Showing posts with label Translation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Translation. Show all posts

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.

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.

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…

27 January 2024

Translation: Giacomo Leopardi Infinity

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer Above the Sea Fog, 1818

This is Bora Mici's original Italian to English translation of the poem L'Infinito or Infinity by the Romantic Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi.

Infinity by Giacomo Leopardi 

Always dear to me has been this lonely hill, 
And this hedge that prevents the eyes 
From looking at so much of the farthest horizon. 
But sitting and gazing at endless 
Spaces beyond it, I conjure in my 
Thoughts superhuman silences 
And the deepest calm; wherein my heart 
Almost fearfully trembles. And like the wind 
I hear rustling through these plants, I 
Start comparing that infinite silence 
With this voice: and I remember eternity, 
And seasons passed, and the present 
Is alive, and her sound. And so amidst this 
Expansiveness my thoughts drown: 
And shipwreck is sweet to me in this sea.

10 January 2024

Translation: Blaise Cendrars Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France, Part 2

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.

Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by Blaise Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay, Part 2

I am laying flat in a plaid
Colorfully clad
Like my life
And my life does not keep me any warmer than this Scottish burlap
And all of Europe seen from the wind breaker of an express at full steam
Is not any richer than my life
My poor life
This tartan
Threadbare on chests filled with gold
Alongside which I roll
That I dream
That I smoke
And the only flame of the universe
Is a poor thought …

Tears well up from the bottom of my heart
If I think, Love, of my mistress;
She is but a child, that I found like this
Pale, immaculate, at the back of a brothel.

She is but a child, blond, laughing sadly,
She does not smile and never cries;
But at the bottom of her eyes, when she lets you drink from them,
Trembles a sweet silver lily, the poet’s flower.

She is sweet and quiet, makes no reproach,
With a long shiver at your approach;
But when I come to her, from here, from there, from a feast,
She takes a step, then closes her eyes — and takes a step.
Because she is my love, and the other women
Just have golden dresses on tall bodies of ribbon,
My poor friend is so alone,
She is completely naked, has no body — she is too poor.

She is just a candid flute, a filigrane tower
The poet’s flower, a poor silver lily,
All cold, all alone, and already so wilted
That I get teary eyed if I think of her soul.

And this night is like a hundred thousand others when a train dashes in the night
— The comets fall —
And man and woman, even young ones, delight in making love.

The sky is like the torn tent of a poor circus in a small fishing village
In Flanders
The sun is a steamy lantern
And all the way at the top of a trapeze a woman arches her body into a crescent.
The clarinet the piston a bitter flute and a bad drum
And here is my cradle
My cradle
It was always near the piano when my mother like Madame Bovary played the sonata’s of Beethoven
I spent my childhood in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
And I skipped school, in the train stations in front of the trains departing
Now, I have made all the trains run behind me
I have also played in the races in Auteuil and Longchamp
Paris-New York
Now, I have made all the trains run through all my life
And I have lost all of my bets
There’s only Patagonia left, Patagonia, which suits my great sadness, Patagonia, and a trip to the Southern seas

I am on the road
I have always been on the road
I am on the road with the little Jehanne of France.

The train jumps perilously and falls back on all its wheels
The train falls back on its wheels
The train always falls back on all its wheels.

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

We are far, Jane, you have been traveling for seven days
You are far away from Montmartre, from the Hill that fed you, from the Sacré-Coeur whose shelter you cherished
Paris has vanished and its enormous blaze
All we have tarried are the ashes unburied
The rain that pounds
The peat that swells
Siberia that pivots
The heavy heaps of snow that rise up
And the bell of madness which trembles like a last wish in the blue sky’s deepness
The train quivers at the heart of leaden horizons
And your sorrow sniggers …

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

Read Part 1.

02 January 2024

Translation: Blaise Cendrars Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France, Part 1

Cover by 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.

Prose of the Trans-Siberian and of the Little Jehanne of France by Blaise Cendrars with artwork by Sonia Delaunay, Part 1.

Dedicated to musicians

At that time I was an adolescent
I was barely sixteen and could not remember my childhood evanescent
I was 16,000 leagues away from my birthplace reminiscent
I was in Moscow, the city of three-thousand church bells and seven train stations
And I could not get enough of the seven train stations and the three-thousand towers
Because my adolescence was so passionate and so wild
That my heart, now and then, burned like the temple
of Ephesos or like Moscow’s Red Square
When the sun sets.
And my eyes lit up ancient roads.
And I was already such a bad poet
That I did not know how to go all the way to the end.

The Kremlin was like a giant Tartar cake
Crunchy in gold,
With the big all white cathedral mandorlas
And the honeyed gold of the church bells …

An old monk was reading the legend of Novgorod to me
I was thirsty
And I was deciphering the cuneiform script
Then, all of a sudden, the pigeons of the Holy Spirit started flying in the square
And my hands started flying too, with the fluttering of an albatros
And these, these were the last reminiscences of the last day
Of the very last trip
And of the sea.

However, I was a very bad poet.
I did not know how to go all the way to the end.
I was hungry
And all the days and all the women in the coffeeshops and all the glasses
I would have liked to drink them and break them
And all the shop windows and all the streets
And all the houses and all the lives
And all the wheels of the carriages spinning like whirlwinds on badly paved roads
I would have liked to plunge them into an inferno of swords
And I would have liked to grind all the bones
And pull out all the tongues
And liquefy all these strange large naked bodies under the clothes that overwhelm me …
I could sense the arrival of the large red Christ of the Russian Revolution …
And the sun was a bad wound
That was open like a blaze.

