"Emmanuel Moses's intriguing poems
range from Christ to Napoléon, medieval Orléans
to present-day Majorca and Istanbul. His emotional reach
is equally wide,
by turns witty, ironic, poignant, and self-deprecating,
as he 'explore[s] psychic space in all its dimensions.'
Marilyn Hacker meets the challenge with her customary precision
of diction, her acute sensitivity to nuance and tone. Her
deft translations of this 'poète sans frontières'
will expand the boundaries of English poetry."
"Marilyn Hacker is truly one of this country’s
greatest translators; her work is distinguished by technical
deep knowledge of the French language, and the sensibility
of a first-class poet. Her translation of Emmanuel
and I introduces a vital, ambitious new poet to American
readers. Moses’ poems are elegant and complex, evoking
an array of historical settings and shifting personae (from
Chopin to Breughel to the hapless Mr. Nobody), often returning
directly or obliquely to the poet’s affection for
his father. By turns violent and witty, melancholy and
thoughtful, He and I deserves a wide readership and high
"Marilyn Hacker's sharp and haunting translations of He
and I give us a poet both distant and intimate, cool and
burning with urgency, alienated and tender, a poet of age
and youth, of casual wealth and shabby poverty, of the
exile's evanescent location and elusive emotion: 'Sometimes
he sees his despair / as a veil / and at others / as what
raises the veil.' A cousin to Zbigniew Herbert's Mr.
Cogito, Moses' alter ego Mr. Nobody is a quintessential
Wandering Jew, seeking 'nothing less than the infinite,'
even among the cruelties of our age."
MR. NOBODY JOINS THE BROKEN
One of them has kept his love intact
with its shimmerings and chasms
another gets rid of it the way he'd throw away a
sweeping away even the last crumbs of earth
scattered on the balcony
while the third one separates the object from its
and keeps watching the chimney-pots
keeps drinking, at his kitchen table,
the black gritty wine of an unknown south
--and how should I behave,
Mister Nobody asks himself
having stopped at a cafe
where he had--he remembers now--
once desired and then broken things off
between two journeys
although crossings would probably be a more appropriate
word under the circumstances
which example to follow
but he ought perhaps to choose them in turn
mix everything up or even innovate why not
or (on the other hand) take advantage of the occasion
to lay out his thoughts
try to decipher time's secret meaning
explore psychic space in all its dimensions
to recount (and understand)
genealogies and sequences
then he pockets his notebook again
notices that the waiters have piled up the chairs
that he is the last client of the night
that they are waiting impatiently for his departure
leaving just one ceiling lamp lit above his head
which shines on his glass his pen his hands with
their bitten nails.
THE GOLDEN AGE
Everything is rare in this delicate kingdom
fruit and sealing-wax
silk as well as steel.
A bouquet of flowers
costs more than what would fill a purse
the dead, like the living, must do without.
On sunny days
--which are numbered also--
ladies go out, their parasols in hand
they stroll beside the canals
till the hour when the reddening sun scissors their
then erases them like a repentant painter.
Behind the latticed windows, people play music
while drinking wine.
Spinet or lute accompanies the passer-by
who feels an inexplicable pang.
Memories of lace are rustling everywhere
and the swan's dawn cry
translated by Marilyn Hacker
Translation copyright c 2009 by Marilyn Hacker.
May not be reproduced without permission.