dangermousie: (Default)
Not caring about
The black disorder of my hair
I lay prostrate;
I ache with the loss
Of he who was first to caress it.

A poem by Izumi Shikibu, from 11th century, quoted in a section on Heian-era Kyoto, from John Dougill's Kyoto: A cultural history.
dangermousie: (Default)
Not caring about
The black disorder of my hair
I lay prostrate;
I ache with the loss
Of he who was first to caress it.

A poem by Izumi Shikibu, from 11th century, quoted in a section on Heian-era Kyoto, from John Dougill's Kyoto: A cultural history.
dangermousie: (Default)
Not caring about
The black disorder of my hair
I lay prostrate;
I ache with the loss
Of he who was first to caress it.

A poem by Izumi Shikibu, from 11th century, quoted in a section on Heian-era Kyoto, from John Dougill's Kyoto: A cultural history.
dangermousie: (Default)
1. I've been reading my way through Ashok K. Banker series of novels which are a retelling of the Ramayana in novel form. From what I remember (I read a Russian translation of the Ramayana ages ago), he is pretty faithful to the original, with the advantages that come with the novel form (dialogue, filling in the gaps) but if you are looking for an interpretation or reimagining of the original, you are better off looking elsewhere. Its faithfulness is also its straight-jacket. If, otoh, you want a rip-roaring good story (there is a reason I adored the original in translation as a child) written in a more accessible language and with more detail than a pure English translation of the original epic will be, come right in.

2. This is, for some reason, is reminding me of my love for Persian poetry. Translations were pretty obtainable in the Soviet Union when I was growing up. They are just so emotional and passionate and beautiful. The closest equivalent in English would be the metaphysical poets, IMO. I especially love Saadi. My favorite Persian poem is his. It's only four lines but it really gets me, somehow. Here it is, in Russian translation:

Если в рай после смерти меня поведут без тебя,
Я закрою глаза, чтобы светлого рая не видеть.
Ведь в раю без тебя мне придется сгорать, как в аду.
Нет, аллах не захочет меня так жестоко обидеть!

Also, his gazals are amazing. Here is one (in Russian translation)

О караванщик, сдержи верблюдов! Покой мой сладкий, мой сон уходит.
Вот это сердце за той, что скрутит любое сердце, в полон уходит.
Уходит злая, кого люблю я, мне оставляя одно пыланье.
И полыхаю я, словно пламень, и к тучам в дымах мой стон уходит.
Я о строптивой все помнить буду, покуда буду владеть я речью.
Хоть слово – вестник ее неверный, едва придет он и вон уходит.
Приди, – и снова тебе, прекрасной, тебе, всевластной, служить я стану.
Ведь крик мой страстный в просторы неба, себе не зная препон, уходит.
О том, как души бросают смертных, об этом люди толкуют разно.
Я ж видел душу свою воочью: она – о, горький урон! – уходит.
Не должен стоном стонать Саади,— но все ж неверной кричу я: “Злая!”
Найду ль терпенье! Ведь из рассудка благоразумья канон уходит!

If you want to read him in Russian, this is a great web-page.

It's hard to find English translations on-line, but here is one, done by this gentleman of another one of Saadi's poems:

I held in my bath a per­fumed piece of clay
that came to me from a beloved’s hand.
I asked it, “Are you musk or amber­gris?
Like fine wine, your smell intox­i­cates me.”
“Till some­one set me down beside a rose,”
it said, “I was a loath­some lump of clay.
My companion’s scent seeped into me.
Oth­er­wise, I am only the earth that I am.”

One of my favorite Russian poems is also inspired by Saadi. It's Yesenin's riff on Saadi's work:

Ты сказала, что Саади
Целовал лишь только в грудь.
Подожди ты, Бога ради,
Обучусь когда-нибудь!

Ты пропела: «За Ефратом
Розы лучше смертных дев».
Если был бы я богатым,
То другой сложил напев.