At that time I was an adolescent
I was barely sixteen and could not remember my birth evanescent
I was in Moscow, where I wanted to feed on flames
And there were not enough towers and train stations for my eyes to constellate

In Siberia cannons thundered, it was wartime
Hunger the cold the plague cholera
And the murky waters of Love carried millions of carcasses.
In all the train stations I could see all the last trains departing
No one could leave anymore because no more tickets were give out
And the soldiers leaving would have liked to stay …
An old monk would sing me the legend of Novgorod.

I, the bad poet who wanted to go nowhere, I could go everywhere
And the merchants also still had enough money
To try their luck.
Their train left every Friday morning.
We heard that there were many dead.
One of them would bring a hundred cases of alarm clocks and cuckoos from the Black Forest
Another, boxes of hats, cylinders and a selection of bottle openers from Sheffield
Another, Malmo coffins filled with tin-can preserves and sardines in oil
Then there were many women
Women, groins for rent who could also double
As coffins
They were all authorized
We heard that there were many dead over there
They traveled at a reduced fare
And all had checking accounts in the bank.

Yet, one Friday morning, it was finally my turn
It was December
And I also left to accompany the travelling jeweler who was going to Harbin
We had two compartments in the express and 34 chests of Pforzheim jewelry
German bling “Made in Germany”
He had dressed me in new clothes, and while getting on the train I had lost a button
- I remember, I remember, I have thought about it often since
I would sleep on top of the chests and I was so happy to be able to play with the nickeled browning he had also given me

I was very happy carefree
I thought I was playing at highway robbery
We had stolen Golconda’s gold
And, thanks to the Trans-Siberian, we were going to hide it on the other side of the world
I had to protect it against the thieves of the Urals who had attacked the acrobats of Jules Verne
Against the Tungusics, the China boxers
And the little rabid Mongols of the Great Lama
Ali Baba and the forty thieves
And especially, against the most modern
The hotel crooks
And the experts of the international expresses.

Yet still, yet still
I looked like a child sad on the sill
The train’s rhythmic kinks
The “railway syndrome” of the American shrinks
The sound of the doors voices axletrees shrieking on the frozen rails
The golden sestertius of my future
My browning the piano, in the next-door compartment, the cursing of the card players
Jane’s stunning presence
The man in the blue eyeglasses who nervously paced the aisle and looked at me in passing
The crinkling of women
And the steam’s whistle
And the eternal noise of the mad wheels in the furrows of the sky
The windows have frosted scales
No nature!
And behind the Siberian plains, the low sky and the great shadows of the quiet ones that climb and descend.

Read Part 2.

Read Part 3. 

26 September 2023

Translation: Charles Aznavour La Bohème

After Ingres and Rafael, Bora Mici

La bohème 

An epoch will be sung, that the very young
Cannot really know
Montmartre through the cracks, hung its lilacs
Down to our window
And while the attic that was to be our romantic
nest, wasn’t more than a shed
It’s there where we’d collude, I was unfed
And you posed nude.

The bohemian, the bohemian
That meant that we were gay
The bohemian, the bohemian
We ate only every other day.

In the neighboring bars, some of us were the stars
Waiting to gleam
Even though we were twenty, and our stomachs were empty
We’d always dream
And when we got a warm quiche in exchange for a pastiche
From a bistrot hire
Poems together we would tell, gathered ‘round the fire
To forget winter’s spell.

The bohemian, the bohemian
You were pretty like Venus
The bohemian, the bohemian
We all had a spark of genius.

Often in front of my easel, as the rain would drizzle
Being awake all night was bracing
Touching up the line of a supine
breast, a curved hip tracing
And it wasn’t until morn’, when we would sit still and worn
To our coffee steaming
Exhausted, in sheer delight, in love, we were convening
Couldn’t help but love life.

The bohemian, the bohemian
That meant we were twenty years old
The bohemian, the bohemian
We were living on nothing at all.

When as the days go by, my old haunts I spy
I don’t lie, it’s the truth
I don’t recognize the walls nor the skies
That adorned my youth
At the top of some stair, I look for the atelier
Of which there’s nothing left
In its new scenery, Montmartre seems bereft
And the lilacs are history.

The bohemian, the bohemian
We were young, we were wild
The bohemian, the bohemian
It’s meant nothing at all for a while.

02 August 2023

Translation: Pomme My Love Is a City

A peu près album cover, photograph by Marta Bevacqua and artwork by Frank Loriou

This is another translation of a creative song by the French singer-songwriter Pomme. It compares the person she loves to a city. You can hear it here

My love is a city

My love is a city I like to visit with my fingers
My love, a city I criss-cross, where my mind lingers
A model citadel, a model citadel
My love is a city where I like to let my eyes dwell
My love, a city, the tranquil capital my lips bespell
A model citadel, a model citadel.

No other place, no other can enlace me so
No other place than this love
No other place, no other can enlace me so
No other than this love that I know.

I grew tired of new cities where I would just pass through
But this mysterious one I love
It’s the love I dream of anew
An ancient beauty to construe, an ancient beauty to construe
I rush until I hear her voice cry out
I run until my eyes hurt, my ears shout
I rush until I hear her voice, I run
Time is still out, in this town I am about, in this town I am about

No other place, no other can enlace me so
No other place than this love
No other place, no other can enlace me so
No other than this love I know.

