Monday, 29 March 2010
THE BOOK OF THE SERPENT / HERE IS WHAT HAPPENED: GOD CREATED THE SERPENT. THUS THE SERPENT ALSO HAD UTOPIA BEHIND THE EYES: HAPPINESS AND HARMONIOUS COHABITATION WHEREVER POSSIBLE. SOMETHING TO GROW. BUT UNLIKE MAN THE SERPENT SHOWED A GREATER INCLINATION FOR DEVELOPMENT AND GROWTH THAN FOR ETERNAL LIFE, SO IN PARADISE HE TURNED TO THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE AND ITS SHINY PEARS. EVEN THOUGH MAN FLATTERED HIMSELF FOR HAVING GIVEN NAMES TO THINGS AND PUT LITTLE SIGNS ON THEM HE DID NOT MANAGE TO NAME THEM ALL, AND AFTER THE SERPENT AND MAN TOOK KNOWLEDGE DOWN FROM THE BRANCHES, NONE OF THE NAMES STUCK TO THINGS ANY MORE AND MANY FEELINGS WOULD COME AND ALSO MANY THINGS THAT WOULD LATER LACK A NAME. THEN THERE WERE THE WARS ABOUT THE THINGS AND THE WARS ABOUT THE NAMES OF THE THINGS AND MANY LAY DEAD AND WOULD LIE DEAD ON THE FIELD. WHEN PARADISE WAS BLOWN OPEN THE SERPENT TOOK WITH HIM THAT SMALL PIECE OF THE GARDEN OF GARDENS WHICH HAD BECOME A PART OF HIMSELF: HIS EYEBALL WITH THE ENCLOSURE, WITH THE SIGNS, WITH THE GRASS AND THE LION AND THE LAMB AND THEIR SIDE BY SIDE. AND THE TINY LIGHT PEAR THAT WOULD HELP THINGS TO GROW. SO AS HE TWISTED THROUGH THE FOLLOWING CENTURIES ON HIS BELLY IT WAS WITH AN INVITATION TO ALL MEN TO SURRENDER THEIR SOVEREIGNTY TO THE COMMON GOOD: "WHO ARE YOU? LET USSS TAKE CARE OF THAT, SSSWEETIE, GIVE USSS DESSSTINIES! AMENAM." BUT ALSO ALWAYS WITH A PICTURE OF PARADISE – HAPPINESS AND COHABITATION AND BEAUTIFUL NAMES ON SIGNS – ON THE TIP OF HIS TONGUE, FOR THE GREATEST COMMON GOOD:" LET USSS FORM A CLOSED SSSIRCLE OF GIVE AND TAKE. FROM USSS YOU HAVE COME TO USSS TO USSS YOU MUST GO FROM USSS YOU MUST RISSSE AGAIN. AMENAM. AND LLLICK YOUR BIG TOE. HEEHEE. SSSWEETIE." THE SERPENT GREW AND HAD MANY NAMES: THE MIDGARD SERPENT COMBINED WITH THE GIANT YMIR AND AT ONE TIME HE WAS DISCOVERED AND SPOTTED AND CALLED BY YET ANOTHER NAME: LEVIATHAN AS THE STATE MONSTER HE WAS. IT COULD HAVE BEEN GOD WHO SLAUGHTERED THE SERPENT TO LET THE RIGHTEOUS SUCK ON HIM FOR THE PROMOTION OF SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT. BUT IT WAS THE SERPENT HIMSELF WHO SLAUGHTERED THE PART OF MAN THAT WAS SERPENT. ZIGZAG: HE WAS SO DIALECTICAL THAT HE HAD TWO PERSPECTIVES IN HIS EYE, THE UNIVERSAL AND THE INDIVIDUAL. HAPPINESS AND COHABITATION WHEREVER POSSIBLE AND SOMETHING TO GROW. AND THE SLAUGHTER WAS SALTED AND DISTRIBUTED FOR ALL TO SUCK ON IT SO IT WAS A FEAST. THE SERPENT GREW SHOCKINGLY AND BECAME A COMPLEX CREATURE OF BRIDGES AND PASSAGES TO TRANSPORT BODIES AROUND IN RISING FLEETING AND FLEXIBLE PATTERNS: "WE ARE THE SSSCENE AND WHAT MOVESSS AROUND ON IT. HOLY SSSHIT! IT ISSS USSS. GIVE USSS DESSSTINIESSSS! SSSOME LIKE SSSTARSSSS TO SSSHINE IN THE SSSKY JUSSST LIKE OPIUM FOR THE PEOPLE AND SSSOME TO LAY A SSSORT OF FOUNDATION. THE PEOPLE WE FUCK WILL FORM THE BASSSISSS. YOU WILL FORM THE BASSSISSS LITTLE HEART, PURE LAMB." HE GREW AND HE GOT MORE AND MORE NAMES: FLEXICURITAS REX FOR EXAMPLE. AND MORE GENDERS: BIG PRICK AND CARROT, BLING BLING MÖTHERFÜCKER, STATE PUSSY, FAIRY QUEEN AND THEN THE HERMAPHRODITE TYRANNOSAURUS FLEX, STATE AND MARKET IN ONE WIN-WIN, JUST THE