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Exquisite Corpse
Issue 8A Journal of Letters and Life

Guardians a di Joiman Gate, excerpt from Perverzion
by Yuri Andrukhovych, translated from Ukranian
by Michael M. Naydan
Author's Links

Her name was Ada Zitrone and his Janus Maria Riesenbock. I'm sitting in their Alfa Romeo, and we're speeding along the Autobahn from Munich to Venice. From Munich. To Venice.
      This happened to me the day before yesterday, Ash Wednesday, the first day following the end of carnival. It was a stroll through Munich in the hopes of seeing the remains of a yet untidied up holiday: piles of garbage, broken bottles, trampled tails and wings, torn painted snouts. I didn't find anything of the like, because I started off to town after noon. The streets and city squares had been cleaned up, surely, before dawn...
     I found short-lived refuge in the coffee house "Luitpold," which I found by a map on Briennerstrasse (or as they say here, "shtraahzze"), 11, where I permitted myself one after the other double Remi Martins (the first in honor of Rilke, the second--to Stefan Georg). When I got nice and warm, I crawled out of the coffee house and started off slowly in the direction of Schwabing, passing by Odeonplatz and Ludwigstrasse, flooded with the first light of dawn. The shop windows promised everything in the world, even immortality. No one sprinkled my head with ashes. Thousands of passers-by moved side by side with me in this playful megalopolis. But decent people on this day have to take communion with fish: Ash-Wednesday (as Eliot called this), Aschermittwoch, ashes, sorrow, melancholy, and fish. This is the way the fast begins...
     Now, one lyrical moment. Without having yet reached the university and the Triumphal Gates, I sensed that spring was beginning. This happened simultaneously: a warm wind, a bit of snow just beginning to melt in spots, my tattered rain coat, the dangling of my shawl, a new shirt, the scent of a new shirt, roasted chestnuts, sharp spices, the scent of something else, of some kind of women, men, that flowed next to me, music from behind the corner, a tightening in my chest--I stopped for less than a moment, and where I was, I didn't stop, I simply understood--but what I "understood," when this is entirely not the right word, and "sensed" is not the right word, and no one will tell me the word I need--I heard something, some kind of great changes, at least one, something like...
     Her name was Ada, his Dr. Riesenbock, private urology in Possenhoffen. And they're taking me to Venice in their car. I came to my senses a bit just before the Austrian border. It was just then that almost by touch I recognized the need to say something into this dictaphone.
     So, the day before yesterday, during the evening of the Wednesday of the beginning of the Great Fast, I finally stepped out into Schwabing, onto the flooded Leopoldstrasse flooded with irritating lights. I was ready for adventures, so that I was even jumping inside my own body. Adventure found me here: a squat and red-lipped mulatto woman, short-legged and in a short skirt, with wild curves, covered in bangles, in a tight, trimmed with spangles, décolleté dress, a street-walker from some other cheerful quarter, because Schwabing now wasn't the same one from the times of symbolism and Kaiser Wilhelm. She stood in the gate beneath a street lamp and looked from the crowd to be a face indispensable to it. It, in fact, turned out this way for me, I saw her light up, she smiled, I understood everything, it became hellishly cold in my chest, just ten more steps were left, not even a whole hundred marks in my wallet that I had with me, so there was no way to guarantee our contract, five steps away from her I heard: "hallo, kommst du mit?" two more steps I kept silent and blurted out right at her: "ja, ich komme mit, Liebling, wieviel?," she didn't answer "wieviel," she whirled on her regal heels, took me by the hand and led me to the gate. However, it was the local one anyway, from Schwabing, she opened the gate with a key, for the sake of special effect procured from her stunning décolleté dress, and so we stopped in a building where she led me up the stairs, time to time looking back and smiling with her thick lips, I also felt how there surged and rebelled in me all the abstinence of the last months, even years, these bangles on her were simply unbearable, I was ready to drive into her right here on the steps, squeezing her against the rains and tearing her purely symbolic, short-tailed red silk skirt. However she maintained a safe distance and kept leading me somewhere upstairs, onto some tenth or so floor, during which the entire time she sang in some tropical language, maybe Amharic. So finally we stopped in living quarters filled with people, filled with smoke and incense with all kinds of equatorial aromas, illuminated by green and red lamps, where everyone without exception was singing...
