Saturday, 29 November 2008

Theodor Kramer's poem in an exhibition

A Poet-in-Residence translated poem follows. Theodor Kramer's original version is in German and is exhibited in the curiously titled Austria 1918-2008 Republic exhibition. A 2-part post about the exhibition can be found on P-i-R's parallel blog Bard on the Run.

The truth is that nobody has done anything to me

The truth is that nobody has done anything to me
For a long time I've not been able to write in the newspaper
And mother can still remain in the apartment
The truth is that nobody has done anything to me

The grocer cuts my slices of ham
And childishly thanks me when I pay
What else I will live on I cannot find out
The truth is that nobody has done anything to me

I travel as before on the trams
And walk unmolested through the streets
Although I don't know if I'm allowed to walk them
The truth is that nobody has done anything to me

On the trains there's no land open to me
I can't lift myself out of this place
Where I simply have no room to live
The truth is that nobody has done anything to me

13th July 1938.
Kramer, a Jew, was described by Thomas Mann as an important poet.
He fled from Austria in 1939 and lived for many years in England.

Theodor Kramer (1897-1958)


  1. Interesting poem - with Leopold Bloom-like moments, I thought. Similar territory.

  2. Leopold Bloom-like moments. Dominic, you put it so well. It is really so. I'm pleased that the translation works so well; that it captures the sense. Would Kramer give it the nod? I thnink so.

  3. A very moving poem - his Jewishness is so evident that you would guess it even if you were not told.
    Thanks for your comment on the three peaks - it did make me laugh and reminded me of a similar instant when a group of us - all dressed in "proper" walking gear and our leader with his map in a plastic sleeve hung round his neck - walked up a lane in The Dales, past an old man sitting on a chair outside his door. We all called out a jolly "good morning" to which he nodded. Five minutes later we came to a block end (we have read the map wrongly) and we all faced the indignity of trooping back past him in single file! These golden moments keep me going now I can no longer walk more than about three miles without aches and pains.

  4. this is interesting, do you have links ot the german originals of your translations at all?

  5. Weaver, Your comment reminds me of those types who sit at the roadside sipping coffee tiny villages and smile sagely as the tourist bus tries to negotiate the next impossible bend. Hope your aches and pains get better.
    Crafty, I don't have a link but I copied the text and by chance still have the piece of paper. It goes,

    Die Wahrheit ist man hat mir nichts getan,
    Ich darf schon lang in keiner Zeitung schreiben,
    die Mutter darf noch in der Wohnung bleiben.

    Der Greisler schneidet mir den Schinken an
    und dankt mir, wenn ich bezahle kindlich,
    wovon ich leben werd ist unerfindlich

    Ich fahr wie früher mit der Straßenbahn
    und gehe unbehelligt durch die Gassen,
    ich weiß bloß nicht ob sie mich gehen lassen.

    Es öffnet sich mir in kein Land die Bahn,
    ich kann mich nicht von selbst von hinnen heben,
    ich habe einfach keinen Raum zum Leben

    (of course the title line is repeated severalo times as in my translation)

    Hope that helps.


  6. My father left the year before. Interesting post and interesting blog. I found you through Dominic Rivron. I too was raised in the land of coal and song.

  7. Hi Frances, A wise man, your father. Cymru am Byth! A tiny land beyond Offa's Dyke but will stand any scrutiny. A poem in the soul and a song in the heart and damn the silver spoons. That's the rain driven slate covered romantic Welsh way. Just ask that boyo Bryn Terfel!


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