Saturday, 14 March 2009

Broken Nose During Dinner

BROKEN NOSE DURING DINNER

by Catharina Gripenberg

BROKEN NOSE AT DINNER

Jag sitter i garaget och skriver.
Häcksaxen vrider sig ett par grader när husdörren slås fast.
Och den ryske ingenjören, specialiserad på processförbränningsteknik
kommer hem. ”Förbandet”, ropar han genom bastuventilen.
Ingenjören kom sällan hem från middagar med näsan i skick.
Jag går in och förbinder hans näsa. Han gråter?
”…Nyponrosorna utanför
och fåglarna fåglarna
spöken, spöken…”,
reciterar jag.
”Skriv istället en dikt som heter Broken nose during dinner”, säger han.

15/3
Sitter i garaget, ska skriva.
Men ingenjören kommer hem. Vinkeljärnet trillar från spiken.
Han läser ett utkast medan jag virar på förband (brutet igen).
”Skitdikt”, säger han, ”näsbenet kommer aldrig att läka.”

16/3
I garaget. Pappret blankt som glasfiber. Är det här en skruvtving?
Näsan skriver jag. Stryker. Sedan ringer telefonen. En skruvbult
rullar från hyllan. Jag blir bjuden på middag.

(Natt)
Jag kommer hem med brutet näsben, går in i garaget, skriver,
näsan bultar (månen lyser). Jag läser dikten för ingenjören
medan han förbinder min näsa.


Broken nose during dinner

18:30
och Irina R. älskar huvudkål
tunga som romaner. Snön viker in, och jag:
”Irina, här: en huvudkål. Det ser ut att bli en roman ikväll!”
På bordet står vassbuk, medvurstar, stekar, palvat kött, sylta,
tårtor, äpplen. Hur är det möjligt att få näsbenet inslaget
vid ett sådant middagsbord? Allt kan hända i en roman!

Vi bänkar oss: Godsägaren. Järnvägsföreståndaren. Dashing
Romanov. Irina Romanova. Och jag.
Irina håller ett tal, en sorglig historia om krig och snö.
”Men må vi bli lyckliga!” utbringar Irina.
”Vem är denne godsägare och denne järnvägsföreståndare?” inleder Romanov.
”Ja, vem är jag?” frågar järnvägsföreståndaren.
”Ni är järnvägsföreståndaren i dikten”, svarar jag.
”Är det inte en roman vi är med i?” undrar godsägaren.
”Mitt liv är en roman!” utbrister Irina.
”Jag skriver lyrik”, säger jag.

Då bröt Irina Romanova med ett knytnävsslag mitt näsben.
Jag var inte beredd på det, för jag hade lyft min tallrik
för att se om det var äkta ryskt porslin. Det var det.
Men blodet målade redan över mina läppar.
Varken godsägaren eller järnvägsföreståndaren hade hunnit
fria till mig. Jag tackade för en detaljerad afton,
men sa att jag var tvungen att gå hem och dikta.

Med servetten tryckt mot näsan tittar jag upp mot huset innan jag börjar gå:

D. Romanov står i fönstret. Irina skär huvudkålen. Godsägaren
beskriver för järnvägsföreståndaren, en areal? Aljona och Autonina
ringer för att berätta en nyhet, Irina formar systrarnas namn
med läpparna, vinkar de andra till luren.

Att få lindas in i denna tråd! Men det var dags för mig att gå –
– eller var det så att godsägaren kom springande ut i snöstormen
för att säga att hans marker inte betydde något, dikten, eller den brutna näsan
bara jag flyttade in i ägorna i hans hjärta, och han kysste mig bland snö och blod?
Eller ropade Romanov över gården ”Gå inte, du är mitt barn!”
Det kunde ha varit på många sätt, ingenjören, förbandet! Jag är här, i garaget!




BROKEN NOSE AT DINNER
14/3




I sit in the garage writing.
The garden shears wobble slightly as the house door slams shut.
And the Russian engineer who is specially qualified in process combustion techniques
comes home. “The bandage!” he shouts through the sauna ventilator.


The engineer seldom came home from dinners with his nose intact.
I go in and bandage his nose. He’s crying?“…The rosehips outside
and the birds the birds
ghosts, ghosts," I recite.
"Instead, write a poem called Broken nose during dinner,” he says.


15/3

Sitting in the garage, going to write.
But the engineer comes home. The angle iron tumbles from its nail.
He reads a draft while I tie on the bandage (broken again).
“Lousy poem,” he says. “The nose will never heal.”

