web analytics

Neighbourhood Cam: Hues and Reflections

Autumn is hesitantly descending onto Moscow. Some trees have lost all their leaves, while others – of the same kind – are only just beginning to yellow. The fall beautifully covers the streets and park lanes. It is still quite warm in the day and at night, and the sky’s blue is as clean as in early March.

It’s been a few years now that I’ve noticed how seasons miraculously blend into one another. Winter sends its reminiscences in summer when poplar covers the town with its white foam. And now, above the greens and still rare yellows and reds, the blue unashamedly spills across the sky.

A man cannot constantly focus on things at hand. If he persists, things gradually lose their significance and become mundane. So we have to look up to the sky now and again. The reflection is what we notice when we return “home”.

Neighbourhood Cam: The New World Awaits

Following the referenda in four parts of the now former Ukraine, we are waiting for the ratification of historic documents tomorrow. The sunset tonight signifies the glimpse of hope that always shines amidst the most terrible circumstances. The war in Donbass isn’t over yet, but its end is imminent because the territory has rejoined Russia.

The war with the West is imminent, too, and no, “we didn’t start the fire” but we are going to end it.

Currently a couple of hundred thousands of Russian citizens are peacefully “invading” Georgia and Kazakhstan under the name of the “great escape”. This exodus marks the moment when Russia is only full of people who want it to exist and who want to exist with it – or not.

The readiness to die is what sets Russia apart from the rest of the world. And this is precisely what has allowed my country to survive the ordeals many other nations could not withstand. The more you are prepared to die, the more you fight for your life – metaphysically, first and foremost.

The single mistake of the Western world, Europe in particular, has been the desire to live in peace. And so it was eager to sustain any status quo that made it possible. Now it has all but lost its own status as a political subject. Britain has left the EU to remain the one.

On the contrary, by starting the special military operation, Russia has shown that the country will no longer tolerate the status quo that includes, among other unacceptable things, the resurrection of Fascism. And we are ready to undertake every measure that Europe ignored or was unable to undertake.

And it explains why Russia is taking time to “respond” to a teract on Nord Stream. There is no hurry, and Europe is now a continent in distress, it will need help, obviously, but it will have to cope by itself.

The only thing I would tell all Europeans is this: don’t go to the US. Why would you go to work and pay your taxes to the country that bombed Japan and Vietnam and is now pumping money and weapons into Ukraine? It’s OK if you plan to stay in your home country, but if you’re thinking of moving, then go to Russia. People here speak different European languages, women are beautiful, and you will always be able to return to your home country…

Federico García Lorca – Canción Novísima de los Gatos

To celebrate the unofficial World Cats’ Day here is Cancion Novisima de los Gatos by Federico Garcia Lorca, with a recital in Spanish.

The unofficial World Cats’ Day is celebrated on August 8th, so I’m sharing the original Spanish text of a poem by Federico García Lorca, Canción novísima de los gatos. I couldn’t find an English translation, so I’ll make a point of searching a library for it. The illustration is a portrait of Lorca’s friend of youth, Salvador Dali, with his pet ocelot. Read more about relationships between artists and their cats.

cancion novisima de los gatos
Salvador Dali and his pet ocelot

Canción novísima de los gatos

Mefistófeles casero
está tumbado al sol.
Es un gato elegante con gesto de león,
bien educado y bueno,
si bien algo burlón.
Es muy músico; entiende
a Debussy, más no
le gusta Beethoven.
Mi gato paseó
de noche en el teclado,
¡Oh, que satisfacción
de su alma! Debussy
fue un gato filarmónico en su vida anterior.
Este genial francés comprendió la belleza
del acorde gatuno sobre el teclado. Son
acordes modernos de agua turbia de sombra
(yo gato lo entiendo).
Irritan al burgués: ¡Admirable misión!
Francia admira a los gatos. Verlaine fue casi un gato
feo y semicatólico, huraño y juguetón,
que mayaba celeste a una luna invisible,
lamido (?) por las moscas y quemado de alcohol.
Francia quiere a los gatos como España al torero.
Como Rusia a la noche, como China al dragón.
El gato es inquietante, no es de este mundo. Tiene
el enorme prestigio de haber sido ya Dios.
¿Habéis notado cuando nos mira soñoliento?
Parece que nos dice: la vida es sucesión
de ritmos sexuales. Sexo tiene la luz,
sexo tiene la estrella, sexo tiene la flor.
Y mira derramando su alma verde en la sombra.
Nosotros vemos todos detrás al gran cabrón.
Su espíritu es andrógino de sexos ya marchitos,
languidez femenina y vibrar de varón,
un espíritu raro de inocencia y lujuria,
vejez y juventud casadas con amor.
Son Felipes segundos dogmáticos y altivos,
odian por fiel al perro, por servil al ratón,
admiten las caricias con gesto distinguido
y nos miran con aire sereno y superior.
Me parecen maestros de alta melancolía,
podrían curar tristezas de civilización.
La energía moderna, el tanque y el biplano
avivan en las almas el antiguo dolor.
La vida a cada paso refina las tristezas,
las almas cristalizan y la verdad voló,
un grano de amargura se entierra y da su espiga.
Saben esto los gatos mas bien que el sembrador.
Tienen algo de búhos y de toscas serpientes,
debieron tener alas cuando su creación.
Y hablaran de seguro con aquellos engendros
satánicos que Antonio desde su cueva vio.
Un gato enfurecido es casi Schopenhauer.
Cascarrabias horrible con cara de bribón,
pero siempre los gatos están bien educados
y se dedican graves a tumbarse en el sol.
El hombre es despreciable (dicen ellos), la muerte
llega tarde o temprano ¡Gocemos del calor!

