http://www.albany.edu/offcourse
 http://offcourse.org
 ISSN 1556-4975

   

Since 1998, a journal for poetry, criticism, reviews, stories and essays edited by Ricardo Nirenberg.


 

A Poem by Rodolfo Mattarollo, Followed by a Translation by Ricardo Nirenberg.

 

Dmitri Shostakovich en Parque Patricios

Las indescifrables noticias de la música
Fueron descifradas
Dónde podías refugiarte
En tu país inmenso
No había lugares
A los que la Mirada desde la Torre
No llegara
Te perdió tu discurso sinfónico
Las oleadas de tristeza
Dentro de la Revolución
Tus malos amigos
Ese Mayakovsky capaz de suicidarse
Ante las puertas del Futuro
Entornadas?

Dónde podías refugiarte
En tu país inmenso
No había lugares
Dormías en el palier
Por si la KGB llegaba de noche a detenerte
(no querías que molestara a tu familia)

Dónde refugiarse
Dejaste entonces las grandes planicies sinfónicas
Donde la tristeza era demasiado evidente
Y encontraste una tierra de asilo
En el Cuarteto de Cuerdas
Como Shakespeare en los Sonetos
Un lugar donde abrir tu corazón
Arrojaste al Neva del foso de la Orquesta
Los timbales, las trompetas,
El triángulo, los sonoros contrabajos
Y te quedaste con las cuerdas que tienen la
Flexibilidad y resistencia del hilo de la araña
Dos violines, una viola y un violoncelo
Para tu experimento pasional
Tu laboratorio del alma
Donde nadie te siguió para acusarte
De confundirnos con un “galimatías musical”

Y en esta mañana de verano en Buenos Aires
Escuchar a Shostakovich en Parque Patricios
En medio de las ruinas y de obras inconclusas
Acerca a esa tristeza de los sueños quebrados
Pero de pronto la nieve se cubre de verde
Y el Parque comienza también a reveredecer
Uno ve llegar a los vendedores de modestas mercaderías
Como si trajeran en sus alforjas bazares de las
Mil y una noches
Porque somos hombres del siglo xx
Yo no se cómo será la música del siglo xxi
Bastante tengo con la de mi siglo
Y vos Shostakovich como todos nosotros
Fuiste un hijo del siglo
Y de la inmensa Rusia
Y escribiste sobre un sueño
Que muchos soñamos
Y tu tristeza fue la Nostalgia de ese Sueño.
No acepto que se te expulse del sueño
Mientras camino por el Parque en ruinas
Y escucho al cuarteto Emerson
Desgranar las transparentes noticias de la Música.
Convertir lo cotidiano en eterno.
Hacer de este instante pasajero
Algo que tal vez sea válido
A lo largo de mucho Tiempo.
Y esto exige la elegancia de callar muchas cosas
Por eso te quedaste con las cuerdas
Que tienen flexibilidad y encanto.
Habrá que callar un momento ante el Futuro.
Estamos al costado del camino
Cambiando la rueda
Decía Brecht después de la segunda guerra mundial.

 


 

Dmitry Shostakovich in Parque Patricios

The unbreakable cipher of music
was broken.
Where could you hide
in your vast country:
no place
where the watchtower
wouldn’t reach.
Was it your symphonies who denounced you,
the waves of sadness
washing over the revolution,
your false friends,
that Mayakovsky willing to take his life
before the doors of the future
ajar?

Where could you hide
in your vast country:
no, there was no place.
You slept in the entrance hall,
in case the KGB come for you at night
(you didn’t want your family to be disturbed).

Where could you hide.
You had to abandon the great symphonic plains
where sadness was too evident,
and you found a refuge
in the string quartet.
Like Shakespeare in the sonnets,
a place to open up your heart.
From the orchestra you cast into the Neva
trumpets and kettle drums,
the triangle, the sonorous bass,
and kept only the strings,
their strength and flexibility like spider silk.
Two violins, a viola and a cello
for your impassioned experiment,
your soul-distilling lab
where no one could follow and accuse you
of hoodwinking us with “musical muddle”.

This summer morning in Buenos Aires,
listening to Shostakovich in Parque Patricios,
amid ruins and unfinished work,
brings back the sadness of broken dreams.
But suddenly the snow turns to green
and this park too turns greener;
peddlers of modest wares arrive
bringing in bazaars as if from the
Thousand and One Nights.
Because we are of the 20th century
I have no inkling of music of the 21st:
enough for me the music of my century.
And you Shostakovich, like all of us,
you were a child of your century
and of vast Russia,
and you composed about a dream
which was dreamt by many of us:
your sadness was the nostalgia of that dream.
I refuse to let them push you out of the dream
while I walk through the park in ruins
and listen to the Emerson Quartet
produce the music and its lucid news,
turning daily stuff into eternal,
making of this fleeting moment
something valid perhaps
for a long time.
This requires the elegant silencing of much stuff,
that’s why you made do with the strings
and their flexible charm.
We must be silent for a while before the future.
As Brecht said after World War II:
we are at the roadside,
changing a tire.

 


 

A Note on the Translation.

Rodolfo Mattarollo and I met in 1952 when we were twelve, as freshmen at the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires.  Our friendship was composed mainly of conversations about music; Rodolfo played the violin, I played the piano; in the free time between classes we walked the halls talking of Beethoven and Berg.  He had been to the Teatro Colón for Kurt Böhm’s Wozzek, which he described to me, and I would try to express my marvel at the Kreisler and Rupp recording of Beethoven’s violin sonatas.  “My mother says that the violin and the piano together are like a coffer full of pearls,” Rodolfo commented.  By 1954 we were not on speaking terms, no doubt because of something disobliging or brutal that I had said: we tried to fight it out, but neither would hit the other, and so we parted.

After that, the news I had of him were infrequent, indirect and vague.  I knew that he had chosen law, a profession with a strong local component, while I had chosen math, a world-wide language; when in 1966 the military took over yet again in Argentina, I decided to move to the USA, and Rodolfo decided to stay on and fight.  I heard that he was the director of a Marxist magazine, Nuevo Hombre, a phrase which even now makes me shudder.  I saw an advertisement from the late 70s or early 80s where the Argentine military solicited Mattarollo’s capture, describing him as the link between international communism and local subversion.  We met again in 2007, in our fiftieth high-school reunion, and so we talked for the first time in 53 years.

Parque Patricios is a rundown park in a working class neighborhood, in the southern side of Buenos Aires.  Other than the Emerson Quartet, not many tourists go there.



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