“IN A DOUBLESHARP LANGUAGE”: INTERVIEW WITH ELENA ZEIFERT

Abstract



Elena Ivanovna Zeifert (born June 3, 1973, Karaganda) is a Doctor in Philology, Professor of the Russian State Humanitarian University. She is a specialist of theory and history of literature, Latin. Editor, journalist. E. Zeifert for many years has been leading the literary club of the International Union of German Culture “World within the Word” and its art workshop. She is a member of the Writers’ Union of Moscow and the Union of Translators of Russia.E. Zeifert is also a representative of the so-called “border literature”, created at the crossroads of several languages and cultures. With this interview, we open a series of interviews with translingual writers who form new “images of the world” in modern society, wich are more complex in both aesthetic and epistemological sense. The fragment of the new novel by E. Zeifert “Smelting boat” is published in our Supportments section.E. Zeifert is a poly-facet: the identity of plurality of distinct facets. Poet, novelist, essayist, translator, literary critic, scientist and lecturer, a generator of new ideas and meanings in science and culture, author-bilingual. This poet “before all ages” (M. Tsvetaeva), because each era, synchronous to her creativity, is happening “here and now” - both with the Reader, and the Creator. Poems written in Russian, “suddenly” start to sound in a special isochronous rhythm, immersing the reader’s consciousness into Latin: so the Author pushes the boundaries of the usual chronotope and “uncovers” a continuous duration of all existing - both in poetry, and beyond. This can be seen as one of the creative principles E. Zeifert - reunite scattered, identify the essence of things in semantic contraction - or the nature of their unique perception. “Vesneg”, “Verlibr. Faith in Liebe”, “Telegit”. Several titles of works, different in genre and tendency, are enough to see: we are waiting for an acquaintance with a unique multilingual Cosmogony. We talked with Elena Zeifert about discoveries in Language, the proto substance of Word and formation of complicated pictures of the world.- You have a very special relationship with the Language (as meta essence): for you it is anthropomorphic, “tangible”. You once called German a “girl”; Latin - “extending the chest of your creativity”, mentioned as an example that “dead languages do not exist”. How these relationships were built up? What such unique association as “German - girl” is caused by? Is there an image of such “evocation” for Russian language?- Language for me, hearing German language (dialect of the Volga Germans) since childhood, is a girl, a woman. In German - language - both as part of body (tongue)(die Zunge), and as the process of speech (die Sprache) is feminine gender. In Latin, which I began to thoroughly deal with since I was 17, it (she/he) is feminine gender - lingua latina, too. In additional education I am an antique specialist, teacher of Latin language and ancient literature. In my poem “Tetigit”, written in 2016, the main character is a girl - Latin language. In alliance with the male character, to whom I gave the name Tetigit, previously the former regular Latin verb “touched”, she brings us closer to the time when the substance of the language would fall into itself and there would not be a need in interpreters. This poem is written in Russian. For the Russian people “language” is a muscular, flexible, strong, Word of masculine gender.Considering the chest. If we define the languages and voices, those vectors that create fire, the CHEST of my translator’s creativity, then for me it is an ancient Rome (Latin), it is RUSSIAN-GERMAN (and my author’s versions of works are in it) - poetry of Germany, Austria, German speaking Switzerland and other - poetry of peoples of the CIS and Russia. In “other things” I work with interlinear. For me, the interlinear is a multi-layered text with pockets of synonyms.Latin came to my literary translation earlier than the German language. At the first lesson of Latin as a freshman I was surprised by the verb absum, āfuī (abfuī), (āfutūrūs), abesse with its core meaning of “absent”, “do not exist”, “do not be”. It just flipped my consciousness, designating the most momentous absence, in which, it turns out, you can stay. This word has the meaning of alienation, of estrangement, but they are secondary. It is the verb “absent” that invited me deep into Latin and offered to learn and teach it, along with my main specialization “Theory of literature” - to philologists, foreign language students, biologists, lawyers, historians.But I have more German translations than Latin.