Victory over the Sun

Dramatis Personae

Two Futurist Strongmen

Nero and Caligula

A Time Traveller

A Malevolent

A Willbeite Machine Gun

A Fightpicker

Belligerent Soldiers

Sportsmen

Chorus

Pallbearers

A Telephone Talker

Eight Sun Carriers

The Motley Eye

The New

The Cowardly

A Reader

A Fat Man

An Old-timer

An Attentive Worker

A Young Man

An Aviator

______________________________

FIRST ACTION

*

Scene One

White with black: walls white, floor black.

*

(TWO FUTURIST STRONGMEN rip the curtain.)

*
THE FIRST

All’s well that begins well!
And ends?

THE SECOND

There will be no end!
We astound the universe

THE FIRST

We arm the world (1) against ourselves
Organize the slaughter of scarecrows
How much blood
How many sabers
And bodies for cannons!
We inundate the mountains!

(They sing.)

Fat beauties
We’ve locked up in a house
Let the drunkards there
A variety walk start naked
We have no songs
Recompense of sighs
That beguile the slime
Of rotten naiads!

(FIRST STRONGMAN slowly exits.)

SECOND STRONGMAN

Sun you bore the passions
And scorched them with flaming beam
We’ll yank a dusty coverlet over you
Lock you up in a concrete house!

(NERO and CALIGULA appear in one person: he has only one left arm, raised and bent at right angles.)

N. AND C. (menacingly)

K’youllen sewern der*
Travelled light
Past Thursday
Fry rip what I left half-baked.

(He congeals with a noble gesture, then sings; during the singing the SECOND STRONGMAN exits.)

I eat dog
And white feets
Fried meat cake
Croaked potato
Space is limited
Print to be silent
Zheh Sheh Cheh (2)

(A TIME TRAVELLER rides onstage on airplane wheels; on him there are pages with the inscriptions Stone Age, Middle Ages, and so forth…NERO is in space.)

N. AND C.

It’s simply not done to treat old people this way
Not standing for flewbeshes

A TIME TRAVELLER

Friend everything became
Suddenly–cannons
The lake sleeps
Much dust
A flood…
Look
Everything’s become masculine
The lake is harder than iron
Don’t believe the old gauges

(NERO carefully inspects the metal of the wheels through a lorgnette.)

A TIME TRAVELLER (sings)

The auges seethes
The velorus rolls (4)
Faster than augergauges
Don’t believe former weights
They’ll sit you down on a roe
If you don’t get an empfive (5)

N. AND C.

It’s simply not done to treat old people this way!
They like the young
Oy I looked for a little bird-warbler
I looked for a little sliver of glass–
They ate up everything didn’t even leave the bones
Well what’s to be done I’ll go away askance
into the XVI century through the
quotes over here.

(Starts to exit, turned sideways to the audience.)

Scummed up everything even the bone puke

(Takes off his shoes, exits.)

A TIME TRAVELLER

I will travel all ages, I was in ’35
where there is strength without duress and the
insurgents wage war on the sun and even though
there’s no happiness there but everybody looks (6)
happy and immortal…It’s no surprise that I’m
covered with dust and transverse… Visionary
kingdom… I will travel all ages even though I
lost two baskets until I find myself a place.

(A CERTAIN MALEVOLENT slithers up and listens.)

There’s too little for me in the afeebe (7)
underground it’s dark
Shone… But I’ve travelled around everywhere
(to the audience) Smells like a rainy downfall.
The eyes of lunatics are overgrown with tea and
wink at skyscrapers and marketwomen have placed
themselves on spiral staircases
The factory camels are already threatening fried lard
and I haven’t even traversed a
single side yet.
Something waits at the station.

(sings)

No more no less
Than cutting scareys
Hold on hold on
Pullit pill
Toppy
Oh I dared I’ll complete my journey and not
leave a trace… The new…

A CERTAIN MALEVOLENT

What, you don’t mean you’re really going to fly?

A TIME TRAVELLER

So? Won’t my wheels find their tacks?

(The CERTAIN shoots, the TRAVELLER carsickens (8), screams.)

Garrison! Catch the sleepless
With sleep…ZZZ

(The MALEVOLENT then lies down to sleep covering himself with his gun.)

Although I didn’t shoot myself–out of reticence
But a monument I set myself–also not dumb!
For me first a monument–remarkable!
A black pair steers right at me. (10)

(A WILLBEITE MACHINE GUN appears, stops at a telephone pole.)

