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PhD or unemployment – Yale delivers an ultimatum


A job offer from Yale
Tomas Venclova Poet
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Dabar ir, bet kada, reiškia, jie man po trejų metų UCLA arba Los Angeles Universitetas jau nebepratęsė mano kontrakto ir aš atsidūriau seklumoj. Na, išsigandau, bet mano bičiuliai Milošas ir Brodskis vėl ėmėsi kai kurių veiksmų, pradėjo skambinti savo pažįstamiems ir surado man, irgi vieneriems metams darbovietę kitame Amerikos gale, Jeilo universitete. Jiems reikėjo, kadangi vienas profesorius buvo išėjęs metinių atostogų, reikėjo, kad kažkas jį pavaduotų. Ir už... jie man parašė, kad mes, reiškia, labai esame nuliūdę, kad negalim jums pasiūlyti geros algos tiktai septynioliką tūkstančių dolerių per metus. Na, tai buvo prieš trisdešimts metų, dabar būtų turbūt kokį trisdešimts tūkstančių atitiktų, bet tai vis tiek labai nedaug, bet man atrodė, kad daug, man atrodė, kad labai daug, kad aš puikiai, taip sakant, esu puikioje finansinėje padėtyje. Dabar pats truputį šypsausi, kad tada buvau gana naivus. Bet, reiškia, septyniolika tūkstančių per metus ir jūs galite dėstyti Jeile. Dėstysite devyniolikto amžiaus rusų poeziją. Nu, dabar aš niekad gyvenime nesu devyniolikto amžiaus rusų poezijos, bandęs tai daryti, bet pagalvojau, nu žinot, kaip tame anekdote: kad aš niekad nesu grojęs smuiku, bet jeigu man smuiką duosite į rankas – pabandysiu, gal kas nors ir išeis.

Now, they didn't extend my contract at UCLA or the University of Los Angeles and I found myself stranded. Well, I was scared, but my friends [Czesław] Milosz and [Joseph] Brodsky again swung into action, they began calling their acquaintances and found me, also for one year, a job at the other University of America, at Yale. They needed someone, since one of the professors went off on a year's leave, they needed someone to fill in for him. And they wrote to me saying, ‘We're very sorry that we can't offer you a good salary, only $17,000 for the year'. Well, that was 30 years ago, now that would probably be about $30,000 but it was all the same, not much, but it seemed to me that it was a lot, it seemed to me an awful lot, that I was in a great, as it were, in a great financial position. I can smile now at how naïve I was. But $17,000 a year and you can lecture at Yale. ‘You'll be teaching 19th century Russian poetry'. Well, I had never in my life taught 19th century Russian poetry, I had never tried that but then I thought, you know, like in that anecdote – I've never played the violin but you hand me a violin, I'll try it. Perhaps something will come out of it.

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: UCLA, University of Los Angeles, Yale University, Czesław Miłosz, Joseph Brodsky

Duration: 1 minute, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: May/June 2011

Date story went live: 20 March 2012