At her fountains I drink, I drink
I drink so much I am intoxicated
At her water features I drink, I drink
More and more so that I am inebriated
And I feel myself reanimated, and I feel myself resuscitated
My love is a city I love
I love

24 July 2023

Translation: Emile Zola Au Bonheur des Dames

Félix Vallotton, Le Bon Marché, 1898

Au Bonheur des dames, extract

On Monday, March 14, the Bonheur des Dames inaugurated its renovated store with the exhibition of its new summer stock, which was supposed to last three days. Outside blew a bitter wind, and those passing by, surprised by this return of winter, walked quickly, buttoning their coats. Nevertheless, the neighboring boutiques were simmering with emotion; and you could see the pale faces of the small-shop owners against the windows, busy counting the first cars that stopped in front of the main entrance on Rue Neuve-Saint-Augustin. Tall and deep like a church portico, decorated with a motif of sculptures representing Industry and Commerce shaking hands in a labyrinth of symbols, this entrance was shielded by a glass awning whose freshly-painted gilded ornaments cast light on the sidewalks like the sun’s rays. The facades, still raw and white, extended to the right and left, turned on Rue Monsigny and Rue de la Michodière, and occupied the whole block except for the side on Rue du Dix-Décembre, where the Crédit Immobilier was going to build. All across the length of this development, which recalled the military barracks, when the small-shop owners raised their heads, they could see the piles of merchandise through the one-way mirrors, which from the ground floor to the second floor let ample light into the store. And this enormous cube, this colossal marketplace, which prevented them from seeing the sky, seemed to be the cause of the cold which made them shiver behind their frozen counters.

Still, Mouret was there, giving his orders starting at 10 am. In the middle, along the axis formed by the main entrance, a wide gallery went from one end to the other, flanked by two narrower galleries to the left and to the right, the Monsigny gallery and the Michodière gallery. The hallways had been glazed and transformed into exhibit spaces; iron stairways arose from the ground floor, iron bridges shot from one end to the other, on both floors. The architect who happened to be intelligent, a young man who loved the modern times, had only used stone in the basement and for the corner pillars, and had built the whole skeleton out of iron, the columns supporting the joist and beam structure. The arches supporting the floors and the dividing walls of the interior distribution rooms were made of brick. Everywhere space had been made, the outside air and light could enter freely, the public could circulate with ease, under the bold extension of the long-range trusses. It was the cathedral of modern commerce, solid and light, made for a people of female clients. Below, in the central gallery, after the items on sale at the entrance, came the ties, gloves and silks; the whites and the rouennerie occupied the Monsigny gallery, the notions, hosiery, draperies and woolens the Michodière gallery. Then, on the first floor, were the tailoring department, lingerie, shawls, lace and other new aisles, and relegated to the second floor were the bedding, rugs and upholstery, basically all the items that took up a lot of space and were difficult to handle. Currently, there were thirty-nine aisles, 1,800 employees, among which 200 were women. The sonorous life of the tall metallic nave was humming with a whole world of people.

Mouret’s only passion was to win over the woman. He wanted her to be the queen of his store, he had built this temple in her honor, in order to better have her at his mercy. His strategy consisted in exciting her by bestowing gallant attentions on her, tampering with her desires, and exploiting her feverishness. So, night and day, he racked his brain to try to come up with new ideas. Already, wanting to avoid that the delicate ladies overexerted themselves, he had built two elevators upholstered with velvet. In addition, he had just opened a buffet, where cookies and cordials were served freely, as well as a reading room, a monumental gallery, decorated very luxuriously, where he even had gone as far as to put up paintings on view. However, his deepest idea, when it came to the woman who lacked vanity, had been to conquer her through her child; he did not miss any opportunity, he speculated about all sentiments, created aisles for little boys and girls, stopped the mothers in their tracks as they were passing by and offered pretty pictures and balloons to their babies. This gift of balloons was a stroke of genius. They were distributed to every buyer, red balloons made of fine plastic, with the name of the store written on them in large letters, and which, held by a thread, hanging in the air above, were a living walking advertisement on the streets.

The greatest power was above all in advertising. Mouret went as far as to spend 300,000 francs each year in catalogues, announcements and posters. For his launch of the new summer stock, he had distributed 200,000 catalogues, 50,000 of which had gone abroad and had been translated in all languages. Now, he had them illustrated with etchings, he even accompanied them with samples, attached to the paper. An overflow of shelves, the Bonheur des Dames cried out to everyone, invaded the walls, newspapers, even the curtains at the theatre. He professed that the woman is defenseless against the advertisement, that she fatally ends up giving in. Moreover, he tried to trap her in more learned ways; he analyzed her as if he were a great moralist. And so, he had discovered that she could not resist cheap merchandise, that she bought things she did not need when she thought she had concluded a deal that was to her advantage; and based on this observation, he calculated his system for lowering prices, he progressively lowered the price of the items that remained unsold, preferring to sell at a loss, always faithful to the principle of the fast turnover of merchandise. What’s more, he had further penetrated into the heart of the woman, having just come up with “returns”, a masterpiece of jesuitic seduction. “Please always take it, madame: you can always return it if you no longer like it”. And the woman who resisted found a last excuse, the possibility to rectify her madness; she bought the item, and her conscience was clear. Now, returns and low prices were part of the classical mechanism of the new commerce.

05 May 2023

Translation: Pomme Witches

Album cover by Ambivalently Yours

This is a beautiful song, titled Sorcières, by the French singer-songwriter Pomme. You can hear it here:


If you wear dark clothes in sight,
If you wander like a lark in the night,
If you drink hot water with scattered dried flowers,
If you think beyond people’s jaded ego towers,

You must be a witch, you must be a witch
You must be a witch, you must be a witch.

