Is this a blog about books or about my adorable cat? I haven’t quite decided. Here’s the cat:
Now and then I upload more recent pictures of my desk. This is from March(?) last time it was really orderly. If you read one of my reviews, this is where the *magic* happens.
Bear with me. It’s 3:55 am where I live. [Edited: here it is]
I was a bit busy and forgot to check on the Tournament of Books. Here is my earlier post on it. So Villanova won March Madness and in the much more important Tournament of Books? Paul Beatty’s masterful novel The Sellout which I’ve read but haven’t gotten round to reviewing yet. So here is the link to the Finals matchup, which The Sellout won by a fairly wide margin.
Here is the brackets of this year’s ToB again:
Fates and Furies
v. Bats of the Republic
judge: Maria Bustillos
judge: Brad Listi
The Turner House
v. Ban en Banlieue
judge: Miriam Tuliao
Our Souls at Night
v. The Whites
Judge: Syreeta McFadden
A Little Life
v. The New World
judge: Choire Sicha
The Book of Aron
v. The Tsar of Love and Techno
judge: Doree Shafrir
v. The Invaders
judge: Liz Lopatto
As a kind of followup post to this brief text (textlet?) I posted earlier, I wanted to share my translation of one of my favorite literary oddities. In 1941, at his 65th birthday party, Döblin told his guests of his recent conversion to Catholicism. Many famous writers, exiled like Döblin, attended the event. Bertold Brecht wrote a poem about what happened, called “Peinlicher Vorfall” – “Embarrassing Incident.” For those interested in it, here is the poem in my (awful) translation. I tried to make it scan a bit like the original but I’m not sure it worked. The long lines are there in the original, as well.
Bertold Brecht: Embarrassing Incident
When one of my most cherished deities celebrated his 10.000th birthday,
I came to honor him with all my friends and brightest students
And they danced and sung before him and recited verses.
The mood was emotional. The celebrations neared their end.
It was then that the celebrated deity stepped onto the artists’ stage
And declared with a booming voice
Right in front of my friends and students who were drenched in sweat
That he’d just had an epiphany and had henceforth
Become religious und he put on with unseemly haste
A moth-eaten priestling hat,
And then he kneeled lewdly and intoned,
Shamelessly, an impudent Church hymn, thus grievously insulting
The irreligious feelings of his audience, among whom were impressionable youths.
For the past three days
I have not dared to meet my friends and students
face to face, so great
was my shame.
For all that I complain about translators. If you want to see how godawful my own translations are, I have an example. Over the past months I have translated bits and pieces from Alfred Corn’s excellent work here and there.
Here is my awful attempt to render one of his excellent recent poems in German. The poem is “All It Is” and you can compare my ridiculous version with the elegant original here. It’s a complex, lilting, subtle, masterful poem, and now read what I wrought. Two caveats, apart from the peasanty phrasing: 1) yes, I slightly changed the meaning in some places 2) yes, I am too in love with a consistent sound/tropescape, which leads to 1) and 3) no, that is maybe likely the best I can do. Poopyhead. Do I have a draft on my wordpress where I *literally* complain about someone else’s too loose translation of Goethe? Maybe. Will I post it? NOT LIKELY. So. Here it is. Laugh, be merry, and have pity on me.
Was es ist
Der biegsame Bogen
den die Baumwipfel beschreiben,
ungefähr bewegt vom durchströmenden Atem,
ein Ast zur linken,
einer zur rechten Seite schwankend.
Oder das geradlinige Anschwellen,
das einem Windstoß über die Auen folgt,
Heimat hunderttausender Schilfe.
Die Flur erwächst aus allem,
das uns zuvörderst war: aufeinander folgende
Ereignishorizonte vergangener Zeitalter,
ausgebracht durch unseren bedachten
Drang, ihr Äußeres zu heben,
leicht und frei,
zu dem, was unserer Anwesenheit gewahr wird –
zur Vollkommnung geatmet, eine Sphäre,
zu allem, das es ist.