Poetry. Translated from the Russian by Ainsley Morse and Bela Shayevich. Illustrated with Ripley Whiteside's drawings of Kholin and his friends. KHOLIN 66 is a trampoline into underground Soviet poet Igor Kholin's life and work through the window of a single autumn. In a string of acerbically related non-adventures excerpted from his 1966 diary, Kholin moves to the country, sleeps a lot, drinks and debauches among Moscow's literary underground, and eventually moves back to the city. Broke and bitter, he details his bemusement in terse, absurdist prose. The selection of Kholin's poems feature self-deprecating self-portraits, bleak visions of the Moscow outskirts, and strange visions of life on other planets.
Igor Kholin was born in Moscow in 1920, ran away from an orphanage in Ryazan, and eventually enrolled in a military academy in Novorossiysk. He barely survived World War II (a bullet that grazed the corner of his lips came out of his back). In 1946, he was exiled from the military and Moscow for slapping a drunken comrade-in-arms. Kholin landed in a labor camp in Lianozovo, a suburb of Moscow, where one of his friends was the guard and would occasionally let him out to visit the Lianozovo library—he'd started writing poetry. When he asked to check out a book by forbidden poet Alexander Blok, he aroused the interest of the librarian, Olga Potapova, an artist married to the poet and painter Evgeny Kropivnitsky. The two of them hosted a Sunday salon out of their nearby barracks apartment, encouraging the work of young artists and a few poets, including Genrikh Sapgir and Vsevolod Nekrasov. Along with Kholin, they called themselves Kropivnitsky's students and formed a loose poetry collective known as the Lianozovo Group. Kholin's early work took the rough edges of Soviet life—the poverty, brutality and alcoholism rampant in the barracks—as his primary subject matter, while lampooning formulaic Socialist Realist poetics. The world that Kholin depicted in his poems, where abrupt death inevitably cut down two-dimensional stock characters, was too crude and inglorious to be considered poetry by official standards. Later years saw cycles of outer-space poems and a series of poetic self-portraits, simultaneously wildly superlative and deeply self-deprecating; but all of it equally unpublishable until the fall of the Soviet Union. Kholin barely supported himself with odd jobs: children's book author, writing tutor, waiter and, after the 1970s, antiques dealer. Igor Kholin died in Moscow in 1999. KHOLIN 66 (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017) is the first book of Kholin's work in English translation.
Author City: MOSCOW RUS
Ainsley Morse has been translating 20th- and 21st-century Russian and (former-) Yugoslav literature since 2006. She holds a PhD in Slavic literatures from Harvard University and enjoys teaching all over the Russian and Yugoslav traditions. Previous publications include the co-translation of KHOLIN 66: DIARIES AND POEMS (translated with Bela Shayevic, Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017), Vsevolod Nekrasov (with Bela Shayevich, UDP 2013), Andrei Sen-Senkov's Anatomical Theater (translated with Peter Golub, Zephyr Press, 2013). Upcoming translations include the farcical Soviet pastoral Beyond Tula, by Andrey Egunov, and a collection of theoretical essays by the brilliant Formalist Yuri Tynianov.
Author City: NEW YORK, NY USA