Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

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Yannis Ritsos – Poems

A careful hand is needed to translate the poems of Yannis Ritsos, and Manolis is the ideal poet to undertake such an enormous task. Born in Crete, Manolis’s youth was intermingled with the poetry of Ritsos. Once a young man moved by the Theodorakis version of Epitaphios, he’s now a successful poet in his own right who is still moved to tears hearing the refrains of those notes from half a century ago. His Greek heritage, with its knowledge of the terrain, people, history and cultural themes, makes his translation all the more true to what Ritsos intended. Having visited the very places of which Ritsos wrote, he knows how the light and sea shift, and how Ritsos imagined those changes as being a temperament and personality of the Greece itself. The parallels in their lives are uncanny: when Ritsos was imprisoned, Manolis’ father also was imprisoned on false charges. Both men dealt with the forces of dictators and censorship, and experienced the cruel and unreasoning forces of those times. In fact, they even lived for a time in the same neighborhood. In his foreword to Poems, Manolis relates that he viewed him as a comrade, one whose “work resonated with our intense passion for our motherland and also in our veracity and strong-willed quest to find justice for all Greeks.” In Poems, Manolis chose to honor Ritsos first by not just picking and choosing a few titles to translate, although that might have been far easier. Instead, he undertook the complex task of translating fifteen entire books of Ritsos work-an endeavor that took years of meticulous research and patience. It should be noted that along with the translation, edited by Apryl Leaf, that he also includes a significant Introduction that gives a reader unfamiliar with Ritsos an excellent background on the poet from his own perspective. Dated according to when Ritsos composed them, it’s fascinating to see how some days were especially productive for him. These small details are helpful in understanding the context and meaning. For example, in Notes on the Margins of Time, written from 1938-1941, Ritsos explores the forces of war that are trickling into even the smallest villages. Without direct commentary, he alludes to trains, blood, and the sea that takes soldiers away, seldom to return. Playing an active role in these violent times, the moon observes all, and even appears as a thief ready to steal life from whom it is still new. From “In the Barracks”:

The moon entered the barracks It rummaged in the soldiers’ blankets Touched an undressed arm Sleep Someone talks in his sleep Someone snores A shadow gesture on the long wall The last trolley bus went by Quietness

Can all these be dead tomorrow? Can they be dead from right now?

A soldier wakes up He looks around with glassy eyes A thread of blood hangs from the moon’s lips

In Romiosini, the postwar years are a focus (1945-1947), and they have not been kind. The seven parts to this piece each reflect a soldier’s journey home.

These trees don’t take comfort in less sky These rocks don’t take comfort under foreigners’ Footsteps These faces don’t’ take comfort but only In the sun These hearts don’t take comfort except in justice.

The return to his country is marked by bullet-ridden walls, burnt-out homes, decay, and the predominantly female populace, one that still hears the bombs falling and the screams of the dead as they dully gaze about, looking for fathers, husbands, and sons. The traveler’s journey is marked by introspection and grim memories reflected on to the surfaces of places and things he thought he knew.

And now is the time when the moon kisses him sorrowfully Close to his ear The seaweed the flowerpot the stool and the stone ladder Say good evening to him And the mountains the seas and cities and the sky Say good evening to him And then finally shaking the ash off his cigarette Over the iron railing He may cry because of his assurance He may cry because of the assurance of the trees and The stars and his brothers

An entirely different feeling is found in Parentheses, composed 1946-1947. In it, healing is observed and a generosity of spirit exerts itself among those whose hearts had been previously crushed. In “Understanding”:

A woman said good morning to someone – so simple and natural Good morning… Neither division nor subtraction To be able to look outside Yourself-warmth and serenity Not to be ‘just yourself’ but ‘you too’ A small addition A small act of practical arithmetic easily understood…

On the surface, it may appear simple, a return to familiarity that may have been difficulty in times of war. Yet on another level, he appears to be referring to the unity among the Greek people-the ‘practical arithmetic’ that kept them united though their political state was volatile. Essentially timeless, his counsel goes far beyond nationalism.

Moonlight Sonata, written in 1956, is an impossibly romantic and poignant lyric poem that feels more like a short story. In it, a middle-aged woman talks to a young man in her rustic home. As he prepares to leave, she asks to walk with him a bit in the moonlight. “The moon is good –it doesn’t show my gray hair. The moon will turn my hair gold again. You won’t see the difference. Let me come with you”

Her refrain is repeated over and over as they walk, with him silent and her practically begging him to take her away from the house and its memories:

I know that everyone marches to love alone Alone to glory and to death I know it I tried it It’s of no use Let me come with you

The poem reveals her memories as well as his awkward silence, yet at the end of their journey, she doesn’t leave. Ritsos leaves the ending open: was it a dream? If not, why did she not go? What hold did the house have over her? Was it just the moonlight or a song on the radio that emboldened her?

