A Magazine of Literature and Art (in Belarusian)

The Highlights of Pravincyja No. 1-2/2000

The magazine is divided into three general sections that will also appear in subsequent issues:
  • words about words: literary criticism, reviews, essays, interviews, diaries, letters to the editors, etc.;
  • words: poetry, prose, drama;
  • words for words: literary translations.
words about words
Mikoła Vauraniuk (Białystok), Čartapałoch na miažy (A Thistle on the Balk or, alternatively, A Devil’s Scare on the Border). Vauraniuk recounts how it all developed, that is, how the Białystok region’s younger generation of Belarusians (those anti-Communists mentioned above) set themselves to organizing literary life and literary contacts with their post-Soviet brothers across the border. The landmark venture was a Belarusian-Polish literary seminar, called provocatively „Biaźmiežža” (Borderlessness) and held every year since 1996 in Hajnówka or Białystok. The seminar resulted in a number of Polish translations from Belarus’s contemporary authors, which appeared in both magazine and book forms and were favorably received by Polish reviewers.

Siarhiej Astraucou (Horadnia), My, biełarusy (We, the Belarusians). Why are the Belarusians called BelaRUS(S)IANS if they are not RUSSIANS? What language do the Belarusians speak? Why do the Belarusians not sing their state anthem? Why did the Belarusians abandon the Arabic and Latin alphabets and now write their language in the Cyrillic script? Astraucou reviews these (and many other) basic questions about the Belarusian national identity with elegance and unobtrusive irony.

Aleś Arkuš (Połacak), Dziesiać hadou biez Hałoulitu (Ten Years Without the Main Department for the Matters of Literature and Publishing Houses). Arkuš’s essay is a sibling to Vauraniuk’s text. Arkuš recounts how the provincial literary situation developed on the other side of the border, in the post-Soviet Belarus of the 1990s after the abolition of Haloulit (the central organ of censorship and state control over literature and publishing).

Jury Humianiuk (Horadnia), Inercyja pravincyi jak haradzienski fenomen (Provincial Inertia as a Horadnia Phenomenon). A comprehensive survey of the most interesting developments in art galleries and among artists in Horadnia in the 1990s. Horadnia is a major Belarusian provincial center, just next to the border with Poland. A bunch of extremely provincial authors and artists lives there, and Pravincyja is set to greedily feed on their contributions.

Jan Maksimiuk (Prague), Słovy u hołym poli (Words in the Barren Field). An essay written in 1997 for one of the „Biaźmiežža” meetings and published the same year in the weekly „Niva” — a long-lived and time-honored but internationally inconspicuous newspaper by Polish Belarusians. Pravincyja reprints the essay to give it a wider and better targeted readership. Maksimiuk’s overview of the situation of Belarusian literature on both sides of the border at the turn of the 20th century remains no less topical today as it was four years ago.

Vinceś Mudrou (Navapołacak), Kałodziež (The Well). An old, ailing, unmarried woman lives in a godforsaken village somewhere in the deepest nightmares of Soviet paradise. Once in a while she gets an itch to take a scythe and slice off the head of a neighboring villager, a man her age. She is harrowed by a secret that dates back to the Nazi occupation. One day the outside world tries to make use of her secret for its mean, hypocritical, and callous purposes. She chooses to die, keeping her secret to herself. Mudrou’s searing novella is a masterpiece of narrative art. It can be ranked alongside the magnificent prose of Vasil Bykau, Belarus’s most outstanding author.

Ihar Sidaruk (Kobryń), Nie dažyć (No Way To Survive). A shoe stuck in cow manure on the central square of a Belarusian town. A newly installed telephone in the tepee of a Chukchi reindeer breeder. A mysterious augury from the town’s patriarchal granny, Drypa. And a go-ahead collective farm that is eager to launch its „battle for the harvest” but desperately lacks diesel fuel for its harvesters and tractors. Sidaruk unleashes hell at the cosmic intersection of those seemingly unconnected trivialities of human experience. Another hilarious shocker from Belarus’s most uncompromising dirt-digger out of the darkest corners of the national soul. Sidaruk is quintessential for anybody trying to catch up with the cutting edge of present-day Belarusian literature.

Siarhiej Astraviec (Horadnia), Bizun i piernik (Carrot and Stick), Stary Novy hod (An Old New Year). Two extremely funny pieces of monologue, masterfully written in a hideous Russian-Belarusian mix called trasianka — a sort of vernacular used by Russianized, poorly educated Belarusians and, most notably, by the Belarusian president, whom Astraviec employs here as a monologist. For those who have so far failed to fully appreciate the literary value of Lukashenka’s outpourings on television, Astraviec gives the condensed essence of the president’s irresistible rhetoric. Joycean leaps of thought, a heavy load of Soviet-minded cliches, the bonecrushing brashness of homespun logic, self-contented stupidity, an immanently paranoid worldview — everything is there.

