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Sholem Aleichem, Kom in från glömskans förmak! Del I

Category: by sophie engström, gender, jiddish, literature, russia, ryssland, ukraina, ukraine, yiddish
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Sholem Aleichem är en författare som kanske är okänd för många svenskar. Men han har på senare tid upptagit alltmer av min uppmärksamhet. En del kanske känner igen hans namn från musikalen Spelman på taket som hans romanfigur Tevje mjölkutköraren utgjorde förlagan till. Noteras bör att Tevje mjölkutköraren förekommer i flera olika noveller av Aleichem, så grunden till Spelman på taket vilar alltså på flera verk och inte ett som ofta felaktigt påstås.

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Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich föddes den 2 mars 1859 i den ukrainska byn Voronko, I dåvarande Tsarryssland, i en fattig judisk familj. Han sägs mycket tidigt ha beslutade sig för att ägna sig åt författarskapet, och en av hans tidiga mer häpnadsväckande alster lär vara en judisk tolkning av Robinson Cruse. Sholem Aleichem är en ironisk pseudonym som i översättning blir “var hälsad” eller kanske ännu bättre “Fred vare med dig”. Sholem Aleichem ville på det tättet förstärka det komiska anslaget i hans egen person, och som författare.

Aleichem förde ett ganska kringflackande liv, vilket kan illustrera hur många judar hade det i dåtidens Tsarryssland. Antisemitismen var utbredd och flera judar råkade ut för progromer och fick därför flytta alternativt fly för sina liv. De fick inte heller mantalsskriva sig var de ville. Som exempel fick det inte mantalsskriva sig i Kyiv, utan bara under vissa förutsättningar, mot rätt betalning samt vid rätt tid. Detta gjorde att Aleichem, och många andra bodde i byar kring Kyiv. Aleichem bodde bland annat i Boyarka, en liten by sydväst om Kyiv.

Aleichem yrkesbana var dessutom ganska brokig vilket kanske inte berodde på hans judiska ursprung utan snarare på en del okloka beslut. Han försökte sig bland annat på en karriär som börsmäklare, men han slutade som helt utblottad. Hans hustru, som kom från en förmögen familj, lär ha stått för en del av familjens försörjning. Aleichem försökte även emigrera till USA två gånger. Första gången 1907, men blev tvungen att kapitulera redan 1908. 1915 emigrerade han en andra gång och han stannade till sin död året därpå. Aleichem var mycket kritisk till den judiska assimileringen i USA och några av hans senare verk kritiserar “amerikaniseringen” av nyanlända judar.

Inledningsvis skrev Sholem Aleichem på ryska samt på hebreiska, men långsamt växte sig beslutet starkt att skriva på jiddish. Han blev slutligen en mycket stark förespråkare för jiddish i Europa och han uppmuntrade många yngre författare att skriva på jiddish. På wikipedia kan man dessutom läsa att han var en stark förespråkare av zionismen, men jag skulle vilja hävda att en för stark betoning av Sholem Aleichems zionistiska verksamhet riskerar att helt förta hans kanske viktigaste arv, konsten att genom ironi synliggöra en frän samhällskritik.

… fortsättning följer i morgon ….

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A forgotten masterpiece

Category: avantgarde, by sophie engström, movies, russia, ukraine
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The movie “The Eve of Ivan Kupala” is perhaps one of the most intrigues movies I have ever seen. The movie is based on Nikolai Gogol’s short story “The Eve of Ivan Kupala” (or “S:t John’s Eve” in translation). I did read the short story by Gogol a couple of years ago, but can’t say my imagination was able to create anything like this movie. The director, Yuri Ilyenko, has made a very independent interpretation of Petro’s pact with the devil, or what is thought to be the devil.


Petro’s meeting with the devil at Bear’s Ravine

The story is, as I told above, based on a short story by Gogol. Gogol has in his turn interpreted and collected Ukrainian folk tales. The story circles about the poor peasant Petro that falls in love with Pidorka. She is much richer than Petro, and her father disagree to their love. Finially her father forbid him to ever see her again, and Petro tries to make everything in his power to see her. He gets so desperate that he makes a pact with a stranger in town, that possibly could be seen as the devil. To make a long story very short, Petro agrees to blood shred in order to get the gold so he can get his Pidorka back. After protests he agrees to kill the child, in order to get the gold. Petro wakes up after two days Petro, unable to reember how he got the money.

Yuri Ilyenko has created a nonlinear masterpiece, with very little dialogue. He has left a lot of space for your own imagination and interpretation. But the fact that it isn’t easy to follow only makes the narration more complex and intrigues.

