Does Abramovich idealise Russia only because he will never return? Or is he faking it? Either way, the imagery is powerful.
Here’s the poem to which Yevtushenko’s “A Letter to Paris” is a response. The exile laments the loss of his home; Yevtushenko’s response tells him that in his pain he will find Russia: “There’s no return to Russia for thee/You can’t escape the pain belonging brings.”
Some explanation may be necessary. It seems clear that Adamovich wrote this when he was sick – I’ve taken the liberty of using the first person throughout. Adamovich uses the third person singular of the hospital patient, but I’m pretty sure it is him. “Kol’ Slaven” is a reference to Dmitry Bortniansky’s much-loved setting of the Tantum Ergo. The copper coins on the eyelids is a reference to a Jewish burial tradition.
It’s clear that Adamovich knew he’d never return.
Oh when will we go back to Russia? Oh, Hamlet of east, tell me when.
In fog and on…
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