NUMBER OF HEADS: IN ADDITION TO STATE AND INDIVIDUAL ALSO THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND THE ARMY OF THOSE WHO STRUGGLE FOR POWER AND GLORY AND THE BIG CAR WITH TV. AND THE SERPENT WENT ON EXPANDING WITH NETWORKS, INCENTIVE STRUCTURES AND PROJECT RECRUITING. HE WAS ALL THE HANDS THAT DON’T KNOW WHAT THE OTHERS DO. COLD ONES AND HOT ONES. AND ALL THE BREASTS, BOTH GOOD BREAST AND BAD BREAST, FROM WHICH WHIP AND CREAM AND LIFELONG LEARNING FLOW FREELY. THE BIG CAR AND THE LION AND THE LAW AND COHABITATION WHEREVER POSSIBLE. AT ANY RATE PARTS OF THE SERPENT SAW HOW BIG HE HAD GOT AND THAT THIS WAS NOT NECESSARILY A GOOD THING, AT ANY RATE ONE VOICE IN THE SERPENT WANTED TO MAKE THE NAMELESSNESS IN MAN REMAIN NAMELESS, GO ON BEING AN OBJECT FOR DEFINITION, BECOME A SOURCE OF EVER NEW NAMES AND NEW THINGS. FOR ALL TIME. IT WAS A STRANGE UTOPIA. IT WAS A UTOPIA OF BREATHING HOLES IN THE SERPENT. OF HOLES THAT THE SERPENT MADE OPEN IN HIS FLESH, IN HIS TOTALITY. A UTOPIA OF A FREE GARDEN FOR EVERYONE IN THE HEART, CONTAINED IN THE GREAT GARDEN, WITH SIGNS AND NAMES AND HAPPINESS AND LAMB AND SOMETHING TO GROW. SOMETHING TO SPEND ONE’S TIME ON. PARTS OF THE SERPENT SAW AND HOPED THAT IT WAS GOOD ENOUGH.
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Friday, 26 March 2010
We are all temporary dots in the great milky way
Stars that blaze violently before they go out and
the nothingness stretches further into space
If only there had been a picket fence
As a child I clung to the mattress by my last
fingernail when it struck me that there were no
limits out there in space
that it just went on and on.
There must be a picket fence somewhere
but what came after that picket fence
another? and another? It went from bad to worse.
(Perhaps that's why at one time in my life I painted many metres of picket fence.)
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Thursday, 25 March 2010
How well do you know the history of Swedish Nazism?”See also: Shady characters?
“I’m no historian, but I’ve read a few books.”
“In 1939 the Second World War began, and in 1940 the Winter War in Finland. A large number of the Lindholm movement joined as Finland volunteers. Richard was one of them and by then a captain in the Swedish army. He was killed in February 1940 — just before the peace treaty with the Soviet Union — and thereby became a martyr in the Nazi movement and had a battle group named after him. Even now a handful of idiots gather at a cemetery in Stockholm on the anniversary of his death to honour him.”
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
PT: I’ve focused on passages that make possible the meeting or give access to concentration and depth. Walter Benjamin takes the opposite position in The Arcades Project: to capture the transient and the diversionary, the multifarious and the fragmented. I sense a presence in both forms of perception. For me, exorbitant accumulations and quick impressions are often the prerequisite for a deep-going perspective. In any case, The Arcades Project gave me special pleasure during the writing of The Whales in Paris, and my book encompasses both overt and covert connections to Benjamin’s writing.
