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The Tragic Lives and Loves of Joyce's Russian Translators 

Katerina Ksenyeva

In the poster for the film project you can see a unique photo of the mounting of the monument to James Joyce made by Mikhail Iakovlev who is an outstanding Russian sculptor.  

Mikhail snapped the moment of the installation of the monument in the yard of the Foreign Literature World Library in Moscow. The photo of the monument was kindly granted by the sculptor Mikhail Iakovlev to actress Katerina Ksenyeva specially for her project "The Joys of Loving Joyce".

Yoel Matveyev (Ireland)


poet, writer, journalist, philosopher, history researcher, political activist, computer expert




Yoel Matveyev was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia (formerly Leningrad, USSR). As a child, he demonstrated an extraordinary gift in natural sciences. During the first five years of elementary school, he familiarized himself with calculus, geology, chemistry, physics and computer programming.


Later, Yoel attended High School 239 that specializes in mathematics and physics and is noted for its strong academic programs. During his high school years, he won numerous top-level awards at city olympiads in mathematics, physics and chemistry. He also participated in national school olympiads and studied in a number of science clubs for children. He was accepted without exams into the Faculty of Physics at Saint Petersburg State University, where he received perfect grades.


While studying in the high school, Yoel became interested in Jewish mystical tradition, known as Kabbalah, and taught himself Hebrew and Yiddish.  While studying at the university, he became dissatisfied with the increasing commercialization and materialistic attitudes of academia. He decided to abandon his formal studies and to go on a spiritual journey.


Yoel Matveyev did not wish to conform to the prevailing religious mainstream. In 1997, Matveyev was invited to study Judaism in London, in a traditional Hasidic Yiddish-speaking environment, highly critical of Zionism. A year later he attended an alike-minded rabbinical seminary in Brooklyn, New York.


In 2002, he began working as a staff writer for the Yiddish Forward, a historical newspaper where the Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer used to work as a columnist.




Yoel Matveyev is a proponent of a meta-religious philosophy that combines tradition, progressive socio-political views, contemporary science, artistic creativity, personal mystical experience and modern philosophy, and strives to uncover the perennial universal drive behind all spiritual traditions in the world. He calls his interpretation of Judaism “Integral Hasidism” due to some similarity to Sri Aurobindo's Integral yoga.


Yoel systematically studies and promotes universal trends within traditional Judaism, which emphasize humanistic values and international solidarity. He hopes that his research will help to promote similar trends in other religions, in order to create a healthy balance between universalism and one's ethnic or religious culture.


Yoel Matveyev's theological views are generally pantheistic-monistic. According to his philosophy, everything in the world is an expression of the Ultimate Reality, which is called in different world traditions by many names: God, Absolute, Brahman, Dharmakaya, Dao. Since everything is a reflection of the Absolute, we must appreciate and love every human being regardless of cultural differences and live in harmony with nature.


Matveyev's religious interests are not limited to Judaism and Kabbalah. He also studies other spiritual traditions, especially Shamanism, Hermeticism, Sufism, Kashmir Shaivism and Tibetan Buddhism.




Yoel Matveyev considers himself an anarchist. He believes that all forms of government are inherently authoritarian. He believes that today's corporate consumerist capitalism is deeply anti-human, tremendously destructive, presents a grave danger for the entire planet and denigrates people to mindless tools of the system.


In regard to religion in general, he prefers non-hierarchical grassroots movements that emphasize personal spiritual experience and denounce nationalism and religious exclusivism. In his view, separatism is not a healthy antidote to the current globalization. Instead, people should build their societies bottom-up, based on mutual aid and appreciation of each other's culture, in the spirit of brotherly love.


Yoel Matveyev actively participates in a number of projects related to the Middle East conflict and writes political articles in Yiddish, Russian and English, that promote Jewish-Islamic solidarity and denounce both Israeli and Palestinian nationalism.




