Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Maison Marx

In an old newspaper, I come across a photo of the Paris Commune. It shows part of the barricade in rue de Batignolles, near place Clichy; in the middle of the street, five mortars and three bronze cannons, and behind some saplings (which despite le temps des cerises have yet to sprout leaves) a low building with clear curtains behind its poor windows. Above, repeated twice in large characters, the number of the street and its social reason: 57 - Au nouveau né. Maison Marx.

It seems like a joke. A little crass, I'd say, like chance ones usually are. What could the owner or shop-keeper of 'Everything for the baby' know about it, he who shared the same last name from Alsace or the Rhine with that other one, Karl, who during those days, in London, scanned dispatches from the insurrection?

On their mounts, the three little muzzle-loading cannons of proletarian desperation. Au nouveau-né. Ninety years ago. In Simbirsk, Vladimir Ilych had turned twelve months on April 22. It's been forty-three years since those babies won. (For us too, but not here.) Who is celebrating his first years, now? Desperation and hope, more than any wisdom, are truly invincible...

Franco Fortini, '[Maison Marx. 1960]', in L'ospite ingrato, 1966.

Hate those who gently lead into nothingness

Franco Fortini

Translating Brecht

All afternoon
a thunderstorm hung on the rooftops,
then broke, in lightning, in torrents.
I stared at lines of cement, lines of glass
with screams inside them, wounds mixed in and limbs,
mine also, who have survived. Carefully, looking
now at the bricks, embattled, now at the dry page,
I heard the word
of a poet expire, or change
to another voice, no longer for us. The oppressed
are oppressed and quiet, the quiet oppressors
talk on the telephone, hatred is courteous, and I too
begin to think I no longer know who's to blame.

Write, I say to myself, hate those
who gently lead into nothingness
the men and women who are your companions
and think they no longer know. Among the enemies' names
write your own too. The thunderstorm,
with its crashing, has passed. To copy
those battles nature's not strong enough. Poetry
changes nothing. Nothing is certain.

(tr. Michael Hamburger)