KES: Though haunting in their own right, the poems in The Whales in Paris have a lighter, more hopeful quality to them. The title poem celebrates “freedom for the soul,” for instance, and “Happy Hour” honors the “breathless wonder” of life on earth. Even the concluding poem, “The Silence After Us” — which opens with the line “There is one day left” and was written on December 31, 1999 — seems ultimately hopeful in that it finds “patterns” out of “chaos.” Is this a fair assessment of The Whales in Paris?
PT: The world exists on the strength of poles and electrical currents, political, social, cultural, etc. And I adhere to the Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf’s view that human beings are battlefields. Ekelöf says that it isn’t the dragon or the knight who loses his life — it’s the virgin. She is the one who, like us, must fight. She vacillates, he says, and therefore is in balance: a telling picture of how our lives are influenced by strength and weakness, a balancing act, where a moment’s inattention can prove catastrophic. The body always has at least one wound — and the Earth has the same. It’s under these conditions that art is created. Against a backdrop of wars, destruction, psychic terror, that which causes pain. Art doesn’t necessarily need to make a politically explicit theme of this, but without a vested interest, poetry will hardly move the reader. Since I was a child, I’ve been interested in the world; it’s in everything I write. But mostly I choose an existential approach. It’s from here that I can speak — and I do that with hope. Let me also cite the Danish poet Ivan Malinovski. The title of one of his poems goes like this: Live as if there is a future and a hope. That’s also my view.
Monday, 22 March 2010
KES: The imagery throughout Tarkovsky’s Horses suggests a confused mental state. “Signs have been switched about,” for example, “roads have acquired different names.” How hard was it for you to write about such a personal experience— and, at the same time, give it the necessary poetic language to make it art while being true to the emotional experience at the heart of it?(via WLT)
PT: I wrote in the hope that my father would still be with me. Or that I could be with him a little longer. My mother was relieved when my father died; she had lived through all the grief when he was alive. I’d only glimpsed it, so I mourned differently. Naturally, I was filled with sorrow while writing the poems, but I was also buoyant and elated. That surprised me! My father was dead, but the material was very alive when I wrote. It was his presence that called forth the myth of Orpheus, even though the relation here is father-daughter and not the lover’s relationship. What is shared is that in each case the dead are there. That was a decisive point in the process, when I put the poems in Eurydice’s mouth and didn’t simply speak personally. Early on I knew that these poems were about many other people besides my father and me. With these poems I wanted to make my father so close that he could be, when he was now dead. . . . Death is not a fact that the poems try to change, but by writing the poems, I wrote—like Eurydice—my father out of the shadows and into the light. The Orpheus myth is very masculine. Orpheus leads his beloved up from the underworld. In the myth the woman isn’t just passive, she’s also dead. The myth’s dead woman has always provoked me. She alone is made into an object. But Eurydice has also had her own life, right? She must’ve had a father, whose death she also once mourned. I imagine—against the grain of the traditional view—that Eurydice must have had her joys and her worries. I try to turn the myth from the extreme objectification of the woman and make Eurydice stronger by giving her voice and life. In Tarkovsky’s Horses, she isn’t just a statue. For me, she becomes the opposite: a catalyst. I go into her life long before she’s retrieved from the underworld, and before Orpheus comes into the picture. Eurydice has both a longing after love and to belong to a communicative world — as opposed to the silent underworld. So Tarkovsky’s Horses turns the Eurydice figure from being a dead object into a living, thinking, and talking subject. The myth meant a transformation of the personal material, and maybe it was the myth that made it possible to write the book?
The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice relates a precondition for art: the sacrifice of the beloved. In the traditional myth, Eurydice is away and must be resurrected. Orpheus loses Eurydice, but gets the power to “create.” He creates life from death by bringing forth the conception of Eurydice. In a short synopsis one can say that Orpheus loses his beloved, but wins the poem. The Orpheus myth is, in the same way, a myth about inspiration. As a woman poet I therefore find it necessary to make my stand in relation to it. In the myth, the voice is connected to the man. A woman poet can either choose to identify with Orpheus and de-prioritize her gender, or she can give voice to Eurydice. In any case, I have given Eurydice a more central position than I have seen elsewhere. It wasn’t the plan, but it grew on its own when I wrote. One can say that the original myth is gone in my treatment of it, or one can imagine my take on the myth as a counterpoint, a widening of it, what I myself wished — because it really interests me. This is a new telling, where Eurydice retrieves her dead father. A dead father cannot be reclaimed but can be revitalized in words, in poems. It’s really not the same as if he were resurrected to life.
