Tuesday, 3 February 2009

From Thomas Bernhard's Under the Iron Moon

Poet-in-Residence is currently translating several poems from Thomas Bernhard's collection Unter Dem Eisen des Mondes to mark the 20th anniversary of Bernhard's sadly premature death.

Thomas Bernhard was a writer who died too soon, he had much more to give, much more to show. These translations will not claim to be exact literary word-for-word translations, but they will strive to bring out the mood and the poetic quality and the messages of the poems, whilst at the same time preserving as far as possible their integrity.

Death is close to me now

Death is close to me now and so is winter;
A valley's restless dreams keep me awake
As does the wind on the frozen rooftop
That by night and day writes down my name.

And so now to these waving seas of wheat
I return, though tired from strenuous flight,
To listen to the talk of ancient walls
Far from the fury of never-loved towns.

In the old songs and with broken-down eyesight,
As the moon shyly drives its dark harvest,
I will find the deep dead buried sun
On a green hill, under another sky
And in the early summer's dust
On an evening breeze.

Translated 3 Feb 2009
Gwilym Williams


  1. I don't know a lot about translation Poet, but I do know enough to know that it is often difficulty to translate the poetic feeling - I think you have achieved it magnificently in that poem - the imagery is beautiful.

  2. Thanks for that, and it's good that you know enough to see the way I'm going with these translations. It's not enough to simply translate A into B, or in this case D into E, because if you do that the final result will be often stilted. And almost as often almost meaningless.
    As a simple example I translate the title of the collection as "Under the Iron Moon" which is poetic instead of, strictly speaking, "Under the Iron of(sic) the Moon" which is not (although some might disagree with me and each is entitled to his opinion). And so it goes, as Vonnegut would say.
    Once again, thanks very much. You've hit the proverbial nail on the head as you so often do.


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