31 May 2024

Translation: George Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 5

Jules Dupré, Fontainebleau Oaks, 1840

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of a letter the French 19th century writer George Sand wrote in defense of the Fontainebleau Forest on the outskirts of Paris in order to preserve it from urban and rural development. Sand writes of how important it is as a place for artists, poets, naturalists and all classes of society, where beauty and meaning, as embodied in the natural environment, can provide both a respite from the bustle of urban life, from rectilinear productive agricultural plots and where people of all ages, especially older and younger children, can venture in order to learn about the mystery of life as nature reveals it. 

Letter in support of the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by George Sand and Barbizon School Artists, Part 5

There’s more. An exclusively artistic education is not an infallible means of developing the sentiment of the beautiful and the truthful in man. It entails too much discussion, too many conventions, too much professional skill; by learning how one should see and how one should express things, it is quite possible that the disciple of so many masters could often lose the gift of seeing through his own eyes and of producing according to a meaning that is his own. Nature does not buckle this way to the professor’s orders; essentially mysterious, she has her own revelation for each individual and possesses him through a process that she does not repeat for someone else. You must see her for yourself and question her with your own tentacles. She is eloquent for everyone, but never fully translatable, because she possesses all the languages, and beneath the profusion of her different expressions, she keeps a last hidden word for herself and which, thank God, man will seek eternally. No painter, no poet, no musician, no naturalist will ever finish this goblet of beauty that always overflows after he has drunk from it at length. After the most splendid drinkers, the smallest little birds will always be able to quench their thirst, and when you will have learned about all of the artists, all of the poets, all of the naturalists, you will still have everything to learn if you have not seen nature in her own home, if you have not personally quizzed the sphinx.

What a conquest to be undertaken by man, and I mean for every man currently alive or to be born! To go into nature, to search for the oracle of the sacred forest and bring back her word, even if just one word that will imbue all of your life with the profound charm of possessing her being! This is well worth conserving the temples from where this benevolent divinity has not been hunted!

Because it’s time to think about it. Nature is disappearing. The great plants are disappearing at the hand of the farmworker, the moors are losing their scents, and you have to go quite far from the city to find silence, to breathe in the odors of the the free-growing plant or to find out the secret of the stream that chatters and flows as it wants. Everything is cut down, razed to the ground, improved, penned in, aligned or made into an obstacle: if in these cultivated rectilinear plots that we pretend to call the countryside, from time to time you see a group of beautiful trees, you can be certain that it will be surrounded by walls and that you are in front of a private property where you don’t have the right to let your child enter so that he can find out what a linden or oak tree is like. Only the wealthy have the right to keep a little corner of nature for their personal enjoyment. On the day that an agricultural law is decreed, not even a tree would be left in France. In Berry, in the winter, they mutilate the elm tree in order to feed the sheep with its leaves and heat the oven with its branches. There are only stumps left, monsters.

Everyone knows the story of the white willow in France; it’s our most beautiful tree, the one that reaches the most imposing stature. There are maybe three left; but certain regions are covered by little bundles of whitish leaves that are supported by a large, shapeless, entirely cracked log. There you have the white willow, the giant of our climate.

14 May 2024

Translation: The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni, Part 3

This is Bora Mici's original translation from Italian into English of the short story Il marziano innamorato or The Martian in Love, in English, by the contemporary Italian author Stefano Benni. The story tells of an unlikely encounter between the Martian and the author and is told from the quirky point of view of the Martian. It includes delightful plays on words, descriptions of a desolate planet of origin and its contrast with all of the unusual colorful and variegated good stuff that can be had on Earth, and many comical situations arising from a miscomprehension of what is valuable to humans and what is not. Kraputnyk Armadillynk is on a quest to make his beloved girlfriend Lukzettina stop crying -- otherwise she will rust -- and find her an original gift that cannot be had on Becoda. 

The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni, Part 3

If that wasn’t gibolain, I don’t know what would be! Suddenly, however, the woman’s lights turned off and the man kicked her and started swearing. They are so violent after having gibolainated! The man passed in front of me and I heard him say:

— This pinball machine is a piece of crap, you can never win. And what’s this, a new vending machine? — And he touched my nose (which is not the nose).

—Don’t know—said the man who was handling the coffee machine—how should I know, the boss must have put it there. Hey, check out that chick that’s passing by!—

—Finally! I looked in the direction the two men were looking. Two things were going by: one was a yellow thing with the writing Taxi on it. The other one was a man with more trond in the front, pretty colored strands on the head and more lively eyes. I started following her discreetly until she met up with someone similar to herself. She said to her:

— Do you see that thing behind us? By now everyone thinks it’s something for advertising washing machines— Was I the thing?

