Franz Kafka

Sunday, December 27, 2015

"Liguria" by Vincenzo Cardarelli; "Liguria," by Vincenzo Cardarelli, English version, translated by LiteraryJoint

Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries, June 1888, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.     Fischerboote am Strand_von Saintes-Maries .           



Liguria is a graceful land.
The burning rock, the polished clay
quicken with the wine leaves in the sun.
The olive tree is a giant. At springtime
everywhere the ephemeral mimosa appears.
Shadow and sun perform in succession
along those deep valleys
which hide from the sea,
along the paved roads
that climb up, through fields of roses
wells and parceled lands,
skirting farms and walled vineyards. 
In that arid land the sun crawls
upon the stones like a serpent.
There are days when the sea
is a garden in full bloom.
Messages are borne in the wind.
Venus is once again born
by the gusts of the mistral.
Oh churches of Liguria, like ships
about to be launched!
Open to the winds and waves
Ligurian graveyards!
A red sadness colors you 
when in the evening, similar to a flower
that is wilting, the great light
fades away and dies.

From the collection "Opere Complete" 1962, from "Vincenzo Cardarelli: The Forgotten amongst the Great. A Collection of the Best Poems by Vincenzo Cardarelli, Translated in English," available as e-book on Amazon Kindle, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touchon NOOK Bookon Koboand as printed, traditional edition through Lulu.


E' la Liguria una terra leggiadra.
Il sasso ardente, l'argilla pulita
s'avviano di pampini al sole.
E' gigante l'ulivo. A primavera
appar dovunque la mimosa effimera.
Ombra e sole s'alternano
per quelle fonde valli
che si celano al mare,
per le vie lastricate
che vanno in su, fra campi di rose,
pozzi e terre spaccate,
costeggiando poderi e vigne chiuse.
In quell'arida terra il sole striscia
sulle pietre come un serpe.
Il mare in certi giorni
è un giardino fiorito.
Reca messaggi il vento.
Venere torna a nascere
ai soffi  del maestrale
O chiese di Liguria, come navi
disposte ad essere varate!
O aperti ai venti e all'onde
liguri cimiteri!
Una rossa tristezza vi colora
quando di sera, simile a un fiore
che marcisce, la grande luce
si va sfacendo e muore.

Monday, December 21, 2015

"Der Kübelreiter", by Franz Kafka: "The Bucket Rider" an English version. "Der Kübelreiter", by Franz Kafka, with Original Text in German, "The Bucket Rider" translated in English by LiteraryJoint

"The Bucket Rider" ("Der Kübelreiter") is a short story by Franz Kafka, written in 1917. It first appeared in the Prager Presse in 1921 and was published posthumously in Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer  in 1931. Presented below is a version in English, with Original Text in German below the English translation.

Franz Kafka in 1917

From "The Tales of Franz Kafka: English Translation With Original Text In German," available as e-book on Amazon KindleiPhone, iPad, or iPod touchon NOOK Bookon Kobo, and as printed, traditional edition through  Amazon and Lulu.


