Speaking in Tongues
Guided by Voices

Yury Stroykov

(a brief tale or a long short story, I'm not sure which...)

Translated by Christopher Mattison

You didn't treat me, today
With bunches
of roses, dazzling
tulips or lilies
Today, you've brought
These simple flowers
They are very fine, indeed

Lilies of the Valley, Lilies of the Valley -- May's bright welcome
Lilies of the Valley, Lilies of the Valley -- such a white bouquet

Despite drab clothes
Their Spring charm
For good reason, enchants
Like a song without words
Like a first love
Like our first rendezvous... (1)
(a popular song)

Sukamo, Akhmed -- b. 1901 -- prominent Indonesian politician. Born in Surabaya on the island of Java. Completed the Bandung Technical Institute in August 17, 1945, after which in the name of the Indonesian people, and by commission of a public organization created by them, proclaimed Indonesia an independent nation. S. is the author of a series of works devoted to problems encountered in the struggle against colonialism and dealing with questions of national unity.
(BSE(2), 2nd ed., vol. 41, 1956)


Ein kleiner nackter Liftreiber liegt bei mir und nennt mich liebes Kind, mich, Diane Philibert!(3) C'est exquis... ca me transporte!(4)
(T. Mann, The Confessions of Felix Krull)


It began with a radio program. I remember the voice, a bit gravely, slightly hoarse -- the kind of voice that stays with you. Whoever it belonged spoke so quickly I couldn't quite make it out. After the mandatory advertisements the show went like this:
In order to truly love music, one must listen. The director of the philharmonic society, Diane Philimonova(5) used D.B.Kabalevsky's(6) words as an epigraph for her show. Please welcome, Diane Natanovna.
She was introduced by Sasha Zubanov(7), commentator for the program Popular Burden(8). I knew his voice well, very similar to Presnyakov Jr.(9), to whose heroic-cultural accomplishments I was forced to listen for almost twenty years because I couldn't pick up any other stations with my antiquated radio. This voice was completely different. Diane Natanovna's program sounded like:

-- For you, students! The Primorsky(10) Philharmonic Society is selling season tickets for only five rubles. A series of five concerts, this is a unique opportunity to become better acquainted with the deeper meaning of classical music, poetic locution, and rock music. Stand alongside artists from the Primorsky Orchestra -- Diane took a dramatic pause at this point -- don't pass up the chance to meet touring artists -- like, for example, in December our guest will be -- she grinned audibly -- our guest will be Valerie Pak. I believe -- she continued with pride -- that it is unnecessary to go into more detail about this artist, since her name enjoys wide spread fame amongst all youth. All students want to be, she cleared her throat, known as being on the cutting edge, and therefore, I would like to think that many of you will be interested in becoming friends of the philharmonic. So, let's begin our private transformation by embracing those very things that earlier frightened us. As you already know, the fear of serious music is rooted in misconceptions, the reluctance to understand something which has the power to bring inimitable rapture. Things that you'll never experience when listening to hard rock, or such so called artists as Alice and Tom Weitz(11). Should we be opposed to these two muzakal(12) movements, when each one of them expresses a distinct state of the human soul. We shouldn't -- they are all necessary. Serious (as she chose to call it) music brings out a person's innermost emotions -- emotions we don't often deal with on our own and are even less likely to share with friends. And so, music -- our sister of mercy -- tender, proud, philosophical and ecstatic comes to relieve our soul.
Diane started coughing and hacking. The always obliging Zubanov, as far as I could tell, handed her a glass of pale-yellow tea. The musical director took a couple of swallows and continued the broadcast. All of this happened on the air. It was a rare occurrence for 1987.
-- Nothing should take precedence over your inner self. When the lethargy that exists in your soul is finally vanquished, you will find that you will always have a true and unfailing friend in music. This opportunity should be intriguing to non-students as well, for God only knows what has transpired previously in each of your lives, but it is never too late to explore new venues. Is it really possible to consider valid, any work you've done that was completed without proper aesthetic preparation -- specifically the type of aesthetic preparation which enables you to consider yourself a harmonically developed person. The most terrifying state in life will always be complacency!(13)
Diane became upset about something. You could make out sobs, smacking lips, and other indistinct sounds over the radio. But she found the strength to continue.
-- The Primorsky philharmonic society is extending its hand in friendship to you. Season tickets for students are available at the philharmonic ticket window or by calling 9-99-99.
-- This concludes Diane Philimonova's program, Sasha Zubanov announced.
-- Thank you, thanks, thank you very much. I'm sure that your words will prove indispensable and not soon be forgotten by today's youth.
The show closed with some innocuous symphony music, to illustrate Diane's point. I think it was Flight of the Bumblebee. I wrote down the telephone number.


