Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I have to do something to get the Christmas post off the top of this blog! I'm still trying to work out a decent story to start with, or indecent, as the case may be. But until that's solved I decided to go with an interlude.

Two significant events occurred in December 2005:
1) Scientists discovered why the Mona Lisa is smiling.
2) The copyright on the German author Kurt Tucholsky expired.

What's the connection? Tucholsky had a poem about Mona Lisa, which I've attempted to translate, with little regard or feeling for poetic form, I'm afraid. But I thought I'd present it here in the hopes that more poetry blogs will link to me:

The Smile of Mona Lisa (1928)
Kurt Tucholsky

I can't turn my eyes from you
the way you hang over your guardian
with softly folded hands,
and grin.

As famous as the Tower of Pisa
your smile stands for irony.
Yes... why is the Mona Lisa smiling?
Is she laughing at us, about us, despite us, with us
against us -
or some other why?

You silently teach us what must be
because your image, Lisa, proves:
one who has seen much of this world
smiles, lays the hands on the abdomen
and is silent.

Tucholsky was a brilliant and prescient satirist of the Weimar Republic era in Germany who saw exactly where the country was going politically and warned against it. He was so on target, to me it's as if he could actually see the future. I'm not the first person to call his work visionary. I intend to translate some of his shorter pieces sometime soon, just to show how accurate they still are. I don't know if I'll present that here, but we'll see.

I hope this poem didn't bore anyone, but I figure if someone gets bored at my blog, it's better if it's not my writing that did it.

Postscript: I originally translated this to send it to David Raphael Israel as it related to his delightful lyric on Mona Lisa. He took my translation and made a real poem out of it, worthy of the original!


Anonymous said...

No at all boring Indie but did you really post if for links? (just kidding) Have a wonderful New Year!

Indeterminacy said...

Happy New Year to you, too, Helen! Glad you enjoyed my post - I wasn't sure how this departure would come across. Be sure to check the link in the postscript to see what happens when poetic feeling and form is applied to my translation.

shtikl said...

Beautiful translation! We have visited the Louvre and the Mona Lisa this summer - and I must confess that it was a disapointment. The picture is hanging about 4 meters aboce the ground behind dark brown glass. If you want to have a good look at La Giaconda, buy a poster at the museum store! (Seriously.)

Happy New Year, Indie! :-)

Sar said...

Happy New Year Indie. I knew you were a gifted writer, but poet and interpreter too. Impressive.

Young at Heart in San Diego said...

What synchronicity! I was just looking at this:
and then came to your post and read this beautiful poem! I was there in Feb. 2004 and was able to visit the Louvre every day for a whole week. I agree with shtikl that the painting itself is a little disappointing and crowds of people are always there so I too bought the poster.

Tom & Icy said...

Poetry would be a great addition to your blog! It might be interesting to see poems the readers write in response to pictures.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Indie!
Thanks for the nice e-mail. I got very sick just before Xmas and was behind in my correspondence, and then we went to D. C.--no computer. Hope you had a good holiday.
Thanks for introducing me to yet another good writer I knew nothing about.

Cori said...

You go indie!

Happy New Year!

I too would love to see more!

(poetry that is.... *wink*)

Unknown said...

Welcome back, Indie. The Mona Lisa post was very good.

admin said...

Hope you had great holidays!

Really funny this study about the Mona Lisa! I wonder if a computer can interpret a smile better than a human!!!

Indeterminacy said...

Sorry, I feel like I'm not really back yet, and here all of your comments are waiting to be commented. Happy New Year to everyone!

Shtikl: Glad you enjoyed this translation - and at least you can read the original, so that's a consolation - I alway avoid translations when I can understand the original. I've never seen the Mona Lisa, and honestly I am probably something of a Kulturbanause, as there are many other paintings I like better than her.

Sar: Don't start spreading rumors! I'm not a poet and I know it.

Young at Heart: I'm glad you're back. I saw some of your photos from the Europe-trip. You've been to some places I've been!

Tom and Icy: I think when I get tired of blogging and want people to leave I'll start to post poetry. My stuff makes Vogon poetry look good.

Mrs. Weirsdo: What a bummer to be sick over the holidays. I'm behind in my correspondence, too, but have using the lax blogging period to catch up. Soon I'll only be six months behind.

Cori: I'm serious. Nobody wants to see my poetry. I wrote some insipid love poems when I was in college. Maybe I'll dig some up for you. Then you'll see. My knowledge of poetry and poets is pedestrian and cursory. I know my limitations and I can live with them.

Doug: Glad you liked this. I apologize for those awful puns I made at your blog the other day. It won't happen again. My poetry is almost as bad as my puns, if that give you an idea.

Viruswitch: I think the Mona Lisa has been overrated. I prefer live smiles.

~Nitoo Das~ said...

Thanks for translating the poem for us, Indie. The last stanza is so quiet and powerful. I didn't know Kurt Tucholsky's work at all before you mentioned him here. So, thanks again and Happy New Year! :)

Indeterminacy said...

Thanks River! I should add that this poem is probably not typical of Tucholsky's work, as I kow him. I've most of all enjoyed his satirical work. He has a an uncanny ability to see right through his targets and predict ultimate consequence. It's impossible what he does.

I was looking for what online texts of his I could find and came across this somewhat easy to translate poem, and thought David would like to know about it.

Ariel the Thief said...

welcome back, Indie, you were missed! if you translate more of Kurt Tucholsky's work, I'd be happy to see those, you made me curious.