Shadows of Seeds: Neva Lukić
When a writer writes “A Manifesto that will never be translated into English”, or more precisely, “Manifest koji nikad neće biti preveden na Engleski”, the ZiN Daily editors can’t resist corrupting that nikad/never and doing what is unexpected.
We took Neva’s title as a challenge, translated her poem dedicated to Aldous Huxley, and sent her a message: “Look, it’s not never anymore!” Neva was glad that never didn’t stay never. “Baš mi je drago, doista me veseli prijevod”, she wrote.” “Ironično”, Neva said, “It is ironical”, alluding that English, “the language that penetrates everything”, just ate her poem.
Did we make a mistake? Did we just allow a shadow to thicken and abduct the verses into an unwanted lingua franca? An English, the English before whose geostrategic intrusion all linguistic and cultural differences retreat, the English of global simplification, economic and political abuse?
Here we have a manifesto that was never supposed to be translated into this English of power. What if this is also a manifesto that won’t be translated into English because English doesn’t want to hear about its potential “English-ness”, or its original Croatian-ness?
Did we, as translators, accept the role the author is urging us not to take, but that the text itself invites? Should we have let the poem live outside of English? In a way, we did both. Or rather, all three. We kidnapped the poem into an unfriendly linguistic context, faced the politics of its translation, were provoked and are provoking back.
Literary translators do not translate into a lingua franca, they write and translate in an attempt to open what is closed, to make further communication possible. This is what ZiN Daily’s English is all about, as is its Croatian, Bosnian, Italian, any language that will knock at our door, a door that is always open.
Therefore you will be reading “A Manifesto that will never be translated into English” translated into English, but at the same time: Neva was right; the translation is not into English. It is, of course, into a language of genuine pursuit of beauty and freedom.
Neva Lukić (b. 1982 in Zagreb) is a writer, art critic and a curator. She has published four books, the most recent one a collection of poetic short prose, More i zustavljene priče (Zagreb: HDP, 2016.) In her writing, Neva strongly explores the relation between literature and visual arts, a practice that has so far resulted in interdisciplinary projects of video art, literary performance, and visual poetry in collaboration with various artists. Neva lives between Croatia and Netherlands. You can find out more about her and her work at: www.nevalukic.com.
A Manifesto, along with other poems we have selected to translate, is from her collection Sjene sjemenki (Shadows of Seeds, Zagreb: HDP, 2015.)
Language is a crippled dancer Of ungainly movements A drummer of soft percussions In despair it dives with its oral cavity first Outside of it attempting to create an invisible order, To touch with a word those beloved fingers Like a wind that touches balcony chimes Sad that forever it has to stay inside, A puppeteer in the eclipse of the universe
To Mr. Huxley: A Manifesto that will never be translated into English
Mister Huxley The English language penetrates everything All languages of the world corrode Words rust shards of letters Get tossed along the way
The words of other languages become Bits of fruit pits Half-gnawed animal bones Some sort of a world on a road Some sort of bulging world With malicious moles on its cheek Stalks on a woman's chin A vermiform appendix worming in all our intestines Of all that is rudimentary Whose meaning we understand less and less As if it is getting away from us As if it rustles in our mouths Creating (making) unnatural sounds That are almost foreign to us Something between human And animal
We wish to hide these inadequacies We wish to hide them even in our graves And English English is a language of wide streets, For streets, Are always connected English is a language of formed asphalt Of calculated freedom and art It doesn’t bulge at all Nor is there anything carved into it Except maybe the footprints of conquered nations But those are simultaneously Last human breaths And first human utterances in This brave new world Where even the trees Are implanted horizontally
We really do walk through this world Mister Huxley Horizontally Almost as if asleep Some of us even very proudly Because we feel a part of the world And to those of us who still haven’t fallen asleep All of this is hilarious
For, what kind of a human race is this That has lost its pride, How to look up if From every side hard cement Blocks our view, Consumes our arms and legs, What kind of a human race is this That has turned global In such a way that it has become The very surface of our terrestrial sphere?
As good as dead, Mister Huxley, As good as dead
We’re left with only a hope That soon your vocabulary, too Influenced by our Barbaric lingua franca Will thin down completely And that together with us, we will Mister Huxley Discreetly pull you into the abyss Of the Tower of Babel, Into the abyss of regression and the rudimentary
Words are seeds scattered before people as if the air is mowed with them
In a moment we flock on them on yellow seeds sui semi rossi sobre las semillas azules
as mute we swallow holding hands in a nimbus around the Earth
We think we have caught the Word but it is scattered, never completely fused, full of holes and changes, Big, endless, its tail sticking out of Universe’s closed Doors.
It is never one.
Words are apples above the basket!
Always a plural Or only a void.
Today the skies are clear. Today is gray. The space for spreading the seeds.
I Mother tongue is an organism of air, an endless fence in front of the sky, words aired with voids. It is a bench to sit on, the original plan that by its structure stops all other plans, thus shaping the tridimensionality of the world.
In it a chair chairs, and the letters of the handwriting are thin… With no word to describe them, except maybe for ‘hairs’.
II Foreign languages are beings of water… They embrace me with their swaying seas, a whale carries me in its body into a damp darkness of culture’s forgotten depths…, I cannot stop it. Icannotstopanything, everythingisfasterthanme Nowthestory narrates me instead of me narrating it
Before me hundreds of languages spawn, these are nomads, these are the same languages
we carry in our mouths before they get rooted and implanted deep deep into the oral cavity of the mother tongue.
Here there is Fear and Freedom A vortex consumes us and turns us into something else
Only the seagulls see clearly the images we are cut into.
Translated from Croatian by NGORwDAC