After a couple of days I called the station.
-- May I speak with Diane Natanovna? I'm calling from the editorial office of the journal The Red Flaps with You.(14)
-- This is Diane Natanovna... Good Day.
-- I heard your show on the radio and was completely taken by it. You wouldn't happen to be interested in writing a piece for us, would you? Maybe something inspirational about the role of music in the life of the younger generation.
Her voice was a bit gravely, slightly hoarse. She agreed to do it.


A week later my assistant Vasya pointed to a pile of loose pages lying on my desk. They were torn out of a notebook. He said:
-- Some woman in tight pants brought them by.
-- And? -- I asked.
-- Gorgeous figure, but she didn't leave a name, -- he wrinkled up his face.
-- No, not her body, the material, -- I asked, offended by the confusion.
-- Didn't read it yet, -- he said timidly. -- I'm finishing up the piece on rural clubs -- Orders from the chief.
-- Yea, whatever, -- I said, turning my attention to the sheets of paper the tight-panted music director had dropped off.


About Myself(15)

Writing to you is Diane Philimonova from V.(16) I no longer have the right to remain silent, and I hope that this letter will somehow be able to rectify past events. I am a singer. I began my studies at GITIS(17), but fate decided to send me to V., where I continued my education, more specifically at the art institute there (I settled down, had a family, etc.). Upon completing the institute I was offered a job (while singing at a fair) in a chamber theater in Moscow. I worked at the theater for two years, but because of some confusion (regarding the apartment and city passports)(18) my family (husband, daughter and mother) stayed in V. My mother died during that time. Basically it comes down to -- I was forced to leave a job I loved, to return home to a confused mess and great psychological duress. At that point in my life, work always took precedence over family. Although, I admit that dragging an exhausted child along with me on tour would have been more unbearable. There I was, back at square one. What could I do? So went my year of mental illness, isolated from friends and work. And at the same time old longings began to swell in me. Thank God Esmerelda Zhitkova, the head of the concert piano department and one of the most renowned symphony leaders in our region, was always at my side. An intense desire in me to return to work steadily grew, but V. didn't have a musical theatre. I didn't let that stop me. Along with various symphony leaders, we composed a mono-opera, from which followed one after another television projects, and multiple contacts with symphony musicians who worked at television and radio stations. I have not written this autobiography for your paper, but instead for all of you who truly understand that each individual who completes the institute is valuable. And now for a little about my present situation.

I didn't bother to read on to And now for a little about, but instead grabbed the phone and called her.
She answered the phone. I knew I hadn't made a mistake as soon as I heard her voice.
-- I am very interested in what you've written so far, -- I said and then added, -- Diane. But could you please go into more detail about your friendship with Esmerelda Orestovna Zhitkova. I had no idea you'd worked together.
-- Are you serious! -- she shouted. -- We are extremely close. I even wrote an essay about her. Would you like to read it?
-- Of course! But maybe it would be easier to talk in person? -- I said, growing bolder.
-- Of course, -- she said. -- Why don't you come by. I'm on Kuropatkina street Number 1, Apartment 5. Do you know where that is?
-- I can picture it, -- I answered without having to think about it. -- Next to the college on Lugovoy, and even closer to the psychiatric hospital.
-- Exactly! -- she said. -- That's where I live. Why don't you stop by tomorrow... -- I could have sworn I heard her bite her lip. -- At six.
And so, here I am. Six o'clock and three minutes. The apartment is on the third floor. It has two rooms connected by a corridor(19). Very comfortable. Her five year old daughter is sitting in one of the rooms chewing on a Chinese apple and watching the fourth episode of I'll get 'ya(20) on t.v. I'm sitting in the other room with Diane. Sherlinga's(21) record spins ever so quietly, playing A white bridle for the black mare. I have two cans of Santori(22) beer from Japan in my bag, but I won't set them out right away. I prefer to listen to her essay first. It's called(23)

