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The West

The West

Mircea Cărtărescu

Occidentul

I saw New York and Paris, San Francisco and Frankfurt.
I’ve been to places I’ve never dreamed of going.
I came back with a stack of photographs
and death in my soul.
I had thought that I meant something and that my life meant something.
I had seen God’s eye looking at me through the microscope,
watching me writhe on the slide.
Now I don’t believe in anything.
I was good for a dumb stability,
for a deep forgetfulness,
for a lonely vagina.
I was wandering through places that are no more.
Oh, my world is no more!
My world is no more!
My stinky world in which I meant something.
I, mircea cartarescu, am nobody in the new world.
There are 1,038 mircea cartarescus here
and people 1,038 times better than me.
There are books here better than everything I’ve ever done,
and women who couldn’t care less about them.
The pragmatic egg breaks and God is here
in His own creation, a fashionably-dressed God
in beautiful cities and splendid autumns
and in a sort of mild nostalgia of southern Virginia in
Dorin’s car (country music from the speakers).

I see my own limits
and I see the limits of literature,
for I have seen Sears Tower
and I saw Chicago, in greenish mist, from above; from Sears Tower
and on the terrace of skyscrapers, there were two greyhounds running
and I told Gabriela, as we drank Coca-Cola,
that my life is over.
It’s like in Eliot’s Magi: I saw the West,
I flew over Manhattan,
I watched with big eyes my charmed death,
for this is my death.
I watched the windows, with Suzuki motorcycles,
and saw my reflection in them, dirty, anonymous.
I walked for hours on Konigstrasse
among the kids on skateboards.
I was the black-and-white man in a color photograph,
Kafka among Arcadians.
Poems, pohemes, philosentiems,
modernisms, and talks at the pub over who’s the greatest.
Rankings made on the train (back from Onesti), which are the best
Romanian novels today,
the best ten poets alive,
just like the Papuans
who even now spit into the palm wine cauldron, so it will ferment…
but poetry is a sign of underdevelopment
and so is looking your God in the eye
although you never saw Him…

I saw computer games and bookstores and both looked the same to me.
I understand philosophy is entertainment
and mysticism is show-biz,
that there are only surfaces here
but they’re more complex than any depth.
What can I be there? A delighted man, crazed with happiness,
but his life would be over.
His life would be permanently fucked, like the worm in the cherry
who once thought he was something
until he woke up in the light with garbage next to him.
My garbage, my poor poems.
I saw people for whom the abortion law
was more important than the fall of the soviets.
I saw tall and blue skies, full of the flickering lights of planes
and knew the howl of the four thousand universities.
I climbed up the Eiffel tower on the stairs
and went up the Pompidou Center through the Plexiglas tube
and in Iowa City I went to Fox Head….

I chatted about postmodernism in Ludwigsburg
with Hassan and Bradbury and Gass and Barth and Federman,
just like the condemned braves his executioner
I recorded on my portable recorder the wailing of the blade
that severed my head from my body.
I felt like crying seeing the luxury in Monrepos:
how is this possible? why were we born in vain?
why should we fight with Vadim and Funar?
why can’t we, for once, live?
why now, when we could finally live,
do we breathe again the putrid smell of the dumpsters?
Postmodernisms and forty-eighters,
deconstruction and tribalism,
pragmatism and umbilical cords,
and life, which is awry…
I saw San Francisco, the blue gulf with ships
and then farther away the ocean with forested islands,
the Pacific, if you can imagine!
I dipped my hands in the Pacific ocean, “thanking the Lord for my fingers.”
My soles were burning feverishly.
And at Ferlinghetti’s famous bookstore (it really exists!)
as if
you consciously entered your own dream, or a book…
the streets in San Francisco drove me crazy
and Grant Street with Chinese paraphernalia
and the huge palm trees and the very funny faces
in the hair salons
(the customers
did not see themselves in mirrors, but in color monitors).
And the American nights—remember, Mircea T.?—
next to your and Melissa’s cottage, after
we had watched SF movies the entire afternoon, eaten tacos,
and drunk Old Style beer.
When we went out we were overwhelmed by the stars
and the silent planes moving through them
and in your car, the old Ford, the air was frozen
and you took me, through the empty city, to my dear
Mayflower Residence Hall.
And the Thanksgiving and Halloween parades
with old bankers dressed as bears and clowns,
and the boy of Czech origin interested in Faulkner,
and the little Korean girl from the yellow Cambus,
and the melancholia of the yellow leaves in Iowa City,
and the two of us, Gabi and I, shopping for hours and hours
at Target and K Mart and Goodwill
and also at the fantastic mall downtown…
…I was chewing cinnamon mints during my first morning in Washington,
with my camera dangling on my neck, in the cold air in Dupont Circle…
… I paid $7 to see the Zoo in New Orleans,
and it was raining, and all the animals were in their shelters…
…in the taxi, arguing with the black driver,
not understanding a word he was saying: “Hey, man…”
…wonderful dinners in Chinese and Thai restaurants
but the most wonderful at Meandros, the Greeks in Soho…
…The Art Institute (full of impressionists)
…The Freak Museum (amazing: three Vermeers!)
…The National Gallery (Malevic retrospective).

