Thursday, January 05, 2006

Das Laecheln der Mona Lisa

Two significant events occurred in December 2005:
1) Scientists discovered why the Mona Lisa is smiling.
2) The copyright on the German author Kurt Tucholsky expired.

What's the connection? Tucholsky had a poem about Mona Lisa, which I've attempted to translate, with little regard or feeling for poetic form, I'm afraid. But I thought I'd present it here:

The Smile of Mona Lisa (1928)
Kurt Tucholsky (1890 – 1935)

I can't turn my eyes from you
the way you hang over your guardian
with softly folded hands,
and grin.

As famous as the Tower of Pisa
your smile stands for irony.
Yes... why is the Mona Lisa smiling?
Is she laughing at us, about us, despite us, with us
against us -
or some other why?

You silently teach us what must be
because your image, Lisa, proves:
one who has seen much of this world
smiles, lays the hands on the abdomen
and is silent.

Tucholsky was a brilliant and prescient satirist of the Weimar Republic era in Germany who saw exactly where the country was going politically and warned against it. He was so on target, to me it's as if he could actually see the future. I'm not the first person to call his work visionary. I intend to translate some of his shorter pieces sometime soon, just to show how accurate they still are.

I originally translated this to send it to David Raphael Israel as it related to his delightful lyric on Mona Lisa. He took my translation and made a real poem out of it, worthy of the original! We intend to do more of these in the future.

The German original is here.


Blogger midnight_fistfight said...

I love Tucholsky's work too!Such a genius with such a bitter end...
Thanks for the comment I think I'll stay here for a while if time allows

3:09 AM  
Blogger Indeterminacy said...

I'm almost ready to post the next poem (Augen in der Großstadt) but I'm waiting for David to finish his version. It makes me happy that a true Tucholsky fan would like to hang out here.

4:02 AM  

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