granting of the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine in 1954.

The following line, “The old yellow-blue flutters over Konotop”, on the one hand continues the theme of Mazepa’s betrayal (Ukraine borrowed its yellow-blue state colours from Sweden after its forces had changed sides during the Great Northern War), but on the other hand it sends readers back in time to the events of a more distant past.

The war with Poland that began so well for Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the middle of the 17th century (the Zaporozhian Cossacks routed Polish forces several times) ended with Ukraine’s defeat at the Battle of Berestechko (1651) and the Hetman’s petition to Russia to absorb Littel Rus’ into Muscovy. After prolonged hesitation, Moscow agreed to the Hetman’s request. The hesitation was linked to the knowledge that having decided to unite with Ukraine, war between Russia and Poland would be inevitable, and this indeed proved to be the case: in 1654 Ukraine was absorbed into Muscovy, from 1654 until 1656 Russia waged war with Poland over the liberation of occupied Ukrainian land.

After Bohdan Khmelnytsky’s death the situation in Ukraine changed. Khmelnytsky’s successor, Hetman Vyhovski, was a supporter of Poland; having come to an agreement with the Crimean Khan, he made a move against Moscow, the result of which was the catastrophic defeat of the Russians at Konotop, recalled in Brodsky’s poem. S. M. Soloviev also wrote about this battle:

“The flower of the Russian cavalry, victorious in `54 and `55, was shattered in one day; the victors took five thousand prisoners; the unfortunate souls where led out into the open and slaughtered like pigs: this was the arrangement between the allies – the Crimean Khan and the Zaporozhnian Hetman!”[204].

In his Course in Russian History V. O. Kluchevsky describes the events at Konotop thus: “Little Rus’ also drew Moscow into its first confrontation with Turkey. After Bohdan’s death war broke out between the Starshina Cossacks and the Black Sea Cossacks. Bohdan’s successor Vyhovski made himself king and along with the Tatars destroyed Tsar Alexis’ best fighters at Konotop (1659). Thus emboldened and having been liberated from the Swedes with the help of Moscow, the Poles did not want to give back any of the land they had won. A second war with Poland began, involving two catastrophic defeats for Moscow: Prince Khovansky’s defeat in Belarus and the capitulation of Sheremetev at Chudniv. Lithuania and Belarus had been lost”[205].

All the drama of the history of cooperation between two countries is hidden in just a few lines of Brodsky’s poem. And although not everything in this history ran smoothly and without incident, the good overrode the bad, and this good, as far as the poet is concerned, was crossed out by the wish of the new Ukrainian leaders to openly support NATO, an enemy it had shared until so recently with Russia.

Detailed research into the alliance between Ukraine and Russia does not come into the given publication but if we study the poet’s works it is natural to attempt to understand the reasoning behind his words. We must not content ourselves with one side of the story, in this case “insulted” Ukraine; we need to examine the opposing point of view also. And here reference to history is inevitable, but this history, unfortunately, is far from ideal.

The fact that Brodsky’s opinion was expressed with such emotion is also understandable, for Ukraine’s actions, which sparked the poem in response, went beyond the bounds of moral and ethical principles of cooperation between allies that had been established over the course of history.

During a significant period of its history Russia built up a relationship with Ukraine, based on the principle of a Slavic alliance, often to the detriment of its own interests, not mentioning the fact that potential enemies don’t just give land away. It is possible that the denunciatory tirade in Brodsky’s poem was not directed at Ukraine but at the author himself, who naively looked upon this country as a close friend or confederate, whom he could count upon at any time.

Losing friends is equal to becoming disillusioned, it’s always difficult, it’s unlikely that someone in a similar situation would have been able to remain impartial and take the perfectly balanced view of a bystander.”

Lev Balashov


Lev Balashov: My Comments

How applicable Joseph Brodsky’s poem is to the present day situation of cooperation between Russian and Ukraine! Euromaidan, in essence, is a continuation of Mazepa’s dark deed (“a stab in the back”). The rebels don’t just want association with the European Union. They want this at the cost of far-reaching historical, economic and blood ties between Ukraine and Russia. This is the problem!

But lately (toward the end of January 2014) another tendency has emerged: civil war, the collapse of Ukraine, at the end of the day exacerbated conflict between Russia and the West, insofar as Russia is supporting pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

Thank you Olga Glazunova. At first Brodsky’s poem was all Greek to me but Olga deciphered and explained everything. Thanks to this poem, I have been able to see Joseph Brodsky in a new light. It would appear that he is a real Russian patriot and can act completely in the style of A. S. Pushkin’s To the Slanderers of Russia. The only thing I don’t understand is why he rejected Taras Shevchenko (“barking Taras”) and contrasted him with our Alexander Pushkin!

For that matter, it wouldn’t hurt to remember Pushkin’s poem Slanderers of Russia here:

What are you complaining about, mouthpiece of nations?

Why do you threaten Russian with anathema?

What shook you? Lithuania’s fears?

Let it be: this is a fight between Slavs,

An ancient, domestic fight, already weighed out by fate,

A question to which you have no answer.

Since ages long past,

These tribes have been fighting;

Many a time hath faltered under siege

Now their side, now ours.

Who shall be left standing in this uneven fight:

The boastful Pole or loyal Russian?

Shall Slavic streams flow together into the Russian sea?

Has it dried up though? That is the question.

Leave us be: you have not read

Those bloody tablets;

Them you cannot understand, to you completely foreign

This family dispute;

To you the Kremlin and Prague are mute;

It vainly allures you

The courage of a desperate struggle —

And you hate us…

But why? You answer: because

Atop the flaming ruins of Moscow

We failed to recognize with a brazen will

The one, under whom you trembled?

Because into the abyss we did pour

The idol who did loom over nations

And with our blood won back

Europe’s freedom, honour and peace?..

You talk a fine talk but walk no walk!

So has the old hero, resting on his bed,

Not the strength to assemble his bayonet from Ismail?

Or are the words of a Russian tsar already meaningless?

Or are we to fight once more with Europe?

Or has the Russian grown unused to victory?

Or are there not enough of us? Or from Perm to the Crimea,

From frosty Finnish peaks to the fiery Colchis,

From the shaken Kremlin

To the walls of eternal China,

Will not with steely bristle sparkling

Russia’s soil rise up in defiance?..

So send to us, mouthpiece of nations,

Your embittered sons:

We’ll find space for them on Russia’s fields,

Amongst graves already known to them.


My thanks to Nicholas Simons, London,


whose translated those two poems by Brodsky and Pushkin, and the text of Lev Balashov from Russian. Julian S. Bielicki


Жовто-блакытный (Ukrainian) – yellow-blue; the name of the Ukrainian flag

Карбованец /Karbovanets/ – former Ukrainian currency (in use when Brodsky wrote his poem)

Хохлам(хохол) /khokhol/ – nickname for the Ukrainians. In their heyday the Zaporozhian Cossacks shaved their heads, leaving only a quiff of hair at the front of their heads, which the Russians called a /khokhol/. Soon the Russians gave the same name to anyone who cut his hair in this way, and eventually the nickname was used to refer to all Ukrainians.

Кацапам(кацап) /katsap/ – Ukrainian, Polish, Slovakian, Belarusian and even Southern Russian derogatory nickname for ethnic Russians. Contrary to the Ukrainians, the Russians wore beards; the Ukrainian word цап /tsap/ means ‘goat’, which of course has a beard. Як цап /yak tsap/ means literally ‘like a goat’. Over time the expression evolved from the Ukrainian into кацап /katsap/.

Гансы(ганс) /gans/ – nickname for the Germans

Жупане(жупан) (from Polish żupan) – warm outer clothing worn by Ukrainian men

Мазанке (мазанка) /mazanka/ – a hut made of wood or brick and plastered with clay

Левада /levada/ – ditch at the end of a Cossack’s plot of land, behind the flower or vegetable gardens, usually overgrown with trees and bushes

Краля (from Polish krala) – a beautiful woman; borrowed from Polish, in which ‘krala’ means ‘queen’

Баштан (from Persian bostan) – a field, garden or other plot of land on which watermelons, melons and cucumbers are grown

Вареник /varenik/ – Ukrainian national dish consisting of boiled dough with various fillings: cottage cheese, potato, onion, cabbage, mushroom, fruit (apple or cherry)

Казаки – Cossacks; borrowed from the Turkic languages, where it used to mean “free man”

Гетьман – Hetman; In Ukraine this was historically the leader of the Cossack military and supreme wielder of power

Вертухай – prison warden

Брехню (брехня) – lie; from the Old Slavic verb брехать /brekhat’/ (to bark)

Кузькину мать; «Показать кузькину мать» – to show someone Kuzma’s mother; a Russian idiom indicating a threat. It is often used jokingly or ironically. Nikita Krushchev often used the expression in conversations with American politicians, much to the despair of his personal translators. “Kuzma’s mother” also became a nickname for the AN602 ‘Tsar’bomb that was detonated in 1961.



Стихотворение Бродского -На независимость Украины-

Лев Балашов



Из книги О.И. Глазуновой „Иосиф Бродский: Американский дневник“ (2005 г., с. 72-73):
«В феврале 1994 года после того, как Украина стала участником программы НАТО „Партнерство ради мира“,Бродский пишет стихотворение „На независимость Украины“, которое взорвало представления о нем как о поэте-эмигранте, навсегда порвавшем с Россией и со своим прошлым.

Можно по-разному относиться к стихотворению Бродского, как, впрочем, и к „Клеветникам России“ Пушкина. Но нельзя не отметить в стихах гнев человека и гражданина страны, по отношению к которой был совершен поступок, поставивший под сомнения историю взаимодействия двух стран, все дружеские отношения в прошлом. Почему же сотрудничество с НАТО Украины, а не Грузии или, например, Узбекистана вызвало столь гневную отповедь Бродского?

