Saturday, December 27, 2008

three percent coincidence

Like I said, only three percent of books published in Britain are translations. What a coincidence, then, to discover that in the United States the figure is, wait for it, three percent. Coincidence or not, three percent is also the title of a very good blog here>> at the University of Rochester, which describes itself like this:

Three Percent launched in the summer of 2007 with the lofty goal of becoming a destination for readers, editors, and translators interested in finding out about modern and contemporary international literature.

The motivating force behind the website is the view that reading literature from other countries is vital to maintaining a vibrant book culture and to increasing the exchange of ideas among cultures. In this age of globalization, one of the best ways to preserve the uniqueness of cultures is through the translation and appreciation of international literary works.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

the host

"Stephenie Meyer (née Morgan, born December 24, 1973) is the American author of the bestselling, young adult Twilight series, which revolves around the relationship between mortal Bella Swan and vampire Edward Cullen. The Twilight books have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, with translations into 37 different languages around the globe. A film adaptation of Twilight was released domestically on November 21, 2008. Meyer is also the author of the adult science-fiction novel, The Host [published 2008]."

Thus Wikipedia. As soon as Christmas present is Christmas past, I'll be getting underway translating The Host into Danish for Lindhardt & Ringhof in Copenhagen. All 619 pages of it. Publication is scheduled for October.

(Interesting fact: Danes may be interested to learn that it won't be called 'Hostet')

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


English novels are read all over the world, but publishers in English-speaking countries tend not to return the favour. Only three per cent of all books published in Britain are translated. As Christopher MacLehose – who for 21 years ran Harvill, Britain's pre-eminent publisher of translated fiction – once pointed out, that figure includes dentistry manuals, of course.

from this short article in The Times online edition yesterday

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Representations of representations. Across languages and across minds.

That's it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

down under again

For the second time, it seems I'll be appearing in the Australian Women's Weekly (actually a monthly, but who's counting). I've translated an interview journalist Tine Bendixen did recently with Denmark's Crown Princess Mary, who as everybody knows hails from Tasmania. The piece will be spread over a few pages, I imagine, with lots of nice photos. Published I think in the January, or perhaps February, edition. Just in case you want to order your copy now.


David Lodge (here>>) has written some very funny books. His three campus novels - Changing Places, Small World and Nice Work - are an incisive take on university manners. His new book, Deaf Sentence, about an emeritus professor declining into deafness and oblivion, came out recently to critical acclaim in the UK. I've translated an extract into Danish, which will be out soon in ForskerForum, the magazine of the Danish university teachers' association. Don't bother looking for it at your local newsstand.

interesting stuff

Talking about David Foster Wallace, there's some interesting stuff here>>

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

a poetic utterance found on the internet

And he was very moved and wanted to translate Raymond Carver into Japanese, and soon he was convinced he wanted to translate everything Raymond Carver ever wrote.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Did I mention that the Canadian journal PRISM International will be publishing my translation of Niels Hav's poem Blindebuk [Blind Man's Bluff]? Well, now they've decided to print two more. Which is all the more pleasing given that the three are thematically related. The titles are Blindeinstituttet [Institute for the Blind] and Om hans blindhed [On his Blindness]. I think they'll be out in the spring.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

a sort of present

I may have mentioned this before. That I'm translating a couple of stories by David Foster Wallace. That they ought to be coming out somewhere. That it's a puzzle he hasn't been rendered in Danish yet, apart from one story in a journal some years back. Anyway, one of the stories I'm translating, one that I've actually finished, as far as I can tell, is called 'Suicide as a Sort of Present', which is a poignant title given that Wallace only recently chose to leave this life and find another. The story is a raw, fleshy slab of psychology. That's how I want to describe it. It starts like this in the English original:

There was once a mother who had a very hard time indeed, emotionally, inside.

You can read the rest in the collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, first published in the USA in 1999.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

have a cigar

Thomas E. Kennedy (here>>) is a busy chap. If he's not lecturing in America, writing novels about his adopted city of Copenhagen, or translating Danish literature, he may well be updating his blog 'A Shout from Copenhagen' for the literary journal Absinthe: New European Writing. Have a look at this piece, for example, a great little story about translating celebrated Copenhagen beatnik Dan Turèll (above).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

welsh for bladder

More: Welshmen pissing themselves here>>.


It's not Welsh's fault (see here>>).

Monday, November 3, 2008

filled newspaper space

Here's a recent piece from The Times. An author slags off translators and then gets slagged back at by respondents in the comments box. I've already forgotten about it.

