Franz Kafka

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Cigola la carrucola del pozzo," by Eugenio Montale, an English version, "The well's pulley creaks," translated by LiteraryJoint

Eugenio Montale, 12 October 1896 – 12 September 1981, recipient of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Literature.

The well's pulley creaks
the water rises to the light and merges with it.
Trembles a memory in the brimming pail,
in the pure circle an image smiles.
I draw a face to evanescent lips, 
the past deforms itself, it grows old,
belongs to someone else...
Ah, how it already screeches
the wheel, it returns you to the gloomy bottom,
vision, a distance divides us.

From "Ossi di seppia" (Cuttlefish Bones), 1925
Translation in English by LiteraryJoint, Copyright © LiteraryJoint by Alessandro Baruffi  
Original text, in Italian:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"It can't be summer", by Emily Dickinson

 The only authenticated portrait of Emily Dickinson, 1846/1847, Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College.

Often a central theme in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, nature, and particularly the turning of seasons, is yet again conjured up before our eyes, in this brief poem casting a magic spell that catches the reader slightly off guard. Falls, shrouded in a shawl that is made of one of the precious stones in the foundation of the heavenly Jerusalem, is the unnamed protagonist, along with all the autumnal colors of New England.
    Yet, just as to any elderly person, that time of the year brings back reminiscences of past, long gone seasons; and memories play tricks, don't they? Where are we really? With the receding, lost past let go of, and so the future, as it dwindles, what is really left? Possibly, a timeless experience of transcendence, that carries us beyond the known pastures and the boundaries of a lifetime.  
It can't be summer,  that got through;
It 's early yet for spring;         
There's that long town of white to cross
Before the blackbirds sing.

It can't be dying,  it's too rouge, 
The dead shall go in white.
So sunset shuts my question down
With clasps of chrysolite.
By Emily Dickinson,(1896) The Poems of Emily Dickinson: Series Two 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Dubliners, by James Joyce - A thought on sins, and reparation

An illustrated edition of Dubliners

"Dublin is such a small city: everyone knows every one else's business" James Joyce depicts scenes of pre-WWI social life, the choking atmospheres of a narrow-minded catholic society, where form and sternly instilled rules regulate all human interactions, a subtle question inexorably must pop to the modern, savvy reader's mind. Isn't today's western society, incomparably more phoney, notwithstanding the glorious [?] abatement of all social, religious and sexual taboos?
As noted in the "Boarding house" short tale: thus, at confession, the priest would then magnify the sin, and the sinner "was almost thankful at being afforded a loophole of reparation..."

What reparation is it possible nowadays, as our glamorous free world knows no longer sin or shame, but magnifies the sinner itself instead?

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Nikolai Gogol's Dead Souls: the Russian Troika. Dead Souls (Мёртвые души), Full Text in English. Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol (Никола́й Васи́льевич Го́голь)

Presented below is the famous passage from 'Dead Souls' (Мёртвые души) (full translation in English, in the excellent translation by D. J. Hogarth), whereby the Ukrainian-born Russian writer Nikolai Gogol compares Russia to a magical, omniscient troika, in one of the most well known piece of narration of Russian literature of all times.

Dead Souls (Мёртвые души), by Nikolaj Vasil'evič Gogol',  First Original Edition, 1842

For what Russian does not love to drive fast? Which of us does not at times yearn to give his horses their head, and to let them go, and to cry, "To the devil with the world!"? At such moments a great force seems to uplift one as on wings; and one flies, and everything else flies, but contrariwise—both the verst stones, and traders riding on the shafts of their wagons, and the forest with dark lines of spruce and fir amid which may be heard the axe of the woodcutter and the croaking of the raven. Yes, out of a dim, remote distance the road comes towards one, and while nothing save the sky and the light clouds through which the moon is cleaving her way seem halted, the brief glimpses wherein one can discern nothing clearly have in them a pervading touch of mystery. Ah, troika, troika, swift as a bird, who was it first invented you? Only among a hardy race of folk can you have come to birth—only in a land which, though poor and rough, lies spread over half the world, and spans versts the counting whereof would leave one with aching eyes. Nor are you a modishly-fashioned vehicle of the road—a thing of clamps and iron. Rather, you are a vehicle but shapen and fitted with the axe or chisel of some handy peasant of Yaroslav. Nor are you driven by a coachman clothed in German livery, but by a man bearded and mittened. See him as he mounts, and flourishes his whip, and breaks into a long-drawn song! Away like the wind go the horses, and the wheels, with their spokes, become transparent circles, and the road seems to quiver beneath them, and a pedestrian, with a cry of astonishment, halts to watch the vehicle as it flies, flies, flies on its way until it becomes lost on the ultimate horizon—a speck amid a cloud of dust!
And you, Russia of mine—are not you also speeding like a troika which nought can overtake? Is not the road smoking beneath your wheels, and the bridges thundering as you cross them, and everything being left in the rear, and the spectators, struck with the portent, halting to wonder whether you be not a thunderbolt launched from heaven? What does that awe-inspiring progress of yours foretell? What is the unknown force which lies within your mysterious steeds? Surely the winds themselves must abide in their manes, and every vein in their bodies be an ear stretched to catch the celestial message which bids them, with iron-girded breasts, and hooves which barely touch the earth as they gallop, fly forward on a mission of God? Whither, then, are you speeding, O Russia of mine? Whither? Answer me! But no answer comes—only the weird sound of your collar-bells. Rent into a thousand shreds, the air roars past you, for you are overtaking the whole world, and shall one day force all nations, all empires to stand aside, to give you way!