Étiquette : traductions

A Question upon a very old Shore

Does the Mediterranean exist?

On the map, the Mediterranean is that kind of false blue rectangle which pretends to jealously close in upon itself, but, if one looks closely, is seen to open up via three gates, narrow ones, it is true, onto the vast and multiple universe; mingling its waters at Gibraltar with those of the western Atlantic; cautiously greeting via the Suez Canal the enigmatic world and the gods of the South and the East; holding out, between the shores of the Bosphorus, what we so nicely call, in French, ‘an arm of the sea’, towards the gods, ancient and modern, of the North and the North-East. And so, via three gates only, the Mediterranean manages to look towards the four cardinal points. In this improbable process of three becoming four, I like to see a symbol of the Mediterranean’s singular destiny; whereby the most precise measurements are bent through the intervention of the miraculous; whereby inspiration, which is, moreover, but the response to aspiration, comes along to shatter the reign of rules.


Now, what I mean is that these rules have been invented by we Mediterraneans. The liking for and the meaning of definitions, written law, codification, are specifically Mediterranean creations. We have imagined division, and then choice; separation, and then construction. We have endeavoured to retain in our choices – it will often be held against us, moreover – just those elements capable of making the universe a livable place. In order to guarantee our victories over incoherence and tumultuousness, we have had the courage to do violence to nature: we have invented the straight line: the column, the sphere – and the hemi-sphere: the cupola. We are the fathers of syllogism, of the golden section, and of the syllogism disguised as arabesque: such signs of our culture have in common a desire to integrate the other by bringing it back to the same so that, through and beyond the illusory diversity of appearances, they might reach a place of identity. At the time when tenebrous Masters of deep Asia required man to vanish and melt into the obscure breathing of the Cosmos, we conjured and adopted that assembly of happy and light gods whose ruined temples continue to raise, upon the shores of a shared sea, their smiling challenge. And so, anthropomorphism is, too, a particularly Mediterranean philosophy. At the frontier of the logical and the less logical, the clear and the less clear, we have harnessed the most tenuous and fluid relationships whereby mind reflects world, a world returning the favour, enabling eternal and harmonious exchanges. An old image: Orpheus singing, and cities rising up.


But here is the drama, here the heart-wrenching, terrible moment when the Mediterranean, having reached one of the extremities of itself, opens up and bursts forth. Orpheus, the architect, the builder in the full sun of cities and order, falls prey to a secret infirmity. Within him there rises up, more and more urgently, the call of a lost black Euridice. And this voice of the beautiful black bride, this deep song, this cante jondo as Spain says,  how could Orpheus, bewitched by song as he is, escape its fascination? He must, following the inflection of his personal curve oriented by the magnet of a vocation, discover the threshold of hell and undertake the perillous journey on the other side of things which offers, without any possible doubt – perhaps simply because he seizes upon a new unforeseeble direction of being – the road leading to a truth.

This reevaluation of the surface order of things at the very moment it seems to be rising up in the time of some definitive glory – this is what is Mediterranean. It explains perhaps, in part, that the immense and complex machine of the Roman Empire came to a full stop one day, disconcerted before the quiet words of a poor Nazarean. And look: Christianity, like Judaism before it and Islam later, all religions born in this region of the world one must deem inspired, all, instead of biting into Asia, east of their place of birth – Asia to which belong, geographically, both Palestinia and the Arab peninsula – all such religions initially went, as if via some ineluctable accomplishment of an inner requirement – towards the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean whose surrounding region, via diverse itineraries and in differing seasons, such religions spiritually colonised.


Certainly, this did not happen so simply. Men of the Mediterranean, we are, as I have said, men of a certain order. And that is why we begin by violently rejecting Jesus Christ; we denature Al-Hallâj; we persecute Galileo. ‘And yet…’, the latter insisted, in the urgency of being accused of impiety. And we end up admitting he was right, and we raise a tomb in the very bosom of the Church of Santa Croce.