Friday, October 31, 2008

blind man's bluff

Niels Hav, from Lemvig in northern Jutland, has already established himself overseas as a contemporary Nordic voice with a number of foreign-language publications in e.g. Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Turkish and Dutch. But it is in Canada in particular that he has made his mark outside Denmark. An English collection of his poetry, God’s Blue Morris, translated by Patrick Friesen and P. K. Brask was published by Crane Editions in 1993, with a second collection, entitled We Are Here, put out by Book Thug of Toronto in 2006. My own translation of Hav's poem Blindebuk [Blind Man's Bluff] will be appearing in the Vancouver-based journal PRISM International in the spring. In the meantime, here's the original.


De gav ham et tørklæde for øjnene
og snurrede ham rundt, den leg elskede han.
Svimmel af mørke tumlede han henrykt omkring
mellem sine kusiner, tre gratier
hvinende af latter. De lo ad ham, hans eufori,
som også var deres. Han fangede dem én for én,
men gættede systematisk forkert, og festen fortsatte
hele eftermiddagen. Han var lykkelig i sit mørke,
utrættelig og dristig, en grænse var passeret,
han rørte ved deres blussende ansigter;
hans hænder var lykkelige. Og han ønskede bare
at blive ved, da de ubarmhjertigt løsnede sløjfen
og trak tørklædet af ham. Han stod fortumlet
og grædefærdig, chokeret af lyset,
som for et øjeblik gjorde ham fuldstændig blind.

© Niels Hav

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the buddhist

I mentioned how I was working on two new stories by Dorthe Nors. One of them is called The Buddhist. The first paragraph here provides a good idea of where we're at: it's an acerbic, stingingly caustic portrait of a man on his way over the brink, oblivious of everything but his own transcendence. As for the Citroën Berlingo, I think I can reveal that it plays a central role in the man's nemesis. It should be noted, however, that this work of fiction is of course in no way intended to characterise all Berlingo owners. Me, for example.

Before the Buddhist became president of the aid organisation People to People he was an ordinary Christian and a government official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was he who wrote the Foreign Minister’s speeches and thereby put words into the Foreign Minister’s mouth. It was a way of lying and at first it didn’t bother him any. Then it started bugging him because he found out he was a Buddhist. It didn’t just come to him all of a sudden that he was a Buddhist. The Buddhist as an idea more like crept up and settled in him shortly after his wife said she wanted a divorce. The Buddhist came in to him and sat down at the opposite side of his desk in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He contemplated the Buddhist and thought it was a good format to step into. Buddhists are good people. They’re deeper than most. Buddhists can see connections no-one else can. These were all qualities he recognised in himself, but which all could be improved upon, and so he became a Buddhist. If he hadn’t become a Buddhist, the divorce would have hurt that much more, but a Buddhist gains insight through pain. The more it hurts, the wiser the Buddhist becomes, the government official thought and stopped being a Lutheran.

© Dorthe Nors, 2008
Translation © Martin Aitken, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

a blog

Here's an interesting site. David Hahn, an award-winning translator of Portuguese fiction, is blogging here >> on the process of his translating Angolan novelist José Eduardo Agualusa's novel Estação das Chuvas (it's okay, I don't know what it means either). He says:

In this blog, I hope to examine the translation process, working through a novel from my own first launching into a first draft, right up to publication. It's not a blog about the life of a translator, but intimately about a single piece of translation work, which I hope will bring you closer to the experience, to the pleasures it brings and the questions it raises.

Since he's just got started, this should offer a rare opportunity for insight into the kinds of ongoing considerations that go towards making a (hopefully) succesful translation, even if your Portuguese, like mine, is slightly more rusty than your Serbo-Croatian.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


If I had a calendar it would tell me that next week I'm back working on the English translation of Janne Teller's award-winning novel Intet [Nothing]. The first draft has been settling a while, and now I want to work on it again. The finished book will be published by Simon & Schuster in New York sometime in the spring of 2010 (!).


The British Society of Authors recently compiled a top-50 list of modern translation greats (here >>). Who knows what the criteria were, but as far as I can see, there are only two representatives of Scandinavian literature included, viz. Sweden's Per Olov Enquist and Norway's Per Petterson, translated by Joan Tate and Ann Born, respectively. The Guardian had something to say about it all here >>. Needless to say, I haven't read any of them.

