Poetess And Feminist Oksana Vasyakina On Her Favorite Books

A life 2023

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Poetess And Feminist Oksana Vasyakina On Her Favorite Books
Poetess And Feminist Oksana Vasyakina On Her Favorite Books
Video: Poetess And Feminist Oksana Vasyakina On Her Favorite Books
Video: London Feminist Bookshop Tour with Jean Menzies 2023, February

IN THE HEADING "BOOKSHELF" we ask the heroines about their literary preferences and publications, which occupy an important place in the bookcase. Today Oksana Vasyakina, a poetess, feminist, employee of the Peresvetov Pereulok gallery of the Moscow Exhibition Halls association, talks about her favorite books.

INTERVIEW: Alisa Taezhnaya

PHOTOS: Katya Starostina

MAKEUP: Anastasia Pryadkova


Oksana Vasyakina

poetess and feminist

High voltage

in the text and long reading can "poison" me, and for a few more days I will feel like a hangover


I learned to read at the age of four. I had a book with the text of a French song about a donkey “Our poor donkey is sick. His legs hurt. The hostess made paper boots for him. " I remember the pictures from her - they aroused in me both tenderness for the caring hostess, and pity for the donkey, because he was so funny and vulnerable in his clothes. I remember how my mother made me read a book about Cipollino, and then about Buratino. Neither one nor the other I liked - they were about boys - and I was cunning, flipping through the pages, as if I had read them.

I still do not know how to read quickly, sometimes it takes two or three weeks for one book. Perhaps this is due to my attitude to the text: I drink books, and then I get sick with them for a long time, I live them inside myself. High tension in the text and long reading can "poison" me, and for a few more days I will feel like I have a hangover.

I remember how I found the Soviet edition of Domostroy at my grandmother's. I was seven years old, looking at pictures, reading covenants, and wondering why women should do so much unbearably boring housework while men are in charge and have interesting lives. Why are women worse than men, since such a hell awaits them? It seems to me that it was then that I first had questions for the patriarchy.

When we began to study Russian classical literature at school, I was bored with it - I did not understand how I could integrate myself into a "Hero of Our Time" or "The Captain's Daughter". I did not understand why everyone wanted to be Pechorin: I was offended for the Circassian woman and it hurt wildly that she, a human being, lost her life due to the whim of some arrogant bastard. The harshness with which Pechorin treated Princess Mary outraged me. I liked the rebel Pugachev, but I did not understand how I could become one - ride a horse, remember my duty and not be afraid of a blizzard when women are not available.

I grew up in a small town, and we only had one bookstore - it mainly sold teaching materials for schoolchildren, stationery and erotic novels. But there was also a small shelf on which stood the books of the Amphora publishing house - strange apathetic novels by Haruki Murakami and cruel ones by Ryu Murakami. I had no money for them, and then they seemed to me the coolest and most modern. But my friend Vera had the money: she bought all the new items, and I took to read. I dreamed that someday I would have funds, I would come to this bookstore and buy all the publications of all Murakami and not only. Then, of course, I realized that both Murakami are not so cool, and I learned that not all stores are crammed with stationery and erotic paperback novels. Now I go to Falanster and buy books myself.

For me, the book has always been important as an object. As a child, I, without the instruction of adults, undertook to wipe the dust from the volumes that stood in the closet-wall: when I examined them, touched and leafed through them, I felt that something very important was happening to me. This feeling, which I experienced from intimacy with the book, has not gone anywhere over the years, on the contrary, it has become clearer and more. I am always happy with new editions, sorting through them when I am sad.For two years I worked as a manager of the Word Order store and admired how many people the book can gather around it. I love my former colleagues very much and remember them fondly. Now the book for me is not only an intimate object, but also what builds networks of human communication.

I really like the experiment that two women conducted in the library: they turned all the books written by men with the spines inside, and it turned out that the works written by women are several times less. It is important for me to read and promote books written by women because women’s faces and voices are few and far between.

It is important for me to read

and promote books written by women, because womens faces and voices



Polina Andrukovich

Instead of this world

This book today is the most complete collection of works by the poetess Andrukovich. For me, her texts are complex, slow hieroglyphs: they do not need to be solved, but they need to be read carefully, and a completely amazing world is revealed in this.

I came across these lyrics a couple of years ago, but they shock me every time I refer to them. The silence in which Andrukovich's texts are immersed is deafening - but apart from it there is also an amazing speech that shows me, the reader, its fragility and entrusts me with its vulnerable body.

Polina Barskova

Living Pictures

"Living Pictures" is a tiny (only one hundred and seventy pages) novel by the poetess and researcher of history and blockade letters Polina Barskova. Several times I came across the opinion that this is not a novel, but a collection of stories or something like that. What's true is true: it consists of disparate texts, which are either about the forties, or about what can be called the inner time of the main character. As you read, you get the feeling that a lot of people are talking to the readers, and the last chapter is not a chapter at all, but a whole play in which hungry Hermitage employees perish among empty frames.

And yet it's a novel for me. The novel is an attempt, in which there is a difficult work with trauma. In Living Pictures, the historical trauma of the blockade becomes the personal trauma of the lyrical heroine. And here the phrase "lyrical heroine" is not a bow to the school curriculum and classical literary criticism, but its actualization, I would even say, a rebirth. Barskova writes about the blockade as a personal pain. And this rapprochement makes her heroes alive, gives them a voice, and sometimes, it seems, even a body.

