Friday, February 29, 2008

Munch, Kafka, Tom Waits, and Trainsmoke

Another Kafka 'translation':

Here's the original:

They were offered the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. The way children would, they all wanted to be couriers. Therefore there are only couriers who hurry about the world, shouting to each other—since there are no kings—messages that have become meaningless. They would like to put an end to this miserable life of theirs but they dare not because of their oaths of service.

Here's my new version:

They are offered the choice between becoming trains or the smoke of trains. The way children would, they all want to be smoke. Therefore there is only smoke which floats above the tracks, from station to station & through the woods—and since there are no trains—life has become mysterious, theoretical, legendary. When they consider putting an end to this immaterial travel of theirs, they dare not, because of the timetables posted outside the stations and the clockmakers tinkering with their clocks.


While we're on the subject of that lovely word 'trainsmoke' (which is the title of the Edvard Munch painting above) here's a few lines from Tom Waits' astounding "Pony" from his Mule Variations CD. This song (again, a perfect blend of lyric, melody, arrangement, and performance) captures the heartbreaking longing, the regret, the sorrowful poetry of the world and of a lived life with a kind of hopeful bittersweetness.

I run my race with burnt face Jake
Gave him a Manzanita cross
I lived on nothin’
But dreams and train smoke
Somehow my watch and chain
got lost.

I wish I was home
in Evelyn's Kitchen
With old Gyp curled around my feet

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