 The Bucket Rider

The coal all consumed; the bucket empty; the shovel useless; the stove breathing out cold air; the room freezing; outside the window, the trees are rigid, covered with rime; the sky is a silver shield against anyone seeking some help from it. I must get some coal; I cannot freeze to death; behind me is the pitiless stove, before me the pitiless sky, so I must ride out between them, and on my journey seek some aid from the coal-dealer. But he has already grown deaf to ordinary appeals; I must irrefutably prove to him that I have not a single grain of coal left, and that he means to me the very sun in the firmament. I must go to him like a beggar that, already with the death rattle in his throat, insists on dying on the doorsteps, and to whom the cook maid decides to give the dregs of the coffeepot; similarly must the coal-dealer, although filled with rage, under the beam of the commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” fling a shovelful of coal into my bucket.
Already, my take off itself must decide the matter; so I ride off on the bucket. As bucket rider, seated on the bucket, my hands on the handle, the simplest kind of bridle, I propel myself with difficulty down the stairs; but once downstairs my bucket ascends, splendid, splendid; camels humbly squatting on the ground do not rise with more dignity, as they quiver under the sticks of their riders. Through the hard-frozen streets we go at a regular canter; often I rise as high as the upper floor of a house; never do I sink as low as the house doors. And at last I float at an extraordinary height above the vaulted cellar of the dealer, whom I see far below, crouched over his table, where he is writing; he has opened the door to let out the excessive heat.
“Coal-dealer!” I cry in a voice burnt and hollowed by the frost and muffled in the cloud made by my breath, “please, coal-dealer, give me a little coal. My bucket is so light that I can ride on it. Be kind. As soon as I can, I'll pay you.”
 The dealer puts his hand to his ear. “Do I hear right?” he asks the question from over his shoulder to his wife, who is knitting by the stove. “Do I hear right? A customer.”
 “I hear nothing at all,” says his wife, breathing in and out peacefully, as she knits on, her back pleasantly warmed by the heat.
 “Oh yes, you must hear,” I cry. “It's me; an old customer; a loyal one; only without means at this moment.”
 “Wife,” says the dealer, “it's someone, it must be; my ears can't have deceived me so much as that; it must be an old, a very old customer, who knows how to talk to my heart.”
 “What's with you, man?” says the wife, pausing her work for a moment and pressing her knitting to her bosom. “There's nobody, the street is empty, all our customers have been supplied; we could even close down the shop for several days and take a rest.”
 “But I am sitting up here on the bucket,” I cry, and numb, frozen tears dim my eyes, “please look up here, just once; you'll see me right away; I beg you, just a shovelful; and if you give me two you will make me happy beyond anything.” Indeed, all the other customers have been supplied. Oh, I already hear the bucket rattling!
 “I'm coming,” says the coal-dealer, and on his short legs he is about to climb the steps of the cellar, but his wife is already beside him, holds him back by the arm and says: “You stay here; don't be stubborn. I'll go myself. Think of the bad fit of coughing you had last night. But for some business, and one that is only a fantasy, you're prepared to forget your wife and child and sacrifice your lungs. I'll go.”
 “Then be sure to tell him all the kinds of coal we have in stock! I'll shout out the prices to you.”
 “Right,” says the wife, climbing up to the alley. Naturally, she sees me at once.
“Madame Coal-dealer” I cry, “my humblest greetings; just one shovelful of coal; here, in my bucket; I will carry it home myself. One shovelful, of the worst quality. I will pay you in full for it, of course, but not now, not now.” What a knell-like sound the two words “not now” have, and how they bewilderingly mingle with the evening chimes that descend from the church tower nearby!
 “Well, what does he want?” shouts the dealer. “Nothing,” his wife shouts back, “there's nothing here; I see nothing, I hear nothing; only the six o'clock tolls, and now we close. The cold is monstrous; tomorrow we will likely have much work still.”
 She sees nothing and hears nothing; but all the same she loosens her apron strings and shakes it trying to blow me away. Unfortunately, this succeeds. My bucket has all the advantages of a good steed, but resilience does not have; it is too light; a woman's apron can uplift its legs from the floor.
 “You, mean woman!” I shout back, while she, turning into the shop, half-contemptuous, half-satisfied, strikes the air with her waving hand.  “You, mean woman! A shovelful of the worst coal have I begged, and you have not given it to me.” And with that, I climb up to the lands of the mountains of ice and I lose myself forever, never to be seen again.