Monday, October 27, 2008


As simple analogies go, I still like this one, from an English translation of the prologue to a recent Icelandic poetry translation anthology edited by Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl (here >>):

Just as you can not translate anything between two languages, nothing is untranslatable once you realize that nothing is translatable. A translation of literary work is never the same work, but a new work related to the former – the German philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher (1763-1834) said that an artist could view a translation of his works by imagining what his child would look like, had his wife had it with another man (the gender roles of this example are from Schleiermacher – they can be reversed without getting sand in one’s vagina).

things to do instead of dying

So now I'm angling this differently. I read rule #1 and it said update the blog or it will die. Before, it was scraps of translation cast out whenever. Now I'm updating instead of dying. There'll be lots going on here from now on. Nobody wants to die. To start off, these are a couple of the things I'm doing right now:

Firstly, I've been working on two stories from Dorthe Nors' magnificent new collection Kantslag [we're calling it 'Karate Chop']. Not surprisingly, the one called Buddhisten has been turned into 'The Buddhist'. More unpredictably, Vadehavet has become 'The Wadden Sea'. This was news to me: that there is an English name for what I call Vadehavet, and that name is the Wadden Sea. I don't know if anyone has ever heard of it. But it doesn't matter: it's a wonderful name, especially in the context of Dorthe Nors' story, all Virginia Wolf-like. These stories are going off to journals in the US, maybe to Tin House magazine, maybe to McSweeney's Quarterly, maybe to the Boston Review.

Inspired by Jonathan Wichman's book Leth og kedsomheden, I recently did a selection of Jørgen Leth's poems around the theme of 'boredom'. These are still out being reviewed. In the meantime I've done another brief selection of seven 'poems and poetic fragments', as I've opted to collectively call them. There are two poems proper, both from Leth's 2000 collection Billedet forestiller [The Picture Represents]. These are supplemented by five 'fragments' which appeared in Banana Split #5 in 2005, having previously been published as parts of more expansive pieces in the aforementioned collection. The selection may become a chapbook for Calque, or they may come out elsewhere.

Thirdly, I'm working on two stories by David Foster Wallace from his 1999 collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. The first carries the portentous title 'Suicide as a kind of present' [Selvmord som en slags gave], the second, as yet untitled in Danish, is called 'Signifying nothing'. These are bound for Danish journals, or perhaps a Norwegian one if it can get its mail server sorted out and stop throwing things back at me. Wallace has only once before appeared in Danish translation, in 2001, when the journal Passage published another story from this same collection entitled 'Octet'.

So now this blog is not dead anymore.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Richard Brautigan / fra 'Revenge of the Lawn' (1971)

Richard Brautigan

fra samlingen 'Revenge of the Lawn: Stories 1962-1970' (1971)


Jeg hjemsøges lidt i aften af følelser, som intet vokabularium har, og begivenheder, der burde beskrives i dimensioner af lommeuld frem for ord.
Jeg har undersøgt småstumper af min barndom. Det er dele af et fjernt liv, som ingen form eller mening har. Det er ting, der bare indtraf ligesom lommeuld.

Oversat fra amerikansk af Martin Aitken

© Richard Brautigan
Oversættelserne © Martin Aitken

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Peter H. Olesen / three short excerpts from 'Korrekturlæseren' [The Proofreader], Gyldendal, 2008

Peter H. Olesen

from the novel Korrekturlæseren [The Proofreader], published by Gyldendal (2008)

I am a pedant. An important quality in a proofreader. Cantankerous. I find other people’s errors and descend on them. I thrive on it. I take pride in identifying and correcting mistakes. I have a fondness for the red marker breaking the sacred black type. I have an eye for inconsequence and irregularity. As the good proofreader must. Fussy, small-minded, incorruptible. I am a sadist, says my ex. Son of an accountant.


We’re both adults, after all, I say to my ex in an attempt to sound reasonable and reconciliatory amid yet another heated argument over the phone.
And that’s coming from you, she yells. From you!


I’ve stopped brushing my teeth entirely. Not by decision, it just happened gradually. What harm could it do missing just the once, I must have thought one late evening, tired and exhausted, and then I suppose it just went from there.
Other banal, though by no means insignificant signs: Unwashed dishes all over the place. Laundry piling up.
One final example: I’m now having problems with composite words. It’s a deeply shameful discovery. The lady at the publishers has made me aware. It seems I’ve overlooked a number of errors in the last couple of jobs. Had I been Japanese with a sword within reach, humiliation would have been short.
As long as you’re still smiling.