In 1971, Ritsos wrote The Caretaker’s Desk in Athens, where he was under surveillance but essentially free. At this time he seems to be translating himself-that of how he was processing his own personal history. Already acclaimed for his work, perhaps he was uncertain of his own identity.

From “The Unknown”,

He knew what his successive disguises stood for (even with them often out of time and always vague) A fencer a herald a priest a rope-walker A hero a victim a dead Iphigenia He didn’t know The one he disguised himself as His colorful costumes Pile on the floor covering the hole of the floor And on top of the pile the carved golden mask And in the cavity of the mask the unfired pistol

If he is indeed discussing his identity, it’s with incredible honesty as to both his public persona and his private character. After all, he’d been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 (and eight more times) and he was likely weighing, in his later years, all that he’d endured.

The beauty of this particular translation is that, while subjects and emotions change over time, they still feel united by the underlying character of Ritsos. Some translators leave their own imprint or influence, yet this feels free of such adjustment. It’s as if Ritsos’ voice itself has been translated, with the pauses, humor, and pace that identify the subtle characteristics of an individual.

~Wikipedia

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ΕΚ ΠΡΩΤΗΣ όψεως, βέβαια, όλοι φαίνονται απροσδόκητα
ενώ αυτό που φοβόμαστε έχει γίνει από καιρό, κι ήτανε μέσα μας,
κι εμείς το πηγαίναμε στην επικίνδυνη ώρα και συχνά σταματού-
σες στη μέση της σκάλας, γιατί ποιός ξέρει πού είναι το άλλο
σκαλοπάτι, ιδιαίτερα το βράδυ καθώς διάβαινες τις άδειες κάμα-
ρες, σου `πεφτε πάντα κάτι απ’ τα χέρια, σαν να `θελε να ξαναγυ-
ρίσει, και τότε, όπως γονάτιζες να το βρεις, συναντούσες τον
άλλον
αφού κάθε κίνηση μας προδίνει, κι ένα άλλο ποτήρι σηκώνεις
απ’ αυτό που πήγαινες, προτίμησα, λοιπόν, να σωπάσω, μα όταν
μες στο σκοτάδι χτύπησαν μεσάνυχτα, όλο το σπίτι ράγισε άξαφνα,
και τότε, στο βάθος του διαδρόμου, το είδαμε που πέρασε εντελώς
καθαρά.
AT FIRST glance of course everything seem to be unexpected
while what we’ve feared had already taken place and was inside us
and we carried it to the dangerous hour and often you would stop
in the middle of the stairs because, who knows where was the next
step; especially in the night as you walked through the empty rooms
something always fell off your hands as if wanting to return and
then as you’d kneel to find it you would meet the other man
since every gesture gives us up and you carry a different
glass from the one you wanted, I therefore chose to keep silent;
but when in darkness midnight struck suddenly the whole
house shook and then at the end of the hallway we saw him
as he quite clearly walked by us.

~Τάσου Λειβαδίτη-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Tasos Livaditis-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis

http://www.libroslibertad.ca
http://www.authormanolis.wordpress.com
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.amazon.kindle.com
http://www.smashwords.com

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ΑΠΟΓΕΥΜΑ

Το απόγευμα είναι όλο πεσμένους σουβάδες, μαύρες πέτρες, ξερά
αγκάθια.
Το απόγευμα έχει ένα δύσκολο χρώμα από παλιά βήματα που
μείναν στη μέση
από παλιά πιθάρια θαμμένα στην αυλή, και πάνω τους η κούραση
και το χορτάρι.

Δυο σκοτωμένοι, πέντε σκοτωμένοι, δώδεκα—πόσοι και πόσοι.
Κάθε ώρα έχει το σκοτωμένο της. Πίσω απ’ τά παράθυρα
στέκουν αυτοί που λείπουν και το σταμνί με το νερό που δεν ήπιαν.

Κι αυτό το αστέρι που έπεσε στην άκρη της βραδιάς
είναι σαν το κομμένο αυτί που δεν ακούει τα τριζόνια
που δεν ακούει τις δικαιολογίες μας—δεν καταδέχεται
ν’ ακούσει τα τραγούδια μας—μονάχο, μονάχο,
μονάχο, αποκομμένο, αδιάφορο για καταδίκη ή για δικαίωση.

AFTERNOON

The afternoon is full of fallen plaster, black stones, dry
thorns.
The afternoon has a difficult color of old footsteps stopped
halfway
of old storage jars buried in the yard and over them tiredness
and grass.

Two people killed, five killed, twelve – so many, so many.
Each hour has its own killed person. Behind the windows
stand the ones who left and the pitcher with water they didn’t drink.