KES: If Tarkovsky’s Horses is an emotional response to a father’s illness and death, The Whales in Paris seems an intellectual response to “insight’s expanding and constantly vibrating chaos.” Yet each book is informed by the haunting spectre of death, and in many ways it’s “death” that forms a red thread between the two books. Thematically speaking, how do you feel about seeing these two books published together in English?
PT: You’re right: Death is central to both books. From the very beginning of my career, death has always been a focus in my poems. But when you’re a young poet and a woman, reviewers sometimes concentrate solely on the erotic elements. Back then I was angry about this treatment. Today I’m only proud if readers find an erotic spark in the poems. But it’s misleading not to notice death. The two collections are connected to each other. They have the same structure, the same movement, and the same layout. It’s an advantage to read them together. But I’m writing the third book now. For many years I have worked in triumvirate fashion — thesis, antithesis, and synthesis—or, at the very least, with a group of books that enter into dialogue with one another. I hope that Bloodaxe will one day publish a volume including this third book. But as The Whales in Paris was published in 2002 and Tarkovsky’s Horses in 2006, I’m happy to see a translation. The third book will probably be published in Denmark in 2010. There’s an insight in every collection, but The Whales in Paris has a special background. Walter Benjamin’s Das Passagenwerk (Arcades Project) was a huge inspiration, even though I use the concept of “passage” in my own way. In the notes to the book I write: “A type of passage-thought—the shift from one state to another—has fascinated me from my first book, Når der går hul på en engel (When an angel breaks her silence), and it’s no coincidence that bridges and gates have since been in many of my titles. “The poem is a possible meeting place,” I write in my poetics, Over vandet går jeg (Walking over the Water).
Saturday, 20 March 2010
Meanwhile, in its current issue World Literature Today has published an extensive interview with Pia Tafdrup. Excerpt:
Pia Tafdrup is one of the major contemporary Danish poets working today, and her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is the author of more than twenty books, several of which have been translated into English, and the recipient of numerous awards—including the prestigious Nordic Council Literature Prize (1999) for Dronningeporten (Queen’s gate). Bloodaxe Books recently issued a new collection in English, Tarkovsky’s Horses and Other Poems, translated by David McDuff, which is an important addition to translated Danish literature. In recent years, K. E. Semmel has translated several of Tafdrup’s travel essays into English. To introduce her work to a broader readership, he decided to ask her a few questions about Tarkovsky’s Horses.
K. E. Semmel: In January 2010 Bloodaxe Books issued another collection of your poetry in English — two books (The Whales in Paris and Tarkovsky’s Horses) in one volume. Can you tell us a little bit about each of the books?
Pia Tafdrup: I see The Whales in Paris as a clash between society and nature. Paris is the quintessential cultural city in Europe. It’s a great city, just as the whale is a great mammal. French philosophy is a whale. French language and literature have had the same lavish status. The whales,huge forces of nature, are present in our lives, in our culture, in our modern world. The poems in The Whales in Paris range from conception to the afterlife. Life can be viewed as a confrontation with what’s larger than one’s self: love, desire, and death, primal forces that are at play even in a modern civilization. The Whales in Paris has such forces in life as a theme — first and foremost desire and death, but also the suffering we inflict on others, loss, despair, and pain—illuminated by motifs from childhood, our relation to our parents, our ancestors, and mythical figures from the Bible.
Tarkovsky’s Horses is about my father’s final years with dementia as well as his death. The book depicts loss in two ways: in part, the poems portray my father’s increasing forgetfulness, his loss of everyday skills; in part, they portray the loss of a father. Tarkovsky’s Horses charts the course an illness takes, an illness for which science still has few words—from when my father is diagnosed, to when he had to move into a nursing home, to when he dies. The relentless deconstruction of identity is augmented in each phase of the book with mythology from Orpheus and Eurydice.
