Gert Vlok Nel – vertaling in Engels

 Gert Vlok Nel – Translated by/vertaal deur Richard Jürgens

 

Gert Vlok Nel

Gert Vlok Nel

The South African poet/singer Gert Vlok Nel (Beaufort-Wes, 1963) is an odd man out in the poetry of his own country. This former student of English, Afrikaans and History at the University of Stellenbosch, and a former guide, barman and guard, has only published one collection, but it made him famous overnight. Om te lewe is onnatuurlik (Living is Unnatural; 1993), which comprises a series of poems that are as personal as they are painful, was awarded the Ingrid Jonker Prize. The South African writer Etienne van Heerden has called Vlok Nel “one of our finest talents”.Om te lewe is onnatuurlik was followed up by the CD Om beaufort wes se beautiful woorde te vergeet, a whole-evening show with poems and chansons. Vlok Nel has toured all of South Africa with it. He has been compared to Bob Dylan, and he claims to be a fan of Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen.
In his debut collection, Vlok Nel paints a nostalgic and melancholy portrait of his youth in Beaufort-Wes, a town in the South African countryside where mainly poor whites live. His father worked on the railways. Vlok Nel’s chansons are extremely depressing, enchanting and almost hypnotic, and they are written in a non-everyday, old-fashioned and yet innovative Afrikaans. Antjie Krog has written about him: “Volk Nel’s stuttering, uncertain and searching style is inextricably bound up with the working-class environment from which he comes. In his poems he shows himself to be an extremely sensitive observer who, with simple working-class language, attempts to reconcile himself to raw everyday life. The poetic narrator tries to fathom the contrasts in his life and in his poems.”
Gerrit Komrij included no less than eight poems by Volk Nel in his anthology De Afrikaanse poëzie in 1000 en enige gedichten (Afrikaans Poetry in 1000 or so Poems). A film-maker, Walter Stokman, has made a documentary about Vlok Nel that has been broadcast by VPRO. Since then, Vlok Nel’s star has been on the ascendant in the Low Countries, where he is a welcome and above all listened-to guest.

– Robert Dorsman  (Translated by John Irons)

 

 

BEATIFUL IN BEAUFORT WEST

 

& you were beautiful in Beaufort West and I was so frightened and so frightingly in love with you & you & I had kissed on graves & on trains & on the back seats of Ford Fairlanes now you and your husband are both computer analysts & last winter you tried to cut both of your wrists & now you can’t sleep anymore, can’t laugh anymore, can’t do anything for yourself, will never kiss me again

& your words were mooi mooi mooi also when you were smoking menthol cigarettes & said those sweet sweet things to me while you lay sweet sweet in my arms & I’ve exactly forgotten the exact words I only remember the smoke & the sweat in Beaufort West & your naked body under a cool cotton summer dress can’t sleep anymore, can’t laugh anymore, never do anything for each other again, never kiss each other again

& maybe it’s like a story from the Huisgenoot, but one evening you suddenly pushed me away & looked at your face in the rear view mirror & said ‘maybe I should look happier’ that evening I just couldn’t get to sleep & the feeling that my heart would tear right out of my body & like a rowboat that’s floating away on the river I could not sleep anymore, not laugh anymore, not do anything right again, never kiss you again

& the last memory I’ll sing about is the night when you & I rode the milk train on and on into the night to the other side of the ding dong gong of the breakfast waiter passing in the corridor & this was my wake-up call my love, you said ‘wees asseblief life vir my’ but I dreamed that we went to live in Beaufort West & I couldn’t sleep anymore, couldn’t laugh, couldn’t do something like that anymore, will never kiss you again

 

© Translation: Richard Jürgens
From: om beaufort wes se beautiful woorde te vergeet
Publisher: 1998

 

***

 