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

© Peter H. Olesen and Gyldendal 2008
Translation © Martin Aitken 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Per Højholt / a selection from Praksis, 8: Album, tumult (1989)

Per Højholt (1928 – 2004)

A selection from Praksis, 8: Album, tumult (1989)

3. Around the town, even on its more frequented thoroughfares, there are places where no-one or hardly anyone sets foot. Places which have not always been there, brought into existence as they are by the town itself, an architecture with the rectangle and the square as its basic forms. But since people in the main move in curves, these corners and triangles are in surplus, they fall outside the scope, though never on that account approaching nature. They are without growth and innocence and become places of sojourn for children, dogs, leaves, drunks and litter, which here, without inconveniencing more purposeful traffic, are able to play, shit, perish or rot, or move slightly in windy weather.

16. The way across the floor to the door I manage as a matter of course. It is going down the stairs I take exception to, all those steps, one merely referring to the next. If the last only referred to my death, but it refers as a simple matter of course to the floor down here in the kitchen.

26. The lobster. His one hand is large and red and chapped and wet, it severs the head and fins of the fish and tears away the skin with sacking and passes the parcel over the counter. The other is smaller, yellowish, without nails, and is wiped with a cloth.

39. Minor Kafka idyll. The more I spoke to him the larger his head became. Several times I tried falling silent to encourage him to empty himself, but he challenged me each time with new questions demanding detailed replies, and thereby against my will, little by little, I caused his head to take on a quite monstrous proportion. When later we accompanied each other along the street I noticed to my surprise that it was me people were staring at, not him, and when we took leave of each other and I remained standing a moment to watch him manoeuvre his great, egg-shaped head down through the pedestrian street, it was not him, but me they applauded.

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

© Per Højholt & Gyldendal 1989
Translations © Martin Aitken 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Niels Hav / On his blindness

Niels Hav


Is it cheaper now, I wonder,
to write in ink, since Borges dictated
his labyrinthine tales in Buenos Aires?
The Homer of the Argentine considered words to be
symbols we share with others. “I believe abstract
aesthetics to be a vain illusion,” he wrote
in one of his prefaces, where he delighted in renouncing
originality. Almost without affectation. Only after going
blind did he make eye-contact with John Milton
in his Paradise Lost.

Love makes blind. But it took forty years!
Forty years of preliminary studies, imitation and outbursts
of rage when the dreamtiger escaped. Now and then he’d
consult oculists, each time a disappointment. He studied
Joyce, who must have loved Nora, though he never went
completely blind. Only when Alonso Quixano lost his
mind and called himself Don Quixote did he leave his
father’s library; and not until forty years after finding
love in Geneva did Borges go blind –
as blind as Beethoven was deaf!

He worked in the dark and polished his sentences
in memory until they sparkled from sheer metaphysics.
“If one is a poet, one is always a poet, and all the time
assailed by poetry.” Borges absorbed nourishment
from his misfortune and replaced the visible world
with sagas and Old English verse, thereby transforming
blindness into a gift: Only now did he come eye-level
with Homer, and only now was he able to see deep
into the dark, wide world and into the dizzying
moment that is eternity.

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

© Niels Hav
Translation © Martin Aitken 2008

Jørgen Leth / New Tyres


The white man fucks the black woman.
Amid vodou and death.
That’s how simple I see it.
Let me go on.
The palm tree trembles.
The sea prostitutes itself every day.
Animals murmur in the inner sanctum.
The gate is closed all day
and there’s no water in the pool.
I buy four new tyres and arrange a repair
of the chassis.
That’s all.

from Billedet forestiller, Gyldendal (2000)

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

© Jørgen Leth & Gyldendal, 2000
Translation © Martin Aitken, 2008

Excerpt from the biography Frederik: Kronprins af Danmark [Frederik: Crown Prince of Denmark] by Gitte Redder & Karin Palshøj (Høst & Søn, 2008)

Gitte Redder & Karin Palshøj

Excerpt from the biography Frederik: Kronprins af Danmark [Frederik: Crown Prince of Denmark] (Høst & Søn, 2008)