Katie Acker

Great expectations

Katie Acker is a very important figure to me. When I first read her book - I think it was "Eurydice in the Underworld" - I had the feeling of meeting myself. A torn, very painful, on the verge of a scream, the letter struck me with its courage, I asked myself then: what, and so it was possible?

For all its negligence, Great Expectations is a complex text. In it, Aker plays big "male" literature and, playing, destroys it, literally breaks it. She juggles with a masculine tongue and accidentally drops it, and it breaks on the stone floor like fragile glass balls. The juggler continues, standing knee-deep in broken glass, and shouts out an affective criticism of patriarchy, militarism and capitalism.

Evgeniya Ginzburg

Steep route

I've always been interested in women's camps and what strategies women choose to survive in prison. Unfortunately, there are not so many books in Russian on this topic. But we have a huge corpus of memoirs and diaries of prisoners of the GULAG, and the book by Evgenia Ginzburg is the most famous of the monuments of that time.

It seems to me that Ginzburg, by the very letter, gives a recipe for survival in conditions that destroy all living things. She writes a story of miracles, a fairy tale about a terrible journey to the Gulag and the return from hell. Only in the case of Ginzburg, she is accompanied not by Virgil, but by Pushkin, Tolstoy, Blok, through whose texts she looks at situations as through a magic glass, and, transforming naked life, makes it bearable.

Lida Yusupova

Dead Dad

If they ask me who my favorite poet is, I will answer: Lida Yusupova. Lida is a very unusual poet for modern Russian poetry, perhaps because she lives in Belize and meets the Russian language on the Internet.Lida has a hobby - she researches criminal articles on Russian Internet resources and since 2015 has been writing a cycle of poetic texts "Sentences", which occupies a central place in the book about the dead father. Yusupova takes the texts of the pronounced sentences in cases of murder and rape from legal websites and writes new texts from them, structuring the selected phrases according to the principle of a piece of music. This is how scary poems about violence, written in the language of an official document, are obtained.

Monique Wittig

Virgil, no

This is the latest novel by the theorist of radical feminism and political lesbianism Monique Wittig. The book itself was presented to me in my first year by an older friend, then I did not take it seriously, and when I became a feminist, I reread it. This is a brilliant text about the journey of the protagonist through all circles of the patriarchal hell, accompanied by her companion Manastabal, armed with a rifle.

The book is arranged like a Boschian canvas: each chapter in it is a miniature highlighting one or another aspect of patriarchy. I love that you can wander through this text and read each chapter separately. My favorite is the one where the main character preaches a sermon to the women in the laundry. She preaches lesbianism and gradually turns into either a harpy or a jellyfish, in general, into a terrible creature, which many people of lesbians and feminists think of.

Svetlana Adonyeva, Laura Olson

“Tradition, transgression, compromise. The Worlds of a Russian Country Woman "

Svetlana Adonyeva is a unique scientist: she has been traveling on folklore expeditions for thirty years, but her interpretation of oral folk art is fundamentally different from the Soviet colonial tradition of working with texts. Adonyeva views the texts as part of the communicative situation and tries to understand what exactly the community that participates in the ritual is experiencing.

The book, which Adonyeva wrote together with the American researcher Laura Olson, is dedicated to three generations of women. They explore the institution of the female majority and show how sociopolitical processes such as revolution and wars have changed the everyday life of a peasant woman. It seems to me that this book is about how we ended up as children of a post-Soviet family, and it answers many questions about the gender order in which we live.

Elena Schwartz

Army. Orchestra. A park. Ship. Four typewritten collections

There is a problem with the texts of Elena Schwartz: the complete collection of her works has not yet been published, and everything that has been published can no longer be found in bookstores. This year we finally re-published in one book four typewritten collections, released in the seventies and eighties by samizdat, and I am wildly happy about that.

I adore Elena Schwartz, she is an amazing poet. One of her poems is enough for me to find myself in another reality. Space Schwartz is a huge amazing body, in it all living things - not in the sense of animate, but in the sense of meat. These are visionary poems, sometimes quite scary, but I am amazed at their impeccable sincerity.

Dorit Linke

On the other side of the blue border

Several years ago, everyone started talking about cool teenage literature that appeared in Russia thanks to the publishing houses Samokat and Belaya Vorona. I didn't really believe: my experience of reading books from the "Black Kitten" series discouraged all the desire to read literature for teenagers. But one day I wanted to make a post on the bookstore's social network, and I came across “On the other side of the blue border”. I sat down on the sofa, opened the book and closed it only when it was over. "Beyond" turned my attitude towards teenage literature upside down.

This is a big novel about two teenagers, a sister and a brother, who live in the GDR. They do not like their life - they know that there is another world beyond the wall, which is forbidden even to think about. They are bullied by their peers and teachers because they do not want to march in formation, do not want to think the way many people think, and most importantly, because they are not afraid to say what they think.One day they decide to run for the wall, but they know how such stories end, so they prepare a thorough escape plan, train for a long time, and one night they put on wetsuits and swim towards freedom.

Annette Huizing

How I accidentally wrote a book

This is a very small book about a teenage girl Katinka, who lost her mother when she was three years old. She goes to her fellow writer Lidwin to study writing. She gives the girl tasks, and Katinka writes how she misses her mother and loves her brother, how her relationship with her father's new lovers is developing, but most importantly, Katinka writes a real book about how she writes. This is such a metatext for teenagers. The book contains a bunch of useful tips from experienced novelist Lidwin for those who dream of writing their own novel, and there is also a whole chapter devoted to visiting the crematorium.

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