Category Archives: Marc Chagall

A Bout du Souffle (Longing for a Vacation)

Last night in a company of several translators we discussed the fact that Jean-Luc Godard’s title, A Bout du Souffle, is not correctly translated in either Russian, or English. The original title indicates that the protagonist is about to have the last breath; the translation suggests that he is doing something, barely breathing. It may be hard to grasp the difference, but it does exist.

The mis-translation is quite applicable in my case because I have been working on a project for over a year now, and I feel veeery tired. I hope I can get a vacation soon, for I am very glad to be engaged in this project, so I need to recharge the batteries.

In the meantime, just to give you a heads-up about what I’ve written/done and may be of use to you here are some links to Qype reviews (which are not getting posted directly to the blog for some reason):

Cathedral on the Blood (Yekaterinburg)

Heaton Park (Prestwich)

Manchester Craft and Design Centre (Manchester)

Central Library (Manchester)

Olivier Morosini Hairdressing (Manchester)

Lomonosov Moscow State University (Moscow)

The Albert Memorial (London)

I’m also in the process of compiling a couple of Russian guides for Qype; in the meantime, here are some I did in the past:

Best places to write in Manchester

Manchester Public Transport

Manchester Streets

Monuments in Manchester

Moscow Museums

Northern Quarter

Parks and Squares in Manchester

Marc Chagall, Window to the Garden

Last but not least, an exhibition of little-known works by Marc Chagall is open at the Tretyakov Gallery until 30 September. It features his illustrations to My Life autobiography, etchings to the Bible, The Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, and Lafontin’s Fables, the ceramic 6-piece table set for his daughter’s marriage, as well as many little-known paintings and collages. The exhibition is generously augmented by the artefacts of Jewish everyday life between the second half of 19th and early 20th cc.: menoras, cups, hanukkiahs, painted wall rugs, sketches of decorated tomb stones, and even a marriage contract. The exhibition is accompanied with a catalogue. If you wonder, I’ve been there this week and was very pleased. The display celebrates Chagall’s 125th birthday anniversary and comes as a part of the Literature and Language Year between Russia and France.

Russian Winter in Arts: Boris Pasternak – Winter Night

Egon Schiele, Embrace (Lovers)
Marc Chagall, Green Lovers

Boris Pasternak – Winter Night

Sweeping, sweeping all earth’s corners
Came the snowstorm turning;
On the table burned a candle,
Stood a candle burning.

As in summer swarms of midges
Draw towards the flame,
From outside there flocked the snowflakes
To the window pane.

On the window circles, arrows,
Marked the snowstorm’s churning;
On the table burned a candle,
Stood a candle burning.

And across the brightened ceiling
Fell the shadows’ spate:
Arms cross-wise and legs cross-wise
In a cross-wise fate.

With a thud upon the floor
A pair of shoes fell down;
Waxen teardrops from the night-light
Dripped upon a gown.

All was lost in snowy darkness,
In the white hoar whirling.
On the table burned a candle,
Stood a candle burning.

Corner-draughts caught at the flame
As temptation’s fire
Raised a pair of angels’ wings
Like a cross afire.

All through February the snow swept:
Sometimes in its turning
On the table burned a candle,
Stood a candle burning.

Translated by Henry Kamen, 1962.

Original Russian text.

Мело, мело по всей земле 
Во все пределы. 
Свеча горела на столе, 
Свеча горела. 
Как летом роем мошкора 
Летит на пламя, 
Слетались хлопья со двора 
К оконной раме. 

Simone Lipschitz, Lovers

Метель лепила на столе 
Кружки и стрелы. 
Свеча горела на столе, 
Свеча горела. 
На озаренный потолок 
Ложились тени, 
Скрещенья рук, скркщенья ног, 
Судьбы скрещенья. 
И падали два башмачка 
Со стуком на пол, 
И воск слезами с ночника 
На платье капал. 
И все терялось в снежной мгле 
Седой и белой. 
Свеча горела на столе, 
Свеча горела. 
На свечку дуло из угла, 
И жар соблазна 
Вздымал, как ангел, два крыла 
Крестообразно. 
Мело весь месяц в феврале, 
И то и дело 
Свеча горела на столе, 
Свеча горела.

Борис Пастернак, 1946. 

Marc Chagall on Russian Art (from “My Life”)

Marc Chagall, At the Easel (My LiFe, Orion Press, 1960)

I’m currently reading “My Life” by Marc Chagall. It is in Russian, and I haven’t read it before. I love his paintings, but his “portrait of a young man” is as valuable as Joyce’s own story. Born into a Jewish family in Vitebsk (now Belarus) in 1887, Chagall had to overcome many an obstacle. He was poor; he wanted to be a painter; as if this was not enough, he was a Jew and thus had to receive a special citizenship card from the Tsarist government. Yet he relentlessly pursued his Path, and eventually it brought him recognition and worldwide fame.

The passage I’m quoting rings true to this day, in my opinion, although it refers to Russian art at the turn of 19-20th c. And even though there are nowadays Russian artists (in the broad sense of the word) who successfully cross the line and join the European, if not global, movement, they are still – largely – a minority. From my own publications of prose and poetry and reactions to these, I can see that people rarely engage their imagination, vision – which are the key factors in everything I write. I firmly believe that the best work unites logic and emotion, reason and feeling, while, if speaking of method, I agree with Picasso who said that it was easy to paint like a classic painter but he was trying to learn to paint like a child. Your work has to be spontaneous, the reader isn’t interested in the hard graft you put into it anyway. But one has to work very hard to reach this level.

 

Only the great distance that separates Paris from my native town prevented me from returning to it immediately or at least after a week, or a month.
I even wanted to invent some sort of holiday as an excuse to go home.
The Louvre put an end to all those hesitations. When I made the tour of the Veronese room and the rooms in which Manet, Delacroix, Courbet are hung, I wanted nothing more.
In my imagination Russia appeared like a paper balloon suspended from a parachute. The flattened pear of the balloon hung, cooled off, and slowly collapsed in the course of the years.
That’s how Russian art appeared to me, or something like it.
Indeed, every time I happened to think of Russian art or to speak of it, I experienced the same troubled and confused emotions, full of bitterness and resentment.
It was as though Russian art had been inevitably doomed to follow along in the wake of the West.
If Russian painters were doomed to be pupils of the West, they were, I thought, rather faithless pupils, and by their very nature. The best Russian realist shocks the realism of Courbet.
The most genuine Russian impressionism leaves one perplexed when you compare it with Monet and Pissarro.
Here, in the Louvre, before the canvases of Manet, Millet and others, I understood why I could not ally myself with Russia and Russian art. Why my very speech is foreign to them.
Why they do not trust me. Why artists’ circles ignored me.
Why, in Russia, I am only the fifth wheel.
And why everything I do seems eccentric to them and everything they do seems superfluous to me. But why?
I cannot talk about it any more.
I love Russia.
Marc Chagall, My Life (translated by Elisabeth Abbott, 1960).