Yoel Matveyev wrote his first Russian poems by the age of six. However, as a teenager he decided to start writing poetry and prose primarily in Yiddish. He is generally interested in the preservation of endangered cultures and in cross-cultural creativity. His Yiddish poems and stories have been published in a number of literary magazines, broadcast on the radio in the United States and Israel, and included in the bilingual anthology «Step by Step: Contemporary Yiddish Poetry» (2009).


Together with Aryeh London, a journalist from the Israeli international radio service Kol Israel, Yoel Matveyev published a free series of online Yiddish lessons in Russian, which became popular among students of the language. He also taught Yiddish at the Saint Petersburg Jewish University and in private classes.


Working as a journalist at the Yiddish Forward since 2002, Yoel Matveyev writes weekly religious columns,  popular science articles, book and art reviews, political essays and, most importantly, his own research articles on various topics, e.g. comparative analysis of Kabbalah and Buddhism, Judaism and anarchism, Judaism and Christianity, Judaism and Celtic culture art and mysticism, science and art.


A number of Matveyev's research and culture articles were distributed by other media, on paper, online and on the radio, in Yiddish, English and Russian. He also published research articles in peer-reviewed journals.


Together  with his friend Yisroel Nekrasov, a Saint Petersburg poet, linguist and literary translator, Matveyev co-edits the only Yiddish magazine currently published in Russia - «Der Nayer Fraynd» («The New Friend»). The magazine is purely cultural and features original Yiddish poetry, stories and plays, as well as translations from Yiddish into Russian and from Russian into Yiddish.


Yoel Matveyev translated into Yiddish a selection of  Osip Mandelshtam's poems, as well as a diverse variety of other Russian art works. In his translations, Matveyev strives to preserve the exact rhythm and meter of the original poems.


Yoel Matveyev is also a specialist in Irish and Celtic culture. He researches Celtic Christianity and philosophy, including the works of the great Irish neoplatonist Johannes Scotus Eriugena, early Irish law, history of the British rule in Ireland and Irish rebel tradition, and Irish mythology, folklore, literature and music.


Yoel is an Irish citizen and his interest in Irish culture is driven by his personal connection to Ireland. As an Irishman, he has a great appreciation for Irish culture and actively studies the Irish language.


Some of Matveyev's publications


Academic research:


Between Enlightenment and Romanticism: Computational Kabbalah of Rabbi Pinchas Elijah Hurwitz (History and Philosophy of Logic, 2011)


Symbolic Computation and Digital Philosophy in Early Ashkenazic Kabbalah (Judaic Logic, 2010)


Political articles:

The Rebbe of Sinn Féin

(Forward, 2011)
Anarchic Revolution and Traditional Judaism: A Conversation With Gustav Landauer’s Translator (Forward, 2011)


Cobbling Together Spirituality and Anarchism (Forward, 2011)


Kropotkin and Chabad (in Russian; Jewish Left Internet Forum, 2009)


Holocausts: Bloody and Silent (against the construction of the Ust'-Luga Port in Russia, which endangers the existence an entire ethnic group, the Votians; Yiddish Forward 2008)


Culture and art essays:


Elia Benamozegh - a Genius of Universalism (Yiddish Forward, 2011)


The Judeo-Celts (in Russian; Jewish Left Internet Forum, 2010)


The Horizons of Shambhala (in Russian; Jewish Left Internet Forum, 2010)


Labyrinthine Thoughts (Yiddish Forward, 2009)


Trams, Devils and Artists (Yiddish Forward, 2008)


Mathematics of Beauty (Yiddish Forward, 2008)


Pirahã : A Nation of “Anti-mathematicians” (Yiddish Forward, 2008)




Step by step: Contemporary Yiddish poetry (includes Matveyev's poem with a parallel English translation, 2009)


The Transformer (A Jewish-Celtic psychedelic Yiddish poem in prose, Der bavebter yid, 8.1, 2006


Osip Mandelshtam's poems in Yiddish (Der nayer fraynd, 1, 2004)




Website of the Yiddish Forward, created and developed by Yoel Matveyev, who is also a staff writer and an editor of the newspaper:


Jewish Left – Russian Jewish left-wing forum, co-moderated by Yoel Matveyev

© Katerina Ksenyeva 2011