Thoughts arising in connection with the translation of verses into Hebrew

The translated text cannot be an exact copy of the original. No matter how paradoxical this may sound, a translator needs a strong passion, and no less inspiration, than poets themselves. Sometimes it seems to me that translating is much harder than writing poetry yourself.

I represent the modernist trend in poetry, so it’s very difficult when translating my work to preserve the music of the Russian language and write such lines in Hebrew so that the translated text sounds as expressive as it does in Russian. But there is a positive aspect of my poems: since most of them are written in free verse, this to some extent facilitates their translation.

If the translation is a literal rendering of the original, the verses die, wither, like flowers, and turn into a dried herbarium, where there is no soul, no emotion, no vitality.

Translation is a reading, a comprehension of the poet’s verbal range, a door into his subconscious, where the words of the language in which the author writes are stored.

Translation from Russian into Hebrew is the Exodus from Egypt to Its Israel, it is a difficult path through the desert, and it is very difficult to reach the goal. This is a huge daily workout of the heart and soul, and if something goes wrong, then we deviate from the route, as happened more than once with our forefathers during forty years of wandering in the desert.

Into English

* * *

Когда в плавнях туч
распускается лилия солнца
и ветер стелет постель
сахарной пудрой, рахат-лукумом
предчувствий, растёт и ширится
в недрах лета осенний
дивертисмент разочарования,
и холодная мудрая соль
проступает, как накипь, сквозь
экран бледного света испуганным
героином, ломкой двадцать
первого коммунального века.


When a sun lily blossoms
amid swampy clouds
and the celestial bed is made up
and strewn with powdered sugar,
with the Turkish delight of premonitions,
a divertissement of disappointment
grows from the depth of summer
into autumn, and cold wise salt exudes,
in a foam-like way, through the pale-lit screen
as a hesitant dope. It all ends up in
cold turkey, in the shakes
of our communal century, the twenty-first…

* * *

Только в твоих
можно увидеть
пламя костра,

The Past

Only in your
can one see
the flame
of a bonfire
bitten to death
by the rain.

* * *

Уходят Да и Нет
двугорбого верблюда,
и слышится змеи
шипящее: Зачем?


A double-humped camel –
his Yes and No go away;
now we can hear a snake’s
hiss: Why?

         The poems were translated into English by Anatoly Kudryyavitsky – poet and prose writer, publisher and editor of the online poetry magazine “SurVision”, living in Dublin. In the international poetry magazine SurVision, which published the verses of Alexander Korotko presented on this webpage, and specializes in neo-surrealist English-language poetry, both original and translated.


* * *

A street stood beyond a phrase and the houses leaned on the chest.

The night was shining and they pulled on blankets of the wind.
Dreams lay beyond the crossroads, the unemployed watchman paced
and my death was an adolescent, searching all the time for its corner.
The moon’s yolk bathed in the sea like egg whisked with dates
and years and the tousled dawn sat on the abandoned fence
not knowing anxieties or grief.


За фразой улица стояла, и упирались в грудь дома.
Сияла ночь, и одеяла тянули на себя ветра. Лежали
сны за перекрестком, шел безработный часовой, и
смерть моя была подростком, и все искала угол свой.
Желток луны купался в море, как гоголь-моголь дат и лет,
и на заброшенном заборе, не зная ни тревог ни горя,
сидел взъерошенный рассвет.


* * *


Unbowed, solitary, unreachable silence. The whisper of first
raptures streams down the alley like the sweet smoke of love.
The long wind paces through life on swift boots. Your police
shadow has hid on the edge of waiting over the precipice of the
universe. Take all you want, only don’t throw my soul into this

Непреклонная, одинокая, недоступная тишина. Шёпот
первых восторгов по аллее любви дымкой сладкой
струится. Длинный ветер шагает по жизни в сапогах-
скороходах. На краю ожидания над вселенскою пропастью
тьмы притаилась твоя полицейская тень. Все, что хочешь,
возьми, только душу мою не бросай в эту бездну.


* * *


High over the back of beyond is the vault of the sky and only the
stars do accounts with the future. In this place vampires serve
the past. The geography teacher is a saint, he can read better
than anyone the map of the world. The river flows, having
forgotten the estuary, and if you say to it ‘stop’ it will immediately
and the flock of birds flying to the south, oblivious of their kin,
will be reflected in it. Death comes to give either joy or disaster,
who’s there will tell you. But all around there are the streets, all
the same, leading to the graveyard, so no one ever disappears

Над захолустьем выше небосвод и с будущим лишь звезды  
сводят счеты. Вампиры в этой местности у прошлого на
службе состоят. Учитель географии святой, он лучше всех
читает карту мира. Река течёт, забыв про устье, и, если
скажешь ей «постой», она замрёт, и отразится в ней
летящая на юг, родства не помнящая птичья стая. На
радость или на беду, приходит смерть, кто вам тут скажет,
но рядом всё, и улицы, все как одна, на кладбище ведут,
поэтому здесь никогда никто не исчезает. Такая вот история

In 2005, the bilingual book of poems by Alexander Korotko “Both Sides of Life” was released. Richard McCain, Oxford graduate, translator of world poetry into English translated the poem into English. In Russian literature, he is known for translating poems by Gumilyov, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Mandelstam and other poets of the Silver Age period, as well as modern authors. Richard McCain is a poet and public figure. For many years he was co-chair of the Pushkin Club in London.