These poems about oblivion are located in an odd border region, which also calls forth certain comic and grotesque elements. In any case, the poems narrate the drama it is to be human.It’s certainly not your dream book to write about your dying father, not when he has been so incredible. But the book wanted to be written. At the peak of his life, my father asked me if I would speak at his funeral when that day arrived. I pushed the thought away for many years, but when he died, I knew I had to write that speech for him. What I didn’t know was that I was opening up something much larger. The speech became Tarkovsky’s Horses, most of which was written in Berlin immediately following his death.
KES: The lines “with all my might / I try to find / a bridge between his thoughts” from the poem “A River Flows By” are both touching and honest— portraying exactly that “opening up” you describe. Does the act of writing serve as your entry to understanding experience? That is, when you were finished writing poems about your father’s dementia, could you sit back and say, “Ah, I see now what we’ve been through and what I have learned”?
PT: In the poem “A River Flows By,” before and after become realities my father does not understand at all. On the telephone he could easily explain how his “hotel room” (nursing home) looked and didn’t remember that I’d often visited him there. Whenever I was there I tried to read his thoughts,but often felt that what I saw was a shattered self. Since I knew him so well—”as the night knows the stars”—it was especially important to see the connections, see a bridge, so that we could walk together, safely, over the bottomless stream that ran beneath us. That’s how it felt.
With my father’s death, much was left unresolved, because everything happened so quickly that I acted nearly on reflex. No doctor or nurse gave me any advice about his illness along the way. I didn’t know anything about dementia and had to rely on my own imagination:What is best for my father right now? When I began to write, understanding progressed slowly, or at the very least a certain understanding. The poems are not just a depiction of what happened; they map an independent universe, in which many surprises occurred during the process of writing.
When I wrote the eulogy for my father, I realized there was a lot more that I needed to say. Three weeks later I found myself writing in an apartment in Berlin, which had been the plan for nearly a year. I had another manuscript with me but quickly decided to follow the direction that attracted me most. That is, I wrote and wrote on what came by itself—namely, these poems about my father, who’d disappeared from the world. I had hardly opened my suitcase and sat down at my writing desk on Immanuelkirchstrasse when the poems tumbled out. Or better: the first draft of around three-fourths of the poems in the book.
I had no idea what I should do with these first poems, and I didn’t want to focus on the few years of my father’s life when he was dying. Not when I’d had such a wonderful father, wise, strong, and full of life. Nevertheless, one poem after another emerged.
My father’s illness had been so pressing that I could not write about anything else, so I’d not written anything for pretty much a year. The poems flowed from me, even though I didn’t want them. But after about seven poems, I gave in and allowed myself to write without thinking about what they would develop into, or how others would react to them. It was the only thing that absorbed me, so I had to start the process.
Friday, 19 March 2010
this is how I tell you about us
all over again:
this is how I tell you about us. About summer heat or valley floor. The outbreak
as Suggested =
your room. Your view
this is how one life lengthens the next. Otherwise it is
voices to tell in
and so this is how it has become, I think
there is daylight here (or as close to it as one can get)
dream and hour
I rattle off The Sleepless Nights. Your reality as
more desirable than mine
the same dead end you regret
and when you are here, why point defencelessly backward
this under the trees
the white pavilion
what ploughed furrows. What a place
what a place
how much can you remember
once I was tall and comely like you
thought as bird/hand
we read our past
from earth to person. No context. All the same
read yourself into this. Once I was almost like you.
dust-yellow plains or forest
impending choice where journey is transfer that cannot be communicated
stone is not Stone As Burden
writing not approached
burnt paper, salt
earth in this fading light
land without us
translated from Norwegian by David McDuff
Poems - 1
Poems - 2
Poems - 3
Thursday, 18 March 2010
While it is probably impossible to measure the degree to which men’s sexual images of women are significant for women’s self-understanding, attitudes and ways of behaving, and for men’s perception of women outside the sexual sphere, it is obvious that many sexual fantasies still constitute a barrier to the appreciation of female art. Woman is not an image. She is a living being. But very few men are able to perceive that a woman may be at once a passionate and a thinking individual, both at the same time. That she may entertain a wish to be the one of whom the man dreams – partly because she desires and yearns for this, and partly because she has the pride and the strength for it – and also a wish for a high degree of awareness. That she possesses the ability for self-abandon and is at the same time capable of putting on a show, and that she can do other things besides be an object for man’s lust and desire. Or make him into such an object. That in other words she is a complex being. On the other hand, women who emancipate themselves have also had a tendency to lose their humility. Freedom does not mean making men weak. That is either tyranny or great stupidity.
