I've completed a working translation of Jean Grave's "The Adventures of Nono," a children's book written for the Ferrer Schools. It's a strange and fascinating novel, with a style and vocabularly not quite appropriate in some places for most children, but with sections that seem well wrought for that purpose. I'm going to have to think about this one a bit before I make final decisions about those questions of style and vocabulary in the revision stage, but for now I think this is a pretty good representation of Grave's work.
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Sunday, December 8, 2013
“My father and my mother rested after having begotten me. The spirit of divination of the one, the aspirations of revolt of the other are mingled in my blood. The marrow of my bones screams. I suffer everything that this pen writes.”
Ernest Cœurderoy — Days of Exile.
Cursed be the hour that I was born! Cursed be the morning star which watched over my mother as she was in labor! Cursed be the first bird that greeted that deplorable day! Cursed be the shepherd and cursed the vineyard keeper who dried the tears of the dew on the hillsides of Bourgogne! Cursed be the midwife who did not smother me in the passage! Cursed be the dog who licked my stains! Cursed, the attentive friends who came to compliment my father because a son had been born to him!!
What were the waves doing? Where was the thunderbolt? Oh! That they did not carry me off to the void! Why have the ice and snow of January spared me? Why have they bathed me with perfumed water? Why has my poor mother given me her milk?
Ah! What afflictions and pains they would have spared me, the one who, without remorse, would have buried me beneath the black earth! My soul would not bleed today revealing to men the appalling misfortunes which will weigh on them!
What I saw one night in the autopsy room
“The Dead are not far from us; they are not in another world.”
Ernest Cœurderoy — Days of Exile.
I was a poor student; I was preoccupied with Death, and I dissected cadavers.
One night, I worked in the amphitheater, as usual. And behold, a dead man rose up from the cold table. His stature was gigantic; he was brown and strong; his eyes were full of sparks, and flames came whistling from his mouth. His beauty was supernatural; he was not yet thirty years old. They had decapitated him that morning; his finger was applied to the stump of his neck, and blood flowed all the length of his body.
“Little student!” he said to me, touch my blood, touch my flesh and carve me, if you dare, with your pretty little instruments mounted with shell. I will not cry out, for I no longer feel the suffering. I am happier than you, poor boy, who works all through the night, in order to return to the people with a doctor’s degree.”
And he called me toward him, this singular dead man! And I trembled like a leaf. And I touched his blood and flesh, which were cold. But as he had spoken to me so courteously and with a discernment so uncommon among the living, I hesitated to sink my scalpel in his skin. He noticed this.
“You tremble,” he said to me, “little student! Yet every day you act brave by coming here, because your masters have said that we are truly dead.
“And when I pass my hand through your hair, now your hair stands on end and you do not dare dissect me.”
And he laughed at me, showing two rows of teeth whiter than ivory, and he repeated: Cut then, little student!
I lit my pipe at the great stove stuffed with fat that we white-hot. And behold: I heard the laugh louder. I blustered, and, averting my eyes from his, I gave him a blow to the heart. There gushed from the would a jet of warm blood which covered me in blood, from my toes to the tips of my hair.
And I fell backwards. And my head found itself close to his on the cold table.
Then he leaned over my mouth and said to me: “You think yourself very learned, poor little one, because your teachers have told you that the dead are nothing but a fistful of dust and you will repeat that in the salons to give nervous fits to the little blonde ladies. I wish you would say hello for me to your teachers, and tell them that there is more ignorance under their gilt toques than under the coats of the long-eared asses.
“In truth, I tell you, the dead return. The universal existence is only maintained by means of eternal transformations. Me, whom they thought to bury in the depths of nothingness, I am more alive than them. I was yesterday; I called myself Christ, and I humiliated the doctors! I am today; and I call myself an assassin, one condemned to death! I will be tomorrow; and, powerful revolutionary, I will despoil the great of a fortune unjustly acquired!
“Little student! Do you want to repent for having wounded me? Do you want to stitch closed the wound in my heart?”
And he shook me rudely in saying that. And his mouth remained close against mine.
“You are young and have a pleasant face,” he began again; “you work with courage; you know all that a medical student of your age could know. I have need of you; don’t you want to enter by half in my revolt against Civilization, instead of boring yourself here with these corpses?”
And he placed my hand on the wound in his heart. And behold: my hand shook with a frightening tremor, my whole body shook, and I rose upright on my.
And I repented of the evil that I had done to this great dead man. And I passed the stitches through the lips of his still-bleeding wound; and I contended with his flesh, and the little blood vessels, and the little nerves. And all grew again at the same instant; and the blood no longer suspended in its course.
And there where his wound was, I saw shine a red Cross and Level.
And behold: the Pact which joined me to him was sworn on the pink scar, on the red Cross and Level!
“Son of Man, eat your bread with emotion, and drink your water with torment and grief.”
Since that night, I no longer belong to myself. My temples throb; my eyes are filled with blood; my brow streams sweat, my hands tremble, my legs give way beneath me. At night, all through the black night, terrible threats resonate in my ear, — I must repeat to men what the Revolution cried out to me.
Nothing delights me any longer but the noise of thunder and the flash of lightning; my heart no longer thrills except before some bloody tatters! — I must repeat to men what the Revolution cried out to me.
