What does it mean for something to be untranslatable? And perhaps the more interesting question is: Why are some works untranslatable? In this essay I will approach both these questions from a personal perspective, structuring and formalising my intuitions in a manner which I hope will lead to a coherent response.
The ‘muse’ we call her, and then we wait. God knows what we wait for. We wait for inspiration, as though it should spring from her fingers. As though it should flow from her lips; from her figure, which sways against the shadow’s respite.
In the Greek port of Piraeus, during the interwar years, amber worry beads kept the fingers preoccupied, carnations instead of lapel badges. Amidst the underlit streets, in the smoky underground taverns, the desire for eternity and the necessity of temporality for the people leading marginal lives became externalised. The music of rebetiko was born.
A sugar cube, about the size of long nails on the hand that holds it, comes into contact with a cup of coffee. As a flute plays a familiar melody, an ochre hue engulfs the whiteness until it completely disappears, at which point the female hand lets go of the cube and drops it in the coffee.
In the past weeks I have been smelling the promise of blooming flowers. The smell is that of daffodils, the image is that of rosebushes my grandmother planted in front of her veranda and the idea is that of a young woman in a trench coat, leaning on the April wind, laughing. Sweet, rich, easy. So easy.
I don’t know any longer what we talk about when we talk about love, and perhaps have never known who only espied (slantwise and distantly) those much-acclaimed frantic movements of – the heart? Or is it the serried (con)figurations of limbs & loins lying so limned into each other that I yearn for?
I’m overwhelmed with associations — I don’t know what to say. I want to talk about the whole world. Holding the whole world in mind. Holding it all like a globe cupped in my hands, and beholding it silently. Holding it longer than my true interest holds, and the mere pleasure of seeing from afar sets in.
The following is an extract from a conversation I recorded in 1939 in the outskirts of Poznan, Poland. At the time, orders to go to the front-line had just been given and despite being conscripted as a Grenadier in the 3rd Battalion, I immediately fled from the camp.