Ответ очевиден: поведение близкого человека (в данном случае представителя славянского содружества) всегда ранит глубже и воспринимается на более эмоциональном уровне. Легкость, с которой Украина была готова пожертвовать отношениями с Россией ради соображений сиюминутной выгоды (военной угрозы в отношении ее не было и быть не могло) взорвала поэта, придав его словам особую жесткость:

Дорогой Карл XII, сражение под Полтавой,
Слава Богу, проиграно. Как говорил картавый,
Время покажет „кузькину мать“, руины,
Кость посмертной радости с привкусом Украины.
То не зеленок – виден, траченный изотопом,
Жовто-блакытный реет над Конотопом,
Скроенный из холста, знать, припасла Канада.
Даром что без креста, но хохлам не надо.
Горькой вошни карбованец, семечки в полной жмене.
Не нам, кацапам, их обвинять в измене.
Сами под образами семьдесят лет в Рязани
С залитыми глазами жили как каторжане.
Скажем им, звонкой матерью паузы метя строго:
Скатертью вам, хохлы, и рушником дорога.
Ступайте от нас в жупане, не говоря – в мундире,
По адресу на три буквы, на стороны все четыре.
Пусть теперь в мазанке хором гансы
С ляхами ставят вас на четыре кости, поганцы.
Как в петлю лезть, так сообща, суп выбирая в чаще,
А курицу из борща грызть в одиночку слаще.
Прощевайте, хохлы, пожили вместе – хватит!
Плюнуть, что ли, в Днипро, может, он вспять покатит.
Брезгуя гордо нами, как оскомой битком набиты,
Отторгнутыми углами и вековой обидой.
Не поминайте лихом, вашего хлеба, неба
Нам, подавись вы жмыхом, не подолгом не треба.
Нечего портить кровь, рвать на груди одежду,
Кончилась, знать, любовь, коль и была промежду.
Что ковыряться зря в рваных корнях покопом.
Вас родила земля, грунт, чернозем с подзомбом,
Полно качать права, шить нам одно, другое.
Эта земля не дает, вам, калунам, покоя.
Ой, ты левада, степь, краля, баштан, вареник,
Больше, поди, теряли – больше людей, чем денег.
Как-нибудь перебьемся. А что до слезы из глаза
Нет на нее указа, ждать до другого раза.
С Богом, орлы и казаки, гетьманы, вертухаи,
Только когда придет и вам помирать, бугаи,
Будете вы хрипеть, царапая край матраса,
Строчки из Александра, а не брехню Тараса.

Стихотворение, прочитанное 28 февраля 1994 года на вечере в Квинси-Колледже (США) и опубликованное в 1996 году в газете „Вечерний Киев“, вызвало на Украине бурю негодования. По этическим, вероятно, соображениям, оно не было включено в собрание „Сочинений Иосифа Бродского“ (СПб., 2001) и в настоящее время доступно только в интернет-версии. Хотя, по большому счету, не понятно, чем руководствовались в этом случае составители сборника и почему стихотворения Бродского, в которых дается негативное описание российской действительности („Пятая годовщина“, „Набросок“, „Представление“), в нем присутствуют.

Неужели ущемление чувств „чужого“ народа нас заботит больше, чем своего собственного?

Нельзя забывать об одном немаловажном факте: хотя формально стихотворение Бродского называется „На независимость Украины“, написано оно было не в связи с обретением страной государственного статуса, а по случаю поспешного желания ее лидеров примкнуть к своему еще недавно общему с Россией противнику. Стремление Украины стать членом НАТО фактически явилось заявлением о том, что теперь в любой момент она может выступить против России — своего бывшего партнера и союзника. Именно этот шаг украинских лидеров не только Бродский, но и многие его соотечественники восприняли как удар в спину. Вероятно, поэтому тема предательства звучит у поэта на протяжении всего стихотворения.

В начале стихотворения поэт вспоминает трагические для России события Северной войны (1700.1721), когда украинские войска неожиданно перешли на сторону шведского короля Карла XII („Дорогой Карл XII, / сражение под Полтавой, / слава Богу, проиграно. / Как говорил картавый, / время покажет „кузькину мать.“), и сравнивает поведение украинского гетмана с заявлениями Ленина („картавого“), который в ходе первой мировой войны призывал к поражению своей страны на том основании, что эта война велась империалистическим правительством[203]. Упоминание „кузькиной матери“ свидетельствует о печальной преемственности в поведении коммунистических лидеров, которые в стремлении удержать власть или в своих узконационалистических пристрастиях часто пренебрегали интересами страны. Знаменитое обещание Хрущева показать „кузькину мать“ Америке на деле обернулось ущемлением территориальных прав России и передачей Украине Крымского полуострова в 1954 году.

Следующая строка стихотворения „жовто-блакытный реет над Конотопом“, с одной стороны, продолжает тему предательства Мазепы (желто-синие государственные цвета Украина взяла у Швеции, после того как в ходе Северной войны ее войска перешли на сторону противника), а с другой, — отсылает читателей к событиям еще более далекого прошлого.

В середине XVII века война с Польшей, которая началась так удачно для Богдана Хмельницкого (запорожские казаки несколько раз разгромили польские войска), закончилась поражением Украины в битве при Берестечке (1651) и обращением гетмана к России с просьбой присоединить Малороссию к Московскому государству. После долгих колебаний Москва дала положительный ответ на просьбу гетмана. Колебания же были вызваны тем, что за принятием решения о присоединении Украины для России неизбежно следовала войной с Польшей, что и произошло: в 1654 году Украина вошла в состав Московского государства, с 1654 по 1656 год Россия вела войну с Польшей за освобождение украинских земель.

После смерти Богдана Хмельницкого ситуация на Украине изменилась. Преемник Хмельницкого гетман Выговский был сторонником Польши; заключив соглашение с Крымским ханом, он выступил против Москвы, результатом чего стало жестокое поражение русских под Конотопом, о котором Бродский упоминает в стихотворении. Об этом сражении С.М.Соловьев писал:

„Цвет московской конницы, совершившей счастливые походы 54 и 55 годов, сгиб в один день; пленных досталось победителям тысяч пять; несчастных вывели на открытое место и резали как баранов: так уговорились между собою союзники — хан крымский и гетман Войска Запорожского!“[204].

В „Курсе русской истории“ В.О.Ключевского так описываются события под Конотопом: „Малороссия втянула Москву и в первое прямое столкновение с Турцией. По смерти Богдана началась открытая борьба казацкой старшины с чернью. Преемник его Выговский передался королю и с татарами под Конотопом уничтожил лучшее войско царя Алексея (1659). Ободренные этим и освободившись от шведов с помощью Москвы, поляки не хотели уступать ей ничего из ее завоеваний. Началась вторая война с Польшей, сопровождавшаяся для Москвы двумя страшными неудачами, поражением князя Хованского в Белоруссии и капитуляцией Шереметева под Чудновом на Волыни вследствие казацкой измены. Литва и Белоруссия были потеряны“[205].

За несколькими строчками стихотворения Бродского скрывается полная драматизма история взаимоотношений двух стран. И хотя не все в этой истории было гладко и безупречно, но хорошее все же преобладало над плохим, и это хорошее, в представлении поэта, было перечеркнуто желанием новых украинских лидеров открыто стать на сторону НАТО, своего еще недавно общего с Россией противника.

В задачи данной книги не входит подробное исследование взаимоотношений Украины и России, но если мы изучаем творчество поэта, вполне естественно постараться понять причины, побудившие его к тем или иным действиям. Нельзя довольствоваться соображениями одной из сторон, в данном случае „обиженной“ Украины, следует рассмотреть и противоположную точку зрения. И здесь без обращения к истории не обойтись, а история эта, к сожалению, далека от идиллии.

Тот факт, что мнение Бродского было облечено в крайне эмоциональную форму, тоже можно понять, — ведь и поступок Украины, который послужил поводом для написания стихотворения, выходил за рамки исторически сложившихся морально-этических принципов взаимодействия между дружественными странами.

На протяжении длительного периода истории Россия строила свои отношения с Украиной, исходя из идеи славянского содружества, часто в ущерб своим собственным интересам, не говоря уже о том, что потенциальным врагам территории не раздаривают. Возможно, и не на Украину был направлен отрицательный заряд стихотворения Бродского, а на себя самого, наивного, воспринимавшего эту страну как ближайшего друга и союзника, на которого в любой момент можно положиться.
Терять друзей, равно как и свои иллюзии, всегда тяжело, вряд ли кому-нибудь в подобной ситуации удается сохранить беспристрастный тон повествования и безупречно взвешенную позицию наблюдателя».

Lev Balashov

Как перекликается это стихотворение Иосифа Бродского с нынешней ситуацией во взаимоотношениях России и Украины! Евромайдановцы, в сущности, продолжают черное дело Мазепы („удар в спину“). Они ведь не просто хотят ассоциации с Евросоюзом. Они хотят это сделать за счет разрыва глубоких исторических, родственных и экономических связей Украины с Россией. Вот в чем проблема!
А в самое последнее время (конец января 2014 г.) обнаруживается еще одна тенденция: к гражданской войне, к развалу Украины и, в конечном счете, к жесткому обострению конфликта России с Западом, поскольку Россия выступит в поддержку пророссийских сил на Украине.

Спасибо Ольге Глазуновой. Я поначалу воспринял стихотворение Бродского как абракадабру. Но Ольга всё расшифровала и разъяснила. Благодаря этому стихотворению я по-новому взглянул на Иосифа Бродского. Оказывается, он настоящий патриот России и может выступать вполне в духе стихотворения А.С.Пушкина „Клеветникам России“. Непонятно только, зачем он лягнул Тараса Шевченко („брехня Тараса“) и противопоставил его нашему Александру Сергеевичу?!

Кстати, нелишне вспомнить здесь стихотворение Пушкина „Клеветникам России“:

О чем шумите вы, народные витии?
Зачем анафемой грозите вы России?
Что возмутило вас? волнения Литвы?
Оставьте: это спор славян между собою,
Домашний, старый спор, уж взвешенный судьбою,
Вопрос, которого не разрешите вы.
Уже давно между собою
Враждуют эти племена;
Не раз клонилась под грозою
То их, то наша сторона.
Кто устоит в неравном споре:
Кичливый лях, иль верный росс?
Славянские ль ручьи сольются в русском море?
Оно ль иссякнет? вот вопрос.
Оставьте нас: вы не читали
Сии кровавые скрижали;
Вам непонятна, вам чужда
Сия семейная вражда;
Для вас безмолвны Кремль и Прага;
Бессмысленно прельщает вас
Борьбы отчаянной отвага —
И ненавидите вы нас…
За что ж? ответствуйте: за то ли,
Что на развалинах пылающей Москвы
Мы не признали наглой воли
Того, под кем дрожали вы?
За то ль, что в бездну повалили
Мы тяготеющий над царствами кумир
И нашей кровью искупили
Европы вольность, честь и мир?..
Вы грозны на словах — попробуйте на деле!
Иль старый богатырь, покойный на постеле,
Не в силах завинтить свой измаильский штык?
Иль русского царя уже бессильно слово?
Иль нам с Европой спорить ново?
Иль русский от побед отвык?
Иль мало нас? Или от Перми до Тавриды,
От финских хладных скал до пламенной Колхиды,
От потрясенного Кремля
До стен недвижного Китая,
Стальной щетиною сверкая,
Не встанет русская земля?..
Так высылайте ж к нам, витии,
Своих озлобленных сынов:
Есть место им в полях России,
Среди нечуждых им гробов.