It is that the Revolution comes. When societies are in decline, there always rise, in the midst of them, beings who suffer and cry out: Jerusalem, Babylon, Nineveh, Troy, Rome, Athens will perish by the sword! For the cup of their iniquities overflows, and the time draws near. — I must repeat to men what the Revolution cried out to me.
I am of the race of Amos, of Cassandra, of Isaiah, of Savonarola, of Luther, of Cazotte, of all the prophets, of all the apostles who cried out in vain: Woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth!... and that the inhabitants of the earth have stone, that they have rolled into the wet ditches, and that they have cut off in the end. I am of the irritable race of prophets and savage poets. — I must repeat to men what the Revolution cried out to me.
I am a foreigner to my country and my time. I am a citizen of the earth; my homeland is the future. The hatreds of this century are held in store for me. I have lost the little health that remained to me.
I am the one that they accuse of spreading despair among men, the one they call mad, that they defame, that they condemn, that the pursue everywhere and who arouses no last regret in them. And yet, I never say anything but what I see.
I am the one that the fever consumes, that his own entrails devour. And I wallow in my suffering, for my voice must resound more bitterly than the trumpet over the gasping nations.
I am the one whose brain boils through painful insomnias, and whose blood issues from his mouth in the morning. — Happy is the one who gives to Liberty a token of his ardent love!
I am the one who will confound the savants and moralists before the people, because it is necessary that false knowledge and false philanthropy finally disappear.
Some have taken me for a docile instrument in the hands of party chiefs; others for an ambitious hypocrite; these for a doctor, and those for a philosopher. I am none of those things. I am a free man among slaves.
I have recognized the worth of political camaraderie. My frankness has scandalized all those who took pride it knowing me when it pleased me to be mute. I have measured the narrow circle of family affections; my parents have feared me: it was guaranteed with my first breath.
I am the one who rises early and who has seen the morning star. — The man who sleeps neglects his labor.
I am the one who first cried out: Decline of France and of the West! — Invasion of the Barbarians of the North! — Death of Civilization ! — Birth of Socialism! — Regeneration of Europe by the Sword! — Palingenesic Transformation of Humanity!
I am the one whose voice was heard already when it called the Cossacks to the shores of the Bosphorus. I give today a sign of life so that those who have ears will hear; tomorrow, if the strength remains to me, I will complete my Revelation.
I am the one who distinguished from afar the roar of the Thunder and who sees the great Sword blaze across the leaden clouds.
Nothing will weary my persistence; I will do all that I have resolved to do.
France will not kill me with ridicule, and I will kill France by my predictions.
I am the one who sees the reddening Sun approach the trembling Earth, and consume it; the one who sees the sea overflow its banks and only return to its bed after having swept away the town, the forests and the crops.
I am the one who hears the thunder groan like a thousand thunders, and the grains of hail whistle like shrapnel.
The one who sees, by the fields, the sacks of gold, the broken columns of the palaces and temples, and the men blasted.
I'm the one who delights in this deluge, and to be born in time to see the earth soaked in the blood of the civilized, and their bones stuck at the corners of their properties to replace the boundary stones.
I must repeat to men the cry of the Revolution, — that cry that harasses me and leaves me no rest; that cry that takes away food and drink, that goes to bed and rises with me! I will not rest quiet until I have translated it, if such is possible for me, into a human language.
The other young people drank and made love; they sang and concerned themselves with their affairs; they lived peacefully in the bosom of their families: they did well; let them be happy. — Me, I am the one whose words will be repeated and whose vision will come to pass. — I must repeat what the Revolution cried out to me.
The Angel of the Revolution.
“The young people see visions.”
In my troubled sleep, the Angel of the Revolution appeared to me. He approached me, and my whole body tensed when he put his hand on my shoulder.
And the Angel of the Revolution said to me: “Take this pen in your right hand, and gird this sword around your body.
“And let this pen wear out racing across the paper; let that sword be chipped in the combat; let your arms wither in the labor!
“March from the rising until the setting of the sun, and pass the nights before you table.”
And I examined the Pen and the Sword. And behold: the Pen was burning with an inextinguishable fire, and the Sword shone with radiance that my eyes could not bear.
And the Angel said: “Put down the sword until the bugles ring out; it is still not time to strike. But seize the pen.”
And I held out my hand, and I took the pen, trembling. But it burned my flesh, and I uttered screams of pain.
Then the Angel said to me: “Plunge your hand into the vase whose flame I have kept since the beginnings of the centuries.”
And behold! The vase that he presented to me was made of bronze. Within it gleamed alcohol and ether, the perfumed oils and precious essences prepared, on the mountains, by the kisses of the sun. And a thousand tongues of flame, strong as the blood of the bulls, escaped over the edges of the vase.
“Plunge your hands into the fiery water,” the angel said again, “and do not leave them there longer than it takes for the swallow to moisten its wing in Lake Léman.”
And I plunged my hand into the burning vase. And I pulled it back scorched like an oak beam that the fire has devoured.
“Write now,” said the Angle, “for the time is approaching.”
And as I was afraid, and I shivered: “Be without fear,” he added. “What I will announce to men is terrible, and the future is blacker than the crow’s wing. But you are only a reed between my hands, and if you hesitate, I will break you.
“And I will choose some other who knows how to look Death and Desolation in the face.”