in translation

One of my main goals for this residency is to look back and reflect about material accumulated. And another is to write. To write for a new video piece but also to simply write more, not about my work but more generally about ideas. It is difficult to face the blank page, so with the writing I am also looking back, at my own texts and others that inspire me. I have come across a translation I did some months ago of some texts by my grandfather. My grandfather passed away when I was young. He had a passion for writing and he always shared with me the texts he wrote. Some are short stories he wrote for his grandchildren, others are about his experiences in the war, about my grandmother or just about his thoughts. This has been a project in the back of my mind for years. I wanted to do a piece about his writings and I finally started to put them into english (not because the work had to be in english, but because this is my adoptive language and I felt it would be interesting to have them translated). I have started this several times but for some reason or another it has never taken a complete form, maybe it is something I have to work on little by little, in fragments.

It is good to have time now to pick this up again. I have finished one of his texts and I would like to share it. I have chosen this one for no particular reason, it happens it was written from my parents house in Santander, and I have just been looking at some footage I took last summer from the same balcony, of a lighting storm at night. The city was very quiet and I couldn’t hear thunder, only lighting flashing every now and then. Maybe I will put the video up sometime. For now, here is the text…(click on ‘read more’ below to see it)

A journey into the coreless night.

From the balcony of our house on the heights of the city, one can see our old and courageous friend the sea. Now submissive and crouched down, a defeated giant; or, perhaps, gnawing at eternal defiances in the silence of this still night. There in the distance, where only indefiniteness seems certain, a crowd of trembling little lights seem to want to talk about the disturbing philosophy of life, about the vulnerability of human affairs, maybe aching from the painful absence of inescapable essential harmonies.

It is almost midnight. The city sleeps. It’s a while ago that the noises from the street began to deaden. Down at the municipal swimming pools, young night-owls celebrate, I don’t know which sporting achievement, frolicking tirelessly amidst fervours of loneliness and twilight, inspired by glows of ephemeral love, alight with inflamed and deceptive ecstasies, freed from any subordination or memory. Not knowing why, I seek refuge in the silence and dark complicity of the moon. I like to return every now and then to that joyful world of private serenities, where it is possible to doze off into countless delights that let you ponder, that allow you to be yourself, that make you believe that life is composed by many small piles of little things, of subdued passions, of hidden feelings.

In the course of time, in the night of the great mystery, we all have felt at some point the need to know if the love we gave or tore from life was a melodic music or merely a discordant confusion of sounds; whether we have known how to live it as a new dimension that requires greatness, because love is a gift out of time, which demands nothing and behaves as if it were eternal. Love is a fainting dialogue, something we don’t manage to say, something where only kisses and poetry flourish; already someone said that joys and woes are unstable emotional forms, born from one and the same mystery, emerged from a sole ignored magnitude. Incompatible with each other they can’t appear at once on the same hill of emotion; the higher one is, the deeper the pit where the other falls. Never at same level, doomed to an everlasting separation except when there is stability or when there is nothing. But our memory, which is immense, allows us to recall things, brings remoteness closer and it is full of fears, of infinities, of life’s sunsets; lights that fade, that never remain, infidelities and cold from many winters; old paths and sorrows from many solitudes, blizzards, successes and the cry of a child, only more and more reflections in an endless parade of time prisoners. Physical adventure incapable of posing fundamental questions; arrogance removed of kindness, covetous and demanding of those too childish for love, who play cheating and take no risks, and by hurting the best almost always win.

It is getting cooler. What a sensation of quiescence besides the sea in this coreless night. I look upwards and see but stars, I look sideways and linger in blackness, I try to look into my own density and scarcely find something of myself. When you think of how much you wanted to achieve it becomes hard to understand the emptiness of the days, such silence, such loneliness. It seems Time itself exists no more, as though the gods were contemplating us, as though we came out of some odd dream, of some remote stillness, of some other moment…
[Original: Santander, August 93 / Translation: Sheffield, 2011]

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