Este gran gato mío arzobispal y bello
se duerme con la nana sepulcral del reloj.
¡Que le importan los senos (?) del negro Eclesiastés,
ni los sabios consejos del viejo Salomon?
Duerme tu, gato mío, como un dios perezoso,
mientras que yo suspiro por algo que voló.
El bello Pecopian (?) se sonríe en mi espejo,
de calavera tiene su sonrisa expresión.

Duerme tu santamente mientras toco el piano.
este monstruo con dientes de nieve y de carbón.

Y tú gato de rico, cumbre de la pereza,
entérate de que hay gatos vagabundos que son
mártires de los niños que a pedradas los matan
y mueren como Sócrates
dándoles su perdón.

¡Oh gatos estupendos, sed guasones y raros, y tumbaos panza arriba bañándoos en el sol!

Federico García Lorca (1898-1936)

More posts in Poetry.

Thoughts on Sts Peter and Paul’s Day

Today we celebrated the Day of two Christian saints, Peter and Paul. Peter was one of Jesus’s disciples who tried to emulate his master and follow him in his footsteps but couldn’t quite do so. He was afraid to walk on water, and, despite his own expectations, refuted Jesus three times. Following the Resurrection, he became the leader of disciples and an ardent professor of faith.

Saul, on the other hand, was a staunch persecutor of Christians until the angel knocked him down and revealed God’s will. And so Saul became Paul and wrote many epistles to pagans and Christians alike. Caravaggio’ The Conversion of Saul depicts the moment of epiphany.

Both eventually martyred: Peter was crucified head down (at his own request), and Paul was beheaded for he was a Ronan citizen. As a result, Paul is often depicted with a sword, as in this painting by El Greco.

Paul may also be depicted with a book which is a nod to his literary activity, and Peter is portrayed with the keys to Kingdom of Heaven in his hand. In this Russian icon another aspect is noticeable: Peter is older and is always on the left side of the picture.

The saints were celebrated in Russia practically since the Christening, and the Cathedral of St Sophia in Kiev has the earliest surviving image of Peter in what was Ancient Rus.

The popular expression says “Peter and Paul reduce the day by an hour”. By August 2nd, St Elijah’s Day, the day will have lost two hours, which is commemorated in another expression.

The story of Peter and Paul is that of a person’s following his or her vocation with faith. At the beginning of this short fasting period I went to St Clement of Rome’s church where I wrote down something of my own epiphany, that Christianity is not about suffering but about faith and service. When one has found their vocation, they should follow it, not in the hope to martyr or to die a peaceful death, but in the determination to fulfill their vocation. Martyrdom or a good death is not the end in itself; the vocation is. The story of Peter and Paul is a good illustration of this thesis. After all, there were St Nicholas and St Spyridon of Trimythous who died a peaceful death but whose contribution to Christianity was no less than that of the apostles’.

There are two lessons Peter and Paul teach us. One, follow your vocation. And two, none of us is ever good enough for a task. Peter betrayed Christ but came to be the guardian of the heavenly Kingdom. Saul used to destroy Christians but eventually became the most ardent propagator of a new religion. Whatever we used to do in the past, we can always change our ways and start anew.

The United States against China

The real conflict will see the United States against China. It remains to be seen if China will act ahead, like Russia did in February 2022.

While the Western media are (mis)interpreting the Ukrainian conflict, the real battle is getting brewed far from the Ukrainian-Russian border. It is the conflict of the United States against China. It remains to be seen if China will act ahead, like Russia did in February.

The new superpowers clash

I found an interesting article in one of Russian Telegram channels, so I decided to translate it. It offers a complex look at this week’s events that saw Boris Johnson’s resignation, Shinzo Abe’s assassination, and Olaf Scholz’s scandalous party.

The Russian original text.

