Category Archives: LCJ Author Corner

Night, A Streetlight, A Street, A Chemist’s (Alexander Blok)

This poem by Alexander Blok, one of the seminal poets of the Russian fin-de-siecle, is greatly loved all over the world: so much so that in 1990s it was chosen, along with the poems by Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, Mandelshtam, and Khlebnikov, to represent Russian poetry in the Leiden-centred project, Poems and Walls (1992-2005). I decided to translate it, as well.

Night, a streetlight, a street, a chemist’s,
All in a dim and useless light.
In the next twenty-five years
They’ll still prevail, against one’s plight.

And you may die but then, returning,
You’ll see again the same old night,
The icy canal waters running,
The street, the chemist’s, the streetlight.

Original Russian text

Ночь, улица, фонарь, аптека,
Бессмысленный и тусклый свет.
Живи еще хоть четверть века –
Все будет так. Исхода нет.

Умрешь – начнешь опять сначала,
И повторится все, как встарь:
Ночь, ледяная рябь канала,
Аптека, улица, фонарь.


Michel Polnareff – L’Amour Avec Toi

I have translated this song previously into Russian, now it’s the turn for English rendition. I like this particular, romantic and tender, version. Once again, Polnareff gently attacks the society’s frowning upon “love talking”.

There are words that can be thought
But not said in public.
I’m sick and tired of the public
And its fake morality.

Chorus: I would simply want to make love to you,
I would simply want to make love to you.

Of course, I could tell you
That I live only for your smile,
That your eyes are the bluest in the world,


Then some will say one cannot
Speak to a girl like that.
This should be done, not talked about,
It is my dream, and tonight is made for it.


Эти слова могут быть на уме,
Но их нельзя произносить в обществе.
А я устал от общества
И от его выдуманной морали.

Я просто хотел бы заняться с тобой любовью х 2

Конечно же, я мог бы тебе сказать,

Что живу лишь твоей улыбкой,
Что у тебя – самые голубые в мире глаза…….

А я просто хочу заняться с тобой любовью х 2

Кто-то скажет: нельзя
Так говорить с молодой девушкой!

Но ведь это делают, а не говорят об этом.
Это мечта, и этот вечер – для нее,

Потому что я хочу заняться с тобой любовью х 2

Money Costs a Fortune, People Cost Nothing

It’s been a couple of years already that Mr Freeman has been the mystery no. 1 on the Russian Internet. Although there have been many a guess who may be hiding behind this matchstick man, the real person is yet to be pinned down. If you ask me, I’d rather have him remain mysterious like one of those famous literary memes, say, Kozma Prutkov (a brainchild of Alexey Tolstoy and the Zhemchuzhnikov brothers) or Emile Ajar (another pseudonym of Romain Gary, writing under which Gary had received his second Prix Goncour). One day, perhaps, we’ll find out whose genius produced Mr Freeman, but for now it is more important what the character is saying.

Until recently, the character was mostly speaking Russian, although one of his recent uploads was in English. What you are about to read, however, is a biting satire of our fear of, and love for, money. Now, where money is concerned, it is evident that people fall into one of the two extremities: they either don’t care for it, or they care for nothing but money. Whether or not they actually have money doesn’t matter. As we would agree, neither extremity is good, but if the inability to attract and preserve money is pathetic, the blinding desire for money is ugly. And this is what Mr Freeman has contemplated in his video, What Is You God?

And at the very bottom of the post you’ll find a brilliant number from Cabaret the film.

