Standing and The Ninth Floor Again: The Military Hospital by Sghaier Ouled Ahmed
Standing and Th e Ninth Floor Again: Th e Military Hospital by Sghaier Ouled Ahmed
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0 Hager Ben Driss University of Tunis , Tunis
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Standing up in
my shoes, 4. Pdf page 42
my shadow kissing the cheek of a distant girl.
Standing up, TThhee NMiinlittharFyloHoorsApigtaailn:
nothing to say
that my lonely soul
is now alone.
5. Pdf page 44
a. Paragraph 1, line 1:
under (دﻼﺒﻟا ﺮﻋﺎﺷ),
If our master wills,
I shall take it off the way I do with mby.sPhoaersa;graph 1, line 6:
turn it around in the air,
and throw it in one of the many garbage cans(.ﺔﺘﺴﻟا مﺎﯾﻷا ﺪﯿﺸﻧ),
And then …
there must be a “then”
so that the conversation goes on and on.
while my shadow politely answers
the greetings of unique seeds.
in a vast expanse that Uqba or Hannibal will reach,
but won’t distinguish the sea from Kairouan.
They would only find streets and avenues
named for them
by some guy
in a newspaper.
Standing with skies
milked into a tough clay bowl of faith.
He who locked me out
forgot that I
am still standing
to bring the place to Him
and transmit to the sheikh
the voice of his disciples.
f page 42
title: Hager Ben Driss
inth FloTohreANgianinth: Floor Again:
ilitary HThoespMitaillitary Hospital
I love a dead trinity:
f page 4d4eath, and the great poetry.
agraph 1, line 1:
Sghaier Ouled Ahmed
ًادﺪﺠﻣ ﻊﺳﺎﺘﻟا ﻖﺑﺎﻄﻟا
I venerate a living trinity:
life, its daughter,
and the present tense of verbs when used correctly.
ragraph 1, line 6:
I look upon truth:
(ﺔﺘﺴﻟا مTﺎﯾhﻷeا mﺪﯿoﺸuﻧ)th, of a volcano
which neither sand
nor water can fully satiate.
I board the ark with two versions of my land ...
and a tent ...
where I take a nap,
flying in the nebula like a butterfly.
I insist on commas and dots,
for I have no letters other than commas and dots.
Our sky is full of diacritical marks, too.
It’s had no language for a long time.
I don’t forget the qāri’, either, who condenses the texts and al-Mughira’s testimony as in:
I insist that you are a replica of me, and I of you: only separated by our understanding of paradise.
I believe They are greedy for the afterlife,
they make a hell of life.
5. Pdf page 44 5. Pdf page 44
a. Paragraph 1, linea1.:Paragraph 1, line 1:
Dubbed the “poe(دtﻼoﺒﻟfا ﺮtﻋhﺎeﺷ)c,ountry” (دﻼﺒﻟا ﺮﻋﺎﺷ), Sghaier Ouled
Ahmed (1955–2016) celebrated his love of Tunisia throughout
his poetic oeuvre. His work was censored under the regimes of
both Habib Bourgbu.iPbaar(a1g9r5ap6h–119,8li7n)eabn6.:dPZarinageraalp-Ahb1i,dliinneeB6e:n Ali
(1987–2011) and he was banned from media. In 1984, his poem
“Song of the Six Days” (ﺔﺘﺴﻟا مﺎﯾﻷا ﺪﯿﺸﻧ), in which he chronicles
(ﺔﺘﺴﻟا مﺎﯾﻷا ﺪﯿﺸﻧ),
the violent events of the Bread Uprising, was censored and the
poet was incarcerated. His poetry became available after the
2011 revolution and he emerged as the most prominent poet of
dissent. He bestowed upon himself the title of the “poetic leader
of the Revolution” and pursued his poetic activism against all
types of regimentation and control. He was a vehement
opponent of religious fundamentalism and launched a fierce attack
on religious strictures and all the custodians of Islam.
“Standing” (1989) and “The Ninth Floor Again: The
Military Hospital” (2015) appeared in his volume of poetry
Muswaddat Watan (Draft of a Homeland, 2015)1, a collection of
poetry that gathers old and new poems. Despite the lapse of
several years, the two poems offer stylistic and thematic
reverberations. Both raise issues of death and religion.
“Standing” offers a significant testimony. His claim in
the first stanza that he has “nothing to say” unfolds in a flow
of words that destabilizes the seeming immobility of his
posture. Standing is an act of resistance as he witnesses and reports
the maladies of his country. While the first stanza describes his
loneliness in carrying the responsibility of testimony, the last
one presents death as the ultimate destiny of his poetry. Death
as related to his poetic production is a compulsive image in
Ouled Ahmed’s early work. Because of censorship, his poetry
was doomed to die as soon as it was produced.