The main topic of the week has been the hegemon’s blow to the forces that are trying to withdraw their countries from the American protectorate and pursue an independent policy.

Boris Johnson was the first to fall, although his forced resignation is presented as a voluntary act. Although he may be seen as Russia’s principal enemy in the Ukrainian conflict, it is worth recognizing that he acted purely in the interests of Great Britain, “gnawing out” his country’s sphere of influence in Eastern Europe by taking over the territories abandoned by the United States.

Next came the assassination of the Japanese ex-Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe. He ardently supported the strengthening of his country’s independence, as far as it was possible in the state abundantly stuffed with American military bases. The actions of his guards are considered as, at least, incompetent, and many experts claim it is highly likely that their ineffectiveness was in fact an act of complicity in Abe’s murder.

And the third blow of the hegemon, whom many are in a haste to bury alive, was the scandal with drugged girls at the party of Olaf Scholz. The German Chancellor, as well as the previously mentioned leaders, has tried to lead an independent course for his country. He delayed the supply of weapons to Ukraine, tried to save the German economy and to do business with Russia to the very last minute. If this scandal serves its purpose to the full (i.e. Scholz’s resignation), then the next German leader will think twice before trying to play independently.

Thus, there are practically no countries left in the world that attempted to claim leadership, albeit regional, and did not receive a “punch in the mouth”. Russia battles its sanctions, Turkey has to deal with hyperinflation and the Kurds, and Erdogan is certainly not guaranteed to remain on his “throne”. Japan has lost her Abe, Great Britain her Johnson, and Germany may lose Scholz. Among the major regional players, Emmanuel Macron’s position has been relatively stable so far, but it is quite possible that he has given guarantees to the hegemon that he would not expand the zone of influence beyond French Africa.

The main battle of the century between the American Eagle and the Chinese Dragon now lies ahead. The United States wants to plunge the entire world into chaos so as to prevent anyone from “cashing in” on their upcoming conflict with China. Perhaps China is not against this scenario. The new (or the good old) hegemon will come out badly battered from this conflict and may become an easy prey for regional states that do not have any problems, which means that such powers must be eliminated beforehand. Each regional power will deal with its own problems, and they will not be up to the fight between the United States and China for world domination.

Other posts in History and News

The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy was built between 1688 and 1701. It can be accessed from Pokrovka St, close to the Kremlin.

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy was built between 1688 and 1701. However, a church used to exist here as early as the 15th century. It belonged to Andronikov monastery until the tsar Ivan III granted it the lands beyond the Yauza River in exchange of this church. It can be accessed from Pokrovka St and is therefore located fairly close to Red Square and the Kremlin.

Barashy was a special area, a sloboda, where lived the tsar’s servants who accompanied him on his journeys and campaigns. They carried the so called “soft stuff”, or tents, which they put up and took down. The Russian word “barakhlo” is evidently related.

The church that we can presently see was built and decorated in the style of the Moscow Baroque. Its splendid architecture includes corniches, entablements and archivolts, columns and “kokoshniks”. The bell-tower was added during a restoration of 1741. Another round of restorative works took place between 1815 and 1837 when the church was slightly enlarged and a new iconostasis was consecrated.

The church’s two chapels are dedicated to Holy Martyr Longinus the Centurion and St Elijah the Prophet. As a matter of fact, close to the church there was lyinskaya sloboda (the sloboda of Elijah) that belonged to Russian tsars.

The church of the Presentation of the Virgin in Barashy stands in the Bely Gorod, or the White City, a historical part of Moscow where resided the aristocracy and the tsar’s (later – the emperor’s) servants.

In the Soviet times the church was to be demolished, and so several icons were saved by the Tretyakov Gallery. Miraculously, it was not destroyed although it first housed a hostel for workers and then – an electric plant. The restoration works began in 1976, and the sermons resumed in 1993. Between 2015 and 2021 here resided the Metropolis of Chișinău and All Moldova.

Wikipedia: Russian, French.

The church’s official website.

More photos.

More posts in Moscow churches.

Nabi Khazri – The Garden of Rocks (from A Japanese Notebook)

Ryōan-ji rock garden (Wikipedia)

Nabi Khazri (Nabi Alekper ogly Babaev) is the national poet of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The poem that I translated into English was rendered into Russian by Anatoly Peredreev. The Garden of Rocks is, obviously, the famous Ryōan-ji.

Sit down, take off your shoes,
Don’t say a word
While in the company
Of sand and white rocks,
And let this boundless silence be the ocean –
Immerse yourself in it.

Stay herewith the clouds most serene,
Don’t say a word
Next to the sand and rocks,
And ages set in stone.
May those rocks be isles in the ocean?
Or may they be the clouds most serene?