Der Kübelreiter

Verbraucht alle Kohle; leer der Kübel; sinnlos die Schaufel; Kälte atmend der Ofen; das Zimmer vollgeblasen von Frost; vor dem Fenster Bäume starr im Reif; der Himmel, ein silberner Schild gegen den, der von ihm Hilfe will. Ich muß Kohle haben; ich darf doch nicht erfrieren; hinter mir der erbarmungslose Ofen, vor mir der Himmel ebenso, infolgedessen muß ich scharf zwischendurch reiten und in der Mitte beim Kohlenhändler Hilfe suchen. Gegen meine gewöhnlichen Bitten aber ist er schon abgestumpft; ich muß ihm ganz genau nachweisen, daß ich kein einziges Kohlenstäubchen mehr habe und daß er daher für mich geradezu die Sonne am Firmament bedeutet. Ich muß kommen wie der Bettler, der röchelnd vor Hunger an der Türschwelle verenden will und dem deshalb die Herrschaftsköchin den Bodensatz des letzten Kaffees einzuflößen sich entscheidet; ebenso muß mir der Händler, wütend, aber unter dem Strahl des Gebotes »Du sollst nicht töten!« eine Schaufel voll in den Kübel schleudern.
Meine Auffahrt schon muß es entscheiden; ich reite deshalb auf dem Kübel hin. Als Kübelreiter, die Hand oben am Griff, dem einfachsten Zaumzeug, drehe ich mich beschwerlich die Treppe hinab; unten aber steigt mein Kübel auf, prächtig, prächtig; Kamele, niedrig am Boden hingelagert, steigen, sich schüttelnd unter dem Stock des Führers, nicht schöner auf. Durch die festgefrorene Gasse geht es in ebenmäßigem Trab; oft werde ich bis zur Höhe der ersten Stockwerke gehoben; niemals sinke ich bis zur Haustüre hinab. Und außergewöhnlich hoch schwebe ich vor dem Kellergewölbe des Händlers, in dem er tief unten an seinem Tischchen kauert und schreibt; um die übergroße Hitze abzulassen, hat er die Tür geöffnet.
»Kohlenhändler!« rufe ich mit vor Kälte hohlgebrannter Stimme, in Rauchwolken des Atems gehüllt, »bitte, Kohlenhändler, gib mir ein wenig Kohle. Mein Kübel ist schon so leer, daß ich auf ihm reiten kann. Sei so gut. Sobald ich kann, bezahle ich's.«
Der Händler legt die Hand ans Ohr. »Hör ich recht?« fragte er über die Schulter weg seine Frau, die auf der Ofenbank strickt, »hör ich recht? Eine Kundschaft.«
»Ich höre gar nichts«, sagt die Frau, ruhig aus - und einatmend über den Stricknadeln, wohlig im Rücken gewärmt.
»O ja«, rufe ich, »ich bin es; eine alte Kundschaft; treu ergeben; nur augenblicklich mittellos.«
»Frau«, sagt der Händler, »es ist, es ist jemand; so sehr kann ich mich doch nicht täuschen; eine alte, eine sehr alte Kundschaft muß es sein, die mir so zum Herzen zu sprechen weiß.«
»Was hast du, Mann?« sagte die Frau und drückt, einen Augenblick ausruhend, die Handarbeit an die Brust, »niemand ist es, die Gasse ist leer, alle unsere Kundschaft ist versorgt; wir können für Tage das Geschäft sperren und ausruhn.«
»Aber ich sitze doch hier auf dem Kübel«, rufe ich und gefühllose Tränen der Kälte verschleiern mir die Augen. »Bitte seht doch herauf; Ihr werdet mich gleich entdecken; um eine Schaufel voll bitte ich; und gebt Ihr zwei, macht Ihr mich überglücklich. Es ist doch schon alle übrige Kundschaft versorgt. Ach, hörte ich es doch schon in dem Kübel klappern!«
»Ich komme«, sagt der Händler und kurzbeinig will er die Kellertreppe emporsteigen, aber die Frau ist schon bei ihm, hält ihn beim Arm fest und sagt: »Du bleibst. Läßt du von deinem Eigensinn nicht ab, so gehe ich hinauf. Erinnere dich an deinen schweren Husten heute nacht. Aber für ein Geschäft und sei es auch nur ein eingebildetes, vergißt du Frau und Kind und opferst deine Lungen. Ich gehe.« »Dann nenn ihm aber alle Sorten, die wir auf Lager haben; die Preise rufe ich dir nach.« »Gut«, sagte die Frau und steigt zur Gasse auf. Natürlich sieht sie mich gleich. »
Frau Kohlenhändlerin«, rufe ich, »ergebenen Gruß; nur eine Schaufel Kohle; gleich hier in den Kübel; ich führe sie selbst nach Hause; eine Schaufel von der schlechtesten. Ich bezahle sie natürlich voll, aber nicht gleich, nicht gleich.« Was für ein Glockenklang sind die zwei Worte ›nicht gleich‹ und wie sinnverwirrend mischen sie sich mit dem Abendläuten, das eben vom nahen Kirchturm zu hören ist!
»Was will er also haben?« ruft der Händler. »Nichts«, ruft die Frau zurück, »es ist ja nichts; ich sehe nichts, ich höre nichts; nur sechs Uhr läutet es und wir schließen. Ungeheuer ist die Kälte; morgen werden wir wahrscheinlich noch viel Arbeit haben.«
Sie sieht nichts und hört nichts; aber dennoch löst sie das Schürzenband und versucht mich mit der Schürze fortzuwehen. Leider gelingt es. Alle Vorzüge eines guten Reittieres hat mein Kübel; Widerstandskraft hat er nicht; zu leicht ist er; eine Frauenschürze jagt ihm die Beine vom Boden.
»Du Böse«, rufe ich noch zurück, während sie, zum Geschäft sich wendend, halb verächtlich, halb befriedigt mit der Hand in die Luft schlägt »du Böse! Um eine Schaufel von der schlechtesten habe ich gebeten und du hast sie mir nicht gegeben.« Und damit steige ich in die Regionen der Eisgebirge und verliere mich auf Nimmerwiedersehen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"Frost," by Anton Chekhov, from the Collection: "The Horse Stealer and Other Stories," by Anton Chekhov (Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов) Translated in English by Constance Garnett. Full text in English