If you like cats standing on your head,
If you cry out in the hollow of your bed,
If you do not like being told to smile,
If you find the moon beautiful when it beguiles,

You must be a witch, you must be a witch.
You must be a witch, you must be a witch.

If you know how to be alone in your plight,
If you follow your instinct in the night,
If you need no one to come save you,
If you think nothing replaces freedom too,

You must be a witch, you must be a witch.
You must be a witch, you must be a witch.

24 March 2023

Translation: Charles Baudelaire Communications

Gustav Klimt, Fir Forest 1, 1901


Nature is a temple where many a living column
Sometimes muffled words whistles;
Man enters there through forests of symbols
That look upon him familiarly solemn.

Like long echoes that overlap far away
In a homogenous, deep darkness,
Expansive like the night and the brightness,
Aromas, colors, sounds dialogue in the leigh.

The perfumes smell fresh like children’s flesh,
Sweet like oboes, green like meadows,
— Yet others triumphant, rich, enmeshed

Expansive like infinite shadows,
Like amber, resin, incense and musk,
Singing the transports of mind and the senses at dusk.

10 March 2023

Translation: Charles Baudelaire's The Flowing Hair

Odalisque, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1870

The flowing hair

Oh mane, foaming like waves to the clavicle
Oh curls! Oh perfume vapors of insouciance!
Ecstasy! Tonight to fill the dark alcove magical
With memories sleeping in these locks that are navigable
I’d wave them, a handkerchief, in the great expanse!

Asia the languid and Africa that burns,
A faraway world, absent almost gone,
Dwells in your depths, aromatic ferns!
Like other souls surf on melodious turns,
Mine oh my love! swims in your perfume alone.

I’ll go where trees and men, full of verve
Swoon at length in the burning hazes;
Mighty locks, become the tides that swerve
Sea of onyx, shimmering dreams you conserve
Of sails, rowers, masts and blazes.

A busy port where my soul might drink
In big gulps perfumes sounds and colors
Where the vessels glide toward the golden brink
Open wide their arms to welcome the glint
Of a pure sky where the trembling heat gathers.

I’ll sink my head with love astray
In this dark ocean that encloses another;
And my subtle spirit caressed by the sway
Will find you, oh fertile, lazy day,
Endlessly cradling, a leisurely balmy cover.

Blue hair, a tent of darkness splayed
An immense dome you make the blue sky seem,
On the fuzzy edges of your strands displayed
I passionately become drunk on the scents arrayed
Of coconut oil, musk and tar supreme.

At length! always! in your heavy mane my hand
Will plant rubies, pearls and sapphires,
So that you never buck to my demand!
Are you not the oasis where I dream, and the land
Where I avidly inhale the wine my past perspires.

03 February 2023

Translation: Jacques Prévert The Clown

Les 400 coups, François Truffaut, 1959

The clown

He shakes his head no
but his heart tells him yes
he says yes to what he loves
but for the teacher won’t acquiesce
he gets up
to answer out loud
all the problems are laid out before him
suddenly he starts laughing at the crowd
and erases all
the measures and the names
the dates and the planes
the sentences and trick questions
and despite the teacher’s threats
with multicolored chalk
as the gifted children jeer
on the blackboard of fear
he draws the face of good cheer.

25 January 2023

Translation: Giuseppe Ungaretti Compassion

Avalokitesvara, Tibetan



I am a wounded man.

And I would like to go
and finally obtain,
Compassion, where is heard
the man who is alone in himself.

I have nothing other than self-righteousness and goodness.

And I feel exiled among men.

But I feel sorrow for them.

Am I not worthy of becoming me?

I have filled the silence with names.

I have broken my heart and mind into smithereens
in order to fall into the slavery of words?

I rule over ghosts.

Oh dried leaves,
Soul tarried here and there…

No, I hate the wind and its voice
of a forgotten beast.

O God, do those that pray to you
only know you by name?

You have ousted me from life.

Will you oust me from death?

Maybe man is not even worthy of hope.

Even the spring of remorse is dry?

What does sin matter,
If it no longer leads to purity.

The flesh barely remembers
That once it was strong.

The soul is mad and spent.

God looks at our weakness.

We would like to find some certainty.

You don’t even laugh at us anymore?

So, cruelty, feel for us.

I can no longer be stuck
in desire without love.

Show us a sign of justice.

What is your law?

Lightning bolt my wretched emotions,
Free me from unrest.

I am tired of screaming silently.


Sad flesh
Once alive with joy
Half-closed eyes, the tired reawakening,
You see, very old soul,
What I will be, when I fall to the ground?

The road of the dead is among the living,

We are the stream of shadows,

They are the seeds that sprout in our dreams,

Theirs is the distance that remains,

And theirs is the shadow that gives weight to names,

The hope of becoming a bunch of shadows
Is this our only fate?

And are you nothing but a dream, oh God?

At least a dream, we bravely,
Wish it could be like you.

It’s the birth child of the most lucid madness.

It does not tremble in clouds of branches
Like sparrows in the morning
At the edge of eyelids.

The mysterious wound languishes in us.


The light that stings us
Is an ever subtler thread.

You no longer blind with your light, if you do not kill?

Grant me this supreme joy.


Man, a monotonous universe,
Believes he is increasing his possessions
Yet his feverish hands
Produce nothing infinite, but limits.

Hanging from the void
From his spiderweb,
He fears and seduces
Only his own scream.