Not bad. I never said that money was bad. I respect every religion however servile it is. Ah, well, you don’t know. Just relax, don’t spew your spinal marrow around…. Money is God. You have always thought that religion was Christianity, the Buddha, the shaman. No, of course not. You cannot be that thick. The single modern global religion is money. And different currencies are like Catholic religion, Orthodox, Protestant, Buddhism, Judaism… Generally, money is your God. It is the thing in itself, it is the beginning of everything, and it can, from time to time, make wonders. Wow… This God has got the millionaire apostles, whose sacred lives you study so jealously. Each of you regularly takes part in the Communion service when you receive a piece of divine flesh in the envelope. Yet how about asking anyone, how much he earns? He’ll shit himself as if you asked him to confess to his sins… And what about those bank notes? They are the icons, you look at those notes, and for you they are not merely paper and paint, no! For you it is your God’s flesh. It is born in the sacred place where the entrance is forbidden for ordinary mortals. Then those divine notes get into the hands of people, and then, weary, creased and dirty, are burnt in the furnace, in order to be reborn, like a Phoenix, to once again follow their earthly path. Everyone touches money. Now, take out your wallet: can you imagine what ways has every single note moved in order to get to you? Who crackled it before anybody else? Where will it go next? A tramp, a syphilitic, a prostitute, a president, and you, all of you receive Communion with the same piece of paper. People! Wake up! The circulation of money is necessary so that you give away your power. You see, the value of money is maintained by labour, and without you money means nothing. In fact, it is merely a result of the printing press at work. Everyone can print his own money. Except that instead of collective unconscious there will be a person behind the money. You were divided so that you can be ruled. Of course, money is common… but everyone has his own money. Money costs a fortune, people cost nothing, for you are worthless because you have proved that you can turn any myth into a God. And you are ready…

The Phantom in Love – The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto

Some time ago I posted an audio file with my reading of Flying-Ears Love from The Notebooks of Don Rigoberto. Since then the site where the audio was originally hosted has shut down, and I decided to accompany the audio with the images of Egon Schiele‘s work. I have recorded all four letters that Dona Lucretia supposedly wrote to her husband. The Phantom in Love is the last letter, and perhaps, the most playful.


Listening to Kama Sutra (Michel Polnareff)

Back in 2006, on October 1 I was listening to Polnareff’s Kama Sutra. The final verse is poignant: when the dust covered the traces of people that once were, they no longer can answer questions about themselves, and thus anyone is capable of saying whatever they want because nobody knows how it had been.

The poem “Listening to Kama Sutra” that came as an impromptu response to Polnareff’s song preempts the song’s story. Before we can be found in Kama Sutra positions under the layers of dust, we need to find a partner, and many of us sometimes spend forever on this never-ending quest to find a familial soul.

Michel Polnareff – Kama Sutra

When the dust covers our footprints
So that the light no longer shines through
Those who will come to visit us
Will not understand what is happening there.

But so it goes. So it goes.

They will find us
In Kama Sutra positions
Asking themselves
What is happening there

They will ask us
Where they came from
And where they are headed
Et cetera
And they will try to understand, why

They will explain
Where they came from
And where they are headed
And they will try
To understand, why

They will ask us
One more time
The questions that
Nobody will answer

But so it goes. So it goes.

They will find us
In Kama Sutra positions
Asking themselves
What is happening there

They will ask us
Where they came from
And where they are headed
Et cetera
And they will try
To understand, why

When the dust covers our footprints
They will say about us whatever they want
And, speaking of what nobody knew anything,
They will tell us whatever that wasn’t

But so it goes. So it goes.

They will find us
In Kama Sutra positions
Asking themselves
What is happening there

They will ask us where they came from
And where they are headed
Et cetera
And they will try
To understand, why…

Julia Shuvalova – Listening to Kama Sutra

Like the rolling stones
We move in transparent orbs
In the expanse
Of the virtual space
Neither we understand
Nor know
Nor expect
Where we are to get
We merely move
Like molecules in the
Brownian movement
Along the arteries
Of boundless world
And this is beautiful
But how terrifying
To fall into a clot
And never to find an orb
To dissolve in with
And time flies past
Like a monsoon
That buries in dust
The oases that
One wanted to reach
O tear your orb
Stretch out your hand
Let me feel the warmth of its film
O let your lips touch
The sweating forehead
And lids of the eyes
Watering from dust
O while we are
O still here
O while the thunder
Only threatens
To separate us forever
Don’t leave me
Don’t leave…
… me

October 2006

Love Me (Michel Polnareff) – With Mina Mazzini Cover

I don’t always go back and republish the posts but now and again I simply have to draw the reader’s attention. I have just discovered Mina’s cover of Love Me Please Love Me that we must share with the world. It was made in the 1990s, and in the video the imagery kindly mocks Mina’s burgeoning figure.

