Jan 112011
 

I met Tim Kercher during the Vermont College of Fine Arts residency in Slovenia in 2008. You can see my photos from that trip here. He was living in Tbilisi, Georgia, at the time (now he and his wife and their brand new twin girls live in Kyiv in Ukraine) and that got me interested  in talking to him because I had spent time in Tbilisi in the late 1980s when I toured the old Soviet Union at the invitation of the Soviet Writers Union. Tbilisi was an amazing place–intricate frame buildings, statues of Lermontov, fiery aging writers, all of whom claimed to have been put up against a wall a nearly shot by the Russians, vineyards, immense hospitality, gracious toasts–and my interpreter, Inge Paliani, took me to see Stalin’s mother’s grave. Inge subsequently translated two of my stories and published them for me in a Georgian magazine. So it gives me intense pleasure to finally return the favour and publish a Georgian writer in translation in Numéro Cinq. For a little background see “Conformism and Resistance: The Birth of Modern Georgian Literature,” included here starting on page 7. Georgian is a language spoken by about 4 million people, but these people are proud of their literary heritage. Even Stalin was a poet. They even have their own national epic, The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.

Timothy Kercher is a graduate of VCFA. He now, as I said, makes his home in Kyiv, after spending the previous four years in Georgia,  where he was editing and translating an anthology of contemporary Georgian poetry. Originally from Colorado, he teaches high school English and is working in his fifth country overseas—Mongolia, Mexico, and Bosnia being the others. His manuscript Nobody’s Odyssey was recently selected as a finalist for the John Ciardi Prize for Poetry. His poems and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of literary publications, including Atlanta Review, The Dirty Goat, Poetry International Journal, The Evansville Review, upstreet, Guernica, The Minnesota Review and others.

Ani Kopaliani holds a MA in the theory of translation. She is working towards a PhD in the same subject at Tbilisi State University. She was named Best Young Georgian Translator in 2005 and again in 2010. She has published a translation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women, and is currently translating William Faulkner’s Flags in the Dust into Georgian.

Besik Kharanauli‘s The Lame Doll, which was published in Georgia (USSR at the time) in 1971. It was groundbreaking–the first poem to employ free verse (and to have an average  “everyman” as persona) in Georgian.  It influenced the entire generation of Georgian poets. This is his first complete work translated into English. The Georgian government just nominated Besik for the Nobel Prize, although there’s little chance he’ll win it–this being his only work published in English (a novel of his was recently translated into French and won some awards—my next project is to translate this novel into English). The complete translation of The Lame Doll is going to be published in Turkey by a Georgian press sometime next year.  —Timothy Kercher

 

From THE LAME DOLL

by Besik Kharanauli

translated by Timothy Kercher and Ani Kopaliani


IV.

It’s morning. March. February.

Rush hour. Drizzle. Noise.

The kind of weather
where everything you see
or think is stitched with vanity.

It’s neither suburb
nor center, but a midday sun.
If a man isn’t a worker
in a district like this,
he’s a state servant.

An office sign
like a black cloud
hides the sky
and the days go on
bluelessly, tediously.

A tram with a small bell on its neck speeds away.

At the bus stop, a mother and daughter,
both beautiful,
young,
both women,
a doe and heifer
clinging to each other
like two leaves in the wind:
There’s not been even a single nice day
since March began.”
Their mutual attraction is mysterious,
the way they lean into each other
as if they want to remember,
can never forget,
that once
they were one body.
Two does, freezing.
Their frozen knees shaking,
they are chilled like a cliff in water,
chilled like a waterwheel
placed in a creek.
Who will lead them to my pond,
who, who will do this—
so that I can look out and see them
in front of the fence with their heads bowed.
I’ll go out, run out,
tear down the fence stakes,
and over the only one
I’ll leave standing
they will step graciously,
they will take care of everything,
they will immediately warm
my front yard.
The stones covering the buried
will tremble
as if those who can no longer move are moving.
I don’t want to be Georgian again in the next world,
but would like to be a child of a large nation,
to make known with one word
who I am.
Mon Dieu”—how many times have these words
been pronounced, Lord,
how many lies, how many truths,
how many unrealized dreams!

Mon Dieu!”
They have not pulled them out
like a clump or ball of dough,
but have ripped them apart,
hoisted them in the air
to get them dry,
to clean off the slime
and then— TSKAP!
Fried them on the sizzling pan
and then shut their eyes
to forget where they left them—
to not burn their conscience
when passing that place,
to not allow it to appear in their memories
like a needle appears in the hole of a button.
They threw them out and ran away,
hid themselves immediately.
For then the voice splashing the water,
or the voice hitting the asphalt
couldn’t look into their windows
like ivy, soft combs
of ivy.
And at exactly the most inconvenient moment…
In short, these words must be avoided,
this, the wrong time to remember!
Sadly! They have to be safe about it,
have to be assured.
They, themselves, ask for mercy from a beggar
standing right outside the door.