He repairs the ruin by digging graves,
And in order to contemplate you, O Eternal one,
He only blasphemes.

22 January 2023

Translation: Eugenio Montale The Mediterranean

Claude Monet, Cap Martin, 1884

The Mediterranean 

Oh ancient one, the voice
that seeps from your mouths when they come apart
like green church bells that throw themselves
backward and dissolve
makes me drunk.
The house of my faraway summers
was by you, you know,
in the country where the sun burns
and mosquitos swarm in the air.
Today, like then, I become still before you,
oh sea, but I no longer believe myself worthy
of the solemn warning in your breath. You were the first to tell me
that the tiny stirring
in my heart was nothing more than an instant
of yours; that ultimately
your rule was risky: to be vast and different
and at the same time unmoved:
and so empty myself of all the filth
as you do when you crash on the shores
among cork, algae, starfish
the useless debris of your abyss.

02 December 2022

Translation: The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni (Part 2)

—The universe was inhabited by many trond and large quazz structures. The television (we have it too, it’s required) had told us that these worlds were absolutely the same as ours. On Jupiter, there are larger trond, on Venus there are particularly beautiful quazz, but nothing else.

—Well, I thought, it must be so because the TV hardly ever lies, but I want to check for myself. Because, if in some faraway part of the universe, there is a real gift, something that is neither trond nor quazz, to bring to my lover, well then, I will find it. Having made that decision, that very evening I prepared a provision of trond filets, put it in my lunchbox and launched my astroquazzmobile into the stellar corridors of Serpentone number 8, which leads to the Zatopek crossing, and from there, to your solar system. I don’t know why I aimed immediately for Earth. Maybe it was because of its color, which seemed pretty, or maybe because of the way it tronded in space. The fact remains that I engaged my macrotelescope and aimed it at you.

—Alas, the first thing I saw discouraged me. There was a large space with green fur and all around it people were screaming. In the middle, some beings dressed in two different colors were fighting with their feet over a small trond. Here they are even worse off than we are, I thought: we have only quazz and trond, they barely even have any trond. Indeed, huge brawls broke out over this trond, everyone wanted it for himself, and people yelled like crazy. I aimed my macrotelescope somewhere else, and I saw a city made of quazz, stacked on top of other quazz. No sign of life. Maybe, I thought, the aboriginals of the place do not eat the quazz, but it’s the quazz that eats the aboriginals.


Indeed, I saw them disappear by the thousands inside of illuminated quazz.

—Discouraged and disillusioned I had decided to leave when oh, how amazing! I finally saw something that was neither quazz nor trond, nor rock nor lapillus, a wonderful new thing. I landed and got closer to it. It was a large metal box, similar to an obese Becodinian, full of mysterious objects made of materials that I later found out were called paper, plastic and metal sheet. They came in different colors, and even if among them there were examples of quazzism and trondism, the variety was astounding. And what strange smells they emitted! Strong, penetrating, so different than the Becodian smell of ash and boiled quazz. I rummaged a bit with my arm and pulled an amazing object out of the large box: a shiny red cylinder. It was signed in trondsome writing that, with the help of my universobulary, I was able to decipher as saying coco-colo or colo-coco. I thought it was the work of two artists. Then I saw a splendid animal, made up of a hairy body terminating in a long wooden tail, and precious, snow-white fabrics with the writing “Publix supermarkets” and “Filene’s” and more oblong and transparent objects, wonderful aromatic sauces, spiraling skins, and crinkly pieces of paper with hieroglyphs on them. I stood there with the door wide open, gazing at all these riches, when I saw the first earthly creature. It was blessedly rummaging through the wonderful objects of the large box. Immediately, I grabbed the interstellar tourist dictionary and recited the following words clearly:

— Exc-use me, you man of earth, can I bu-y one of these wonderful objects of yours?—The creature open wide its beautiful yellow eyes, wiggled its tail and responded:

—No buy, everyone can take, but now scram, since trash men coming—


— And the creature I had taken for a man scurried off frightened by the arrival of a growling being, large as twenty Becodians, from which the men descended; one of them looked at me and said:

—Since when have they put these new trashcans here?

—Don’t know—said the other one,—it looks empty anyways—And he grabbed me by the nose (which is not the nose!) and moved me out of the way.

—Back to work—said the other one—let’s dump this junk—They took the large box of wonders and tipped it over into the mouth of the large being. Then they jumped back on and left. At that moment, I felt bad, then I thought: if they throw out this splendid stuff and do not value it, think about the other wonderful things they have, much more precious than these. Reassured and thinking of my Lukzenerper, I followed them at full speed on my trondskates, until I got to the city and almost melted from surprise. What a variety of shapes and colors! What exquisite gifts everywhere, both still and moving, large and small! This is paradise, I told myself, but I need to remain calm and choose well, and not let myself be dumbfounded by all this abundance. Above all, I do not want just any gift. I want a gift that even earth women see as precious and important. I already knew how to recognize the men, now I had to find an earth female. How would she have been made? I carefully entered a bar with the writing “bar and tobacco”. I immediately saw something that could have been a female, something with a lot of noses and a man that was pulling on it up and down, which for us means gibolain or mating. But then I heard the man call it a “coffee machine”. It was not her. Over there, I saw her, the female. She was beautiful, all adorned with multicolor lights, she screamed and cried while a man held her by the sides and shook her.


Read Part 1 here.

13 November 2022

Translation: The Martian in Love by Stefano Benni (Part 1)

This is the true story of Kraputnyk Armadillynk as it was told to me in his own voice.