Я б порезал розы эти,
Ведь одна отрада мне —
Чтобы не было на свете
Лучше милой Шаганэ.

И не мучь меня заветом,
У меня заветов нет.
Коль родился я поэтом,
То целуюсь, как поэт.

ETA: How do I do the equivalent of LJ cuts on DW? I don't want to inflict lengthy uncut entries on my friends.
dangermousie: (MoL feet by ameyadevi)
I really love this poem, and it's an excellent translation.

******

I love you now, in fact,
And I don't hold it back.
It's not "before", not "after" - your rays set me afire.
Whether I weep or I smile
I love you in this while,-
the future I don't want, the past I don't desire.

"I loved you" (in the past)
is worse than breathing last.
My wings are cut, and I'm restrained by tender feeling,
although the greatest poet stated once:
"I was in love with you - my love may still be living"…

As if it were disavowed, faded,
for it implies compassion, condescension,
it's what one feels for overthrown kings.
There is regret in it for something outdated,
subsided striving, softened aspiration
and disbelief in "love you" kind of things.

My current love has got
no detriment, no spot.
My age is under way - I want no venesection!
At this continuous present I do not
live in the past nor dream of future foundation.

Through thick and thin I'll get
to you somehow, you bet! -
my feet put into chains and bound with heavy irons.
But when I say "I love you", even yet
don't make me add "I will", by error or with bias.

"I will" has got a bitter connotation,
for it implies a counterfeit, decay - unpleasant,
a loophole for retreating, anyhow,
insipid poison and contamination,
slap in the face, affront upon the present,
a doubt that I really love you now.

I dream my dream in French,
it has a wide tense range,
the future and the past are different from ours.
I'm pilloried, disgraced and outraged,
The language seems to set me at defiance.

The language gap, oh my!
I'm about to cry !
Yet we can work it out, we have our firm intentions.
I love you at the times which will comply
with Future, Past and Present Perfect tenses.

Russian text behind cut )

You can find more Here.

I think this was written for his third (last) wife, who was French.

ETA: Yup, confirmed. Here is a pic of her: here.
dangermousie: (MoL feet by ameyadevi)
I really love this poem, and it's an excellent translation.

******

I love you now, in fact,
And I don't hold it back.
It's not "before", not "after" - your rays set me afire.
Whether I weep or I smile
I love you in this while,-
the future I don't want, the past I don't desire.

"I loved you" (in the past)
is worse than breathing last.
My wings are cut, and I'm restrained by tender feeling,
although the greatest poet stated once:
"I was in love with you - my love may still be living"…

As if it were disavowed, faded,
for it implies compassion, condescension,
it's what one feels for overthrown kings.
There is regret in it for something outdated,
subsided striving, softened aspiration
and disbelief in "love you" kind of things.

My current love has got
no detriment, no spot.
My age is under way - I want no venesection!
At this continuous present I do not
live in the past nor dream of future foundation.

Through thick and thin I'll get
to you somehow, you bet! -
my feet put into chains and bound with heavy irons.
But when I say "I love you", even yet
don't make me add "I will", by error or with bias.

"I will" has got a bitter connotation,
for it implies a counterfeit, decay - unpleasant,
a loophole for retreating, anyhow,
insipid poison and contamination,
slap in the face, affront upon the present,
a doubt that I really love you now.

I dream my dream in French,
it has a wide tense range,
the future and the past are different from ours.
I'm pilloried, disgraced and outraged,
The language seems to set me at defiance.

The language gap, oh my!
I'm about to cry !
Yet we can work it out, we have our firm intentions.
I love you at the times which will comply
with Future, Past and Present Perfect tenses.

Russian text behind cut )

You can find more Here.

I think this was written for his third (last) wife, who was French.

ETA: Yup, confirmed. Here is a pic of her: here.
dangermousie: (MoL feet by ameyadevi)
I really love this poem, and it's an excellent translation.