© Copyright: Лев Балашов, 2013
Свидетельство о публикации №213122201118




Лев Балашов

Лев Евдокимович Балашов – философ, профессор, автор свыше 20 книг, в т.ч. „Мир глазами философа“,
„Практическая философия“, „Философия: учебник“, „Этика“, „Занимательная философия“, „Жизнь, смерть, бессмертие“,
„Как мы думаем?“, „О любви“, „Либерализм и свобода“, „Ошибки и перекосы категориального мышления“.
Мой сайт: http://balashov44.narod.ru . На нем помещены почти все тексты моих книг, статей и рукописей.
См. также: Дневник размышлений в ЖЖ ( http://lev-balashov.livejournal.com ).
Пишите рецензии! Они помогают мне улучшать тексты.

Мои книги по философии в папке «Документы» на Яндекс.Диске:
1. Мир глазами философа. (Категориальная картина мира) – doc
2. Философия: Учебник – doc
3. Практическая философия – doc, pdf
4. Философия: образ и текст. для чтения и разглядывания – doc, pdf
5. Как мы думаем. (Введение в философию мышления) – doc, pdf
6. Жизнь, смерть бессмертие – doc, pdf
7. Что такое философия? – doc
8. Критика марксизма и коммунизма – doc
9. Ф.Ницше – Гитлер философии (памфлет) – doc
10. Гуманистический манифест – doc
11. Занимательная философия – doc
12. Этика (учебное пособие) – pdf
13. Занимательная этика – doc
14. О любви – pdf
15. Ошибки и перекосы категориального мышления – doc
16. Золотое правило поведения- doc
17. Либерализм и свобода- doc
18. Материалы по философии истории – doc
19. Глупость философов – doc
20. Парадоксы и парадоксальное мышление – doc
22. Негатив жизни: антикультура и антифилософия – doc
23. Человечеству грозит гибель от депопуляции, если…- doc
24. Кризис на Украине. Философско-политические заметки на злобу дня – doc (http://yadi.sk/d/0IwkBYCCGYyL9)

Посмотреть и скачать „Документы“ с Яндекс.Диска:


Произведений: 247
Получено рецензий: 182
Написано рецензий: 4
Читателей: 29654



Мир глазами философа (14)


Либерализм и свобода (10)

Любовь, семья, брак (8)

Как мы думаем? (21)

Этика (46)

Мысли о религии (12)

Дневник размышлений (68)

Занимательная философия (29)

Кризис на Украине (30)

Избранные авторы:

Сергей Корягин, Иванов Евгений Михайлович, Павел Техдир Антипов, Анатолий Лень, Медведев Дмитрий, Бармин Виктор, Владимир Рыскулов, Игорь Сирык, Образование, Евгений Нейштадт, Братислав Либертус На Русском, Денис Романюк, Ирина Ракша, Мария Климук

Ссылки на другие ресурсы:




Remember: Do X! Don´t do Y!

Protect innocent, respect life, defend art, preserve creativity!


What´s Left? Antisemitism!


DJ Psycho Diver Sant – too small to fail
Tonttu Korvatunturilta Kuunsilta JSB
Tip tap tip tap tipetipe tip tap heija!

They want 1984, we want 1776

They are on the run, we are on the march!

I think for food

molon labe




Dummheit ist, wenn jemand nicht weiß, was er wissen könnte.

Political correctness ist, wenn man aus Feigheit lügt, um Dumme nicht zu verärgern, die die Wahrheit nicht hören wollen.

“Im Streit um moralische Probleme, ist der Relativismus die erste Zuflucht der Schurken.“ Roger Scruton

Antisemitismus ist, wenn man Juden, Israel übelnimmt, was man anderen nicht übelnimmt.

Islam ist weniger eine Religion und mehr eine totalitäre Gesellschaftsordnung, eine Ideologie, die absoluten Gehorsam verlangt und keinen Widerspruch, keinerlei Kritik duldet und das Denken und Erkenntnis verbietet. Der wahre Islam ist ganz anders, wer ihn findet wird eine hohe Belohnung erhalten.

Wahnsinn bedeute, immer wieder das gleiche zu tun, aber dabei stets ein anderes Resultat zu erwarten.

Gutmenschen sind Menschen, die gut erscheinen wollen, die gewissenlos das Gewissen anderer Menschen zu eigenen Zwecken mit Hilfe selbst inszenierter Empörungen instrumentalisieren.

Irritationen verhelfen zu weiteren Erkenntnissen, Selbstzufriedenheit führt zur Verblödung,

Wenn ein Affe denkt, „ich bin ein Affe“, dann ist es bereits ein Mensch.

Ein Mensch mit Wurzeln soll zur Pediküre gehen.

Wenn jemand etwas zu sagen hat, der kann es immer sehr einfach sagen. Wenn jemand nichts zu sagen hat, der sagt es dann sehr kompliziert.

Sucht ist, wenn jemand etwas macht, was er machen will und sucht jemand, der es macht, daß er es nicht macht und es nicht machen will.

Sollen die Klugen immer nachgeben, dann wird die Welt von Dummen regiert. Zu viel „Klugheit“ macht dumm.

Wenn man nur das Schlechte bekämpft, um das Leben zu schützen, bringt man gar nichts Gutes hervor und ein solches Leben ist dann nicht mehr lebenswert und braucht nicht beschützt zu werden, denn es ist dann durch ein solches totales Beschützen sowieso schon tot. Man kann so viel Geld für Versicherungen ausgeben, daß man gar nichts mehr zum Versichern hat. Mit Sicherheit ist es eben so.

Zufriedene Sklaven sind die schlimmsten Feinde der Freiheit.

Kreativität ist eine Intelligenz, die Spaß hat.

Wen die Arbeit krank macht, der soll kündigen!

Wenn Deutsche über Moral reden, meinen sie das Geld.

Ein Mensch ohne Erkenntnis ist dann  lediglich ein ängstlicher, aggressiver, unglücklicher Affe.

Denken ist immer grenzüberschreitend.

Der Mob, der sich das Volk nennt, diskutiert nicht, sondern diffamiert.

Legal ist nicht immer legitim.

Wer nicht verzichten kann, lebt unglücklich.

Sogenannte Sozial-, Kultur-, Geisteswissenschaften, Soziologie, Psychologie, Psychotherapie, Psychoanalyse, sind keine Wissenschaften mehr, sondern immanent religiöse Kultpropheten, organisiert wie Sekten.

Ohne eine starke Opposition atrophiert jede scheinbare Demokratie zur Tyrannei, und ebenso eine Wissenschaft, zur Gesinnung einer Sekte.

Man kann alles nur aus gewisser Distanz erkennen, wer sich ereifert, empört, wer mit seiner Nase an etwas klebt, der hat die Perspektive verloren, der erkennt nichts mehr, der hat nur noch seine Phantasie von der Welt im Kopf. So entsteht Paranoia, die sich Religion, und Religion als Politik, sogar als Wissenschaft nennt.

Islamisten sind eine Gefahr, deswegen werden sie als solche nicht gesehen. Juden sind keine Gefahr, deswegen werden sie als solche gesehen. So funktioniert die Wahrnehmung von  Feiglingen.

Humorlose Menschen könner nur fürchten oder hassen und werden Mönche oder Terroristen.

Menschen sind nicht gleich, jeder einzelne Mensch ist ein Unikat.

Erkenntnis gilt für alle, auch für Muslime, Albaner, Frauen und Homosexuelle.

Islam gehört zu Deutschland, Judentum gehört zu Israel.

Der Konsensterror (Totalitarismus) ist in Deutschland allgegenwärtig.

Es wird nicht mehr diskutiert, sondern nur noch diffamiert.

Es ist eine Kultur des Mobs. Wie es bereits gewesen ist.

Harmonie ist nur, wenn man nicht kommuniziert.

Man soll niemals mit jemand ins Bett gehen, der mehr Probleme hat, als man selbst.

>>Evelyn Waugh, sicherlich der witzigste Erzähler des vergangenen Jahrhunderts, im Zweiten Weltkrieg, herauskommend aus einem Bunker während einer deutschen Bombardierung Jugoslawiens, blickte zum Himmel, von dem es feindliche Bomben regnete und bemerkte: “Wie alles Deutsche, stark übertrieben.“<< Joseph Epstein

Man muß Mut haben, um witzig zu sein.

Dumm und blöd geht meistens zusammen.

Charlie Hebdo: solche Morde an Juden sind euch egal, mal sehen wie”angemessen”  ihr reagiert, wenn (wenn, nicht falls) eure Städte von Islamisten mit Kasam-Raketen beschossen werden.

Christopher Hitchens großartig: „In einer freien Gesellschaft hat niemand das Recht, nicht beleidigt zu werden.“

Je mehr sich jemand narzisstisch aufbläht, desto mehr fühlt er sich beleidigt und provoziert.

“Das Problem mit der Welt ist, daß die Dummen felsenfest überzeugt sind und die Klugen voller Zweifel.” – Bertrand Russel

Das Problem mit den Islamisten in Europa soll man genauso lösen, wie es Europa für den Nahen Osten verlangt: jeweils eine Zweistaatenlösung, die Hälfte für Muslime, die andere Hälfte für Nicht-Muslime, mit einer gemeinsamen Hauptstadt.

Was darf Satire? Alles! Nur nicht vom Dummkopf verstanden werden, weil es dann keine Satire war.

Islamimus ist Islam, der Gewalt predigt.

Islam ist eine Religion der Liebe,und wer es anzweifelt, ist tot.

Krieg ist Frieden. Freiheit ist Sklaverei. Unwissenheit ist Stärke. Der Islam ist die friedliche Religion der Liebe George Orwell 2015

Islam ist verantwortlich für gar nichts, Juden sind schuld an allem.

Islamisten sind Satanisten. Islamismus ist eine Religion von Idioten.

Leute fühlen sich immer furchtbar beleidigt, wenn man ihre Lügen nicht glaubt.

Jeder ist selbst verantwortlich für seine Gefühle.

Die Psychoanalyse geht niemanden außer den Psychoanalytiker und seinen Patienten etwas an, und alle anderen sollen sich verpissen.

“Zeit ist das Echo einer Axt
im Wald.
Philip Larkin, Gesammelte Gedichte

Wenn jemand wie Islamisten sein Ego endlos aufbläht, dann verletzt er seine eigenen Gefühle schon morgens beim Scheißen.