Men of a certain order, but an order without certainty, sureness. Our truth, acquired at some expense, was paid for by such hesitation, the permanent refuting of the pros by the cons, the cons by the pros. It is because we endlessly rectify one thing by another that we appear, perhaps, today, to be advancing slowly, more timidly than other peoples having been able to reach satisfaction more rapidly than we ourselves, deliberately borrowing from us one or the other term of our rich ambiguousness. One day, we are told, the Spanish painter Juan Gris said to Braque: ‘I love the rule that corrects emotion’. And Braque – so often Mediterranean by the desire and affinities of his work – answered: ‘I love the emotion that corrects the rule’. And so, between rule and emotion – which is, is it not, the lesser name of passion – our destiny acts itself out.


This is what I was seeking to get to. I was wondering, at the outset of this reverie, whether the Mediterranean existed. It could, I maintain, be and continue to develop only as a final conjunction of what we bring to it and our most contradictory signs; it could establish itself really, before the vast elementary empires that were built up by bearing to their ultime end, and to the point of caricature, one or the other profile of our definition of freedom and justice, only via a new, more vibrant, more inclusive sythesis of justice and freedom. The gestation, in the Mediterranean, of this new freedom, this new justice, is perhaps what we are witnessing today: and this birthing, as we can see, is bloody and tragical. But for we ancient Mediterranean peoples, the main thing is that in the hour in which a blind and stupid challenge  may well disarticulate and reduce the primordial rhythm of our national histories, of our common history, in the hour in which so many dark quarrels – throughout the last fifty years – have so often seemed monstrously to turn to scorn – the main thing is that those for whom, in the universe, the Mediterranean is a burning call to unite, strongly desire, contrary to all imposed formulas and all ‘given’ policies, to question the undesirable order of things and set off, alone if necessary, in search of lost Euridice. ‘The world, Gide argued, will be saved by a few’. Our Mediterranean will, too.


And here I stand still, anxiously questioning myself, and sad not to have found an answer to the question that is perhaps the only one I want to ask at the end of all others I have asked: today, in a time of war and injustice, does the Mediterranean truly yet exist? Yes, I believe it exists and that it is, all considered, merely our trembling questioning as to its reality.

The Burnt other side of the most Pure


The rose of burning and the spirit’s wind
Have bartered snow
Dove in the distance is this flake of light
Which becomes tear or dream
This side of day where she who sleeps
Awakes a bride to fire

And all these woods of long desire their backs to rain
Our shaping tears –
This country has in me its lamp of shade
In the heart’s labyrinths a going to sleep
As a tear is child to another tear
At the end, the unheard of, a pure dragonfly
Escapes at the point of being, trembling there

Keep me by air bound to the edge of trees
And the spirit’s blue
Where suffering is naked in its nails
For a real morning of unnatural dew
The country red and clear
And broken up beneath the doves of clouds

Ah ! Kill then these doves
On the anvil beating out their shadow
She who desires with the geraniums
White the knots leave by night
To set up snares in the invisible

Keep me by claws and roses
Within the water’s arms
My slow garden, my rose garden, my rose
Where soon the fruit shall form
Under the mothering cloud
In this clear country
Doomed to dragonflies
Keep me within the star’s geometries .

As the dune’s angel keeps his wing
Between the sky and the sky’s emptying
Thanks to my friend the archer breathing in
The smell of water

Soon the fruit
In the bowl ofthis eye-lash garden
Where is undone before the marble wind
His living love

Above the rose-bushes falling to the sea
In their salt dream
Dark and wind-golden is the dead child
Ô pierced by a sword
His tree-tear eyes
His eyes of nesting tears
Purer was his death than tender life
In the burning of the star-spirit
Purer was his death than life
Like a dew-statue that became a flame
And what a life or lamp that of the sleeper ?
The heart, the heart gathers about its crystal
In the perfection of this nocturnal garden
Of finger-nails together with the moon

This spirit child
I wanted him more naked than the river
In which the lovers sleep
Among the dewy grasses of their limbs
To where beyond the river – a red place
Their exiled colour pure and alone
Sheds light on all
A pair of lovers that the clouds desire
That wait as matter till it is their hour

