Dialogue by the Television Set (July 2013)

This month I managed to write something for the newsletter put out by Memory at War. It is basically a review of recent events regarding the memory of the singer, actor, and poet Vladimir Vysotsky (1938-1980). I try to offer a short analysis of Petr Buslov’s recent film (2011) made about his near-death experience in 1979 alongside debates over his legacy and public morality in Russia at the moment. You can find it here.

Click for full-size image

Here is a samizdat collection of Vysotsky’s songs compiled after his death. Via Katherine Bowers and Rossica blog (Russian book shop in Berlin).

On a personal note, I’ve been a fan of Vysotsky for a while. When I came back from a four month stint in 2009, it was the only thing I could listen to for weeks. It was as if I could preserve my rather fragile bond with the language and culture by listening to his songs over and over again. I then went through a period of watching as many of his films as possible. The meeting place cannot be changed (1979) is still a firm favourite, not least of all because it is ‘the Soviet version of the Wire’ according to one friend, but also because it contains possibly one of the best lines in Soviet television history. As the team of detectives, headed by Vysotsky, chase the bandits through the winding alleys of 1940s Moscow in rather battered-looking old trucks, Vysotsky leans out the window to fire off a few rounds.

Высоцкий: Иване! А ну поди сюда держать меня!

Иван (с недоумением): Как держать?

Высоцкий: Нежно!

I believe at one point I had even made this quote into a message alert for my telephone. Anyway, as these personal details of my admiration for Vysotsky lore suggest, I find the man and the myth fascinating. On a more serious note, Vysotsky is rather interesting in terms of the ‘plurality’ of dissent. By this I mean that his role, his views, his relationship with the authorities and the underground (in various senses) can be contradictory, confusing, and subject to change. His songs are part and parcel of this issue. The number of different voices which emerge from his huge (500 songs) repertoire make untangling the knots of the ‘real’ Vysotsky a difficult task. Indeed, just like the car chase in Mesto vstrechi, sometimes it is nice to just sit back and enjoy the legend’s twists and turns.

This month I managed to write something for the newsletter put out by Memory at War. It is basically a review of recent events regarding the memory of the singer, actor, and poet Vladimir Vysotsky (1938-1980). I try to offer a short analysis of Petr Buslov’s recent film (2011) made about his near-death experience in 1979 alongside debates over his legacy and public morality in Russia at the moment. You can find it here.

Click for full-size image

Here is a samizdat collection of Vysotsky’s songs compiled after his death. Via Katherine Bowers and Rossica blog (Russian book shop in Berlin).

On a personal note, I’ve been a fan of Vysotsky for a while. When I came back from a four month stint in 2009, it was the only thing I could listen to for weeks. It was as if I could preserve my rather fragile bond with the language and culture by listening to his songs over and over again. I then went through a period of watching as many of his films as possible. The meeting place cannot be changed (1979) is still a firm favourite, not least of all because it is ‘the Soviet version of the Wire’ according to one friend, but also because it contains possibly one of the best lines in Soviet television history. As the team of detectives, headed by Vysotsky, chase the bandits through the winding alleys of 1940s Moscow in rather battered-looking old trucks, Vysotsky leans out the window to fire off a few rounds.

Высоцкий: Иване! А ну поди сюда держать меня!

Иван (с недоумением): Как держать?

Высоцкий: Нежно!

I believe at one point I had even made this quote into a message alert for my telephone. Anyway, as these personal details of my admiration for Vysotsky lore suggest, I find the man and the myth fascinating. On a more serious note, Vysotsky is rather interesting in terms of the ‘plurality’ of dissent. By this I mean that his role, his views, his relationship with the authorities and the underground (in various senses) can be contradictory, confusing, and subject to change. His songs are part and parcel of this issue. The number of different voices which emerge from his huge (500 songs) repertoire make untangling the knots of the ‘real’ Vysotsky a difficult task. Indeed, just like the car chase in Mesto vstrechi, sometimes it is nice to just sit back and enjoy the legend’s twists and turns.

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