Original post – 20 March, 2007

As you undoubtedly know, Michel Polnareff performed at Bercy in Paris earlier this month, and on his official website,, you can find dates for future concerts. (I wish I lived in France!) The performance was broadcast across the media, including mobile phones, hence it is no wonder YouTube and Google are already full of recorded extracts from the concert.

I highly recommend to visit this website,, where you will find several radio interviews with l’Amiral, as well as short reports from the concerts. The link to follow is Michel Polnareff en concert.

And below there is a video of Polnareff performing live one of his very famous songs, Love Me. I’m totally in love with the opening of the song, but even more so with the lyrics – which you can find below in French and in my English translation (not adapted to the music).

Love me, please love me
Je suis fou de vous
Pourquoi vous moquez-vous chaque jour
De mon pauvre amour?
Love me, please love me
Je suis fou de vous
Vraiment prenez-vous tant de plaisir
A me voir souffrir.

Si j’en crois votre silence
Vos yeux pleins d’ennui
Nul espoir n’est permis.
Pourtant je veux jouer ma chance
Même si, même si
Je devais y brûler ma vie.

Love me, please love me
Je suis fou de vous
Mais vous moquerez-vous toujours
De mon pauvre amour?

Devant tant d’indifférence
Parfois j’ai envie
De me fondre dans la nuit.
Au matin je reprends confiance
Je me dis, je me dis
Tout pourrait changer aujourd’hui.

Love me, please love me
Je suis fou de vous
Pourtant votre lointaine froideur
Déchire mon cœur.
Love me, please love me
Je suis fou de vous
Mais vous moquerez-vous toujours
De mes larmes d’amour?

Love me, please love me
I am mad about you
Why do you laugh every day
At my unfortunate love?
Love me, please love me
I am mad about you
Indeed, you take so much pleasure
In seeing me suffer
If I believe your silence
Your eyes full of boredom
There is no hope for me
And yet I want to take a chance
Even if, even if
It is to ruin my life
Because of such indifference
I sometimes wish
To disappear in the night
In the morning my confidence returns
I tell myself, I tell myself:
Today everything could change
Love me, please love me
I am mad about you
However your aloof coldness
Tears me apart
Love me, please love me
I am mad about you
But will you forever be laughing
At my tears of love?

An Orgasm Is Served in a Moscow Cafe

My native city is finally and gradually beginning to inspire me in a positive way. Or at least I’m discovering things that make ideas and smiles float into my mind.
Now, the title is by far the most daring on this blog, but brace yourself and shrug off any thoughts of indecency. An “Orgasm” is actually a name for a cocktail made of Cuantro, Baileys, cream, banana, ice, decorated with a cocktail cherry. I didn’t try it because I chose a cup of Americano. Served in Coffee-House, one of the cafes in the chain that has been running since 1999, the coffee is delicious, as are diverse and sundry cheese cakes, sandwiches, and salads.

Alcoholic cocktails and beverages (e.g. Irish coffee) are listed at the back of the menu. Although I loved going to Coffee House at the time when their main cafe was in Tverskaya St, I never tried to order any alcohol. As we know, in the UK it was only recently that beer and spirits began to be served during the day. I asked the barista if cocktails and wines have always been served at Coffee House in daytimes; she replied positively.



So, speaking of Orgasms – what a great name to give to a cocktail! You might be able to tell that I’m not a huge cocktail drinker if this cocktail is actually quite well-known and popular. Since I had no idea of it, though, and thus am completely void of any bias, here’s a list of “variations sur la theme” that I came up with in a matter of 5 minutes. I didn’t try too hard and generally opted for the most naturally possible versions. Obviously, this was a rather easy copywriting task, although no less enjoyable…
1. Man: One Orgasm for me, and one capuccino for the lady…

2. I’d like an Orgasm, please.

3. Have you got any Orgasms today, please?

4. (In a dialogue) I think I’ll have an orgasm, what do you want?
5. (In a dialogue) What do you want? An Orgasm or something else?
6. – What would you recommend?

