Tuesday, January 26, 2010


It’s Translation Tuesday again, & today we have a very short poem by Dadaist-Surrealist Tristan Tzara. As is my policy when posting short translations, I’ve also included the French Original.

“Voie”—which means “way” in the sense of “show me the way”—comes from Tzara’s 1928 collection, Indicateur des chemins de coeur (“Signposts on the Heart’s Roads” would be one way of translating this.) It's a truly gem-like miniature, & as such shouldn't be overlaid with explication.

I should mention that this will be the last Translation Tuesday for awhile; I know it's been a popular series with some faithful readers, but I'd like to move in a different direction (& remembering all things are subject to change.) B.N.'s poems will continue to appear on alternate Tuesdays, but beginning next month, there will be a new series to complement her work
—details expected this Friday!

Now, on to the poem, & hope you enjoy it!


what is this road that keeps us apart
across which my thought’s hand reaches
a flower’s inscribed on each fingertip
and the end of the road is a flower walking with you

Tristan Tzara
translation by John Hayes © 1990-2010


quel est ce chemin qui nous sépare
à travers lequel tends la main de ma pensée
une fleur est écrite au bout de chaque doigt
et le bout du chemin est une fleur qui marche avec toi

Tristan Tzara

Pic at top:
Portrait of Tristan Tzara 1927: Lajos Tihanyi


  1. You are mighty to translate Tristan's poetry, and though you know I love translation Tuesday, I also really look forward to whatever you're planning to do with this spot in your blog magazine.

    WAY to go!

  2. Hi Reya: Thanks! You've been such a faithful supporter of TTuesday, but I do think the replacement will be interesting as well!

  3. I have always loved your translations and will miss translation tuesday! I know I could sit down with a stack of these and read them, but it's so lovely to see them one at a time on RFB with your comments and presence...as a mere mortal among the poets, I can get somewhat intimidated by poetry, even though I know I always get transported by opening myself to this kind of inward and outward travel...

    I love your translation of Tristan's poem - it's such an intense but delicate rendering of the way that communication between two people seems clumsy,hopelessly ineffective, impossible - and then, at unexpected points, you suddenly see that connection with your beloved exists anyway - the flower at the end of the road is the recognition that your beloved has in fact spoken to you with all the intimacy and clarity and beauty you could dream of...

  4. I like this and love reading it in the original. I'll miss your translations, John, but I know you'll have something great in mind.

  5. Hi Eberle & Karen

    Eberle: Thanks--you know how much it means to me that you like those translations--especially since you know the language far better than me! Beautiful reading of Tzara!

    Karen: Thanks! I'm excited about the new stuff that'll be starting next month.

  6. Lovely.

    "Way" as opposed to "no way"!

  7. Enjoyed this, and Renku 1.

    Talk of Tristan Tzara reminded me that I've just read an interesting article about Theo van Doesburg in The Guardian.

  8. Hi Dominic: Fascinating article--thanks; I wasn't familiar with van Doesburg. & glad you liked the translation & the poem--I've changed the title to Helix, because the renku title is obviously misleading. After all, why not invent your own form & give it a name!


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