In this interview series where we ask questions to people who are making a difference, it can be big, it can be small, it doesn’t matter, what matters is their contribution to our society. It can be anyone from any walk of life and from any country. Please, do send us suggestions of people whom you think we should interview for this series.
Dr. Adolf P. Shvedchikov is a Russian Scientist in the field of Chemistry. He has published over 150 scientific papers and 17 books in poetry. His poems has been translated into many languages and has been published in countries like Russia, USA, Brazil, India, China, Korea, Japan, Italy, Malta, Spain, France, Greece, England and Australia. He is a member of many International writers and poets group and was nominated in 2013 for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
- Tell us something about yourself?
I’m a chemist by profession. After graduating from Moscow State University in 1960, I became post graduate student and later a research fellow at the Institute of Chemical Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. I studied the kinetics and mechanism of the photochemical and radiation from chemical reactions, and then I worked in the Air pollution control for about 15-20 years. I studied the effects of pulsed corona discharge in the industrial gases containing environmentally harmful impurities (nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, harmful organic impurities).
My scientific interests were not directly related to literature, but poetry has always been a hobby of mine. In the early 90s, I tried my hand as a translator. In Moscow, I published my two books of translations of sonnets by English poets from XVI-XIX centuries. As far as my own poetry was concerned, my first book on poetry was published in 1996 and 16 books have been published over the past 20 years. Many of my poems were published in Russia and abroad and have been translated into many languages. The latest collection of my poems can be found in the journal “New Literature NovLit.ru”.
- Being from a scientific background, what attracted you to literature?
I think between scientific research and literature, including poetry, has a lot in common like understanding of the world in all its diversity. A striking example of this vision of the world can be Leonardo da Vinci, who was not only a great artist but also a scholar, whose ideas were many centuries ahead of his contemporaries. A scientist studying the properties of molecules learns about the universe at the same time. Similarly, a poet describing the drop of water, sees the sea. Poets like Dante and Shakespeare were not only geniuses of their era, but geniuses of all times because they had a deep understanding.
- What are the themes and subjects that you like to write about?
My favorite theme is the unity of the part and the whole.
- In the countries where artistic works often come under scrutiny by governments, how do poets, writers and artists protect their creative freedom?
Usually there is always a conflict between the government and creative individuals, poets, writers, artists. In this regard, the former Soviet Union was no exception. Many Soviet poets (Boris Pasternak, Joseph Brodsky, Andrei Voznesensky, Vladimir Vysotsky), writers (Vasily Aksyonov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Voinovich), the sculptor Ernst Unknown and others persecuted by the state.
For writers and poets, it was very difficult to deal with censorship, therefore they often used Esopus language, which deliberately conceals the idea, using techniques of allegories, allusions, paraphrases and others. Another way was the publication of a work abroad, but it usually leads to serious consequences. A striking example is the publication of the novel of Boris Pasternak “Doctor Zhivago” in Italy and UK, 1957. In 1958 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. After the Award began his numerous persecution. In October 1958, Boris Pasternak was expelled from the Writers’ Union of Soviet Union, and almost lost the opportunity to print his books.
- What’s the most significant thing that you have learned from translating poetic works from different parts of the world?
I think that the most important for the translation is not only the transfer of meaning and style of the original work, but also the need to avoid the tendency of subscript translation since in this case the word’s beauty is lost. Taking example of translating into Russian, one must be sure to find adequate turns in speech and clarity for Russian-speaking readers. And the most important thing for an interpreter – you need to be a poet.
- As a scientist, do you think we humans tend to use science more in a destructive rather than a constructive way?
I am not a prophet. Though, if we look at the current situation from a scientific point of view, it seems to me a little predictable. It is known that a change in the system state can be most accurately described when it is close to the thermodynamic equilibrium; any sharp deviation from it usually leads to great errors.
Unfortunately, the beginning of the 21st century is characterized by sharp changes in the global multi-polar world. The growth of conflicts on economic, religious and ethnic basis makes any real predictions for the near future is very difficult.
- Should arts & literature be part of science and engineering curriculum in colleges and universities in your opinion?
Yes, my work for nearly 50 years at the prestigious Institute of Chemical-Physics Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow showed that for the scientist is very important to be aware of all the literary novelties. No wonder in the 60s there was a very popular movement of Physicists and Poets with representatives of humanitarian, scientific and technical intelligentsia.
- What do you want to achieve as a scientist? What are your goals and aspirations for the future?
Unfortunately, at the age of 80, it is difficult to talk about the research plans and goals for the future. But I am glad that, after working 50 years in the Russian Academy of Sciences, I have witnessed many scientific discoveries and had the opportunity to chat with many prominent Soviet scientists.
- Can you share some of the lines from the poem that inspired you most?
Let me offer readers one of my poems, “I am a child of the eternal spring”, which to me is very inspiring, because it says that you can always stay in a young soul, if desired.
I AM AN ETERNAL CHILD OF SPRING
I am an eternal child of spring,
I fall in love with my tender Muse.
Inside of her womb I completely fuse,
I am soaring on romantic wings.
I am one of the happy human beings
Singing a spiritual song,
My voice is extraordinarily strong,
I feel my might, I am a powerful King!
I know for sure that I must bring
To everyone the sparkling dew,
When someone finds a rainbow hue,
Then he will start to smile and sing!
~ Adolf Shvedchikov (Russia)
Я ВЕЧНОЕ ДИТЯ ВЕСНЫ
Я вечное дитя весны.
Влюблённый в трепетную Музу,
Останусь верным я союзу,
Любя, ведь мы окрылены!
Любви заветной песнь пою,
И звонкий голос мой несётся,
Любовь навеки остаётся,
Её тебе лишь отдаю!
Холодной утренней росой
Я разбужу уснувши души.
О, друг неведомый, послушай
Ты песнь мою и сам запой!
~Адольф Шведчиков (Россия)
- Your message for our readers?
My dear reader unknown!
I turn to you, because each person is extraordinary miracle of nature with his own flair. All people on earth are given a wonderful chance to experience the world in all its diversity. You can become an outstanding scientist, poet, artist, musician, doctor, politician, worker, engineer, you have endless choices, except one: to kill other people, to deprive them of the right also to realize all its potential. It is possible that for someone my words seem empty words in our rather cruel world ruled by cynicism and their greedy interests, not subordinate to any moral principles. But let’s still try and each begins with oneself. After all, when we are born, every child believes in the miracle of life. Are we really infected with the virus of self-destruction of mankind and Homo sapience lost their minds? Somehow I do not want to still believe in it.
Dr. Adolf Shvedchikov, PhD, LittD