Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Quotes from Vladislav Khodasevich's Necropolis

Below are a few of my favorite quotations from Vladislav Khodasevich's Necropolis, as translated by Sarah Vitali


Her gift for literature wasn't great.  Her gift for living was immeasurably greater. 


Later, looking back on the young Bryusov, I realized that the actuity of his poetry from this period lay precisely in that combination of decadent exoticism with the most artless of Muscovite petty bourgeois attitudes.

The concept of quality was entirely foreign to Bryusov.

He had a remarkable way of offering his hand.  It was a strange operation. 

In general, he somehow managed to combine an elegant (albeit formal) politeness with a love for dressing-down, discipline, and intimidation.

His appearance were always arranged in theatrical style.  He wouldn't respond yet or no to any invitation, but would leave the inviter to wait and hope.

Perhaps he really did respect love.  But he did not notice his lovers.

He loved literature, only literature.  He loved himself, too, only for literature's sake. 

He had a passionate, unnatural love for serving on committees--and he loved being a chairman even more.

He was an anti-Semite. 

Bryusov despised democracy.

This is why he was a monarchist in the time of Nicholas II.

It was only in the summer of 1918, after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and the beginning of the Terror, that he perked up a bit and declared himself a Communist.

He "served" and "oversaw" with all his might. 

He distanced himself from the literary scene even more sharply than the literary scene distanced itself from him. 


He imaged supernatural provocateurs lurking behind every member of the police force, from the department head to the custodian. 

He lived through War Communism the way all of us did, in sickness and in want.

As it turned out, neither Dr. Steiner nor his entourage had any intention whatsoever of getting involved with anything as transient and trivial as Russia.

He moved to the city that autumn--and all of Russian Berlin bore cruel and curious witness to his hysteria. 

There had been no disparate scenes.  Instead, what happened was the bitterest thing imaginable:  they had simply been bored in each other's company.


"Russia won't be saved by verse
and might not manage the reverse."

In addition to its obvious, primary meaning, each event took on a secondary meaning that had to be deciphered.

Another time,, we were walking along Tveskaya Street.  Muni was saying that there were moments in which he was able to predict the future with complete accuracy.  But this talent only applied to trivial events.

We were with V.F. Akhrmovich, who went on to become a zealous Communist.  At the time, he was a zealous Catholic. 

He donned his blue glasses "so as not to see more than was necessary"..

Muni wasn't lazy.  But he didn't know how to work.

And then he would start in on his analysis, which would be detailed, extensive, and decimating. 


Blok was always a poet, every moment of his life.  Gumilyov was only a poet while he was writing verses. 

His entire appearance says, "Nothing has happened.  Revolution?  Never heard of it."

First and foremost, he noted that, up until that point, stupidity had been given a bad reputation;  poets had unfairly shunned it.  The time had come for stupidity to have its own voice in literature. Stupidity is a natural quality, just like intelligence is.  It can be developed, cultivated. 

Finally, he welcomed the introduction of blatant stupidity into the Poets' Guild in the person of Neldikhen. 

He expresses his stupidity with a talent that lies beyond the reach of many intelligent people. 

But what did he actually die of?  No one knows.  He somehow died "in general":  because he was sick all over, because he could no longer go on living.  He died of death.


Thus began Gershenzon's scholarly career and his poverty.


...there is a crease above the bridge of his nose and his eyes are half-closed.  When he opens them, their expression can best be conveyed by the question:  "Oh, do you still exist?"


For Esenin, the borderlands were not, of course, Russia.  Russia was Rus', and Rus' was the village.

Were up to our necks in capitalists because the kikes (pardon me, you aren't a Jew  yourself, are you?" want to topple the tsar and then take control of all of Christian Rus.

Russia is a muzhik country.  Anything in her that is not by and for the muzhik is scum and must be scraped away. 

In his autobiography, he writes:  "I have never belonged to the CPSU because I consider myself to be far more left-wing."

They went through periods of fervent belief and periods of fervent blasphemy.  They visited prostitutes to preach the Revolution--and beat them after they were done.

He decided to make a spectacle of himself--and artlessly made the poetess the following offer:  "Would you like to see how people are executed?  I can arrange the whole thing for you with Blyumkin in a matter of minutes."

Esenin was dragged into imaginism just as he might have been dragged to the tavern. 

It is as if there is some enormous, precious truth that binds together all these errors. 


The year seventeen knocked us senseless.  It is as if we had forgotten that revolution does not always come from below, but that it can come from the very top as well.


As we parted ways, Valery Yakovlevich said, "In time, someone will make a thorough examination of these spiritual forces and, perhaps, will even find a technological application for them, as they did with steam and electricity.

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