One early morning I was fishing in the Sompazzo river when I heard an amazing raucous behind me. I saw the trees trembling and the birds flying away. Then a burst and then nothing else. I crossed the dam and a weird creature appeared before me, a squat metal barrel, with a long mole’s snout, and two tiny removable reflective arms. He was kicking a flying disc and yelling at it irately, more or less like this:

— Zukunnuk dastrunavi baghazzaz minkemullu mekkanikuz!

Catching sight of me he bowed and said:

— Sir, I’m very sorry to have disturbed you, but if you would be so kind as to hear me out, I think you will understand and be able to help me.

— My name is Kraputnyk Armadillynk, and I come from the planet Becoda. My planet is located 700 light years from yours, and the average temperature there is 50 degrees Celsius in the shade. It’s a scorching and desolate planet. Only two things can grow there: trond and quazz. Trond is a tasteless round tuber. Quazz is a square tuber that tastes the same as trond. One could easily say they were the same thing, but for the sake of the morale of the Becodians, it is best to set them apart. In such a way, we can ask: “What’s for dinner tonight, trond or quazz?” and create a little bit of suspense.


— There are three ways of eating Trond: that is, while seated, while standing, or while laying down. Similarly, there are three ways of cooking quazz: in trond sauce, in quazz sauce, or with trond filling.

— So you must have understood by now that life on our planet is very hard. We have nothing but scorched land and fields of trond and quazz, black rocks, mountains of lava, and a few Nerperos (volcanoes) that spit out boiling lapilli into the air. There are no animals, with the exception of a worm we call Krokuplas, which is not edible, but makes for great fish bait. Unfortunately on Becoda there are neither water nor fish. However, we drink wonderful freshly squeezed trondquazz blends.

— The only fun pastime on our planet is dating. Becoda’s inhabitants are in fact really beautiful. At least, that’s what’s written in the first article of our Constitution. We males, as you can see, are composed of two trond feet, a quazz body, and a somewhat trondoid head, from which protrudes a tube (which is not the nose!) The females have small quazz feet, a deliciously small tronding body and a rather bitrondic head. My girlfriend is called Lukzenerper Graetzenerper Bikzunkenerper. Which means Luckz, born near the volcano, daughter of Graetz, who lives on the volcano, and of Bikz, who fell into the volcano. Lukzetcetera is very young; she is eighteen in Becodian years, which are nearly as long as two earthly sitcoms. I love her, and taking walks with her grunka in grunka on the pathways of the planet is my only joy.


— But it just so happened that one night, while we were alone in my quazzmobile and were looking at the thousand stars of the Universe, she got up close to me and started dripping. Which is the worst thing that can happen on Becoda. Dripping is like your crying, but we cry oil, precious, lubricating oil. For if one drips too much, then one ends up rusting, freezing up and dying. So, I consoled her and tried to put back into her tank all the oil that I could, but she continued her dripping, and I did not know what to do.

“Lukzettina—I said—please speak. Don’t drip anymore, it’s painful. What can I do for you?

— Oh Kraputnyk—she responded— you are good like a trond (it was not such a big compliment. We also say: scumbag like a trond too, because we have so few things to compare ourselves to)… but I want something impossible … I would like … I would like…

Seeing her in such despair made a large drop appear on my lashes.

—Speak dear, don’t hesitate—I said—I will do anything for you—

—Oh Kraputnyk—she said—I have never received a gift during my whole life. And I will die without anyone ever having given me a gift!

— But how is that possible, I thought, had I not just given her a trond necklace? Yeah, but what kind of gift was a trond on that accursed planet where there was nothing but trond and quazz and stones shaped like trond and pieces of quazz always at our feet. A gift is something you do not expect. What was there on Becoda that could surprise a young woman? It was at that moment that I gazed at the starry sky and I lit up. (I mean it: when we have a great idea, a red light comes on.)


17 August 2022

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 4

Camille Corot, Barbizon, 1850

Well, when you have lead him through all the centers from which social life radiates, or on all the pathways through which it functions, when you have taught him what industry, science, art and politics are, there is still one thing which he will not think of if you do not show him, and this thing is religious respect for beauty in nature. Therein lies a deep source of calm and everlasting joy, an immersion of one’s being in the mysterious sources from which it has arisen, a notion of life both positive and pious, the clear and complete idea of which your machines, ships, manufacturing industries, theaters and churches will not have given him. He will have learned how life yields or wastes itself, how man uses himself up; he will not know how life reproduces and renews itself, how man feels and how he belongs. Most of the time, the disorder of social existence makes us act without knowing why and makes us mistake our passions and appetites for real needs. Looking inward is the thing that we are most lacking and from which everything turns us away. Society has launched itself full-steam into an artificial life in every way. We need to answer our appetites and vanities, which come in all shapes and sizes. Life has no other goal, no other illusion, no other promise in the esteem of the masses.

Let’s react a little, that is, as much as we can, because, alas, it will still be too little against this torrent that sweeps our offspring into its muddy waters. Let us not reduce our horizons to the delimited space of a field or the fence around a vegetable garden. Let us open space to the child’s thinking; let us make him drink the poetry of this creation that our industries tend to denature completely at a frightening speed. What? Until now, the young man who deeply feels this poetry is an exceptional being, because, in most families nowadays, we are convinced that contemplation is a waste of time, that dreaming is a lazy habit or a tendency toward madness. Yet, we are sensitive to the beauty of a landscape, and would not want our pupil to be so brutal as to not see it.