A man frozen for a hundred years
opens his eyes and chooses to die.
What he saw was too beautiful and too sad.
For he had nobody there and he had a nail infection
and his teeth were so rotten
and in his mind
were all sorts of useless things
and everything he had ever done
was half the consistency of the wind.
A man had invented, on a distant island,
a sewing machine out of bamboo
and he thought he was a genius because none of his peers
had made up anything like it. And when the Dutch came,
they repaid him for the invention,
giving him an electric one instead.
(Thanks, he said, and chose to die.)
I don’t find my place, I’m no longer from here
and cannot be from there.

And poetry? I feel like the last Mohican,
ridiculous like Denver the dinosaur,
the best poetry is the bearable poetry,
nothing else: just bearable.
We made good poetry for ten years
without knowing what bad poetry we were making.
We made grand literature, and now we understand
that it cannot go through the door, precisely because it’s big,
too big, suffocated in its own fat.
This poem is not really a poem either,
for only what is not poetry
can endure as poetry,
only what is not poetry.
The West opened my eyes and banged my head against the upper doorframe.
I leave to others what my life has been until today
so that others believe in what I once believed,
so that others love what I once loved.
I can’t anymore,
can’t anymore, can’t anymore.

am vazut New-Yorkul si Parisul, San-Francisco si Frankfurt
am fost unde n-am visat sa merg vreodata.
am venit înapoi cu un teanc de poze
si cu moartea în suflet.
crezusem ca însemn ceva si ca viata mea înseamna ceva.
vazusem ochiul lui Dumnezeu privindu-ma prin microscop
privindu-mi zvîrcolirile de pe lamela.
acum nu mai cred nimic.
am fost bun pentru o stabilitate tîmpita
pentru o uitare adînca
pentru un vagin singuratic.
hoinaream prin locuri care acum nu mai exista.
oh, lumea mea nu mai exista!
lumea mea nu mai exista!
lumea mea împutita în care însemnam ceva.
eu, mircea cartarescu, sînt nimeni în lumea cea noua
exista 1038 mircea cartarescu aici
si fiinte de 1038 de ori mai bune
exista carti aici mai bune decît tot ce am facut vreodata
si femei carora li se rupe de ele.
oul pragmatic se crapa si Dumnezeu este aici
chiar în creatia lui, un Dumnezeu misto întolit
în orase frumoase si toamne splendide
si-ntr-un fel de nostalgie blînda a Virginiei de sud în masina
lui Dorin (country music în boxe)…

îmi vad acum lungul nasului
si vad lungul nasului literaturii
caci eu am vazut Sears Tower
si am vazut Chicago, în ceata verzuie, de sus, din Sears Tower
si pe terasa unui zgîrie-nori alergau doi ogari
si i-am zis Gabrielei, cum ne beam Coca-cola,
ca viata mea s-a sfîrsit.
e ca în Magii lui Eliot: am vazut Occidentul
am trecut cu avionul peste Manhattan
am privit cu ochi mari moartea mea fermecata
caci moartea mea este asta.
am privit vitrinele cu motociclete Suzuki
si m-am vazut în ele jegos, anonim
am umblat ore-n sir prin Königstrasse
printre pustii cu skateboards.
eram omul alb-negru dintr-o poza color
Kafka între arcadieni.
poeme, poheme, filosentiame
modernisme si discutii la cîrciuma despre care-i mai mare
clasamente facute-n tren (veneam din Onesti): care-s cele mai bune
romane românesti de azi
cei mai buni zece poeti în viata
asa cum papuasii
scuipa si acum în ceaunul cu vin de palmier, sa fermenteze…
dar poezia e un semn de subdezvoltare
si la fel sa-ti privesti Dumnezeul în ochi
desi nu l-ai vazut niciodata…

am vazut jocuri pe computer si librarii si mi s-au parut la fel amîndoua
am înteles ca filosofia e entertainment
si ca mistica e show-biz
ca sînt doar suprafete aici
dar mai complexe decît orice profunzime.
ce pot fi eu acolo? un om încîntat, fericit pîna la nebunie
dar cu viata lui terminata.
cu viata lui fututa definitiv, ca a viermelui din cireasa
care s-a crezut si el cineva
pîna s-a trezit în lumina, cu gunoiul lui lînga el
(gunoiul meu, amarîtele mele poeme)
am vazut oameni pentru care legea avorturilor
e mai importanta decît sfarîmarea Sovietelor
am vazut ceruri înalte si albastre, pline de luminitele avioanelor
si am cunoscut urletul celor patru mii de universitati.
m-am suit în turnul Eiffel pe scari
si-am suit în Centrul Pompidou prin tubul de plexiglas
si la Iowa City am fost la Fox Head…