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Over the Water I Walk (VIII)- 1
Over the Water I Walk (VIII) - 2
Tuesday, 16 March 2010
as streetlamps are reflected in water the sky above us is first the
one, then the other
summer then rain. The pavements’ curves. Direction which accessible
added as real is maybe time sign. This is my name
like: Are swallows lonely
or: This is a flower made of paper
then you make it difficult again
day 1: Enrichment. You are a word
so it tears and tears. My hand against another’s, just images
cheek. Mist. 8 mm.
word against word, or
all this just because a romantic setback is exactly
like Old Friends or Child
just as text emerges from text so sound too is a string
we are 12 years old. The child is a stranger’s
seen in relation to the landscape’s size there are not many places
I have been. No one misses me
not the illusions, but ear-splitting silence is used
as in four three four
one colours. One sits and one stays sitting. One thinks that something is lacking…
translated from Norwegian by David McDuff
Poems - 1
Poems - 2
Sunday, 14 March 2010
Anthony Powell, A Dance to the Music of Time, vol. 1, A Question of Upbringing (1951), Chapter III
Saturday, 13 March 2010
Friday, 12 March 2010
I would guess that Swedish "culture" has never had such widespreadAnd the next issue of Swedish Book Review will apparently contain an article on this thorny subject.
coverage in this country ever before.
See also: More crime
Thursday, 11 March 2010
Too close to the sun one evening as though it is immortal we are
ruin’s attractions, unstoppable like the past, a
lacking call for mercy, or on inborn frequencies of
skill; diverging and processed by others, shaped like
metal, lacking ardour of life or death
tears hearts in sleep
in realities’ attack of intimacy, the spread of city darkness, the steel
…circle and you are out of position. That fundamental vagueness you
explain yourself with, this you have me in
I am not the lover you asked for, that remorse-light gaze
through the winter mirror of the city light, or softer cries muted year
but like the darkness I yearn into you, gather and
sink just as continuously as ill-timed. As elaborate as
the difference between born and dead.
A blue jug filled with water against the light’s heat…
movement in the book’s shoulder
an outline in your breasts, you who are reading, what do you read in this, you
who are her, are you not here
Then you write yourself in all the same
Then we write ourselves in
Then we write ourselves in equally
and it is summer
you consider yourself a visionary
you consider yourself
a different form. A life no one has anything against, that doesn’t arise
without further ado
and why this now, so precarious
why these deficiencies in a mirror for eyes
there is something of us here, and in order to confuse
I shut you out
there are songs for lost and lonely. Nothing
forsaken is forsaken
translated from Norwegian by David McDuff
Poems - 1
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
At least three Swedish newspapers have published a cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog, after an alleged plot to murder the artist, Lars Vilks, was uncovered in Ireland, AP/Ynet reports. The cartoon was not, however, published on the newspapers' websites.
overcome I build myths, time’s crystal wave, diverse
days’ correctness, the dream of inside, low sun, the feeling of
past, like structural elements, loved forth and earlier
seen: Towers of stone and glass. Oceans to disappear in. Forests against
I build bridges, corners of the world, all material things. My
mirror-image is: blue eyes, a wrapped-up minute, ceded warmth, and I
rise like a survivor who almost lost his chance
and you say we are bodies, breathing machines, bought time. Floating
it is I or the darkness. Experimentally meet over deeper seas
the flight you catch me at time after time
and from the mouth: Like that you lose sleep, sun, loss, but are more intensely
it is here it bleeds. Ineffective in this undone attempt
obeying like neutralities, and hidden in everything that is physical
other evidence exists. Others exist
and are granted to you
from lifelessness to reflection
I think: the Ocean’s thermohaline circulation
the weight of the trees on the forest floor
direct answers, temporary solutions
that in this swarm nothing is lost
nothing is forgotten
that from the gate to the stone stairway
it is your back that convinces
several pictures from the same time
translated from Norwegian by David McDuff
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
The blog became solely my own when I decided to allow posts on subjects that don't necessarily have a "literary" connection or context, but do reflect social and other attitudes prevalent in the countries of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Some of my colleagues seem to have thought that this was cheating - but it may just have been that the strains of accommodating strongly differing approaches to the subject of Scandinavian writing and reality were too great to be contained within a single blog.