     ...Oho, I didn't even notice as we crossed the Austrian border. I had just finished reading "Kiefersfelden" or something like that, some kind of fields of beetles. Stone walls along both sides of the boulevard, finally mountains, we drove into the mountains, everywhere there was a shitload of snow falling, even Dr. Riesenbock--this is me about you, about you--had to put on his protective glasses. He's sitting behind the wheel and doesn't know a word of Ukrainian. His wife was another deal. She understands everything, a Ukrainian herself by birth, she's next to him on the front seat, as she should be, Frau Riesenbock, dressed completely in black and dark cherry colors, but she doesn't hear me...
     I apparently didn't get right away what these were for living quarters. My chest filled up with sweet smoke, I felt myself to be almost waxen, voices singing floated from everywhere, from all the rooms, all these people were still walking around today in carnival rags, it was as though they had collected them from the garbage following yesterday, my bronze-colored temptress dissolved among the other mulatto, Arab, Turkish, Chinese, and other Indian women, they decorated the living quarters with living green branches, with stripes of blazing fabric and countless pictures, at which I was completely unable to look; moving from room to room, I tried to keep grabbing her by the backside, why have you brought me here, I respect the customs of all people, rites and so forth, but you've gone too far, nocturnal bird, I would say to her, but in every room there were sitting on rugs, benches and right on the floor a panoply of people changing clothes, anachronistic carnival revelers, and they all were singing, without end from the time I wound up there, non-stop songs in broken German, something like psalms or hymns, the grammatical clumsiness even struck my ear, but the melody was nice enough, an insanely nice melody, artificial, a mixture of Celtic and Coptic with additions of Brazilian, Armenian, Hungarian and Romanian. I went bananas from that music, I tried to howl along myself, but from time to time one of the singers glanced at me reproachfully, and said, don't stick your nose in this, it's not your bag, so I grew silent...
     The first thing that I always do when I stop at a place I don't know is to look for a musical instrument. I love the piano, guitar, violoncello, accordion, the maracas, the flute, I love countless other musical instruments. So I began to look for them. But nowhere was there anything of the like--just voices, female and male, children's and adults's, some kind of half-crazed prayer to another god, something there about forests, honey, groves, fields, orchards, mountains, meadows, grasses, gates, in the meanwhile, with a little more intense concentration, I looked over the living quarters, it was one of the typical rental buildings from the past century, in Lviv there are thousands of these kind, they have already reduced them to ruin even before the secession, in the days of stormy eclectics in ideas, it was as if the architect had competed with the material, contriving for himself as many as possible problems and cramming the living quarters with all kinds of nooks, niches, pavilions, mezzanines, and, besides the sung human rendition, there was nothing and no one there, well, okay, several sofa beds, odds and ends, couches, some kind of rugs--everything as though it had just been brought, all foreign and random, and in general--bare walls and floors; one does not live or even pray in these kind of conditions, but here, as is evident, they both lived and prayed. And also--these lamps, red and green, something in-between a discotheque and a Byzantine cathedral, and also aromas, aromas everywhere--from candles and incensors, the latter in the hands of Peruvian, Korean, Malagasian, Moroccan, and Filipino women who danced by from time to time; somewhere my ample-lipped ruination ambled her way among them, but I would already not recognize her in this overgrown flower garden; after some time it came to my mind that this wasn't just single living quarters, but rather several former living quarters, between which the walls were knocked down, the entire floor, the seventh heaven of the chimerical pre-Secession building on Leopoldstrasse, or, perhaps, on one of the side alleys--I didn't notice...
     You don't say, now pay attention! Gray sky. Bald-spotted snow. Towers. Crows above the city hall's ridge-tile. Yellow walls. Silence, ten, no, eleven in the morning, Friday, cold, highmountain, Highalps, what else? Heavy feather beds, bedrooms in locks frozen overnight, coffee with milk, hot wine, school children at recess, a distant bell, chimneys, smoke above the chimneys, invisible wings--Whose? This is Innsbruck, my friends. To my right in the valley. I wanted to be here for a while. Hey, Achtung, Achtung, mein lieber, Riesenbock, bitte, auf ein Moment stoppen!.. Ich habe manche Problemen...
