Poet Korotko: God shows: be you a millionaire, billionaire, president, you can't hide from the coronavirus – he put everyone on an equal conditions

The Internet-edition «GORDON», November 16, 2020, Kiyev



Why COVID-19 is not only a test for humanity, but also a unique chance to understand deeper the meaning of life? What is worse: financial or spiritual bankruptcy? Will the world be the same again as it was before the pandemic? About this - and not only! - thinks the poet-philosopher Alexander Korotko. As required by the conditions of quarantine, he communicated with the Internet edition "Gordon" remotely.Paradoxical as it may sound, maybe even cynical to some extent, but with the coronavirus we got a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of life.  


– Alexander Shimonovich, we are slowly getting used to interviews, not live, but via Skype. Tell me, did you go to the dacha for your Boldinskaya autumn, or is it an escape from the terrible COVID-19?

– Yes, I am a city dweller, and this is my first such move out of city. It is associated, of course, with both circumstances. The main task was to focus on those works that I needed to complete in silence. Of course, it is much easier to concentrate here, where everything is subordinated only to creativity, where I have the opportunity to go out for a walk, rest, to be alone with my thoughts.This, in an amazing, terrible way, coincided with the outbreak of the coronavirus, with what happened to all of us. And no matter how paradoxical it sounds, maybe even cynical to some extent, but with the coronavirus we got a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of life. I fully experienced it myself. Much is being rethought at such a time, and you realize yourself in the world and the world in yourself in a completely different way. Amazing! Developing my thought, I will say: experience is a unique thing. It cannot be bought, cannot be acquired by reading, it is only from what has been lived.  


– But as a poet, that is, a person connected directly to the higher spiritual spheres, do you consider the virus to be God's punishment or a chance for humanity? 


– I am deeply convinced that this is God's punishment, this is a warning. We see how humanity is mired in sins, how politicians have degraded... The Lord God shows that even if you are a millionaire, billionaire, president, you cannot hide from the coronavirus - he put everyone on equal conditions. The Creator reminded us that we are all only human. He tells us: you mock nature, destroy each other... If you do not draw conclusions, wait for the next flood, as it was during Noah's time. This is my feeling. I feel like that…

 – I’ll ask you not only as a poet, but also as a person who has devoted a quarter of a century to medicine: do you want to take part in a discussion about whether it is necessary to buy a Russian vaccine? 


– It's very hard for me to answer... Not even that... I have no moral right to give any kind of assessment, because these are highly professional cases. Here experts should reason.If you want to hear my personal opinion, then I am very skeptical about the Russian vaccine against coronavirus. I think that it is very difficult to create something complete in such a short time without knowing long-term results. Although some miracle is possible - it's not for me to judge. We know that besides Russia on the vaccine  are working America, England, France, Israel and many other countries, where the level of medicine is much higher than in Russia. Do you agree?


 – Completely…

- Therefore, it seems to me that the decision to purchase a vaccine cannot be hasty. It should be scientifically grounded, that is, based on the relevant conclusions of the expert community of the leading countries of the world dealing with the problems of virology. This is not an emotional, but a political decision, because we are talking about the safety and health of not only the entire nation, but also of each person.


– That is, you do not trust our authorities, our bureaucracy very much? 


You see - I will allow myself to express my private judgment! - In this case, it is not even a matter of trust or distrust, but of making a correct, balanced decision. Despite the external success of many of our politicians, their internal disorder often attracts attention against the background of their incredible vanity, which I personally regard as an occupational disease. But we are who we are.We live in a very uneasy time. Humanity has received a great test, and how we will pass it is still a question. Only one thing is clear to me: we will no longer live the way we lived, the world will no longer be the same as it was before the coronavirus. Yes, the economic situation is leading the state, large and small companies, simply a human being to a large material bankruptcy. But even worse is spiritual bankruptcy, about which no one talks, about which people do not think. We cannot understand in any way that apart from the physical body there is also a soul. We, unfortunately, do not deal with it, and this causes anxiety and concern.  


– What are You writing about now? 


