Landscape with Rowers: Poetry from the Netherlandsby J. M. Coetzee
Though the Netherlands has been the site of vigorous literary activity since at least the Beweging van Vijftig (Movement of the Fifties) poets, the status of Dutch as a "minor" language spoken by only twenty-two million people has kept its rich poetry more or less a secret. This volume--featuring J. M. Coetzee's finely wrought English translations/i>
Though the Netherlands has been the site of vigorous literary activity since at least the Beweging van Vijftig (Movement of the Fifties) poets, the status of Dutch as a "minor" language spoken by only twenty-two million people has kept its rich poetry more or less a secret. This volume--featuring J. M. Coetzee's finely wrought English translations side-by-side with the originals--brings the work of six of the most important modern and contemporary Dutch poets to light.
Ranging in style from the rhetorical to the intensely lyrical, the work here includes examples of myth-influenced modernist verse, nature poetry, experimental poetry, poems conscious of themselves within a pan-European avant-garde, and Cees Nooteboom's uncompromising reflections on the powers and limitations of art. In addition to Nooteboom, the poets represented are Gerrit Achterberg, Hugo Claus, Sybren Polet, Hans Faverey, and Rutger Kopland--a who's who of contemporary Dutch poetry.
In Youth, Coetzee's main character claims that "of all nations the Dutch are the dullest, the most antipoetic." With these marvelous translations, the author proves his protagonist wrong.
"[Coetzee's] choices all have the capacity to pique poetry readers' interest in more by these striking, thoroughly European modernists. . . . [An] enjoyably challenging little sampler."--Booklist
"To lay bare something of the individuality of one poet's voice can be difficult enough. For this book, J.M. Coetzee has translated six 20th-century poets from the Netherlands, rendering all of them with delicate virtuosity. Each poet comes across as having an arresting and distinctive voice, which is then allowed to resonate all the more effectively thanks to the translator's choice of poems of a sequential nature."--Alan Marsahll, Daily Telegraph
"Coetzee's own varied life--as a computer programmer with a doctorate in computer-generated language, as a polyglot 'post-structuralist linguist,' as a world-renowned novelist--rivals that of the most eclectic of the poets he's translated. Way back before the novels that earned him an unprecedented two Booker Prizes, however, he cherished his own hopes of becoming a poet. Clearly, with his faithful translation from the Dutch and his shrewd assessment of this little-known body of literature, Coetzee's earliest ambition is now yielding a surprising late harvest."--Cynthia Haven, San Francisco Chronicle
"Coetzee here demonstrates a sharp ear and deft hand with poems in a variety of voices. . . . [It] is a gift to come upon these translations from six poets definitely worth our attention."--Library Journal
"The book has been lovingly and beautifully produced. . . . I was struck by how much more starkly and conspicuously the effort to grapple with the horrific century just past comes through in the writings of smaller nations. . . . Mr. Coetzee's translations of these cool and astringent poems read well. . . . By relying on slant or partial rhymes, he often succeeds in conveying the music of the originals--no mean feat."--Eric Ormsby, New York Sun
"These poems are whispered in the back pew of some massive cathedral where Stevens and Stein are saying benedictions. But sitting in the back row isn't just an act of humility: back here you can have a little fun at the priest's expense. It is that combination of devout parishioner and irreverent jester that makes these poems breathe."--Dan Chiasson, Poetry
"In Coetzee's artful translations, these poems suggest the power of the half-known."--Robert Pinsky, Washington Post Book World
Read an Excerpt
Landscape with RowersPoetry from the Netherlands
By J. M. Coetzee
Princeton University PressCopyright © 2005 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.
Chapter OneGerrit Achterberg Ballade van de gasfitter 1 Gij hebt de huizen achterom bereikt. Aan de voorgevels, tussen de gordijnen, blijft ge doorlopend uit het niet verschijnen wanneer ik langs kom en naar binnen kijk. Al moet ge in 't voorbijgaan weer verdwijnen, het volgend raam geeft me opnieuw gelijk. Daar wonen ene Jansen en de zijnen, alsof ge mij in deze naam ontwijkt. Maar dat zegt niets. De deuren zijn geduldig; hebben een bel, een brievenbus, een stoep. De appelkoopman lokt u met zijn roep. En valse sleutels zijn er menigvuldig. Ook kan ik binnen komen, doodonschuldig en tot uw dienst, gasfitter van beroep. Ballad of the Gasfitter 1 You must have made your entry from the rear. To each house in the row I turn my glance and in each curtained window catch a glimpse of You, as out of nothing You appear. As I move past You seem to slip away. Yet I am not mistaken, vide the next frame. One Jansen lives there with his family- as if You could escape under that name. The ruse won't work. A door remains a door, each with its steps, its mailbox, and its bell. The apple hawker lures you with his call. A master key is easy to procure. Indeed I can quite freely step inside as (at your service) gasfitter by trade. 2 Dan-op klaarlichte dag bij u aan 't werk, vermomd als man van de gemeente-gaan mijn ogen in het rond en zien u staan. Maar langzaam wordt de zoldering een zerk. De muren zijn van aarde. Wij beslaan. De kamer is verzadigd, naar ik merk. Het kan ook niet. Ik draai de schroeven aan. Zolang ik mij tot deze taak beperk blijven we voor elkaar incognito, terwijl ik bezig ben, gebukt, geknield, of op mijn buik naga wat er aan scheelt. En al maar denken: het is beter zo. Doodzwijgen, door een hamerslag vernield. Doodstilte, die de hamerslagen heelt. 2 At your address, by daylight, on the job disguised in workman's clothing, I wheel round and behold You standing there. Walls turn to ground, ceiling slowly becomes a marble slab. We fade to each other in murky light. The room is saturated, won't hold more. This can't go on. I turn the screws down tight. As long as I devote myself to this chore we can proceed as we are, incognito- as long as I stay busy, bend or kneel or lie flat on my belly trying to feel what's wrong; thinking to myself, It's better so. Dead silence by a hammer blow dispelled. Death hush by which the hammer blows are healed.
Excerpted from Landscape with Rowers by J. M. Coetzee Copyright © 2005 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
J. M. Coetzee received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003. His books include "The Lives of Animals "(Princeton), "In the Heart of the Country", "Waiting for the Barbarians", and the Booker Prize-winning novels "Life and Times of Michael K" and "Disgrace". His most recent book is the novel "Elizabeth Costello" (2003).
- Adelaide, Australia
- Date of Birth:
- February 9, 1940
- Place of Birth:
- Cape Town, South Africa
- B.A., University of Cape Town, 1960; M.A., 1963; Ph.D. in Literature, University of Texas, Austin, 1969
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