     Well there. I was able at least to intimate something, at least with something. To maintain this status, this Innsbruck. At times I feel awfully bad: how much of everything I've let go, a hole-filled collector, how much I've lost, forgotten, especially there, at home. There remain with me (in me?) some kind of just dark courtyards, corridors, wet garrets, trampled dandelions, unfilled ditches, lime-covered tree trunks... This is already here, in other countries I began to work for everyone myself, for everyone as what I am. I disappeared in the wild abysses of moods, I wasn't ready for them and took such a fright that, just as at home, I'll almost lose everything. Finally, one could live more peacefully with this. Consider everything lost extraneous. Everything lost (a small little thing)--is indispensable. That is, inevitable. But I had inklings. Even earlier in Lviv, and even in Chortopil, I was afraid that chance is used by us constantly every day. I'd want to be able to do something against it.
     So the idea of this dictaphone came up. Always to have it with me. To speak, to be silent, to speak again. To cram into it equally as much of everything as is crammed in our language. It's clear that it doesn't save us. But it can intimate, give something, without knowing it itself. O, fuck, such wise thoughts, I hate myself! Well good.
     I return to the day before yesterday's story. While I remember it. Too bad that Ada isn't listening to this. Because I wanted her to like me. But she packed a bag for herself filled with Italian operas and all the way from Munich has been sitting with her headphones on, sometimes amplifying the prima donnas with her graty voice. O don Fatale. In Italian. She knows Italian. She's lived in Rome and Ravenna, in Pisa and Assisi. Enough of that.
     For a good hour I had been groping through these quarters, at every step startling all kinds of Malaysians, Persians, Ethiopians, they continued to sing, I deciphered just individual, mutilated phrases, something like "an wi go to di radiance a di Joiman gate wid a young son wid a greaaat floaaating fish til di king scatta wi grain pan blood mek di lightning strike dem an it gi we a gyadín a di Joiman gate whe dem have bread and beer an apple a di golden cockerel glory to di Fada so wi wooda get loaded in di celestiality a di silva wine a wi ignarance butta gi wi some butta an beer an di spirit a di great fish glory to di Fada tase wi an oshun doshun boshunu mek di lightning strike dem mek di lightning strike dem cause wi gwine inna di radiance a di Joiman gate wid a young son wid a greaaat floaatting fish til di king scatta wi grain pan blood mek di lightning strike dem an it gi wi a gyadín a di Joiman gate whe dem have bread an beer an apple a di golden cockerel glory to di Fada"--this is the way they clacked their voices with their far from perfect High German, these resplendent with Moors and Monks, Knights and Seminarians, Rhinoceroses and Astrologers, Minnesingers and Nibelungen, Indonesians, Kurds, Pakistanis (or maybe Palestinians), and Albanians too, and Bosnians, and Khmer, among which there were, categorically, Haitians, Tahitians, Cretans, Cypriots, Congolese, Bangladeshis, Cote-d'lvoirians, and Burkina Fasoans, and all of them entirely not too badly bore this most complex of melodies, uttering something like "di herbal gaadín a di Joiman gate stan before wi and be wid wi, mek we knife fall an fill all a wi--wid a young son a big fish, wid di spirit af enchantment, wid di enchantment af spirit, iyan an cannan crawl inna it aze, lick mi wounds, an fi him, fi har, an she to, grow fi wi like temptation inna di guts ar guts inna di temptation glory to di Fada so we gwine get loaded inna di hole a di sun di celestiality a wi clear ignarance meat gi wi meat an schnapps an ja-ja a greaaat fish glory to di Fada an oshun doshun boshunu mek di lightning strike dem mek di lightning strike dem di herbal gyadín a di Joiman gate stan before wi an be wid wi, mek wi knife fall an fill all a wi--as a young sahn great fish, wid di spirit af enchantment, wid di enchantment af spirit, iyan an cannan crawl inna it aze, lick mi wounds, an fi him, fi har, an she to, grow fi wi like temptation inna di guts ar guts inna di temptation be glorified di new Isaac"--I would have hated myself for the rest of my days, if I would have attempted to escape from here, even though the sense of danger continued to grow in me, all the moreso since no one planned even to talk or somehow to come to an understanding with