Two Peasant Women Digging in a Snow-Covered Field at Sunset, 1890. Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection, Zurich, CH

Vincent VanGogh, Zwei grabende Bäuerinnen auf schneebedecktem Feld


A "popular" fête with a philanthropic object had been arranged on the Feast of Epiphany in the provincial town of N——. They had selected a broad part of the river between the market and the bishop's palace, fenced it round with a rope, with fir-trees and with flags, and provided everything necessary for skating, sledging, and tobogganing. The festivity was organized on the grandest scale possible. The notices that were distributed were of huge size and promised a number of delights: skating, a military band, a lottery with no blank tickets, an electric sun, and so on. But the whole scheme almost came to nothing owing to the hard frost. From the eve of Epiphany there were twenty-eight degrees of frost with a strong wind; it was proposed to put off the fête, and this was not done only because the public, which for a long while had been looking forward to the fête impatiently, would not consent to any postponement.
"Only think, what do you expect in winter but a frost!" said the ladies persuading the governor, who tried to insist that the fête should be postponed. "If anyone is cold he can go and warm himself."
The trees, the horses, the men's beards were white with frost; it even seemed that the air itself crackled, as though unable to endure the cold; but in spite of that the frozen public were skating. Immediately after the blessing of the waters and precisely at one o'clock the military band began playing.
Between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, when the festivity was at its height, the select society of the place gathered together to warm themselves in the governor's pavilion, which had been put up on the river-bank. The old governor and his wife, the bishop, the president of the local court, the head master of the high school, and many others, were there. The ladies were sitting in armchairs, while the men crowded round the wide glass door, looking at the skating.
"Holy Saints!" said the bishop in surprise; "what flourishes they execute with their legs! Upon my soul, many a singer couldn't do a twirl with his voice as those cut-throats do with their legs. Aie! he'll kill himself!"
"That's Smirnov. . . . That's Gruzdev . . ." said the head master, mentioning the names of the schoolboys who flew by the pavilion.
"Bah! he's all alive-oh!" laughed the governor. "Look, gentlemen, our mayor is coming. . . . He is coming this way. . . . That's a nuisance, he will talk our heads off now."
A little thin old man, wearing a big cap and a fur-lined coat hanging open, came from the opposite bank towards the pavilion, avoiding the skaters. This was the mayor of the town, a merchant, Eremeyev by name, a millionaire and an old inhabitant of N——. Flinging wide his arms and shrugging at the cold, he skipped along, knocking one golosh against the other, evidently in haste to get out of the wind. Half-way he suddenly bent down, stole up to some lady, and plucked at her sleeve from behind. When she looked round he skipped away, and probably delighted at having succeeded in frightening her, went off into a loud, aged laugh.
"Lively old fellow," said the governor. "It's a wonder he's not skating."
As he got near the pavilion the mayor fell into a little tripping trot, waved his hands, and, taking a run, slid along the ice in his huge golosh boots up to the very door.
"Yegor Ivanitch, you ought to get yourself some skates!" the governor greeted him.
"That's just what I am thinking," he answered in a squeaky, somewhat nasal tenor, taking off his cap. "I wish you good health, your Excellency! Your Holiness! Long life to all the other gentlemen and ladies! Here's a frost! Yes, it is a frost, bother it! It's deadly!"
Winking with his red, frozen eyes, Yegor Ivanitch stamped on the floor with his golosh boots and swung his arms together like a frozen cabman.
"Such a damnable frost, worse than any dog!" he went on talking, smiling all over his face. "It's a real affliction!"
"It's healthy," said the governor; "frost strengthens a man and makes him vigorous. . . ."
"Though it may be healthy, it would be better without it at all," said the mayor, wiping his wedge-shaped beard with a red handkerchief. "It would be a good riddance! To my thinking, your Excellency, the Lord sends it us as a punishment—the frost, I mean. We sin in the summer and are punished in the winter. . . . Yes!"
Yegor Ivanitch looked round him quickly and flung up his hands.
"Why, where's the needful . . . to warm us up?" he asked, looking in alarm first at the governor and then at the bishop. "Your Excellency! Your Holiness! I'll be bound, the ladies are frozen too! We must have something, this won't do!"
Everyone began gesticulating and declaring that they had not come to the skating to warm themselves, but the mayor, heeding no one, opened the door and beckoned to someone with his crooked finger. A workman and a fireman ran up to him.
"Here, run off to Savatin," he muttered, "and tell him to make haste and send here . . . what do you call it? . . . What's it to be? Tell him to send a dozen glasses . . . a dozen glasses of mulled wine, the very hottest, or punch, perhaps. . . ."
There was laughter in the pavilion.
"A nice thing to treat us to!"
"Never mind, we will drink it," muttered the mayor; "a dozen glasses, then . . . and some Benedictine, perhaps . . . and tell them to warm two bottles of red wine. . . . Oh, and what for the ladies? Well, you tell them to bring cakes, nuts . . . sweets of some sort, perhaps. . . . There, run along, look sharp!"
The mayor was silent for a minute and then began again abusing the frost, banging his arms across his chest and thumping with his golosh boots.
"No, Yegor Ivanitch," said the governor persuasively, "don't be unfair, the Russian frost has its charms. I was reading lately that many of the good qualities of the Russian people are due to the vast expanse of their land and to the climate, the cruel struggle for existence . . . that's perfectly true!"