Oy lament!
What does appearance mean what did catching his
enemy napping provide–lost in thought…
I am without continuation or imitation.

(A FIGHTPICKER enters, sprees and sings.)

Serdge shircrust (11)
Dink drink
Drink ink
Don’t leave guns for dinner over dinner
Or for buckwheat porridge.

Can’t stand it? Follow that. (12)

(The CERTAIN attacks, silently shooting his gun several times.)

To war!
Ha-ha-ha! Adversaries, what, are you tired or
don’t you recognize me?

Advance enemies from the gratings of slit
trenches challenge me to single combat. I broke my
own throat, will turn to powder, cotton, trigger and
noose… Or do you think triggers are more dangerous
than cotton?

(Runs away and returns in a minute.)

The headress of matrons in the cabbage!
Ah…behind the partition!
Drag him in the bluenosed stiff

(The ADVERSARY drags himself over by the hair, crawling on his knees.)

Ah, coward you betray and lead your own self off!

(The FIGHTPICKER laughs aside.)

THE FIGHTPICKER

Miserable creature how much
grave dust and shavings are in you go
shake yourself off and wash yourself another way.

(The ADVERSARY cries.)

THE MALEVOLENT

Ah, adversary’s sinciput! (13)
You take me for a fool and mock my
meditations but I expected this and did not
advance on you with a sword.

I am the continuation of my own journeys. I
expected.
I carefully buried my sword in the earth wove a
new ball
and threw it. (14)

(He performs a football player’s maneuver.)

In yours is a herd… Now you’re confused…
You’re befuddled can’t differentiate between your smooth heads
and the ball you’ve lost your heads and sit pinned to little
benches and the swords themselves are lost they crawl
in terror into the soil the ball frightens them:

if faithless beige you’ll strike at the master’s head
and he’ll chase after her in the floral food vend… (15)

*

Scene Two

Green walls and floor.

(BELLIGERENT SOLDIERS pass by in Turkish costumes–one lame one per hundred–with dropping banners; some are very corpulent.)

(One of the soldiers steps forward and gives flowers to the MALEVOLENT; the latter tramples them.)

THE MALEVOLENT

To go forth to meet one’s own self on a skewbald horse rifle under an armpit… Ah! I sought you–a long time at last that sweaty slipping mushroom–

(Picks a fight with himself. Singers in the costumes of sportsmen and STRONGMEN enter. One of the sportsmen sings.)

SPORTSMAN

The light of flowers is gone already
Cover yourselves in slime heavens
(I’m not speaking for the sake of the enemies but for you friends)

All the begetting of autumn days
And the harvest of crooked summers
It’s not your praises that the latest bardast
Will sing

FIRST STRONGMAN

Onward millions of streets–
Or the dark multitudes will be in Russian
Gnashing coach runners
And–shall I say it?–
Heads are narrow.

For themselves unexpectedly
The drowsy started to pick fights
And raised such a dust
As though they were taking Port Arthur

SPORTSMEN CHORUS

The victory chariot rolls
Pair (16) of victories
How joyous to fall beneath its wheels

FIRST STRONGMAN

Sealed with wax (17)
Is ripe victory
Everything is pipe dreamy for us now
The sun lies wounded (18) at our feet!

Pick a fight with the machine guns
You’ll crush them with a fingernail
Then I’ll say: there you go
Bolly strongmen!

SPORTSMEN CHORUS

Let them trample
The white hot steeds and let hair tangle
In the odor of hide!

SECOND STRONGMAN

Salt will pour to the herdsman who
Made a bridge of steeds in his ear
Who keeps you at your posts
Run up and down the black ribs

Through steam and smoke
And the snort of horns
The folk arose on the threshold
Waving tea room horns (19)

FIRST STRONGMAN

Don’t go out of the line of fire
A steel bird is flying
And elf wiggles his beard
Buried beneath a hoof
The violets groan
Beneath the firm heel (20)
And the stick keeps silence
In the graveyard puddle

BOTH STRONGMEN (singing)

The sun has hidden
Darkness envelopes
Let’s take all the knives
And wait under lock

*
CURTAIN

*
Scene Three

Black walls and floor.

*
(PALLBEARERS enter. Upper half white and red lower black.)

PALLBEARERS

(Sing)

To smash the turtle’s skull
To fall on the cradle (21)
Of the bloodthirsty turnip
Welcome the cage

The greasy bedbug reeks of the grave…
Little black leg…
The flattened grave rocks
The lace of shavings undulate.

