52 Fragments for the Beloved [1]


This translation comes from the second workshop we have spent looking at Umar Timol’s book-length poem 52 Fragments for the Beloved. Delaina Haslam, our guest translator on both occasions, had previously guided us through fragments 7 and 8. She warned us that this first, opening fragment is unusual in the sequence. The vast majority of the fragments are spoken by an “I” and addressed towards a “you” (which though abstract is defined as female and singular), however, in this first fragment the protagonists are seen in the third person.

The language of the sequence, as we found in this fragment, employs an elevated register. Timol seems to delight in leaving open linguistic and semantic possibilities. The French speakers in the group found his sentence structures and clauses fascinatingly perverse. At times, in translating these, we had to clarify what had been beautiful ambiguous in the French. For instance, the clause ‘de se dire’ which we translated as ‘to speak oneself’, also implies in the French ‘to speak with...’ but where the interlocutor is strangely missing from the syntax. In this instance we chose to compromise on what felt like the primary association of the phrase and also try and facilitate the crescendo in the music of the line which works so well in the French.

Edward Doegar, Commissioning Editor