During 2001, Frederik and Mary also find time for a couple of holidays alone together. At the summer hideaways of Mary’s friends, Frederik gets to see some of Australia’s most stunning areas of natural beauty.
“During one of my visits we stayed in a little cabin right up by the border to Queensland where the climate is subtropical, everything there is so lush and very, very beautiful. On another visit, Mary took me off south of Sydney to a lovely house right on the coast. We went for long walks along the beach, prepared good food – or rather I did, because Mary isn’t that good at it – so we were able to really get to know each other. It was all laughing and talking and gradually opening up for one another. Just being there with each other.”
Frederik recalls these clandestine romantic getaways down to the smallest detail. Frederik himself says he made no special effort to tell Mary about the Royal House or what it might take to be a crown princess in the world’s oldest monarchy.
“Not at all. It was all more about the joy and innocence of being together. She knew of course who I was. I don’t know how much she checked me out on the web – at any rate she found nothing to frighten her off. We didn’t talk that much about how things were back in Denmark, about our parents, or where we came from. It was more the fun things, the tenderness, as it is at the outset of any romantic relationship. The feeling of being in love escalates. It was wonderful, innocent, a total romance. We looked very much out for each other, and for ourselves individually. Not quite wanting to reveal too much, how much it actually meant, even though we obviously couldn’t hide the fact that we were in love.”
Frederik smiles awkwardly at the recollection of that difficult balancing act of showing one’s true feelings and at the same time hiding them for fear of becoming vulnerable.

Frederik’s love for Mary grows steadily during that first year. There is a new-found profundity, a joy and naturalness about his feelings for Mary that he has never experienced before. He is in no doubt about the nature of his love.
“It was just everything about her I was attracted by. It’s difficult to pin down more exactly, loving her as I do. To begin with it was her eyes and her relatively dark voice, and then of course she is such an exciting person, but also very responsive.”
In October 2001, Frederik again travels to Sydney to be with Mary and to enjoy springtime in Australian. They have now known each other for thirteen months, and it is during Frederik’s two-week stay that they decide that Mary should move to Europe. Things have become unmanageable with the couple being able to see each other so seldom. Now their love must stand the test. For Mary in particular, this is a radical decision with far-reaching consequences. She will be leaving her family, her friends, her job. Yet neither of them is in any doubt that they are doing the right thing as they kiss each other goodbye on Friday, November 9, 2001.
This was to be their last time together in Australia as an anonymous couple. After a secret romance lasting more than a year, the Danish press finally gets wind. Who is she? Who will get the story first? Less than flattering methods are brought into play. The print-runs of the weekly gossip magazines are set to sky-rocket with news of royal romance. Se og Hør and Billed-Bladet go all-out to be first with the story. Already in September, 2001, Se og Hør – much to Frederik’s amusement – identifies his new girlfriend as Belinda Stowell, a sailing gold-medallist at the Sydney Games.
Years of living under the constant eye of the press have taught Frederik that it is a matter of time, weeks or days, before news gets out. But he and Mary have more than a year’s head-start on the gossip press and are as yet still able to enjoy a stroll around Sydney away from prying eyes.
All that changes three days after Frederik’s return home. When Mary Donaldson leaves her office at Belle Property late in the afternoon of Monday, November 12, Billed-Bladet’s journalist Anna Johannesen is waiting to pop the question: Are you going out with the Crown Prince?
“No comment,” is Mary’s reply. A photographer reels off a series of pictures and on Thursday that same week Mary appears on the front cover of Billed-Bladet, which thereby is able to live up to its slogan “Denmark’s Royal Weekly”. As if by the wave of a wand, Mary Donaldson of Belle Property is now famous in Denmark. Peace and anonymity are lost for ever. Her office is descended upon by press photographers and journalists. One of the Danish gossip weeklies hires an Australian freelancer to go through Mary’s rubbish bin in the hope of digging something up about the shopping habits of the Crown Prince’s new girlfriend.
But Mary and Frederik have made their decision. Mary hands over the lease on Porter Street to her friend Andrew Miles, packs her bags and moves initially to Paris. Closer to Frederik. Now they are able to meet at weekends.

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

© Gitte Redder & Karin Palshøj and Rosinante&Co/Høst & Søn, 2008
Translation © Martin Aitken, 2008

David Peace / uddrag af romanen Tokyo Year Zero (Faber, 2007)

