Woe to those... by Jakob van Hoddis and mystery and crime and elderly couple by Yaak Karsunke

Transference, Dec 2017

Translated from German by Gregory Divers

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Woe to those... by Jakob van Hoddis and mystery and crime and elderly couple by Yaak Karsunke

Woe to those... by Jakob van Hoddis and mystery and crime and elderly couple by Yaak Karsunke Part of the Classical Literature 0 Philology Commons 0 Comparative Literature Commons 0 East Asian Languages 0 Societies Commons 0 European Languages 0 Societies Commons 0 French 0 Francophone Language 0 Literature Commons 0 German Language 0 Literature Commons 0 International 0 Area Studies Commons 0 Linguistics Commons 0 Modern Languages Commons 0 Modern Literature Commons 0 Near Eastern Languages 0 Societies Commons 0 Poetry Commons 0 the Reading 0 Language Commons 0 0 Gregory Divers Saint Louis University Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference - Article 6 Gregory Divers Woe to those… Woe to those who await the night In the pale glow of twilight − Evenings they say The goddess of life slinks smiling Through the streets in a sheer silk Moon-woven gown, red flowers In her white hand and if she meets You in dull dreary rooms where No lamp’s sacrificial brightness Glows, she will sneer and go her way − Woe to those who await the night In pale twilight. Gregory Divers mystery and crime Yaak Karsunke mystery and crime for Rainer Hachfeld Samuel Dashiell Hammet “knew a man who once stole a Ferris wheel” (more than that he didn’t divulge) yet: such a contraption doesn’t just walk off on its own (even if it’d been dismantled broken down to parts & pieces & stored in crates) the gondolas alone added to that girders & struts plus nuts & bolts by the hundredweight at the least one will need a flatbed trailer with the length as well as a tractor with the power to haul it all away (& from where to take if not to steal) a lot of work – on the other hand: who’s going to steal a Ferris wheel? Hammett still knew someone who did Transfec Gregory Divers elderly couple (after Sebald Beham) für Ingrid there on a palm-of-the-hand-sized copper engraving from 1543 you see them standing a woman & a man not exactly slender no longer young the inventors of love that rustling sound of fig tree leaves rubbing against each other kept Eve from her sleep & as Adam took the apple he saw her breasts with new eyes above his slowly opening lips (shortly thereafter both were deeply moved by knowledge) the serpent slithers out of paradise & glides smoothly towards you & me – let us go then into the garden & adorn their altar with pomegranates Jakob van Hoddis: Weh denen… / Woe to those… Jakob van Hoddis was born in Berlin in 1887 as Hans Davidsohn; his pen name van Hoddis is an anagram of the family name. Although primarily known as an early-expressionist German poet ranking alongside Georg Heym, Georg Trakl and Ernst Stadler, van Hoddis is also considered a forerunner of surrealism. Jakob van Hoddis was deported to Poland in 1942 and murdered by the Nazis, most likely in Sobibór. Unfortunately he published relatively little during his lifetime; “Weh denen…” is one of his many poems first published long after he was dead. “Weh denen…” is somewhat unique among the works of Jakob van Hoddis. Unlike the majority of his poems “Weh denen…” has neither formal stanza structure nor rhyme scheme. The content, however, is representative of his verse. Like many of his generation, van Hoddis followed in the Romantic tradition of appropriating legends and mythological figures for his subject matter. Here we have an unnamed goddess of life. Whether this is the Egyptian, Greek or another deity is not specified; nevertheless, this goddess readily finds a home in the unique poetic world of Jakob van Hoddis. The setting is at twilight, a special time for van Hoddis for it marks the passage from day to night. His goddess of life is endowed with distinctive qualities both in her attire and mannerisms, particularly in how she “slinks” through the streets and sneers at those she encounters in “dull dreary rooms” during twilight time. Although this goddess of life appears as ephemeral as twilight itself, there is something overtly ominous in how the text is bracketed by the initial two and final two lines. The repetition of “Woe to those who await the night” coupled with the actions of this goddess of life suggests that the wait is in vain. Yaak Karsunke: mystery and crime Although Yaak Karsunke began as a political poet during the 1960s, his poetry includes a wide variety of subject matter. He 24 Transfec has long been fascinated by crime novels and is the author of Toter Mann (1989) for which he received the Deutscher Krimi Preis in 1990. His poem “mystery and crime” pays tribute to an American master of the crime novel and is dedicated to Karsunke’s friend Rainer Hachfeld, a jazz saxophonist. The poem is rendered in Karsunke’s distinctive style and orthography: only proper nouns are capitalized, the language is unadorned, the diction concise. The quote in stanza one is Note # 28 in Hammett’s “From the Memoirs of a Private Detective” (The Smart Set, March 1923). The key to translating Yaak Karsunke’s poetry is capturing the voice (especially with regard to how he uses flavoring particles such as ja and eben); and here that means somehow blending in the voice and diction of Dashiell Hammett lurking in the background. Furthermore, Karsunke’s deft use of the German language and occasional word play are not easily rendered in English. For example, in stanza four I chose the more lengthy but parallel construction of “a flatbed trailer with the length” paired with “a tractor with the power” to emphasize the crucial point expressed in the original. Finally, the vocabulary in this poem is somewhat dated. The best example of this is “by the hundredweight” in stanza three, a phrase typical of Dashiell Hammett’s 1920s. Yaak Karsunke: älteres paar / elderly couple Yaak Karsunke’s “älteres paar” is based on a copper engraving by the 16th century German artist Hans Sebald Beham. The poetic treatment of an artist and work of art has been a constant in the poetry of Yaak Karsunke ever since the 1960s. Once again, this poem is representative of his distinctive style and orthography with only proper nouns being capitalized and his preference for the ampersand. The language is succinct with no word wasted. The German in “älteres paar” was relatively easy to render in English; the challenge in translating this poem was not only to capture the voice but also to make sure that line breaks enhanced both content and diction. One advantage I have in translating Yaak Karsunke is that we have known each other for over twenty years and communicate freely regarding my translations. Both he and his wife Ingrid, to whom this poem is dedicated, have a good feel for the English language and that greatly aids this partnership. Yaak Karsunke calls “älteres paar” one of his personal favorite poems (a vintage print of the copper engraving hangs on the wall above his desk) and is also a double portrait of him and his wife. As a closing note, those readers familiar with T. S. Eliot’s “Prufrock” will recognize the “let us go then” in the final stanza. Source texts: –––. “Mystery and Crime.” Previously unpublished. Hoddis , Jakob van. “ Weh denen ...,” Dichtungen und Briefe, edited by Regina Nörtemann, Arche, 1987 , p. 147 . Karsunke , Yaak. “älteres paar. ” hand & fuβ: Gedichte, Lyrikedition 2000 , 2004 , p. 58 .


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Gregory Divers. Woe to those... by Jakob van Hoddis and mystery and crime and elderly couple by Yaak Karsunke, Transference, 2017,