The movie was made in 1968 but wasn’t released until 1989. I believe it could be because the spoken language is Ukrainian, which was rather controversial to use in Soviet days. If anyone can fill me in why this movie was “forgotten” about for so long, I would be more than thankful. I can’t find much info about the movie, even though I have been looking almost everywhere.

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Who is who in Ukraine?

Category: by sophie engström, ukraina, ukraine
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Feel lost in the drama of Ukrainian political life? Never knows who is who and always sits with endless google-lists and wiki-links never know what is right or wrong? Try Who is who in Ukraine. I can’t anser for everything they write, but it is a great guidance for someone with limited knowledge in Ukrainian.

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Is there a greater Scheme? – About Swedbank in Ukraine: Part 2

Category: business, by sophie engström, economy, swedbank, ukraina, ukraine
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Yesterday I wrote a short summery on what has been said in Swedish media about Swedbank’s engagement in Ukraine. Today I will continue with a possible interpretation of why Swedbank stays in Ukraine even though they loose a lot by staying.

On the 12th of December Dagens Nyheter, one of the leading newspapers in Sweden, denoted that Swedbank not only looses a lot by staying in Ukraine, but possibly also having a very unique position in comparison to other international banks. Through the the Finicial Cooperation for the World Bank, IFC, Swedbank has got a loan on about half a Billion Swedish Kronen (≈€48 000 000). And even the fact that Swedbank actually violates and working on a high risk level, IFC have no intension in breaking their cooperation with the Swedbank. For instance, 42% of Swedbank debts are risky or even bad. Moreover, the bank also has too much exposure and loans to one single customer. It is however not clear who it is it, but several observers mean it is Sergey Tigipko. This is a clear violation against the agreements with IFC. All this is very agrivating facts and also leads us to the question why Swedbank stays in Ukraine.

Knut Kainz Rognerud imples in his book Det stora bankrånet (The big bank robbery) that Swedbank, and many other Swedish banks, did in fact make the crash in the global finical crisis bigger because the banks gave unwise and very unstable loans. One might ask oneself if this could be the irony of it all. Today it looks like the banks are losing and actually risking a lot, but in a longer perceptive Swedbank will possibly be one of the only international banks left in Ukraine – and will possibly own a great deal of Ukraine’s resources. I would say that this interpretation is not too paranoid, but are only based on the simple fact, that no bank will stay in Ukraine just from pure generosity. Of course they have a greater plan with their engagement, possibly not a “scheme” but at least a plan. And that plan is not open for either of us, but concerns our well-being.

If you have any comments of thought about this let me know. It is possible you have some information I have not, and I would highly appreciate if you would share it with me.

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Is there a greater Scheme? – About Swedbank in Ukraine: Part 1

Category: by sophie engström, swedbank, ukraina, ukraine
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This is an article for my Ukrainian readers that may be interested in knowing how the discussions goes in Sweden about Swedbank’s engagement in Ukraine. I will focus some on how the debate has been going, and I will continue tomorrow with an interpretation on how one can see Swedbank’s engagement in Ukraine and what one can fear from their present and future actions.

A couple of weeks ago I had a chat with a friend from Kiev/Kyiv about the financial crisis and the effects on her own business. I was rather stunned when she said that Swedbank was considered to be one of the good banks, or even “good guys”, since they were staying in Ukraine and didn’t try to escape from the financial crisis. I was stunned, because I thought people in Ukraine (and in the Baltic states) wanted to get rid of banks as Swedbank. This was actually caused by my understanding that banks, as Swedbank, played a very important role in increasing the financial crisis among those countries.

The tone and the degree of irritation has been much greater in Sweden than in Ukraine. Many Swedish newspapers has during the past year written articles that actually focus on how Swedish banks could, or even should, withdraw their interests for Ukraine and the Baltic states. Swedbank has the greatest capital and loaning in Ukraine and the Baltic states among the Swedish banks. This have made them rather exposed for Swedish critic in media. This has been compromised with Swedbank’s rather daring attitude, for instance with buying Kommerzbank in 2007, which has been a course of irritation among media and Swedish small investors. It is actually possible that Swedbank’s action just didn’t fit with Swedish values, such as to be humble and trying to avoid all negative attraction to oneself. But the purchase of Kommerzbank could also be seen as a millstone for the bank. Swedbank is in a rather deep dip and the downward spiral never seems to end and the Kommmerzbank purchase haven’t made their situation better, but rather worse!

