Monday, August 20, 2007


...but I had to post this.

This was in Harpers this month. It's a poem by a woman called Ina Rousseau, first published in 1954, translated recently by Coetzee, whose copyright I am doubtless infringing.

Somewhere in Eden, after all this time,
does there still stand, abandoned, like
a ruined city, gates sealed with grisly nails,
the luckless garden?

Is sultry day still followed there
by sultry dusk, sultry night,
where on the branches sallow and purple
the fruit hangs rotting?

Is there still, underground,
spreading like lace among the rocks
a network of unexploited lodes,
onyx and gold?

Through the lush greenery
their wash echoing afar
do there still flow the four glassy streams
of which no mortal drinks?

Somewhere in Eden, after all this time,
does there still stand, like a city in ruins,
forsaken, doomed to slow decay,
the failed garden?

Good Lord. Does anyone know why I can't find anything else in English by this woman on the net? Even a fleeting reference to a book printed fifty years ago? Does anyone know of a translation of any of her stuff?

See, times like this I really regret being monolingual.



Anonymous slewfoot said...

try this for starters:

7:47 AM  
Blogger Camilla said...

Hey BJ, I've emailed my South African friend - maybe she knows something about translations of Ina Rousseau's work, or even other info of interest (she comes from Stellenbosch too, I think). If she does, I'll pass it on!


10:29 PM  
Blogger Foilwoman said...

Thank you for the introduction to this poet, and Slewfoot, thanks for the link. BJ, isn't this a good excuse to learn Afrikaans?

9:35 PM  
Blogger Camilla said...

Hey BJ, my friend didn't know of anything, and suggested I email the publisher, who wrote back and said that there aren't any English translations of her collected work. Bummer :(

Well, Afrikaans is a very nice language...


2:11 AM  
Blogger e said...

Dear John
Ina was born in 1926 & died in 200. What a lady!
Here’s her poem; ‘Sondag op Stellenbosch’ & my humble translation for those of you who don’t read Afrikaans (as sy hoort.)
If anyone knows a contact email for J.M.Coetzee who translated "Paradise" please let me know.

Sondag op Stellenbosch.

In hempsmoue lê mans koerant en lees,
die vrouens raas en maak komkommerslaai
terwyl hul toesien dat die vleis nie brand –
half-elf word daar ’n kerkdiens uitgesaai.
Smiddags ná die rus kom vragte mense aan
uit Wellington, Grabouw en Klapmuts op besoek.
Die grootmense praat rugby; kinders staan
verveeld op stoepe rond, eet stukkies koek.
Saans lui die kerkklok luider; dogters keer
humeurig met hul naweektassies terug;
die vrouens gaan die wasgoed uitsorteer,
die mans maak gou ’n visstok heel, en sug.
Die kinders sit aan somme nors en swoeg;
mans wonder waar hul skoon slaappakke is –
die vrouens moet die tafels dek vir môre vroeg;
die mans gaan slaap, vermoeid van al die rus.

Ina Rousseau 1926-2005

Sunday in Stellenbosch.

The men talk; reading newspapers; and lie,
the women, noisily, turn cucumbers to dinners
while the meat is observed with a vigilant eye -
and then, at half-eleven; Service-For-Sinners.
Afterwards, after a pause, visitors arrive!
from Wellington, Grabouw and The Cape.
The grownups talk rugby; the kids stand
bored, on the porches, eating chunks of cake.
Then the churchbell rings again & the girls go sadly,
with their weekend-overnight-bags; back.
The women sort the washing out,
the men; fix a fishing rod, and swallow.
The children just sit doing nothing and sigh;
The men wonder where their clean pillows are -
the women must lay the table for tomorrow-early;
the men sleep, to take a break from all this rest.

Ina Rousseau 1926-2005
Translated by Edward Cooper 2007

1:40 AM  

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