“The Ninth Floor Again: The Military Hospital” was
written a few months before he passed away. Death is interpolated
in this poem in a different way: it is more a celebration than a
1 Muswaddat Watan. Tunis: Al-dar al-Arabiyyah Lilkitab, 2015 (“Maqam
alWuquf” [Standing], pp. 255–59; “Al-Tabiq al-tasi’ Mujaddadan” [The Ninth
Floor Again], pp. 305–07).
mourning of his poetry. His relentless critique of the abuse of
religion by those who appointed themselves “the ministers of
God” brought upon him the wrath of religious zealots and he
was pronounced an infidel. Even though expressing a sarcastic
attitude towards fanatics, the end of the poem expresses Ouled
Ahmed’s belief that fundamentalism is not inherent to
religion, but rather to specific factions.
A seeming simplicity defines Ouled Ahmed’s poetry. The
fluidity of his language and especially his rhyming lines are quite
difficult to render in translation. In “The Ninth Floor Again,” I
managed to create a rhyme scheme only in the first two stanzas.
This musicality is essential in recreating the celebratory
atmosphere of the whole poem, which is remarkable given that it was
written on the poet’s deathbed.
What makes the two poems challenging in terms of
translation is the density of cultural and historical allusions. In
“The Ninth Floor Again,” for instance, the poet inserts towards
the end of the poem “al-Mughira” without the least
explanation, which obfuscates the meaning of the whole stanza. That
is why I added the word “testimony” based on my knowledge of
al-Mughira’s story. In fact, the poet refers to Walid Ben
al-Mughira, renowned for his strong command of the Arabic language
and his stubborn refusal to convert to Islam. Upon hearing the
Koran recited by the Prophet, al-Mughira was impressed by its
eloquence and the beauty of its economic style, which Ouled
Ahmed exemplifies in his quo6t.ePodf fthpeaogpee4n5ing words of surat
Baqara: the three letters AlifT, oLwaamrd, Mthiemb.oIttuosmedoffotrheeig3nizpaatiroangraph:
as a strategy of translation both at the beginning and the end of
this stanza. I kept the word qqāārrii (Quran reciter, نآﺮﻘﻟا ئرﺎﻗ), for
the palimpsestic nature of translation is sometimes challenged
by some words that resist erasure.
Unless the reader is well versed in Islamic culture,
several religious references and7.aPlldufsipoangsea4r6e lost in translation.
“Standing” offers pertinent examples of Ouled Ahmed’s subtle
a. Line 2:
critique, often verging on irony, of religious dogmatism. His
lines “If our master wills/I shall take it off the way I do with
my shoes” refers to the practice of taking o(fفf ﻮsﻗhﻮoﻟاeمsﺎﻘﻣb)e,fore
entering a mosque. Religious zealots, however, seem to take off
their “heads” as well. In other words, they obliterate all critical
thinking. The poet’s subtle irony and deliberate obfuscation of
b. Middle of first paragraph:
f al 2017 39
(ةﺪﯿﻘﻌﻟا رﺎﺨﻓ ﻦﻣ ﺔﺳﺎط ﻲﻓ ﺐﻠﺤﺗ).
7. Pdf page 46
a. Line 2 : mean7i . nPgdafrepamgaen4if6est at the threshold of his text: the title . The worda. Line 2 :
mosque. I finally opted to translate the title into “standing” because this word encapsulates the meaning of upright position as well as high status. In the same poemb,.sMtaindzdale7 opfrefisresnt tpsaarapgarratpichu:larly challenging venturﻲeﻓ . ﺐThﻠﺤeﺗ).
(ةﺪﯿﻘﻌﻟا رﺎﺨﻓ ﻦﻣ ﺔﺳﺎط original line at the end of the stanza is “tuhlabu fi taasatin min fakhar al- › aqidah” (ةﺪﯿﻘﻌﻟا رﺎﺨﻓ ﻦﻣ ﺔﺳﺎط ﻲﻓ ﺐﻠﺤﺗ) . The originality of this line resides in the poet's idiomatic use of the word fakhar (clay), reminisc8e.nPtdhfepreagoef 6th7e Tunisian idiom fakhar bikri (ancient clay), whiPchoemmeatintsles:omething solid. A literal translation (“a bopwalgme6a7de oIunt Joefrtuhsealcelmay of faith”) would be rather
8. Pdf meaningless. My use of “a tough clay bowl of faith” describes