I know this, I recognize it, because I am not among those who systematically make war on the bourgeoisie. I have never crusaded against local greengrocers. I am convinced that one can sell capers and cloves, and still be well aware that they are lovable plants, not only because they bring in money, but also because they are gracious and charming. I believe that one can be a good peasant and make a deep furrow without being deaf to the lark’s song or insensitive to the smell of the hawthorn. I would even prefer it this way. I wish that one could be a perfect notary and poet, from time to time, while walking through the countryside or crossing the Seine. I want all men to be complete and that no one prohibits them from any kind of initiation. It is a preconception to believe that one must acquaint oneself with the delicacies of language, with the color arrays of the palette, the technique of the arts for becoming oneself a nuanced critic and an exquisitely sensitive person. Self-expression is a learned ability, but appreciation is a need, and therefore a universal right. It is the mission of artists to bring it to light and to consecrate it; but let us invite all men to a helping of it, in order to experience its joy and to learn to seek to savor it, without thinking that they must give up being good local greengrocers, good farm workers or impeccable notaries, if that be their vocation.

28 December 2021

Translation: Frantz Fanon, From Peau noire, masques blancs (Black Skin, White Masks)

Colonial racism is no different than any other racism.

Antisemitism touches me deeply, I am moved, a frightful opposition weakens me, they do not give me the option of being a man. I cannot not join my brother’s fate in solidarity. Each of my acts engages the man in me. Each of my hesitations, each instance of my cowardice, manifests mankind. We still hear Aimé Césaire:

“When I turn on my radio, and I hear that in America black folk are being lynched, I say that they have lied to us: Hitler is not dead; when I turn on my radio and I learn that Jews are being insulted, held in contempt, sent to pogroms, I say they have lied to us: Hitler is not dead; and lastly, when I turn on my radio and I learn that, in Africa, forced labour has been institutionalized, I say that, truly, they have lied to us: Hitler is not dead.”

Yes, European civilization and its most qualified representatives are responsible for colonial racism; and we recall Césaire again:

“And so, one day, a formidable counter-shock wakes up the bourgeoisie; the gestapo is stirring, the prisons are full, torturers invent, refine and gather to talk around their instruments.” We are surprised, we are angry. We say: “How curious! But, it’s just Nazism, it will go away”. And we wait and hope; and we do not admit the truth to ourselves, that it’s barbaric, utmostly barbaric, so barbaric that it crowns, that it encompasses the barbaric in its daily life; that it’s Nazism, yes, but before being its victims, we were its accomplices; that we tolerated this Nazism before being subjected to it, we absolved it, we turned a blind eye, we legitimized it, because, until then, it only applied to non-Europeans; we cultivated this Nazism, we are responsible for it…


What [Octave] Mannoni has forgotten is that the Madagascan no longer exists; he has forgotten that the Madagascan exists with the European. The White man who came to Madagascar upset its psychological horizons and mechanisms. Everyone knows it: for the Black man, alterity is not the Black man but the White man. An island like Madagascar, invaded overnight by the “pioneers of civilization,” even if these pioneers had behaved as well as they could, underwent a de-structuring. It’s, by the way, Mannoni who said it: “At the beginning of colonization, each tribe wanted to have its token White man.” Whether we explain this through magical-totemic mechanisms, or through the need for contact with a terrible God, or through the illustration of a system of dependence, it is still true that something new had come to be on this island, and that we need to account for it lest we subscribe to a false, absurd and no longer relevant analysis. Since a new input had been introduced, we had to attempt to understand the new relationships that arose.

The landing of the White man on Madagascar provoked an incontestable wound. The consequences of this sudden European arrival on Madagascar are not just psychological, since, as everyone knows, there is an internal relationship between consciousness and the social context.

The economic consequences? We would have to put colonization on trial!

Let us continue our study.

“In abstract terms, the Madagascan can tolerate not being a white man. What’s cruel is first discovering that you are a man and then having this unity break down into Whites and Blacks. If the “abandoned” or “betrayed” Madagascan maintains his initial identification, it then becomes something he has to claim for himself; and he will demand equalities that he never felt the need for before. These equalities were advantageous to him before he had to demand them, but after, they became an insufficient remedy to his ills: because all progress made in making men equal will make the differences that suddenly seem painfully unerasable more difficult to stand. This is how the Madagascan goes from dependence to psychological inferiority.”


If he is Madagascan, it’s because the White man has arrived, and if, at any given moment of his history, he was made to ask whether he was a man or not, that’s because this reality of his had been contested. In other words, I start to suffer of not being White when the White man imposes a discrimination upon me, makes me into a colonized subject, despoils me of all value, all originality, tells me I am a parasite, that I had better catch up to the White world as fast as possible, “that I am a dumb beast, that my people and I are like a pile of walking manure, hideously promising of tender sugarcane and silky cotton, that I do not belong in the world.” So, I will simply try to become white, that is to say, I will force the White man to recognize my humanity. However, as Mannoni will tell us, you cannot, because deep inside of you there exists a dependence complex.

“Not all people are fit to being colonized, only those that posses this need.” And further: “Almost everywhere that Europeans have founded colonies like the one in question, we can say that they were expected and even desired in the unconscious of their subjects. All kinds of legends foreshadowed their arrival as strangers coming from the sea and destined to bring good things. As we can see, the White man obeys to a complex of authority, to a leader complex, while the Madagascan obeys to a complex of dependence. Everyone is happy.


My patient suffers from an inferiority complex. His psychic structure risks falling apart. I must prevent this and liberate him from this unconscious desire.