Alaksandar Maksimiuk, Tearetyk (Theorist). A sharp snapshot of a 35-year-old broadcaster tormented by unfulfilled sexual desires and reveries. One scene of this really short story takes place in the Allo-Allo pub in Białystok, where the idea of Pravincyja gestated in a series of sittings over uncounted glasses of bitter beer from the local brewery.

Lavon Vaško (Masty), 7-45. Can one talk with the past on the phone? Well, one can if one has an old Soviet telephone book and lives in an appropriate Belarusian provincial town. A finely executed idea of an ingenious time vehicle. The enticing language of Vaško’s extravaganza is saturated with daring neologisms of powerful poetic imagery and appeal.

This section also includes poems by Aleś Arkuš, Hala Hara, Anatol Brusevič (Horadnia), Mira Łukša (Białystok), Jury Humianiuk, Edzik Maźko (Horadnia), and Mikoła Kananovič (Słonim), as well as stories by Siarhiej Šydlouski (Navapołacak) and Michaś Andrasiuk (Hajnówka).

words for words
Literary translation is a painful subject in Belarusian literature. In order to prevent our emotions from bursting out of control, we will put this subject into a nutshell:

None of the Belarusian regimes was interested in supporting translations of world literature into Belarusian. The Belarusian language was doomed to perish (so those regimes thought), therefore only a handful of Belarusian translations appeared in the Soviet era. Independent Belarusian publishers in the Lukashenka era are doing their best to make up for the lost time, and all Belarusian literary magazines obligatorily include translations. Pravincyja is no exception to this patriotic imperative. Since we are neither interested nor able to translate and publish all those immortal Balzacs, Dickenses, and Scarlet O’Haras, our translating policy will be focused on writers who, like us, were branded by a sort of „provincialism” or „outsiderness”, whether by birth or literary pursuits and themes or something else. We feel that this demarcation is rather obscure but we can’t help it. The choice of translations for Pravincyja No. 1-2/2000 should give you a clearer hint of what international authors we have in mind.

Bohumil Hrabal, Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age (translated from Czech by Jan Maksimiuk). This novella is a creative tour de force and a landmark in European fiction. Actually, it is a single, monstrous sentence soliloquized by Hrabal’s most favorite hero, Uncle Pepin (the literary technique used in the novella is similar to that employed by James Joyce in Molly Bloom’s monologue in the last episode of Ulysses). Pepin’s vaporings are mad, philosophical, incoherent, lyrical, disgusting, heart-rending, dull, amusing, coarse, nostalgic, ridiculous, and elevating. Jan Maksimiuk, translator of James Joyce’s Ulysses into Belarusian, coped with Hrabal’s lingo.

Halina Poświatowska, Poems (translated from Polish by Chryścina Hramatovič). Poświatowska had an unusual poetic voice and an unusual fate. Suffering from an incurable heart disease since her childhood, Poświatowska lived under a permanent threat to her life. Breathing, let alone walking, was an everyday problem for her. Heart surgery performed in Philadelphia in 1958 miraculously returned her to normal life for nearly nine years. She was suddenly able to walk, run, study, visit places, make love... And she wrote poetry, one of the best in the Polish language. Poświatowska died in 1967, at the age of 32, when her second heart surgery proved unsuccessful. By strange coincidence, the Belarusian translations of Poświatowska’s poems in Pravincyja were made by a hospital nurse from Philadelphia.

Dylan Thomas, Poems (translated from English by Chryścina Hramatovič). Thomas’ seven magnificent poems — I have longed to move away, My hero bares his nerves, The force that through the green fuse, That sanity be kept, Before I knocked, In my craft or sullen art, Fern Hill — are impressively translated into robust and clear-cut Belarusian. A completely unanticipated, stunning debut in translation by Poland’s Belarusian expatriate in the United States.

Patrick Modiano, Villa Triste (Part 1 of 2, translated from French by Jan Maksimiuk). Well, it could be this novel by Modiano, or it could be some other. The „Modiano toxin” is present in Villa Triste in no fewer amount than in Rue des Boutiques obscures or Quartier perdu. Anybody infected once will surely look for more poison from this author. Most likely, Pravincyja will succumb to this addiction, too.

English resume   |   prezentacja w jęz. polskim   |   biełaruski źmiest   |   łucznaść z redakcyjaj