Online Exclusives
Share
| All Online Exclusives >

“One of them was called Mandelbaum” from Polonaise

"L’un s’appelait Mandelbaum"
by Emmanuel Moses
Translated from French by
Marilyn Hacker
Issue 30 Online Exclusive

L’un s’appelait Mandelbaum (amandier) et l’autre Birnbaum (poirier). Quelque part dans la salle enfumée il y avait aussi un Kirschbaum (cerisier) et un Appfelbaum (pommier). Un vrai verger parmi les vapeurs d’alcool, les relents de bière et les rots! Sans parler des cris, des rires, des larmes de femmes abandonnées. Hystérie et bagarres. Injustice individuelle puis sociale, puis économique, puis politique, puis métaphysique. Dieu n’était plus nulle part, désormais. Sous aucune table, aucune chaise, au fond d’aucun tonneau et pas même aux toilettes des dames (celles des hommes étaient hors d’usage depuis longtemps). Je me souviens maintenant aussi d’un Faigenbaum (figuier). Un buveur bien solitaire. Dieu, puisqu’il est question de lui, s’était autrefois brièvement logé dans ses parties intimes, lui occasionnant un prurit féroce. Il devait sa guérison à un mélange de chaux, de poudre de jujube et de sel marin, prescrit par un certain docteur Nussbaum (noyer). F. écrivait depuis un livre interminable sur Job à travers les âges. Entre deux rasades il se cherchait un pseudonyme, un nom de plume, qui aurait été un hommage à la seule femme aimée.

One of them was called Mandelbaum (almond tree) and the other Birnbaum (pear tree). Somewhere in the smoke-filled room there was also a Kirschbaum (cherry tree) and an Apfelbaum (apple tree). A veritable orchard in the fumes of alcohol, the reek of beer and belching! Not to mention the cries, laughter, tears of abandoned women. Hysteria and brawling. Individual injustice, then social, then economic, then political, then metaphysical. Henceforth, God was no longer anywhere. Under no table, no chair, not at the bottom of any barrel and not even in the women’s toilets (the men’s had been out of order for ages). I now recall there was also a Faigenbaum (fig tree). A very solitary drinker. God, as he’s what’s at issue, was once briefly lodged in his private parts, giving him a terrible rash. He owed his cure to a mixture of quicklime, jujube powder and sea salt, prescribed by a certain doctor Nussbaum (walnut tree).  Since then, F. had been writing an interminable book about Job through the ages. Between two shots of vodka he tried to find himself a pseudonym, a pen name, which would have been a homage to the only woman he had ever loved.

 

___

 

Moses, Emmanuel. ”One of them was called Mandelbaum” from Polonaise. Paris: Flammarion, 2017.

Emmanuel Moses was born in Casablanca in 1959. He spent his childhood in France, lived in Israel for fifteen years, and then returned to Paris. He is the author of fifteen collections of poems, most recently Polonaise (Flammarion, 2017), and Dieu est à l’arrêt du tram (Gallimard, 2017), and of nine novels and prose texts. He is a past recipient of the Prix Max Jacob and a Prix de poésie de l’Académie Française. He is also a translator of contemporary Hebrew fiction and poetry, notably of Yehuda Amichai.
Translator
Marilyn Hacker is the author of thirteen books of poems, including A Stranger’s Mirror (Norton, 2015)  Names (Norton, 2010) ,and Desesperanto (Norton, 2003) ,an essay collection, Unauthorized Voices ( Michigan, 2010), and fourteen collections of translations of French and Francophone poets including  Emmanuel Moses, Marie Etienne, Vénus Khoury-Ghata, Habib Tengour and Rachida Madani. DiaspoRenga,   a collaborative sequence written with  Deema Shehabi, was published in 2014. Her awards include the Lenore Marshall Prize in 1995 for Winter Numbers , two Lambda Literary Awards, the 2009 American PEN award for poetry in translation, the 2010 PEN Voelcker Award and the international Argana Prize for Poetry from the Beit as-Sh’ir/ House of Poetry in Morocco in 2011. She lives in Paris.