|Предисловие к книге написано Роуэном Уильямсом.|
Olga Sedakova is without doubt one of the foremost Russian poets of her generation – an unusual generation, whose writing spans the end of the repressions of the Soviet era and the beginnings of a new age of angry, violent nationalism, often clothed in religious dress. Her detachment from these varieties of anti-humanism is consistent and deep; her Christian imagination is strong enough never to be simply reactive, nostalgic, or resentful. Like any good poet, she is most concerned with making the reader attend, both to the patterning and pacing of her words and to what they illuminate about being alive in the world. If there is, for her, a “consolation” in poetry, it is not a matter of simple aesthetic satisfaction or of encouraging “messages.” She sees her words as drawing us into a journey in which we shall certainly get lost. In our lostness, we may just become able to glimpse, in a sky or a mirror or a patch of grass on a hillside or a stray sound, the pressure all around us of immeasurable joy, a joy that does not need us and our feelings for it to be real.
Mirrors turn up often in these poems, with the subtext of reminding us of the difficulties we have in seeing ourselves, the enormous gaps in our knowledge of who and what we are; we need all sorts of accompaniment if we are to see our own faces with any kind of truthfulness. And – to pick up a resonant turn of phrase from one of these poems – part of what makes it impossible for Adam, even a penitent Adam, to get back into the Garden of Eden is that he has “wanted” what is already his – he has tried to grasp and possess his own being and that of his world, instead of journeying into himself and the world, journeying into language itself, so as to become more attuned to truth, and so to joy.
The poems in this volume are different from many of those that have appeared in earlier translations. Sedakova often writes with a long, “drifting” line, fingering over an image or a sequence of words interspersed with shorter, more insistent lines. Her vocabulary can be difficult, sometimes archaic. But these pieces are tightly constructed, with plenty of balladic energy and folkloric pithiness, even when their content is teasing and complex. They very definitely succeed in conveying the sense of a forgotten directness of perception and relation – not a lost simplicity, exactly, but a larger and more human world shrunk and damaged by “adult” modernity. The way back is never the reconstruction of a lost golden age, but a new willingness to let go in the face of the pinpoint of luminosity that is still a gateway to life, to see that we can’t see who we are in our habitual ways of thinking. It is the simplicity and the superabundance of life in grace.
She is seldom an easy poet and putting her into English is hard work (my own efforts at this have sometimes left me feeling that every kind of verbal grace has vanished in the process); it is excellent that she has found here such a careful, skilled, and sympathetic translator. Sedakova is someone who, as both a poet and critic, deserves to be much better known in the English-speaking world – and just at present it is extremely important that we recognize the strain in Russian culture that is deeply subversive of the imperial and totalizing ambitions that continue to distort a great heritage of wisdom and imagination. Olga Sedakova is a writer of global significance, a premier voice of Christian humanism and sacramental sensibility, and the publishing of this collection is a welcome stage in the reception of her exceptional genius in the West.