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Friendship with Joseph Brodsky

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Translating Anna Akhmatova's poems
Tomas Venclova Poet
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Tarp kitko, pas ją buvo atėjęs Solženicynas – anais laikasi labai garsus rašytojas disidentas, vėliau irgi Nobelio premijos laureatas, kuris be romanų (romanai jį išgarsino, romanai, apsakymai jie jam suteikė pasaulinį vardą) jis be to rašė ir eileraščių. Ir perskaitė Achmatovai savo nelabai vykusius eilėraščius. Achmatova išklausė ir pasakė: žinote, jūsų eilėse kažkaip mažoka paslapties. Į tai Solženicynas atsikirto: o jūsų eilėse – per daug paslapties. Na, va, tokiu būdu jie apsikeitė komplimentais, kaip sakoma. Na, bet Achmatova pasiklausė tų lietuviškų vertimų ir pasakė: na kągi, intonacija atrodo pagauta. Tai aš supratau, kad jos manymu vertimai niekam netinka. Na ir labai nuliūdęs išėjau iš jos namų ir net galvojau, kad vertėtų turbūt nusižudyti, kad Achmatova, taip sakant, manęs nepripažįsta. Bet mano laimei, tuoj po to kai aš išėjau iš Achmatovos, pas ją užėjo kalbininkas Ivanovas. Kalbininkas ir kultūrologas, maskvietis, mokslininkas, ir dabar gyvas, jis už mane kokia dešimčia metų vyresnis, labai žinomas, dabar jis akademikas. Ir Ivanovas moka apie penkiasdešimt kalbų. Puikiai moka ir lietuviškai, ir nekartą buvęs Lietuvoje, bendravęs su lietuvių kalbininkais. Ir Achmatova jam parodė – štai mano eilėraščių lietuviški vertimai. Ivanovas perskaitė ir pasakė: mano manymu vertimai geri. Tada Achmatova man paskambino ir pasakė, kad dabar aš jau žinau, kad jūsų vertimuose esama paslapties, todėl prašom galite pas mane užeiti kada tik norite, kalbėsimės apie šį bei tą. Ir aš pas Achmatovą kokį penkioliką kartų lankiausi, tai buvo man irgi svarbi gyvenimo patirtis. Kalbėjau apie ją... kalbėjau su ja apie literatūrą ir ne tik apie literatūrą, ir tokiu būdu, taip sakant, su ja gana nemažai bendravau.

By the way, [Alexander] Solzhenitsyn came to visit her. In those times he was a very famous dissident writer, later a Nobel laureate, who besides writing novels – it was the novels that made him famous, the novels, the stories which made his name known throughout the world – also wrote verse. And he read his not very successful verse to [Anna] Akhmatova. Akhmatova listened and said, 'You know there's very little mystery in your lines'. And Solzhenitsyn retaliated by saying, 'And there's too much mystery in your verse'. And in this manner they exchanged compliments, so to speak. Well, Akhmatova listened to those Lithuanian translations and said, 'Well, the intonation seems to have been captured'. By that I understood that the translations were good for nothing. I left her home feeling very sad and I even thought that probably the right thing to do was to commit suicide, that Akhmatova, so to speak, didn't acknowledge me. But luckily, as soon as I'd left, the philologist [Vyacheslav] Ivanov came to visit her. He was a philologist and very well versed about cultures, a Muscovite, scholar, and he's still alive, he's about 10 years older than me, very well known, he's now an academic. And Ivanov knows about 50 languages. He knows Lithuanian extremely well , too, and has been in Lithuania many times and worked with Lithuanian philologists. And Akhmatova showed him my translations of her verse. Ivanov read them and said, 'In my opinion the translations are good'. Then Akhmatova telephoned me and said, 'Now I know that there is mystery in your translations, so you are welcome to visit me whenever you like, we'll speak about certain things'. And I visited Akhmatova about 15 times, that was also an important experience in my life. I spoke to her about… I spoke to her about literature and not just about literature... and in that way, so to speak, I spent quite a bit of time with her.

Born in 1937, Tomas Venclova is a Lithuanian scholar, poet, author and translator of literature. He was educated at Vilnius University and later at Tartu University. As an active participant in the dissident movement he was deprived of Soviet citizenship in 1977 and had to emigrate. Between 1977 and 1980 he lectured at University of California, Berkeley, where he became friends with the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz, who was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literature at the school, as well as the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky. He is currently a full professor at Yale University.

Listeners: Andrzej Wolski

Film director and documentary maker, Andrzej Wolski has made around 40 films since 1982 for French television, the BBC, TVP and other TV networks.  He specializes in portraits and in historical films.  Films that he has directed or written the screenplay for include Kultura, which he co-directed with Agnieszka Holland, and KOR which presents the history of the Worker’s Defence Committee as told by its members.  Andrzej Wolski has received many awards for his work, including the UNESCO Grand Prix at the Festival du Film d’Art.

Tags: Nobel Prize, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Anna Akhmatova, Vyacheslav Ivanov

Duration: 2 minutes, 16 seconds

Date story recorded: May/June 2011

Date story went live: 20 March 2012