Saturday, April 12, 2014

Le Luth Brisé: First Poem Translated

Well, I have finally managed to pick my way through the forwards and introductions in Le Luth Brisé and gotten to the first poem. Since I'm excited about getting this far, I'm going to post it here, but you can find the entire document thus far here.

It's depressing, thinking about under what circumstances this poem was written. I get the feeling it's only going to get more sad as I move deeper into the book. It is a book of Holocaust poetry, after all. This brings me to something the original translator, Irene Kanfer, said in the forward. It is, best as I can translate it, "The fact that these men, these women, these children, have, in the face of death, chose the poetic form, proves that poetry is inherently in the heart of humanity." 

Poetry seems to be the form people often turn to in times of great distress, great anger, great joy. Prose is all well and good and perhaps easier to understand, but poetry is the beat that we hear when we're not listening.

Without further rambling, first the original French, and then English. Any errors in translation are all my fault. If you want to read the footnotes for this piece, please refer to the link above.

Premier temps de l'occupation allemande en Pologne


Oh, combien c'est agréable: faire la queue pour un morceau de pain
Attendre des heures et des heures
Repartir sans rien
Sauf un coup de poing sur votre crâne.
Oh, combien c'est agréable: traverser la Piotrowska sous un cri :
Zerück, verfluchter Jude!  Demi tour, Juif maudit!
Une étolie devant, une étoile derrière
Ainsi tu sauras plaire
Tu auras l'air d'un général.
Alors: que manqu-t-il donc à ton bonheur?
Oh, qu'il est doux de se coucher très tard le soir
Se lever en sursaut dans une nuit noire
Travailler dès cinq heures du matin
Faire la queue pour un morceau de pain.

The first German occupation of Poland

MAKE THE WAIT...(at Lodz)

Oh, how much is agreeable: make the wait for a piece of bread
Wait for hours and hours
Leave with nothing
Except a blow on your skull.
Oh, how much is agreeable: traverse the Piotrowska beneath the cry:
Zerück, verfluchter Jude! Turn away, cursed Jew!
A star before, a star behind;
And you shall know, please;
You have the air of a general.
Then: that failing that is your happiness?
Oh, it is sweet to lie down very late in the evening
To get up, to start in a black night
Work at five in the morning
Make the wait for a piece of bread.

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