me--a guest--the men sang on, sitting about on the floor, rugs and sofas, and clapped as well to the beat with their palms, and the women also sang on, carrying out of the side corridors newer and newer branches of ferns, cocoanuts, swatches of fabric, bangles, little pictures, broken records... You're crazy, I let them know, but without hate or scorn, for all around something grand was really happening, a harmonious ritual of all the wronged from the entire world, they had to invent another god for themselves, they were battered with hunger and bombs, epidemics, AIDS, chemicals, the most polluted wells, and the cheapest bordellos were filled with them, they had weapons and patience tested on them, they had their forests burned and their deserts trampled, they were driven out from every direction from the moment they were born; how did they answer--with jazz? with marijuana? with a hundred methods of making love?.. I walked among the refugees, half poisoned with the aromas, with the green and red flashes, the songs, it's easy to poison me--for everyone that these passportless searchers of the rich German god, the Sovereign of the German Gate, to which they managed to force their way through at the last minute--some through a ship's pier-glasses, some through louse-infested benches, truths and untruths, through bribes, pay-offs, killings, pleading, begging, through thrusting out their vaginas, rear-ends, through playing on a leather flute, through Lviv, through Poland, through the throat, through the lungs, through 18 borders and 30 customs checkpoints--as emigrants, musicians, journeyman laborers, sorcerers, sex machine-guns, victims of burnt-down houses, dissidents, bandits, rebels, garbage men, shit carriers, sellers of roses in restaurants, card dealers, communists, Maoists, students of law and philosophy--thus they managed, proved able, defrauded, tore off this land for themselves, this Germany, this good life, these sleeping bags in underground passageways, they made these cities more colorful, this good, hard-working, self-sacrificing Germany warmed them and fed them and gave them to drink and so forth, but they want something else from it, they're pleading for something else from their mutual, though invented god--they want: the forests, the Alpine mountain tops, the castles, the museums, a visa extension, blood, warmth, sensitivity, money, cars, maybe they want citizenship?..
     I walked among them stunned, as though I were guilty of everything, as though I were the cause of causes of this screwed up world... I'll rest a bit.
      The checking of passports at the Brennero Pass didn't last longer than three minutes. Even my Sovok booklet didn't arouse in the Italian guy any kind of conspicuous emotions.
     Then we madly rolled downhill--Janus Maria gassed his "Porsche," or whatever it was he had, nearly to 200 kilometers an hour, we tore into a region where there was no more snow, where there was green grass, this is the kind of earth: "wo die Zitronen bluhn" (and you, Lemon, have you bloomed in this land?--what an idiotic last name, I've fallen in love with your very name Mrs. Riesenbock), the sun poured into our eyes, cliffs flew on both sides of the road, but everywhere there were roadside signs of human presence: a bridge over a stream, a chapel, cows in the grass, a Madonna, a scarecrow in the garden, a robber's castle, a hunter's restaurant, a car repair shop, a Madonna, a chapel, a bee hive, a fisherman's inn, a water mill, a cemetery, a Madonna, a girl with a basket, a robber's castle, a hotel with geraniums (gardenias? hortensias?) in the windows, a cheese-making shop, a smashed up Opel Kadett without any passengers, a woman in black, a Madonna...
     Riesenbock got nervous: much too often Italian road workers, who weren't in much of a hurry, popped up and he had to slow down to 40-50, to look for detours around them, breaking every second. The Italians among the road laborers were as peaceful as a door.
     And Riesenbock--yes, I'm talking about you, about you--has a nervous external appearance--he's all bony and big, he has a beard, bald spots on his head and a little bit of roving in his eyes. From his appearance he looks like he's in the middle of his life's journey: wearied by life, but still ravenous for it. I like these kind of guys.
     We stopped for a few minutes between Bressanone and Bolzano. Ada drove the car from there. Now, when you've got to take off the headphones, I'll continue my story just for you. It was that way from there on.
