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Poems for Pussy Riot: Marta Kubisova’s ‘Ne’ in Russian…

29 Sep

A slightly unusual text features here, a version of Marta Kubisova’s 1969 Czech protest song ‘Ne’, translated into Russian («Нет») by way of my own English approximation (‘No’). The reason for this slightly convoluted process is simple: a couple of weeks ago writer, editor and all-round whirlwind Sophie Mayer emailed asking if I wanted to contribute a poem to a project designed to raise awareness and support for Pussy Riot as their appeal hearing – against penal sentences of two years each for the performance of a song – is scheduled for Monday October 1st. (A version of this song, A Punk Prayer, appeared here on August 15th, during the original trial, in both English and Russian, with some discussion of the context of the performance and the exact nature of the allegations against the women). The Russian versions of the many resulting texts were made with the intention of placing the poems in support of the women into their hands, via the band’s legal representatives, who have worked closely with English PEN and the Poems for Pussy Riot team (as well as Mayer, Cat Lucas, Sarah Crewe, Mark Burnhope and many others have been involved) and the English versions of the texts will be released as an e-book called Catechism on Monday, to coincide with the appeal hearing and an international day of action. As well as the English version of Kubisova’s ‘Ne’ (a song chosen for its historical parallels with this case) the book contains new work by 110 writers, ranging from Ali Smith, Deborah Levy and Sandra Alland to Sasha Akhtar, Jack Underwood and Amy Key. In the meantime, many of the contributions can be read on the English PEN website and anyone interested is encouraged to get down to the Russian consulate on Monday, where a protest will be staged (details are on the Poems for Pussy Riot Facebook page). As Mayer has put it, the hope is that the e-book and the band themselves will be released simultaneously. Let’s hope so. Until then, here’s Marta’s beautifully celebratory 1969 song of refusal, in Russian, as translated from my English version of the original Czech lyric by Zdenek Rytir by Dasha McLeish. Convoluted? Perhaps. Worthwhile? Absolutely.

Уэйн Бэрроуз

Песня «Нет» была записана в исполнении чехословацкой певицы Марты Кубишовой в 1969 г., но оставалась под запретом цензуры вплоть до 1990 г. Кубишова не скрывала своего враждебного отношения к процессу «нормализации», последовавшему за вторжением советских танков в 1968 г., и поплатилась за это возможностью выступать, записывать песни и ездить на гастроли – запрет, наложенный в 1970 г., оставался в силе вплоть до 1990 г. За время действия запрета она оставалась одной из главных фигур в диссидентской среде и одной из первых поставила свою подпись под «Хартией 77».

Нет

(по мотивам песни Отакара Петрины и Зденека Рытира, 1969 г.)

Я б купила все моря вместе с океанами,
Я б купила все шторма вместе с ураганами.
Я построила бы дом в глубине морской,
Чтоб навеки распрощаться со своей страной.
Той, где правит страх, а правды нет.
Кто-то хочет жить в такой стране?

Нет.

Я б купила небосвод, звездами расшитый,
Вместе с ветром, что под вечер на покой спешит.
Я бы крепость возвела там, на облаках,
И молилась, чтоб она не обратилась в прах.
Там, где правит страх, невинных нет.
Кто-то хочет жить в такой стране?

Нет.

Но в морях полным-полно боевых судов,
Бомбами и пулями набитых до краев.
Нет убежища, увы, и на дне морском –
Хищные подлодки вмиг найдут мой дом.
Самолеты рыщут в вышине…
Если ли край, где можно скрыться мне?

Нет.

Все мы в клетке здесь сидим, в мертвой тишине
Но под маской, иногда, бросаем взгляд вовне.
Мы должны благодарить за дозволенье жить?
За то, что если мы смолчим, нас могут пощадить?
Страх тут правит бал, а правды нет.
Кто-то хочет жить в такой стране?

Нет.