- In your already classic verses “DIE RUSSLANDDEUTSCHE” questions about your own linguistic - and extra-linguistic - identity, about your place in the world, about two souls, that are “exhausted in the chest”. In due time, your dissertation research has provided readers with a lot of literary evidence that themes of detachment from their roots, positions “neither here nor there”, inescapable homesickness that “sneaks into boots (valenki)” (R. Pflyug) are peculiar for the poetry of Russian Germans. But already here, in these young verses, the idea that you have come to different sense of self, to your own “here-being” in the world, “is brewing”. The next to last strophe - is a culminating metamorphosis of the lyric heroine. The soul, that have described a thousand times the round over the heads (that has not found refuge thousand times), realizes its special existential quality... Comes to accepting “two cultures, two spirits” within itself. Has this attitude changed over time? What is it like now, when there are more than two languages of your creativity? What happens with the sense of own identity, when the Author is on the frontier of languages and cultures?.. Some writers speak of “metaphysical splitting”, the others - of the emergence of “multiple identities”. How do You feel it?- The feeling of new existential quality became richer, it is a part of my inner freedom, and gives me euphoria. I belong to happy owners of several motherlands - adored Kazakhstan, beloved Moscow (perhaps, exactly Moscow), dear Germany. I tend not to splitting, but to contraction, fusion, game of balances. I am a Russian German,Russlanddeutsche, it is a special ethnic sense. Comprehension of the material of Russian- German literature allowed me to make findings that the main elements of the ethnic picture of the world of Russian Germans are their comprehension of encircling of their own by stranger’s, existence inside the Others, the desire for autonomy, the priority of the static over dynamic, feeling of being “nowhere in the homeland” or “everywhere in the homeland”, genetic fear of expulsion, the state of continuous vulnerability, the fear to be more visible than others, increased interest in plant symbolism (weak plants, plants without roots), strong desire of legitimate relation to the native ethnic group, the desire to stress the uniqueness of the native ethnic group, the pursuit of integration within their own ethnic group. At the same time hybrid Russo-German qualities appear, but the Russian Germans do not adopt separate Russian or German features.In my poetic bilingual book “Namen der Bäume”/ “Names of Trees” (Grats, 2013) there are two languages, but three ethnic pictures of the world - Russian, German and Russian-German. Moreover, the third does not arise at the intersection of first and second as green color at the confluence of blue and yellow, but paradoxically and naturally embraces every element of the book. The third picture of the world is partly hybrid (Russian Germans inherit a number of Russian and German features, some of them in the synthesis, but not all the features), but at the core independent and special. Most of the poems in this book were written first in Russian, and then their mirror German versions were created; the minor part was first in German, and then their mirror Russian versions were created.What features of the three world views are reflected in the book? In the poem “Spielzeughaus” / “Toy House” the Russian-German element of “searching for home” transits to Russian element “width, freedom”. But the lyrical character still needs this House (German element): “And the House is needed only for a respite”. In the poem “Ein Junge, derauf der Kantedes Bürgersteigs läuft ...”/ “The boy running along the edge of the pavement...” ...” pursuit to dynamics changes to preference of statics. Unsteadiness of the home and the uncertainty of its location is shown in the poem “Deinefeinen Nas en flügel...”/ “Thin wings of your nose ...”, the Russian-German feeling of fear because of vulnerability - in “Ein Auto is teinverkehrtes Ozeanarium...”/ “Car - as oceanarium vice versa...”