Written in the Dark: Five Poets in the Siege of Leningrad

Edited by Polina Barskova, trans. from the Russian by Anand Dibble et al. Ugly Duckling, $18 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-937027-57-5
Barskova brings to Western light a startling selection of long-hidden poems by five Soviet writers—Gennady Gor, Dmitry Maksimov, Sergey Rudakov, Vladimir Sterligov, and Pavel Zaltsman—who endured the first winter of the Siege of Leningrad, the period from September 1941 to December 1944 when the city was under Nazi blockade. Though all five poets would soon be evacuated, their voices attest to an intimate, devastating moral and spiritual darkness. “I ate Rebecca the girl full of laughter,” begins one poem by Gor, a glib reaction to rumors of cannibalism. Contrary to official Siege poetry, which downplayed individual suffering and lauded the heroic defense of the city, these verses record the reality of chairs “burned for heat,” “Warmed soups of glue,” and how “the dead outnumbered the coffins.” These heirs to the Russian avant-garde brutally rend Pushkin’s fairytale verses, the sing-song march of Soviet children’s literature, and even the Russian language itself: “A shock wave in my mouth,/ A cold moon in my dark,/ A leg in my corner, an arm in my ditch.” These disturbing poems, presented in dual-language format, capture the un-heroic voice of the individual who would “kill any man for sausage.” (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/02/2017
Release date: 10/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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