Desmond Painter. Borges in Afrikaans

A Life

Borges: A Life

Ek het Jorge Luis Borges as ‘n kortverhaalskrywer ontdek, en dit nogal in Afrikaans! Ek verwys natuurlik na Sheila Cussons se vertaling, Die vorm van die swaard en ander verhale, wat in 1981 by Tafelberg verskyn het. Seker ook al vir jare uit druk. Ek het dit op skool by die dorpsbiblioteek uitgeneem, en later my eie kopie tweedehands in Langstraat aangeskaf — daar was ‘n wonderlike boekwinkel waar die Longstreet Cafe vandag is: ek het stapels Afrikaanse boeke op uitverkoping daar aangeskaf toe hulle vroeg in die 1990s hulle deure gesluit het.

Cussons se vertalings van ‘n handvol Borges-verhale is regtig uitstekend, net jammer daar was so min van hulle! Wat sou ek nie gee om tien of twintig meer van daardie meester se betowerende prosatekste in Cussons se digterlike Afrikaans te kon lees nie… Sommige van die meer onlangse vertalings van Borges se tekste in Engels is juis by tye ‘n bietjie tam. Die skynbare ‘saaklikheid’ van Borges se styl is nie ‘n verskoning vir slap, generiese prosa in die vertaling nie. Hulle is digte tekste, en verlang ‘n soort talige gedrongenheid. Cussons, as digter, het dit uitstekend reggekry. 

Borges was natuurlik self ook ‘n produktiewe digter. Trouens, hy het homself eerstens as digter, en dan eers as kortverhaalskrywer gesien. Tans lees ek Edwin Williamson se biografie, Borges: A life (Viking, 2004). Dit is ‘n meeslepende oorsig oor hierdie hierdie briljante skrywer en komplekse individu se loopbaan en lewe. En meer: dit bied ‘n blik op daardie glinsterende maar dikwels gefolterde stad, Buenos Aires, in die twintigste eeu.

Enkele jare gelede het ek die geleentheid gehad om, op pad na ‘n kongres in Kuba, vir twee dae in Buenos Aires rond te dwaal. Nie genoeg tyd nie; dit is ‘n stad om na terug te keer. Natuurlik wou ek ook, soos alle toeriste, La Bocca en die tango sien; maar dit is eintlik Borges se spoor wat ek wou volg. ‘n Volgende keer skryf ek iets daaroor. Vandag volstaan ek met ‘n gedig van Borges (‘Limits’) in Engelse vertaling. Dit herinner my aan boeke wat uit druk is, boekwinkels wat nie meer bestaan nie, en stede wat ‘n mens dalk nooit weer sal besoek nie…

 

Limits – Jorge Luis Borges
Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

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