.Now I express my national identity in “Karaganda story” “Smelting boat”, where all the complex for Russian Germans times occur simultaneously, changing only spaces, their decorations and clothing. Narration is always in present time and synchronous, whether it is a description of emigration from Germany to Russia, dispossession, war, deportation, labor army, emigration from Russia to Germany. In the story there is a high concentration of lyricism. The main character here is the language with its metamorphoses, metaphysics and the ability to birth. The story is written in Russian, but the heroes speak German of 18th century (Lucas and his family), a dialect of the Volga Germans (Mariyka, Lydia, Mark Felix, Friedrich and others), modern German (Julian). In page notes I give the translation of their conversations into Russian language. With lyrical density nevertheless there is an overall plot, and distinct plots - streaks of private destinies.Lucas Siegfried arrives with his family to Russia by sea from Lübeck, comes to Oranienbaum, then by waggon-train goes through Moscow to Volga region. On their way his son Paul dies. The foreign land takes the first victim. But it becomes a motherland.In 1914 in a poor German family in Donetsk Rose grows up. In 1931 Lydia’s family in the process of dispossession, from the Volga village Lilienfeld comes to Karaganda. Here Lydia gives birth and at once loses a child, her husband abandons her, she is alone. In 1941 six-year Mariyka (Jäckel) from Glarus village comes to Karaganda, in heated shelter her mother dies, the fate of her father and brothers is unknown. Mariyka comes from stock of Lucas Siegfried. Lydia takes her to live with her, becomes her mother. To the labor army (Karlag) from the Volga region Mark Felix comes, he goes mad, he is thrown to die in the village TransportniyTseh. Here they help him to survive. Rose’s brother Frederick, a former combat pilot, appears to be in Karlag, too. He is mutilated by tortures, his arm rots, they amputate it, he is dying. Also “decommissioned” to Transportniy Tseh, Frederick comes there to life and becomes a shepherd. Father Sebastian cares of exiles in Karaganda. Lydia’s heart is torn between Felix, Marc and Frederick. Rosa and Friedrich, sister and brother, find each other after the war. In the future, Mariyka’s son and Rose’s daughter will become husband and wife. Granddaughters Anna and Johanna will choose different countries for their stay - Anna chooses Russia, Johanna - Germany. In Germany, there is a love line of Johanna (she is a descendant of Lucas) - Julian, flows.- Can you give a fragment from the novel, where language, metaphorically speaking, favors as a character?- Of course.“The language of Mark Felix was growing up and flowing. Before the birth of the word the backrest of his tongue licked the palate, and for the German it was unusual and painful, because the tip of the tongue rested against the lower teeth rather than the expected top teeth, bowed, was humbled. Mark Felix cowered, swallowed himself in a somersault, hugged his knees with force. In labor army he stopped eating even that given meager food, loudly wailed, hanging his head low in his knees. In this position he has been thrown in a car bed and carried to work in the mine. They tried to foist tools on him, but he mutilated himself and others with them. The gateway of his sight got narrower, Mark Felix started screaming agonizingly, gradually becoming exhausted, losing consciousness. The scream changed to howling.No, sometimes he also tried to sing, but the song slowly drip down into the throat and stomach, to the smelting boat of his substance. Howling for him became sweeter than singing, in the language of howling Mark Felix spoke with beings more humane than people and heard their comprehensible answers.Resin of stranger’s human malice poured his ears. Bethinking himself, he rolled on the ground, shouting loudly, when guards tried to calm him, he threw himself to punches of their boots, putting up his stomach, ribs, cheeks. His beard grew out of scraps of ground.Miraculously, he wasn’t killed. Zest for life saturated the cells of his body with invulnerability. Did he himself understand that he was ready to become a freak, insane, dead, just not to accept the conditions of creepy game that his contemporaries started with him and his kinsmen? They broke his bones and teeth, until had mercy - drove him, barely alive, to perish in border Karaganda village TransportniyTseh. Threw him out of the truck and drove away without looking back, because they could only look forward.Mark Felix was breathing. He was surrounded by the multi-faced mount of his language, it pranced and was equal to world without Mark Felix. The tongue melted in mouth, like an apple, becoming barely sensible angel’s aura of growth and pain, living inside of a seed and tearing the iron skin of the fruit with strong arms.Sun heated over Karaganda land, two-humped terricone camel was grazing on the horizon.An hour later, Mark Felix was found by Mariyka. His tongue suddenly ceased, shallowed, and then exposed the dry riverbed, and the only light for the man was her child German speech”.