– About how I live and what I feel. Thanks to the Internet, our globe has turned into a small, as for me, communal apartment with one toilet and a shared kitchen. One click - you're in Australia, another - you're in China. The world has shrunk to an incredible size; incredible, unpredictable processes are going on in it. We live in this funnel called time, which rotates at a tremendous speed. This is felt not only by the elderly, but also by young people. Personally I measure time already not by years, not by decades, but by the day I have lived. Maybe it is the last for me?I look back, remember the past... I have a feeling that this is just a dream. It was or was not - I don't know. Sometimes it seems to me that I will wake up now in my small town of Korosten with my grandmother, where logs are burning, where the stove is white-hot, a cat lies at my feet.In my opinion, the world has already changed not only around us, but also within us. And we feel this very strongly here in Ukraine. And the loss of Donbass and Crimea is nothing more than payment for our freedom. But we must not forget that the autocratic and totalitarian regimes (we can see this in the example of Belarus) inspire people to protest. Incredible cataclysms happen every day. Everything is interconnected in this world, and elections in America affect us as much as our own elections.


– You are a Ukrainian poet, but you write in Russian, and this is not a trend today. Have you tried to segue to Ukrainian? Well, at least the songs that you are good at writing in Ukrainian? 


– I’m often asked this question. And I answer that there was such a unique political (precisely political, not poetic!) formation like the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. So I was born in Ukraine, in the small provincial town of Korosten, into a Jewish family where they spoke Russian. That is, I am a Jew who writes in Russian and feels at home in Ukraine. How else can you feel at home?Of course, this is how I developed myself, I think in this language, I received my education in it and now I am writing. It is a very terrible thing to be out of tune with your inner world, with your soul. The poet doesn't live like that. You may wear an vushyvanka, but it doesn't work that way. Yes, I am a patriot, I know Ukrainian language well, I speak it at good enough level her, I read Ukrainian literature, I like Ukrainian songs, Ukrainian writings, but I can’t ...  I can’t write poetry in Ukrainian.  


– That is, you are promoting not the Russian or Ukrainian language, but the literature as such? 


– Quite right. We must to apply to our history. And what, few Russian-speakers live in Ukraine? You see, there are pseudo-patriots. But patriotism itself is a very intimate, very chamber thing. You cannot shout about this loudly if you are not a hurray-patriot! Well, of course, I'm not trendy. But the question is not that, but what you are doing, what the Lord God gave you the opportunity to do. And try to go to the side: a step to the right - a step to the left...What is creativity? This is an individual labor activity, and if you will dodge, will be cunning, the Almighty will take away your right to creativity. Of course, it will, do not think that this is yours forever. And we saw how it get lost. There is such a thing as the exhaustion of talent. Why did Leo Tolstoy follow the plow? Why did many writers and poets drink themselves to death? Because the Creator took away his gift. We just don't know why He chooses this or that person on our earth. But this gift is like a test that you still have to pass.


– You once said: "With God's help, poetry has not lost the poet, with the reader it is problematic." Do you still think so today? 


– Absolutely right!


– So that is You practically stopped going out to a wide audience? 


– Well, once I went out with Bella Akhmadulina - I read poetry at the Ivan Franko Theater. The evening was opened by my great friend, a wonderful writer - the kingdom of heaven to him! - Pavlo Arkhipovich Zagrebelny. Today I do not go out, I do not read, because I understand that very few people need it. But tell me, please, do many people need Einstein's theory of relativity or Poinkare's hypothesis, which was proved by the brilliant Perelman?Poetry requires the same work from the reader as from the poet. This is the work of the heart and soul. Of course, it is easier to listen to pop music than to complex symphonic music, it is easier to look at comics than to comprehend a serious painting or a deep philosophical work. There shouldn't be many connoisseurs of poetry. Once even Pushkin complained: "The hussars do not read us." This is normal. Do not be offended. Here the formula is simple: the poet should not look for his reader, but the reader should find his poet. It is fundamentally.


– Your young brothers in the poetry workshop, who are tired of hearing lamentations about the lack of demand for poetry, are trying to fight for the audience. For example, with the help of poetry slams, such creative competitions, during which participants read their poems. Do you follow these furious attempts to go beyond the academic audience? 


- Firstly, I am an introvert by nature, not a public person, and I do not consider it necessary to spend my time on this, which is already compressed. Secondly, you need to be in step not only with your time, but also with your age. If young people try to interest their peers in poetry and find new modern forms, this is their right, and correctly so. I am absolutely not interested in such things. I know that poetry is created in silence and there is no need to capture anyone.Poetry is not a sport. If you compare it, let’s say, with athletics, there are no treadmills there. Even so there is one. But it goes not horizontally, but vertically - towards the Creator. That's all. You don't have to compete with anyone! It's impossible. The poet walks alone.   