"It may be true, your Excellency, but it would be better without it. The frost did drive out the French, of course, and one can freeze all sorts of dishes, and the children can go skating— that's all true! For the man who is well fed and well clothed the frost is only a pleasure, but for the working man, the beggar, the pilgrim, the crazy wanderer, it's the greatest evil and misfortune. It's misery, your Holiness! In a frost like this poverty is twice as hard, and the thief is more cunning and evildoers more violent. There's no gainsaying it! I am turned seventy, I've a fur coat now, and at home I have a stove and rums and punches of all sorts. The frost means nothing to me now; I take no notice of it, I don't care to know of it, but how it used to be in old days, Holy Mother! It's dreadful to recall it! My memory is failing me with years and I have forgotten everything; my enemies, and my sins and troubles of all sorts—I forget them all, but the frost—ough! How I remember it! When my mother died I was left a little devil—this high— a homeless orphan . . . no kith nor kin, wretched, ragged, little clothes, hungry, nowhere to sleep—in fact, 'we have here no abiding city, but seek the one to come.' In those days I used to lead an old blind woman about the town for five kopecks a day . . . the frosts were cruel, wicked. One would go out with the old woman and begin suffering torments. My Creator! First of all you would be shivering as in a fever, shrugging and dancing about. Then your ears, your fingers, your feet, would begin aching. They would ache as though someone were squeezing them with pincers. But all that would have been nothing, a trivial matter, of no great consequence. The trouble was when your whole body was chilled. One would walk for three blessed hours in the frost, your Holiness, and lose all human semblance. Your legs are drawn up, there is a weight on your chest, your stomach is pinched; above all, there is a pain in your heart that is worse than anything. Your heart aches beyond all endurance, and there is a wretchedness all over your body as though you were leading Death by the hand instead of an old woman. You are numb all over, turned to stone like a statue; you go on and feel as though it were not you walking, but someone else moving your legs instead of you. When your soul is frozen you don't know what you are doing: you are ready to leave the old woman with no one to guide her, or to pull a hot roll from off a hawker's tray, or to fight with someone. And when you come to your night's lodging into the warmth after the frost, there is not much joy in that either! You lie awake till midnight, crying, and don't know yourself what you are crying for. . . ."
"We must walk about the skating-ground before it gets dark," said the governor's wife, who was bored with listening. "Who's coming with me?"
The governor's wife went out and the whole company trooped out of the pavilion after her. Only the governor, the bishop, and the mayor remained.
"Queen of Heaven! and what I went through when I was a shopboy in a fish-shop!" Yegor Ivanitch went on, flinging up his arms so that his fox-lined coat fell open. "One would go out to the shop almost before it was light . . . by eight o'clock I was completely frozen, my face was blue, my fingers were stiff so that I could not fasten my buttons nor count the money. One would stand in the cold, turn numb, and think, 'Lord, I shall have to stand like this right on till evening!' By dinner-time my stomach was pinched and my heart was aching. . . . Yes! And I was not much better afterwards when I had a shop of my own. The frost was intense and the shop was like a mouse-trap with draughts blowing in all directions; the coat I had on was, pardon me, mangy, as thin as paper, threadbare. . . . One would be chilled through and through, half dazed, and turn as cruel as the frost oneself: I would pull one by the ear so that I nearly pulled the ear off; I would smack another on the back of the head; I'd glare at a customer like a ruffian, a wild beast, and be ready to fleece him; and when I got home in the evening and ought to have gone to bed, I'd be ill-humoured and set upon my family, throwing it in their teeth that they were living upon me; I would make a row and carry on so that half a dozen policemen couldn't have managed me. The frost makes one spiteful and drives one to drink."
Yegor Ivanitch clasped his hands and went on:
"And when we were taking fish to Moscow in the winter, Holy Mother!" And spluttering as he talked, he began describing the horrors he endured with his shopmen when he was taking fish to Moscow. . . .
"Yes," sighed the governor, "it is wonderful what a man can endure! You used to take wagon-loads of fish to Moscow, Yegor Ivanitch, while I in my time was at the war. I remember one extraordinary instance. . . ."
And the governor described how, during the last Russo-Turkish War, one frosty night the division in which he was had stood in the snow without moving for thirteen hours in a piercing wind; from fear of being observed the division did not light a fire, nor make a sound or a movement; they were forbidden to smoke. . . .
Reminiscences followed. The governor and the mayor grew lively and good-humoured, and, interrupting each other, began recalling their experiences. And the bishop told them how, when he was serving in Siberia, he had travelled in a sledge drawn by dogs; how one day, being drowsy, in a time of sharp frost he had fallen out of the sledge and been nearly frozen; when the Tunguses turned back and found him he was barely alive. Then, as by common agreement, the old men suddenly sank into silence, sat side by side, and mused.
"Ech!" whispered the mayor; "you'd think it would be time to forget, but when you look at the water-carriers, at the schoolboys, at the convicts in their wretched gowns, it brings it all back! Why, only take those musicians who are playing now. I'll be bound, there is a pain in their hearts; a pinch at their stomachs, and their trumpets are freezing to their lips. . . . They play and think: 'Holy Mother! we have another three hours to sit here in the cold.'"
The old men sank into thought. They thought of that in man which is higher than good birth, higher than rank and wealth and learning, of that which brings the lowest beggar near to God: of the helplessness of man, of his sufferings and his patience. . . .
Meanwhile the air was turning blue . . . the door opened and two waiters from Savatin's walked in, carrying trays and a big muffled teapot. When the glasses had been filled and there was a strong smell of cinnamon and clove in the air, the door opened again, and there came into the pavilion a beardless young policeman whose nose was crimson, and who was covered all over with frost; he went up to the governor, and, saluting, said: "Her Excellency told me to inform you that she has gone home."
Looking at the way the policeman put his stiff, frozen fingers to his cap, looking at his nose, his lustreless eyes, and his hood covered with white frost near the mouth, they all for some reason felt that this policeman's heart must be aching, that his stomach must feel pinched, and his soul numb. . . .
"I say," said the governor hesitatingly, "have a drink of mulled wine!"
"It's all right . . . it's all right! Drink it up!" the mayor urged him, gesticulating; "don't be shy!"
The policeman took the glass in both hands, moved aside, and, trying to drink without making any sound, began discreetly sipping from the glass. He drank and was overwhelmed with embarrassment while the old men looked at him in silence, and they all fancied that the pain was leaving the young policeman's heart, and that his soul was thawing. The governor heaved a sigh.
"It's time we were at home," he said, getting up. "Good-bye! I say," he added, addressing the policeman, "tell the musicians there to . . . leave off playing, and ask Pavel Semyonovitch from me to see they are given . . . beer or vodka."
The governor and the bishop said good-bye to the mayor and went out of the pavilion.
Yegor Ivanitch attacked the mulled wine, and before the policeman had finished his glass succeeded in telling him a great many interesting things. He could not be silent.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

