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Les Feuilles de la Chanson

Some of you may instantly guess to which two French songs alludes the title of this post. These are Les Feuilles Mortes by Jacques Prevert and Joseph Kosma and La Chanson de Prevert by Serge Gainsbourg. The original song was performed by Yves Montand and became one of his finest songs. Gainsbourg’s song was written in 1961 as a response and an hommage to Prevert’s talent of a poet, by including many a reference to the original song, to tell his Gainsbourg’s own story of separated lovers. The reminiscences begin in the first line, which is the same in both songs.

So, in addition to the translations below you can check out this version Les Feuilles Mortes (full track!) on Last.fm, along with C’est Si Bon, La Vie en Rose, and Sous le Ciel de Paris. The video is Gainsbourg’s live performance of La Chanson de Prevert (Prevert’s Song) in April 1961 on Discorama, very dramatic and moving. I included the texts of both songs and my English translations; the full text of Les Feuilles Mortes is provided by Patrick Auzat-Magne.

Oh! je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis.
En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu’aujourd’hui.
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle.
Tu vois, je n’ai pas oublié…
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Et le vent du nord les emporte
Dans la nuit froide de l’oubli.
Tu vois, je n’ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais.

C’est une chanson qui nous ressemble.
Toi, tu m’aimais et je t’aimais
Et nous vivions tous deux ensemble,
Toi qui m’aimais, moi qui t’aimais.
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s’aiment,
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants désunis.

Oh ! So much would I like to you remember
The happy days when we were together.
At the time life was more beautiful,
And the sun was more dazzling than now.
The dead leaves are gathering at the shovel.
You see, I didn’t forget…
The dead leaves are gathering at the shovel,
And the souvenirs, and the regrets also.
And the northern wind takes them
Into the cold night of the oblivion.
You see, I didn’t forget
The song you sang to me.

This song is like us.
You loved me, and I loved you.
We lived together,
You love me, and I loved you.
But the night separates those who love each other
So softly, without making a noise.
And the sea washes off the sand
The steps of the disunited lovers.

Oh je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes
Cette chanson était la tienne
C’était ta préférée je crois
Qu’elle est de Prévert et Kosma

Et chaque fois “Les feuilles mortes”
Te rappellent à mon souvenir
Jour après jour les amours mortes
N’en finissent pas de mourir

Avec d’autres, bien sur, je m’abadonne
Mais leur chanson est monotone
Et peu à peu je m’indiffère
A cela il n’est rien à faire

Car chaque fois les feuilles mortes
Te rappellent à mon souvenir
Jour après jour les amours mortes
N’en finissent pas de mourir

Peut on jamais savoir par où commence
Et quand finit l’indifférence
Passe l’automne, vienne l’hiver
Et que la chanson de Prévert

Cette chanson “Les feuilles mortes”
S’efface de mon souvenir
Et ce jour là mes amours mortes
En auront fini de mourir

Oh how much would I love you to remember :
This was your song.
It was your favourite, I believe –
The one by Prevert and Kosma.

And every time “Les feuilles mortes”
Reminds me of you.
Day after day the autumn loves
Don’t stop withering.

With others, of course, I abandon myself,
But their song is monotonous.
And little by little I lose interest.
There’s nothing to do about it

For every time “Les feuilles mortes”
Reminds me of you.
Day after day the autumn loves
Don’t stop withering.

Is it ever possible to know where the indifference
Begins or when it ends?
The autumn passes, and the winter comes,
And if only the Prevert’s song would go.

This song, “Les feuilles mortes”,
Washes itself off my memory.
And on that day my autumn loves
Will have stopped withering.

Mistaken Identity

Twice this week I went past what could be called “the hairdressers’ mile”. One street entered my memory as having just as many hairdressing salons, as Indian take-aways: every third or fourth building on both sides of the street would be either one, or another.

This made me remember a true story that happened to me when I was a little girl, between 3 and 5 years old. And so to take your attention off my Carmarthen discoveries for a bit, I’ll tell you this story.

When I was little, I sometimes wished I were a boy. My parents looked well after me, which meant that I was never running on my own. I envied other children, mainly boys, who would climb the trees and played active games. I think my grandma was quite protective, but for a good reason: I was a somewhat clumsy child, which resulted in regular bruises on my knees, even though I didn’t run much.

Subconsciously (at that time), I also loved the male 1970s fashion, and especially the way male actors used to dress. Back then I wasn’t familiar with any big names, but think of Michael Caine in Get Carter, Yves Montand, or Marcello Mastroianni, to get an idea. Those men exuded the traits I found attractive, without yet realising it: intelligence, confidence, sense of humour, elegance, to name but a few. I must have seen a few political thrillers, as well, and I adored those male detectives who worked on the most challenging cases. Once, when I and my grandma with her sister went shopping, I decided to imitate a man’s walk. I was 4 or 5, and I was dressed in trousers, so I shoved my hands in my pockets, bent my shoulders slightly forward, and imagined myself being one of those shrewd detectives. Next I heard my grandma, who was behind me:

‘Yulia, straighten yourself, you’re walking like a bloke!’

Obviously, she couldn’t know that that was the idea…

Anyway, one day the unthinkable happened. My grandma took me to the hairdressers. I wore red tartan overalls and a red turtleneck, and my hair had grown well below my shoulders. Back then I used to wear a bob, although without a fringe.

So, we went to the local hairdressers, and my grandma entrusted me to this voluptuous blond lady in glasses, who put a small bench on the chair and sat me on it, because I was still too small. Then she started working on my hair. When she finished, she called for my gran.

I’ll never forget my grandma’s terrified ‘ah’, as she entered the room.

‘How could you lop the girl so short?!’

