Not Narrow Enough

Coincidences can be pleasing. Or not, as the case may be. An allusion, likewise, can give one a frisson – though just as often one wishes it wasn’t there. A landscape can be beautiful enough without people creeping into it. Stupid people.

On a not completly unrelated subject, a Russian newspaper has published yet another of the aforementioned teenage poetry of our dear old hateful friend, Mr. Pyetr Turgidovsky. This one comes with a brief note from its translator, in which he tries and fails to explain his decision to translate the title as My Way.

‘It is extremely unlikely that Turgidovsky had any intention of referring to Frank Sinatra,’ writes the hapless word-fixer, ‘mostly because his title is not the same as the Russian title of that song, but also because Turgidovsky seems to have had very little contact with popular culture of that sort’.

Fair enough. But why, Mr. Translator, have you insisted on going with this title all the same? This is a question he declines to answer, leaving us with the possibility that a.) he is an idiot, b.) he is a Frank Sinatra loving idiot or c.) he has perfectly good reasons which he is keeping to himself, making him somewhat of an idiot.

As for the poem itself, it’s pretty standard teenage Turgidovsky stuff, of the relatively mild and middling sort. Not as brilliant as Side of the Road, by any means, but nonetheless equipped with a moment or two of miserable brilliance.

Having heard from a religious man that there is a wide and narrow way, the youthful Turgidovsky reacts with typically cynical insolence, announcing that there, is in fact, a third way: his own true way. ‘The way between/your two worn paths/a route that only brambles tred/a path-less road you pay by blood’. And so on and so forth.

The majority of the poem is given over to a description of this non-path and of the various difficulties the traveller will have in taking it, mixed in with a bit of Messianic self-identification (‘call me the lord of crows, the son/of everything that you run from’) and the usual no-holds-barred approach to human unhappiness. Not the best poem to turn to on a sunny afternoon, perhaps, but I’d recommend it to all you Turgidovsky fans. Just so long as you are able to get beyond the fact that it’s been given the title My Way (my own suggestion for an alternative can be found at the head of this post).

In other Turgidovsky news, I ought to state, for the good of Truth and all its fluffy angels, that he was not, as hinted by yours truly, responsible for Symptoms of the End. The editor of a small Russian literary magazine has been prosecuted.


11 thoughts on “Not Narrow Enough

  1. There are rumours, probably unfounded, of the existence of a ‘simply shocking’ early Turgidovsky poem in which he expresses the opinion that life might, in some remote sense, actually be a good thing.

    Like I said, probably unfounded…

  2. He probably succumbed to a crazy hope, at some point, that he might eventually find a beautiful yet profoundly disturbed female poet who could be his loyal helpmeet.

  3. Like a dog returns to it’s vomit.

    The White Cube gallery in London put on a show of etchings by Jake and Dinos Chapman for a few months back in 2005.

    “Who would want to paint you when no one wants to look at you?” says an old epigrammatist to a misshapen man. Many a modern artist would say, “No matter how misshapen you are, I will paint you. Though people may not like to look at you, they will be glad to look at my picture: not as a portrait of you, but as a proof of my skill in making so close a copy of such a monster.” Gotthold Lessing. Laocoon, On the Limitations of Painting and Poetry (1766)

  4. Rodin once said he could make a work of art of anyone walking in the street. ‘What if that person were ugly?’ said one of his friends. ‘If they were ugly, they would fall down,’ said the sculptor.

    Domino, I believe that many a beautiful and profoundly disturbing female poet (not to mention a few profound and beautifully disturbing ones) have had this very same thought. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend they act on the impulse, unless they take pleasure in the utter misery of the dating process.

  5. Back in those days I hadn’t read a word of Turgidovsky. And even now I have the good sense not to wrap myself too tightly in his suffocating blanket of woe.

  6. Alas, I am probably doomed to recall these wise words of paternal solicitude as I finger-comb the burrs from Turgidovsky’s wooly beard!

  7. At the very least you’ll get a good story out of it. More likely you’ll pick up a disease (which could lead to an even better story).

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