A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

El Sueño - El Despertar
Monday, April 18, 2011

A Dream
by Jorge Luis Borges

In a deserted place in Iran there is a not very tall stone tower that has neither door nor window. In the only room (with a dirt floor and shaped like a circle) there is a wooden table and a bench. In that circular cell, a man who looks like me is writing in letters I cannot understand a long poem about a man who in another circular cell is writing a poem about a man who in another circular cell . . . The process never ends and no one will be able to read what the prisoners write.
(Translated, from the Spanish, by Suzanne Jill Levine.)


Un Sueño
Jorge Luís Borges

En un desierto lugar del Irán hay una no muy alta torre de piedra, sin puerta ni ventana. En la única habitación (cuyo piso es de tierra y que tiene la forma del círculo) hay una mesa de madera y un banco. En esa celda circular, un hombre que se parece a mí escribe en caracteres que no comprendo un largo poema sobre un hombre que en otra celda circular escribe un poema sobre un hombre que en otra celda circular... El proceso no tiene fin y nadie podrá jamás leer lo que los prisioneros escriben.




Dreamtigers
By Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

As a child, I was a zealous worshiper of the tiger: not the piebald "tiger" of the Amazonian tangles and the isles of verdure afloat on the Panará river, but the striped, Asiatic, royal tiger which can only be faced down by war-men fortified on elephantback.

I used to linger endlessly in front of one of the cages at the zoo; I judged the gigantic encyclopedias and natural history books according to the majesty of their tigers. (I still remember those illustrations; I who cannot rightly recall a woman’s brow or smile.)




Childhood passed, the tigers and my passion for them grew old, but they endure in my dreams. In the submerged dimension, at that level of the chaotic, they persist. So, as I sleep, some dream distracts me and I know at once it is a dream. I think: This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will, and now that my power is limitless, I am going to cause a tiger.

Oh incompetence! Never do my dreams bear forth the wild beast I yearn for. A tiger appears indeed, but autopsied or flimsy, or with impure variations of shape, or of an implausible size, or far too fleeting, or with something of the bird or the dog.



Dreamtigers (Borges gave the essay a title in English)
Jorge Luís Borges

En la infancia yo ejercí con fervor la adoración del tigre: no el tigre overo de los camalotes del Paraná y de la confusión amazónica, sino el tigre rayado, asiático, real, que sólo pueden afrontar los hombres de guerra, sobre un castillo encima de un elefante.



Yo solía demorarme sin fin ante una de las jaulas en el Zoológico; yo apreciaba las vastas enciclopedias y los libros de historia natural, por el esplendor de sus tigres (todavía me acuerdo de esas figuras: yo que no puedo recordar sin error la frente o la sonrisa de una mujer.)

Pasó la infancia, caducaron los tigres y su pasión, pero todavía están en mis sueños. En esa napa sumergida o caótica siguen prevaleciendo y así: dormido, me distrae un sueño cualquiera y de pronto sé que es un sueño. Suelo pensar entonces: éste es un sueño, una pura invención de mi voluntad, y ya que tengo un ilimitado poder, voy a causar un tigre.



¡Oh, incompetencia! Nunca mis sueños saben engendrar la apetecida fiera. Aparece el tigre, eso sí, pero disecado o endeble, o con impuras variaciones de forma, o de un tamaño inadmisible, o harto fugaz, o tirando a perro o a pájaro.




El despertar
Jorge Luís Borges

Entra la luz y asciendo torpemente
De los sueños al sueño compartido
Y las cosas recobran su debido
Y esperado lugar y en el presente
Converge abrumador y vasto el vago
Ayer: las seculares migraciones
Del pájaro y del hombre, las legiones
Que el hierro destrozó, Roma y Cartago.
Vuelve tambien la cotidiana historia:
Mi voz, mi rostro, mi temor, mi suerte.
¡Ah, si aquel otro depertar, la muerte,
Me deparara un tiempo sin memoria
De mi nombre y de todo lo que he sido!
¡Ah, si en esa mañana hubiera olvido!





Waking up
Jorge Luis Borges

Daylight leaks in, and sluggishly I surface
from my own dreams into the common dream
and things assume again their proper places
and their accustomed shapes. Into this present
the Past intrudes, in all its dizzying range--
the centuries-old habits of migration
in birds and men, the armies in their legions
all fallen to the sword, and Rome and Carthage.
The trappings of my day also come back:
my voice, my face, my nervousness, my luck.
If only Death, that other waking-up,
would grant me a time free of all memory
of my own name and all that I have been!
If only morning meant oblivion!
Translated by Alastair Reid

Like Borges, I too used to frequent the Buenos Aires zoo. I was in my childhood and I thought that tigers were related to cats and lions to dogs.

And from Borges' 1977 poem Lions the last line:

An animal that resembles the dog
his female brings as a prize.
(my translation)

Un animal que se parece a un perro
Como la presa que le trae la hembra.



     

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