******

I love you now, in fact,
And I don't hold it back.
It's not "before", not "after" - your rays set me afire.
Whether I weep or I smile
I love you in this while,-
the future I don't want, the past I don't desire.

"I loved you" (in the past)
is worse than breathing last.
My wings are cut, and I'm restrained by tender feeling,
although the greatest poet stated once:
"I was in love with you - my love may still be living"…

As if it were disavowed, faded,
for it implies compassion, condescension,
it's what one feels for overthrown kings.
There is regret in it for something outdated,
subsided striving, softened aspiration
and disbelief in "love you" kind of things.

My current love has got
no detriment, no spot.
My age is under way - I want no venesection!
At this continuous present I do not
live in the past nor dream of future foundation.

Through thick and thin I'll get
to you somehow, you bet! -
my feet put into chains and bound with heavy irons.
But when I say "I love you", even yet
don't make me add "I will", by error or with bias.

"I will" has got a bitter connotation,
for it implies a counterfeit, decay - unpleasant,
a loophole for retreating, anyhow,
insipid poison and contamination,
slap in the face, affront upon the present,
a doubt that I really love you now.

I dream my dream in French,
it has a wide tense range,
the future and the past are different from ours.
I'm pilloried, disgraced and outraged,
The language seems to set me at defiance.

The language gap, oh my!
I'm about to cry !
Yet we can work it out, we have our firm intentions.
I love you at the times which will comply
with Future, Past and Present Perfect tenses.

Russian text behind cut )

You can find more Here.

I think this was written for his third (last) wife, who was French.

ETA: Yup, confirmed. Here is a pic of her: here.

Rilke

Nov. 21st, 2006 03:05 pm
dangermousie: (Default)
I have recently discovered Rainer Maria Rilke, a German poet.

I've heard of him, of course, but somehow never read anything of his.

Why haven't I read him earlier?

So beautiful.

A few poems:

The Lovers

See how in their veins all becomes spirit;
into each other they mature and grow.
Like axles, their forms tremblingly orbit,
round which it whirls, bewitching and aglow.
Thirsters, and they receive drink,
watchers, and see: they receive sight.
Let them into one another sink
so as to endure each other outright.



and

Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.


and

Telling You All

Telling you all would take too long.
Besides, we read in the Bible
how the good is harmful
and how misfortune is good.

Let's invite something new
by unifying our silences;
if, then and there, we advance,
we'll know it soon enough.

And yet towards evening,
when his memory is persistent,
one belated curiousity
stops him before the mirror.

We don't know if he is frightened.
But he stays, he is engrossed,
and, facing his reflection,
transports himself somewhere else.

Rilke

Nov. 21st, 2006 03:05 pm
dangermousie: (Default)
I have recently discovered Rainer Maria Rilke, a German poet.

I've heard of him, of course, but somehow never read anything of his.

Why haven't I read him earlier?

So beautiful.

A few poems:

The Lovers

See how in their veins all becomes spirit;
into each other they mature and grow.
Like axles, their forms tremblingly orbit,
round which it whirls, bewitching and aglow.
Thirsters, and they receive drink,
watchers, and see: they receive sight.
Let them into one another sink
so as to endure each other outright.



and

Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.


and

Telling You All

Telling you all would take too long.
Besides, we read in the Bible
how the good is harmful
and how misfortune is good.

Let's invite something new
by unifying our silences;
if, then and there, we advance,
we'll know it soon enough.

And yet towards evening,
when his memory is persistent,
one belated curiousity
stops him before the mirror.

We don't know if he is frightened.
But he stays, he is engrossed,
and, facing his reflection,
transports himself somewhere else.

Rilke

Nov. 21st, 2006 03:05 pm
dangermousie: (Default)
I have recently discovered Rainer Maria Rilke, a German poet.

I've heard of him, of course, but somehow never read anything of his.

Why haven't I read him earlier?

So beautiful.

