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“Song of a Fighter Pilot”

Posted in European, Music, Poetry, War by Alex L. on January 2, 2012

Ace Alexander Pokryshkin and his fellow pilotsVladimir Vysotsky wrote such evocative songs about World War II that it’s impossible to tell that he himself didn’t serve in that conflict. His verse on the theme of friendship is especially amazing.

Because of songs like his and the Russian culture of my upbringing, the symbolism of World War II (or, as the Russians call it, The Great Patriotic War) has stayed with me as a kind of arch-metaphor for the human condition.

I was listening today to one of my favorite songs by Vysotsky called Pesnya lyotchika-istrebitelya: “Song of a Fighter Pilot”. It is one of the greatest poems about friendship that I have ever read, and I decided to translate it into English. My translations skills are limited, but though my version inevitably may have errors, I have done my best to convey both the meaning and the flow of the song. The original, like most Russian poems and songs, has a rhyme scheme.

The song is about two Russian fighter pilots in World War II that find themselves embroiled in a losing battle with a larger German fighter formation. You can listen to the original song on YouTube and read the lyrics in Russian here.

Song of a Fighter Pilot

By Vladimir Vysotsky
(Translated by Alex L.) 

Eight of them and two of us. Our prospects before battle
Aren’t bright, but we’ve committed to the fight.
Seryozha!* Hold on, it’s looking dim,
But we we have to get an edge in the game. (more…)

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