- Russian language for you is “a mother-tongue to delight”, although “Kant and Nietzsche gurgle” in your veins. How Russian language became a pioneer of your poetic voice? Was there ever a choice between Russian and German?- Russian language is the most important wealth of my life. Not me, but it chose me, and I am immensely grateful to it for life in me, for direct wonders. He is the first among equals and out of selection, out of competition.Languages pass with fronts, waves. On July 29, 2016, I posted on Facebook: «In my already familiar Russian and German in early May 2016 suddenly once again powerfully entered Latin (it has been knocking on since January), presenting new translations from Horace, Catullus, Ovid, Martial and my own poem “Tetigit”, which I have completed today. This unusual atmospheric front, forcing rapidly in creativity to my delight, gave protracted outbreaks of euphoria unfamiliar before. Particularly in mid-July, when the poem and translations flowed like butter.I decided to finish the poem today, because I have caught that the air mass of Latin is already temporarily evading, possibly going to come back more powerful, but when? Figuratively speaking, as in Riemann’s topic about the collapse of arbitrary discontinuity, two areas of space with different features - in my case the Russo-German (individually to me inseparable from each other) and Latin - were separated with thin partition, which should be removed to the initial time. Then the time was zero.My creativity with its reckless languages and vectors, caressing me inside, today moved dramatically, the time began counting, and surface of gap, alas, do not always match the speed with the speed of movement of all surrounding. Either the pressure field gave the hollow, or I was scared of reduction of the wind when removing spaces from each other, but in the last hour the poem was born entirely. How long can you stay in this gap or hollow-God knows. Possibly again something unusual will be born».But Latin has gone until mid-December 2016, and I rejoiced in the German world, translated Georg Heym, twice traveled to Germany, made a report in the German language there, in Moscow hosted evening of German expressionism translations in German and Russian.- In “Language contacts” Weinreich notes that equivalent autonomous existence of two or more languages within the identity is unattainable, that actually integration of language systems happens, constant switching of codes, formation of complicated semiotic space. Howdoes it happen in your case? Is it natural, in your opinion, to talk about the origination of cross-language continuums in the works of polylingual Authors?- I am very close to theoretical researches of professor of RUDN Uldanai Bahtikireevna and professor of M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University Zoya Proshina. I would like to take the opportunity here to express heartfelt thanks to Uldanai Bahtikereeva for fundamental studies of my creativity and sincere acceptance of it.I know with absolute bilinguals. It is not an autonomous existence of the two systems, but the new enriched linguoculture, symbiosis, the magic of a new quality. We can talk also about zones of transition, the frontier of languages. Exactly these layers are productive for bilingual creativity. Original works in different languages take a lot from their common drifts, from borderlands.I believe that there are no original translations, there can only be copyright versions of works in different languages.Languages have different phraseology (e.g. Russian language uses two words “perfectly healthy” and German offers one compound word “kerngesund”), and these works, at the maximum possible observance of punctuation and graphics, are not reflected in each other as twins.- Language transmission in the post-Soviet space is half-jokingly referred to as “Grandma effect”, meaning that the transfer of cultural heritage takes place through generations, from elders to grandchildren. Who “grew” the native culture in you? On what languages formation of your first images of the world occurred?- I lived on the outskirts of Karaganda, in the city, but in the German village where Soviet Germans and their descendants, deported to Kazakhstan, lived. In early childhood I was sure this was anywhere in the country - neighbors, Kellers, Eizienbrauns, Pfeiffers, there is a TV program in German, grandmothers speak unintelligible to each other dialects.At the age of six I asked bewildered my grandmother Maria (not Masha, but exactly Mariya - and her daughter Mariya we called aunt Mariyka) why in German all nouns start with “D”. She was originally from the village of Glarus, father and grandmother said Klarus, but I heard that k here is sonant, because I have learned to distinguish in their dialect “without sonant consonants” the sonants as less stressful and unvoiced.