—Then the first woman stops and exclaims:

—What a nice car! What wouldn’t I give to have one like it!—

What she is referring to as a car is a smokier and noisier quazzmobile. A little cumbersome to give as a gift but if it’s so liked…The cars were all lined up on the street standing still. Inside men and women sounded notes by hitting a button at the center of a trond. They sounded the note for hours and hours even though they seemed super tired. I understood: the car is a musical instrument!

—In a short while, the woman arrived to a place that said “parking” and found a yellow note on her car window. It must be the music sheet, I thought. Instead, the woman got angry, tore the piece of paper and started screaming:

—Traffic jams, traffic and now a fine! Rather than continue driving, she threw it in a ditch! We should burn all cars!” And she was off without even sounding a note.

—Alas, alas, it’s not such a great gift after all.


—I started following another woman and I saw her meet up with a man. They entered into a quazz eatery. I made my way in too: I have learned that if I stand still no one says anything, and what’s more, they try to feed me coins. I pricked up my ears and heard the woman saying:

—Oh dear, this is the best gift you could have given me … it’s wonderful, I am speechless — and she kissed him.

—Gradually I made my way under their table. I looked, and guess what the woman has in her hands? A black case with a quazz necklace inside, those transparent pebbles that on Becoda can be found by the thousands in the ash. A real nice gift!

—Disappointed, I decided to draw inspiration from the television because here, just like on Becoda, it must tell almost all of the truth. I analyzed three hours of Earth news shows with my analogical-galactic computer, and the result was that the gift everyone wants, that everyone talks about and that everyone holds to be indispensable and desirable, is “facts”.

So I went into a small shop with the writing “We have everything” on it and without hesitating, I said:

—Please give me two facts right away, one for me and one for my fiancée. And I mean facts, not words—

The man looked at me askance and said:

—Look, I don’t know if you are a robot or a dwarf payed by some political party, but I’ll let you know that I’ve had it up to here with electoral campaign propaganda—

—Just a moment, please repeat—I tried to say, but other humans entered into the discussion raising their voices, and soon after started arguing and throwing quazz at each other’s heads. Having had enough, I left. I walked and walked, and exited the city arriving to this area.

—I thought about loading one of those gray rugs you call streets onto my astromobile. But it’s too heavy to roll up. Or I could have taken a slice of green fur. But I had not understood anything about Earth, and I would risk bringing not such a great gift with me. Everyone would laugh at me and at my Lukz. How discouraging! In that moment I heard some young humans speaking among themselves:

—So thirsty—says one of them.

—What wouldn’t I give for a chinotto—says another.

—Imagine—says the third one—what a gift it would be if someone were to bring us some here…—

—This time I turned on the rapid travel turbo-propeller and flew to the nearest store. I was ready to use the photon cannon too. At the counter there was a slight woman with two glass quazz in front of the eyes.

—Woman—I said—please give me all the chinottos you have—.

—You’re strange, child—She said, and she too touched my nose (which is not the nose). —I have four left, is that enough?

—Szyp—I said.

—That will be a dollar fifty—

Alas, I had not thought about this! But I had an idea: I put in her hand two or three of those shiny quazz that the other woman had liked so much. I saw her go pale and become speechless. Done! I flew back and landed in front of the three young humans.

—Hey so funny—they said—what are you?—

—I am the robot from the win-the-chinotto competition—I said—and you have won three, one for each—

—Wow!—screamed the first one.

—Great!—howled the second one.

—I’m so happy—said the third, and right away they start breaking them open so that the oil comes out and they drink it. All the children did the same.

—So, all in all—I asked—it’s a nice gift, isn’t it?


—It’s the nicest gift I could have expected today—said the first one.

—It’s a wonderful gift—confirmed the second one.

—Now I feel good—said the third.

—This time I’ve done it. We said goodbye: they waved their hands, and I waved my nose, the real one, which is located on my lower right side. I returned to my quazzmobile in order to admire the chinotto that I had put away for Lukz. How beautiful, what transparency, with the dark oil that moves inside, and what a great smell. On the top there’s also a trondy crenelated piece of jewelry with the writing “Chinotto” on it in fire-red letters. What a gift for wearing on one’s neck or on one’s head, or in the ears, what a gift for my love!

—Damn! I was in such a hurry to return home that I flooded the engine, and the quazzmobile stopped running. Now you have found me, sir, and I know very well what you want: you want my precious chinotto. But I beg you, take anything else, all of my brilliant quazz, my cranial skull cap, the piece of my quazzmobile that you like the most, the trondlike steering wheel or the astrodog that nods, I’ll give you all of it, but please leave me the chinotto! Lukzenerper is waiting for me.

—Mr. Kraputnyk—I respond—not only do I not want to take the chinotto, but in the name of the Earth’s people, I moreover hand over to you a personal gift: it’s a chinotto accessory. If one day you want your friends to be able to smell the chinotto, use this and the container will open…

—Pretty object. And what’s it called?

—A bottle opener.