*
Scene Four

A TELEPHONE TALKER

What? They’ve swaddled the sun? Thank you very much…

(SUN CARRIERS enter–they gather so close that the sun cannot be seen.)

ONE

We’ve come from the tenth land
Awesome!…

Know that the earth doesn’t revolve.

MANY

We’ve torn up the sun its roots still fresh
Greasy they reek of arithmetic
Here it is look

ONE

A holiday must be established:
V-day over the sun.

(They sing.)

SPORTSMEN CHORUS

We’re free
The sun is broken…
Long live darkness! (22)
And the black gods
Of their favorite–the pig!

ONE

The Iron Age sun has died!
The cannons are broken wheels and tires melt like
wax before gazes!

THE TALKER

What?… Those who still put their hope in cannon
fire will be boiled into porridge today!
Listen!

ONE

On to sturdier steps
Forged not from fire
Nor iron and marble
Nor airy plates

In carbon mono smoke
And the greasy dust
Blows strengthen
We become healthy like pigs
Our physiognomy is dark
Our light is within
We are warmed by the dead udders
Of red dawn

BRN BRN *

CURTAIN

*

THE TENTH LAND

SECOND ACTION

*

Scene Five

Houses are depicted by exterior walls but the windows go strangely inwards like perforated tubes many windows arranged in uneven rows and it seems that they move suspiciously.

(THE MOTLEY EYE appears.)

THE MOTLEY EYE

the past leaves by rapid steam
and locks the bolt
and the skull cantered to the door like a bench

(Runs off as though he were observing the skull.)

(THE NEW enter from one side; THE COWARDLY from the other.)

THE NEW

We shot the past.

THE COWARDLY

Is anything left then?

THE NEW

Not a trace.

THE COWARDLY

Is the void profound?

THE NEW

It ventilates the whole city.
Everyone breathes easier and many don’t know what to
do with themselves from the extreme lightness.
Some tried to drown themselves, the weak went mad,
saying: We can become awesome and powerful.
That weighed them down.

THE COWARDLY

They shouldn’t have been shown the routes laid out,
hold the crowd back.

THE NEW

One man brought his sorrow,
Take it, I don’t need it now!
he also fancied his insides clearer than an udder

Let him spin a bit

(screams)

A READER

How extraordinary life without the past is
Dangerous but without penitence and memories
Forgotten are the mistakes and miscarriages that tediously
squeak in the ear today you are like a clean mirror or a rich
reservoir in whose clean grotto carefree little gold fish flick
their tails like Turks giving thanks

(Agitated–he was sleeping–A FAT MAN enters)

THE FAT MAN

the head 2 steps behind–imperative!
still’s falling behind!
ooh vexation!
where’s the sunset? i’m packing it in…
it’s shining…at my house it’s
all visible…
got to get out of here faster…

(He lifts something.)

piece of an airplane or a samovar

(Tests it with his teeth.)

hydrogen sulfide!
a hellish joke apparently I’ll take it just in case…

(Hides it.)

THE READER (rushing)

I nonetheless want to say–remember the past
full of the sorrow of errors.
of the breaking and bending of knees…
let’s remember it and compare it to
the present…that’s joyful:
liberated from the weight of universal gravity
we arrange our belonging capriciously as though a rich
kingdom were sorting itself out

THE FAT MAN (sings)

reticence to shoot oneself is
difficult on the road
the shungun and gibbet
hold the roe…

THE READER (interrupting)

or don’t you sense how the two balls live:
one all stopped up sourish and warm and the other
beating out from the subsoil
Like a volvano overthrowing

(Music)

They’re incompatible…

(Music of force)

only the gnawed skulls run on their
single four legs–most probably these
are the skulls of the foundations…

(Exits.)

*

Scene Six

THE FAT MAN

the 10th land…the windows all lead
inwards the house is fenced in live here as best you
know how
So here you are the tenth land!
One thing, I didn’t know you would have to be
locked up
can’t move your head or your hand
can’t unwind or move over and the way the
axe goes on the damn thing shaved all of us
we walk around bald and it’s not hot only steamy
what a lousy climate even
cabbage and green onions don’t grow here and as
for the markets–where are
they?–as they say on the islands
be nice to get out of here by the stairs in the
brain of this house and
open door no. 35 over there–
there you go wonder of wonders!
No, things here somehow just
aren’t simple even though it looks like nothing
more than a commode–comedy–
and that’s all!
and here you are roaming roaming

(Climbs upwards somewhere.)

no not here the roads are all crossed up and go up to the earth
and as far as sidestreets there aren’t any…
hey, who’s there
one of ours throw a rope or give a yell
shoot…
psst! birchtree cannons–
how do you like that?

