Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year's Song: Et dans 150 ans

To commemorate this New Year's Day 2015 I offer a meditation on the passage of time. My brother's poetry here is so powerful I first took him for a Canadian. But on second listening I thought, no.

No. The prosody, the peculiar flow of his French; his unflinching insight, his cool under fire. This-here is a Frenchman.

Except better. Raphaël Haroche's father is a Moroccan Jew of Russian descent; his mother is Argentine. In other words, dude's a perfect storm. Prepare for bone-crystallising kensho.

Having said that, I should warn non-francophones that, as Canadian literary critic Mavis Gallant pointed out, "When poetry is translated, the result is either not faithful, not poetry, or not English." Here the author spins kaleidoscopic metaphors and convoluted word play (e.g., "bad choices" can also be "wrong guesses"; "let's drink to the street trash" becomes "let's leave them our empty coffins" when you turn it a certain way); as translator, I could only pick a shade and run with it. With luck the music and intonations will salvage some lost depth (and soften the stilted, un-English sequence of images) for non-French-speaking readers.

Finally, since the visuals in Raphaël's videos are famous for being a whole second song, I strongly recommend that you first just listen, without viewing, while reading the lyrics (below). That way your own impressions won't get wangled. Then, play the video again and just watch it, without reading. Mind blown a second time.

par Raphaël

Et dans 150 ans, on s'en souviendra pas
De ta première ride, de nos mauvais choix,
De la vie qui nous baise, de tous ces marchands d'armes,
Des types qui votent les lois là-bas au gouvernement,
De ce monde qui pousse, de ce monde qui crie,
Du temps qui avance, de la mélancolie,
La chaleur des baisers et cette pluie qui coule,
Et de l'amour blessé et de tout ce qu'on nous roule,
Alors souris.

Dans 150 ans, on s'en souviendra pas
De la vieillesse qui prend, de leurs signes de croix,
De l'enfant qui se meurt, des vallées du Tiers monde,
Du salaud de chasseur qui descend la colombe,
De ce que t'étais belle, et des rives arrachées,
Des années sans sommeil, 100 millions d'affamés
Des portes qui se referment de t'avoir vue pleurer,
De la course solennelle qui condamne sans ciller,
Alors souris.

Et dans 150 ans, on n'y pensera même plus
À ce qu'on a aimé, à ce qu'on a perdu,
Allez vidons nos bières pour les voleurs des rues!
Finir tous dans la terre, mon dieu! Quelle déconvenue.
Et regarde ces squelettes qui nous regardent de travers,
Et ne fais pas la tête, ne leur fais pas la guerre,
Il leur restera rien de nous, pas plus que d'eux,
J'en mettrais bien ma main à couper ou au feu,
Alors souris.

Et dans 150 ans, mon amour, toi et moi,
On sera doucement, dansant, 2 oiseaux sur la croix,
Dans ce bal des classés, encore je vois large,
P't'être qu'on sera repassés dans un très proche, un naufrage,
Mais y a rien d'autre à dire, je veux rien te faire croire,
Mon amour, mon amour, j'aurai le mal de toi,
Mais y a rien d'autre à dire, je veux rien te faire croire,
Mon amour, mon amour, j'aurai le mal de toi,
Mais que veux-tu?

And in 150 years we won't
Your first wrinkle, our bad
How life screwed us over, and all those weapons dealers
Who work for the men who pass laws for the government
This pushy world, this screaming world
The march of time, the
The warmth of the kisses, and how the rain trickled
And the love lost, and the ways they get you
And so we must smile.

In 150 years we won't
How age subtracts, and hypocrisy crosses itself
The dying children, the depths of the Third World
The asshole hunters who blow away doves
How beautiful you were, and the things ripped away
The years without sleep, and 100 million hungry
How doors swing shut if people see you cry
The universal impulse to condemn without qualm
And so we must smile.

And in 150 years, we won't even recall
The things we loved, and those we lost
Come on, let's drink to the street trash!
My God, we'll all end up in the ground! Such a disappointment!
Just look how those skeletons sneer at us
But don't glare back; don't make war on them
They'll keep nothing of us -- or themselves -- in the end
As well cut off my hands, or burn them
And so we must smile.

And in 150 years, my love, you and I
Will be – softly, dancing – two birds carved on a tombstone
In this high school prom for dropouts, I'm looking beyond
Maybe we'll come back some day; shipwrecked, perhaps
But there's nothing for it, and I don't want to lie
My love, my love, I'll miss
you so
But there's nothing for it, and I don't want to lie
My love, my love, I'll miss
you so
But what can we do?

He's right, brothers and sisters. In 150 years, no-one will remember a thing we've done or said, or that we ever lived; for the vast majority of us, our very names will never be pronounced again.

You can take it for cruelty or compassion, but you can't change it. Our human being survives time like a beetle survives a millstone. And in the same form.

May we all cultivate, in the coming year, that which endures.

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