Posts Tagged ‘Danie Marais vertalings in Engels’

Danie Marais – vertaling in Engels

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Danie Marais – translated by/vertaal deur Richard Jürgens, Charl JF Cilliers & the author.


Danie Marais

Danie Marais

Danie Marais was born in Kimberley in 1971, went to school in Pretoria and obtained a B.Com degree with legal subjects at Stellenbosch University in 1993. He furthered his studies in the field of education at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, with German, mathematics and philosophy as majors. At present he lives in Stellenbosch and works as a freelance journalist and writer. Marais writes a regular rock column for Beeld and Die Burger newspapers. He is a scriptwriter for Binneland sub judice. In 2007 he participated in Poetry International in Rotterdam and was included in the Dutch anthology Hotel Parnassus:Poezie van dichters uit de hele wereld. For his first volume of poems, In die buitenste ruimte (2006), he received the Ingrid Jonker, Eugene Marais and UJ-debuut prizes. His second volume, Al is die maan ‘n misverstand, was published by Tafelberg in 2009. He also compiled an anthology, As almal ver is: Suid-Afrikaners skryf huis toe, for Tafelberg in 2009, a collection of essays, letters, short stories and strips about the experiences involved in emigration and/or living abroad. In March 2010 Tafelberg published Nuwe stemme 4, an anthology of poems of promising but hitherto unpublished poets which Marais compiled in collaboration with Ronel de Goede.




The world is everything
that is the case
Wittgenstein said.
Everything, however,
rubbed me wrong for years
I clenched my black heart
childlike for revolution my teeth
on edge for another world.

But on this hazy summer day
with the city washed up
jetsam against Table Mountain covered
in scars my cup runs over I toast:
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
and The Story of an African Farm
from an attic window in Woodstock.
For, oh, this deluded world with its petty wars
Cape Minstrel choirs and mountain fires this ocean
we have ploughed this dashed world is
my home with its
Grapes of Wrath its Rain Dogs its mutts
barking at the gates of paradise its
Madame Bovarys and bergies riding
bluetrain spirits horrors high, yes, only this world
gives us
a perverse masterpiece
our daily bread –
the great unholy mass clouding
the sun.


(Uncollected. Tr. by the author, 2012)


The Earth Slips Blue


Once the outermost darkness of space

comes to admire itself

here within

blackness of desire

surrounds the white moon still


When deepest indifference at last

recognises itself in the mirror

the earth slips blue, falls free –

twirls softly through the  void

in the oil of the all 


(From : Al is die maan ‘n misverstand, Tafelberg, 2009)

(Tr. By Charl JF Cilliers)





Everywhere it is the same –

the sea washes in,

the sea washes out,

disappears in the sand.

The sun does not ask why,

nor does the moon venture a reply.

And surely that’s not what you write a poem about.


But then something else happens, suddenly overnight,

and you wake with  shoes of lead

hands flimsy as breath,

a feeling that slowly looms up

around you like a cemetery

in the soft rain.


Sometimes I think you and I

can save each other from this;

defy gravity, the passage of death,

but already we are two old trees

divided by a quiet stream.


And I see the seasons

marching through you

and my leaves stir in the breeze 

and my words fall

into the slow water

drifting to the sea.




I read this poem to you

as you take your seat with a cup

of tea in front of the computer.

I said I wrote it last night

while you were sleeping.


You  say nothing at first;

just look at me

with an unfathomable mixture

of understanding and irritation

before you ask:

“What would you do if something bad

really happened to you?

What would you do, say,

if someone close to you died?

Are you already rehearsing for the pain? ” 


(From: Al is die maan ‘n misverstand, Tafelberg, 2009)

(Tr. By Charl JF Cilliers)



Christmas Eve in the Medi-Clinic


Death sometimes flings a stone through the window pane

just to wake up the people in a quiet house:


On Christmas Eve my father’s face turned ashen

close to the braaivleis coals;

he struggled to climb the stairs,

and went to lie down.

When he woke up

his pulse was out of control.


At the Medi-Clinic a doctor said

he should spend the night in the hospital.

Perhaps a mild heart attack.

My sister was in tears –

she said that a large, fatal heart attack

often followed on a mild one,

and that, as usual, Dad always

worked too hard.


By my father’s bedside in the Medi-Clinic

all this sounded absurd.