"The Looking-glass," by Anton Chekhov, from the Collection: "The Horse Stealer and Other Stories," by Anton Chekhov (Анто́н Па́влович Че́хов) Translated in English by Constance Garnett. Full text in English

Portrait of Anton Chekhov, by Osip Braz, 1898


NEW YEAR'S EVE. Nellie, the daughter of a landowner and general, a young and pretty girl, dreaming day and night of being married, was sitting in her room, gazing with exhausted, half-closed eyes into the looking-glass. She was pale, tense, and as motionless as the looking-glass.
The non-existent but apparent vista of a long, narrow corridor with endless rows of candles, the reflection of her face, her hands, of the frame—all this was already clouded in mist and merged into a boundless grey sea. The sea was undulating, gleaming and now and then flaring crimson. . . .
Looking at Nellie's motionless eyes and parted lips, one could hardly say whether she was asleep or awake, but nevertheless she was seeing. At first she saw only the smile and soft, charming expression of someone's eyes, then against the shifting grey background there gradually appeared the outlines of a head, a face, eyebrows, beard. It was he, the destined one, the object of long dreams and hopes. The destined one was for Nellie everything, the significance of life, personal happiness, career, fate. Outside him, as on the grey background of the looking-glass, all was dark, empty, meaningless. And so it was not strange that, seeing before her a handsome, gently smiling face, she was conscious of bliss, of an unutterably sweet dream that could not be expressed in speech or on paper. Then she heard his voice, saw herself living under the same roof with him, her life merged into his. Months and years flew by against the grey background. And Nellie saw her future distinctly in all its details.
Picture followed picture against the grey background. Now Nellie saw herself one winter night knocking at the door of Stepan Lukitch, the district doctor. The old dog hoarsely and lazily barked behind the gate. The doctor's windows were in darkness. All was silence.
"For God's sake, for God's sake!" whispered Nellie.
But at last the garden gate creaked and Nellie saw the doctor's cook.
"Is the doctor at home?"
"His honour's asleep," whispered the cook into her sleeve, as though afraid of waking her master.
"He's only just got home from his fever patients, and gave orders he was not to be waked."
But Nellie scarcely heard the cook. Thrusting her aside, she rushed headlong into the doctor's house. Running through some dark and stuffy rooms, upsetting two or three chairs, she at last reached the doctor's bedroom. Stepan Lukitch was lying on his bed, dressed, but without his coat, and with pouting lips was breathing into his open hand. A little night-light glimmered faintly beside him. Without uttering a word Nellie sat down and began to cry. She wept bitterly, shaking all over.
"My husband is ill!" she sobbed out. Stepan Lukitch was silent. He slowly sat up, propped his head on his hand, and looked at his visitor with fixed, sleepy eyes. "My husband is ill!" Nellie continued, restraining her sobs. "For mercy's sake come quickly. Make haste. . . . Make haste!"
"Eh?" growled the doctor, blowing into his hand.
"Come! Come this very minute! Or . . . it's terrible to think! For mercy's sake!"
And pale, exhausted Nellie, gasping and swallowing her tears, began describing to the doctor her husband's illness, her unutterable terror. Her sufferings would have touched the heart of a stone, but the doctor looked at her, blew into his open hand, and—not a movement.
"I'll come to-morrow!" he muttered.
"That's impossible!" cried Nellie. "I know my husband has typhus!
At once . . . this very minute you are needed!"
"I . . . er . . . have only just come in," muttered the doctor.
"For the last three days I've been away, seeing typhus patients,
and I'm exhausted and ill myself. . . . I simply can't! Absolutely!
I've caught it myself! There!"
And the doctor thrust before her eyes a clinical thermometer.
"My temperature is nearly forty. . . . I absolutely can't. I can scarcely sit up. Excuse me. I'll lie down. . . ."
The doctor lay down.
"But I implore you, doctor," Nellie moaned in despair. "I beseech you! Help me, for mercy's sake! Make a great effort and come! I will repay you, doctor!"
"Oh, dear! . . . Why, I have told you already. Ah!"
Nellie leapt up and walked nervously up and down the bedroom. She longed to explain to the doctor, to bring him to reason. . . . She thought if only he knew how dear her husband was to her and how unhappy she was, he would forget his exhaustion and his illness. But how could she be eloquent enough?