16/3

In the garage. The paper shiny as fibreglass. Is this a screw clamp?
The Nose, I write. Cross it out. Then the phone rings. A bolt
rolls off the shelf. I’m invited to dinner.


(Night)

I come home with a broken nose, go into the garage, write,
the nose throbs (the moon is shining). I read the poem to the engineer
while he bandages my nose.

Broken nose during dinner


18:30

and Irina R. loves cabbages
heavy as novels. The snow drifts in, and I:
“Irina, here: a cabbage. It looks as if there’ll be a novel this evening!”
On the table are sprats, sausage, roast joints, smoked meat, brawn,
cakes, apples. How is it possible to get one’s nose broken
at such a dinner table as this? Anything can happen in a novel!

We seat ourselves: The Estate Owner. The Railway Director. Dashing
Romanov. Irina Romanova. And me.
Irina gives a speech, a sorry tale of war and snow.
“But here’s to our happiness!” Irina toasts.
“Who is this estate owner, and this railway director?” Romanov begins.
“Yes, who am I?” asks the railway director.
“You’re the railway director in the poem,” I reply.
“Isn’t it a novel we’re in?” the estate owner wonders.
“My life is a novel!” Irina bursts out.
“I write poetry,” I say.

Then Irina broke my nose with a blow of her fist.
I was not prepared for it, for I had lifted my plate
to see if it was real Russian porcelain. It was.
But the blood was already making my lips run.
Neither the estate owner nor the railway director had managed
to propose to me. I thanked them for a detailed evening,
but said I had to go home and write.

With my napkin pressed to my nose I look up at the house before I start to go:
D. Romanov stands at the window. Irina cuts the cabbage. The estate owner
describes to the railway director, an acreage? Alyona and Autonina
ring to report a piece of news, Irina shapes her sisters’ names
with her lips, beckons the others to the receiver.
To be wound in this thread! But it was time for me to go—

—or did the estate owner come running out into the snowstorm
to say that his lands meant nothing, the poem, or the broken nose
if only I’d move into his heart’s estate, and did he kiss me amidst snow and blood?
Or did Romanov shout across the courtyard: “Don’t go, you are my child!”
It could have been many ways, engineer, the bandage! I’m here, in the garage!
Translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff

5 comments:

  1. Nice to see this, David. I found the original straight away, and see that the title was in English in the original too.

    As with the Muljar extract, even the first few words already give a mysterious context: What is going on? Why is there a Russian? And the name Irina is neither Finnish, nor Swedish, but Russian; another Russian. I bought the collection the poem's in, "Ta min hnad, det vore underligt" in Visby last May, but haven't looked at it yet. Now I will.

    I'll comment on the poem when I've read it.

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  2. Yes, it's a strange poem, like many of Catharina's. The idea for the poem seems to come from a dream about the characters in a Russian novel.

    I worked on this translation, with C.G.'s help, along with some others from the same collection just before I moved house in May 2007, and I think it may still need some attention. While reading the version over just now, I changed the title slightly, adding an "A" before "Broken Nose at Dinner", and also rearranged the line-breaks somewhat, to fit the lines on the screen. Whether those changes are warranted or not, I'm not certain. So I'll look forward to your feedback, Eric.

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  3. I just found a more recent version of this translation, so am posting it. Apologies for the eye-watering font, but it seems to be the only way to get the longer lines on the screen.

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  4. I've now read both the original and David's translation. It is an intriguingly weird poem. The jumps of logic and associations map out a field containing: poetry, a garage, trembling tools on a wall, a constantly broken nose, drunkenness, Russians, aristocracy.

    I notice the translation of "huvudkål" as the countable plural, "cabbages" as opposed to the uncountable "cabbage". In English, we don't need to accentuate the fact it is one head of cabbage; "a cabbage" will do.

    Have you, David, translated any other poems from her collections "Ta min hand, det vore underligt" or "Ödmjuka belles lettres från en till en"? She has an unusual way, in the former collection, of mixing in other authors, such as Virginia Woolf, Robert Walser, and Edith Södergran.

    Gripenberg (Junior, we could call her) belongs to a tradition of experimental, very European, Finland-Swedish poetry that includes authors such as (in no particular order) Martin Enckell, Eva-Stina Byggmästar, Thomas Wulff, Johan Donner, Gunnar Björling, Jarl Pousar, Robert Åsbacka, Peter Sandelin, and others.

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  5. Eric, I've translated about ten of Catharina's poems, from both collections. Some were in an issue of Books from Finland, and I think they are in the BfF Web archive, if you feel like looking.

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