– Perhaps, you can try an Orgasm.
– Is it any good?

7. (In a dialogue) Is it just an Orgasm you want or something else?

8. (In a dialogue) Do you want an Orgasm on its own or with a cake?

9. Waiter: I’m sorry we don’t do Orgasms before 5 pm (that was before I knew that cocktails are served throughout the day).

10. Waiter: I’m sorry I can’t give you an Orgasm if you’re under 18 (this one is quite plausible because alcohol is not served to the under-18s).

11. Waiter: No, we don’t do any Orgasms today.

12. Waiter: Yes, Orgasm is very popular.

13. (In a dialogue) I’m sorry, darling, but you’ve already had 5 Orgasms, I recommend you have a milky tea now.

14. How much is an Orgasm?

15. (In a dialogue) So, you want an Orgasm, yeah?

Illustrations are courtesy website.

London Walks – 1

Botolph Alley, London

Every time I come to London I find it mysterious. When I go by taxi from Euston to elsewhere in the early hours of the morning, the streets and people look so strange. It’s like they’ve just stopped being someone else, and are now becoming someone they are going to be until dusk. As I ride past, I see them gradually turning into clerks, executives, cleaners, and students, while at night they were all seducers and innocentis, pagans who dance and sing their sacred hymns in crowded neon temples and dedicate every act of copulation to the Almighty Deity that is thought to endow you with eternal youth and freedom.

Westminster, London

I have always used to stay in a different part of London. The first time there I lived in a student hostel in Fitzroy Street; the second – in a friend’s flat at Beckenham Junction; then in a hotel in Sussex Gardens, with the Hyde Park just down the road;then in South Kensington; then again in Sussex Gardens, again close to the Park. I don’t know where I stay next time, but my dream is to spend the entire night walking in the streets. I’ve walked in London until early hours of the night, but never in the early hours of the morning.

I love this London’s mystery because I am a dreamer. Where you normally find sleep-walkers, in me you find someone fascinated by illusions. They are not hallucinations; they are illusions of what is around me, and what I see happening. This is why I write, and this is also why I love cinema. I cherish the dream of immersing myself into the bowels of this monster, the city that many people fear so passionately, deny so resolutely, and admire so grudgingly.

© Julia Shuvalova 2006 (additions 2009)

Song (Love Is the Colour of You)

At the end of 2009 I had the chance to write the lyrics to the music. This basically meant that I had to “find” the melody and to adapt the lyrics to it. I loved the experience, all the more so because I had to sing it, as well. The composer is based in Russia, and alas, the fruits of this collaboration are yet to ripen. But the lyrics are already written, and I thought it would make no harm posting the text here.

Love Is the Colour of You

And so I fly away again.
I get up early and take the plane
And it will take me far away,
To the land of summer and no rain.

I love the colours of distant lands,
The purple mountains and yellow sands,
But there is just one precious colour
That I cannot find…

It is the colour of you
When I see you in my dreams.
Baby, I know it’s you
But I’m yet to find you here.

I catch your rare shades
In the glow of sunrise.
Baby, you must be there,
For I can see your eyes,

For I can feel your skin,
For you’re already in,
Deeper than anything.

And I have been drawing and drawing
You in my notebooks, forever drawing,
So that you get closer and closer,
So that I can hold you, and hold you.

Love is the colour of you
That nobody knows but me.
Everything that I do
Carries your shade in it.

I see it through the smoke,
I feel it in the rain,
But maybe with the snow
Here will you come and stay.

Baby, I know you will come true.
There’ll be a day when I wear the colour of you.

© Julia Shuvalova 2009

Image credit: MILAN