– They say that writing poetry is a purely personal thrill, but every poet sometimes wants to share it. Have you ever regretted that you were born late: did not find the Silver Age with its poetry salons, did not participate in performances in overcrowded stadiums? 


“As a faithful man, I believe that we should accept with humility everything that the Creator gives us. And he gave us this life, and this time... We will not have another life and other time on earth. And you, if you begin to complain, destroy yourself. We ask: what is the creative process in general? What is a poet doing? I agree with you: he catches a buzz. Because it is a different way of living, a different quality of life, first of all, spiritual, different colors, different worldview and attitude. Every creative person and poet in particular builds a bridge for humanity from the finite to the infinite. This is the artist's mission on earth, and one must value it, cherish it.I want to tell you that in fact, great poetry is difficult; it is not for the stadium. This is a very chamber thing. If you're gathering a stadium, something is wrong. Because a poet - I'm talking about a great poet! -  is always older than his contemporaries, he looks beyond the horizon. Consciously, subconsciously, unconsciously... Perhaps they dictate to us - if we have time to write it down. And this is the great secret, which is fascinating to touch, but very dangerous. 


– Today anyone can print their collection, post in the Internet their poems, often amateurish, and call themselves a poet. Don't you think that the blogosphere is clogged with graphomaniac rubbish, through which the voice of a real poet hardly makes its way? .. 


- ... or does not break through at all. Today is the time of amateurs, no matter how sad it is. The time of ignoramuses, populists... And the Internet is a big garbage dump, without which we cannot do today.I remember Soviet times, when it was almost impossible to print a book, if you are not a member of the Writers' Union, if you are not this, this, this, that... And one was paid a ruble per line, the other two, the third three, depending on whether it is an honored author, national or laureate. And there was no poetry, because everything was politically engaged. Secretary of the Union of Writers of the USSR Fadeev not accidentally committed suicide. It was no accident that Mayakovsky and Yesenin committed suicide... The fate of Vasily Stus, who spent most of his life in the GULAG camps for his convictions, was terrible. I wrote a poem about his tragic fate, which has been brilliantly translated into Ukrainian by Olga Ilchuk.That time was absolutely deformed. There were some advantages: something seemed to nest in the depths, of course, there was an underground, but the totalitarian system did not allow creativity to develop. Now the other extreme: all barriers have been removed. But you do your thing and if it's real, you will get through. I saw a tree growing on a rock in the mountains. We sometimes notice how the grass is breaking through the asphalt... You can break through, you can be heard. The question is - during life, after life? ..


- ... or never ... 


- It's a big roulette. Of course, every creative person wants to be significant, wants to be heard. A very dangerous thing is to write into the table. But complaining about the time, about the situation is unproductive. From the position of laziness, from the position of sadness, nothing nor only great, nor normal is created. First of all, you are a creative person, and this is a sign of intellectual power. If you don't believe in what you are doing, give up this activity. This is your living, your destiny, your history. And how can you complain or envy? No, that is not how the word works.


But are you looking for your poetic "megaphone" that will allow you to shout out, reach out to a wide audience?


Which path do I choose? I have Instagram, I have two Facebook pages: one is Korotko-Writer, the other is my personal. There is a website. There are news, songs, videos... And, of course, poetry. Moreover, in three languages: Russian, Ukrainian and English, since I am translated a lot in the West - in England, France, Germany, America ...


–        ... and also in China, Azerbaijan, Israel ... 


- Yes. There are a lot of subscribers, a lot of reviews. And there is already focused on those who like it. They don't ask the question: is it necessary or not? They are waiting. Therefore, I do not consider myself to be left out. Today I am afraid to jinx it! - it's a sin to complain. I am in demand, I don't even know why. I myself sometimes don't believe in it.
On the other hand, the situation is now dramatic. I have worked for the last two years with Michael Pursglove, one of the leading English translators. He translated a lot of my works, including the novel "The Moon Boy". And so Michael fell ill with the coronavirus ...  –  ... which, as you noticed, equalized everyone ...
- He writes to me: "If I die, then so you know who I worked with ... I graduated from Cambridge, graduated from Oxford... I translated the classics"... Imagine what a drama! I have never seen him in my life, never talked to him on the phone... This is how time is pressed, this ball, these countries... We have become closer to each other as never before. 


