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понеділок, 11 травня 2009 р.

On Bilotserkivets and Coetzee

Photo by K.Smolyaninow

I keep returning to the meeting with Natalka Bilotserkivets last week... She told the audience she liked reading J.M. Coetzee, especially his novel Disgrace. I started reading it in English and in the very first chapter stumbled on such a phrase: "A ready learner, compliant, pliant." This poetic ending - "compliant, pliant" - at once reminded me of Bilotserkivets’s line ending "затихала стихала" [zatykhála stykhála] ("passed   grew quiet" in Dzvinia Orlowsky's translation) from one of her most famous poems “We’ll Not Die in Paris” to a degree that for me these two words following one another in English and Ukrainian boil down to almost one and the same thing, a translation. I mean, it’s not a literal translation; it’s the rhythm of both line endings that unites them. The simple reduction of a first syllable producing another word with the almost same and yet slightly another meaning is what unites them. They’re beautiful: in both languages. That’s a translation of beauty. (And if Coetzee describes woman with these words, Bilotserkivets describes spring.)

 

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And here’s the whole poem:

 

NATALKA BILOTSERKIVETS

WE’LL NOT DIE IN PARIS

 

I will die in Paris on Thursday evening.
—César Vallejo


You forget the lines smells colors and sounds 
sight weakens       hearing fades       simple pleasures pass 
you lift your face and hands toward your soul 
but to high and unreachable summits it soars 

what remains is only the depot       the last stop 
the gray foam of goodbyes lathers and swells 
already it washes over my naked palms 
its awful sweet warmth seeps into my mouth 
love alone remains though better off gone 

in a provincial bed I cried till exhausted 
through the window       a scraggly rose-colored lilac spied 
the train moved on       spent lovers stared 
at the dirty shelf heaving beneath your flesh 
outside a depot's spring passed       grew quiet 

we'll not die in Paris       I know now for sure 
but in a sweat and tear-stained provincial bed 
no one will serve us our cognac       I know 
we won't be saved by kisses 
under the Pont Mirabeau murky circles won't fade 

too bitter we cried       abused nature 
we loved too fiercely 
                        our lovers shamed 
too many poems we wrote 
                        disregarding poets 
they'll not let us die in Paris 
and the alluring water 
                        under the Pont Mirabeau 
will be encircled with barricades 

Translated by Dzvinia Orlowsky

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