- Does the subject of bilingualism in your literary consciousness cover only Russian- German sphere?- No, this theme for me is wider than a Russian-German sphere. Look at my poems from “ancient” cycle “The Greek spirit of the Latin letter”.Etruscan and Lydian languages practically are not deciphered for us. Probably the lyric character from the 21st century understands Tirren in some northern language. In my antique cycle there are not only different languages of people, but also the language of the gods and mortals is given in their opposition and attraction.- Adepts of trans-lingual approach to language and literature have put forward the hypothesis that through an intermediary language outside genetically “primary” culture isbroadcasted, that it is exactly - Culture - is the original creative intention, which is able to transform “as it sees” even another language. What is your opinion on this point as a Poet, Scientist, in a word, a poly-facet?- I am close to this theory, and in its vein, I‘m leaning toward mine, which I would call a theory of hologram-nuance. Bilinguality and polylinguality provide an opportunity for linguistic nuances to grow to mysteries, holograms. For example, I translate “Trojan” instead of “Phrygian”, and in one word a whole theater of memory grows with the Phrygian Kingdom, subsequently wiped out Troy. I replace the Phrygia by Troy and do it deliberately, keeping a poetic individual style and playing with historical times, wanting to create a volume of image. Phrygius - “Phrygian” but in poetic speech it often means “Trojan” (as Troy belonged to Phrygia). Early Phrygian Kingdom entered into a friendly alliance with Troy, Phrygians supported Troy in the war against the Hittites and then against the Achaeans in the Trojan war.After the defeat of Troy Phrygians, however, through time permanently destroyed it, and „Trojan“ in poetry became “Phrygian” as well, sank, dissolved in it. Practically all of Asia Minor to the Taurus mountain range (Antitavr) subordinated to Phrygian Kings, except for the South coast and Pontus. This whole mystery could run wild in a sophisticated reception in a fraction of a second. In multidimensional mind of reader Attis can get by the Black Sea, but set foot on the coast of the Aegean. No wonder the poem has Grecian realities (“Gymnasium”, “Palestra”), possibly coming from an unknown Greek source of the poem. My mentioning of Troy finishes the full-view hologram of a poem with its different cultural layers.- What has polylingual space given you in the creative view? You have introduced to the scientific use the concepts of “before-verbal” and “after-verbal”. How does your “before- verbal” - hidden, maturing inside (may be in the very core?) - find appropriate to itself forms of implementation? How does it choose a Word in one or another language?- My articles already have definitions of these concepts. Before-verbal is a category of thinking and intuitive insight, used to characterize the properties of elements of literary works related to the stage of its creation before the word realization (before-verbal stage) and possible natural or artificial preservation of part of them in the text. After-verbal - a category of thinking and intuitive insight, used to characterize the properties of possible elements arising in the mind of the author and the reader’s reception at the stage of creation of the work after its verbal realization (after-verbal stage). These categories are cognitive units, designed to transfer knowledge. For me the artful work differs with dimension that is created by subject-object and space-time transitions, syntax and graphical front through special rhythm of reader’s reception with its lines on different planes, like in a sculpture. Such a perception is generated from the presence of two or more plans in the work. Dimension (multidimensionality) of work contributes to display of verbal and beyond-verbal areas, allowing to declare a category “beyond-verbal” along with the categories of “before-verbal” and “after-verbal”. At flatness of verbal the imaginary beyond-verbal is multidimensional. Under beyond-verbal I understand a category of thinking and intuitive insight, used to characterize properties of all but revealedin the word, elements of a literary work arising in the mind of the author and the reader’s reception on the verbal and after-verbal stages and creating its dimension (multidimensionality).I also proceed from the hypothesis of birth of lyric poems. Within the poet a poem first sounds inside without words, but already completely (this process is not fully perceived by the mind of the author), then - with words, by parts. A lyrical poem paradoxically at the same time is born entirely (“inner image”) and partially (conditionally we will call them with a metaphor “corporal words”).It is worth thinking about in which cases the “inner image” is manifested in Russian or German? A word in what language does scream out the first? How does the theme, literary time and space, astronomical time and real space at the hearing - birth of text influences the birth of the first word? In which language would be the most adequate transfer of the aborning lyrical content? This are topics for another article.In which language the words-signals are born? Words-signals, that sometimes appear on the stage of silence, before the birth of the “inner image” note the moment of the commencement of its maturing: the starting point for creating a poem in this case becomes an internal or external event, which the author denoted with a word, several words, line, sentence, or Word (group of words) out of the event. Words-signals may not be included in the final text of the poem, they may remain in the draft, in the file name. For example, my poems, mentioned in the article, are named in the files by the first words that came into mind: “Clay” (“Silence”), “Tyutchev” (“Creativity”), “Grain wings” (“Let me drop on strong wind into the darkness...”). The poem “Words” is in the file “Young lamb herb” (these words are not included in the final version of the poem).The very image of a language is different. In German, thanks to the articles, the lines are longer, the text is more dimensional; the text is perceived more philosophically, greater, and in Russian is heartier, more accessible. This can be attributed to different use of languages in a domestic speech.- Can an author-bilingual be called a poly-facet?- If a bilingua creates complete works in different kinds of literary and other artistic activities, then Yes. For example, writes literary prose, critical works, engaged in literary translation, and all this works are at the highest professional level. And moreover a writer- bilingua can be a poly-facet-monolingua. For example, he writes in one of his languages prose, poetry, criticism, and second language uses only in literary translation.- Do you have an ultimate task - in life, creativity and scientific knowledge?To get closer to inconceivable in creativity. To feel the substance of word, the birth of material from before-verbal. I wish myself the quietest life, thrilling contemplation of inner landscapes. More meetings with the mysteries in text. I’ll tell about one of them.In January 2016, I withdrew a little volume of Horace from the shelf to rest with it and escape into a world of dreams. I was reading the 12th song, one of the songs of III collections, and suddenly noticed the icon of length, where it may not be in Latinlanguage - Bellerophontē. Started reading more attentively. The heroine of the poem - a girl Neobula, she spins a sad yarn, afraid of harsh screams of guardian and sees a young man Ghebre in the window, he is bathing in Tiber, washing away the oil from forearms, apparently after the gymnastic exercises on the field of Mars. Why Horace would need a sign of length? Suddenly I remember how Horace speaks about the Greeks in another Ode: they may have both ArEs and Ares. I peer into, and realize that the names of heroes are Greek, and Ghebre - is not even a name, but the name of river, on which the head of torn to pieces Orpheus floated. Perhaps, to call a Russian boy Ghebre today is just as weird, as a Rome one during the time of Horace. Listen attentively, and the rhythm is Greek, they are ionics. Latin may not transfer them to the fullness, but aims to do so. Yet it turns out that the movements of the weaver sound are like ionics - two long, two short movements, ascending, descending iambs. And Horace has all ascending. And suddenly, connecting, everything falls into place: this anti-Roman poem, Neobula - Latin, Horace speaks of the Greek spirit, which is squeezed inside of Latin letter. It puts a sign of length and calls him. By H lderlin, poetry is a call.

Elena Zeifert

Email: elena_seifert@list.ru
Doctor in Philology, Professor of Department of Russian State Humanitarian University, Member of Writers Union of Moscow, Member of Translators Union of Russia

Olga A Valikova

Email: vestnik_valikova@mail.ru
PhD, researcher of Department of Russian Language and Cross-Cultural Communication, RUDN University

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Copyright (c) 2017 Zeifert E., Valikova O.A.

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