Sống để đếm / Live to Count
Người Piraha ở Brazil chỉ biết đếm tới 2.
Người Mỹ rất thích đếm, và đếm rất chính xác. Có lẽ
Tôi thì thích đếm xác chết.
Mỗi khi thấy xác chết, miệng tôi lẩm bẩm 1, 2, 3, 4,
Tôi luôn chờ cơ hội để được đếm người chết.
Gặp ai, tôi cũng hỏi thử, Bạn chết chưa?
Thấy con nít mới đẻ 2, 3 phút, tôi nhìn thẳng
Mỗi khi nghe, Chưa chết, tôi vô cùng thất vọng,
The Piraha people of Brazil can count only to 2.
Americans, on the other hand, love to count,
I, on the other hand, love to count corpses.
Whenever I see corpses, I always mumble 1, 2, 3, 4
I'm always waiting for an opportunity to count corpses
When I meet someone, I always ask, Are you dead yet?
Seeing an infant just born 2 or 3 minutes ago, IÕd stare
Whenever I hear, Not yet, I'm always devastated,
I was born in Vietnam in 1963, came to the US at 11-years-old, returned to Vietnam to live for 2 ½ years at 35-years-old. I have also lived in Italy for 2 years. I have translated Vietnamese prose and poetry into English, American poetry into Vietnamese, and Italian poetry into Vietnamese and English.
In 2003, I was interviewed by the Berlin-based Vietnamese novelist Pham Thi Hoai. I was living in Certaldo, Italy then. She asked me: "Before I met you in Saigon three years ago, I was certain you weren't fluent in Vietnamese. It turned out I was completely wrong. And yet you almost never write directly in Vietnamese, although you do translate your poetry from English into Vietnamese. Why?"
I answered her: "It's because I'm most comfortable with English. When I'm inspired, I'm inspired in English. I feel inspired inside English. Furthermore, English is still a big challenge to me. It's precisely because it is not my language that I must use it."
Since that interview, however, I've published maybe a 100 poems written directly in Vietnamese. Many of these also have English versions. I don't really keep tracks of which poems were written originally in Vietnamese, and which in English. Recently I have also translated some of my own poems into Italian and published them on <www.fieralingue.it>. It's hilarious, yes, but no more hilarious than me—or you, for that matter—speaking and writing in English. Standing to the side of language, I speak while observing myself speaking. To me, language is not a natural extension of the body but a stick I hold in the dark, an alien tool I must relearn continually how to use.
Above is a poem I wrote this morning in Vietnamese, then translated into English. Those who can read Vietnamese will see small discrepancies between the two versions. I only take liberties when I translate myself, never when I'm translating other people.
|© Copyright 2006 Linh Dinh & Trout.
|This issue of Trout is sponsored in part by UNESCO.