"Go to the Zemstvo doctor," she heard Stepan Lukitch's voice.
"That's impossible! He lives more than twenty miles from here, and time is precious. And the horses can't stand it. It is thirty miles from us to you, and as much from here to the Zemstvo doctor. No, it's impossible! Come along, Stepan Lukitch. I ask of you an heroic deed. Come, perform that heroic deed! Have pity on us!"
"It's beyond everything. . . . I'm in a fever . . . my head's in a whirl . . . and she won't understand! Leave me alone!"
"But you are in duty bound to come! You cannot refuse to come! It's egoism! A man is bound to sacrifice his life for his neighbour, and you . . . you refuse to come! I will summon you before the Court."
Nellie felt that she was uttering a false and undeserved insult, but for her husband's sake she was capable of forgetting logic, tact, sympathy for others. . . . In reply to her threats, the doctor greedily gulped a glass of cold water. Nellie fell to entreating and imploring like the very lowest beggar. . . . At last the doctor gave way. He slowly got up, puffing and panting, looking for his coat.
"Here it is!" cried Nellie, helping him. "Let me put it on to you. Come along! I will repay you. . . . All my life I shall be grateful to you. . . ."
But what agony! After putting on his coat the doctor lay down again. Nellie got him up and dragged him to the hall. Then there was an agonizing to-do over his goloshes, his overcoat. . . . His cap was lost. . . . But at last Nellie was in the carriage with the doctor. Now they had only to drive thirty miles and her husband would have a doctor's help. The earth was wrapped in darkness. One could not see one's hand before one's face. . . . A cold winter wind was blowing. There were frozen lumps under their wheels. The coachman was continually stopping and wondering which road to take.
Nellie and the doctor sat silent all the way. It was fearfully jolting, but they felt neither the cold nor the jolts.
"Get on, get on!" Nellie implored the driver.
At five in the morning the exhausted horses drove into the yard. Nellie saw the familiar gates, the well with the crane, the long row of stables and barns. At last she was at home.
"Wait a moment, I will be back directly," she said to Stepan Lukitch, making him sit down on the sofa in the dining-room. "Sit still and wait a little, and I'll see how he is going on."
On her return from her husband, Nellie found the doctor lying down.
He was lying on the sofa and muttering.
"Doctor, please! . . . doctor!"
"Eh? Ask Domna!" muttered Stepan Lukitch.
"They said at the meeting . . . Vlassov said . . . Who? . . . what?"
And to her horror Nellie saw that the doctor was as delirious as her husband. What was to be done?
"I must go for the Zemstvo doctor," she decided.
Then again there followed darkness, a cutting cold wind, lumps of frozen earth. She was suffering in body and in soul, and delusive nature has no arts, no deceptions to compensate these sufferings. . . .
Then she saw against the grey background how her husband every spring was in straits for money to pay the interest for the mortgage to the bank. He could not sleep, she could not sleep, and both racked their brains till their heads ached, thinking how to avoid being visited by the clerk of the Court.
She saw her children: the everlasting apprehension of colds, scarlet fever, diphtheria, bad marks at school, separation. Out of a brood of five or six one was sure to die.
The grey background was not untouched by death. That might well be. A husband and wife cannot die simultaneously. Whatever happened one must bury the other. And Nellie saw her husband dying. This terrible event presented itself to her in every detail. She saw the coffin, the candles, the deacon, and even the footmarks in the hall made by the undertaker.
"Why is it, what is it for?" she asked, looking blankly at her husband's face.
And all the previous life with her husband seemed to her a stupid prelude to this.
Something fell from Nellie's hand and knocked on the floor. She started, jumped up, and opened her eyes wide. One looking-glass she saw lying at her feet. The other was standing as before on the table.
She looked into the looking-glass and saw a pale, tear-stained face.
There was no grey background now.
"I must have fallen asleep," she thought with a sigh of relief.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