„Die sieben Todsünden der modernen Gesellschaft: Reichtum ohne Arbeit Genuß ohne Gewissen Wissen ohne Charakter Geschäft ohne Moral Wissenschaft ohne Menschlichkeit Religion ohne Opfer Politik ohne Prinzipien.“
―Mahatma Gandhi

„Wo man nur die Wahl hat zwischen Feigheit und Gewalt, würde ich zur Gewalt raten.“
―Mahatma Gandhi

Warum zeigt sich Allah nicht? Weil er mit solchen Arschlöchern nichts zu tun haben will.

„Wenn der Faschismus wiederkehrt, wird er nicht sagen: ‚Ich bin der Faschismus’. Nein, er wird sagen: ‚Ich bin der Antifaschismus’.”  – Ignazio Silone

Politische Korrektheit verlangt eine Sprache für ein Poesiealbum.

Psychoanalyse ist frivol, oder es ist keine Psychoanalyse.

Bunte Vielfalt, früher: Scheiße

Was der Mensch nicht mehr verändern, nicht mehr reformieren kann, ist nicht mehr lebendig, sondern sehr tot. Was tot ist, das soll man, das muß man begraben: Religion, Ehe, Romantizismus, etc.

Die Realität ist immer stärker als Illusionen.


Stupidity is demonstrated by people lacking the knowledge they could achieve

Political correctness can be defined as the telling of a lie out of the cowardice in an attempt to avoid upsetting fools not willing to face up to the truth

“In arguments about moral problems, relativism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.” Roger Scruton

Antisemitism is when one blames the Jews or Israel for issues, he does not blame others

Islam is less a religion and more a totalitarian society, an ideology that demands absolute obedience and tolerates no dissent, no criticism, and prohibits the thinking, knowledge and recognition. True Islam is totally different, the one who will find it will receive a very high reward.

Craziness is, when one always does the same but expects a different outcome

If a monkey thinks “I am a monkey”, then it is already a human

A man with roots should go for a pedicure

Self smugness leads to idiocy, being pissed off leads to enlightenment

If someone has something to say, he can tell it always very easily. If someone has nothing to say, he says it in a very complicated way

Addiction is, when somebody does something he wants to do, yet seeks someone who can make it so he won’t do it and doesn’t want to, either.

If the clever people always gave in, the world would be reigned by idiots. Too much “cleverness” makes you stupid.

If one only fights evil to protect life, one produces nothing good at all and such a life then becomes no longer worth living and thus requires no protection, for it is already unlived due to such a total protection. One can spend so much money on insurance, that one has nothing left to insure. Safety works in the same way.

Happy slaves are the worst enemies of freedom.

Creativity is an intelligence having fun.

If working makes you sick, fuck off, leave the work!

If Germans talk about morality, they mean money.

A man without an insight is just an anxious, aggressive, unhappy monkey.

Thinking is always trespassing.

The mob, who calls himself the people, does not discuss, just defames.

Legal is not always legitimate.

Who can not do without, lives unhappy.

So called social, culture sciences, sociology, psychology psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, are not anymore scientific, but immanent religious cult-prophets, organized as sects.

Without a strong opposition any apparent democracy atrophies to a tyranny, and as well a science , to an attitude of a religious sect.

You can recognize everything from a certain distance only, who is zealous, outraged, who sticks his nose in something, this one has lost the perspective, he recognizes anything more, he has only his imagination of the world in his head. This creates paranoia, which is called religion, and a religion as politics, even as a science.

Islamists are a real danger, therefore they will not be seen as such. Jews are not a danger, therefore they are seen as such. It is how the perception by cowards functions.

People without a sense of humor are able only to fear or to hate and become monks or terrorists.

People are not equal, each single person is unique.

Insight applies to everyone, including Muslims, Albanians, women and homosexuals.

Islam belongs to Germany, Judaism belongs to Israel.

The totalitarian Terror of consensus is ubiquitous in Germany.
There are no discussions anymore, but defamations only.
It is a culture of the mob. As it has already been.
Harmony is only if you do not communicate.

One should never go to bed with someone who has more problems than you already have.

>>Evelyn Waugh, surely the wittiest novelist of the past century, in World War II, coming out of a bunker during a German bombing of Yugoslavia, looked up at the sky raining enemy bombs and remarked, “Like everything German, vastly overdone.”<< Joseph Epstein

One has to be brave, to have a wit.

Stupid and dull belong mostly together.

Charlie Hebdo: you don´t care if such murders are comitted to Jews, we will see how “adequate” you will react when (when, not if), Islamists will begin to bombard your cities with Kasam missiles.

Christopher Hitchens: In a free society, no one has the right not to be offended.

The more someone narcissistic inflates , the more he feels insulted and provoked.

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell

 The problem with the Islamists in Europe should be solved exactly as Europe requires to the Middle East: a two-state solution, a half for muslims and the another half for not-muslims , with a common capital.

What may satire? Everything! Except be understood by the fool, because then it was not a satire.

Islamimus is Islam preaching violence.

Islam is a religion of love, and he who doubts is dead.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. Islam is a peaceful religion of love – George Orwell 2015

Islam is not responsible for anything, Jews are guilty of everything.

Islamists are satanists. Islamism is a religion of idiots.

People feel always terrible offended if you do not believe their lies.
Everyone is responsible for his feelings.
Psychoanalysis is nobody’s business except the psychoanalyst and his patient, and everybody else can fuck off.
“Time is the echo of an axe
Within a wood.”
― Philip Larkin, Collected Poems

If someone inflates endless his ego, as Islamists do, then he hurts his own feelings already in his morning own shit.

The seven deadly sins of modern society. Wealth without work pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character business without morality Science without humanity, worship without sacrifice Politics without principles
-Mahatma Gandhi

“Where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

 Why Allah does not shows himself? Because he does not want  to do anything with such assholes.
When fascism returns, he will not say, ‘I am the fascism‘. No, he will say, ‘I am the anti-fascism Ignazio Silone.
Political correctness requires a language for a poetry album.
 Psychoanalysis is frivolous, or it is not psychoanalysis.
Colorful diversity, earlier: shit.
What can not any longer be changed, can not any longer be reformed, it is no longer alive, but very dead (instead). What is dead should be, has to be buried: religion, marriage, Romanticism, etc.
 The reality is always stronger than illusions.
 A delusion is characterized by increasing loss of reality, and can be attested to today’s leaders in Germany and the mass media. Loss of reality describes the mental state of a person who is not (any longer) be able to understand the situation in which it is located. So you are ruled by madmen and manipulated by the mass media.
Totalitarianism can only be defeated if one has the courage to call things by their right names, just as they are. Political correctness prevents it promotes totalitarianism and political cowardice and political lie.
The Extinction: Islam is like the sun, who comes too close to him, will burn itself and will flare the rest of the world with him.
Islam does not want any submission! Islam wants victory, destruction and annihilation.



Kertész to be honored in Hungary

Kertész to be honored in Hungary

20 August is, of course, Szent István ünnepe in Hungary — St. Stephen’s Day, the big national holiday — and among the honors the state hands out none is higher than the (revived) Magyar Szent István Rend — the Hungarian Order of St. Stephen. And word is the eminently worthy Kertész Imre is to be so honored this year. Good job !
Of course, this being present-day Hungary, the choice is, for some, controversial. And so, as Politics.hu reports, Jobbik protests planned state award to Kertész. Yes, the party that won twenty per cent of the vote in the most recent election, has written an open letter to the president, complaining, for example, that Kertész: „failed to use the international attention attracted by his Nobel Prize to promote his country“ and:

According to Jobbik, Kertesz does not deserve a Hungarian state award and if Ader decorates him „it will cause indignation among a wide spectrum of society.“




Dummheit ist, wenn jemand nicht weiß, was er wissen könnte.

Political correctness ist, wenn man aus Feigheit lügt, um Dumme nicht zu verärgern, die die Wahrheit nicht hören wollen.

Antisemitismus ist, wenn man Juden, Israel übelnimmt, was man anderen nicht übelnimmt.

Wahnsinn bedeute, immer wieder das Gleiche zu tun, aber dabei stets ein anderes Resultat zu erwarten

Wenn ein Affe denkt, „ich bin ein Affe“, dann ist es bereits ein Mensch

Ein Mensch mit Wurzeln soll zur Pediküre gehen.

Gutmenschen sind Menschen, die gut erscheinen wollen, die gewissenlos das Gewissen anderer Menschen zu eigenen Zwecken mit Hilfe selbst inszenierter Empörungen instrumentalisieren.


Stupidity is demonstrated by people lacking knowledge they could achieve.

Political correctness can be defined as the telling of a lie out of the cowardice attempt to avoid upsetting fools unwilling to face the truth.

Antisemitism is when one blames Jews or Israel for issues, he does not blame others.

Craziness is, when one always does the same but expects different outcome.

If a monkey thinks “I am a monkey”, then it is already a human.

A man with roots should go for a pedicure.

Gutmenschen (benevolent people) are those who intend to appear good-hearted, yet unscrupulously exploit the conscience of others to serve their own purposes via self-staged outrage.




DJ Psycho Diver Sant – too small to fail
Tonttu Korvatunturilta Kuunsilta JSB
Tip tap tip tap tipetipe tip tap heija!

I think for food

molon labe

E.Dukes wunderliche Reise / E. Duke’s Wondrous Journey / E.Diuka przedziwna podroz


E.Dukes wunderliche Reise / E. Duke’s Wondrous Journey / E.Diuka przedziwna podroz


Erster Tag

1 Tag: Mein Boxerhund teilt mir durch ein Einschreiben gegen
Rückschein sein Bedürfnis zum Ortswechsel mit.

2 Tag: Vorbereitungen zum Aufbruch

3 Tag: Das Einpendeln des Weges

4 Tag: Der Streckenhinweg

5 Tag: Der Zielbann

6 Tag: Am Ziel

7 Tag morgens: Die Umkehr
7 Tag vormittags: Der Streckenrückweg
7 Tag nachmittags: Die Annäherung ans Heim
7 Tag abends: Die Einheimung

Somit waren wir ununterbrochen 40 Tage unterwegs.

8 Tag: Mein Boxerhund teilt mir durch ein Einschreiben gegen
Rückschein sein Bedürfnis zum Ortswechsel mit.

Day One

Day 1: My German Boxer informs me in a letter by recorded delivery of his necessity for a change of scene.
Day 2: Preparations for Departure
Day 3: The Way Levels Out
Day 4: The Way There
Day 5: The Goal in Sight
Day 6: At our Destination
Day 7 early morning: Turning Back
Day 7 late morning: The Way Back
Day 7 afternoon: Approaching Home
Day 7 evening: Making ourselves at Home

We travelled thus for forty days uninterrupted.

