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Mary, p. 84: “The Trousered Cloud”

June 6, 2010

In describing the loss of his passport to Klara, Podtyagin says “‘That’s it:  I dropped it.  Poetic license:  elided passport.  “The Trousered Cloud” by Mayakovski.  Great big clouded cretin, that’s what I am.'” The reference is to Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930), the great Russian futurist poet and his first major poem, published in 1915, the title variously translated as “A Cloud in Trousers” and “The Trousered Cloud.” Andrey Kneller’s translation of the poem is available here.  The poem anticipates, to some degree, Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” as its aggressively prophetic speaker deploys surrealistic, nightmare imagery in portraying alienated, modern poetic identity.  An example:

The night oozed through the room and sank.
Stuck in slime, the eye couldn’t slither out of it.
Suddenly the doors started to bang
As if the hotel’s teeth were chattering.

I can find nothing in the poem that illuminates Podtyagin’s train of thought as he moves from “elided passport” to “The Trousered Cloud.”  Any ideas?

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