DON’T FORGET ME, DIXIE

 

don’t leave me here
(what did you say? what did you say?) I said you mustn’t
you mustn’t leave me on my own in this country
where they still burn witches
this ugly ugly country
don’t leave me here
Dixie, I don’t know if you know without you
everything I have around me fills my
heart with wordlessness & dread all the people
& buildings that I
have around me all the years & hassles & shows that I now
have before me all the dead-end jobs that I have behind me
all the blue blue air that I
have above my head & all the dead loves that I
have under me & most of all this emptying bed
you
mustn’t leave me here
(what did you say? what did you say?) I said
you mustn’t mustn’t leave me all alone in this village
where I grew up
where no one sees anything beautiful in me
where I am served by strange waiters
don’t forget me
Dixie I don’t know if you know how empty the pool halls
of my youth are the balls are pocketed & the music has
stopped in the dance halls of heart-pain & the blue cue-chalk
has gone grey in my hand while I looked for a moment
through the window at something somewhere
in the country you
mustn’t leave me here
(what did you say? what did you say?) I said
you mustn’t mustn’t leave me alone on this planet
where God does not know us anymore

 

© Translation: 2006, Richard Jürgens
From: Beaufort-Wes se beautiful woorde (CD)
Publisher: Munich Records, 2006

 

***

 

EPITAPH

 

Last night I dreamed that I was living in 1975 again, the year
when I was last happy. Then I walked down the steps & tapped
water for myself in the kitchen it was so quiet in the house.
The best years are gone. Anyway, & then I dreamed that I
would one day live as far away from 1998 as possible.

Last year I dreamed that I was living in my own most
beautiful words again in my most beautiful village & that I
was starting to get healthy again. Then I woke suddenly &
something wasn’t right I was so lost I wasn’t in my own home.
The most beautiful words are gone. Anyway, & then I
dreamed that I had gone to live in a language as far away
from Afrikaans as possible.

I my boyhood I had a girl she was beautiful beyond
Afrikaans she could make my heart dance in pain all night
& she was somehow Gert’s last stance. And then she dreamed
that she had gone to live in a body as far away from my body as possible.
The loveliest love is gone. Anyway, then I dreamed that I had
gone to live by her body as far away from my body as possible.

Somewhere I dreamed that I attended my own funeral
& Pa was there & Ma was there & all my loves like in my
happiest year. But the best was this the best was this this was
that I bent down to the ground & kissed myself on my own
mouth.
The most beautiful dreams are gone. Anyway, then I dreamed
that I had gone to live in a dream as far away as possible
from here & now

Last night I dreamed that I was living in 1975 again, the year
when I was last happy. Then I descended from the step &
tapped water for myself in the kitchen it was so quiet in the
house. The best years are gone. Anyway, & then I dreamed that
I went to live in a country as far away from South Africa as
possible. & then I dreamed that I went to live in a country as
far away from South Africa as possible.

 

© Translation: Richard Jürgens
From: om beaufort wes se beautiful woorde te vergeet
Publisher: 1998

 

***

 

FOR THOSE IN PERIL ON THE SEA

 

and for the lovely young taken to the sea for the first time
and for the unlovely unyoung taken to the sea for the last time
and for the unlovely young untaken to the sea
and for the lovely young taken to the unsea.

Oh Lord when thou were alone in the Beginning thy
spirit was in peril on the sea and thou called to me
to rescue thee. It was in an unyear rhyming with
unsea unlike 1973 when thou called “Gertjie!” and
I turned around and died and said the word rhyming
with lonely,

and so it was.

Off to the sea we went my father and me in a little
boat from Calvinia we sailed desperately, moenie asb.
moenie my asseblief per trein verlaat nie my Lief dis
die diepste weggaan vir my noudat almal in die ganse
www al hulle websites begin bou het buiten
ek&jy@somewhere.co.za. O Heer, at the cusp of this here
whatever time wat al hoe meer whatever raak I am praying to
thee in the language that will outlive me and the sea
for the river my father my love and me are all in peril
on the sea

 

© Gert Vlok Nel

 

***

 

Hillside Lullaby

 

