New Russian Chronicles
Surviving monotaxocausofilia

The sounds of footsteps that weren’t there..

St. Petersburg

Today I was thinking about several people.

I guess the two essential characters here are Anna Akhmatova and Marina Tsvetaeva, the most well-known and better Russian female poets of the 20th century.

You see, for someone who doesn’t read a lot of poetry, those two have had quite an influence in my life.

Let’s start with a note: Of the two, Marina Tsvetaeva was the youngest, and she had lived abroad in Paris and in Berlin. She had a hard life, and she had her wild fun with drugs and sex. Her poems are rich in very tenous allegories and images. She’s still a favorite amongs depressed teenagers in Russia. And she met a brutal end. (She produced things as this one. It comes from one of the films that Russians love most. It’s called “The irony of destiny”.). Her poetry, very often uses wild and original metric, if at all.

Then we have Anna Akhmatova. I kind of prefer her. She was the more mature of the two, had a rough life (as was normal for the time and place.). More respectful of metric and classical sensibilities. There was this story in which she swallowed all her artistical pride* and wrote a poem for Stalin. She did it to please him, so that his son would be freed from Gulgag. But she saved someone else apart from her son: herself. If it werent because she presented that poem, she would have been arrested too.

* Actually this brings about an interesting reflection. She didn’t have – any – problem swallowing her pride. She had done it again and again during the Stalinist regime. He lowered her head any time it was necessary, trying not to attract the ires of the regime. But misteriously enough, the regime kept on picking on her, no matter how much she tried to keep a low profile. Why the arbitrarity in oppresive regime? I can understand the opression, but not arbitrariness.

hear her reciting her own works.
– Or listen to one of her poems made into a song.

As I said, she never travelled abroad and had a much less exposure to many things that Marina Tsvetaeva did. Legend has it that she paid a visit to Marina Tsvetaeva and was utterly confused by the elevator in the flat of the former.

So… what do they mean for me ? Two stories.

You know… Russians like House-museums. A friend of main sustains that they got that from the Germans. When they can, they take the houses of dead artists and transform them into museums straight away. They leave everything just as it was while the artist was alive. Desks with papers on them, full of ideas… workshops full of bits and pieces. It’s a nice tradition, I love it.

So… Anna Akhmatova has hers in St. Petersburg. It’s here. (Marina Tsvetaeva has one too, but it’s far away, in Tatarstan.)

It’s a beautiful page. Every room represents a different era of the poetesses’ life. How she was married and divorced to a White army officer, how she had to share her home during the regime of Stalin, her desk, the draft notice of her later husband, poetry read aloud.
It’s one of my favorite places in the world. See some pics.

A long time ago, in 2004, the old lady at the counter had a magnificent orange cat. What was her name? Serguei? I think that’s it. I’m not sure anymore.

And it was visiting that museum, once in a cold morning in 2004, that I realized that I was in love with someone.

In any case, St Petersburg is a great place, check the other sites of noteworthy sights. St. Petersburg (although I prefer to call it Petrograd) is a fantastic place. Check the sights and the museums. The Aurora cruiser, for instance. But let’s not get into politics.

And what about Marina Tsvetaeva, then?

Well, so I had fallen in love with a person. And! Rarity of rarities, she had fallen in love with me too.

Now, if you know me even a little bit, you know that I had colorful and bohemian voyage companions during my first year in Russian.

So, among them was this Venezuelan woman. Really nice. Older student, like in her forties. I could tell there was something odd about her way of dressing, but that’s as far as I got. I thought she was retro and put that on a shelf in my memory.

But it was not the same for my girl at the time. You see, she had written a Ph.D on Marina Tsvetaeva. (You see? they are after me again). She knew her shit.

So she started telling me: “Hey Pablo… I think this woman is crazy. You see, she dresses just like Marina Tsvetaeva. She wears the same rings on the same fingers. Same hairstyle. And I get the impression she knows her subject too. We mentioned poetry the other day and she seemed to know a lot.” After those words, her conclusion was simply i-nes-capable: “I think she is crazy and believes she is Marina Tsvetaeva.”. Logical, right?

So of course we wanted to know. Problem was, we had very different ways of getting what we wanted. This girl, whenever she wanted something done, she would flutter around the very edges of the field of influence of what she wanted, until that something, magically, was done.
You might thing I’m blasting her. A bit yes, she didn’t get many things done. But you would be surprised, that trick worked quite oftenly. I think she had powers.

Me? I took the direct route. I went up to her and started a conversation about Russian poetry. It took her 5 minutes to confess that she was obsessed with Marina Tsvetaeva and that she had come to Russian just to learn the language and appreciate the poetry from the source.

And she was not just anyone. She was a famous poet with lots of prizes to her name. A really good poet too. Fascinating person. Pity we are not close anymore. She was more friends with the girl I was love with than she was with me. So after the break up…

So yeah, I was friends with a famous poet. I can’t say anything about her of course. Other than her name was Corina Michelena.

The most fascinating thing is how she had managed to come to Russian to study. Turns out there’s a philantropist in Venezuela that gives grants to people he likes. The condition is, no grant if the project is useful. It has to be completely useless.
So this person went to him and said “Look, I want to study Russian in Russia to read my favorite poet in the original.” And she got the money.

And despite me liking the other one better… she is following me. I have discovered that Marina Tsvetaeva used to live at the number 8 of rue Rouvet.
Literally, 2 minutes from my house. Why, oh why do you chase, oh Marina?

To compensate let me finish with a picture of the tomb of Anna Akhmatova. It speaks volumes about the era.

A certain no one came up to me and suggested that I remain at home, without getting out, for a month. And that I should stand by the window, to be seen. So they put a little chair in my garden, under my window, where agents would sit and watch, day and night.

Anyway, Russia. Stories, it’s a place that has given me many stories. I miss the place.

Here. Places in Moscow. If you ever feel like doing something nice to me, read about any of the listed places and talk to me about them. I will be pleased.
Or just about any place in Moscow, actually.

Par ailleurs… je sais pas si qqun a pensé que ma description de “In the mood for love” était un peu bref. Bon. Quoi dire, long film, style très chinois avec des non dit et des longues pauses. Le sort de films que ma mère deteste. Et la fin est un peu bizarre. Comme quoi, je suis convaincu qu’il y a pas mal de details que j’ai raté à cause de ma méconaissance de la cultura Chinoise. I guess.


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