Anyway, Nordic Voices (often, but not always, in translation) will continue to follow its basic aim of acting as a listening post or sounding board for what is new, or characteristic, or troubling, or pleasing about the Nordic literary scene and life in the Nordic countries today. It will do so less in terms of scholarly reviews and studies than by means of intermittent, sometimes even fragmentary presentations, translations and news items drawn from the Web, the media and above all from the work and statements of authors themselves. My hope is that readers who have little or no knowledge of the languages of the region can gain some familiarity with what is happening in Northern Europe today, through the often enlightening prism of creative writing.
Happy birthday, Nordic Voices!
Monday, 8 March 2010
See also in this blog: A Man Called Haavikko
Saturday, 6 March 2010
Friday, 5 March 2010
He found the house, a weatherbeaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington, and I went out to the country alone. I had a dog - at least I had him for a few days until he ran away - and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman, who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove.
Thursday, 4 March 2010
The Finnish characters appearing in Nordic literature are in a class of their own. Finns are primarily drunkards and on the wrong side of the law.Read it all.
The shady characters in Stieg Larsson's recent Millennium series of detective stories frequently have Finnish names. In the series, the heroine, Lisbeth Salander, finds herself being chased by characters such as the simple duo of Sonny Nieminen and Hans-Åke Waltari.
Hat tip: Soila Lehtonen
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
The land is a harbour struck by flowing water, struck by sun,
under clouds, where it rains, where an everyday thought hangs like a ship.
The land is an invoice that is seen, approved and kept.
The land does not exist. It is a story told by a fraudulent
explorer. It is the stretched scale of maps, a thirsty currency.
The houses stand in their rubber boots until they sink in the water.
I will receive all this if I do not hope or fear.
A city made of clay, steel and glass. All
this I can give, it is given to me and I will give it to whom I want.
The city is ready, the rain does not spray in its streets.
Behind the tree no murderer, rapist or robber waits. Each
well is covered by an iron lid, a lock.
And the city shines in the darkness, and no one understands this.
Water flows in the aural canals, the blood vessels, the ventricle
in the stomach, the sinuses, the petroleum springs, the well. In the darkness
all the subtleties of light.
I have unlocked the lid and built a body of flowing water.
The city builds a pipeline, a sewer,
a reservoir, an intake, a water tower and sells bottled water.
The rain permeates the city, in the well, the source, the river, the sea floods the streets.
When the moon is on its back one should mend boots, repair the roof,
be prepared for flooding, buy life-jackets,
make the dikes and embankments watertight.
What masters the water masters the world.
From Tommi Parkko: Sileäksi puhuttu [Smooth Talk]. Tammi 2004.
translated from Finnish by David McDuff
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Narrow subjects are as a rule confused with narrow-mindedness, but to zoom in on what is close is not tantamount to denying that larger perspectives are present. It is likewise false to assert, as some people do, that details are the special domain of women. Proust’s work is a refutation of this view: his works demonstrate exactly what can be attained by means of absorption. The posing of major problems does not necessarily produce poems that are more successful from an artistic point of view. If the poem lacks linguistic energy it loses its strength. Small things can point to larger ones, just as a stone from a mountainside consists of the same material and has the same colour and structure as the mountainside. One stone contains the whole mountainside.
If the concepts of “female” and “male” aesthetics are to have meaning, they must be strongly nuanced. While thematic material and point of view produce their own special artistic techniques, aesthetics is above all a matter for the individual. A personal staging of the script.
translated from Danish by David McDuff
Over the Water I Walk (VIII)- 1
Monday, 1 March 2010
You can live in a house you have never seen, that has never
You can live there with a woman you have
There’s a bed that you exchange because
it’s too narrow.
At the kitchen table you look out over a garden where
lilac and burnet rose bloom.
Right from the outset you feel that it’s a home
although it is not a home.
The rent is so low that you can afford a bottle
of wine every evening.
You can pack it full of friends, sing together
Some stranger has lived there, someone who loved
You can leave the doors unlocked at night
When the urge to depart becomes overwhelming you leave it
When you return you no longer remember
the address, never find it again.
From: Huden där den är som tunnast [The Skin Where It’s Thinnest], Söderströms , Helsinki, 1991.
translated from Finland-Swedish by David McDuff