"Novembre" by Vincenzo Cardarelli; "November," by Vincenzo Cardarelli, English version, translated by LiteraryJoint

Les Alyscamps, Falling Autumn Leaves,1888, by Vincent Van Gogh
Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo


There is a day when all the ants exit the wood
to make their bundle for the Winter.
Soon afterwards, come the long autumnal rains,
similar to a great pouring cry, endless.
It is a cry gushing out like rivers, torrents, 
that swells the lake, plows the streets, 
ruins bridges and floods over the fields, obstinately green.
The walls cover themselves with velveteen.
When no one expects it anymore, a chilly sun, 
more precious than old gold, is back every morning, 
to visit the acacia's leafs
which are still dripping on the windowsills,
the dry leaves of the the plane trees
that the wind sweeps along the driveways.

From the collection "Opere Complete" 1962, from "Vincenzo Cardarelli: The Forgotten amongst the Great. A Collection of the Best Poems by Vincenzo Cardarelli, Translated in English," available as e-book on Amazon Kindle, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touchon NOOK Bookon Koboand as printed, traditional edition through Lulu.


C'è un giorno che tutte le formiche escono dal bosco
a fare il fascio per l'invernata. 
Sopraggiungono, di lì a poco, le lunghe piogge autunnali, 
simili a un gran pianto dirotto, interminabile. 
È un pianto che sgorga a fiumi, a torrenti, 
fa crescere il lago, solca le strade, 
rovina i ponti e dilaga per i campi ostinatamente verdi. 
I muri si ricoprono di vellutina. 
Quando più nessuno se l'aspetta, un sole freddoloso,
più prezioso dell'oro vecchio, torna poi, ogni mattina, 
a trovare le foglie gialle d'acacia
che piovono ancora sui davanzali, 
le foglie secche dei platani
che il vento trascina lungo i viali.

From the collection "Opere Complete" 1962, by Vincenzo Cardarelli.