Day 8: My German Boxer informs me in a letter by recorded delivery of his need for a change of scene.

pierwszy dzien

1 dzien: Moj bokser Diuk podaje do mojej wiadomosci listem poleconym swoja potrzebe zmienienia miejsca pobytu.

2 dzien: Przygotowanie do rozpoczecia podrózy.

3 dzien: Poczatek drogi.

4 dzien: Po drodze.

5 dzien: Droga do celu.

6 dzien: Osiagniecie celu.

7 dzien rankiem: Powrót.

7 dzien przedpoludnie: Droga powrotna.

7 dzien popoludniu: Zblizanie sie do domu.

7 dzien wieczorem: W domu.

W ten sposób bylismy bez przerwy 40 dni w drodze.

8 dzien: Moj bokser podaje do mojej wiadomosci listem poleconym swoja potrzebe zmienienia miejsca pobytu.


Zweiter Tag

Gestern abend stand ich mit meinem Boxerhund Duke am Fenster und
unterhielt mich mit ihm über dies und jenes – eher jedoch über jenes.
Über dies unterhielt sich Duke nicht gerne. Er hatte seine Prinzipien.
Plötzlich sahen wir den weißen Polarbär an unserem Fenster
vorbeitrapsen. Er sah uns ebenfalls, hielt an, zog den Hut und sang:
„Durch den Schnaps, durch den Schnaps, kriege ich den rechten Traps!“
Dann verbeugte er sich und verschwand in der Nacht.
„Was hat er gesagt?“, fragte ich Duke, „hat er uns zum Abendessen eingeladen?“
„Ich glaube, er hat uns nicht zum Abendessen eingeladen“, sagte Duke.
„Und wenn er uns doch zum Abendessen eingeladen hat?“, erboste ich mich
. „Wir gehen und fragen ihn“, entschied ich. Ich half Duke, seinen
Wolfspelz anzuziehen, den er sich gekauft hatte, als er incognito nach
Marienbad zur Kur fuhr, und wir gingen den Bär besuchen.
Wir gelangten an ein Häuschen, in dem etwas fürchterlich rumorte.
Es brannte aber kein Licht. Duke klopfte mit dem Schwanz an die Tür.
Es öffnete sich ein kleines Fensterchen und zwei Augen schauten uns
in der Dunkelheit an.
„Guten Abend, mein Herr, lebt hier der weiße Bär?“, fragte ich.
„Nein“, antworteten mir die zwei Augen.
Wir schwiegen eine Weile, und dann fragte ich: „Entschuldigung, sind Sie
nicht der weiße Polarbär persönlich?“
„Doch, doch, der bin ich.“
„Warum sagten Sie dann, hier würde kein Polarbär leben?“
„Ha, ha, ha, mein Herr – nennen Sie das ein Leben?“, antworteten mir
die zwei Augen, und das Fensterchen schloß sich.
Im Häuschen fing es wieder an zu rumoren.
Länger zu warten wäre sinnlos gewesen.
Uns wurde inzwischen kalt, und wir gingen heim.
Zuhause machte ich Tee und Duke malte noch eine Weile.
Beim Abendessen sagte er zu mir: „Denk‘ bitte morgen daran, daß ich
wieder blaue Farbe kaufen muß.“

So entstand dieses Bild.

Day 2

Yesterday evening I was standing with my German Boxer Duke at the window and was discussing with him this and that – mainly that. Duke doesn’t like discussing this. He has his principles. Suddenly we saw the white polar bear clomp past our window. He saw us too, stopped, doffed his hat and sang, “My grog, my grog, it gives me the right clomp!” Then he bowed and disappeared into the night.
“What did he say?” I asked Duke, “Did he invite us to dinner?”
“I think he did not invite us to dinner,” said Duke.
“But what if he did invite us to dinner?” I asked, infuriated.
“We’ll go and ask him,” I decided. I helped Duke to pull on the wolf-skin he had bought whilst travelling incognito to the health spa in Marienbad and we went to visit the bear. We reached a house, inside of which something was rumbling terribly. The lights were out though. Duke knocked on the door with his tail. A little window opened and a pair of eyes looked at us out of the darkness.
“Good evening dear Sir, does the white bear reside here?” I asked.
“No,” answered the pair of eyes.
We fell silent for a while and then I asked, “Excuse me, are you not the white bear in person?”
“Yes, yes, he I am.”
“Why did you say then that no polar bear lives here?”
“Ha, ha, ha, dear Sir – do you call this a life?” answered the pair of eyes, and the window closed.
Inside the rumbling began again.
It would have been pointless to wait any longer.
We were getting cold, and went home.
At home I made tea and Duke painted for a while.
At dinner he said, “please remember that I tomorrow I need to buy more blue”.

And that is how this picture came to be.

drugi dzien

Wczoraj wieczorem stalem z moim bokserkiem Diukiem przy oknie i rozmawialem z nim o tym i o tamtym – ale bardziej o tamtym, bo o tym rozmawial Diuk niechetnie. On ma takie swoje zasady. Nagle widzimy jak przed naszym oknem przechodzi bialy niedzwiedz. On nas tez zobaczyl, zdjal czapeczke i zaczal spiewac:

„Bo wódeczka, bo wódeczka, bedzie dobra dla Juleczka!“ – uklonil sie i zniknal w zapadajacym mroku.

„Co on powiedzial?“ – spytalem sie Diuka – „czy on nas na kolacje zaprosil?“

„Mnie sie widzi, ze on nas na kolacje nie zaprosil“ – burknal Diuk.

„A co jezeli nas jednak zaprosil? – zdenerwowalem sie. „Idziemy sie go zapytac“ – zdecydowalem.

Pomoglem Diukowi zalozyc jego wilcza skóre, ktora sobie kupil jadac incognito na kuracje do Marienbadu i poszlismy odwiedzic Misia. Podeszlismy do malego domku, w ktorym sie cos potwornie kotlowalo.

Nie bylo swiatla. Diuk zapukal ogonkiem w drzwi. Otworzylo sie male okienko i dwoje oczu spojrzalo na nas z ciemnosci.

„Dobry wieczór, prosze Pana, czy tu zyje bialy Mis?“ -zapytalem sie.

„Nie“ – odpowiedzalo mi te dwoje oczu – „nie zyje tu.“

„Nie zyje tu?“

„Nie zyje.“

Milczelismy chwile i potem spytalem sie:“Niech Pan wybaczy, ale czy Pan nie jest bialym Misiem?“

„Tak, bialy Mis to ja.“

„To dlaczego mi Pan powiedzial, ze bialy Mis tu nie zyje?“

„Ha, ha, ha, prosze Pana, Pan to nazywa zyciem?“ – odpowiedzialo mi te dwoje oczu po czym zatrzasnelo okienko. W domku znowu zaczelo sie kotlowac. Dluzej czekac by bylo bez sensu.

Zrobilo sie nam w miedzyczasie zimno, poszlismy z powrotem do domu.

W domu zrobilem herbate a Diuk malowal jeszcze obrazek.

Po kolacji powiedzial do mnie: „Przypomnij mi jutro, zebym kupil jeszcze niebieskiej farby.“

Tak powstal ten obrazek.


Dritter Tag

„Nein, Duke“, sagte ich zu meinem Boxerhund, „nein, das ist keine Architektur.
Such weiter, such!“
Wahrscheinlich lag es am Wetter. Der Regen hatte alle Spuren verwischt.
„Ach nein, Duke, das ist auch keine. Versuch‘ es vielleicht dort, dort,
wo das Bauen aufhört.“
Duke lief wieder voraus.
Der Morgen war ziemlich kühl. Es nieselte. Von weitem sah ich, wie Duke
etwas aus den Nostalgiewellen holte.
Er apportierte es und ich mußte ihn noch einmal enttäuschen.
„Findest Du das gut? Es hat heute keinen Sinn. Komm‘ wir gehen zurück
und bringen es in den Luftschloßdenkmalschutzkeller.“
Nicht weit vor den Toren der Stadt begegneten wir II.
„Wer bist Du? Wie heißt Du?“, fragte ich.
„Erstens bin ich Architektur, und zweitens mache ich keine
Bekanntschaften auf der Straße“, antwortete II.
Während Duke und ich betreten schwiegen, verabschiedete sich II von
uns, förmlich, aber höflich.
Wir gingen weiter.
Nach einer Weile sagte Duke zu mir: „Ein netter Kerl, was?“
Der Himmel klärte sich auf.
Es hörte auf zu regnen.

So entstand dieses Bild.

Day 3

“No, Duke,” I said to my German Boxer, “no, that’s not architecture. Keep searching, search!”
It was probably due to the weather. The rain had washed away all trace of it.
“Oh no, Duke, that’s not it either. Try there, there where the buildings end.”
Duke ran ahead again.
The morning was quite cool. It was drizzling. From far away I saw Duke pull something out of the waves of nostalgia.
He fetched it and I had to disappoint him once again.
“Do you like it? It’s just no use today. Come on; let’s take it back to the air-locked monument protection bunker.”
Not far from the gates to the city we came across II.
“Who are you? What’s your name?” I asked.
“Firstly I’m architecture, and secondly I don’t consort with people on the street,” replied
Whilst Duke and I stood in embarrassed silence, II bid us farewell, formally but politely.
We walked on.
After a while Duke said to me, “A nice guy, wouldn’t you say?”
The sky cleared.
It stopped raining.

And that is how this picture came to be.

trzeci dzien

Nie, Diuk“ – powiedzialem do mojego bokserka, „nie, to nie jest zadna architektura, szukaj dalej, szukaj!“

Prawdopodobnie przeszkadzala pogoda, deszcz zatarl wszystkie slady.

„Alez nie, Diuk, to tez nie jest architektura. Spróbuj w tym kierunku, tam gdzie sie konczy budowanie.“

Diuk polecial na przód.

Ranek byl dosc chlodny, mzyl kapusniaczek. Z daleka widzialem jak Diuk ciagnal cos z obloku nostalgii.

Zaaportowal mi to ale musialem go znowu rozczarowac. „Tobie sie to podoba? To dzisiaj nie ma juz sensu. Chodz idziemy dalej, zaniesiemy to co znalazles do schronu przeciwlotniczego.“

Niedaleko od bramy wejsciowej do miasta spotkalismy II.

„Kto Ty jestes? Jak sie nazywasz?“ – spytalem sie.

„Po pierwsze jestem Architektura, a po drugie nie zawieram znajomosci na ulicy“ – odpowiedzialo II.

Duke i ja milczelismy zirytowani, a w miedzyczasie II sie pozegnalo, formalnie ale uprzejmie.