Can you not see the glow of days finite?
The moss, as green as everlasting life,
Is sparkling with the emerald of spring.
Meanwhile the wind discusses death and life
With the gently touched by sun sakura tree.

Once, like the wind, you’ll fly away in sorrow
And earthly life that you once here led
Will turn into a particle of this white sand
That now lies in silence between the stones.

You’re going… Wait… Eternity is speaking!
Here the sky, forever so blue,
And silence, and infinity are speaking…
Listen to them – for they all speak to you…

Translation © Julia Shuvalova 2011


Russian text

Наби Хазри – Сад камней (из “Японской тетради”)

Разуйся
И в молчанье посиди
Наедине с песком и белым камнем.
И в тишину
Как в океан войди
И растворись в безбрежном океане.
Побудь
В тишайшем мире облаков
Среди камней,
Среди песка
Без слов…
Побудь
С окаменевшими веками…
Не груда ль
Отвердевших облаков,
Не острова ли в океане –
Камни?..
Не свет ли в них
Погаснувших веков?..
Зеленый мох,
Как жизни знак бессмертный,
Весною изумрудною горит,
И ветер
С веткой сакуры рассветной
О жизни и о смерти говорит…
И ты, как ветер, улетишь,
Печальный,
И век земной,
Что был тобой прожит,
Войдет песчинкой
В тот песок хрустальный,
Что меж камней
В безмолвии лежит…
Уходишь ты…
Постой…
Послушай вечность!
Небесный свод
Нетленно-голубой,
И тишина,
И мира бесконечность
С тобою говорят…
С тобой… С тобой…

Авторизованный перевод с азербайджанского Анатолия Передреева.

Literary News: The City of Optimists

The City of Optimists is an account of Julia Shuvalova’s life and travels in England between 2002 and 2013.

The City of Optimists was the name of a small article I wrote for a Russian magazine in 2003. Years after I had started writing essays about my life in England I finally began to publish these accounts in Russian in a draft electronic version of the book under the mentoned title.

I’m in the process of uploading different chapters, so there’re some chapters on Manchester, Liverpool, Blackpool, and London.

Manchester’s Urbis is on the cover; I took this photo in 2008.

The link to the draft copy. The full English title reads The City of Optimists and the rest of England, to say nothing of London. I don’t think I need to say what book title inspired it. Wales is not included, as I’m writing a separate book on it.

Other posts in Julia Shuvalova: Poetry and Prose

Neighbourhood Cam: International Children’s Day Blossoms

June 1st is celebrated as the International Children’s Day. In Russia, we traditionally pay much attention to this festival, as children are believed to be the future.

June 1st is celebrated as the International Children’s Day. In Russia, we traditionally pay much attention to this festival, as children are believed to be the future.

Volunteers in my district today handed out small chocolates to kids and organised an event for all children who were outside at around 4pm. I was sitting in the park reading some Art History books and listening to happy cries and music. On my way back I took some photos of the lavishly blossoming trees.

As for me, in 2016 I organised a special drawing competition among the children in my district. We asked them to illustrate the poems by the famous Soviet poet, Agniya Barto. See the gallery below; it is always touching to see how children see the characters of their favourite poems. Back in 2016, this competition marked both Barto’s 110th anniversary and the International Children’s Day.

Today I look at these images (and I’ve got many more) from a different angle. We must ensure that children, wherever they live, have the right to their basic freedoms. At its heart, the world is not as multifaceted as today’s political agenda proclaims. All children still need two parents of different genders, they need a family, they need access to education and medicine. Above all, they need security and peace to grow and later discover their potential.

More on Russia.

Other posts in Neighbourhood Cam.

Neighbourhood Cam: May Evening

May evening is cold this year. We haven’t had enough rain, so the leaves are taking time to appear. But sakura is about to blossom.

may evening
May in my district in Moscow

May is blossoming slowly this year, and May evening is cold and dry. We haven’t had enough rain, so the leaves are taking time to appear.

I’m going to resurrect my Neighbourhood Cam and Moscow Cam rubrics to get you acquainted with my native places. I will also update some posts where the text was previously lacking, to make them more informative and enjoyable.

The place in the photo (which was actually taken in 2018) is within a 10-minute walk from my house, right opposite the place where I taught English and French for four years. In the vicinity are a few shops, many blocks of flats, a church, and two railway stations.

On May evenings like that in the picture one always wants to slow down. The sunset is about to begin, and, as the evening is cold, the sky is going to turn purple-red. The wind is getting chillier, the cars are few, and so are people. I usually take in this cool air and gaze on the horizon as if it were my personal Waterloo Sunset. I know I am in Paradise here, although it was only recently that my district has become resplendent and posh in some aspects. But I like it this way.

error: Sorry, no copying !!