A few poems:

The Lovers

See how in their veins all becomes spirit;
into each other they mature and grow.
Like axles, their forms tremblingly orbit,
round which it whirls, bewitching and aglow.
Thirsters, and they receive drink,
watchers, and see: they receive sight.
Let them into one another sink
so as to endure each other outright.



and

Again and again, however we know the landscape of love
and the little churchyard there, with its sorrowing names,
and the frighteningly silent abyss into which the others
fall: again and again the two of us walk out together
under the ancient trees, lie down again and again
among the flowers, face to face with the sky.


and

Telling You All

Telling you all would take too long.
Besides, we read in the Bible
how the good is harmful
and how misfortune is good.

Let's invite something new
by unifying our silences;
if, then and there, we advance,
we'll know it soon enough.

And yet towards evening,
when his memory is persistent,
one belated curiousity
stops him before the mirror.

We don't know if he is frightened.
But he stays, he is engrossed,
and, facing his reflection,
transports himself somewhere else.
dangermousie: (LoVe: 1.15 by whereabout)
And here comes my latest in the series of posts of no interest to anyone except [livejournal.com profile] aliterati

Combining French Revolution and tackiness in staggering fashion, I present to you revolutionary figures with magnetic hair. Yes indeed. Have you always wondered what Robespierre would look like bald? or Danton with a handlebar mustache? Now you can find out, courtesy of Ebay.

Robespierre

Danton

Mirabeau

Saint-Just

Marat

Camille Desmoulins

Lucile Desmoulins

In case you are interested in what they really looked like, Portraits behind the cut )

And because I am on the French revolution kick, here is a portrait of Andre Chenier. Andre Chenier was a poet, executed during the Reign of Terror (here is an Encyclopedia Britannica article on him) I do love his widely quoted statement: "What is virtue? Reason put into practice. Talent? Reason expressed with brilliance. Soul? Reason delicately put forth. And genius is sublime reason."

Here are his poems in French. I don't read French well at all, so here are translations into Russian Charlotte Corday, Young Captive (it's the third poem on the list). Interestingly, both Pushkin and Tsvetayeva, very major Russian poets were very taken with Chenier, I think probably as an idea of the poet-revolutionary. They wrote poems about him, Pushkin's poem and Tsvetayava's poem are on line. They are, of course, in Russian. I am sure there are English translations of those as well as of Chenier's own poems, but I couldn't find those on-line. There has also been an opera about the guy.

Andre Chenier portrait )

Just for [livejournal.com profile] crumpeteer Lavoisier Portrait )

Oh heck, a lot of protraits of other French revolutionaries and not-so-revolutionaries )
dangermousie: (LoVe: 1.15 by whereabout)
And here comes my latest in the series of posts of no interest to anyone except [livejournal.com profile] aliterati

Combining French Revolution and tackiness in staggering fashion, I present to you revolutionary figures with magnetic hair. Yes indeed. Have you always wondered what Robespierre would look like bald? or Danton with a handlebar mustache? Now you can find out, courtesy of Ebay.

Robespierre

Danton

Mirabeau

Saint-Just

Marat

Camille Desmoulins

Lucile Desmoulins

In case you are interested in what they really looked like, Portraits behind the cut )

And because I am on the French revolution kick, here is a portrait of Andre Chenier. Andre Chenier was a poet, executed during the Reign of Terror (here is an Encyclopedia Britannica article on him) I do love his widely quoted statement: "What is virtue? Reason put into practice. Talent? Reason expressed with brilliance. Soul? Reason delicately put forth. And genius is sublime reason."

Here are his poems in French. I don't read French well at all, so here are translations into Russian Charlotte Corday, Young Captive (it's the third poem on the list). Interestingly, both Pushkin and Tsvetayeva, very major Russian poets were very taken with Chenier, I think probably as an idea of the poet-revolutionary. They wrote poems about him, Pushkin's poem and Tsvetayava's poem are on line. They are, of course, in Russian. I am sure there are English translations of those as well as of Chenier's own poems, but I couldn't find those on-line. There has also been an opera about the guy.

