Central European literary life
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At the ongoing Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City – which includes Sam Lipsyte, Das Racist and John Waters among many others – Queens-based cooperative Lightful press will be introducing their latest book, Poems from Children’s Island by Sasha Chernyi (also transliterated as Sasha Chernyi and Chorny).
The bilingual edition of this classic of Russian children’s poems was translated by Kevin Kinsella.
Born Alexander Glikberg in a Jewish family in Odessa, the future writer of these clever, genuinely strange poems seems to have had a nightmarish upbringing, including a hysterical mother, a violent father and a brother with the same name (they were distinguished by calling on White Sasha and the other Black Sasha because one was blond the other brunet).
After a chaotic and nomadic youth Chernyi gained renown for his satirical verses. The revolution prompted him to go into exile, first to Vilnius, then Berlin and eventually to the South of France, where he died of a heart attack in 1932 helping to put out a neighbor’s fire
Fellow émigré Vladimir Nabokov eulogized Chernyi by writing, “He left only a few books and a quiet, beauteous shadow.”