If he is so overwhelmed by the desire to be white, it’s because he lives in a society that makes his inferiority complex possible, in a society that draws its substance from the maintenance of this complex, in a society that affirms the superiority of a race; it’s precisely because this society presents him with difficulties that he finds himself in a neurotic position.

What emerges then is the necessity of a double action directed at the individual and the group. As a psychoanalyst, I have to help my client to make his unconscious conscious, to no longer attempt a hallucinatory whitening, but to take action in order to change social structures.

In other words, the Black man must no longer face this dilemma: become white or disappear; he must instead become aware of the possibility of existence…

07 December 2021

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 3

Augustin Enfantin, An Artist Painting in the Forest of Fontainebleau

The Fontainebleau forest is not just beautiful because of its vegetation; its terrain features extremely graceful and elegant movements. At each step, its rock formations offer a magnificent decor, austere or delightful. However, these lovely clearings, this unexpected chaos, these melancholic sands would become sad, perhaps even vulgar if they were denuded. The natural sciences also have the right to protest against the destruction of the ground-level plants, which would disappear with the drying of the atmosphere when the tall trees fall. The botanist and the entomologist are serious people who count just as much as the painter and the poet; but even more important than these elites is, I repeat, human kind, whose noble enjoyments we should not impoverish, especially so soon after the atrocious wars that have spoiled and destroyed so many sacred things in nature and civilization. We are all French and we all have, or nearly all of us, children or grandchildren whom we take by the hand to go on walks, with the idea of—regardless of whether we belong to the well-off or not so well-off classes—initiating them to the feeling of life that is in us. In all the places we are with them, we make them observe everything they are supposed to understand, a ship, a train on its tracks, a marketplace, a church, a river, a mountain, or a town. From the gingerbread shop where the lower proletariat look at simple shapes of men and animals, to the museums where the bourgeois leads his progeny and explains what he admires as well as he can; from the furrow where the peasant’s child picks up a flower or a stone all the way to the great royal parks and our public gardens, where both rich and poor can learn by looking; all of these places are a sanctuary for the initiation of a child or the adult who has been developmentally deprived, who wants to exit this childhood that has lasted too long. I know very well that there is a dark or chattering, evil or impassioned proletariat that only dreams of social struggle, looks at nothing and does not take any care to elevate its spirit to the level of the destiny it seeks; but there is also a universal proletariat, the child, the ignorant among all the classes, those we can still shape for social life and for the struggles of the future that are better understood and better positioned. Each one of us has this particular one close at hand because it’s his favorite pupil, or the infant he carries in his arms. We take him on walks, begin his education, explain new objects to him; if the pupil is intelligent, soon he shows an interest in all the things that existence offers for possession, by its very nature or in thought.

23 November 2021

Translation: Georges Sand on the Environmental Rescue of the Fontainebleau Forest by Artists outside of Paris - Part 2

The Edge of the Woods at Monts-Girard, Fontainebleau Forest, Théodore Rousseau

Therefore, the great plants are central to life, spreading their benefits near and far. And while it is dangerous or harmful to live under their direct shadow eternally, it is well-proven that foregoing the oxygen they release would fatally change the atmospheric conditions that support human life. It would be like removing large fans that recirculate the air and break up the electricity over our heads; it would also be impoverishing the soil and it subcutaneous circulation, if you will.

Cultural forces scrape, comb and cleanse this delicate bark. This is a necessary kind of upkeep; however, certain parts of rocky or forested areas must be spared this monumental razing and thus conserve the moisture that fertilizes the subsoil over great distances. There is very little visible water in the sands and rocks of Fontainebleau, but the subsoil that has made it possible for trees to live there for so long possesses an unusual richness with extensive repercussions. If you remove the trees that, through their shadows, provide the earth with the coolness their roots drink, you destroy a necessary harmony, essential to the environment you inhabit.

But let us not narrow down the scope of the issue. Not everyone is capable of conducting a detailed study of the oak trees and sandstones of Fontainebleau. Not everyone even wants to try, but everyone has the right to admire the beauty of such things. And there are many more people who are able to feel such beauty than artists interested in communicating it. Everyone has a seedling of intelligence and poetry within them, things that do not require a great deal of education or specialization. Therefore, everyone has a right to admire the beauty and poetry of our forests, and especially this one, one of the marvels of the world. Destroying it would be, morally speaking, legal theft, a truly savage attack on this right to intellectual property, which makes whomever possesses nothing but the sight of beautiful things equal to and, sometimes superior to, their owner.

There should be certain limits, dictated by nature, to the craze for individual property. Can we claim that those who have the means to buy it can share, sell and monopolize the atmosphere? If this were possible, can you imagine each proprietor sweeping his corner of the sky, piling the clouds in his neighbor’s yard, or according to his tastes, parking them in front of his property and demanding a law that would prevent those without money from watching golden sunsets or the amazing splendor of clouds chased away by a storm? I hope that this “happy” era will never dawn, but I believe that the destruction of the beautiful forests is an equally monstrous dream and that we should not withdraw the great trees from the intellectual public domain more than we should do away with their salubrious effects on public hygiene. They are just as sacred as the fecund clouds with which they constantly communicate; we must protect and respect them and never give them up to the barbaric whims or egotistical needs of the individual. Beautiful and majestic until their deaths, they belong to our descendants just like they did to our ancestors. They are the eternal temples whose powerful architecture and ornamental leafs always renew themselves, the sanctuaries of silence and reverie, where successive generations have the right to go and reflect, searching for this serious notion of grandeur, which every human being can feel and needs deep inside.  

Read Part III