Arpád Kollár – Not in Sarajevo


Posted by admin on 28 November 2016

Literary Europe Live

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Written by Arpád Kollár

Translated by Ottilie Mulzet and Zoltán Lengyel






you cannot be a tourist in sarajevo
who, spittle drooling, takes inventory
of the appurtenances of horror
you cannot shove your palm
into the crevices left by grenades
as if int he millennial stones of the wailing wall
you would conceal your message

in sarajevo you cannot be a sarajevian

in sarajevo you cannot know
what you could be and what you could have been

in sarajevo every morning you arrive and
adherence falls due once darkness descends

in sarajevo the trees are the most naïve
into the bare firewalls they plunge
their tentative roots
and they absorb the bricks more greedily
than young girls the force of life

in sarajevo the trees do not bother
with politics
the hundred-year oaks sit with
tranquility in their tenant sports
they are not troubled
the city just now being built up or destroyed
to slowly exchange my shelter for leafy bowers

in sarajevo wise little trees only breathe
suck in the bricks
diligently they grow
for they are aware
around here you can never know

sarajevo burned for two days
the library all at once
I tell the story here at home for two days
my friend repeats with a shudder
to measure quantity through time
two days’ worth of books and manuscripts
we should echo them
all the while we have no idea
how long the average body takes to burn

(Translated by Ottilie Mulzet)



who stole spring this year, which bird took it to the South,
and on which bird’s wing sneaked the winter back in from the North,
with icy teeth who bit the buds from the branches of bushes,
on which loft did he hid the snowdrop, the daffodil,

and where should we hide from winter, when we’ve changed our coats,
put the caps in drawers, lost our scarves long ago,
which northern bird brought this late snow back on us,
who will warm us when dad is already on a long trip away.



I think the snail is nonsense,
it has no hands for example,
and without hands you cannot play handball,
from this you can see how useless the snail is,
I don’t like either that it eats salad and
all kinds of weeds instead of sausage and loaf,

and you cannot eat them either,
their bodies are slimy, their eyes stick out,
how strange it would be if I pulled out
my eyes on sticks while watching cartoons,
I think the snail is not normal,
and that’s why it is cool.



soothe me, woods, when I can’t sleep,
cover me with leaves, sand and waste,
send me wild whirl, smooth smell of moors,
send me a mushroom from beneath the pine-needles,
scratch my skin with blue bramble stalks,
scratch my face with rose hip blood,

soothe me, woods, when I have fever and cold,
there are woods in you, and in them other woods,
where the deer can hide from wild dogs,
I hide in those woods, too,
buzz in me, woods, whisper names of trees,
tomorrow they set you on fire, today your heart is still green.

(Translated by Zoltán Lengyel)

New Voices from Europe

Arpád Kollár has been selected as one of the New Voices from Europe, ten of the most interesting writers working in Europe today. The New Voices from Europe selection is part of the Literary Europe Live project which is co-ordinated by Literature Across Frontiers and co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, with support from Arts Council Wales.