“Oh, all our youthful disputations” (“О, нашей молодости споры”), Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Participants at the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students, Moscow , 1957. Photo by Robert Carl Cohen
Participants at the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students, Moscow , 1957. Photo by Robert Carl Cohen

This was written in 1957, when the 6th World Festival of Youth and Students was taking place in Moscow, and the year after the 20th CPSU Congress, which had addressed the issue of Stalin’s purges. Yevtushenko captures the optimism and new enthusiasm of the time.

Oh, all our youthful disputations,
oh, all our earnest convocations,
oh, this is how our evenings are!
Oh, fetid heat of our apartments,
as ash on saucer forms escarpments,
and cider froths with foamy ferments
next piles of ersatz caviar!

We have no pointless conversation.
Here solo act is our vocation,
Here sneakered sculptor’s altercation
is made as he salami wields.
And here a proud judgemental scholar
goes on and on with girlish holler
and waves a scythe as in the fields.

Here at the grand piano singing,
as floor is creaking, saucers ringing,
here laughter us no forfeit’s bringing
directed at the naked kings.
Here views abound, as do contentions
about old Russia’s lost conventions
no less about more modern things.

Delight and sadness sap our powers.
We break up in the wee small hours.
it seems a game we playing are:
No wonder we are losing voices,
no wonder cider fills the glasses
beside the piles of stale bread slices
with spread of ersatz caviar!

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

О, нашей молодости споры,
о, эти взбалмошные сборы,
о, эти наши вечера!
О, наше комнатное пекло,
на чайных блюдцах горки пепла,
и сидра пузырьки, и пена,
и баклажанная икра!

Здесь разговоров нет окольных.
Здесь исполнитель арий сольных
и скульптор в кедах баскетбольных
кричат, махая колбасой.
Высокомерно и судебно
здесь разглагольствует студентка
с тяжелокованной косой.

Здесь песни под рояль поются,
и пол трещит, и блюдца бьются,
здесь безнаказанно смеются
над платьем голых королей.
Здесь столько мнений, столько прений
и о путях России прежней,
и о сегодняшней о ней.

Все дышит радостно и грозно.
И расходиться уже поздно.
Пусть это кажется игрой:
не зря мы в спорах этих сипнем,
не зря насмешками мы сыплем,
не зря стаканы с бледным сидром
стоят в соседстве с хлебом ситным
и баклажанною икрой!

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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