If you asked me about music, movies, or art, that is, things which I know something about, I would list all my favorites. As for literature, here I feel like a woman of easy virtue, because I give preference to different authors at different times. Among literary translations I prefer prose, because I am positive that poetry is untranslatable. At the moment I am fascinated by Louis Ferdinand Celine. Before that, I was enchanted by Pavych’s Khazar Vocabulary and Suskind’s Aroma. Things like that just can’t be missed. It’s new art.
Of the books of verse I would mention Charles Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil in the first place. It is satanic verse and truly fascinating. Even though I read him in Ukrainian translations, inherently mild, coming from the kind Ukrainian heart, I memorized whole blocks of text (not as rhymed lines but as quoted impressions), and this with my habitual inability to learn poetry by heart. I quickly forget even my own.
We were raised in different literary realities where everything had a double meaning. One of our brilliant poets at the time wrote, “I shall speak for all and suffer for each and everyone...” and we all knew that he could speak for nobody, because he had long ceased to be a poet and died as a genius. Our literati of the 1960s spoke about planet-wide involvement, which was actually nothing but serving the momentary conjuncture of forces. And for precisely this reason Baudelaire’s authenticity, the naturalness of his rebellion, grabbed me.
In fact, my impressions from the Flowers of Evil are relatively fresh. To some extent these emotions are enhanced by my being physically tired and in need of some emotional injections. However, Bohdan-Ihor Antonych, the early Pavlo Tychyna, and Yevhen Pluzhnyk are my first and foremost poetic obsessions. Only now are we coming to realize that poetry is a form of philosophy. Today our language is even more important than religion.
Gustave Courbet, “Portrait of Charles Baudelaire,” 1848