—Bottall-opaner—repeated after me the moved Becodinian.

—Thanks, it’s too much for me. Who knows how much it costs!

—There there—I said—don’t think much of it and go home. They’re waiting for you.—With my 500 I gave him a nice push. The quazzmobile vibrated a little and then engaged the engine, and wow, what an engine! In ten seconds it had disappeared into the clouds.

I went back to fishing and caught three 11 pound pikes.

Read Part 1.

Read Part 2. 

23 March 2024

Translation: Blaise Cendrars Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France, Part 3

Sonia Delaunay, 1913

This is Bora Mici's original French to English translation of the poem La prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France or Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by the French early 20th century poet Blaise Cendrars whose name evokes a phoenix. Sonia Delaunay created the accompanying artwork for the poem, which tells the story of the poet's squalid journey on the Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to China across Russia alongside a young prostitute who seems to embody a certain redeeming innocence and nostalgic love left behind.

Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by Blaise Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay, Part 3

The worries
Forget the worries
All the squiggly train stations oblique as we scurry
The telegraphic lines on which they are suspended
The sneering poles gesticulate and strangle them distended
The world is stretched gets longer and retracts like an accordion
that a sadistic hand torments
In the tears in the sky, the locomotives in a fury
And in the holes unsealed,
The vertiginous wheels the mouths the voices
And the dogs of misery that bark at our heels
The demons are unleashed
Everything is a false accord
The rumbling of the wheels
We are a like a storm under the skull of a bumbling deaf person …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

Well yes, you are annoying me, you know very well, we are quite far
The overheated madness moos in the locomotive
The plague cholera rise like ardent flames on our path
We disappear in the war in the heart of a tunnel
The hunger asoar, the whore, hangs onto the clouds disbanded
And the defecation of the battles in reeking piles of the dead
Do as she does, do your job …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

Yes we are, we are
All the scapegoats have met their end in this desert
Listen to the ringing of this scabious herd
Tomsk Chelyabinsk Kansk Ob’ Taishet Verkhne Udinsk Kurgan
Samara Penza-Tulun
Death in Manchuria
And our landing is our last refuge standing
This trip is terrible
Yesterday morn’
Ivan Ilyich had white billows like a storm
And Kolia Nikolai Ivanovich has been biting his nails for fifteen days …
Do as they do Death Famine do your job
It costs a hundred coins, on the Trans-Siberian, it costs a hundred rubles
Stir up the feverish seats and the red glow under the table
The devil is at the piano
His gnarly fingers excite all the women
Do your job
Until Harbin …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

No but … give me some peace … leave me alone
You have angular hips
Your stomach is bitter and you have the clap
That’s all that Paris put in your womb
There’s also a bit of soul … because you are sad
I feel pity I feel pity come to me lie on my heart

The wheels are the windmills of the Land of Plenty
And the mills in the winds are the crutches that a beggar spins
We are the cripples of space
We roll on our four wounds
They have clipped our wings
The wings of our seven sins
And all the trains are the devil’s ball game
The chicken and rabbits
The modern world
In it speed cannot but
The modern world
Those that are far away are too far away
And at the end of the journey it’s terrible to be a man and a woman …

“Tell me Blaise, are we very far away from Montmartre?”

I feel pity I feel pity come to me I will tell you a story
Come in my bed
Lie on my heart
I will tell you a story
Oh come! come!

Eternal spring reigns in Fiji
Love make couples swoon in the high hot grasses
syphilis roams under the banana trees
Come to the lost isles of the Pacific!
They carry the names of the Phenix, the Marquises
Borneo and Java
and Clebes is shaped like a cat.

We cannot go to Japan
Come to Mexico!
On the high plains the tulips bloom
The tentacular vines are the sun’s flowing hair
It resembles the palette and the brushes of a painter
Stunning colors like gongs,
Rousseau has been there
There he made his life shine
It’s the shrine of birds
The fine bird of paradise, the lyre bird
the toucan, the mocking bird
and the hummingbird nests thine in the middle of black lilies atwine.
We will love one another in the majestic ruins of an Aztec temple
You will be my idol
A childish colorful idol a little ugly and bizarrely strange
Oh come!

If you want we will go by plane and will fly to and fro over the country of a thousand lakes,
There the nights are disproportionately long
The prehistoric ancestor will be afraid of my engine
I will land
And I will build a hangar for my plane with fossilized mammoth bones
The primitive fire will warm up our poor love
And we will love each other quite like the bourgeois near the pole
Oh come!

Jeanne Jeanie Ninny nini nifty nipple
Mimi my love my pretty my Peru
Beddy-bye booboo
Carrot my parrot
Little doll my sweet
Dearie little goat
My cute little sin
She’s asleep.

Read Part 1.