Andre Chenier portrait )

Just for [livejournal.com profile] crumpeteer Lavoisier Portrait )

Oh heck, a lot of protraits of other French revolutionaries and not-so-revolutionaries )
dangermousie: (LoVe: 1.15 by whereabout)
And here comes my latest in the series of posts of no interest to anyone except [livejournal.com profile] aliterati

Combining French Revolution and tackiness in staggering fashion, I present to you revolutionary figures with magnetic hair. Yes indeed. Have you always wondered what Robespierre would look like bald? or Danton with a handlebar mustache? Now you can find out, courtesy of Ebay.

Robespierre

Danton

Mirabeau

Saint-Just

Marat

Camille Desmoulins

Lucile Desmoulins

In case you are interested in what they really looked like, Portraits behind the cut )

And because I am on the French revolution kick, here is a portrait of Andre Chenier. Andre Chenier was a poet, executed during the Reign of Terror (here is an Encyclopedia Britannica article on him) I do love his widely quoted statement: "What is virtue? Reason put into practice. Talent? Reason expressed with brilliance. Soul? Reason delicately put forth. And genius is sublime reason."

Here are his poems in French. I don't read French well at all, so here are translations into Russian Charlotte Corday, Young Captive (it's the third poem on the list). Interestingly, both Pushkin and Tsvetayeva, very major Russian poets were very taken with Chenier, I think probably as an idea of the poet-revolutionary. They wrote poems about him, Pushkin's poem and Tsvetayava's poem are on line. They are, of course, in Russian. I am sure there are English translations of those as well as of Chenier's own poems, but I couldn't find those on-line. There has also been an opera about the guy.

Andre Chenier portrait )

Just for [livejournal.com profile] crumpeteer Lavoisier Portrait )

Oh heck, a lot of protraits of other French revolutionaries and not-so-revolutionaries )
dangermousie: (SW: AP)
Wanted to post some Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian love poetry. There is something really amazing about reading poetry 4000 years old (I can barely imagine such a huge amount of time) and seeing how similar people's emotions have always been. Plus, I think they are good poems.

These are Egyptian from circa 2000-1100 BC. Also, no incest, thankfully, as it was the standard practice to use the endearment 'brother' or 'sister' to refer one's beloved.

I.

Your love has penetrated all within me
Like honey plunged into water,
Like an odor which penetrates spices,
As when one mixes juice in... ......

Nevertheless you run to seek your sister,
Like the steed upon the battlefield,
As the warrior rolls along on the spokes of his wheels.

For heaven makes your love
Like the advance of flames in straw,
And its longing like the downward swoop of a hawk.

More poems here )

Here are the Sumerian love poems (the sister/brother thing is the same):

I.

Let them erect for me my flowered bed.
Let them spread it for me
with herbs like translucent lapis lazuli.
For me let them bring in the man of my heart.
Let them bring in to me my Ama-ucumgal-ana.
Let them put his hand in my hand,
let them put his heart by my heart.
As hand is put to head, the sleep is so pleasant.
As heart is pressed to heart, the pleasure is so sweet.

The rest here )
dangermousie: (SW: AP)
Wanted to post some Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian love poetry. There is something really amazing about reading poetry 4000 years old (I can barely imagine such a huge amount of time) and seeing how similar people's emotions have always been. Plus, I think they are good poems.

These are Egyptian from circa 2000-1100 BC. Also, no incest, thankfully, as it was the standard practice to use the endearment 'brother' or 'sister' to refer one's beloved.

I.

Your love has penetrated all within me
Like honey plunged into water,
Like an odor which penetrates spices,
As when one mixes juice in... ......

Nevertheless you run to seek your sister,
Like the steed upon the battlefield,
As the warrior rolls along on the spokes of his wheels.

For heaven makes your love
Like the advance of flames in straw,
And its longing like the downward swoop of a hawk.

More poems here )

Here are the Sumerian love poems (the sister/brother thing is the same):

I.

