On the Bed


This poem is taken from the start of Roy Hasan’s book The Dogs That Barked In Our Childhood Were Muzzled, where it is set, significantly, on it own before the four main sections of the book. The workshop’s translator, Micha Meyers, explained that whilst it is stylistically different from many of the poems that follow, it’s subject is one of Hasan’s most frequent: the daily grind born of social inequality.  

In the workshop we spent quite a bit of time on the flexibility of tone in the poem, which accommodates both monotonous routine and elevated philosophising. We tried to tease out the right balance of registers to translate עבודה, which Micha told us meant ‘work’ but also shares a root with the word for ‘slavery’ as well as ‘worship’. We went with ‘toil’ for its slightly biblical suggestion.

We also spent a lot of time reflecting on Hasan’s use of the words taken from Nietzsche. With the help of smartphones, we looked up the original German and found that what Nietzsche had phrased as a positive construction (“man muß noch Chaos in sich haben, um einen tanzenden Stern gebären zu können” roughly “one must still have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star), Hasan had turned into a negative construction. This seemed to make the ending’s insistent affirmation - there is, there is, there is - all the more powerful.

Edward Doegar

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