Saturday, October 3, 2015

A double act at De Zwarte Panter: Andree Chédid & Sherman Alexie

Quite a while ago Lucienne Stassaert proposed  to her publisher of over twenty years to bring out two translations on one evening. The publisher Leo Peeraer said yes and thus last night it happened. We decided to introduce each other, no stuffy professors but just two people who like each other and each other's work.
It came to be that I opened the festivities in Adriaan's and Frieda's "The Black Panter" Gallery, home to such events, introducing Lucienne's translation in Dutch: Bestaan is een zegen voor mij: "Existing is a blessing for me" a book by Lebanese author Andrée Chedid. In reading the texts I understood and felt why she  had to translate this specific author. Chedid has a personal spirituality which leads her but which also is not conform with the laws regulating the way of living together in our society. Luxcienne also abhors our amoral society and she has an outspoken humanitarian world view. Both poets always question their thought experiments in life and work. This leads to  changes in the work she does: translating, writing her own poetry, her souvenirs and she does graphic work as well. Luciennes work and Chédid works stem from the same root: a problematic past, being the endless war in Libanon on Chédid's case.

I love lines like:

I don't dare to speak of mankind I know so
little of my self

The poetry in "Bestaan is een zegen voor mij" is not sweet nor easy. Lucienne would never make such a choice. She is more of 'notwithstanding everything we feast and question in uncertainty.

And then Lucienne introduced Sherman Alexies work: "Over the Backs of Salmon". She referred to "The true diary of an halftime Indian" and pointed to the critical aspect of the book and the fact that it was censored in certain states of the USA for being too positive about masturbation...  She commented on his sharp wit and humor and tragicomic situations on the reservation. The publisher Leo Peeraer himself said that at first he didn't know what to do with the book, since Alexie's poetry is full of surprises, poetry and prose at once. Yes, it took a few years before he was won over to publishing the book till suddenly he saw the element of surprise, the greatness and depth of Alexies work.
Yes Poetry is the result of Anger X Imagination
And yes Beauty begins somewhere.

I must admit I was swamped by the people, I signed books, I probably gave some books to the wrong people. What a whirlwind of emotions.

The poems I read in Dutch are:
Last Will and Testament
The Powwow at the End of the World
Things to do (for an Indian) in New York City) : nr. 10

To Robert Hershon, Sherman Alexie's publisher and a great poet in his own right, I would like to say thanks, also to Leo Peeraer THE publisher for great translations and wonderful poetry in Flanders, Belgium.

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