The genre of Alexander Korotko’s poetic miniatures, published below under the title “Shadows of Words”, which refers us to one of the poems of Paul Celan’s posthumously published collection “Aria of Snow” (“cut / shadows of words/ gather them with fathoms / around the stirrup / in the whirlwind”), it is not easy to determine, because these extremely laconic lines, which sometimes consist of only a few words, are as if between genres. Their prototypes are quite rare in the literature and have vague, fluid borders. First of all, it would be worth mentioning such literary forms as aphorism, apophegma, fragment, maxim, sentence, poetic miniature, one line verse (monoverse), etc. Most of these short literary forms are historically conditioned; they survived their heyday in previous epochs and have almost disappeared from literary use today. In addition, they are often marked by quite different substantive goals and structural patterns. For example, a fragment is understood as an incomplete or unfinished work, and since the days of German Romanticism also as a consciously chosen literary form, the influence of which lies in its deliberate incompleteness or unfinishness (In the days of early romanticism here we can mention such works as “Lucinda” by Friedrich Schlegel, “Heinrich von Ofterdingen” by Novalis, “The Crowns guards” by Achim von Arnim). But also from the monoverse – a verse which consists of a single line, but demonstrates a complete semantic, syntactic and metric structure, these texts are significantly different. The monoverses established themselves at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, primarily in Russian and French lyrics. Illustrative examples here are the monoverses of Valery Bryusov “Close your pale legs” (1894) or Guillaume Apollinaire’s “Et l’unique cordeau des trompettes marines” (“And the lonely sound of a single string”) from his collection “Alcohols” (1914). Similarly, the genre of miniature, which first appeared in the fine arts, where it had an illustrative function in medieval manuscripts and only later established in literature as a poetic miniature, can be considered in this regard – especially in the modern sense as substantive and structural a complete minimalist text, which is characterized by artistic integrity.
A.Korotko’s lapidary texts published below are closest to the concept of aphorism – a literary genre, which is “extremely concise, witty, eloquent formulation of a certain thought, judgment, a certain wisdom of life”, as defined by the German “Literary Lexicon of Metzler”, and uses such rhetorical stylistic means, such as antithesis, hyperbole, emphase, parallelism, aposiopesis, chiasm, etc.
Aphorisms are already found in ancient literature (Hippocrates, Marcus Aurelius, Cicero, Julius Caesar, Ovid), they reach a special flowering then in the late Renaissance in the works of Francis Bacon, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Montaigne, the
French moralists of the 17th century. Laroche-Foucault and Labruer, the French thinker – Blaise Pascal, the Spanish baroque theorist – Balthazar Graciano. At 18 century to them resorted Vovenar and Shamphor, in Germany – Lichtenber, among romantics – Schlegel and Novalis, hence Gaine, Schopenhauer, at 20 century – Nietzsche, Alfred Kerr, Karl Kraus, Peter Altenberg etc. Its own adherents the genre also had in the Slavic cultural world, so, for example, the Russian literature is widely seen in the aphorisms of Kozma Prutkov or Mikhail Svetlov, a prominent aphorist in the “Polish literature” is considered Stanislav Yeji Lec (“Myśli nieuczesane” / “Uncombed Thoughts”). In modern times in Ukraine, our genius translator Mykola Lukash (“Taunts”) and the famous poet Moses Fishbein (“Apherisms”) sometimes practiced humorous and sarcastic aphorisms. In general, aphorisms, also known as “winged words”, are related to folk proverbs and sayings, but are no longer of folklore but of individual origin, so they are sometimes called “proverbs for intellectuals”. They are based on emphasized subjectivity and should usually impress or stun the reader with the paradoxical nature of the statement.
One could dare to try to classify and divide these spiritual flashes of A. Korotko’s poetic fantasy by rhetorical means or thematic dominants. Most of them are built on the principle of paradox or antithesis, but among them there are those in which these rhetorical figures are particularly pronounced. At first glance, paradoxes are illogical, sometimes even meaningless, statements that initially require a critical revision of known facts or events, but then turn out to be “higher truth.” For example, the biblical story about Adam and Eve is well known in all its details from ancient times, but A. Korotko’s statement “Adam and Eve never loved each other” confuses us and makes us think again and state with surprise the fact that between the first people, in fact, there was no love as an emotional, passionate human feeling.
One of the important thematic group is formed in these sentences by philosophical aphorisms: “Five continents of feelings – that’s the whole human globe”, “Life without punctuation”, “Three dots for a long time, and a dot forever”, “To live on earth as uninvited guest”, “Time has its own watchmaker”, etc. There are also hidden paradoxes in these spurs, and they are philosophically colored and invite the reader to a deeper understanding of existential problems. Among A. Korotko’s maxims there are those that have a pronounced political character and are understandable only in the context of history or Soviet reality that sank into oblivion, but still alive in the minds of many of our fellow citizens: “Fear is my guardian angel”, “The good heart of a snitch”, “You can’t follow everyone, but you want to”, “They took it from one by one, from everyone in a row”, “Perjure, please!”, “Our business is right – we will please”.
Behind these sentences are easy to guess the notorious political phrases and clichés of the Soviet times, which are here surprised and sarcastically parodied. Some aphorisms of this group grotesquely allude to explicit or latent anti-Semitism in the Russian Empire or later in the Soviet Union: “Friendly massacre,” “Humane anti-Semitism,” “There are such names after fathers, you see.” The perception of such
aphorisms depends on the ability of the recipient to evoke in his memory the tragic events of not too distant history: the depressing atmosphere of paralyzing fear, the hunting for the so-called “enemies of the people” are infamous demonstrative processes of the 1930s, the Holodomor in Ukraine, brutal anti-Semitic excesses (the fight against cosmopolitanism, the “doctors’ case”, etc.).
However, the largest by volume group of short texts is set up with aphorisms, which are filled with rich metaphor and fairness and simple poetic miniatures. They are rooted in the pure lyrical substance and thanks for its own laconicism multiply its imaginative power even more. Such aphorisms impress us with the author’s gift of observation, his ability to combine rather distant, deeply hidden connections of objective reality in new constellations: “Snail violin key”, “Tunnel – pencil case with car pencils”, “Rainbow peacock tail”, “Golden fish of stars in the aquarium of the night”, “Sail puffed out cheeks”, “Fogs milking cows”, “November hieroglyphs”, “Messanger pigeons of dreams”, etc. Such lines leave no doubt: a real lyricist works here.
A.Korotko’s poetic miniatures are marked, like most examples of aphorisms, by their suggestive power; they accumulate their suggestion out of their own conciseness, since behind a few words of these short texts lay entire layers of the unspoken, which the reader therefore complements thanks to his knowledge, experience, and his gift of feeling. Thus, the expressive power of these poetic lines is always greater than the sum of the semantic meanings of the individual words that form them. This is joined by the fact that they are offered here in three languages. But each language has its own expressive resources, its own connotative potentials, so in different language registers there are additional semantic and stylistic nuances. All this enriches the palette of perception of A. Korotko’s poetic miniatures and makes comprehension of their deep meanings a real aesthetic pleasure.