An artistic portrait of a pianist

During the tumult of our work week we never take enough notice or interest in the lives of those close to us, even though they have given so much to us in our profession, opening up the inimitable world of music, selflessly devoted to us, students and colleagues. There are individuals who are completely altruistic, whose souls are wide open to everything, who want to divine that which lies under the surface of the notes, in order to find that which is deeply hidden and accessible only to those who are willing to passionately seek it out.
Undoubtedly, the biography of a pianist is a brilliantly creative work and to a great extent elucidates the nature of music in all of its magnitude. An extract from an article printed in the newspaper Kharkov Worker on the 12th of June, 1958 under the title She sang with Shalyapin(24), is about the grandmother of Esmerelda Orestovna Zhitkova and Lyubov Emilyevna Bove-Boyarska.
The mother of Esmerelda Orestovna was also a violinist, having studied with Auera. Then life changed, and Esmerelda ended up in a children's home in Kharkov, where she began to study with Stella Viridianovna Kulikova -- composer, pianist and also a student of Goyzberg, pianist and teacer(25). She now teaches at the Kharkov conservatory. Stella Viridianova instilled persistence in all of her students, emphasizing the belief in steadfastly practicing their technique, which was to enable them to penetrate the depths of a composer's psychological thought.
And out of that very difficult and beautiful time (during the war) due to the interaction of notable people in music, students studying under Kulikova in the conservatory came up with an amazing draft of an artistic portrait of pianist Esmerelda Orestovna Zhitkova. Because other infinite love of music, she never forgave even the slightest hypocrisy in anything having to do with music, based on a deep, I would even say extraordinary set of principles that she maintained to guide her students. She demanded that they relentlessly give all of themselves. Zhitkova was one of the most popular symphony leaders in V. This has been noted and remarked on by various people of our time including: Natalya Dimitrevna Shpiller, People's Artist of the USSR, who peaked at her 1981 performance in Astrakhan, the very place Esmerelda Orestovna sang at the fair, as well as People's Artist of the USSR Zara Alexandrovna Dolykhanova, who warmly recalled the performance of E.O.Zhitkova.
Her grandmother instilled in her a love of vocal music that was perpetually entwined in her artistic life. Working with a vocalist greatly helps comprehension when attempting to discern a musical composition and in a quite literal sense, these words become captain of their creative fate...
A great deal of cultural-social life also takes place in V., in the suburbs of P., V., D. and in the villages of Zh., Ch., and E., at chief concerts(26), in the health clubs, summer hmes(27) and hospitals.
She finished by saying -- not bad, huh? And swung the toes of her narrow boots. Her tight pants were tucked into her boots.
-- Do you know, Diane, -- I said thinking -- when it was that I began to write my story with the long title Tankman, girl with an oar, as well as pilot, frontier guard with a dog, captains and young Pushkin. In it I wanted to recall my first three years in V. from 1959-1961. The leitmotif of the entire narration was the musical theme of Lilies of the Valley -- May's bright welcome from Gelena Velikanova. Shlyager in the thaw years.
I took the epigraph from the unfinished story of Boris Balter, Samarkand: I enjoyed roaming along unfamiliar streets with Tanya. We uncloaked the city proper, alone and free, like only children can be.
Lilies of the Valley were the sweetest things. Senior citizens sang this melody from the 40's: Sasha, do you remember our meeting along the shore at Primorsky park? Sasha, do you remember the warm evening, autumn evening, the chestnut tree was in bloom?
My neighbor was Sasha. He didn't care for Lilies of the Valley, but he relished the song Chestnut Tree in Bloom.
Sasha, more precisely, Alexander lvanovich, was on shore leave because of some transgression.
He told me stories in great detail, while sitting on the veranda of the old home, stuck almost to the very top of the Eagle's Nest -- the tallest hill in V.
The most fascinating story for me was about the strange occurrences of Uncle Sasha, when he was with great speed followed by these flourescent glowing orbs. Here's one of the tales.
Uncle Sasha was strutting around in Victory (then sailors lived very well, especially fishermen and whalers) along a deserted road. He was somewhere along the woods in the area of station Sedanka, when suddenly he noticed a red glowing orb, which followed his car and then somehow penetrated his car. At first the captain thought he had completely lost his senses, but after regaining those very senses, began to feel amazingly fatigued. Doctors diagnosed him with a nervous disorder and forbade him from swimming for eight months. He started getting drunk every night. They let him swim.
A couple of years later something similar happened. Uncle Sasha was at the helm on his way in the direction of V. to the dacha of a friend, now known as the illustrious ice captain Abrosimov, when he noticed in the morning sky a patch of bright red light, which slowly and noiselessly floated to the ground, leaving behind it a bright sloping trail. That's a falling airplane, -- thought Alexander lvanovich, and he set out in his car to the fence of the substation, where he figured he would find the fallen plane.
After he had gone a kilometer he turned in the direction of his car, but he could see only its front half. The rear of the car was shrouded in the bright haze of an orb, inside of whose fog was hidden four small orbs. Then the flourescent haze stretched into the shape of a tube, rose into the air and abruptly disappeared into the sky.
Those are just two of the stories. It's true enough that his neighbors confirmed that at that very time Uncle Sasha was in a drunken haze, and the account of the destruction of his car he probably made up to get drinking money. I don't know, I didn't understand much then. The stories of Alexander lvanovich seemed completely believable. Although I must now admit that they are probably fairy tales. I was eight then. I believed everything that Uncle Sasha said. Even though the truth was not quite right.