Raised up”?… “Risen up”?…
Do these words beat him down
when he has already overcome so many obstacles?!

Turn your head not because you’re in love,
not because your heart is broken
toward nature, toward people,

if you sing,
it’s better to sing about yourself
and be sure, self-love
is a holy thing,
when you’re alone,
when you’re down in the dumps,
when no one visits.
When you see yourself
either on a mountain or in a valley,
maybe going over a ridge,
maybe standing undressed by a river,
when, as a show for others,
and to cheat yourself,
you give a name to these aimless
and phony wanderings
that have no definition in all of nature
and is the reason that someone from a distance yells:
You, you wind fucker!”
when it’s all that you can do:
to give life to a field
and get married this way,
and make friends
with the rabbit
you’re calling to in vain, in vain…
If you sing,
better sing about yourself
and be sure, self-love
is a holy thing.
When in this city,
a city of millions,
you walk with your ear to the ground, fruitless—
nobody calls you from a single window,
nobody looks over you from a single balcony
like a cuckoo from a clock:
nobody spreads his arms mid-street
after seeing you,
as if you haven’t lived here for long,
an immensely long time,
but you were a peasant
who came down here to shop—

then your heart will be filled
with self compassion,
and if you sing,
sing about yourself as before
and be sure,
self-love
is a holy thing.

My funny hat
is hung in the hallway
and will even hang for three centuries
if they let it,
and as for me I’m getting wet here.
You live crookedly, do thing backwards,
wearing that hat
only when the weather is warm.”
If this street tram would go on endlessly
would it still have passengers?
If it wouldn’t hurry,
if it wouldn’t stop,
but move on and on endlessly,
the passengers drying their feet under the seats.

—Translated by Timothy Kercher & Ani Kopaliani

See other Tim Kercher translations in Guernica.

——————————

ხეიბარითოჯინა

IV

დილაა. მარტი. თებერვალი.
პიკისსაათი. ჟინჟღლი. ხმაური.

ასეთამინდში
ყველაფერს, რასაცდაინახავ,

ანგაიფიქრებ, ამაოებაზედაკერია.

ესქალაქგარეთიარგახლავთ,
არცცენტრია _ შუაგულიმზე,
ესისეთირაიონია,

სადაცკაცი,თუმუშაარაა,

მოსამსახურეა.

აბრადაწესებულების,

როგორცშავიღრუბელი,

ეფარებაცას
დადღეებიმიდიან

ულაჟვარდოდ, მოწყენით.

ყელეჟვნიანიტრამვაიგარბის.

გაჩერებასთანდედა-შვილი,
ორივლამაზი,

ახალგაზრდა,
ორივქალი,

ფურ-დეკეული;
ერთმანეთსეკვრიან,
როგორცორიფოთოლიქარში.
რაცესმარტიდაიწყო,

არგამოსულაერთიკარგიდღე”.
გამოუცნობიაამათილტოლვა,
ერთმანეთშირომმიიწევენ,
თითქოსუნდათგაიხსენონ,
თითქოსვერადავერდაუვიწყნიათ,
რომოდესღაც

ერთსხეულიყვნენ.
ორიფურისიცივეში
ცივ-ცივმუხლებსუხათქუნებენ.
ასევესცივათტინებსწყალში,
ასესცივათწისქვილისბოძებს,

ფშანშიჩასობილთ.
ვინშეუძღვებაამათჩემსბაკში,
v
ინ, ვინიქმსამას
რომგამოვხედოდადავინახო
ხარიხებისწინთავდახრილები.
გავალ, გავიქცევი,

ხარიხებსგადმოვყრი,
ერთზე, რომელსაციქვედავტოვებ,
ფეხებსლამაზადგადმოიტანენ,
ყველაფერსმიხედავენ,

უმალგაათბობენ
ჩემისახლისწინაეზოს.
ჩემისახლისქვებს

შეაჟრჟოლებს,
როგორცმიწაშიგადაჩვეულებს.
საიქიოშიაღარმინდამექართველობა,
რომელიმედიდიერისშვილიმსურსვიყო,
რომერთისიტყვითგავაგებინოყველას

ვინცავარ.
“Mon Dieu” _ რამდენჯერწარმოთქმულა

ესსიტყვა, ღმერთო,
რამდენიტყუილი, რამდენიმართალი,
რამდენიაუხდენელიოცნება!

“Mon Dieu”!
არაროგორცმასა,როგორცგუნდა,
ისეკიარამოუღიათ,
ორითითითამოძიძგნეს,
ცოტა ხანს ჰაერზე გააჩერეს,

გააშრეს,

ლოპი მოაცილეს

დამერე _ წკაპ!
ცხელტაფაზეცხვი!..
დაშემდეგთვალებდახუჭულებმა,
რომარდამახსოვრებოდათ, თურაადგილას _
დაიქგავლისას

სინდისიარდაწვოდათმერე,
და, როგორცნემსისაღილეში,
მოგონებებშიიმგვარადარამოსჩენოდათ, _
მოისროლესდაგაეცალნენ,

უცებგაშორდნენ,
რომშემდეგწყალშიტყაპანისხმამ

ანასფალტზედანარცხებისხმამ

სუროსავით, სუროსფოთლის

ნაზიბიბილოსავით

არშეიხედოსმათფანჯარაში.
სწორედისეთდროს

მოკლედ,უდროოდროს

არგაახსენდეთ!
_ აი, ამაშიუნდაიყვნენდაჯერებულნი,

დაზღვეულები.
თვითონითხოვენშეწყალებას
კარზემომდგარიმათხოვრისაგან!