AN OLD-TIMER

there if you please is the entrance you’ll come out
straight back there…
there’s no other none
it’s that or straight up to the earth

FAT MAN

that’s pretty damn scary

OLD-TIMER

well as you like

FAT MAN

to wind your watch at least
hey shaft which direction does your clock turn?
the hands?

AN ATTENTIVE WORKER

backwards in the days both
before dinner but now there’s only a
watchtower,
wheels–see?

(THE OLD-TIMER exits.)

THE FAT MAN

boy, hey I’ll fall

(Looks at the cross-section of the clock: the watchtower sky streets are all inverted–as in a mirror.)

where to stick my watch?

THE WORKER

don’t even dream of it they won’t
spare you! Well cipher it out–see
velocity tells. If you put a wagon apiece
of old boxes on two root teeth yes and then
sprinkle them with yellow sand yes all that and
let go well figure it out yourself.

well the simplest thing is that they’ll collide with some
kind of
tube like that in an armchair well and if not?
See the people have all clamored up there it’s so
high that they have no
business there how the locomotives their hooves
etc. feel well naturally!

the braid stove scours about
When it overtakes the antelope
But that’s just it
No one will offer up a brow

well and besides I’ll leave everything just like it was

(Exits.)

THE FAT MAN (from a window)

yes yes pardon me yesterday there
was a telegraph pole here and today there’s a buffet,
sure and tomorrow there’ll probably be bricks.
This happens with us daily no one knows where
the stop is or where they’re going to eat

hey you take your legs off there…

(Exits upwards through the window.)

(The noise of a propeller behind the scene. A YOUNG MAN runs on: he sings a frightened petty bourgeois song.)

A YOUNG MAN

You you youk*
You you youk
Grr Grr Grr
Prnnn
Drr drr
rd rd ooh ooh ooh
k n k n lk m
ba ba ba ba

the motherland perishes
because of dragonflies
the locomotive
sketches lilies

(The noise of a propeller is heard.)

i won’t be caught in the chains of
beauty’s snares
the silks are preposterous
the ruses crude

I pick my way carefully
along the dark road
on the narrow pathway
a cow under my armpit

black cow
cryptic sign
behind the silk saddle is
hidden a trove

I on the quiet
Admire them
in the silence a thin needle
Hides in the neck

(SPORTSMEN come on in beat with the lines of the edifaces.)

to this place–
everything runs without resisting
to this place routes
from all parts direct themselves
they trainhaul a hundred little hooves
overrunning deceiving those who aren’t clever
simply crushing them
beware the chimerae of
the motley eyes
future lands will exist
let he who is toubled by these wires turn his back

(They sing.)

From the altitude of skyscrapers
As though uncontrollably
Pour carriages
Not even buckshot astounds so

From every quarter ice autoautoss (23)
Through death grave glasses placards
The gait is hung
On signboards
People run
Below like mess-tins

(Music–the noise of machines.)

and the curtains are skewed
The glass overthrows
grr zhrn*
k
m
odgn seerg vrrzl
gl.

(Unusual noise–an airplane attacks–a broken wing is seen onstage.)

(Cries are heard.)

z…z…
it thumps thumps crushed a woman overturned a
bridge

(After the crash some run to the airplane, others witness.)

lst

at sight on site its big
meeroar (24) scratches its fleas.

2nd

he sprincut the store dvan yentl tee (25) those

3rd

arndah kewerlow that one tea caught itself
satlard

(THE AVIATOR chuckles behind the scenes; he appears and everyone chuckles.)

THE AVIATOR

Ha-ha-ha-ha I’m alive

(And the rest chuckle.)

I’m alive it’s just the wings are a bit tousled and this boot here!

(He sings a military song.)

L L
L * krr
krr tlp
tlmt
krr vd t p kr
voorb doo
doo
rak l
k b ee
zhr
vida
diba

(THE STRONGMEN enter.)

BOTH STRONGMEN

all’s well that begins well
And has no end
the world will perish but there’s no end to us!

*

CURTAIN

______________________________
TRANSLATOR’S NOTES

1. “World”: Russian mir, also meaning “peace, tranquility.”