15 March 2024

Translation: Guido Gozzano Grandmother Hope's Friend, Part 1

Mary Cassatt, Little Girl in a Blue Armchair, 1878

This is Bora Mici's original Italian to English translation of the poem L'amica di Nonna Speranza or Grandmother Hope's Friend by the Italian poet Guido Gozzano. This is Part 1. Part 2 will be posted soon as this is a poem of moderate length. The poem describes the homecoming from school of the poet's grandmother Speranza (Hope) and her best friend Carlotta, the romantic center of the young Gozzano's eclectic but familiar home life of mismatched objects and savory characters just before Italy's unification. 

Grandmother Hope’s Friend by Guido Gozzano

“ … to her Hope
her Carlotta…
June 28, 1850”.

Stuffed is Loreto and Alfieri’s bust, Napoleon’s
flowers in a frame, (good old things in terrible taste are a must!)

the chimney is a bit glum, the boxes without confetti,
the marble fruits steady, protected by glass bells that stay mum,

some rare toys in ruts, the half-shell chests in tow
the objects with the warning hello, I remember the coconuts,

Venice depicted in mosaic, the watercolors slightly faded,
the prints, the chests, the painted white of anemones archaic,

the canvases of Massimo d’Azeglio, the miniatures,
the daguerrotypes: creatures that dream perplexedly,

the large outdated chandelier, which hangs in the living room’s middle,
that multiplies the good old diddle on the quartz’s splendid veneer,

the cuckoo that sings the hours all nifty, the chairs adorned
in crimson damask … I am reborn, I am reborn in eighteen hundred fifty.

the little brothers, the room, on this day, cannot enter but cautiously
(they have removed all of the furniture’s upholstery: it is a day to swoon).

But they charge in a swarm. Look! their older sister Hope
and her friend with whom I want to elope, on vacation have come home!

My grandmother is seventeen years old; Carlotta has about the same style:
it’s been just a little while since they they were allowed to hoop their folds.

the very vast hoop crinkles the skirt with turquoise roses:
more elegant than their poses emerges a slender waist that wriggles.

Both have a shawl with oranges ablaze, flowers, birds and garland bands:
their hair parted in two strands falling down halfway to the cheeks aflame .

From Mantua they’ve arrived full of courage to Lago Maggiore unseen
even if they’ve travelled fourteen hours in a horse-drawn carriage.

Of all the class their exam got the most distinguished marks. How worked up
they were about the terrible past! They’ve left school for starts.

Oh Belgirate serene! The room looks over the garden at daybreak:
among the straight trunks gleam the mirrors of the turquoise lake.

Be quiet children! The friends — children try and quietly move about! —
the friends on the piano are trying out a scroll of notes that centuries transcends:

Slightly artificial motifs they’re arty the fronds of the settecento
by Arcanegelo de Leuto and Alessandro Scarlatti;

Innamorati lost lovers, lamenting “il core” and “l’augello”,
languors of Giordanello in sweet terrible verse:

“my dear you’re missed
believe me at least,
without you,
languishes my heart!
yours truly
sighs at the start
of every hour
stop your cruelty!

Carlotta sings, Hope plays. Sweet and in flowery bloom
life burgeons in the brief relays of a romance made of a thousand promises too soon.

Oh music, lighthearted whisper! In the soul it’s already hidden
To each smiles the groom that’s bidden: Prince Charming is the mister,

the husband of many dreams dreamed… Oh daisies just back from school
to find the the magic spool leaf through the tender verse of Prati redeemed!

Uncle arrives, a virtuous gentleman of much esteem,
faithful to the Past and to the cream of Lombardy-Venice and the Emperor’s acumen.

Auntie arrives, a consort very deign, very proper and decent,
faithful to the Past even if she has a penchant for the King of Sardinia’s reign.

“Kiss your Aunt and Uncle’s hand!” would say Mom and Dad:
and they would raise the fiery chins a tad of the restless little ones in a band.

“And this is the friend on vacation: mademoiselle Carlotta Capenna:
the most gifted student in the arena, Hope’s dearest friend in the nation.”

“Well what do you know…what do you know…”—would say the esteemed Uncle
and piously the words he would bungle—“Well what do you know…what do you know…

Capenna? I knew an Arthur Capenna…Capenna…Capenna…
Sure! In the court of Vienna! Sure…sure…sure…”

“Would you like a bit of marsala?” “Dear lady my sister: we wish.”
And on the armchairs reserved for the gala they were sitting like pretty conversationalists.

“…but Brambilla did not know…— She’s already too fat for Hernani;
the Scala has no more soprani… — That Giuseppe Verdi should show!…

“…in March we’ll have some work dear niece— at the Fenice they’ve told me—
the Rigoletto I can’t wait to see; they’re talking about a masterpiece.—

“…do they wear blues or grays? — And these earrings! They dazzle!
The rubies appearing! And these cameos? They frazzle…—The latest in Paris these days…