am trancanit despre postmodernism la Ludwigsburg
cu Hassan si Bradbury si Gass si Barth si Federman
asa cum mai bavardeaza condamnatul cu calaul lui
am înregistrat pe reportofon vuietul securii
care-mi desparte capul de trunchi.
îmi venea sa plîng în luxul din Monrepos:
cum e posibil? de ce ne-am nascut de pomana?
de ce sa luptam cu Vadim si cu Funar?
de ce nu putem o data trai?
de ce acum, cînd am putea, în fine, trai
respiram din nou mirosul acru-al pubelelor?
postmodernism si pa’sopt
deconstructie si tribalism
pragmatism si ombilicuri
si viata, care este aiurea…
am vazut San Francisco, golful albastru cu nave
si mai departe oceanul cu insule-mpadurite
Pacificul, daca poti sa-ti închipui!
mi-am muiat palmele-n oceanul Pacific „thanking the Lord
for my fingers”.
m-a prins un dor de duca dement.
si la celebra librarie a lui Ferlinghetti (exista cu adevarat!)
ca si cînd
ai patrunde constient în propriul tau vis sau într-o carte…
m-au înnebunit soselele din San Francisco
si Grant Street cu chinezarii
si palmierii uriasi si fetele extrem de haioase
din saloanele de coafura
(clientele
nu se priveau în oglinzi, ci-n monitoare color)
si noptile americane, tii minte, Mircea T.?
lînga casuta ta si-a Melissei, dupa ce
întreaga dupa-amiaza privisem filme SF, mîncasem tacos
si bausem bere Old Style
cînd am iesit afara ne-au coplesit stelele
si avioanele tacute miscîndu-se printre ele
si în masina ta, vechiul Ford, aerul era înghetat
si m-ai dus, trecînd prin orasul gol, pîna la dragul
meu Mayflower Residence Hall.
si paradele de Thanksgiving si de Halloween
cu batrîni bancheri costumati în ursi si clowni
si baiatul de origine ceha interesat de Faulkner
si micuta coreeana din Cambus-ul galben
si melancolia frunzelor galbene în Iowa City
si noi doi, Gabi si eu, facînd cumparaturi, ore-n sir
la Target si K Mart si Goodwilluri
dar si la fantasticul Mall din centru…
…mestecam bomboane cu scortisoara în prima mea dimineata în Washington
cu aparatul foto de gît, în frigul pietei Dupont…
…am dat 7 $ sa vad Zoo-ul din New Orleans
si ploua, si toate animalele erau în vizuinile lor…
… în taxi, certîndu-ma cu soferul negru,
nepricepînd o vorba din ce-mi spunea: “Hey, man…”
… mese minunate în restaurante chinezesti, thailandeze,
dar cea mai minunata la Meandros, grecii din Soho…
…The Art Institute (impresionisti cît cuprinde)
…The Freak Museum (amaizing: trei Vermeer!)
…The National Gallery (retrospectiva Malevici)

un om înghetat pentru o suta de ani
deschide ochii si alege sa moara.
ce a vazut era prea frumos si prea trist.
caci nu avea pe nimeni acolo si între degete avea panaritiu
si dintii îi erau asa stricati
si în minte
avea tot felul de lucruri fara utilitate
si tot ce facuse vreodata
avea jumatate din consistenta vîntului.
un om inventase, pe-o insula îndepartata
o masina de cusut facuta din bambus
si se credea genial, caci nimeni dintre ai lui
nu mai scornise asa ceva. iar cînd au venit olandezii
l-au rasplatit pentru inventiune
dîndu-i în dar una electrica.
(multumesc, a zis, si a ales sa moara)
nu-mi gasesc locul, nu mai sînt de aici
si nu pot fi de acolo

iar poezia? ma simt ca ultimul mohican
ridicol asemeni dinozaurului Denver.
poezia cea mai buna e poezia suportabila,
nimic altceva: doar suportabila.
noi am facut zece ani poezie buna
fara sa stim ce poezie proasta am facut.
am facut literatura mare, si acum întelegem
ca ea nu poate trece de prag, tocmai fiindca e mare,
prea mare, sufocata de grasimea ei.
nici poemu-asta nu-i poezie
caci doar ce nu e poezie
mai poate rezista ca poezie
doar ce nu poate fi poezie.
Occidentul mi-a deschis ochii si m-a dat cu capul de pragul de sus.
las altora ce a fost viata mea pîna azi.
sa creada altii în ce am crezut eu.
sa iubeasca altii ce am iubit eu.
eu nu mai pot.
nu mai pot, nu mai pot


Translation