Saturday, May 05, 2007

continuing w/ rilke and berger

this afternoon was great. i read the El Pais, a lovely article by Rafael Argullol, p 17 of today´s edición. He writesa in reference to the 50th anniversary celebrations of the European Community/European Union. He writes that Rainer Maria Rilke is the writer who to him encompasses the notion of the European. Argullol writes:

Naturalmente, la lista de los escritores que podemos asociar a la idea de Europa es muy amplia pero hay uno que, por diversas razones, siempre me parece que es más merecedor que nadie en el momento de los homenajes no realizados. Se trata de Rainer Maria Rilke. Y entre las diversas razones hay una que justifica mi predilección. Este poeta nacido en Praga, que escribía en alemán y también en francés, y que jamás tuvo casa propia, desperdigó su vida en una cincuentena de domicilios situados en los más diferentes rincones del continente. Gracias a esa condición nómada, Rilke fue algo así como el habitante par excellence de una Europa que, si bien todavía no existía como tal, tenía una vigorosa presencia en su imaginación.

Translated (by me):
Naturally, the list of authors we can associate with the idea of Europe is extensive, but there is one (author) who, for various reasons, always seems to me more deserving than anyone else when these homages are made. It is Rainer Maria Rilke. And of the varied reasons, there is one which justifies my predeliction. This poet born in Prague, who wrote in German and French, and even did not have his own house, led his life in fifty-odd houses located in the most different corners of the continent. Thanks to this nomadic condition, Rilke was (as a result) something like the quintessential inhabitant of a Europe that, even if it did not exist formally at the time, existed vigorously in his imagination.

Argullol continues later in the piece: "..., pues Rilke seguramente se dio por satisfecho con encontrar su Toledo, aunque no fuera Toledo sino en Ronda. Bajo esta segunda perspectiva lo aconsejable es la búsqueda independientemente de que el hallazgo se produzca en un paisaje imprevisto."

It is that Rilke had travelled to Spain, with certain expectations vis-a-vis what the journey would be like. But those expectations were not met in the places he had envisioned that they would occur.

(Aye. Sometimes one gets to a point where translation seems inadequate, insufficient. Like an act akin to trying to explain a joke: never as funny, and the punchline is lost in the act of explaining. That is how I feel sometimes when trying to translate Eng-Spanish.) Anyhow, what the paragraph suggests to me very strongly is that sometimes you find what it is that you´re looking for (a sense of home, sometimes a sense of identity), not in the place that you had thought it would be. And sometimes, you do so in the/a place where you least expected that this "finding" would have occurred.

So, speaking of Rilke. One of my all-time favourite reads is the Duino Elegies. I must have read it at least three times already, and it remains beautiful.


But, about John Berger :)

I went out, and bought a copy of "and our faces, my heart, brief as photos". An excerpt follows:

My heart born naked
was swaddled in lullabies.
Later alone it wore
poems for clothes.
Like a shirt
I carried on my back
the poetry I had read.

So I lived for half a century
until wordlessly we met.

From my shirt on the back of the chair
I learn tonight
how many years
of learning by heart
I waited for you.

p32. (c) John Berger. originally published 1984. Bloomsbury edition (from which I quote) is 2005.

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