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For the Klee-Milne Sketchbook

Let us set out into a charming landscape.
We're pleased enough; we don't want other kinds.
A rhyme is coming shortly, and a shape
(or shapes) not novel: often on our minds.

Where are we going. Do I have to say?
We've had a jolt already, at the ford
across the river, or the waterway -
that dull white strip dividing words from words.

We amble onwards with our gentle friends.
Signposts emerge: we note them as we pass -
our bears beside us on the road that wends

...where to? We've just begun, and round this bend
now turned, we see our pleasant journey was
a rambling preparation for The End.

(translated by Tony Connor)

Camille Pissarro
Rue d'Amsterdam, 1897

Rue d'Amsterdam is awash with rain.
Meanwhile, as if the sun shone bright,
the ankle-deep water is bathed in light.
Through the house-walls' multi-coloured stains
a radiance, hidden by plaster, penetrates.
Now the rain washes away,
pugs the surface into a gray
clay-like plasticine state.

I'd love to live there in eternal rain
if I could only believe the paintings, Mr P.
I'd be most happy to wave if only
an open yellow-red cabriolet
drove by - though I'd end up that much wetter
the longer I stayed there waving in
Rue d'Amsterdam, bathing in
the cool inner stream of light-filled water.

If I knew that I really had a cache
of radiance, only hidden by
some substance from whose surface I
could on the spot be freed by a splash
of pouring rain - if that's what it took,
I'd step out into the rain forthwith
as long as it rained on me just like this.
But it will stop. I close the book.

(translated by Dezső Tandori and Bruce Berlind)

An Otherwise Unoccupied Swimming Pool in 1965;
A String of Similes

As if in an unoccupied swimming pool where only
maintenance men, mechanics, street sweepers,
idle ticket collectors, snack bar attendants hang out,
only office underlings, possibly
the management itself; and one or two amateurs like me
who got there who knows how and who
don't talk to each other, at best we're collectively objects
of indifference to the specialist staff,
bored as it is even with the professionals; as if
all alone in the morning at the deep-water end of
such an unoccupied practice pool, I were practicing
the racing dive, something I've been
unable to master for nearly thirty years.
And so it's as if this wouldn't be me,
as if I'd consequently be practicing with somebody,
so I'm again and again for a moment completely
alone, as among sycamore leaves and a tide of
spittle, other insignificant filth,
chucked-up bugs, my head pops up after
one of a number of by now perhaps not
entirely unsuccessful dives; but quality
won't cut any ice here, besides the whole thing's
just a string of similes. As if someone
would want to repudiate existence, but I'd
be insisting, as a father taking his such-and-such
son to practice the racing dive. Or other things.

(translated by Bruce Berlind)

"Tandori's admirers and critics have always been aware that his obsessive and labyrinthine privatization of experience is a form of escape, a compensation, a search for authenticity. Dezső Tandori is the kind of writer who lives and breathes literature. For years he has made his living by translating both modern classics and potboilers; and while it is fair to assume that his commissions henceforth will consist mainly of the latter, he is not completely despondent about the future of serious fiction." (Ivan Sanders, World Literature Today, vol.68)



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