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Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer – Drive Putin Away! (2011)

15 Aug

While the main focus of this site is material issued in the past, primarily during the 1960s and 1970s, it seems important to include some version of this song here. Its performance inside the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ The Saviour in Moscow in 2011 has resulted in an ongoing show trial in which three members of the Moscow feminist collective – Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samoutsevitch and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – face up to seven years imprisonment for the stated crime of ‘hooliganism’, with the location of the protest seen as key to formenting the required outrage at their ‘desecration’ of its sacred space. In fact, it appears – from both the song’s deliberately provocative lyric and statements by the defendants themselves – that the target was not the church, or the Theotokos (Mother of God) who is addressed in the song, but the very particular financial corruption and politicisation of the Orthodox church in support of Putin by Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev, Patriarch of Moscow, who is named in the song. The Lord of Gundyayev’s church, the song alleges, is no longer God, but Putin himself. Gundyayev has undoubtedly put the weight of his position behind Putin, describing his rule as “a miracle of God” and his opponents (including Pussy Riot) as “doing the work of Satan” and deserving of punishment. The song, then, does not attack religion, per se, nor desecrate the Cathedral, but rather attempts to issue a plea to the Virgin that the desecration already visited upon the Orthodox faith be stopped, and the false God of Putin be driven away. Despite this, it’s widely assumed that the state prosecutors are out to make an example of the defendants in a context of escalating opposition within Russia to Putin’s regime, points explicitly raised in the eloquent closing statement to the trial of Yekaterina Samutsevich.

Finally, a few points regarding this English presentation of the lyric. The version below is collated from several online translations, including one set alongside footage of the Cathedral protest, which show only fairly minor variations and so seem likely to be reasonably accurate English renditions: it is not made directly from the Russian, which I’m not qualified to do anyway. The Russian lyric runs as follows (text is taken from the version posted on the group’s own livejournal blog). There are many active petitions and planned actions for those who wish to register opposition to the Moscow prosecutors, details of which can be found on the links here [Russian language] and here [English language]. [Footnote: shortly after I posted this, Modern Poetry in Translation posted its own version, by the poet Sasha Dugdale, and further information about the trial and events in support of the women].

Богородица, Дево, Путина прогони
Путина прогони, Путина прогони

Черная ряса, золотые погоны
Все прихожане ползут на поклоны
Призрак свободы на небесах
Гей-прайд отправлен в Сибирь в кандалах

Глава КГБ, их главный святой
Ведет протестующих в СИЗО под конвой
Чтобы Святейшего не оскорбить
Женщинам нужно рожать и любить

Срань, срань, срань Господня
Срань, срань, срань Господня

Богородица, Дево, стань феминисткой
Стань феминисткой, феминисткой стань

Церковная хвала прогнивших воджей
Крестный ход из черных лимузинов
В школу к тебе собирается проповедник
Иди на урок – принеси ему денег!

Патриарх Гундяй верит в Путина
Лучше бы в Бога, сука, верил
Пояс девы не заменит митингов –
На протестах с нами Приснодева Мария!

Богородица, Дево, Путина прогони
Путина прогони, Путина прогони

A Punk Prayer: Drive Putin Away!

(after Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samoutsevitch and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 2011)

Maria, Mother, Virgin,
drive Putin away, drive Putin away!

Black robes and epaulettes of gold,
parishioners are crawling and bowing.
The spirit of liberty is up in Heaven,
Gay Pride’s been sent to Siberia, chained.

Their chief saint is the head of the KGB
who sends protesters under escort to prison.
In order not to offend the holy
women have only to give birth and love.

Holy shit, this lord is shit!
Maria, Mother, Virgin,
become a feminist, become a feminist now!

This church praises rotten dictators;
black limousines in procession carry its cross.
In school you’re thrown to a preacher –
get into class, bring him hard cash!

Patriarch Gundyayev believes in Putin.
Putin’s bitch should believe in God.
No belt of the Virgin can replace meetings
to protest what’s done in a Virgin’s name.

Maria, Mother, Virgin,
drive Putin away, drive Putin away!