Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Vasily Grossman : 'Life and Fate'

Vasily Grossman

Somehow you could sense spring more vividly in this cool forest than on the sunlit plain. And there was a deeper sadness in this silence than in the silence of autumn. In it, you could hear both a lament for the dead and the furious joy of life itself. It was still cold and dark, but soon the doors and shutters would be flung open. Soon the house would be filled with the tears and laughter of children, with the hurried steps of a loved woman and the measured gait of the master of the house. They stood there, holding their bags, in silence.

~ 'Life and Fate'

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Edgar Allan Poe : A Dream Within A Dream

Edgar Allan Poe 
(1809 ~ 1849)
(With his wife Viginia Clemm and
her kitty Catarina perched on him)

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream? 

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Adam Zagajewski : Impossible Friendships

Friendship ~ Pablo Picasso (1908)

Impossible Friendships

For example, with someone who no longer is,
who exists only in yellowed letters.

Or long walks beside a stream,
whose depths hold hidden

porcelain cups—and the talks about philosophy
with a timid student or the postman.

A passerby with proud eyes
whom you'll never know.

Friendship with this world, ever more perfect
(if not for the salty smell of blood).

The old man sipping coffee
in St.Lazare, who reminds you of someone.

Faces flashing by
in local trains—

the happy faces of travelers headed perhaps
for a splendid ball, or a beheading.

And friendship with yourself
—since after all you don't know who you are.

(Translated by Clare Cavanagh)

('Eternal Enemies' 
2008, Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Marina Tsvetaeva : An Attempt at Jealousy

Seated Woman : Pablo Picasso (1960)


How is your life with that other one?
Simpler, is it? A stroke of the oars
and a long coastline—
and the memory of me

is soon a drifting island
(not in the ocean—in the sky!)
Souls—you will be sisters—
sisters, not lovers.

How is your life with an ordinary
woman? without the god inside her?
The queen supplanted—

How do you breathe now?
Flinch, waking up?
What do you do, poor man?

“Hysterics and interruptions—
enough! I’ll rent my own house!”
How is your life with that other,
you, my own.

Is the breakfast delicious?
(If you get sick, don’t blame me!)
How is it, living with a postcard?
You who stood on Sinai.

How’s your life with a tourist
on Earth? Her rib (do you love her?)
is it to your liking?

How’s life? Do you cough?
Do you hum to drown out the mice in your mind?

How do you live with cheap goods: is the market rising?
How’s kissing plaster-dust?

Are you bored with her new body?
How’s it going, with an earthly woman, 
with no sixth sense?

                                                         Are you happy?
No? In a shallow pit—how is your life,
my beloved? Hard as mine
with another man?

~ Marina Tsvetaeva

(Translated from the Russian by Ilya Kaminsky & Jean Valentine)

 Marina Tsvetaeva

Marina Tsvetaeva
 Portrait of Marina Tsvetaeva : By Magda Nachman-Acharya (1913)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ludwig Steinherr : A Good Likeness


There are no
good photos of me:
there’s always something
the lighting the distance
friends look for
in vain –
Only that one
you triggered by chance
while hanging the camera
round your neck
(me slantwise from behind
across the overturning
mountain path plunging
out of the picture) –
but there, in turn,
I’m too much
like myself
for anyone to
recognise me

~ Ludwig Steinherr 

(Translated from German by Richard Dove)

Ludwig Steinherr