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Poetry Readings: Hidalgo


Being a world citizen
Tomas Venclova Poet
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[Q] How do you feel about American society? Have you integrated completely or do you still feel that you're on the periphery like an émigré?

I do feel that I am, in part, on the periphery, but I like that. I like the fact that I am on the periphery, my English isn't very good. I can, of course, hold a conversation without any real difficulty, I can give my lectures in English but it's far from being perfect. They say he's the one who doesn't speak English very well. Of course, in America it's not clear what it means to speak English perfectly since everyone there speaks the language so-so. Almost everyone has either come from Europe or their parents have come from Europe, and it's far from the case that everyone there speaks Oxford or Cambridge English. But what I can say is that I feel more of a world citizen. I feel as much at ease or not at ease in America, as in Paris and in Lithuania, and anywhere else. I can make myself understood, if needed, in several languages. All of that, as it were, all those environments are, well, quite close to me. I can orientate myself in them quite easily but in the depths of my soul, without a doubt, I remain a Lithuanian. And in part, I am still an inhabitant of the old Soviet Union, because my memories of it, as you can see, are for me quite specific and eventful. To me they're important and quite interesting, unusually interesting, even though I don't feel any nostalgia for those times. So, as I've said, I am a little on the sidelines in America, but that's what I happen to like. I would probably feel worse if I were fully integrated into that society and were to live like all Americans. For example, my stepson, my daughter live like all Americans with a large house, with several cars, with, that is… but very boringly, in my opinion. We visit them and they, let's say... my daughter is really envious of me even though she probably lives materially better than I do – but she's always saying to me, ‘Well, one day you're in Paris, another in Japan, and I get 10 days holiday a year and that's all I can allow myself. And you, so to speak, spend half your life in some exotic countries, in some interesting places and I'd very much like to live like that but I can't'. That's what my daughter says to me. Later, when she's older, when she's retired, perhaps she can live like I live now. Whereas I've been living like that, for about... the last 30 years.

O kitas klausimas? Kaip jūs jaučiatės palyginus su Amerikos visuomene, ar visiškai pritapęs, ar vis tiek jaučiatės, kad nuošaly esate kaip emigrantas? Aš jaučiuosi šiek tiek nuošaly, bet man tas patinka. Man, man patinka, kad aš esu nuošaly, mano anglų kalba nėra labai gera. Galiu, žinoma, susikalbėti be didelio vargo, galiu paskaitas skaityti angliškai, bet ji toli gražu nėra tobula. Sako, kad tas, kuris tobulai nekalba angliškai, žinoma, Amerikoj neaišku, ką reiškia tobulai kalbėti angliškai, kadangi ten visi kalba šiaip sau. Beveik visi yra arba atvykę iš Europos, arba jų tėvai yra atvykę iš Europos, ir toli gražu ne kiekvienas tenai kalba Oksfordo arba Kembridžo anglų kalba. Bet sakau, aš jaučiuosi toks daugiau pasaulio pilietis. Man vienodai lengva, arba vienodai sunku, ir Amerikoj, ir Paryžiuje, ir Lietuvoje, ir bet kur. Susikalbu iš bėdos keliom kalbom. Visi tie, taip sakant, visa ta aplinka yra man, na, gana artima, aš joje gana lengvai orientuojuosi, bet sielos gilumoje, be abejo, lieku lietuvis. Ir iš dalies, dar tas senosios Tarybų Sąjungos gyventojas, nes jos prisiminimai, kaip matote, gana tokie savotiški, nuotykingi man yra. Man yra svarbūs ir gana įdomūs, savotiškai įdomūs, nors jokios nostalgijos tiems laikams nejaučiu. Taip kad, sakau, esu truputį nuošaly nuo Amerikos gyvenimo, bet man tai kaip tik patinka, aš tubūt blogiau jausčiausi jeigu būčiau pilnai įsiterpęs į tą visuomenę ir gyvenčiau taip, kaip visi amerikonai. Sakysim, mano posūnis, mano dukra jau gyvena kaip visi amerikonai – su dideliais namais, su keliais automobiliais, su, reiškia, bet labai nuobodžiai, mano manymu. Mes pas juos lankomės ir jie, sakysime, dukra man tikrai pavydi, nors jinai materialiai gyvena turbūt geriau negu aš, bet visada sako: Na, tu tai Paryžiuje, tai Japonijoj, o aš turiu dešimt dienų atostogų per metus ir tai viskas, ką aš galiu sau leisti. O tu esi, taip sakant, pusę gyvenimo esi kažkur egzotiškuose kraštuose, įdomiose vietose ir aš labai norėčiau taip gyventi, bet man neišeina. Taip man sako dukra. Vėliau, kada jinai pasens, išeis į pensiją, galbūt galės taip gyventi, kaip aš dabar gyvenu. O aš taip gyvenu jau apie trisdešimt metų.

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: USA, Lithuania, Soviet Union

Duration: 2 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: May/June 2011

Date story went live: 20 March 2012