David Peace
uddrag af romanen Tokyo Year Zero (Faber, 2007)

den 16. august, 1946

Tokyo, 31,7 grader, sol

De sorte lus klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Jeg rejser mig fra det lave bord. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Jeg går hen til køkkenvasken. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Jeg trækker en kam gennem håret. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Lusene falder ud i klumper. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Jeg knuser dem mod vasken. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Kropslusene er sværere. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. De er hvide og så meget vanskeligere at jage. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Jeg åbner for vandet. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Vandet løber. Vandet standser. Vandet løber igen –
Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari …
Brunt og derefter klart, klart og derefter brunt igen –
Jeg skyller ansigtet. Jeg leder efter sæbe for at barbere mig –
Men der er ikke noget at finde, igen –
Jeg skyller munden og spytter –
Jeg er en af de overlevende …
Jeg tager skjorten på og bukserne, den samme skjorte og de samme bukser, jeg har haft på hver eneste dag i de sidste fire-fem år, den samme skjorte og de samme bukser, som min kone har plejet og repareret, lappet og lappet igen, ligesom strømperne og skoene på mine fødder, vinterjakken på min krop og sommerhatten på mit hoved –
Det klør. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Det klør, og jeg kradser –
Jeg er en af de heldige …
Der står en enkelt lille skål med zōsui på det lave bord, en grød med ris og grøntsager. Jeg lader den stå til min kone og mine børn –
Jeg tager mit ur frem. Chiku-taku. Og jeg trækker det op –
Klokken er 4 om morgenen. Min kone og mine børn sover endnu –
Det klør stadig, og jeg kradser stadig. Gari-gari …
Jeg tager mine gamle militærstøvler på og snører dem ude i genkan’en. Jeg åbner forsigtigt hoveddøren, lukker den og låser efter mig. Jeg går ned ad havegangen. Jeg lukker lågen efter mig –
Ton-ton. Ton-ton. Ton-ton. Ton-ton. Ton-ton …
Jeg går væk fra mit hus, væk fra min familie –
Ton-ton. Ton-ton. Ton-ton. Ton-ton …
Jeg går ned ad gaden mod stationen –
Ton-ton. Ton-ton. Ton-ton …
Gennem lufthamrenes lyd –
Ton-ton. Ton-ton …
Et nyt Japans frembrud –
Ton-ton …
Genopbygningsarbejdet begynder tidligt; de huse, der blev stående, sættes i stand eller rives ned, til erstatning bygges der nye; vejene ryddes for murbrokker og aske, murbrokkerne og asken tømmes ud i kanalerne, kanalerne fyldes og forsvinder. Men Tokyos floder og veje stinker stadig af pis og lort, af kolera og tyfus, af sygdom og død, af død og tab –
Dette er Det nye Japan; Mitaka station myldrer med mennesker i hundredvis, i tusindvis, der venter på tog i begge retninger; for at rejse ud på landet for at sælge billigt ud af deres ejendele for at købe mad; for at rejse ind til Tokyo for at sælge mad for at købe andres ejendele billigt: uophørligt frem og tilbage, tilbage og frem, uophørligt i gang med at købe og sælge, sælge og købe; Det nye Japan –
Hver eneste station. Hvert eneste tog. Hver eneste station …
Folk i to solide rækker langs begge perroner, svajende idet nytilkomne forsøger at mase sig foran, mens de træder og tramper på kroppene af dem, der har sovet ude hele natten på perronen, og så en sidste enorm bølgen frem, samtidig med at det første tog mod Tokyo kører ind –
Hvert eneste tog. Hver eneste station. Hvert eneste tog …
To tomme vogne forbeholdt Sejrsherrerne, en andenklasses med hårde sæder til de privilegerede Besejrede, og en lang række nedslidte tredjeklasses vogne til alle os andre –
Dem, der har tabt alt …
Vinduerne i tredjeklasse allerede slået i stykker, vognene fyldt til den sidste centimeter kl. 5 om morgenen, folk på perronerne, der presser flere bylter ind gennem vinduerne, som skal tages med ind til Tokyo, mens andre kæmper tavst for at få fodfæste på trinbrættet eller koblingerne –
Hver eneste station. Hvert eneste tog …
Jeg tager notesbogen frem –
Det klør, og det klør …
Jeg råber: – Politiet!
Det lykkes mig at komme med. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Jeg presser mig ind i en af vognene. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Folk bliver ved med at skubbe bagved mig. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Toget sætter langsomt i gang. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Armene hænger fastlåst ned langs siderne i trængslen. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Der står mennesker og bagage hvert eneste tænkeligt sted. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. De sidder på hug på sæderyggene, de sidder på hug på bagagehylden. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Jeg kan kun bevæge øjnene. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Drengens hoved foran mig er dækket af ringorm. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Der kravler lus ind og ud af håret på den unge kvinde til venstre for mig. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Mandens hovedbund ved min højre side lugter af sur mælk. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Toget slingrer hen over endnu et sporskifte. Det klør, men jeg kan ikke kradse. Jeg lukker øjnene –
Jeg tænker på hende hele tiden …
Det tager over en time at nå frem til Yūraku-chō station, og så skal man kæmpe for at komme af toget og ud på perronen –
Jeg kradser. Gari-gari. Jeg kradser. Gari-gari …
Jeg går fra Yūraku-chō station hen til Politigården. Det klør, og nu sveder jeg, og klokken er ikke engang 6 om morgenen, og Tokyo stinker af lort; skidt og lort og støv, det skidt og lort og støv, som sidder i mit tøj og i min hud, og som skærer i næseborene og brænder i halsen for hver eneste jeep, hver eneste lastvogn, der passerer forbi –
Jeg stopper op. Jeg tager lommetørklædet frem. Jeg tager hatten af. Jeg tørrer mig i ansigtet. Jeg tørrer mig i nakken. Jeg ser op på den afblegede himmel og spejder efter den usynlige sol, der gemmer sig et sted ovenover skyerne af tyfus, skyerne af støv, af skidt –
Af lort, af menneskelort …
Vejsiden flyder med folk på måtter, mænd og kvinder, unge og gamle, soldater og civile, øjnene blanke eller lukkede, udmattede –
Mine hænder knyttes, brystet trækker sammen, lungerne skriger: Hvad venter I på?
Det er et år siden, at folk knælede på jorden uden for voldgraven og græd. Det er et helt år siden, men folket er stadigvæk på knæ, på knæ, på knæ, på knæ –
Rejs jer op! Rejs jer op!

