Chukovsky was a school student, teaching himself English from dictionaries, old newspapers, and whatever he could buy from sailors. Whitman needed not a mere celebrity endorsement, not just an appreciative aesthete, but a lover in Russia; a passionate, devoted reader who would accept him without judgment. That person was Konstantin Balmont, bohemia incarnate, Symbolist luminary, globetrotter, poet.
When in the early s Konstantin Balmont — set himself the task of bringing the work of Walt Whitman to a Russian audience, he did so with a very definite set of opinions of how and why this task ought to be pursued. They feel for many people, blend their souls with all creatures, make their minds present in the past, present and future.
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For Whitman to sound as a prophet, however, his had to be the language of revelation: biblically self-referential, intentionally vague yet containing enough clues to suggest a hidden grand scheme. Ilya Repin, a painter and a Christian philosopher, expressed this resonance well when he wrote:. Of course, I am unable to express the full importance of this raving apostle of the new democratic religion, but I believe this religion of fraternity, unity and equality is not as new as it appears to Mr.
This view of Whitman as the divinely inspired barefoot blabber sustained by charity, Christ-like in his innocence and indiscriminately kind, had to capture many an imagination brought up in the Russian Orthodox tradition. Balmont and N. In Russia at the time, Kiseliova writes, writers and philosophers. The concept of Word as Logos implied an intimate connection between man and the Divine truth through language. Anyone attempting to translate Whitman into Russian must be prepared to resolve a number of issues on a regular basis. On top of this, the Russian grammar requires that pronouns, nouns, adjectives, and some verbs be gendered.
Pulled into this undiscriminating orbit, all things become depersonalized; they are first and foremost the objects of longing or desire, and their gender identification is often secondary. Through the continuous symbolization of everything that appears in the flowing course of life even for an instant, through the confluence of all individual streams into one cosmic Ocean, Whitman approaches the triumphant assertion of the I over and over again.
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O bashful and feminine! In Russian, unfortunately, this phrase can hardly be rendered without a gendered verb, and Balmont chose the masculine ending. O to speed where there is space enough and air enough at last? To have the feeling to-day or any day I am sufficient as I am.
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The last two lines especially invite a homoerotic reading. O, to escape to where there is finally enough space, enough air! To be free of old chains and conventions, I of mine, and you of yours! To feel clearly that now, and whenever I am happy with myself, I am happy! Instead of someone who wonders, perhaps, whether an amorous liaison is exactly the complication he needs in his life, here is a speaker plagued by self-doubt and whose doubt can only be assuaged by an act of prohibited love.
O, to break free from the old chains and conventions — you from yours, and I of mine! To take off, finally, the padlock that was on my lips, To feel that finally, today I am completely content, and I do not want anything else…. Once translated, literary works enter a new life, enmeshed in the new culture, its rhizomatic reach of echoes and imitations. Both translators performed the work of iconization: Balmont was deeply devoted to the vision of Whitman as an exalted prophet, and Chukovsky promoted him in a familial, somewhat bemused manner, akin to the one usually reserved for a gifted but definitely weird brother.
What is important to remember is that the Russian reading public, through the efforts of both translators, saw Whitman as the prophet of a new order, in fact, of a phenomenologically different world in which emotions, identities, and the most basic desires are transformed by the power of a democratic egalitarian society. Young people in the s banded into Whitman fan clubs — groups dedicated to discussing Whitman and his ideas. Chukovsky visited one such gathering in and wrote in his diary:.
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Whitman appeals to them as a prophet and a teacher. They wish to kiss, and work, and die — all according to Whitman. No, Russia is intact yet! I thought to myself when I left. They sat there — ground down with lack of bread, health, money — those young girls and teenage students and they thirsted — not for money, or firewood, or aesthetic pleasure — but for faith.
http://demo-new.nplan.io/labor-dental-tcnica-n1-2020-n1.php Whitman gave faith. And once this quality of his words was revealed, Russian artists felt the poetry deserved a grander stage than pages of a book. This reception of Whitman found another dramatic and accessible expression at the intersection with another art — linoleum-cut printing.
In contrast to wood-cut printing, this technique is cheaper and less physically demanding: instead of carving a stamp of a page out of a block of wood, the artist works with pliable, easy-to-cut linoleum. In , one such artist was the year-old Vera Ermolaeva — The co-op in which Ermolaeva worked did not see its goal of taking literature to the masses as being at odds with the aesthetic pursuit of synergy between the word and the picture; rather, Ermolaeva and her colleagues saw in their process an opportunity to improvise.
They printed — copies at a time and often hand-colored illustrations after the pages were printed, so that the artist had the freedom to try out a number of color schemes and effects. On the cover, two men embrace. Inside, four pages are framed with narrow bands of illustration, which, like ancient Greek friezes, summon a vision of procession, and again, movement. In these bands of action, Ermolaeva masterfully uses blocks of black to suggest dusk, night, or dawn. Wynn Thomas, Joann P. Krieg, Betsy Erkkila, and Michael Robertson. Finally, this essay posits several reasons why, after initially endorsing Whitman in , Eliot appeared to withdraw her support in We see in her changing response to Whitman an example of how Eliot responded to the pressures of nineteenth-century sexual politics and her own celebrity status by self-censoring and coding sexuality, particularly same-sex desire, in her fiction, which extends scholarship by Nancy Henry, Kathleen McCormack, Laura Callanan, and Dennis S.
Gouws, among others.
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