This spirit child
His coming to us here and then again
Amidst a sun of tears
Behind the trees one sees him then he’s lost then he returns and dies
Then comes again through by – ways of the heart
Even to where as here we ‘re held by drought
Our fingers’ crumbling rains
The face’s ship sailing before childhood
The heart circumcised, at a fasting table

Keep me within the circus of the leaves
In that invisible
Where the hand touches the cold lamp
In naïve surprise
At its own shining

Keep me through the wily foxes
That sleep among the roses
For here come the rousing angels
Frightening the clouds
In this country where the light is judge
And traces the dove’s dark sign
On the women’s eyes

The rain is mixed in with the ivy ‘s substance
Caught under beauty’s being and the rain
Loved country of the image’s still life
In which the spirit on the snows’ network
Watches its own unease

Ô pure country
Such depths, left with the trees
Gone to the territories of fire
So beautiful, great trees in their green cry
Purer than pure, their cry, a snow poppy
By nightly vigil beside the snow water
A flare-path in the spirit’s burning day

To every mother must be given a silence
Within the golden fingers of her sons
In ellipse and lightening
The moon having banished sight
Stitching the eye-lids once and then again

To every mother grasses and a lyre
Through prophecy and the face’s cry
Which shines again with a near childhood water
In hidden hollows where the dove will drink
A passing vision with a naked breast

Behind the curtain of trees
There is a lamp’s load
Borne by fragility

And the men of dream
Carry the lamp tressed with their tears
Into a dusty wood
Their fingers suddenly prudent
About a star of shade
Where falls a dry fountain

The trees in the trees in the trees
Under the cold clouds
Suspended lovingly in the word
Like a chandelier of tears
The wing at one with its shining
In the reality of real night
By transparency obscurely obscure

The stenciled moon
Like a balcony of black water
Above the lovers and their limpid angels
With the hunt ail around
In the dark country where the rose is sick
Ah ! ail gone under the snow, horses and time…
Sword in our hearts and the cupped blood
Gave light to the lamps’ beauty

The tears’ sword burns in the spirit
Like a live pearl
In the nuptial castle of its burning
A burning it is, a castle
To burn man in his ropes of living water

The lamp is there : is it
A black prophet to speak a black language
When the fruit is rotting
And out of enigma the heart makes itself
Clear to be dowsed in quick lime
Where mumbling – barely asleep – death
Is disturbed by a torrid sky ?

In this country of unshed tears
Is the beauty of the dead, their eye-lashes
Are a lamp of sharp cold and live
Is the tear torn from their body

A burning tear alive
In the sleepless night ô tear
Thinking of the body so black and pure
That there comes another tear in transparency
The idea still obscure, the earth
Dreaming this and its white river

The field with its curling corn stalks
Flows to the clear house
That sleeps in snow
For there the snow grape has fallen
Offered in secret to the nightingale
Who drinks the summer wine
And speaks with the lion

In the dear wood of summer’s nightingales

Because of the snow
The dark woman in her shawl of water
Has gone deprived of death
With at her throat the clear sword of tears

… and all was of earth here and of trees
In the light with its elusive name
On this side of day that’s near to death
With, so fresh, the river calling her name
On this side of day newly asleep
Who wakes and her face is dark
And her hair is a woman’s and they sleep
And his face is dark and he smiles

Then we have been seized by images
Then left the seized again
Near the great throbbing trees so pure of earth
That the night – alive only in them
Round itself living to a living source
As a rose is lost with the wind

It is again snow summer and it is
The bare grapes’cold sorrow

translated by Heather Dohollau


Stangers chatting without words
on all the balconies of night
Death waits in every needle’s eye
But the cautious roses withdrew
from this circus act
In their long lasting truth
Thoughts without angels
Here I am with my pierced back
screwed onto chairs
The sharpened eye in my burst head
Face and body
under the harsh dictations of rain

Traduction de Carina Barone

Publications en anglais

Lire aussi english books Cold Water Shielded

Fluidity of Death


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