 – I didn’t dare to ask, but since we are talking about the fact that we are all mortal ... You have a huge creative baggage - more than two dozen books... 


More than three dozen...


– Especially. You are probably wondering who you will leave it to ... Tell me, can your children be called experts in poetry? Does your grandson love your poetry? 


The question, at first glance, is simple, but very reverent, very intimate. My wife reads everything, participates in everything. She is my first listener. Then my daughters. Then my grandson David, who is currently in his third year of the Faculty of Philosophy and reads everything. Right now I am being translated into German, I have written an essay about Rilke, Celan, Hölderlin, and Kafka. And when David read the essay about Kafka, he said: "Grandpa, you are great."This broadens their horizons, they live by it ... Of course, they read. Maybe they don't fully understand. But I have just such an atmosphere. The wife does not say: "What is he toying there, fooling his head?" Everyone treats with understanding  to what I am doing. And this is also a big mystery to me: everything around seems to be wrong, everything is bad, and no one needs you ... But no!  


– Do you, I hear, have a wonderful library? 


And not one. There are houses, there are here, outside the city. For two more days I transported here those books with which I work constantly - I need them like air ...  


– Sorry for the tactless question, have you thought about who you will bequeath your library to? After all, today it is not fashionable to read paper books. The people switched to laptops, to electronic readers ...


This, of course, is a great tragedy. I have already heard such terrible things from more than a dozen intellectual people. They say: “Why do I need a library? I'd rather throw it in a landfill or give it away." But how did we collect these books? I remember that you could get a subscription from Soyuzpechat for waste paper. They were given a choice of toilet paper or a subscription. What we just didn’t hand over: paper, bottles, scrap metal ... But today nobody needs these books. This already testifies to such profound catastrophes, that everything spiritual is in a landfill, only material remains.And who is reading? They are now running around like crazy, everyone is on their phones. Many have not read anything for a long time. Yes, it's a nightmare!  


– I guess the situation is not hopeless ... Have you ever visited the Hot Dudes Reading channel - "Hot Dudes Reading", which appeared on Instagram about a year ago?  No.
– They post photos with handsome guys who read exclusively paper books. Subscribers, whose number has exceeded a million, assure that in our time, filled with electronic gadgets, a paper volume in the hands of a man can add 50% to his karma and the same amount to sexuality. And the girls amicably confirm this. The only pity is that Ukrainians are not visible there yet ... 


Unfortunately or to my shame, I did not hear about it. I just know that everything is back to normal. Everything superficial will go away, but the true will remain.

But that’s what the metamorphoses that happen to me. I've always said that I don't read anything from gadgets-madgets. But, for example, I am interested - she is no longer alive - by the great 20th century philosopher of Jewish origin Hannah Arendt. Some of her works I managed to buy in due time, now it is already impossible. Therefore, I bought myself an Amazon Kindle - this reader with special filters.I am trying to adapt so that I can access books that I cannot buy and which I need for work. We address - it's true. Time compels, it dictates its own rules of the game. And you accept them or not. I once had this verse: "As if from a nest, I fell out of time, began to feed on the refuse of memories ..."We talked about how many books I have published. But I have not been published in Ukraine for two years. Not because I have nothing to offer. It just makes no sense and other resources have appeared. The same Amazon, Google Books. Now I post five books in English there. When an author works directly with these resources, he is paid completely different royalties, different royalties. All - publishing houses are leaving. You know: magazines are over, newspapers are dead... In this world, you have to try to save yourself and figure out how to fit into the veer.  


– How easy the problem is to be solved, it turns out ... 


You have to feel this time. You cannot stand aside from him, otherwise you fall out. And if you are lost, then this is a disaster.When we talk about coronavirus - I'll return to the beginning of our conversation - we must understand that, since the Creator created us, no one dies either early or late - we all leave for another world in time. Do you hear, on time! And don't be afraid of that. We will all die in time. But there is such a category as old age. And at this age it is dangerous when you are drowning in memories. You start looking at your photos: oh, how young, curly-haired, handsome I was... Forget it! That’s only destroys. Live today. Only forward, only overcoming ourselves... We are fighting with ourselves, not with someone. And you have to win yourself every day - starting in the morning.

Tatyana Nikulenko