Exhibition and Discussion about Russian Diaspora Publications and Publishers

At the start of 2018, a Swiss Arminio Sciolli decided to donate part of his Russian diaspora literature collection to the National Library of Lithuania. The collection consists of rare books, not yet seen in Lithuania. The geography of the collection covers a wide range of places – from South Africa to China – where Russian diaspora communities lived at the beginning of the twentieth century.

On September 21, 2018, the Library invited to the exhibition “Russian Diaspora Literature” opening and discussion about Russian diaspora publications and publishers. Dr. Pavel Lavrinec, Vilnius University professor, provided a broader context and a general overview of the exhibition. Prof. Tomas Venclova, Yale University emeritus and professor of Slavic literature, talked about the history of Russian diaspora in Harbin, China, its cultural life and his impressions from recent trip there.

Venclova’s Evening and the Exhibition

Tomas Venclova. Photo: National Library of Lithuania

In commemoration of the eightieth anniversary of Tomas Venclova, a Lithuanian-American poet, scholar, philologist, translator and a dissident, the discussion was organized in the National Library in Lithuania on September 11. The event called to reflect on Venclova’s contribution to the culture and the continuity of his works and thought in contemporary Lithuania.

On this occasion, the exhibition of photographs and books, “Tomas Venclova: That Is How the Word Approaches,” was opened in Vilnius Town Hall. One of the partners, the National Library of Lithuania, prepared a collection of Venclova’s poetry books. The exhibition invited acquaintance with poet’s poems in their original language and in their translations into twenty-three languages. Despite the rather complex strophic and rhythmic patterns of his poems—or perhaps because of them—Venclova’s poems have been translated not only into English, Russian, Polish, and German, but also into Albanian, Macedonian, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even Esperanto, among other languages.

Most of the publications were drawn from the Tomas Venclova Collection housed at the National Library of Lithuania.

Venclova’s Evening drew huge crowds. Photo: National Library of Lithuania

80th birthday of Tomas Venclova

September 11, 2017 marks the 80th birthday of Tomas Venclova, a prominent Lithuanian poet, intellectual and Professor Emeritus at Yale University, US. While living in Soviet Lithuania, Venclova became a dissident. He left the Soviet Union in 1977. In the United States, Venclova formed a triumvirate with two other émigré poets from Eastern Europe, a Russian poet Joseph Brodsky and a Polish-Lithuanian poet Czesław Miłosz. Having lived in the US for decades, Venclova is still very involved in the intellectual life of Lithuania and Europe. In his writings and by his personal example, the poet encourages the cultural and historical dialogue and challenges prevailing stereotypes. Venclova’s poetry, which blends history and personal experiences, has been translated into over 20 languages.

Venclova‘s poetry in the original language is available here >> 


Quotations from translations of Venclova’s poetry

 

Above all, though it’s hard, love language –

humbled in newspapers, obituaries saturated with lies,

in the bedroom’s close darkness, the informer’s confession,

in the cry at the bazaar, trenches, the stench of hospital wards,

 

in third-rate theatres, secret police offices, on lavatory walls.

In grey buildings where the stairwell’s shaft is guarded

by steel nets, so that it is not a man, but the century,

which selects the instant of his death

<…>

It was given so that we might be different from clay,

the palm, the thrush, perhaps even from angels,

so that by naming, we should grasp objects clearly.

 

From poem “Commentary”; translated by Ellen Hinsey


 

Although I won’t be able

To shake you, still I will,

I’ll put out every taper:

The tower and the bell,

The stony streets, the shore

Bedecked with tar, and even

My soul, though I’m not sure

It counts among the living.

 

Here, underneath my feet,

The shaky roadway crumbles.

The shooting range, unlit,

Conceals a dark-voiced rumble

Of waves, a vast expanse,

And, from the days of Noah,

Above the depths, the dance

Of Aquilon and Notus.

From “Ode to a City,” translated by Ellen Hinsey. According to Tomas Venclova, the poem was written as a farewell to Vilnius in 1974, when he decided to emigrate.