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

© David Peace, 2007
Oversættelse © Martin Aitken, 2008

Jørgen Leth / Boredom: selected poems around a theme

Jørgen Leth

poems around a theme

to be able to write a short poem

I’ve paper in the typewriter
I sniff my arm

I sniff my arm again
I think about what I want

I’ve finished
I’ve written a short poem

from Glatte hårdtpumpede puder [Smooth Inflated Cushions] (1969)

some houses that don’t become each other
a sky not worth talking about
birds flying back and forth
a meaningless section of a mountain
a mishmash of human voices
with nothing to say to each other
sounds of all sorts of activity
I don’t care to know about
only here is there order
music that can be changed
a lamp casting an even light
on these words I’m arranging in lines

from Glatte hårdtpumpede puder [Smooth Inflated Cushions] (1969)


Why don’t I just sit down
to write that story, just
anything at all – it’s night
in Port-au-Prince, it’s been raining
in Port-au-Prince, the dogs begin
to bark every night at three
in Port-au-Prince, and I have placed
(a lifetime behind me) my body heavily
in a space without walls, without edges,
without cover, a darkness filled with junk
labelled and detailed in the naked light
from an electric bulb hanging
from the sky by means of a cord
and there I try to align
my double shadow against the shiny detached
monument of a fridge and to
fix in my mind the sound of the night birds
and of plastic sandals in the gravel on their way
from one point in the darkness to another
maybe on the fringe of the melancholic
arrangement in the back garden, three tables,
no chairs and I regret now
not having eaten red snapper
a good fish, I’m sitting alone here
though illuminated and it’s night
in Port-au-Prince, it’s been raining
in Port-au-Prince, the dogs begin
to bark every night at three
in Port-au-Prince, just anything at all

from Hvordan de ser ud [How They Look] (1987)

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

© Jørgen Leth & Gyldendal
Translations © Martin Aitken 2008

Richard Brautigan / Det litterære liv i Californien/1964 (fra samlingen Revenge of the Lawn, 1971)

Richard Brautigan (1935-1984)