     Finally everyone readily turned their attention to me. Four girls appeared next to me--a Thai, a Samoan, a Trinidadan, and a Lesbian--moving to the rhythm of the collective song without interrupting their singing, they quite tenderly, but commandingly began to take off my cape. I decided not to resist and experience everything to the very end. Perhaps to atone for something. Or just to know. All the moreso, the end of the action was approaching, from behind "a di Joiman gate" sung by the kagan, several symptoms flashed from time to time, my head was swirling from the fragrant smoke, the song was becoming louder and higher, the refrains more frequent--me, without my cape, I might add, without chest armor--they led me to the largest of rooms where everyone was crawling in turn, there were countless of them, it seemed, there was no chance whatsoever to fit them all in, however somehow they fit in their own costumes but not in the carnival ones. They left the middle of the room open.
     Yes, I also suspect that this is some kind of new sect, absolutely.
     Then the following occurs. Several strange characters with buck and bull horns on their heads (I might add that it fit them like a saddle on a cow), dancing closer to me, they carry out to the middle of the room a small sacred felt rug (the kind we use to wipe our feet on), and before it, together with the final ecstasies of song "a di Joiman gate gi wi to swim past like a greaat fish") for the sake of the common rapture they puff out their chests: gold-plated bronze with somewhat increased proportions (in regard to natural proportions, obviously), and I understand that this is their deity, their idol, their divinity, better to say some kind of pithecanthropus, or a Buddha, or a German philosopher-materialist, he was the Guardian of the German Gate, either Egir, Grungnir, or Fafnir, a guard of the enchanted garden...
     All those present besides me solemnly kneeled before his divine appearance. When I had the impulse to kneel, then the girls, all four of my overseers, simply kept me from doing it, grabbing every piece of me from every direction. With the last rhythms of the great psalm, inasmuch as I understood, the High Holy One or something similar appeared before our eyes--a really robust lad of unknown race, for certain some kind of mixture of a Papuan guy with a Laplander, with a bag on his head, with only cut-outs for his eyes, ears and mouth. Shaking my entire body, I finally fell face down to the deity and crawled before him along the small rug. At this point the several-hour-long hymn finally cooled down. But here, however, a common murmando was born, similar to the buzzing of millions of flies. Once again, clearly, everyone other than me was humming, because I was banned from doing that, although I didn't have the urge to hum at all...
     After Trento the doctor of urology again took the wheel. Ada, just as earlier, dove into her Italian operas. Rossini, Verdi, Leoncavallo, Donizetti. And also Mozart, Mozart, Mozart, who really must have been an Italian, at least half. German women, especially from the south, really love Italians. They die just from the Italian names, especially the double or triple ones. This is the way immaculate conceptions begin. This is the way Mozart was born, the great possessor of my heart.
     But I, certainly, won't last till Venice. Too much of everything--these mountains, the green grass, which hasn't been seen since September, these arias, this bony Janus, who from time to time mild-naturedly curses someone in German, this view with fallen towers, this speed, this Ada, half turned away, here's her ear, her sweet ear, illuminated all the way through, is filling up with the nectar of music, with the warm sperm of music, with Italian voices, here the line of her neck passes to her shoulder, here's her hair, it seems, colored, bright chestnut colored, and now--her arms, her palms, two birds that lie on the front panel, they sometimes spring up in time with the music no longer heard by anyone in the world.
     I was bullshitting you. It's better this way: with the music heard by the whole world.
     Now: attention one more time! Verses from which I must free myself. This is improvisation. I can make a mistake here and there. Well then. O, Italy, what reason do I love you so? Six-foot iambic, cool! Because you blow into the butt of the ship. Utter nonsense, and it's not six foot. Well good, further. O, Italy, what reason do I love you so? Because you blow into the butt of the ship. Because you are like a harbor for a ship! And I'll always, believe me, love you: when I love, I love even when I vomit! When I compose this song of mine, Like a nightingale happy in the grove, Then I feel like I'm in paradise, where beautiful sluts whisper "I love you, Stanislav!" Around me--the mountains and the Tyrol! Her, what's not a word, is parole! I'd porol--smack you, geeoorgeous! Your king has begun to sulk like a troll. Why, Tyrol, are you so wondrous? Why, king, are you so lecherous? Why these cliffs, monasteries, oak trees? I'd lick your neck with the tip if... Pardon me, maybe I'm being too loud.