Diuk i ja poszlismy dalej.

Po pewnym czasie Diuk sie odezwal: „Ciekawy facet, nie?“

Niebo sie rozjasnilo, przestalo padac.

Tak powstal ten obrazek.


Vierter Tag

Am frühen Morgen brachen wir auf.
Es war ein grauer, nebliger Herbsttag.
Gegen Mittag verließen wir den schmalen, überwachsenen Pfad und
ritten im Schritt das Ufer entlang.
Von weitem sahen wir schon den Jungen, der die Halbsonne betrachtete.
Wir galoppierten an und parierten zwei Pferdelängen von ihm entfernt durch.
Mein Boxerhund Duke lief vor und sagte:
„Guten Tag, Ihre Papiere bitte!“
„Ich betrachte ja bloß die Halbsonne“, entschuldigte sich der Junge.
„Sie stehen jedoch dabei im Halteverbot. Haben Sie getrunken?“,
fragte Duke trocken.
„Nein, ich habe mich nur gewundert, was diese vier orangenen Vierecke bedeuten sollen.“
„Die Genesis. Das andere die Ursache. Und dieses die Zeit.“
„Na ja, diesmal haben sie noch Glück gehabt. Gehen Sie jetzt
auseinander und lassen Sie sich nicht noch mal erwischen!“
Duke händigte dem Jungen seine Dokumente aus.
Wir setzten unsere Reise fort.
Spät in der Nacht kamen wir an.
Wir hatten noch einen langen Weg vor uns.

So entstand dieses Bild.

Day 4

We set off early in the morning.
It was a grey, foggy, autumnal day.
Around midday we left the narrow, overgrown path and rode at walking pace along the bank.
We saw the boy, who was looking at the half sun, from a long way off.
We came to a halt two lengths short of him.
My German Boxer Duke ran ahead and said, “Good day, your papers please!”
“I’m only looking at the half sun,” said the boy in explanation.
“It is prohibited to stop here all the same. Have you been drinking?” asked Duke drily.
“No, I was just wondering what these four orange squares are supposed to mean.”
“Genesis. The other is cause. And this one is time.”
“Okay, you’ve been lucky this time. Break it up now and don’t go getting yourself caught again!”
Duke handed back the boy’s documents.
We continued our journey.
We arrived late at night.
We still had a long way ahead of us.

And that is how this picture came to be.
czwarty dzien
Wczesnym rankiem ruszylismy w droge. Dzien byl szary i mglisty, jak to jesienny dzien.

Kolo poludnia opuscilismy te waska zarosnieta drozke, i pokierowalismy nasze konie wzdlóz brzegu.

Z daleka juz widzielismy chlopca, ktory obserwowal pólslonce. Zagalopowalismy i zatrzymalismy sie na odleglosc dwóch koni przed nim. Mój bokser Diuk podbiegl do niego i krzyknal:

„Dzien dobry, dokumenciki do kontroli poprosze!“

„Ale ja sobie tylko ogladam to pólslonce“ – tlumaczyl sie chlopiec.

„Ale stoisz chlopcze w zakazie zatrzymywania. Piles cos?“ – spytal Diuk sucho.

„Nic nie pilem. Ja sie tylko dziwie, co te cztery kwadraciki oznaczaja?“

„No i co one oznaczac maja?“

„Genesis. Ten drugi to przyczyna. A ten to czas.“

„No to miales tym razem szczescie, udalo ci sie, a teraz rozejdz sie i zebym cie drugi raz na czyms takim nie przylapal!“

Diuk oddal chlopcu jego dokumenty.

Kontynuowalismy nasza podróz.

Pozna noca dojechalismy. Mielismy jeszcze dluga droge przed nami.

Tak powstal ten obrazek.


Fünfter Tag

In dem Bergdorf angekommen, mußten wir uns nach einer Unterkunft
umsehen. Mein Boxerhund Duke und ich liefen ein paar Mal durch das
Dorf, bis wir uns entschieden, in einem kleinen, netten Chalet nach
Quartier zu fragen. Duke klopfte an die Tür und fragte die Frau, die uns
öffnete: „Gruezi Gott, wir sind zwei arme Teufele, ganz müde vom
Marschieren, hätten Sie ein Zimmer für uns?“ Die Frau schaute Duke
ganz verdutzt an, der ihr charmant einen Handkuß gab, und fragte mich:
„Ihr Boxerhund spricht?“
„Ja“, sagte ich, „leider mit Akzent. Dürfen wir das Zimmer sehen?“
„Aber bitte!“
Die Frau machte die Tür auf und ließ uns herein. Das Zimmer gefiel uns.
Wir schnallten unsere Rucksäcke ab und ich verabschiedete mich von
der netten Dame, während Duke sich noch ausgedehnt über die prächtige
eidgenössische Aussicht mit ihr unterhielt.
Als wir unsere Sachen auspackten, vermißte ich den Wecker.
Ich war sehr verärgert, weil wir am nächsten Morgen ganz früh aufbrechen
wollten. Ich fing an, mit Duke zu schimpfen, der sich leider nicht
in die Rolle des Schuldigen drängen ließ und mir vorwarf, die technische
Ausrüstung nicht kontrolliert zu haben.
Was nun?
Die Lage spitzte sich zu, bis Duke plötzlich eine Idee hatte.
Er setzte sich hin, stellte seine Staffelei auf und fing an zu malen.
Er malte das Klingeln des Weckers, er malte die Zeit zwischen kurz vor
und kurz nach halb sieben Uhr morgens.
Als das Bild fertig war, wusch ich ihm die Pfoten und wir gingen schlafen.
Am nächsten Morgen weckte uns das Klingeln des Weckers pünktlich um
halb sieben.
Wir sprangen auf, wuschen uns, und gleich nach dem Frühstück zogen wir weiter.

So entstand dieses Bild.

Day 5

Once we had arrived in the mountain village we had to look for lodgings. My German Boxer Duke and I walked back and forth through the village until we decided to ask for space at a small cosy chalet. Duke knocked on the door and asked the woman who opened up for us, “Guid efternuin, we two poor devils are so tired from our march, might you have a room for us?” The woman looked taken aback at Duke, who charmingly kissed her hand, and asked me,
“Your German Boxer talks?”
“Yes,” I said, “unfortunately with an accent. May we see the room?”
“Please do!”
The woman opened the door and let us in. We liked the room. We took off our rucksacks and I took my leave of the kind lady while Duke continued to talk extensively with her about the glorious Scottish views.
As we unpacked our things I noticed the alarm was missing.
I was very annoyed because we wanted to set off very early the following morning. I began to argue with Duke, who unfortunately wouldn’t admit guilt and accused me of not having checked our technical equipment.
What now?
The situation intensified until suddenly Duke had an idea.
He sat down, set up his easel and began to paint.
He pained the ringing of the alarm. He painted the time between just before and just after half past six in the morning.
When the picture was finished I washed his paws and we went to sleep.
The next morning the ringing of the alarm woke us at exactly half past six.
We sprang out of bed, washed, and straight after breakfast moved on.

And that is how this picture came to be.

piaty dzien

Doszlismy do gorskiej wioski i musielismy sie rozgladnac za miejscem do spania.

Moj bokser Diuk i ja przeszlismy przez te wioske pare razy tam i z powrotem, az sie zdecydowalismy w malej schludnie wygladajacej chatce poprosic o nocleg.

Diuk zapukal do drzwi i zapytal sie gospodyni, ktora nam otworzyla:

„Pochwalony Jesus Chrystus, mialaby Pani dla dwoch diablikow zmeczonych maszerowaniem jakis pokoik na jedna noc?“

Gospodyni spjrzala na Diuka ze zdziwieniem, ktory ja pocalowal szarmancko w reke i spytala sie mnie:

„Panski Pies mowi?“

„Tak, niestety z mocnym akcentem“ – odpowiedzialem. „Czy moglibysmy zobaczyc ten pokój?“

„Prosze bardzo, niech Panowie wejda“ – zaprosila na do srodka. Pokoik byl w porzadku.

Zdjelismy plecaki, ja powiedzialem dobranoc milej gospodyni, a Diuk prowadzil jeszcze z nia konwersacje o zaletach pieknego widoku na osniezone szczyty gór.

Jak rozpakowalismy plecaki nie moglem znalezc budzika i zaczalem opieprzac Diuka, ktory niestety nie dal sie wrobi w role winnego i zarzucil mi, ze nie skontrolowalem technicznego wyposazenia przez podróza. No i co teraz robic? Sytuacja zaostrzala sie, ale Diuk mial nagle pomysl.

Postawil swoje sztalugi, usiadl na zydelku, wyciagnal pedzle i farby i zaczal malowac.

Namalowal dzwonienie budzika, namalowal czas krótko przed i krótko po póldosiódmej rano.

Jak skonczyl malowac, umylem mu lapki i poszlismy spac.

Nastepnego ranka zbudzilo nas dzwonienie budzika dokladnie o wpóldosiódmej.

Wyskoczylismy z poscieli, umylismy sie i odrazu po sniadaniu poszlismy dalej w droge.

Tak powstal ten obrazek.


