Friday 9 April 2010

Translation of a prose poem by the Norwegian writer Torild Wardenær, from 'The Paradise Effect'

I pass through the ranks of the living and the random order of things

I pass through the ranks of the living and the random order of things.
First: egg, bulb, demarcation of wounds, the square root of large numbers, frequent retreats from the sting of death, tweezers, stainless steel, Viking ships and an eternal common babble.
Then that which calls for greater devotion: the absent beloved and the syllable above all syllables, the holy sound OM.
Then comes the going through of the third, fourth and fifth orders and I cannot, hand on heart, say that I am getting increasingly sharpened. On the contrary, I am relapsing into wishful thinking, into believing that the paradisiac place is less than a month’s march away or that grief will not last more than seven days. I cannot manage on my own to hold phenomena apart and summon a collective memory that perhaps knows more about the annihilation of the dinosaurs or the number ten to the hundredth.
And memory seeks, for everything is scattered, lost through history, military coups, the battle of Issos in 333, the battle of the Vadimos lake, the slave war, the battle of the Teutoburger forest in year nine, the first Punic War, the battle of Tannenberg, the Rule of Terror in 1793 – everything has to be picked up again, examined piece by piece, the ruined coats of mail, the rent skin, the crushed bones and all the blood, where it came from and where it ran to, streams of blood sucked into the ground among the now almost untraceable atoms from the soldiers’ childhood lives, for example the mother’s milk trickling from the gaping mouths of the small boy children, alternately suckling and staring in devotion at their young mothers – those who were decorated with glass beads and gold clasps.
Perhaps going through the order of things can only be set in motion by special astronomic events or by as yet unknown testing methods or via the courage and extraordinary sensitivity of the trial subjects. For it is difficult to prove what it means to be alive for a while. It can apparently not be done even under the most rigorously controlled conditions, and I must finally, with my usual scientific integrity state that there is a final number, but that it is scarcely in one’s power – as a perfectly ordinary mortal – to conjure it up.

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