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Ales Rasanaŭ is the most important contemporary lyricist in Belarus. He was born in 1947, in Sjalez in the area of Brest, a very old village beside the road leading from Warsaw to Moscow. His father was arrested as a partisan in 1942 and taken to Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen in Germany; after returning from the concentration camps, he was unable to find a way back to his old life. Rasanaŭ told the story of his father later in the "Poem of the Fish". Ales Rasanaŭ studied philology in Minsk from 1966 to 1970, but was expelled from the university for a year for political reasons during this time. Between 1972 and 1999, he worked as an editor for the magazines "Literatur und Kunst" and "Die Quelle" and as an editor for the publishing house "Schöne Literatur". As a result of critical articles concerning the political conditions in his country and the authoritarian system set up by Alexander Lukaschenko, Ales Rasanaŭ lost his job under pressure from those in power. Robbed of his livelihood and with no opportunity to publish in his home country, he has lived mainly abroad since then.

Since 1970, Ales Rasanaŭ has published eleven books, of which the first bears a programmatic title: "Rebirth" (Adradžennie) – it signifies the rebirth of the Belorussian language in defiance of the still dominant Russification of his country up to the present day. He has also become an innovator of form in Belorussian poetry: he writes poems in free verse, which he refers to as "versettes", "punctuations", as short as Haikus, his untranslatable "quantemes" that play with language, reflections on painting, poetry or philosophy that he calls "gnomic symbols", and for some time now he has been writing so-called "Wortdichte" in German, with which he traces the nature and roots of the German language. Five of his books have appeared in German: "Zeichen vertikaler Zeit" (1995) and "Tanz mit den Schlangen" (2002), both translated by Elke Erb and published by the Berlin Agora Verlag, "Hannoversche Punktierungen" (2002, Revonnah-Verlag), translated by Oskar Ansull, and the books originally written in German "Wortdichte" (2003, Steirische Verlagsgesellschaft) and "Der Zweig zeigt dem Baum, wohin er wachsen soll" (2006, Agora Verlag).

Reading Ales Rasanaŭ's poems, one is reminded of an exhibition with five videos by the American artist Bill Viola, which was shown in the Berlin Guggenheim-Museum some years ago and examined the unending cycle of human life. In one video, people walked steadily along an open woodland path in an endless, uninterrupted sequence, in another one, we repeatedly saw how they boarded ships after their deaths and disappeared in search of new shores – the eternal repetition of human existence. The same subject concerns Ales Rasanaŭ: timelessness in the current of time: "For how long must I hold on?", he asks in one poem. "The bird with which I fly through the misty infinity of time, from a lack of freedom to freedom, from mourning to joy, from darkness to brightness, turns his head to me and speaks: As long as there is enough time, as long as there is enough of you, as long as there is enough of us (...) and ever onwards through the centuries, our motionless flight will endure." A search for access to the innermost essence of the world and our existence shapes Ales Rasanaŭ's poetry, his ideas about the basic questions of life, about the duality of all existence, and the paradoxes of life such as the "motionless flight" or the "timelessness in the current of time", which provoke ever new enigmas, as if in a Japanese koan. It is the simple attempt to grasp the heart of human existence and to pour this into words.

We hear the breath of the centuries in Ales Rasanaŭ's work, and when we read of the village, the street and the old trees, we are not only in Belarus, which appears to have dropped out of the corridor of present time somewhere between Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow - we are also in timelessness, in the archetypical, in the eternally same. Ales Rasanaŭ is a prospector for gold standing beside the river of the world's current. He sieves and sieves until the reasons for our existence are separated from all waste and can be seen, clear and obvious, in front of us. Suddenly everything appears very simple, although it is so infinitely complex.


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Publications in German Translation
Zeichen vertikaler Zeit. Poeme, Versetten, Punktierungen, Betrachtungen. Translated from the Belorussian by Elke Erb. Agora Verlag, Berlin 1995
Tanz mit den Schlangen. Translated from the Belorussian by Elke Erb and Uladsimir Tschapeha. Agora Verlag, Berlin 2002
Hannoversche Punktierungen. Translated from the Belorussian by Oskar Ansull. Revonnah-Verlag, Hannover 2002
Wortdichte. Steirische Verlagsgesellschaft, Graz 2003
Der Zweig zeigt dem Baum wohin er wachsen soll. Gedichte. With an epilogue by Ilma Rakusa. Agora Verlag, Berlin 2006
Events by DAAD
Lyriklesung bei der Bardinale in Dresden

Welttag der Poesie

Ein Abend mit dem Autor

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