Fedor Svarovsky: Happy Monsters (translated from Russian by Alex Cigale)

We’re delighted today to present a poem by Fedor Svarovsky, translated into English by Alex Cigale. I first read Cigale’s translations of Svarovsky in The Madhatters’ Review (link below) earlier in the winter, and am excited to read them in a Coeur Publishing edition later in the year. — AS

Fedor Svarovsky was born in 1971 and emigrated to Denmark at the age of 19, where he received refugee status and lived for six years. In 1997, he returned to Moscow where he continues to work as a journalist. Author of three books, his poems have appeared in such leading journals as Novyi Mir, Vozdukh (Air,) Ural, and TextOnly. English translations of Svarovsky’s poems by Peter Golub are in Jacket Magazine, Diagram, Two Lines (online), Absinthe (blog, March 6, 2013,) and Truck, and by Stephanie Sandler in World Literature Today. In 2011, Svarovsky participated in PEN’s New Voices reading series at the National Arts Club in NYC, through CEC ArtsLink.

Alex Cigale’s poems have appeared in Colorado, Green Mountains, Tampa, and The Literary Reviews, and online in Asymptote, Drunken Boat, andMcSweeney’s. His translations from the Russian can be found in Cimarron Review, Literary Imagination, Modern Poetry in Translation, New England Review, PEN America, Plume, Two Lines, Brooklyn Rail InTranslation, The Manhattan, St. Ann’s, and Washington Square Reviews. He is one of the editors of Asymptote, The Madhatters’ Review, The St. Petersburg Review, Third Wednesday, Verse Junkies, and COEUR journal. Until recently, he was Assistant Professor at the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Alex’s other translations of Svarovsky are in The Madhatters’ Review, Eye of the Telescope, and Star Line. When I Was Saving the World, a selected writings of Fedor Svarovsky, in Alex’s and Peter Golub’s translation, is forthcoming from Coeur Publishing within the year.

Happy Monsters

20 years after
in the wake of the Black Day
incorporated in the region was a village PINGTS-1812
better known among the inhabitants
as Happy Monsters

this village
(something unsurprising)
is full of mutants
beside their physical deformity
possess absolutely unique abnormalities —
the organisms
of the majority of its residents
produce an excess
amount of serotonin
for this reason
these monsters are
and are constantly amusing themselves

a significant share of their jokes
consist of fecal-physiological references
but among them may also be found
truly refined expressions

that this serotonin mutation
as by the way
other physical aberrations
that have befallen them
are transferred through inheritance
the younger generation grows up
and it becomes evident
the descendants possess
the characteristics of their parents

one couple
for example
two sons — twins
13 years of age
these adolescents attract
the most attention
as from the tourists
so from the local inhabitants
each of the brothers
has three legs and three arms
each of the appendages of different lengths
similar in structure
and identical in development
and just so on these arm-legs
like some sort of incredible spiders
heehawing and whistling
spend their days
rollicking in their parents’ yard
in the fields and meadows
their spirits never sinking

at first glance
all this may repel
one who is unaccustomed
appear perhaps a bit inhuman —
all this undifferentiated guffawing
all this squealing from laughter
one-eared and lame-legged
the atmosphere of the natural
and simultaneously unrestrained pleasure
captivates everyone
who visits here
and the company of
of serotonin-abundant people
helps many to overcome their depression
and numerous other neuro-psychiatric disorders

as of late
as a result
of the flood of tourists
visiting the village
has become a great deal
more expensive for the arrivals
but no cost is too great
to spare for those tortured
by modern life
psychologically and morally drained people
patronizing this marvelous location

for the inhabitants all is good —
they do not take offense at the tourists
with pleasure have their pictures taken —
everything suits them:
the scoliotic
the cockeyed
missing extremities and hair
eyelids and noses
eyes on their foreheads
and tongues on their necks
hawking and farting
stinking and grunting
spewing and burping
they gambol and revel
every day of their lives as though
the very first one and the last
day of life

to the very limit
of corporeal existence
to the penultimate
to the very last
of serotonin


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