Posted by Dani Crickman
As international as the Jerusalem Book Fair is, I certainly wasn’t expecting to have a Russian man ask me 「どこに住んでいますか?」 (“doko ni sunde imasu ka?” –Japanese for “where do you live?”)
Ilya Pushkin, a 54-year-old medical doctor from Russia, moved to Israel and was overwhelmed by culture shock. A soft-spoken man, he had trouble adjusting to a culture with fewer boundaries between people and less privacy. He came to find solace in all things Japanese, immersing himself in the study of the language and developing a deep love for the culture. Pushkin has written poetry since childhood in his native Russian, but for the last seven years he has been writing in Japanese. He finds the Japanese language’s written symbols inspiring and values the Japanese emphasis on the secret and mysterious – especially in women. He recognizes that the Japan he creates for himself and explores in his writing is an ideal world, filled with his idea of ideal women, and is not reflective of the real country and its people. Yet the fantasy gives him comfort and has enabled him to produce stories and poems characterized by simplistic beauty.
Pushkin’s books were available in print for the first time at the book fair and are not widely available for purchase. However, pdfs of his work, translated into English, Hebrew, Russian, and French, can be downloaded from his website:www.pushkin-japan.com
From The Poems of the Bear in Love:
Just as a chopstick
can do nothing alone,
so I am nothing
Today you made a mistake
when, instead of rice,
you laid your kisses
in my sandwich box.
Because of your charming mistake
my heart overflows with your love,
but my stomach is empty.