Det litterære liv i Californien/1964

Jeg sad på en bar i går aftes og snakkede med en ven, som fra tid til anden sad og så ned langs disken på sin kone. De var separerede på andet år: intet håb.
Hun var ved at komme godt ud af det med en anden mand. De så ud til at more sig rigtig godt.
Min ven vendte sig om og spurgte mig om to af mine digtsamlinger. Jeg er en ubetydelig digter, men somme tider er der alligevel nogen, der spørger mig om den slags.
Han sagde, han engang havde ejet bøgerne, men det gjorde han ikke mere. De var væk. Jeg sagde, at en af bøgerne var udsolgt fra forlaget, og at de havde den anden nede i City Lights Bookstore.
Han tog et kig på sin kone. Hun lo ved noget, den anden mand havde sagt, som nu var ret tilfreds med sig selv, og sådan går det.
- Jeg har en tilståelse, sagde min ven. - Kan du huske den aften, jeg kom hjem fra arbejde og fandt dig og min kone berusede på sød vermouth i køkkenet?
Jeg kunne godt huske aftenen, selvom der ikke var sket noget. Vi sad bare ude i køkkenet og hørte musik på grammofonen og var berusede på sød vermouth. Der sad sikkert i tusindvis ligesom os rundt omkring i Amerika.
- Nå, men da du gik, gik jeg hen og tog de to digtsamlinger ned fra reolen og rev dem i stykker og smed stykkerne på gulvet. Intet ville have kunnet samle de bøger igen.
- Det gør ikke noget, sagde jeg.
- Hvad? sagde han.
Han var en smule beruset. Der stod tre tomme ølflasker foran ham på disken. Etiketterne var møjsommeligt kradset bort.
- Jeg skriver bare digtene, sagde jeg. - Jeg vogter ikke over bladene. Jeg kan ikke passe på dem i al evighed. Det ville ikke give mening.
Jeg var også en smule beruset.
- Men jeg vil altså gerne eje de bøger igen. Hvor kan jeg få fat i dem?
- Den ene har været udsolgt fra forlaget i fem år. Den anden kan du få i City Lights, sagde jeg, alt imens jeg var optaget af at stykke en film sammen i mit hoved over, hvad der var sket, efter jeg forlod køkkenet og gik hjem som en lanterne, gennemglødet af sød vermouth.
Hvad han sagde til hende, inden han gik hen og tog digtsamlingerne og rev dem i stykker. Hvad hun sagde, hvad han sagde, hvilken bog, der røg først, hvordan han rev i den. Åh, for en dejlig, saliggørende ugerning, og hvad der så blev taget hånd om derefter.

Jeg var i City Lights for et år siden og så en, der stod og kiggede i en af mine digtsamlinger. Han var glad for bogen, men der var en tilbageholdenhed over hans glæde.
Han betragtede omslaget igen og bladrede igen. Han standsede bladene, som var de visere på et ur, og han nu var tilfreds med, hvor meget klokken var blevet. Han læste et digt ved klokken syv i bogen. Så kom tilbageholdenheden igen og gjorde tiden uklar.
Han lagde bogen tilbage på hylden, så tog han den ned fra hylden. Hans tilbageholdenhed var blevet en form for nervøs energi.
Til sidst stak han hånden i lommen og tog en mønt frem. Han lagde bogen i sin bøjede arm. Bogen var nu en rede, og digtene var æg. Han kastede mønten op i luften, greb den og klaskede den på bagsiden af sin hånd. Han fjernede sin anden hånd.
Han lagde digtsamlingen tilbage på hylden og forlod boghandelen. Da han gik ud, så han meget afslappet ud. Jeg gik hen og fandt hans tilbageholdenhed liggende der på gulvet.
Den var som ler, men nervøs og urolig. Jeg kom den ned i lommen. Jeg tog den med mig hjem og gav den denne form, da jeg ikke havde andet fornuftigt at tage mig til.

Oversat fra amerikansk af Martin Aitken

© Richard Brautigan, 1971.
Oversættelse © Martin Aitken, 2008.

Per Højholt / from Praksis, 8: Album, tumult [Praxis, 8: Album, tumult]

Per Højholt (1928 – 2004)

An impromptu selection from Praksis 8: Album, tumult [Praxis 8: Album, tumult] (Gyldendal 1989)

22. Anyone who frequents the dikes of western Jutland will be familiar with the occasional pools that stare up like empty pupils into the vast sky from just inside the dike. The grass reaches all the way down to the gaping darkness. The skies of western Jutland have no truer observers. Even in mid-winter these stagnant waters are so late to form ice that for a long time they simply remain, deep black, absorbing snow. One can dream of disappearing in such a gaze, which pays one no heed.

28. The Caucasian radish was the size of a turnip, though round. It had hardly any top and was the same colour as the moon. One night in the 12th week after Midsummer, it pushed itself out of the ground and lay there.

42. That Susan Pedersen of Lind opened the window at all that March morning was because she wanted to air the room. That she was pregnant did not occur to her, and she never saw the angel on the bird table in the garden. But then it was hardly bigger than a blackbird.

59. As if that would help! A horse has the appearance of a horse, inevitably, the muzzle soft and delicately shaped, beyond a doubt. And the seed-leaves of the beech tree, two, like a small collar, and in their hundreds! Beech, ash, birch, distinct and mute! Here we are with tongues in our mouths.

Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken

© Per Højholt and Gyldendal, 1989.
Translation © Martin Aitken, 2008