His shirt was unbuttoned,

with two EKG pads nestling amongst his chest hairs;

but he looked fit and healthy.

He spoke calmly to me.

Said retiring far from doctors in a small coastal town

was not a good idea.

Here there was proper care…


That my father’s heart was a muscle

that could give out

seemed unlikely.

My father was 62, but looked 50.

Was only off sick for two days while at school.

Had hardly missed a day at the office.

He was an engineer who built, maintained and managed things.

Someone who made things work,

and a gentleman.

I cannot remember

him ever, in public,

being petty, mean or rude to anyone.


When, at the age of 18, I left home

I had no time for people

who did their bit for a rotten society.

Becoming a gentleman was not my goal.

My father and I had a symbiotic relationship –

he built windmills,

I tilted at them.


Now I stand before my father’s life

like a heathen with a camera

at the gates of Mecca –

speechless at the faith and perseverance

that built these walls.


That all is vanity is not exactly a new idea.

To write this down a thousand different ways

is surely no more meaningful

than mending a leaking tap.


In the Medi-Clinic

I tried to tell my Dad

with words and sign language

that I admire him,

even though he does not actually read books;

that I love him:

and thank you

for the windmills and everything.


He answered, but did not look at me:

“I only did what grandpa Danie also did.

It actually goes without saying.”

His one hand on his stomach appeared resigned

when he turned to me and tried to smile reassuringly.

He said don’t keep the others

waiting any longer.

The grandchildren wanted their presents.

He was okay.


Grandpa Danie’s fear of hospitals was childlike,

but I took my leave of my father obediently

on Christmas Eve in the Medi-Clinic.


On my way home in his silent, silver car

I realized what it meant

to squander your life.

I sailed through 35 years

like a surfer heading for the sea

through the Great Karoo, Dad.

Like the black ball on a snooker table,

unerringly I swish my way across the green baize

heading for the last pocket.

And yet there is still nothing

I want to build or manage; nothing

I can fix.

But I’m asking, like everyone else,

for more, Dad,

more windmills and everything.


(From : Al is die maan ‘n misverstand, Tafelberg, 2009)

(Tr. By Charl JF Cilliers)



The Night I Became We


Your father, dear Lea Cecilia, is a man

who tries to talk and gesture

himself through life.

But the first time you

came wriggling in my arms

and lay there, you lulled me

like a dummy,

dwarfing the world around us.


Your tiny heels

soft as cheeks

left me speechless;

the miniatures of your mother’s long toes;

the useless little hands

trying to fidget in your mouth;

the small tuft of dark hair;

the sweet baby smell.


Your wandering eyes were two searchlights probing

the contours of my unfamiliar face.


A nurse whisked you off and weighed you,

made a note in a file,

secured a tag around each ankle

and showed them to me –

as if I would perhaps be in need of a label

to identify your whimperings and your toes

in future.


After that more things happened,

but they’ve grown vague.


I do know that I kissed your mother

before I dazedly wound my way home

in my father’s old motor car –

just before sunrise through the wintry grey

deserted streets of Cape Town:

a man with only one leg and one arm

on a crutch at the station;

two bergies on sidewalk mattresses

in Roodebloem Road below Jamaica Me Crazy;

mist over the harbour and dim lights:

my scanning eyes sliding

over the landscape failing

to find a resting place.


In our living room

needy Levinia meows.

On the yellow kitchen table Die Burger‘s front page states:

“Foreigners flee from zenophobic thugs –

Rasool has plan to restore order.”

In a photo a policeman with a big gun tries to protect

the foreigners’ meager possessions on a bakkie

against the onslaught of the seething masses.


A few tears would be the least I could do,

but for new people the world is a very strange sight.

When a new-born baby cries, there are no tears flowing yet.


(From : Al is die maan ‘n misverstand, Tafelberg, 2009)

(Tr. By Charl JF Cilliers)



What Bad Poems Know

Poetry makes nothing happen – W.H. Auden


Why then does bad poetry so immeasurably depress me?


Previously I hoped

it was because bad poems were lies

which, like golden sandals,

made desire obscene.