My interpretation is that Swedish savers have been rather critical against Swedbank’s refusal of giving up their Eastward investments, and mainstream media have not been helping the situation much. Last week the state owned television, Sveriges Television, had a reportage about a Latvian farmer family that had to leave their farm, slaughter all their animals and sell all their properties to be able to pay Swedbank back. But even so, their debt to Swedbank was still around € 96 000. These kind of stories are pretty effective in Sweden I’d say, especially because Swedes in general never wants to be villains that rob people in other countries, that possibly have a much tougher situation than ourselves. Swedes are used be the “good guys”, and being a brick in a great global economic war on high financial level, leaving many as losers and rather few are winners.

The above recounted story are however a rather fresh element in Swedish media. The main focus was previously on how Swedbank’s actions could affect Swedish investors and the labor force in Sweden, without little account on a global scale. From a personal point of view I appreciate that Swedish media has been able to change their perspective and not only showing concern for the well-being of Swedish investors and savers.

But I can also see several problems with having a negative focus on Swedbank’s engagements in Ukraine, since it could discourage other investors. Especially in regard to what I mentioned above, no Swede really wants to be depicted as the bad guy. But even so, we might also ask ourselves why Swedbank think it is so important to stay in Ukraine and Baltic states? You do not need to be too conspirotial to believe that Swedbank have a greater scheme by staying. I will therefor continue the discussions tomorrow and highlight Knut Kainz Rognerud’s book “Det stora bankrånet” (“The big bank robbery”), and how he urge that banks, as Swedbank, actually made the financial crisis greater in Ukraine and the Baltic states.

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Burnt by the sun twice

Category: by sophie engström, movies, russia
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Yesterday I wrote about Boris Mikhailov. During my most absent minded and distracted period in life, my mind have confused him with the director Nikita Mikhalkov. There is nothing resembling between them at all, (apart from the mustachio and the surname I guess). Notable is that I haven’t confused their work, of course, but their names. Which have lett me into a handfull confused dialogues. I won’t reproduce them here, you can possible imagine. Instead I will highlight the fact that Nikita Mikhalkov is making a new movie.

mikhalkov

Perhaps this is no news for you, but I have to admit I was slightly surpised when I read it. During the past 10 years I have completely lost faith in his ability to make a movie that is not soaked in sticky nationalism and imperialism. And I actually belonged to those that enjoyed his “Burnt by the sun”.

When I now learned to know that he is working with a “Burnt by the sun 2” I can’t feel other than pure fear flavoured with a slice of scepticism’s. On the other hand, the movie possibly opens for an other dimension… like pure comedy? But I doubt the actual theme allow it. The Great Purge is nothing to joke about.

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On what a naked body can do

Category: art, by sophie engström, gender, ukraine
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It was a couple of days ago I started to think about Boris Mikhailov again – the photographer, not the ice hockey player ; ) My first acquaintance with him and his photos was at a Photo Fair in Gothenburg. I guess it was in the late 1990s. The collection of his photos was not any his more wild and exposing photos, but the old hand coloured. I also saw them in Moscow a couple of years ago and got as equally impressed. It is a fascinating work. But it was a completely different story when I really fell in love with his work. It was when he got the Hasselblad Award in 2000. I had been able to grab a ticket to the award ceremony, and the so called party afterwards at the local City Art Hall.

mikhailov

When I was walking around that City Art Hall I slowly started to grasp what kind of photographer this was! I was completely stunned with his serie with the homeless, alcoholics and drug addicts. Not only was he brave, but also the people he depicted was so. At first I wasn’t very sure if I liked it or not. I thought he exploited the people somehow but I couldn’t put my finger on if I thought it was entirely bad and evil action to do so. But when I came to the last room, I was not very sure what to think at all. It was a serie with self portraits, mostly naked and not in an euphemistically way. His aging body was put in more or less obscure positions. It was something very laughable about it, as it was extremely admirable! He deconstructed his own body, and I both liked and feared. It was like his work spoke two different languages, both brutal and very subtle in the same breath. I was completely entranced by him and his way of thinking, but I still feel have problem describing why, and actually how, I love his work.

Here is an interview with Boris Mikhailov on “Specialisten”.

A couple of years ago a friend from Moscow visited me and we started to talk about Mikhailov. I think we both shared a common admiration for him, but probably in different ways. My friend told me that Mikhailov had been arrested in Kyiv (and released shortly after) due to that he and his assistant had been collecting women’s sanitary pads at public toilets. They needed it for some kind of project that Mikhailov was working on. I still don’t know if it true or not. And parts of me does not want to know either, because I fear it does not exists at all. But if it does, I am convinced that we will most certainly hear about it. It would be pretty controversial … And if it does exist, I will probably dispute with myself if I like it or not, possibly ending up entranced, once more.

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