Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Poem Recited at the Budapest Demonstrations

Ottó Orbán, 1936-2002
The Chief Auditor’s Report on the firm of Fortinbras & Fortinbras

The most depressing thing is they could have made a decent first team
newborns born at the right time
the first sentence of a new story
a blank page without the watermark of dictatorship
they became neither this nor that
young foxes fresh out of foxholes
with views worthy of foxes
adapting history to their own purposes
and grinding losers into the deepest mud imaginable
so they wouldn’t have to put up with backchat
they grew up in a police state
their idea of freedom being that the cops would serve them now
and that people were iron filings
that could be arranged into the required pattern by use of a magnet
youth was always heaven-sent
except when it wasn’t
except when blinded by the devil
there should be nothing to see in the river
but Narcissus, a self-loving reflection
that’s how it has always been in Denmark, how it would always be
the state machinery is broken, something is rotten
something is lost an opportunity gone for ever
throw in the balance the crown nicked off the shelf
the spirit’s armour is new, but it’s the same old method
as is the outcome
corpses everywhere, orange peel, dogshit, pages of burned books.

New translation by GS. Ottó Orbán was generally acknowledged a major Hungarian poet who wrote about Hungarian public and private life almost daily in his long last illness. I part translated and edited his Bloodaxe collection, The Blood of the Walsungs. He was also a good friend.

1 comment:

havantaclu said...

So much a poem for our times, everywhere.
I shall look forward to reading some more of his poetry - thank you for introducing me to his work