Sechster Tag
Endlich kamen wir an.
„Wo seid ihr?“, fragte sie.
Sie standen im Kreis und berührten sie nicht.
„Hört mich!“, rief mein Boxerhund Duke, „nicht zu antworten bin ich hier,
sondern zu fragen. Wie viele seid ihr?“
„Einer“, sagte der Erste, „mein Name ist Kether.“
„Wir haben einen langen Weg hinter uns. Wo könnten wir unseren Durst
löschen?“, fragte ich.
„Und wo könnten wir unseren Hunger stillen?“, fragte Duke.
„Wo kannst Du es nicht tun?“, antwortete der Zweite. Sein Name war Chochma.
„Könnte ich alleine satt werden?“, fragte ich.
„Ohne Dich ist Dein Boxerhund unvollkommen, ohne ihn bist Du jedoch
gar nichts“, sagte der Dritte. Sein Name war Binah.
„Ich kann Euch nicht mehr deuten. Ich fürchte mich“, sagte Duke.
„Was fordere ich mehr von Dir, als zu fürchten? Wenn Du nur mich
fürchtest, brauchst Du nicht mehr zu deuten“, sagte der Vierte.
Sein Name war Chesed.
„Was wollt ihr, was habt ihr, was wißt ihr?“, fragte ich.
Der Fünfte sagte nichts. Sein Name war Pechad.
„Was tut ihr?“, fragte ich.
„Ich tue nichts. Ich weiß es“, sagte der Sechste. Sein Name war Tipheret.
„Was wißt ihr?“, fragte ich.
„Ich weiß nichts. Ich verstehe es“, sagte der Siebte.
Sein Name war Netzah.
„Was versteht ihr?“, fragte ich.
„Ich verstehe nichts. Ich suche es“, sagte der Achte.
Sein Name war Hod.
„Was sucht ihr?“, fragte ich.
„Ich suche nichts. Ich tue es“, sagte der Neunte. Sein Name war Yesod.
„Warum sagt ihr uns nicht, was wir tun sollen?“, rief ich.
„Ich sage es unablässig“, sagte der Zehnte. „Aber ich wiederhole nicht.“
Sein Name war Malkut.
Wir gingen zurück.
Und es war Mittag und wir gingen wie die Blinden im Dunkeln.
Und da Duke hin und her lief, geschah es, daß er in einen Sumpf geriet.
Und ich zögerte, bevor ich ihm half, denn ich wollte mich nicht schmutzig
Und es kam ein Reiter.
Und ich sagte: „Kehr‘ um, denn die Gegend ist gefährlich.“
Und er kehrte um und fragte: „Nun, warum geht ihr weiter?“ Und ich sagte:“Dein Pferd ist stark,
aber mein Boxerhund ist schwach. Wir können noch nicht umkehren.“
Am Abend näherten wir uns einer Wirtschaft.
Der Wirt kam heraus und begrüßte uns.
„Mein Laden ist offen. Ich gewähre Kredit. Es wird alles gegen Bürgschaft
gegeben. Das Heft ist offen und meine Hand schreibt. Jeder, der leihen
will, kann kommen und leihen. Alles ist vorbereitet zum Mahl.“
Wir gingen hinein.
„Wo seid ihr gewesen?“, fragte der Wirt, nachdem wir gegessen hatten.
„In der Burg Pniel“, antworteten wir.
„Die Burg brennt“, sagte der Wirt.
Wir drehten uns um. Die Burg brannte.
„Ich bin der Herr der Burg“, sagte er. „Bis ins Alter bin ich derselbe und
bis zum Grauhaar bin ich es, der es trägt …“
Wir gingen auf unsere Zimmer.
„Die Burg brennt, aber sie hat einen Herrn“, sagte Duke zu mir.
Während ich das Wasser holte, setzte sich Duke an seine Staffelei.
„Was malst Du?“, fragte ich.
„Das Lachen der Schechina“, sagte er.
„Ich habe sie aber gar nicht lachen gehört“, sagte ich.
„Deswegen male ich es“, antwortete Duke.

So entstand dieses Bild.

Day 6
Finally we arrived.
„Where are you?“ she asked. They stood in a circle without touching her.
„Listen to me!“ cried my German Boxer Duke, „I am not here to answer but to ask.
How many are you?“
„One.“ said the first one. „My name is Kether.“
„We have come a long way. Where could we quench our thirst?“ I asked.
„And where can we satisfy our hunger?“ asked Duke.
„Where can you not do it?“ answered the second one. His name was
„Is it possible to eat my fill by myself?“ I asked.
„Without you your German Boxer is incomplete, but without him you are nothing.“
said the third one. His name was Binah.
„I can’t read you anymore. I’m afraid.“ said Duke.
„What more do I ask of you, than to fear? As soon as you fear me, you need no longer to search for meaning.“ said the forth one. His name was Chesed.
„What do you want? What do you have? What do you know?“ I asked.
The fifth one said nothing. His name was Pechad.
„What are you doing?“ I asked.
„I’m not doing anything. I know.“ said the sixth one. His name was Tipheret.
„What do you know?“ I asked.
„I don’t know anything. I understand it.“ said the seventh one. His name was Netzah.
„What do you understand?“ I asked.
„I don’t understand anything. I seek it.“ said the eighth one. His name was Hod.
„What are you seeking?“ I asked.
„I am not seeking anything. I do it.“ said the ninth. His name was Yesod.
„Why don’t you tell us what we should do?“ I shouted.
„I’m continually telling you,“ said the tenth one, „but I never repeat it.“ His name
was Malkut.
We went back.
And it was midday and we walked in darkness like the blind.
And since Duke was running back and forth it so happened that he fell into a swamp.
And I hesitated before helping him because I didn’t want to get dirty.
And a rider came along.
And I said, „Go back, for this place is dangerous.“
And he turned around and asked, „Why do you go onward then?“
And I said, „Your horse is strong, but my Boxer is weak. We can’t go back
In the evening we reached an inn.
The innkeeper came out and welcomed us.
„My store is open, I grant loans. Everything is given in return for a pledge. The balance sheet is open and my hand writes. Everyone who wants to borrow can come and borrow.
Everything is prepared for the meal.“
We entered the inn.
„Where have you been?“ the innkeeper asked, after we had eaten.
„At Pniel Castle.“ we answered.
„The castle is burning,“ said the innkeeper.
We turned around. The castle was burning.
„I am the master of the castle,“ he said. „I will be the master until old age and until my hair turns grey it is I who bears it. . .“
We went to our rooms.
„The castle is burning, but it has a master.“ Duke said to me.
While I went to get some water, Duke sat down at his easel.
„What are you painting?“ I asked.
„Schechina’s laugh,“ he said.
„But I’ve never heard her laughing,“ I said.
„That’s why I am painting it,“ answered Duke.
And that is how this picture came to be.


szosty dzien
W koncu doszlismy.

„Gdzie jestescie?“ – zapytala sie.

Oni stali w kreg i nie dotykali sie.

„Sluchajcie mnie!“ – krzyknal Diuk – „nie jestem tu by odpowiadac, lecz by pytac. Ilu was jest?“

„Jeden“ – odpowiedzial pierwszy – „moje imie jest Kether.“

„My mamy jeszcze dluga droge przed nami. Gdzie mozemy ugasic nasze pragnienie?“ – spytalem sie.

„I gdzie mozemy zaspokoic nasz glód?“ – spytal sie Diuk.

„A gdzie nie mozesz tego zrobic?“ – odpowiedzial drugi. Jego imie bylo Chochma.

„Moglbym sam zaspokoic mój glód?“ – spytalem sie.

„Ja nie moge juz was zrozumiec. Ja sie boje“ – powiedzial Diuk.

„A czego ja zadam wiecej, niz zebys sie mnie bal? Jezeli sie mnie boisz, nie musisz mnie rozumiec“ – odpowiedzial czwarty. Jego imie bylo Chesed.

„Czego chcecie, co macie, co wiecie?“ – zapytalem sie.

Piaty wogóle nie odpowiedzial. Jego imie bylo Pechad.

„Ja nic nie robie. Ja wiem.“ – powiedzial szósty. Jego imie bylo Tipheret.

„Co wiecie?“ – spytalem sie.

„Ja nic nie wiem. Ja rozumiem.“ – powiedzial siódmy. Jego imie bylo Netzah.

„Co rozumiecie?“ – spytalem sie.

„Ja nic nie rozumiem. Ja szukam“ – powiedzial ósmy. Jego imie bylo Hod.

„Czego szukacie?“ – spytalem sie.

„Ja niczego nie szukam. Ja to robie“ – powiedzial dziewiaty. Jego ime bylo Yesod.

„Dlaczego nie powiecie nam, co my mamy czynic?“ – zakrzyknalem.

„Ja mowie to caly czas“ – powiedzial dziesiaty – „Ale ja nie powtarzam tego co mówie.“ Jego imie bylo Malkut.

Diuk i ja poszlismy z powrotem.

A bylo poludnie i my szlismy jak slepi w ciemnosci.

I poniewaz Diuk latal tam i siam, zdarzylo sie ze zbladzilismy w moczary.

I ja zwlekalem, zanim mu pomoglem, bo nie chcialem sie zabrudzic.

I przyjechal jezdziec na koniu.

I ja powiedzialem: „Zawróc, to miejsce jest niebezpieczne.“

I on zawrócil i spytal: „A dlaczego wy idziecie dalej?“ i ja odpowiedzialem: „Twoj kon jest mocny, ale mój bokser jest slaby. My nie mozemy jeszcze zawrócic.

Wieczorem doszlismy do jakiejs gospody.

Gospodarz wyszedl nam naprzeciw i powital nas:

„Moja gospoda jest otwarta. Daje kredyt. Wszystko dostaniecie z zareczeniem. Zeszyt jest otwarty i moja reka zapisuje. Kazdy, kto che pozyczki, moze przyjsc i dostanie pozyczke. Wszystko jest przygotowane do wieczerzy.“

Weszlismy do srodka.

„Gdzie byliscie?“ – zapytal sie nas gospodarz, jak zjedlismy.

„W zamku Pniel“ – odpowiedzielismy.

„Zamek plonie“ – powiedzial gospodarz.

Mysmy sie odwrocili. Zamek stal w plomieniach.

„Ja jestem panem tego zamka“ – powiedzial gospodarz – „Na wieki wieków jestem ten sam i az do siwizny jestem tym, ktory to podpiera…“

Diuk i ja poszlismy do naszych pokojów.

„Zamek sie pali ale ma swego pana“ – powiedzial Diuk. W tym czasie jak szedlem po wode

do studni, Diuk usiadl do swojej sztalugi.

„Co malujesz?“ – zapytalem sie go.

„Smiech Schechiny“ – odpowiedzial Diuk.

„Ale ja nie slyszalem jej smiechu?“

„Dlatego go maluje.“

Tak powstal ten obrazek.

Siebter Tag
Ich flog zwischen den aufsteigenden warmen Luftschichten, während
Duke hinter meinem die Felder streifenden Schatten lief.
Die Luft war ruhig und klar.
In dieser Höhe spürte man schon den Herbst, obwohl unten immer noch
Sommer war. Ich drehte mich auf den Rücken und ließ die untergehende
Sonne mein Gesicht wärmen.
Über einem Weizenfeld kreisend spürte ich den mich tragenden Geruch
von Getreide. Die Luft kühlte allmählich ab.
Die Sonne stand über dem Horizont.
Ich überflog noch ein Roggenfeld und landete auf der angrenzenden
„Wie war es?“, fragte mich Duke.
„Klasse!“, lachte ich. „Schade, daß Du nicht fliegen kannst.“
„Wenn ich jetzt mehr Zeit habe“, sagte Duke, „fange ich auch an zu
„Das mußt Du unbedingt. Hast Du schon Zimmer für uns?“
„Ja, und das Abendessen ist auch fertig.“
„Also los! Wer als Letzter ankommt, muß abspülen!“
Wir rannten, ohne daran zu denken, daß das der letzte Tag war.
Nur die Sonne hielt erschrocken den Atem an, und wohlahnend, daß
auch sie unserem Leichtsinn gegenüber hilflos war, setzte sie ihren
sunset fort.