I thought it was the tacky, predictable despair

the Highveld Stereo passion

the emotional pornography

the infantile word games

the lame forced rhymes and paraplegic rhyming couplets

the zombie-hallelujahs

the creepy intimacy and wet kisses

the clueless disappointment

the hang-tit outpourings in clouds of suffocating perfume

the unpolished cries of distress

the suicide notes riddled with spelling mistakes

the illiterate arrogance

the bumbling pretentiousness

the self-conscious honesty

the tedious nightmares

the macho self-pity

the unmagical realism

the suburban surrealism

the perpetual arse-licking of the deaf-mute Muse

the arsenic poeticas

the feigned concern for nature

the small-minded political pontification …


But all that is secondary –

it’s the unmistakable truth in bad poetry

that gets me down.


A good poem is the mock sun, the lie.

The world is made with shitty style and hollow rhetoric –

life is the rerun of a soapie,

death a mere formality.


Good poems are the headlights

that fatally blind you,

because there is a murderous hack

behind the wheel of this twelve-ton cliché.



(Tr. By Charl JF Cilliers)




Charl JF Cilliers  was born in 1941 in Cape Town. Initially he went into the field of electronics and lectured for 4 years. He then joined Parliament as a translator in 1968 and retired in 1998 as Editor of Hansard. His first volume of poems West-Falling Light appeared in 1971, to be followed by Has Winter No Wisdom in 1978. His Collected Poems 1960 – 2008 appeared in 2008 and The Journey in 2010. His latest volume of poetry , A momentary stay.  was published in 2011. He also published a volume of children’s poems, Fireflies Facing The Moon, in 2008. He has retired to the Cape West Coast where he continues to write.



Other poems published with the kind permission by Poetry International Web


Sometimes you meet someone


This morning I found our cat

blissfully curled up

in the washing basket.

A sleeping paw over her head,

two white back paws

completing the circle.


A cat is its own bed,

own house, party, religion, movement, union.

A cat is a perfectly incomprehensible word of fur.


People are not like this.

People are road signs on the bottom of an ocean

dreamed in words.

People are empty.

People are “For Sale”.

People are dead-end streets.

People take what they can take.

People flitter like moths around a long ago moon.

They can’t help themselves.


Cats come and live in people only

when they’re tired, thirsty or hungry.


People have been wondering for centuries about cats.


House cats eat their people

only when they are already dead.


Sometimes you meet someone who is just like a cat.


You find the meaning of your life

in the sound of her name.

You chase her perfume


but when you find her

her eyes change

your hands into silent prayers

your tongue into sand.


She disappears like darkness in the night.


All that remains

is the outline of an emptiness –

a ring of smoke

brown marbling on a piece of white paper

wedding ring in your drawer.



In the darkroom


I took photos of all the distant places

I’d been without you;

photos that would prove how complete

my life is without you.

I tried to smile

for the camera

like a man of the world –

certainly didn’t want to seem

like a guy who couldn’t survive

a couple of old kisses and a wasted opportunity.

But my photos from Norway, Greece and Thailand

didn’t develop into the pictures

I’d planned.

In the darkroom

your face appeared to me

over and over again.

The dripping skins that I hung out in a row

were the over-exposed images

of my life without you;

the photos I showed to people

bleached postcards

from my new life to you.

And yet I still hoped

the photos would persuade you.


They didn’t.


It’s a pity, you said, that I 

lead such a vicarious life in Europe.

The dictionary explains ‘vicarious’

as: ‘surrogate’, ‘indirect’, ‘second-hand’.


I disagreed with you vehemently,

said that only Tuaregs and Amazonian Indians

didn’t live a so-called ‘vicarious life’.

And when they sat around the camp fire and told stories

their lives were also indirect,

second-hand and surrogate,

I added.


But in the dark room

by the sleeping body of the woman

who I share my life with now

I know, as always,

exactly what you mean.

In the darkness

your words touch me

with soft eyes




In Germany where the clouds march in single file


Germany is where the clouds

march in single file

where the sun has a permit to shine

where the moon may not stay up as late as she pleases.


Germany looks like Germany on television.

The only difference between Germany and television

is that something happens on television.


The criminals in Germany dream

of big guns

of America.

The thugs all have

hot water, electricity and medical insurance.

The criminals lead lives of quiet desperation

just like the teachers, butchers and accountants.


Germany is wealthy and fat

but anaemic and unwise.


In Germany

it is more difficult

to buy an environmentally unfriendly deodorant

than it is for an overweight teenage girl

to get into MTV heaven.