Indeed, instead of my usual bob, I had a typical Crew cut.

The voluptuous blond lady, undeterred, looked at my grandma, then at me, shrugged her shoulders, and replied:

‘A girl? I thought it was a boy’.

‘But you must’ve seen her hair!’

‘Yes, but she’s wearing trousers, isn’t she?’


So far I’ve mostly been an online recluse. There were a couple of photos that I posted to a couple of public online profiles, but there it ended. However, as I was writing this post I felt so tempted to show you a few of my favourite childhood photos that I asked my mother to see, if she could scan them, as obviously the family album is in Moscow. My mother wouldn’t be herself if she didn’t manage to scan the pictures, for which I am immensely thankful to her. My thanks also go to her colleague Viktor, who did the scanning.

As I said, these three photos are my favourite childhood pictures. They were taken by my father and date back to 1982; on them I’m less than 2 years old. In 1982, my dad would be my age, between 25 and 30, and he loved photography. Together with passion for Beatles, the interest in photography is one of the things I inherited from him. As you can see, he wasn’t content with just one camera, so he had two. The pictures were taken separately, but they do make a nice triptych. :-))

1982 would be the last year when my parents were together, so although I don’t remember anything about when or how these pictures were taken, pictures are special for personal reasons. My father and I have always known each other, and these days we keep in touch by email. From what I gather he doesn’t use his camera as often. So I guess, by the quantity of pictures I take, I do it for the two of us.

Sur Jacques Prévert

Alors, here are several sites on one of my favourite poets (or my favourite, par excellence), Jacques Prévert. Hommage a Jacques Prévert is predominantly in French and may provide a good start for those who are just discovering the pearls of his genuine talent. The site has also got a section called ‘Prévert en musique’ (Prévert in music), which contains the recordings of several songs. Helas, it doesn’t have the recording of ‘Les feuilles mortes’ (The autumn leaves/Осенние листья), sung by the adorable Yves Montand. As a matter of fact, almost five years ago I was searching all over Moscow for a CD or an audio cassette with Yves Montand’s songs, and only managed to find one (it did have ‘Les feuilles mortes’, though). This very song inspired Serge Gainsbourg to write his ‘La Chanson de Prévert’, which I really love for its melancholy. Back to the Hommage a Jacques Prévert, I quite like Charmes de Londres. The site has also got a forum, which is regularly visited, and which you may wish to join.

Another site, in French, is called La Poesie Que J’Aime (The Poetry That I Love), and is in fact a marvellous resource. It’s got author’s profiles, an impressive links list, a forum, but – most importantly, for us – it has got a lot of poems by Jacques Prévert, one of which I’ll post below.

Finally, this website, called Jacques Prévert: Oeuvre Complete (Jacques Prévert: The Collected Work), doesn’t actually have his poems, but is otherwise impressive, containing the bibliography of his works and his bio-bibliography. It has also got this lovely photo, which I had to post here.

Pablo Picasso and Jacques Prévert (courtesy of http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/5520/)

Finally, a poem, called Cortège (Procession/Шествие), which, I’m sure, you’ll like just as much as I do. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find its English translation, so I’ll follow this post up in the near future with my own rendering of this poetic phantasmagory. At the moment, you can enjoy it in either French or/and Russian.

Un vieillard en or avec une montre en deuil
Une reine de peine avec un homme d’Angleterre
Et des travailleurs de la paix avec des gardiens de la mer
Un hussard de la farce avec un dindon de la mort
Un serpent à café avec un moulin à lunettes
Un chasseur de corde avec un danseur de têtes
Un maréchal d’écume avec une pipe en retraite
Un chiard en habit noir avec un gentleman au maillot
Un compositeur de potence avec un gibier de musique
Un ramasseur de conscience avec un directeur de mégots
Un repasseur de Coligny avec un amiral de ciseaux
Une petite sœur du Bengale avec un tigre de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul
Un professeur de porcelaine avec un raccommodeur de philosophie
Un contrôleur de la Table Ronde avec des chevaliers de la Compagnie du Gaz de Paris
Un canard à Sainte-Hélène avec un Napoléon à l’orange
Un conservateur de Samothrace avec une Victoire de cimetière
Un remorqueur de famille nombreuse avec un père de haute mer
Un membre de la prostate avec une hypertrophie de l’Académie française
Un gros cheval in partibus avec un grand évêque de cirque
Un contrôleur à la croix de bois avec un petit chanteur d’autobus
Un chirurgien terrible avec un enfant dentiste
Et le général des huîtres avec un ouvreur de Jésuites.

(Courtesy of http://perso.wanadoo.es/joan-navarro/tigre/tigre5/prevert.htm).

Скорбящие часы с золотым стариком
Потная королева с английским ломовиком
И труженики мира со стражами моря
Надутый эскадрон с индюком смерти
Очковая мельница с ветряной змеей
Канатный охотник с плясуном за черепами
Пенковый маршал с трубкой в отставке
Дитя во фраке с джентльменом в пеленках
Сочинитель сволочи с последней музыкой
Собиратель лиц с духовными окурками
Уличный адмирал с точильщиком флота
Бенгальская монашка с католическим тигром
Профессор по фарфору с художником по философии
Инспектор Круглого Стола с рыцарями Газовой Компании
Утка под Ватерлоо с Наполеоном под соусом
Самофракийская крыса с церковной Никой
Крестный буксир с морским отцом
Член простаты с гипертрофией Французской академии
Приходская лошадка с цирковым священником
Контролер на похоронах с плакальщиком в автобусе
Вопящий хирург с ребенком-дантистом
И магистр улиток с поедателем Ордена кармелиток.

(Courtesy of http://anch.info/reader/french_poetry/prevert/)

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