Friday, April 23, 2010

“Adventures Of A Toe”

As proof that, given enough time, everything comes back around on Robert Frost’s Banjo, I’m posting one of my translations. Long time readers will remember the Translation Tuesday series—while I won’t be going back to a weekly series, I will be posting one or two each month.

Today’s translation—one I did in the 1990s—is from the poem “Aventures d'un orteil” by surrealist Benjamin Péret, from his 1928 collection Le Grand Jeu (The Big Game—sometimes translated as The Great Game). I translated this entire work during the 90s, so I very much immersed myself in Péret’s work.

Speaking of my days translating 20th century French poems, I just wanted to remind folks about my Alcools blog. There are new posts to Alcools each Monday morning (U.S. Mountain Time!), each being one of my translations from Apollinaire’s 1913 masterpiece of the same title. The poems appear in the same order as in the book itself.

In the meantime, hope you enjoy this fun poem by Péret!

Adventures Of A Toe

Get out of the urn
the hortensia said to his accomplice
And you likewise Hortense answered the mandolin
which wasn't a mandolin except under the cover of sunlight
or of a dime fallen at night into a ravine
The dime pricks up like a queen
and says to the rocks with trembling lips
The big crime will take place tomorrow
but there's no crime without a hat
        there's no crime without sparks
        there's no crime without potash
        there's no crime without sheep
And the big crime won't take place
because the earth is empty
Eyes break it off with their specs
and the ministers suppress the hearses
that encumber the Milky Way

Benjamin Péret
translation by Jack Hayes, © 1990-2010


  1. Another Great Poem. Thank You Sir & Have A Fine Weekend.

  2. Hi Tony: Thanks! You have a good one, too!

  3. Good to have the series back. I've always liked your translations - challenging as they are. It's not a bad thing to be made to think occasionally.

  4. Hi Alan: Thanks--I recall you liked Translation Tuesday quite a bit!

  5. I love your translations, too, John. I'd also like to see them in the original.

  6. Hi Karen: Thanks! & I'll think about your suggestion--I do think I have all the originals as digital files.

  7. I like getting startled by the lines in this poem:

    or of a dime fallen at night into a ravine


    and the ministers suppress the hearses
    that encumber the Milky Way

    I also enjoyed "under the cover of sunlight" (in other places it's always shadows and large solids that do the covering... why can't it be sunlight.)

  8. Hi HKatz: Thanks! There are some nice lines in the original French, that's certain.


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