     They're husband and wife. She's maybe thirty. This isn't my business.
     Well look. Our "Ferrari" runs mile after mile, we've jumped out of Alto-Adige, not a single mountain robber attacked us, not a single of my barons enjoyed our blood, and the landscapes are becoming more intolerable, this is the South, the South, the South, this is cedars and pines, and monasteries, and the lines along the Autostrade, this is the scent of coffee from everywhere, this is aloe, myrtle, and sweet-rush, this is a simple enumeration which one can arrange in writing in two columns, each one of them will mean something completely unforgettable, but at the same time--define orientations along both sides of the road; I'm thrilled just from the name itself, that's why I want simply to name, simply to enumerate, this is a simple enumeration, from which your stomach goes into a spasm, and I can't venture to violate its wonderful internal sequence:
     a flower garden
          a balcony               
               a church
          a city square
     a fountain     a kiosk
          steps in the bushes
     a lantern
     a gate
     a pillar     a stained-glass window
          a display window
     a cornice     vegetables
     a sidewalk     a sidewalk
           a donkey
     a pigeon     
     Saint Thomas     swallow's nests
     Saint Peter     Saint Luke
     a girl in a window     Saint Francis
     Saint Roch
          Saint Spirit,
     I tear off everything from myself besides my shirt, as though I'm a saint, and finally give me a swig of alcohol, even better--two swigs, so that I won't die prematurely from excessive heat.
     And what's that ahead? Verona?!
     I should somehow finish the day before yesterday's story, shouldn't I?
     Yes here it is, at the instant of the greatest humming, I'll say it this way, the bucks mentioned above appeared, I understood it this way, that they're priests or of this persuasion. The main one raised his head from the rug and began to shake upon seeing what they were carrying: it was an aquarium, an enormous one, like a large vat, without plants, without seashells, without little stones on the sand, just with water and with a big living fish, a little fish, it was, perhaps, maybe even a carp or a sheat-fish, or a bream, or a white amur, say, a pike, and here, together with the compression of ahs of the entire crowd, they strike this aquarium to the floor (here the director dictated slow motion of the film), the aquarium falls for a long-long time, but breaks up anyway, splashing out green streams in every direction (everything dries up in me), this is awful, for the priests with their dark tongues capture the splashes, in me it's as though something is breaking down, I see how the fish is jumping in pain on the little rug among the broken pieces of the aquarium, I see how the High Priest has procured a sharpened hatchet from his belt, and I know that what will happen next, my legs give way, I'm no longer made of wax, I'm already cotton, I'm already not even made of cotton, I'm made of air, the first blow with the hatchet--and the fish is split through, but it's still shaking (I'm knocked off my feet), a second blow--everyone shouts "a-ah!," the fish has a broken pond, but it's still shaking (I'm no longer breathing, the air is escaping from me as though from a punctured ball), the third blow--everyone is screaming "u-ukh!," right at the fish's heart, it will flap a bit more and grow silent, and I: that's its darkness bottom zero button hook, not a goo goo.

      Just today I came to my senses right before the Austrian border. The police found--not me, but my body--overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, it seems at about three o'clock, beneath the Kennedy Bridge near the English Park, I lay with my head pointed to the west, the way all decent corpses lie. They brought me back to semi-consciousness, but I was almost unable to explain anything to anyone. All of me hurt, I felt faint inside, I felt like vomiting, there was a ringing in my head, but I didn't succeed in falling asleep, someone had warned me, someone had warned me. The police kept me to ten AM, until that miracle-working pair appeared--he and she, Ada and Riesenbock, I didn't know or see them, but they explained to the police that I'm the famous Pepperman, and that, it turns out, everyone is waiting for me in Venice, everyone is just pissing without me in that Venice, everyone simply got furious and enraged without me, and all of Venice is chanting: "Per-fe-tsky! Per-fe-tsky!"--they so want to touch me in that Venice; Ada and Riesenbock shoved at them some kind of scented, rustling papers on sky-blue and pink forms with a winged lion, entangled like Laocoon, in serpents; they vouched for me, drove me to their place in Possenhoffen, packed for their villa, and the doctor gave me all kinds of sleeping pills--in connection with which I crashed on their nuptial bed the rest of the day and another night until morning, and they, Ada and Riesenbock, in the meantime took care of my affairs, drove to the Italian consulate for a visa for me, picked out some new glasses for me, bought me all kind of trifles for the road and phoned someone deep into the night, explaining something, convincing someone of something, all while I slept (didn't sleep) on their wide bed, scattered all over with crumbs, red-hot with nails and shells of nuts.
