In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land: New and Collected Poems from Two Languages

In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land: New and Collected Poems from Two Languages

by Ariel Dorfman, Edith Grossman

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822383956
Publisher: Duke University Press
Publication date: 08/13/2002
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 538 KB

About the Author

Ariel Dorfman is a world-renowned author of fiction, poems, essays, and films in both Spanish and English. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages, and his plays staged in more than one hundred countries. His work has received many prizes, among them the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Play. He holds the Walter Hines Page Chair at Duke University and contributes regularly to many newspapers worldwide. Among Dorfman‘s publications are the reissue of his novel Widows (2002), Blake’s Therapy (2001), the memoir Heading South, Looking North: A Bilingual Journey (1998), and the play Death and the Maiden (1992). The poems in In Case of Fire in a Foreign Land have been read publicly by Bono, Emma Thompson, Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Ben Kingsley, Harold Pinter, John Malkovich, and many others, and have been transformed into films, art exhibits, and cantatas.

Edith Grossman has translated the novels of Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Read an Excerpt

In Case of Fire in a Foreign-C

By Ariel Dorfman

Duke University Press

Copyright © 2002 Ariel Dorfman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780822329510

Chapter One


No soy tan diferente de los interpretes detras de sus ventanas de vidrios en las interminables conferencias de lo internacional traduciendo lo que el campesino de Talca recuenta sobre las torturas repitiendo en ingles que lo pusieron sobre el catre poniendo en el frances mas fino y delicado que la electricidad produce efectos durables y transmisibles encontrando el equivalente exacto para violacion por perros pau d'arara insultaba a mis verdugos encontrando un lenguaje escueto y conveniente para aquello que se siente -perdonen la rima y el ritmo- cuando la muralla esta detras de las espaldas y el capitan comienza a decir la palabra fuego, tratando de sacar el melodrama de las frases tratando de comunicar la esencia y la emocion sin entregarse a la corriente oscura y pegajosa de lo que pronuncian en realidad torturaban a mi hijo en la otra pieza al companero nos lo trajeron derrumbado a la companera le metieron ratas es la pura verdad. No tan diferente de ellos con sus voces sus diccionarios sus anotaciones su cultura su retorno a casa en Ginebra en Nueva York en la Haya, un intermediario, ni siquiera un puente, traduccion simultanea pararecibir un buen sueldo porque somos especialistas y lo unico verdaderamente increible es que a pesar de nosotros a pesar de mi rio de interpretaciones y giros linguisticos algo se comunica una porcion de aullido un matorral de sangre unas lagrimas imposibles la humanidad algo ha escuchado y se emociona.


I'm not so different from the interpreters in their glass booths at endless international conferences translating what the peasant from Talca tells about torture repeating in English that they put him on the cot stating in the most refined and delicate French that electric shock produces lasting transmissible effects finding the exact equivalent for rape by dogs pau d'arara I insulted the murderers finding a phrase without emotion that describes exactly the sensation -please forgive any rhymes or rhythms you may find- when the wall is at your back and the captain begins to say the word fire, trying to take the melodrama out of the sentences trying to communicate the essence and the feeling without giving in to the dark cloying current of what they are really saying they were torturing my son in the other room they brought back our companero unconscious they put rats inside our companera it's God's truth. Not so different from them with their voices their dictionaries their notes their culture their going back home in Geneva in New York in the Hague, an intermediary, not even a bridge, simultaneous translation for good pay because we are specialists and the incredible thing is that in spite of us in spite of my river of interpretations and turns of phrase something is communicated a part of the howl a thicket of blood some impossible tears the human race has heard something and is moved.


averiguar cotejar informaciones ir a la comisaria despues al regimiento contratar abogados firmar peticiones comenzar a golpear puertas hablar con parientes llamar a viejos amores buscar influencias oficiar a la corte hablar con los ex-detenidos escuchar rumores oficiar otra vez apelar asistir a reuniones con otros padres sacar copias de la foto hablar con un periodista extranjero poner otra carta en el correo levantarse en el medio de la noche cuando para un auto frente a la casa recibir la noticia de que una novia que tuviste se va a casar releer tu cuaderno de composicion de segundo humanidades oficiar a la suprema mirar a la calle

y todo para poder enterrar tu cuerpo, tener un lugar donde tu madre puede ir a dejar flores -te gustaban los crisantemos pero estan muy caros- los domingos y el primero de noviembre.


find out check information go to the police station then to regimental headquarters hire lawyers sign petitions begin to knock on doors talk to relatives call up old girlfriends find people with influence petition in court talk to released prisoners listen to rumors petition again appeal attend meetings with other parents make copies of the photograph talk to a foreign reporter mail another letter wake up in the middle of the night when a car stops in front of the house hear the news that your fiancee is getting married reread your composition book from junior high petition the supreme court look at the street

just to be able to bury your body, to have a place where your mother can go with flowers (you liked chrysanthemums but they cost so much) on Sundays and All Souls' Day.


y ese quien es ese al lado del Tio Roberto?

ay, nina, pero si ese es tu padre

y por que no viene el papa?

porque no puede.

esta muerto el papa que nunca viene?

y si le digo que el papa esta vivo estoy mintiendo y si le digo que el papa esta muerto estoy mintiendo.

Asi que le digo lo unico que le puedo decir y que no es una mentira: no viene porque no puede.


who's that who's that man with Uncle Roberto?

oh, honey, that's your father

why doesn't daddy ever come to see me?

because he can't

is daddy dead? is that why he never comes home?

and if I tell her that daddy is alive I'm lying and if I tell her that daddy is dead I'm lying

so I tell her the only thing I can that isn't a lie:

daddy never comes home because he can't.


Excerpted from In Case of Fire in a Foreign-C by Ariel Dorfman Copyright © 2002 by Ariel Dorfman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

CONTENTS Like So Many Prefaces, This One Is Also Probably Superfluous By Way of Dedication: Community dot Com PART ONE To Miss, Be Missed, Missing / Desaparecer PART TWO Poems I Wasn’t Going to Show Anybody / Poemas que no iba a mostrar a nadie PART THREE Undertow / Resaca FOUR EPILOGUES Anything Else Would Have Tasted Like Ashes / Cuatro Epílogos: Para Que La Vida No Tuviese Sabor a Cenizas Acknowledgments

What People are Saying About This

Denise Levertov

Ariel Dorfman's testaments of pain and outrage are indeed poems. They will outlast the oppression, the torture, the misery of exile of which they tell. 'Many are called' to write of these matters, but 'few are chosen.' Dorfman is one of the few.

Breyten Breytenbach

As long as poems such as these are written and published, the Pinochets of the world cannot have the last say.

W. S. Mervin

"[These poems] manage to speak with great directness of the....suffering and dread in his own country-and, by implication, in much of the world today-and yet to be maps of the imagination, the compassionate imagination....writing like this is a rare source of hope.

Margaret Atwood

A deeply moving collection from one of Chile's most important writers.....Stark and at the same time oddly radiant.

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