I suppose Germany is like everywhere –

the kind of place where you are scared

that The People will find you out,

that they will discover your hide-out,

switch off their TV sets

and escape from their talk shows

to come and get you

to groan and bang at your windows

on the fourth floor

like the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead”.


In Germany

you sow mealies

in the flower pots on the balcony.

In Germany

a sea of square houses turn blue in the twilight

when you hear far away voices on the telephone.


In Germany

you speak German like a German

until one morning you struggle again

to pronounce “selbstverständlich”

like someone with a mouth full of novocaine.


In Germany

your mother tongue is still your mother tongue.

In Germany

Afrikaans is the killer whale

you’re raising in the bath;

Afrikaans is the python curled up

under the fig tree in the living room.

Afrikaans becomes your house god, your altar,

the pot plant next to your CD-collection

that grows in the moonlight

like Audrey II in “The Little Shop of Horrors”

to cast long and scary shadows

over the rooftops of the neighbourhood.


In Germany

you walk

perfectly digitally animated

you take

without touching

you move

silently through people and walls

you slip

effortlessly like a voice through a telephone wire

straight through an indifferent day.


In Germany, South Africa

is no more and no less than memories and photos –

that old rugby injury you feel in your joints

when it’s cold and wet.

You are surprised to find yourself

choking back tears one day

next to the Cape grapes in the supermarket.


In Germany

even the grapes from Italy

remind you of home.


In Germany

you often dream

of family, old friends and long ago;

that someone dies

while you are still here far away.


In Germany you do

what you want to

whether you want to

or not.



At a sea green kitchen table somewhere


It’s you said and I said

at a sea green kitchen table

somewhere on the arsehole end of the world

once again.


And I say it’s South Africa,

it’s simply South Africa

that’s been driving me crazy

all these years.

I say I feel about South Africa

like Robert Lowell felt about a manic episode,

“an attack of pathological enthusiasm”.

To have lived with that savage beauty,

the sweet human persistence

and the consuming hopelessness

for twenty-two years

makes everything here

seem like much ado about nothing, indeed.

I say as Lowell said:

“to have known

the glory, violence and banality

of such an experience is corrupting”.


And you say,

blue eyes blazing,

that I have to stop stop stop

all my sweeping statements and grand gestures

that, oh, “Herr Gott weiß!”

I have to

fucking stop quoting things at you.

You say

that I ought to know

that I am not clinically depressed or something

as I seem to believe.


I have to finally realise

that I am actually just

a pathologically pathetic neurotic and hypochondriac

and that is why I always think

I’m going crazy or something.


You say

you often feel exactly as miserable

as I do, but you don’t

jump to the same conclusions

and you don’t mope and moan about it.

No, you get up

and try again

and you flap your arms wildly

and you spit and curse at the moon

and then you go on.


You don’t climb back into bed

to suck your sherbet childhood

like a baby sucks its thumb.


You say that I’m mainly

“theatralisch” and melodramatic

and full of shit.


And I take a deep breath

and I say

fuck you fuck you fuck you

you can’t call me a drama queen!


I say it’s you only you –

you you are

too stubborn and scared to admit

that you too are lost;

that your heart paces your rib cage

like a grizzly bear

when you say “Guten Morgen”

to the secretary.


I say it’s you,

you’re the one who’s convinced

that you’re going to turn into a pillar of salt

if you’d turn around


to look your sad animal helplessness

in the eye.


I say don’t you dare

ever call me theatrical and melodramatic again.

I hear you play Chopin.

I have seen you weep Schubert

when your fingers run away with you

across the keys.


I say

to die little by little

bit by bit

is only natural, “Schatzi!”


I say

I want to say


when I notice how suddenly

silent and wide-eyed you’ve become;

when I see

how a reluctant tear

slowly rolls down your cheek

as you get up

and disappear into the bedroom.


Leaving me

at a small sea green kitchen table somewhere

on the bruised end of our stubborn love.


Leaving me to think how I

suddenly how I love you again.


I know you would have

played piano,

if I hadn’t said those things

about Schubert and Chopin.


I sit and wonder

about melodrama and theatrics.


Sit and wish

that I could tell you

how truly sorry I am;

sit and wish

that I could make you see

how nostalgia is eating my mind alive

how I bellow for love

while you sleep like a baby at night.


Like you

I can be no different.


© Translation: 2007, Richard Jürgens & Danie Marais
Publisher: Poetry International Festival, Rotterdam, 2007