     I don't know what all this was about. I had to stop in Venice--and today I'm stopping over there in some 2-3 hours, or maybe even sooner. It is difficult for me to think up any explanations. It's easier for me simply to contemplate and list them in a whisper: the steering wheel, the road, the grass, my neck, shoulder, half turned around, half curved, half asleep, half bent, half love.
      Between Verona and Padua the vineyards first appeared.


Is this the case of another death in Venice? Ukrainian poet Stanislav Perfetsky disappeared on March 11, 1993, believed to have leapt to his death through what turned out to be a boarded-up window at The White Lion Hotel near the Ponte Accademia. Yet the corpus delicti was never found in the dark waters of the Grand Canal. Was it suicide? Was it murder for the poet's transgressions? Was it a fabricated disappearance to deceive the poet's enemies? In his novel Perverzion, Yuri Andrukhovych recreates the life of Perfetsky as an anti-saint's life, culling information from various sources including Perfetsky's own notes and audio tapes, from eyewitness interviews and testimonies, from newspapers and other sources. He follows Perfetsky's path by train from Lviv, Ukraine near the Polish border through the new Eastern Europe; then from Germany to Italy through the Alps by car, and through the waterways of Venice by gondola, accompanied for most of the journey by the profoundest love of his life Ada Zitrone, who over the course of the novel periodically sends encoded reports on Perfetsky's activities to a mysterious patron.



Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovych (born 1960) is the author of 4 books of poetry, a cycle of stories based on his service in the Soviet Army, and three novels: Recreations (available in Mark Pavlyshyn's translation through U. of Toronto Press), Moskoviada (which I am in the process of translating under the working title The Moscow Helliad), and Perverzion (which I have translated and which is currently under consideration by Northwestern University Press). Andrukhovych is also a prolific essayist and cultural commentator and recently published a volume of essays entitled Disorientation in Locality. This past year his translation of Shakespeare's Hamlet appeared on the Ukrainian stage in Kyiv. Andrukhovych's carnivalesque prose is rife with verbal play and multi-leveled nuances. He is, by overwhelming consensus, the finest representative of postmodernism in Ukrainian literature. He is currently a visiting Fubright scholar at Penn State University where he is working on a project to translate poetry of the Beats and The New York School into Ukrainian. The excerpt presented here is from his novel Perverzion. I've had to be inventive in my translation of this part of the novel and have translated parts of it into authentic Jamaican English with the help of my Jamaican friend Michael Haughton.


Michael M. Naydan teaches Ukrainian and Russian literature at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of several book-length translations: Selected Poetry of Lina Kostenko: Wanderings of the Heart (Garland Publishers, 1990), Marina Tsvetaeva's After Russia (Ardis Publishers, 1992), Pavlo Tychyna's The Complete Early Poetry Collections of Pavlo Tychyna (Litopys Publishers, 2000), and Yuri Vynnychuk's Windows of Time Frozen and Other Stories (Klasyka Publishers, 2000). He also co-edited and co-translated From Three Worlds: New Writing from Ukraine (Glas and Zephyr Press, 1996 and 1997), 100 Years of Youth: A Bilingual Anthology of 20th Century Ukrainian Poetry (Litopys Publishers, 2000), and Olga Sedakova's Poems and Elegies (Bucknell U. Press, forthcoming). His articles, reviews, original poetry, and translations have appeared in numerous periodicals including Slavic and E. European Journal, Slavic Review, Canadian Slavonic Papers, New York Times Book Review, Agni, Nimrod, Confrontation, Denver Quarterly, Kenyon Review, and others.

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