In Translation: Sonnet of Things Gone Missing

Photograph: © Philip Rosenberg. All rights reserved.

Genrikh Sapgir (1928–1999) was a Russian poet, one of the leaders of the Lianozovo group, an association of non-conformist, avant-garde artists and poets. During the Soviet era he could only publish children’s verse and translations. The present poem comes from Sapgir’s 76-piece cycle Sonnets on Shirts, which was written mostly in the 1970-s and became a landmark of Soviet underground culture. A bitter satire on the Soviet life, the sonnet is shot through with Sapgir’s unmistakable humor.

Sonnet of Things Gone Missing

To Ian Satunovsky

At times there is — no beef or ham or cheese
Now hats are gone from store shelves everywhere
But I have known calamities to spare
No place to live. No health. No relatives

No happiness no moral sense no peace
For one’s own labor no respect nor care
No warm and comfy place to take a piss
No prospects for a harvest come next year

But there are FISH-BASED MEATBALLS in a can
And goals — both hazy and utopian
Betrayal cosmos vodka boredom missiles

There’s forest, steppe, construction and ballet
And even people — somewhere far away
And God’s my witness! — though God’s also missing

Сонет о том, чего нет

Яну Сатуновскому

То мяса нет – то колбасы то сыра
То шапок нет куда я ни зайду
Но я встречал и большую беду
Нет близких. Нет здоровья. Нет квартиры

Нет радости нет совести нет мира
Нет уваженья к своему труду
Нет на деревне теплого сортира
Нет урожая в будущем году

Но есть консервы РЫБНЫЕ ТЕФТЕЛИ
Расплывчатость и фантастичность цели
Есть подлость водка скука и балет –

Леса и степи, стройки и ракеты
Есть даже люди в захолустье где-то
И видит Бог! – хоть Бога тоже нет

About the Translator

Dmitri Manin’s translations from English and French into Russian have appeared in several book collections, and Russian-to-English translations have been published in journals (Cardinal Points, Delos, The Café Review, Metamorphoses and Why nICHt). In particular, Cardinal Points and Metamorphoses published 13 of the Sapgir sonnets. In 2018, he won the Compass Award for translation of a poem by Maria Stepanova. Several of his Stepanova translations into English appear in a book published by CUP this year. A book of translations of N. Zabolotsky poetry is slated for publication by Arc Publications in 2023.

Appears In

Issue 16

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