Puzzle by Viviane Mellerio-Grasser

Transference, Aug 2018

Translated from French by Madeleine McDonald

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Puzzle by Viviane Mellerio-Grasser

Puzzle by Viviane Mellerio-Grasser Madeleine McDonald None Part of the Classical Literature Philology Commons Comparative Literature Commons East Asian Languages Societies Commons European Languages Societies Commons French Francophone Language Literature Commons German Language Literature Commons International Area Studies Commons Linguistics Commons Modern Languages Commons Modern Literature Commons Near Eastern Languages Societies Commons Poetry Commons the Reading Language Commons Follow this and additional works at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/transference A little piece of cardboard With gentle curves and deep hollows Yet its appealing colours Are no more than fabricated conceits Alone, buffeted by time How to give our search meaning If not by giving concrete shape to This glimpse that makes no sense Puzzle, puzzle indeed To our wishes pay heed In the wide whirlpool of ideas In the name of peoples and freedoms Let us stop for a moment And make use of our differences Face to face Let’s open up Using each other’s knowledge To aim for a magical experience Puzzle, puzzle indeed To our wishes pay heed Transfec Viviane Mellerio-Grasser Puzzle Once our hollows and curves Have fitted together, piece by piece Hesitantly, accurately The wedding time will come Then, gently, little by little, As the image is revealed Our dazzled eyes would comprehend …the Truth Puzzle, puzzle, be our guide To fitting together side by side A little piece of cardboard which, Having learned to forgive With eyes wide open, Compassionate yet without weakness, Has fulfilled its side of the bargain By breathing life into this substratum Much love and much humanity Make darkness lighten and retreat Puzzle, puzzle, you are nothing more Than a stage on the road to our destiny 2016 Viviane Mellerio-Grasser, who signs her poems Vyane, lives in France. Her poems are snapshots of love and life, and a reflection on life’s journeys. She has the ability to convey wonderment and awe, like a child discovering the world, enriched by the forbearance of a woman who has known bliss and sorrow, contentment and disappointment, privilege and adversity, and whose faith in human nature runs deep. Her poem Puzzle was awarded the Plume d’Or (Gold Pen) prize in 2009 by the literary association La Plume Colmarienne, based in Colmar, the second city of Alsace, France. Like the judges, I enjoyed the clever, playful hook of the first line that draws readers in to a broad appeal for respect and tolerance. Elsewhere, Mellerio-Grasser has spoken of the importance of her religious faith. She holds the view that each and every human being on this earth is interconnected, and part of an immense chain. In this poem, instead of links in a chain, she uses the image of jigsaw pieces slotting together. Only once all pieces fit together perfectly, and the puzzle is complete, would the image of Divine Truth become visible (her use of the conditional tense is deliberate). The author sets herself the challenge of exploring this transcendent concept within a structured framework. Even the zigzag layout is a playful echo of the title. Playing with rhyme, Mellerio-Grasser nevertheless respects its rules, and her native French offers her an abundance of possibilities. In my translation, I abandoned any idea of replicating the pattern and rhythm of her quatrains and couplets. Instead, with due humility, I attempted to capture the essence of this short poem. Initially, I used the word “jigsaw” for the title and in the body of the text, inspired by the literal image of a piece of cardboard. However, the author preferred “puzzle,” referring both to a jigsaw puzzle and to the immense puzzle of a human being. I translated délicatement as “hesitantly,” instead of “delicately,” imagining both the way one slots a jigsaw into place, and the way human beings get to know each other. 28 Transfec The reader is made to stop and think as the author jumps between the third person and the first person, between “its/his/ her” and “our,” even addressing the puzzle as “you” in some lines. The author was insistent that she wanted sa/son translated as “his” in most lines because the jigsaw piece stands for a human being. Yet this created problems because of the distinction in English between “his,” “her,” and “its.” I therefore left “its” in the first and last verse, and amalgamated “his/her” and “our” into “our” throughout, to echo the poem’s spirit of inclusiveness. The rhyming couplets, which enhance the rhythm of the poem, offered a particular challenge. In my attempts to find a rhyming structure that worked in English, I played with ever looser interpretations of meaning. For the repetition of verité / clé, the author herself suggested “Puzzle, puzzle in fact, To his wishes please act.” So the final version became “Puzzle, puzzle indeed, To our wishes pay heed.” For guider / ajuster, I flirted with “show us the way / day by day” before deciding on “guide / side by side” Not for want of trying, I had to give up on finding an English rhyme to stand for rien and destin, although I contemplated pairing “yourself so tiny” and “destiny.” I thank the author for her generous collaboration. Any shortcomings in the translation are mine. Mellerio-Grasser’s collection, Tranches de Vie (Slices of Life) is published by Le Cercle du Rhin International.

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Madeleine McDonald. Puzzle by Viviane Mellerio-Grasser, Transference, 2018,