From the Series “Machinations of the Genre”

Translated from Russian by Tanya Paperny

IT IS WITH NOBLE SENTIMENTS THAT BAD LITERATURE GETS WRITTEN. —André Gide

I named this literary genre “intrigue.” Ozhegov says that intrigue is an evil scheme or prank. I think otherwise.
     Graphically, an intrigue is closest to the symbol for lightning, or a “z”—a zigzag reflecting a sharp change in direction. No plot, no motivations, no conclusions. What’s left is pure trickery, one that isn’t understood but felt. And that’s the intrigue genre—the emptiness that allows itself to be felt through literature. The feeling left behind is one of action, not sense. The movement of emptiness through the human soul.
     Parts of these intrigues I’ve left incomplete so that the reader can complete them at his own discretion. Or leave them as is. —Andrei Krasnyashykh

THINK POSITIVE

—Are you positive?
—You bet!
—Mind if I think about you then?

HOW LOOKS CAN KILL

How looks can kill, I’ve never understood.

ALL THAT

I love but don’t understand the phrase “and all that.” For example: tourniquet, ala- baster, Jerboa, acute heart failure, transcendental aesthetics, ricochet, and all that.

A SENSE OF DUTY

It’s nice at the cemetery: breezy, deserted, and shady. I’d spend my whole life here if I could. I’d sit and smoke a cigarette into the clouds and be silent. Instead I have to go think and write about eternity.

GEOGRAPHY LESSON

My friend possesses an apartment; my boss—an apartment, a car, and me. I also possess me. My face possesses a pair of eyes, a mouth, a nose, and ears at its discre- tion. This is absolutely enough to posit the existence of god.

ANDREI AND ANDREI

At quiet time, we—the seventh brigade at Striker Pioneer Camp—quietly and care- fully occupy ourselves with masturbation, drawing in our malleable imaginations pictures of the girls, those in our brigade and older, so that later, in the evening, when we slow dance with those very same girls at the discotheque and talk about poetry, we can feel like real cavaliers.

*

Nana Tanya wrapped in cling wrap
in a taxi from the morgue
tied her up all neat and lengthwise
with red ribbon from a torte.
So the driver wouldn’t guess it
we sang songs about some fleece
but the driver started doubting
so we each ate a little piece.

PERVERTED GENERATIONAL TIES

At the conference, the professor talked about the affinity that Dostoyevsky felt for the future—my generation. And I believed him.
Tempt me with intimacy, Fyodor Mikhailovich. I won’t flinch. Depend upon me.

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Andrei Krasnyashykh (poetry) is a writer of short stories, essays, experimental prose, and criticism. Born in 1970 in Poltava, Ukraine, Krasnyashykh is the co-editor of the literary journal Soyuz Pisatelei. In 2008, his short collection The Park of Culture and Relaxation was short-listed for the Andrei Bely Prize, the oldest independent literary prize in Russia.

Tanya Paperny (translation) is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Bitch, The Prose-Poem Project, and LitDrift. The pieces she chose to translate for this issue are excerpted from a series on the Russian literary website Babylon. They are quirky, opaque, and odd, maybe even a bit flat. Much of the humor relies on pun and wordplay.

These poems from the series “Machinations of the Genre” were originally published in Encyclopedia Britannica (TLR Spring 2012).