-- Why are you telling me about this, -- asked Diane, who had been listening attentively.
-- I'm telling you just so you can ask me why, -- I answered frankly.
I didn't stay long at Diane's. Her daughter continued to scrutinize with delight the stratagem of the eighth episode of I'll get 'ya, and when I left she didn't pay the least bit of attention to me.
The cans of beer clanked in my bag, as I tiptoed down the stairs of the house in which lives the singer Philimonova.
I drank the beer alone the next day locked in the office of the department of information. It was lukewarm, but flowed well past my larynx and helped to restore my strength after an evening of E.O.Zhitkova, who as you all very well know, has been living in an apartment for the last eight years, stuck almost to the very top of the Eagle's Nest.


1. Lilies of the Valley was a popular song in the late 1950's and early 60's in Russia. Sung by Gelena Velikanova, its melodramatic imagery hints at the author's tendency for ironic discourse and meta-utopian subject matter. Both the song and Diane's radio address are prime examples of Soviet templates that have permeated Russian society up to the present day.
2. -- the Big Soviet Encyclopedia.
3. Diane Philibert is one of Felix's affairs in Mann's The Confessions of Felix Krull. She is a wealthy author and intellectual, erotically stimulated by their difference in class and age. Diane repeats in various forms before and after the throws of passion The intellect longs for the delights of the non-intellect. Felix embellishes his event of a life time while Diane pleads for him to denigrate her, make love, steal her jewelry and leave.
4. A simple, naked elevator boy lying next to me, calling me dear child, me, Diane Philibert! C'est exquis... ca me transporte!
5. Diane Natanovna Pililimonova is Stroykov's first use of a device prevalent in Russian literature, that of the or spoken name. Pililimonova is a combination of the Greek philo and Russian (philharmonic).
6. Dmitry Borisovich Kabalevsky, Soviet composer (1904-1987) known for his melodically and thematically conservative opera, piano and chamber works.
7. The last name derives from (tooth).
8. (Popular Burden) is a mutation of the journal (Popular Times).
9. -. -- a well-known pop singer in Russia, imitating the voice and style of Michael Jackson.
10. -- Primorsky Territory is a Far-Eastern geographical/political region of Russia which includes the author's home city of Vladivostok.
11. Be is an alternate spelling and pronunciation of the normally transliterated , used by Diane to show her disdain for all non-serious music; in this case the songs of Tom Waits.
12. Although (music) itself does not suggest the allusion to muzak, discussions with the author led to this word choice, in attempting to aptly describe Diane Natanovna's opinion of all music that is not classical music.
13. The phrases harmonic development and complacency are paraphrased
directly from the goals of the communist manifesto and all that it was to bring to the Russian masses.
14. -- literally translated as Red is with you -- is a play on one of the most common and sacred of Soviet images -- Kpacoe -- The Red Flag. I'm currently experimenting with conjoining the two images; thus the initial translation of The Red Flaps with You, will undoubtedly change.
15. Diane Philimonova's original punctuation and spelling has been retained.
16. Possibly Vladivostok, the author has chosen to name the city simply V., like Gogol's City N. -- in order to create a feeling of universality -- that this could be any Russian city.
17. -- State Institute of Theater Arts, located in Moscow.
18. -- citizens must obtain a residence permit in order to live in any apartment, or move to another city. Because of its status and prosperity as the capital, there is always a rush to obtain legally (or by other means) passports to live in Moscow.
19. denotes an apartment with two or more rooms that can be entered by an adjoining corridor as opposed to a apartment, in which you must walk through one room to get to other rooms.
20. , is a popular animated television program similar to Tom and Jerry or The Roadrunner and Coyote shorts. In the Russian version it is a wolf and rabbit.
21. Sherlinga is a Russian composer now living in Israel who is most noted for his musical about the life of Russian Jews in the early 19th century.
22. In 1987, any imported beer was still practically impossible to obtain and extremely expensive.
23. Diane Philimonova's original punctuation and spelling has been retained.
24. Fyodor lvanovich Shalyapin (1873-1938) -- noted Russian bass singer.
25. In the original essay. Diane has misspelled (teacher) as .
26. .
27. In the original essay, Diane has misspelled (homes) as .