Let them erect for me my flowered bed.
Let them spread it for me
with herbs like translucent lapis lazuli.
For me let them bring in the man of my heart.
Let them bring in to me my Ama-ucumgal-ana.
Let them put his hand in my hand,
let them put his heart by my heart.
As hand is put to head, the sleep is so pleasant.
As heart is pressed to heart, the pleasure is so sweet.

The rest here )
dangermousie: (SW: AP)
Wanted to post some Ancient Egyptian and Sumerian love poetry. There is something really amazing about reading poetry 4000 years old (I can barely imagine such a huge amount of time) and seeing how similar people's emotions have always been. Plus, I think they are good poems.

These are Egyptian from circa 2000-1100 BC. Also, no incest, thankfully, as it was the standard practice to use the endearment 'brother' or 'sister' to refer one's beloved.

I.

Your love has penetrated all within me
Like honey plunged into water,
Like an odor which penetrates spices,
As when one mixes juice in... ......

Nevertheless you run to seek your sister,
Like the steed upon the battlefield,
As the warrior rolls along on the spokes of his wheels.

For heaven makes your love
Like the advance of flames in straw,
And its longing like the downward swoop of a hawk.

More poems here )

Here are the Sumerian love poems (the sister/brother thing is the same):

I.

Let them erect for me my flowered bed.
Let them spread it for me
with herbs like translucent lapis lazuli.
For me let them bring in the man of my heart.
Let them bring in to me my Ama-ucumgal-ana.
Let them put his hand in my hand,
let them put his heart by my heart.
As hand is put to head, the sleep is so pleasant.
As heart is pressed to heart, the pleasure is so sweet.

The rest here )
dangermousie: (Mouse)
When we were in Jerusalem, we went to Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. It was a horrifying couple of hours. Walking through the Children's Memorial, with its infinity of candles in the sheer darkness and a voice intoning the name, age and nationality of the child is truly awful (Apparently, to hear the same name of the murdered child again you'd have to come back in over three years).

I don't think I'll ever forget one particular photo (taken by an anonymous German soldier) of three or four Jewish men digging their own grave, minutes away from being shot. Most are middle-aged and weary and bent over their shovels. But one person, a boy in his late teens, stares with desperate intensity at the camera, right at you. He is movie-star-gorgeous but you don't even think about it because you can't think about anything but the look in those eyes. I keep thinking about that picture at random parts of the day ever since.

But the thing I remember most vividly was a grainy black-and-white video. I found after it ended that it's a clip from the Eichmann trial. But at first all I saw was a slight man in his late 30s, with the face of a poet and intensity to match reading something out loud. People in the audience (at the trial) were weeping. The intensity of not just his words, but of his whole person pulled me to watch even though I was going to walk past (you couldn't look at everything, you'd have had to spend days). I sat down to watch and found out the man was Abba Kovner, the leader of the uprising in the Vilna ghetto. He was reading a call to resistance he'd written years ago, to get the resistance in Vilna started, which was the first call to arms for the Jews to fight.

I wanted to know more about him and found it, both in the museum and on-line. After the ghetto was liquidated, he became a partisan leader. After the war, he was a leader of the organization to smuggle Jews out of Europe into Israel and was briefly jailed for his activities by the British. He fought in the Israeli War of Independence and ended up living on a kibbutz with his wife who was a fellow partisan. And, oddly enough, my first impression was correct. He was a poet.

Here's a web page that describes this in more detail. Abba Kovner. I post so often about men whose claim to fame is acting and nice looks, or heroes that are fictional, that I wanted to post about someone who is a real life hero, and someone I admire greatly. I've just bought "The Avengers" by Rich Cohen that deals with Kovner and other Vilna partisans.

A poem by Abba Kovner )
dangermousie: (Mouse)
When we were in Jerusalem, we went to Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. It was a horrifying couple of hours. Walking through the Children's Memorial, with its infinity of candles in the sheer darkness and a voice intoning the name, age and nationality of the child is truly awful (Apparently, to hear the same name of the murdered child again you'd have to come back in over three years).

