Christian Popescu,"Teatrul"

Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin. More Popescu translations by Adam J. Sorkin are forthcoming in Calque 3, Oct-Nov 2007.

un psalm al lui Popescu

De ce nu iei, Doamne, odată și-odată, o inițiativă d-aia, d-a lu’ Matale, ca să-i angajezi pe toți bătrînii ăștia anchilozați, paralitici, ăștia de nu mai pot să umble decît cu scaunu’, să-i angajezi acolo, la Tine, la ,,Țăndărică“, la teatrul de păpuși?! Să-i prinzi cu sfori. Să le miști și capul, și mîinile, și picioarele… Să umble și să transpire, să-și trăiască și ei viața de unde li s-a oprit, săracii… Să facă și ei acolo la Tine ce-ar fi făcut pe-acasă dac-ar mai fi putut… O cafeluță, o ceartă, o cumpărătură… Și după aia și ,,Scufița roșie“… Păi ăștia și-ar da și sufletul pentru Artă, Doamne! Nici nu le-ar păsa! Ar putea să și doarmă în timpul pieselor, ca spectatorii… Le-ai trage Matale la toți pînă și visu’ pe sfoară… Ce mai: Artă mare, ca-n viață! Păi, acum, spune și Dumneata, spînzurații ăia de pe vremuri, nu erau ei cele mai grozave marionete? Nu le țineai Matale c-o mînă sforile de-acolo, de Sus, de se-aduna lumea să-i vadă cum bîțîie din mîini, din picioare și scot limba? Se-aduna sau nu se-aduna lumea? Striga ea sau nu striga fericită bis?! Păi vezi, Doamne?! De ce nu iei Matale o inițiativă d-asta d-a Ta, o dată pentru totdeauna?…

A Psalm by Popescu

Just this once, O Lord, why not simply follow through on one of Your initiatives and hire all the sclerotic, paralytic old-timers, who can’t get around except with a wheelchair, to perform at Your puppet theater, “Pinocchio”?! Hook strings to them. In order to move their head, their hands, their feet… Let them strut and work up a sweat, let them resume their lives from the point they had to stop, poor wretches… Have them do there for You what they would have done at home, if they could have… A cup of coffee, a spot of bickering, a bit of shopping… And after that, it’s curtain time for “Little Red Riding Hood”… Why, they’d be offering up their souls for Art’s sake, Lord! No way would they raise a stink about it! They could even sleep during the plays, like the audience… You might as well pull a string or two in their dreams, too, couldn’t You do that, Lord?… All the better: great Art, like in real life! Now tell the truth, own up to it, the hanged in the bygone days, weren’t they really Yours, Your most extraordinary marionettes? Wasn’t it Your hand yanking their strings from on high, wasn’t it You who gathered together the multitudes to watch them jerk their arms and legs, stick out their tongues? Well, did those mobs flock together to watch, or didn’t they? And did they keep yelling loudly for an encore, or didn’t they? Well, then, You see my point?! So why can’t You follow through on one of Your initiatives, just this once and for all?…

• • •

Cristian Popescu (1959–95), a unique poetic voice, published three books during his lifetime, almost entirely prose poetry: the chapbook The Popescu Family (Familia Popescu, 1987), Foreword (Cuvânt înainte, 1988), and The Popescu Art (Arta Popescu, 1994). A commemorative volume of manuscript reproductions was published in 1999 as issues 1-4 of the review Manuscriptum in Bucharest, and other volumes of his oeuvre are planned. His works have appeared in English in Adam J. Sorkin’s co-translations in Green Mountain Review (one poem won a Pushcart Prize nomination), The Prose Poem and The Best of the Prose Poem anthology, Poetry Daily, Brevity, Prague Literary Review, Respiro and Mississippi Review, as well as in Adam J. Sorkin’s anthology with Bogdan Ștefănescu, Speaking the Silence: Prose Poets of Contemporary Romania (Paralela 45, 2001) and in Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry, ed. Carmen Firan and Paul Doru Mugur with Edward Foster (Talisman House, 2006). Cristi – as he called himself in the poems, and as his friends always still speak of him – suffered from schizophrenia. He died a few months shy of thirty-six on 21 February 1995 from a heart attack induced by a mixture of medications for schizophrenia and depression and of vodka. A book of three Romanian prose poets including Popescu, entitled Memory Glyphs, is forthcoming from Twisted Spoon Press, Prague.

Adam J. Sorkin’s recent volumes of translation include three 2006 books: Magda Cârneci’s Chaosmos, translated with Cârneci (White Pine Press), Mihai Ursachi’s The March to the StarsPaper Children, done with various collaborators (Ugly Duckling Presse). Other books include Daniela Crăsnaru’s short stories translated with the author, The Grand Prize and Other Stories (Northwestern UP, 2004), and Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge, translated with Lidia Vianu (Bloodaxe Books, 2004)—the winner of the 2005 Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation of The Poetry Society, London. Sorkin is Distinguished Professor of English at Penn State University, Delaware County.

Bogdan Ștefănescu is an associate professor in English at the University of Bucharest who currently teaches courses in British Literature and Critical Theory. A journalist, editor and professional translator, he taught as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer at Penn State and has received research grants from the British Council, the University of London, the University of Stuttgart, and the New Europe College. He has published books and articles on literature, education, nationalism, translation theory, etc., as well as many translations from and into English.

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