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
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
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
We wish to hide these inadequacies
We wish to hide them even in our graves
English is a language of wide 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
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,
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
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
as mute we swallow
in a nimbus around the Earth
We think we have caught
but it is scattered,
full of holes and changes,
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
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,
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’.
Foreign languages are beings of water…
They embrace me with their
a whale carries me in its body
into a damp darkness of culture’s
I cannot stop it.
Nowthestory narrates me
instead of me narrating it
hundreds of languages spawn,
these are nomads,
these are the same languages
we carry in our mouths
before they get
rooted and implanted
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