2. In Russian text, three upper case letters of the group called shchipiashchie, “pinching, clinching.”

3. Russian letel’bishch from letel, “flew” and bishch, affix of futurist fancy resembling the words for “beat,” “lash,” “switch,” and a colloquial particle–interjection bish meaning “Eh?,” “What was that again, now?”

4. Russian plelenishch from pelena, “shroud,” “diaper,” “veiling,” and peleng, “pelorous,”course-finder”–thus velorous.

The derivation of subsequent nonsense words in English will go unnoted for lack of time and space except when really interesting and explicable. Simple transliterations of Russian sounds are marked by asterisks.

5. The French translation insists on alluding to talons whenever the Russian -piat appears (piata, “heel”). I think the stronger allusion is to “five”, piat’ the number and a school grade equivalent to an American “A.” This is supported by the later dvoika, “deuce,” “two,” and a grade equivalent to an American “D.” I like empfive (emp for “empty”) because it sounds like a kind of gun or missile.

6. “Looks”: Russian verb smotret’, to look at, not “to look like, seem,” although it is used here with this meaning (maybe).

7. From Greek apheta, ruling planet in astrology? Alphabet?

8. Russian verb here means both “to rock to sleep” and “to rock to the point of nausea.”

9. Allusion to the first line of a very famous Pushkin poem, his “monument not manufactured.”

10. “Pair,” dvoika, see Note 5. Two (horses) instead of a troika, three.

11. Vaguely reminicent of strong vulgarity for ass; also t-shirt, locust.

12. Vazapuski, “to choose,” usually with a verb of motion. Thus, “Follow that, as in
“Follow that car!”

13. Or “crown” (as of head).

14. “Sword”: mech; “ball”: miach.

15. “Floral”; also sounds like Russian “colorful.”

16. See Notes 5 and 10.

17. “Bonheur tu n’es que cire à cacheter…” Robert Desnos, “Destinée Arbitraire” from Thirty Songfables for Wise Children.

18. A knife wound.

19 . Second “horns” as in “cuckhold horns.” French translation has verge: “shank, rod, penis.” The Russian word for “floor,” pol, is the same as word for “sex,” “gender.”

20. See Note 5.

21. “Cradle” as in on tree tops; also gun cradle.

22. “Darkness”: Russian t’ma. In ancient Slavonic languages, tribes counted in decimal series from one to thousands; numbers higher than thousands were designated t’ma, thus the word’s derivative meaning “multitude.”

23. “Ice autoautos”: “ice” is a verb. Ditto “grace” in next line; “autoautos,” Russian samokaty implies “self-rollers.”

24. To my ear, zakuverkalai sounds like a command to a mirror to roar.

25. In this section, transliteration dominates, although I have “translated” certain person-markers, verbs, articles, demonstratives. The effect should be the sound of a crowd at the scene of an accident.

Bios

Aleksei Kruchenykh

Aleksei Kruchenykh (1886-1968) was a noted poet of the Russian Silver Age of literature. A radical even within the Russian Futurist movement, his best known works are the poem “Dyr bul shstyl” and the opera Victory over the Sun, with sets by Kazimir Malevich and music by Mikhail Matiushin. He was co-signatory, with Vladimir Mayakovsky, David Burliuk, and Velimir Khlebnikov, of “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste.” He is considered the father of zaum, or transrational writing.

Larissa Shmailo

Larissa Shmailo translated the original English-language libretto of the Russian zaum opera Victory over the Sun, performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A DVD of that libretto is archived at the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Most recently, she received an honorable mention in the international translators' competition for the 2011 Compass Award sponsored by Princeton University. Larissa has translated Russian works on Bible translations for the American Bible Society's History of Bible Translation series and contributed to the anthology Contemporary Russian Poetry published by Dalkey Archive Press. Larissa's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Barrow Street, Fulcrum, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Cardinal Points, Lungfull, Big Bridge, Rattapallax, About: Poetry, The Unbearables Big Book of Sex, and the Penguin anthology Words for the Wedding. She was the winner of the 2009 New Century Music Awards for spoken word with music for her CD Exorcism; her first CD, The No-Net World, is heard frequently on radio and the Internet. Larissa's print books of poetry are In Paran (BlazeVox) and A Cure for Suicide (Cervena Barva Press). Her new e-book, Fib Sequence (Argotist Ebooks), is free at Lulu.com.

Copyright (c) Larissa Shmailo, 1980. Commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. productions and videotape were made possible by a grant from the Shubert Foundation.