Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lars Gustafsson: "The hare"

Lars Gustafsson in 1978

[Image source: (Dagens Nyheter):]

Timeline (in Swedish):
Lars Gustafsson's blog:

Lars Gustafsson was chief editor of Bonniers (major Swedish publishing house) for some years in the 1960s. He was a regular columnist for newspapers; his political/cultural views favoured liberalism, rationalism and science. He accused Sweden in the 1980s of drifting towards iron-grey East German collectivism. In his later years he spoke out for reason and science as not just another creed that can be compared to religious faiths and dogmas. He spoke out against fundamentalism and its apologists. Tolerance of intolerance, he said, leads to intolerance.


There's a few mysteries in the Bloodaxe Selected Poems.

In the brilliant "Sörby Elegy", I've found out that a "fyke" is a kind of fishing net, but there's a misprint in the same line. There's a few in the book; probably not important ones, but one sighs for a proof-reader.

In "An early summer day at Björn Nilsson's grave" the word "mol" appears a few times; some sort of monster; I can't find a suitable definition online. Perhaps you have to read the Christopher Middleton poem "The Mol" that Gustafsson mentions.

I ought to speak about John Irons' translation. The only really important thing is that reading the Selected Poems I felt persuaded that I was meeting Gustafsson, I mostly forgot that this was a translation.

You can see a few of the poems in Swedish in the Google Books rendering of Elden och döttrarna: Valda och nya dikter (Bonniers, 2012).

It turns out that "Mörten bears his name with silence" ("Mörten bär sitt namn med tystnad") has an additional section at the start of the poem, not hinted at in the English translation. Why was it important not to write the idiomatic "in silence"?

Here's a poem I can access in full in both languages.

   Haren / The hare

   En eftermiddag fanns han plötslig.
   Alldeles stilla
   Mellan syrenen och vinbärsbusken.
   Precis som hos Dürer:
   öronen längre än huvudet
   och undersidan vit. Stora milda ögon.

One afternoon he was suddenly there.
Completely still between the lilac and the currant bush.
Precisely as in Dürer:
the ears longer than the head
and the underside white. Large gentle eyes.

   Värför satt han så stilla
   frusen till bild i eftermiddagsljuset?
   Hade han ett större förtroende
   till oss än till andre människor?
   Vad hade han för skäl till det?

Why did he sit there so still
frozen to an image in the afternoon light?
Did he have a greater trust
in us than other humans?
What reason did he have for it?

   Mycket rörd, nästan smickrad
   stängde jag dörren. Gick tillbaka.
   Till mitt eget. Nästa dag
   fann jag honom liggande
   i en egendomlig ställning,

Much moved, almost flattered
I shut the door. Went back.
To my own doings. The next day
I found him lying
in a strange posture,

   något mellan sovande och embryo
   utanför verkstadsdörren.
   Några droppar ur vattenkannan
   fick honom att ta några tveksamma steg
   som om han inte längre hade tilltro

something between sleeping and embryo
outside the workshop door.
A few drops from the watering can
got him to take a few hesitant steps
as if he no longer had any credence

   till världen och dess bilder.
   Det var nästa dag som jag insåg
   att han måste vara blind.

in the world and its images.
It was the following day I realized
he must be blind.

   Det var när jag fann honom
   drunknad och mjuk som en trasa
   intill båtbryggan. Vad jag hade
   sett som stilla lugn och tilltro
   var blindhet och ingenting annat.

It was when I found him
drowned and limp as a rag
by the landing-stage. What I had
seen as quiet calmness and credence
was blindness and nothing else.

   >>Naturen är god<< står det
   på något slags paket i kylskåpet.
   Naturen är god.
   Och hur vet ni det

'Nature is good' it says
on certain packets. Brand name Spreadwell.
Nature is good.
And how do you know that,
margarine hawkers?

I'm not going to pick the translation apart. Some obvious points: two lines become one in the first stanza; "trust" and "credence" are used for the same word "tilltro"; "the next" and "the following" for the same word "nästa" ;  most overtly "Brand name Spreadwell" appears in place of "i kylskåpet" ("in the fridge"). Perhaps this reflects a Gustafson variant. "Spreadwell" is a literal translation of Bregott, Sweden's most popular brand of spreadable butter, and it's motto is indeed "Naturen är god".

 ["Paket" is not as definitive as "packet"; it can mean "packaging" in general; so can well be used of a tub of marge.]

"Precis"(line 4) is a more everyday word than "Precisely" - the tone is casual - "Just like in Dürer..."

Urban hare at Kallhäll, beside Lake Mälaren

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