So entstand dieses Bild.
Day 7
I flew between the upward currents of warm air, while Duke chased my shadow as it grazed the fields.
The air was calm and clear.
At this height one could already feel autumn, although below it was still summer. I turned over onto my back and let the setting sun warm my face.
Circling above a field of wheat I picked up the scent of crops carrying me along. The air was gradually growing cooler.
The sun was on the horizon.
I flew over another rye field and landed on the adjacent meadow.
“How was it?” asked Duke.
“Great!” I laughed. “It’s a shame that you can’t fly.”
“If I have more time now,” said Duke, “I’ll start learning too.”
“You simply have to. Have you found a room for us?”
“Yes, and supper is ready too.”
“Let’s go! Whoever’s last has to wash up!”
We ran without thinking that it was the last day.
Only the sun, aghast, held its breath and, knowing all too well that it too was helpless against the lightness of our hearts, proceeded with its sunset.

And that is how this picture came to be.


siodmy dzien
Lecialem miedzy wznoszacymi sie warstwami cieplego powietrza, a Diuk latal po polu za moim cieniem.

Powietrze bylo spokojne i jasne.

Na tej wysokosci mozna juz bylo wyczuc jesien, mimo za na dole bylo wciaz lato.

Odwrócilem sie na plecy i lapalem twarza cieplo promieni zachodzacego slonca.

Nad polem zboza czulem cieply zapach ziarna w unoszacym mnie powietrzu, ktore sie stopniowo ochladzalo. Slonce stalo juz nad horyzontem.

Przelecialem jeszcze nad polem jeczmienia i wyladalem na lace.

„No i jak bylo?“ – zapytal sie Diuk.

„Fajnie!“ – smialem sie – „Szkoda ze ty nie umiesz latac.“

„Jak teraz bede mial wiecej czasu“ – powiedzial Diuk – „to tez sie naucze.“

„Koniecznie! Masz juz pokój na noc dla nas?“

„Tak, i kolacja tez jest gotowa.“

„No te lecimy na wyscigi, kto przegra musi zmywac po jedzeniu!“

Pedzilismy z calych sil, nie myslac o tym, ze to juz ostatni dzien.

Tylko slonce wstrzymalo przerazone oddech, ale czujac, ze jest wobec naszej lekkomyslnosci bezsilne,

kontynuowalo swoje zachodzenie.

Tak powstal ten obrazek.


Zwanzigster Tag

Mein Boxerhund und ich gingen einen schmalen Bergpfad entlang.
Es war Sommer. Der schwere, von der Sonne verbrannte Duft feuchter
Feldblumen lag in der Luft. Der Pfad führte uns in den Wald hinein.
Es war kurz nach zwei Uhr, wir hatten noch einen langen Weg vor uns.
Als wir zu einer Lichtung kamen, beschlossen wir, eine kurze Pause
Ich setzte mich in den Schatten und Duke rannte über die Wiese hinter
den Schmetterlingen her. Es war sehr ruhig und sehr warm. Nach einiger
Zeit stand ich wieder auf und ging zu Duke, der schon seit einer Weile
mitten auf der Wiese saß. Als ich näher kam, hörte ich, daß er mit
jemandem sprach.
„Warum kommst Du nicht einfach mit?“, fragte Duke. „Laß‘ doch diese
kleine Wiese, es ist so heiß hier und es weht kein Wind. Komm‘ mit und
ich zeige Dir die Welt. Du lernst die Stadt kennen. Es gibt dort Straßen
und Plätze, Wände und Dächer, Fenster und Türen und
sehr viele Menschen.
Ich liebe Dich doch.“
„Ich liebe Dich auch“, hörte ich eine leise Stimme. „Ich mag aber die
Wiese, ich gehöre hierher, es ist so schön heiß hier, und es weht kein
Wind. Laß‘ doch Deine Stadt. Es gibt dort so viele Straßen und Plätze,
Wände und Dächer, Fenster und Türen und so viele Menschen. Bleib‘ bei
mir… Ich liebe Dich doch. Außerdem kann ich nicht gehen.
Ich habe keine Beine.“
„Ich könnte Dich mitnehmen. Zuhause würde ich Dich in eine schöne
Vase stecken“, sagte Duke leise.
„Du glaubst selbst nicht daran, was Du sagst. Laß‘ mich hier weiterleben
und geh‘ jetzt weg. Besuche mich auch nicht. Geh‘ jetzt! Geh‘ von selbst,
sonst muß ich Dich verletzen.“
Ich ging zurück und packte unsere Rucksäcke wieder ein.
Dann kam Duke, nahm seinen Rucksack, und wir gingen wieder in den
Wald hinein. Erst am späten Abend kamen wir an.
Als Duke seinen üblichen Abendspaziergang machte, fand ich auf seinem
Nachttisch eine Skizze. Ich nahm sie in die Hand und sah eine zarte und
ruhige Blume – die Blume der Blumen.

So entstand dieses Bild.


Day 20

My German Boxer and I were walking along a narrow mountain path. It was summer. The heavy sun-scorched scent of damp wild flowers lay in the air. The path led us into the wood. It was just before two o’clock and we still had a long way ahead of us. When we came to a clearing we decided to have a short break.
I sat in the shade and Duke chased butterflies over the meadow. It was very calm and very warm. After a while I stood back up and went over to Duke, who had been sitting in the middle of the glade for some while already. As I approached I heard that he was speaking to somebody.
“Why don’t you just come with us?” asked Duke. “Leave this little field, it’s so hot and there’s no breeze. Come with me and I’ll show you the world. You’ll get to know the city. There are streets and squares, walls and roofs, windows and doors and lots of people.
I love you.”
“I love you too,” I heard a quiet voice. “But I like the meadow, I belong here. It’s so nice and warm here, and it’s out of the wind. Leave your city. Over there are so many streets and squares, walls and roofs, windows and doors and so many people. Stay with me… I love you. Anyway, I can’t go. I haven’t any legs.”
“I could take you with me. I’d put you in a pretty vase at home,” said Duke softly.
“You don’t really belief that yourself. Let me live on here, and now leave. Don’t visit me either. Be gone! Go of your own accord, or I shall have to hurt you.”
I went back and packed our rucksacks back up.
Then came Duke, took his rucksack, and we entered the wood again. We didn’t arrive until early evening. While Duke took his usual evening stroll I found a sketch on his bedside table. I picked it up and saw a serene and tender flower – the flower of all flowers.

And that is how this picture came to be.

dwudziesty dzien

Mój bokser i ja szlismy waska gorska drózka. Bylo lato.W powietrzu wisial ciezki, sloncem spalony zapach wilgotnych kwiatów polnych. Drózka prowadzila do lasu. Bylo krótko po drugiej popoludniu, mielismy jeszcze duzy kawal drogi przed nami. Doszlismy do polanki i postanowilismy zrobic mala pause. Usiadlem w cieniu a Diuk gonil na lace motyle. Bylo bardzo spokojnie i bardzo cieplo. Po krótkiej drzemce wstalem i poszedlem w kierunku Diuka, ktory juz pewien czas siedzial posrodku laki. Gdy podszedlem blizej, uslyszalem ze on z kims rozmawia.

„Czemu nie pójdziesz po prostu ze mna?“ – pytal sie kogos Diuk – „Zostaw te mala laczke, tu jest taki upal i nie ma zadnego wiatru. Chodz ze mna i ja ci pokaze swiat. Poznasz miasto. Tam sa ulice, place, sciany i dachy, okna i drzwi i bardzo duzo ludzi. Ja ciebie przeciez kocham.“

„Ja kocham ciebie tez“ – uslyszalem cichy glosik – „Ale ja lubie te laczke, tu jest moje miejsce, tu jest taki piekny upal i nie ma wiatru. Zostaw twoje miasto. Tam jest tyle ulic, placow, scian i dachow, okien i drzwi i tak duzo ludzi. Zostan ze mna tutaj… Ja ciebie przeciez kocham. Poza tym ja nie umiem chodzic, ja nie mam przeciez nóg.“

„Ja bym cie mógl ze soba wziasc. U mnie w domu wsadzilbym ciebie do pieknego wazonika“ – odpowiedzial Diuk cichym glosem.

„Ty nie wierzysz sam w to co mówisz. Daj mi tu dalej zyc i idz sobie teraz. Nie odwiedzaj mnie wiecej. Idz juz! Idz sam, bo bede misiala ciebie zranic.“

Poszedlem z pworotem i zaczalem pakowac nasze plecaki. Wkrótce przyszedl tez Diuk, wzial swój plecak i poszlismy dalej w glab lasu. Dopiero póznym wieczorem doszlismy.

Gdy Diuk jak zwykle poszedl na swój wieczorny spacer, znalazlem na jego nocnym stoliczku skic.

Wzialem ten skic do reki i zobaczylem delikatny, spokojny kwiatek – Kwiatek Kwatków.

Tak powstal ten obrazek.


Dreißigster Tag
Wieder Zuhause.
Hat sich etwas verändert?
Die Post. Rechnungen. Angebote. Briefe.
Im Garten ist alles verwachsen. Begrüßung des Gasofens. Sein Husten ist
schlimmer geworden.
Einer der Stühle hat sich den Fuß verstaucht, es ist jedoch wieder besser,
sagt er.
Draußen ist schon Herbst.
Und Duke?
Wo bist Du?
Komm zurück! Komm zurück!
Auch er ist während der Reise älter geworden. Eine lange Reise war es.

So entstand dieses Bild.

Day 30

At home again.
Has anything changed?
Post. Bills. Advertisements. Letters.
In the garden everything is overgrown. The gas oven greets us. Its cough has worsened.
One of the chairs sprained its leg, but it says it’s better.
Outside it’s already autumn.
And Duke?
Where are you?
Come back! Come back!
He has also become older along the journey. It was a long journey.

And that is how this picture came to be.


Trzydziesty dzien

Znowu w domu. Czy cos sie zmienilo? Poczta, rachunki, oferty, listy.

Ogród zarósl. Powitanie piecyka gazowego. Jego kaszel sie pogorszyl.

Jedno krzeslo zwichnelo sobie noge, ale mówi, ze juz jest o wiele lepiej.

Na zewnatrz jesien.

A Diuk?

Gdzie jestes?

Wróc, Diuk wróc!

On tez sie w czasie tej podrózy postarzal. To byla bardzo dluga podróz.

Tak powstal ten obrazek.


2014 © Julian S. Bielicki
DJ Psycho Diver Sant – too small to fail
Tonttu Korvatunturilta Kuunsilta JSB
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