აღზრდა”?..აღიზარდა”?..
ახლადაეცაესსიტყვათავზე,
როცაუკვეფონსგასულია?!

იმიტომკიარა, რომშეყვარებულიხარ,
იმიტომ, რომგულიგაგიტყდა,
შემოაბრუნებუნებისკენ, ხaლxისკენპირი!

თუიმღერებ, ისევშენსთავზეიმღერე,
დაგწამდეს, წმინდაარის

თავისთავისსიყვარული,
როცაშენმარტოხარ,

როცაშენცოდოხარ,
როცაარავინარმოდის.
როცაშენსთავსხედავ

ხანმთაში,ხანბარში,
ხანქედზეგადამავალს,

ხანმდინარესთანგახდილს,
როცასხვებისდასანახადაც

დათავისმოსატყუებლადაც
სახელსარქმევამუმიზნო

დატყუილხეტიალს,
რომელსაცბუნებაშიარაფერიჰქვია,
დაამიტომვიღაცშორიდანგეძახის:

ქარისმპეპლავოო!”..
როცაისღადაგრჩენია,

სულიჩაუდგამინდორს
დაასეთნაირადშეირთოცოლი,
ხოლომეგობრადკი

ისკურდღელიიყოლიო,
რომელსაცამაოდ, ამაოდეძახი…
თუიმღერებ, ისევშენსთავზეიმღერე
დაგწამდეს, წმინდაარის

თავისთავისსიყვარული.

როცაამქალაქში,

ამმილიონიანქალაქში
ტყუილადდადიხარსმენადაცქვეტილი,
არავინგეძახისარცერთიფანჯრიდან,
არავინგადმოდგებაარცერთიავინიდან
საათისგუგულივით:
არავინგაშლისხელებსშუაქუჩაში

შენსდანახვაზე,
თითქოსშენაქდიდხანს,

დიდხანსკიარგეცხოვროს,
არამედსაყიდლებზეჩამოსულიგლეხიიყო, _
მაშინსიბრალულით

აგევსება შენდამი გული
და, თუიმღერებ,

ისევშენსთავზეიმღერე
დაგწამდეს,

წმინდაარისთავისთავისსიყვარული.

ჩემისასაცილოქუდი

დერეფანშიჰკიდია.
სამისაუკუნეცეკიდება,

რომდააცადონ,
მეკიაქვსველდები.
უვარგისიხარ,უვარგისი,

უკუღმართიხარ,
როცათბილა, მაშინგახურავს!”
ესტრამვაირომსულმიდიოდეს,

ეყოლებოდამუშტრებინეტავ?
არცაჩქარობდეს, არცჩერდებოდეს,
სულმიდიოდესდამიდიოდეს,
მგზავრიკისკამქვეშიშრობდესფეხებს.

  7 Responses to “From THE LAME DOLL: Poem — Besik Kharanauli, Translated from Georgian by Timothy Kercher and Ani Kopaliani”

  1. Really a beautiful, painful, poem. The line, “I don’t want to be a Georgian again in the next world” says so much. Thanks for sharing.

    • Yes, Rich—that is the most painful line—as if his cultural identity and country is claustrophobic, limiting. But this poet finds boundlessness in his writing; as the piece progresses, it embodies vastness. I’m reminded of Nazim Hikmet writing from a prison cell—but here, nationality is the captor, although just like Hikmet, poetry allows Kharanauli to exist, beyond any confine, in the infinite realm of poetic consciousness.

  2. I think this poet is, before anything, a poet. The translation is lovely, so delicate and sacrificing as little as possible. I am wondering how “bluelessly” came to be, how that is said in Georgian. And the distinction between “Raised up” and “Risen up”? is also intriguing. I can imagine the difference in another language. I also “love clinging to each other
    like two leaves in the wind” and the last line “passengers drying their feet under the seats.” Beautiful poem and wonderful translation.

  3. This translation moves the reader through the narrator’s interior beautifully: “The stones covering the buried/ will tremble/ as if those who can no longer move are moving” strikes me as one of those quiet but momentous turning points. Thanks for sharing the translation with Numéro Cinq, Tim. Reading this poem was a perfect addition to my morning and I’m certain its language will haunt me throughout the day.

  4. [...] partner, Nene Giorgadze. Of Tim’s many translation projects (see another Kercher translation here on NC), I am particularly drawn to Sarishvili’s poems as her work creates a meticulously urgent [...]

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