"As always, they are published without Medvedev’s permission."
October 30, 2013 8:31 PM   Subscribe

america: a prophecy, by Kirill Medvedev

n+1: Introduction to It's No Good
I first learned of Kirill Medvedev in Fall 2006, when someone handed me a copy of the literary magazine Kriticheskaya Massa (“Critical Mass,” now defunct), featuring a symposium about the release of Medvedev’s book by the Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie (NLO) publishing house. The book’s release required a symposium because Medvedev had renounced all copyright to his works, and NLO had nonetheless gone ahead and published the book without asking his permission. They called it Texts Published Without the Permission of the Author. One essay defended the publication; another, “The Surrender and Death of a Post-Soviet Intellectual”—by the poet, editor, and impresario Dmitry Kuzmin—attacked the author. There was also an essay by Medvedev himself, reprinted (again without permission) from his website. The day after reading all this I found the book in question at the annual Moscow Book Fair. I read it on the subway ride home. It was a mixture of poems and essays and descriptions of Medvedev’s (often one-man) political actions. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. After failing to find another copy of the book at several stores, I finally located three at Falanster, off Tverskaya, and bought them all.
New Emotion: On Kirill Medvedev

It's No Good, reviewed in The New Yorker: Kiril Medvedev's Personable Provocations, and The Rumpus, The New Inquiry, HTMLGiant, The New York Times, Dazed Digital, and at The Millions: Ocuppy Parnassus!: Kirill Medvedev's It's No Good
All of which is a very roundabout way of trying to explain why It’s No Good, the first major English-language publication of the writing of Kirill Medvedev, is so necessary, and so timely. Medvedev is a Moscow-based poet in his late 30s, and the book, the latest entry in Ugly Duckling Presse’s redoubtable Eastern European Poets Series (and the first to be published jointly with N+1), assembles English translations of his most important “poems/essays/actions” from over the last fifteen years. This was a period of radicalization for Medvedev, and the work amounts to a guerilla attack on the stagnation of Russian cultural life in the new millennium. By itself, this would make It’s No Good an invaluable document. But for readers beyond the old Iron Curtain, there’s a further twist of the knife: as with the best science fiction, the outrageous world Medvedev brings so vividly to life starts to sound awfully like our own.
Medvedev's livejournal, website.

An Interview With Kirill Medvedev

soundcloud: Arkadiy Kots
posted by the man of twists and turns (7 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
A political counterculture. Or a cultural counterpolitics? Any which way, thanks for sharing this. The introduction itself is memorable:
But what put them really outside the Russian tradition was their everyday-ness. It was bad enough for a poet not to rhyme, but to discuss at length how he found some cheap pâté at an expensive supermarket—and not as a metaphor for anything, really: he was mostly pleased to have found some cheap pâté—was a little much, or too little. There had been a strain of anti-Romantic Russian poetry going back all the way to Pushkin; in the late Soviet period, especially, the great conceptualist poets, Dmitri Prigov chief among them, enjoyed puncturing the pretensions of highly rhetorical Soviet poetry with their verse-tales of going to the store to buy stale bread. (The Soviet conceptualist novel par excellence was Vladimir Sorokin’s The Queue (1984), the entirety of which took place in a line outside a store.) So it wasn’t as if Russian poetry had never not rhymed, and it wasn’t as if it had never been to the supermarket.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:43 PM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

The navigation on this is extremely bad. But it gives us this:

we’ve been watching movies the whole way from Moscow,
one was an American film in which it gradually became clear
that using the shampoo Head and Shoulders was the only way
to save yourself from the alien invaders
(at the end, it turns out the film has actually been an epic shampoo commercial)

So that's worth it.
posted by graymouser at 3:37 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, he's an interesting guy. As I wrote on my blog, "Medvedev reminds me of the angry young men of a century ago, all the acmeists/futurists/dadaists who were fed up with business as usual and trying to shake the complacent out of their complacency. I can see him at the Stray Dog in Petersburg alongside Gumilyov, Khlebnikov, Mayakovsky, and Mandelstam. He's pissed off about the literary situation, in Russia and elsewhere, and is taking some drastic action (like renouncing copyright and withdrawing from literary life) in an attempt to do something about it."
posted by languagehat at 7:59 AM on October 31, 2013

(at the end, it turns out the film has actually been an epic shampoo commercial)

Good lord, that's Evolution (2001). What a debacle of a movie that was. Great creature design, though.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:20 AM on October 31, 2013 [3 favorites]

But are all Russian writers doomed to a weird relationship with gender and race, do you think?
posted by Mooseli at 11:51 AM on October 31, 2013

Pretty much all writers everywhere have been doomed to a weird relationship with gender, and I'm not clear on why you think Russian writers have any particular relationship with race.
posted by languagehat at 5:55 PM on October 31, 2013

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