I don't think I'll ever forget one particular photo (taken by an anonymous German soldier) of three or four Jewish men digging their own grave, minutes away from being shot. Most are middle-aged and weary and bent over their shovels. But one person, a boy in his late teens, stares with desperate intensity at the camera, right at you. He is movie-star-gorgeous but you don't even think about it because you can't think about anything but the look in those eyes. I keep thinking about that picture at random parts of the day ever since.

But the thing I remember most vividly was a grainy black-and-white video. I found after it ended that it's a clip from the Eichmann trial. But at first all I saw was a slight man in his late 30s, with the face of a poet and intensity to match reading something out loud. People in the audience (at the trial) were weeping. The intensity of not just his words, but of his whole person pulled me to watch even though I was going to walk past (you couldn't look at everything, you'd have had to spend days). I sat down to watch and found out the man was Abba Kovner, the leader of the uprising in the Vilna ghetto. He was reading a call to resistance he'd written years ago, to get the resistance in Vilna started, which was the first call to arms for the Jews to fight.

I wanted to know more about him and found it, both in the museum and on-line. After the ghetto was liquidated, he became a partisan leader. After the war, he was a leader of the organization to smuggle Jews out of Europe into Israel and was briefly jailed for his activities by the British. He fought in the Israeli War of Independence and ended up living on a kibbutz with his wife who was a fellow partisan. And, oddly enough, my first impression was correct. He was a poet.

Here's a web page that describes this in more detail. Abba Kovner. I post so often about men whose claim to fame is acting and nice looks, or heroes that are fictional, that I wanted to post about someone who is a real life hero, and someone I admire greatly. I've just bought "The Avengers" by Rich Cohen that deals with Kovner and other Vilna partisans.

A poem by Abba Kovner )
dangermousie: (Mouse)
When we were in Jerusalem, we went to Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. It was a horrifying couple of hours. Walking through the Children's Memorial, with its infinity of candles in the sheer darkness and a voice intoning the name, age and nationality of the child is truly awful (Apparently, to hear the same name of the murdered child again you'd have to come back in over three years).

I don't think I'll ever forget one particular photo (taken by an anonymous German soldier) of three or four Jewish men digging their own grave, minutes away from being shot. Most are middle-aged and weary and bent over their shovels. But one person, a boy in his late teens, stares with desperate intensity at the camera, right at you. He is movie-star-gorgeous but you don't even think about it because you can't think about anything but the look in those eyes. I keep thinking about that picture at random parts of the day ever since.

But the thing I remember most vividly was a grainy black-and-white video. I found after it ended that it's a clip from the Eichmann trial. But at first all I saw was a slight man in his late 30s, with the face of a poet and intensity to match reading something out loud. People in the audience (at the trial) were weeping. The intensity of not just his words, but of his whole person pulled me to watch even though I was going to walk past (you couldn't look at everything, you'd have had to spend days). I sat down to watch and found out the man was Abba Kovner, the leader of the uprising in the Vilna ghetto. He was reading a call to resistance he'd written years ago, to get the resistance in Vilna started, which was the first call to arms for the Jews to fight.

I wanted to know more about him and found it, both in the museum and on-line. After the ghetto was liquidated, he became a partisan leader. After the war, he was a leader of the organization to smuggle Jews out of Europe into Israel and was briefly jailed for his activities by the British. He fought in the Israeli War of Independence and ended up living on a kibbutz with his wife who was a fellow partisan. And, oddly enough, my first impression was correct. He was a poet.

Here's a web page that describes this in more detail. Abba Kovner. I post so often about men whose claim to fame is acting and nice looks, or heroes that are fictional, that I wanted to post about someone who is a real life hero, and someone I admire greatly. I've just bought "The Avengers" by Rich Cohen that deals with Kovner and other Vilna partisans.

A poem by Abba Kovner )

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November 2012

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