R IS FOR RUSSIA
Kirill Medvedev is an amazing Russian marxist poet, musician and publisher, who writes texts that are as potent as they are accessible. I especially cherish avowed marxist writers, because I strongly believe that the best art acknowledges its political implications, and Medvedev is so good at this, his one poem can encapsulate all of our existence in a nutshell. It fits in everything: all the instances of othering, the way capitalism crushes us, how ethnicity and sexuality decide for us, all the tangles of temporality, while the text remains breezy, beautiful and bold.
When I still lived in Russia and there were political protests, and people, including my friends, were swept away into jail and sometimes prisons for going out to the streets, Medvedev and his band Arkadiy Kotz were recording Russian versions of various political songs, including Lluis Llach’s Catalan anti-Franco “L’estaca” about breaking the walls that surround us fall to finally be free. The protests did not lean left enough, proved futile, but I found ideological footing for things in which I had believed my whole life. And that song, about organizing, and removing borders, of freedom and moral inheritance, has stayed with me since.
I was absolutely thrilled to discover that Kirill Medvedev had been translated into English by a team of marvellous people including Keith Gessen. If there’s one contemporary writer from Russia you read anytime soon, make it this guy. And be happy that you don’t speak Russian, because the texts that are full of local bias don’t get translated.
It’s No Good by Kirill Medvedev
Published by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2016
Translated from Russian by Keith Gessen, Mark Krotov, Cory Merrill, Bela Shayevich