Katya Knyazeva (avezink) wrote,
Katya Knyazeva

Don Aminado's Montparnasse

Here is my attempt at the translation of some verses by the Russian emigrant poet Don Aminado, who lived in Paris amid the Russian diaspora since the 1920s.


The earth was flooded with electric lights
and the crowd was flowing like an avalanche.
A skinny blond girl in a green beret
was scanning the room for the skinny blond guy.

Some Swedes were sitting and drinking
some weird Swedish grog.
Some girls were strolling, nervously,
stumbling over their long Swedish legs.

Some strange, alien people,
disheveled and aged,
spent hours smoking up the room,
dropping the ashes into their beer glasses.

Some unsung genius was smoking a pipe
with an impertinent smile
while gawking at some graceful,
yellow Siamese goddess.

Poets, vagabonds, oriental princes,
in turbans and headscarves, with proud postures,
some dudes, some half-Argentinians,
some half-pimps with swarthy mugs.

This colorful and strange anthill
was sucking on coffees, buzzing and playing,
and only the garcon with a coffee pot
was hiding a knowing grin,

because after sampling all these philosophies,
he stopped caring about
what swill passes for coffee
and what scum passes for bohemians.


The actress was reading a passage from Blok,
and her left bosom was heaving with sadness.
She had glassy eyes
and the same dress as last year.

Then Kolya played balalaika
in his gorgeous black velveteen pants.
He completely devoured Indian Guest
and did an encore of Down the River.

Then a choir of boyars in smocks filled the stage
and sang about the rebellious chief Stepan Rasin,
which was a little strange
because Stepan was known to hang the boyars.

Then there was dancing, and a bouffet,
and a waltz in a cloud of blue gauze.
Towards the dawn a woman-bass singer
was sobbing on the shoulder of the performer of Liszt.

Something was wobbling in the haze,
and the boyar choir was humming on stage.
It was comforting to know that it all was happening
not in some Russian small town, but in Paris.

The originals are here.
Tags: emigration, france, russians

Posts from This Journal “russians” Tag

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.