And this star that fell at the edge of the evening
is like the severed ear that cannot hear the crickets
that cannot hear our excuses – it disdains
to hear our songs – alone, alone,
alone, detached, indifferent to condemnation or justification.

~Γιάννη Ρίτσου-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Yannis Ritsos-Selected Poems/Translated by Manolis Aligizakis

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ΠΡΟΣ ΤΟ ΧΑΡΑΜΑ

Αργά τη νύχτα, που αραιώνει η κίνηση των δρόμων
κ’ οι τροχονόμοι εγκαταλείπουν τις θέσεις τους, αυτός
δεν ξέρει πια τι να κάνει, κοιτάει απ’ το παράθυρο κάτω
την τζαμαρία του μεγάλου καφενείου, χνωτισμένη
απ’ τους ατμούς της αυπνίας, κοιτάει τα γκαρσόνια
φασματικά, διαθλασμένα, ν’ αλλάζουν πίσω απ’ το ταμείο,
κοιτάει τον ουρανό με τις φαρδειές λευκές οπές, απ’ όπου
διακρίνονται οι τροχοί του τελευταίου λεωφορείου. Κ’ ύστερα
αυτό το “τίποτ’ άλλο, τίποτ’ άλλο”. Μπαίνει μέσα
στην ολόγυμνη κάμαρα, ακουμπάει το μέτωπό του
στον ώμο του δικού του αγάλματος (ψηλότερο απ’ το φυσικό)
νιώθοντας τη δροσιά του πρωινού πάνω στο μάρμαρο, ενώ,
κάτω στο προαύλιο με τις σπασμένες πλάκες, οι φύλακες
μαζεύουν τους κομμένους σπάγγους απ’ τα δέματα των εξορίστων.

TOWARD DAWN

Late at night when the traffic slows down
and the traffic wardens leave their posts he
doesn’t know what to do anymore; from his window
he looks down at the big glass of the cafe front steamed up
by the breathing of sleeplessness; he looks at the
spectral, refracted waiters changing clothes behind the cash;
he looks at the sky with its wide white holes
discerning in them the wheels of the last bus. And then
that: “nothing else, nothing else.” He enters
the totally empty room; he leans his forehead
on the shoulder of a statue resembling him (unnaturally taller)
feeling the freshness of morning on the marble while
down in the courtyard with the broken flagstones the guards
gather and cut strings of the packages of the exiled.

~Γιάννη Ρίτσου-Εκλεγμένα Ποιήματα/Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Yannis Ritsos-Selected Poems/translated by Manolis Aligizakis

 

 

 

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Νυχτερινό Επεισόδιο

Κάρφωσε το καρφί στον τοίχο. Δεν είχε
τι να κρεμάσει. Το κοιτούσε καθισμένος
άντικρυ στην παλιά καρέκλα. Δεν μπορούσε
τίποτα να σκεφτεί, να θυμηθεί. Σηκώθηκε,
σκέπασε το καρφί με το μαντίλι του. Κι άξαφνα
είδε το χέρι του μελανιασμένο, βαμμένο
απ’ το φεγγάρι που στεκόταν στο παράθυρο. Ο φονιάς
είχε πλαγιάσει στο κρεββάτι του. Τα πόδια του,
γυμνά, ισχυρά, μ’ άψογα νύχια, μ’ έναν κάλο
στο μικρό δάχτυλο, ξεπρόβαιναν απ’ την κουβέρτα
κι οι τρίχες καμπύλωναν ερωτικά. Έτσι πάντα
τ’ αγάλματα κοιμούνται με τα μάτια ανοιχτά
κι ούτε είναι να φοβάσαι όποιο όνειρο, όποιο λόγο—
τον πιστό μάρτυρα που σου χρειάζονταν τον έχεις,
τον ακριβόλογο κ’ εχέμυθο, γιατί, το ξέρεις,
τ’ αγάλματα δεν προδίνουν ποτέ, μονάχα αποκαλύπτουν.

Nightly Event

He hammered the nail on the wall. He didn’t
have anything to hang. He stared at it sitting
on the old chair opposite it. He couldn’t
think or remember anything. He got up
covered the nail with his kerchief. And suddenly
he noticed his bruised arm, painted by
the moon coming through the window. The killer
in his bed had gone to sleep. His legs
uncovered, strong with perfect toenails, with a callus on
the small toe visible under the blanket
and his hairs were curling erotically. The statues
always sleep like that with open eyes and
you don’t have to fear a dream or a word –
the true witness you needed, you have him,
the precise and trustworthy; because, you know,
statues never betray, they only reveal.

 

~Γιάννη Ρίτσου, “Θυρωρείο”, Μετάφραση Μανώλη Αλυγιζάκη
~Yannis Ritsos, “Caretaker’s Desk”, Translation Manolis Aligizakis