Michael Hofmann


Griffin Poetry Prize 2006
International Shortlist

Book: Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems

Translator: Michael Hofmann

Poet: Durs Grünbein

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Click here to read and listen to an excerpt.

Durs Grünbein and Michael Hofmann read Kosmopolit / Cosmopolite

Kosmopolit / Cosmopolite, by Michael Hofmann translating Durs Grünbein


Von meiner weitesten Reise zurück, anderntags
Wird mir klar, ich verstehe vom Reisen nichts.
Im Flugzeug eingesperrt, stundenlang unbeweglich,
Unter mire Wolken, die aussehn wie Wüsten,
Wüsten, die aussehn wie Meere, und Meere,
Den Schneewehen gleich, durch die man streift
Eeim Erwachen aus der Narkose, sehe ich ein,
Was es heißt, über die Längengrade zu irren.

Dem Körper ist Zeit gestohlen, den Augen Ruhe.
Das genaue Wort verliert seinen Ort. Der Schwindel
Fliegt auf mit dem Taush von Jenseits und Hier
In verschiedenen Religionen, mehreren Sprachen.
Überall sind die Rollfelder gleich grau und gleich
Hell die Krankenzimmer. Dort im Transitraum,
Wo Leerzeit umsonst bei Bewußtsein hält,
Wird ein Sprichwort wahr aus den Bars von Atlantis.

Reisen is ein Vorgeschmack auf die Hölle.


The day after getting back from my longest journey,
I realize I had this traveling business badly wrong.
Penned in an airplane, immobilized for hours on end,
Over clouds that bear the appearance of deserts,
Deserts that bear the appearance of seas, and seas
That are like the blizzards you struggle through,
On your way out of your Halcion-induced stupor,
I see what it means to stumble over the dateline.

The body is robbed of time, and the eyes of rest.
The carefully chosen word loses its locus.
Giddily you juggle the here and the hereinafter,
Keeping several languages and religions up in the air.
But runways are the same gray everywhere, and hospital rooms
The same bright. There in the transit lounge,
Where downtime remains conscious to no end.
The proverb from the bars of Atlantis swims into ken:

Travel is a foretaste of Hell.

Did we know what makes the world go round?
That love tends to isolate
Seemed clear enough. Everyone kept it for himself,
His personal thorn, till the blood
Soaked through at the worst possible moment.
It was rare for anyone to remain uninjured.
More commonly, the pain transferred itself
To the other party. To be left
Was the worst evil, to be insentient in spring,
Stand like an amputee under the busted
Ferris wheel – The way the wind carried us
Into the treetops from which
We were later to fall with blissful cries.

From Ashes for Breakfast: Selected Poems
Copyright © 2005 by Durs Grunbein
Translation and preface copyright © 2005 by Michael Hofmann

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