I live here in the town where the trains whistle
& the shunters shift the trains around on tracks
day & night
& I’m very much all right
do you remember when you were going to live with me . . .
how did our story go from there?
trains that shunt, trains that stay
trains that always ride in circles here

dream of me & leave me free tonight

this morning early there was a loud bang
down there on that side of the railway bridge
but everything was very much all right
it’s only me I long for you so much
& in the meantime everything frightens me
all the words lie empty in my hand
because my heart sleeps with you where the trains
shunt

dream of me & leave me free tonight

 

© Translation: 2006, Richard Jürgens
From: Beaufort-Wes se beautiful woorde (CD)
Publisher: Munich Records, 2006

 

***

 

RIVER

 

River, o river you’re the deepest word that I know
I could navigate by you to the sea & to her in the
hope that I would win her heart,
but desert is the word by which
I must journey to win her heart

Last night I slept in Pretoria
in the wrong city with the wrong woman
which now means that
I must journey to you in the Cape with my
hat in my hand through
the most frightening country o my Darling:
can you hear me there where you’re sleeping?

Last night I slept in Bloemfontein
was happy I had got so far in one day was
happy there were still
flowers for hikers to pick (wanted to call you) was
happy love will not pass
me by was happy it’s only another 1000 km here from
the Cape

Last night I slept in Colesberg
across from the garage where the prostitutes turned
what the uncles brought around
& hiking back to the Cape in the long
night I saw some
crying I saw others singing maybe about that
mixed feeling that turning around brings

Last night I slept in Beaufort West
in the Wagon Wheel Motel wanted to call you
say that I am dreamless
seamless world-weary & had had enough &
want to come and sleep in your arms forever
like a boat on the bed of the sea

Last night I slept in Beaufort West
Last night I slept in Beaufort West
Last night I slept in Beaufort West

 

© Translation: 2006, Richard Jürgens
From: Beaufort-Wes se beautiful woorde (CD)
Publisher: Munich Records, 2006

 

***

 

TIMOTEI SHAMPOO

 

what happened my pretty that
december when we lived like jet
setters in gordons bay in that
warm overpriced flat over
the portofino ice cream parlour with a
view of the quay
& the wind that incessantly ooh ooh blew
& your long cream calico curtains waving by bye like hands
through the window
& that letter from someone from somewhere in my
hand & the wind that turned toward the dusk of the
sea to the land
& the flat now suddenly like a falling boeing plummeting to
sea & you who ask why
me? & your naked body suddenly swaying over me & sob
why? with your hair in my mouth sweet &
soft like edible strawberry underwear
& TIMOTEI SHAMPOO

oysters on melba toast & perrier water
that last morning
sun on the balcony &
not even 8 o’clock & already outside the happy screams of
holidaymakers with ice creams &
you who suddenly began to cry &
the curtains rip from their rings &
topless freeze in the glass
like an over-exposed photo from a family album
or an old magazine I think I see it now you say we have
lingered in chambers by the sea but all that
poetry shit means nothing now to me &
then you brought out the old curtains from a drawer that you
bought at a christmas special at
edgars in gordons bay &
that summer was a goner & I what do I say I guess we
dropped by at jane syemour’s
& have subsequently returned to TIMOTEI SHAMPOO

police sirens that night & then a
crash 3:31 on the alarm clock & we were awake
no no I was alone I
think I remember now my love where were you?
where were you? because I was so alone &
it began to rain outside &
I went out into the abandoned streets & you jumbo golf
was gone & gone
down was the moon & the pleiades middle of night & I
frantically phoned the hospital from a callbox & mumbo
jumbo with a businesslike night nurse no no
you weren’t there but in the
warm overpriced flat I found you
at the bay window with your
hands turned outwards
catching the rain I saw you running you said
& smiled are you bringing good news
for me did they get my body in the end?
do me a favour & balsam me in
TIMOTEI SHAMPOO

what happened my bashful fugitive pretty that
unfortunate december when we saw ourselves
as a sun setting in gordons bay in that
warm overpriced flat over
the portofino ice cream parlour with a
view of the quay

 

© Translation: Richard Jürgens
From: om beaufort wes se beautiful woorde te vergeet
Publisher: 1998

Poems published with the kind permission by Poetry International Web

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