Vale Sasha Soldatow
Sasha working on a filmscript for filmmaker, Margot Nash, at her flat in Coogee, Sydney (foto: Margot Nash)
There are so many things you could say about Sasha.
There are so many people who could say something.
I hope I can include at least some of those things now.
Sasha was a one-off.
He was a romantic.
He was a hedonist.
I loved him for his inventiveness, his wit and his daring lack of concern for limits. He believed in an anarchic philosophy that could set people free, he certainly wanted that and acted that way, boundlessly. He followed the anarchist adage from the graffiti of 1968 'Be realistic - demand the impossible '.
It was fun and a bit risky to get around with Sasha. I have a strong moral streak that compels me to loathe hypocrisy, calumny and, well, in general, smooth explaining. But I'd credit Sasha with showing me how to laugh at peoples' foibles and jealousies rather than judging them and also how to laugh at life's absurdities.
He was forgiving and generous.
He liked to get drunk and play powerful music that nobody could resist. Especially at two in the morning.
He could also be a terrible nuisance - like an ant in your warm and comfortable armpit.
He liked to rock the boat. He lived in harm's way.
He was an original kind of troublemaker.
I know that in the years of our friendship, that Sasha was sometimes 'too much' for his friends and 'too much' for me too but I have not one, not even a smidgin of regret.
He was a founding member of several ephemeral but spirited mini-movements like 'Drink Against Drunkenness'. He and I founded 'The Bon Mot Gang' - our motto was 'we're always funny'. We had a membership of three dedicated and others floating.
I remember the pleasure, the actual fun of making performances with Sasha - Percy Grainger and his Whips at The Performance Space, in Sydney, with Elizabeth Drake. Some of you will remember his Tin Sheds show The Adventures of Rock'n' Roll Sally: A Burlesque, an ongoing work, that he repeated in various versions for Pride Week shows at the Gay Community Centre in Holt Street Surry Hills, and in Miss The Opera Lights with Elizabeth, & Amanda Stewart & myself at The Gap Cabaret in Surry Hills and later in the Writers Week Tent at the Adelaide festival.
Rock'n'Roll Sally: A Burlesque (Sasha as Marilyn)
Poster by Chips Mackinolty
Together we read and changed and re-read the pieces for his first book of fiction Private Do Not Open until it was ready for publication. We edited an edition of Cargo magazine together for the gay press, Blackwattle. He was the editor of The Only Sensible News.
Sasha, Ian MacNeill, Denis Gallagher, Gary Dunne - Blackwattle authors. 1990 (foto: William Yang)
Sasha was almost-permanently translating the great Russian poet Anna Ahkmatova because, according to him everyone else was getting it wrong. Richard Mills set Sasha's translation of her long poem Requiem to music and the piece was performed at The Sydney Opera House in 2005.
He was a talented writer but, really, that extra and required dose of perseverance was, puzzlingly, wanting in Sasha. Writing is a solitary task and Sasha was gregarious and hospitable. I think Sasha would always prefer a crowded party in honour of a newly-acquired washing machine to a few hours of torture of the back and bum alone at the writing table.
Sasha's quick temperament and attention span was better suited to painting watercolours and making collages , which he also did. And on piano he played his famous 'Mozart in a Minute'.
Sasha was an eclectic collector - he had the famous ticket collection (part of which is held in the National Gallery in Canberra), innumerable interesting pencils, coloured lead seals from the tops of wine bottles and a marvellous collection of burnt & broken matchsticks.
Sasha liked the details. When you went mushrooming with Sasha he'd refer to the Fungi species chart before deciding whether to actually pick that mushroom or toadstool - then later, in the kitchen, he'd cook up the rarest and most evil-looking ones and even the utterly sceptical diner survived the meal.
He loved plants, plants in gardens, plants in the bush, he loved and respected weeds.
There are white pelargoniums growing in various locations from Sydney to Blackheath to who-knows-where from a cutting from Park Parade, Bondi that Sash gave me.
Sasha always reckoned that if you had poor eyesight your sight would be restored at the moment of your death. I hope he was right.
Dasvidanya Sasha, spasiba
Twenty Years Ago - Xmas Day
Some books by Sasha Soldatow:
click on the image for larger format