Sunday, November 14, 2004

Knut Hamsun: The Queen of Sheba

Knut Hamsun, prémio Nobel, um dos maiores romancistas que já existiram, nunca foi muito conhecido em Portugal. As traduções dos seus romances para o Português são bastante antigas e sobretudo não são boas, talvez seja por isso (não se traduz impunemente Os Frutos da Terra por Pão e Amor...). Não é nem era fácil traduzi-lo e o erro principal foi modificar, banalizar o seu estilo, para o «tornar literário» (isto é, convencional...). Há outras razões para tão imperdoável desconhecimento, evidentemente (políticas, nada simples). Mas nunca é tarde para o ler (e o julgar, se ainda for necessário). A Fome, PAN, Mistérios - três obras espantosas, entre muitos outros romances geniais. Boas (e acessíveis) traduções francesas e inglesas. Quem não leu não sabe o que perdeu. André Gide, Henry Miller admiraram-no (e disseram-no).

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«And the train rolls on.
In my boredom I begin looking out of the window. The view is always and ever the same: trees, fields, plains, dancing houses, tele­graph poles along the line and at every station the usual empty goods wagons. Each wagon was marked Golfyta. What was Golfyta? It was not a number, not a person. Maybe Golfyta was a great river in Skåne. Or a brand name. Or even a religious sect. Then I remembered: the Golfyta was a unit of weight. Unless I was very much mistaken there were 132 pounds in one Golfyta. But these were the old-fashioned pounds, so there would be nearer 133 of them to the Golfyta .. .
And the train rolled on.
How could that dumb idiot sit there in his seat hour after hour and just read? I could have read through a crummy little book like that three times in the time he took, but he was utterly shameless, puffed up with his own importance, podgy with learning. Finally his stupidity became utterly intolerable. I leaned forward, looked at him and said:
`I beg your pardon?'
He raised his eyes and gazed at me in astonishment.
`I'm sorry?' he said.
`I beg your pardon?'
He didn't understand it at all.
`What do you want?' he asked angrily.
`What do I want? What do you want?'
`Me? I don't want anything.'
`No. Neither do I.'
`I see. Then why are you speaking to me?'
`Me? Was I speaking to you?'
`I see,' he said, and turned away in anger.
After that we fell silent again.
And the hours pass, until finally the whistle blows for Kalmar.
Now for it. Now for the great battle! I stroke my chin, naturally I'm unshaven, as usual. A lack of foresight there, not having at stations along the line places where people could get themselves a shave in order to look half-decent for that important occasion. I wasn't demanding a permanent barber at every station, but surely one at every fiftieth station wasn't an unreasonable demand? With that I rested my case. The train came to a halt.
I jump straight out and see the Queen of Sheba get out too. But she's at once surrounded by so many people that it's impossible to get close to her. There's even a young man who kisses her—the brother, no doubt, he lives here, has a business here, he's the one she's come to visit! A moment later a carriage pulls up, she climbs in, two or three others join her and away they go.
I remain standing. Whisked away from under my very nose. Without a moment's hesitation. Fine, nothing to be done about it for the time being. In fact, come to think of it, she's done me a favor, given me time to get a shave and tidy myself up a bit before I present myself. Now be sure to use your time wisely!
A porter approaches and offers to carry my luggage.
No, I didn't have any luggage.
No luggage at all?
No, no luggage at all, so now you know .Is that clear enough? But I couldn't get rid of the man. He wanted to know if I was traveling on.
No, not traveling on.
Then was I going to be staying here?
Maybe for a while. Was there a hotel nearby?
But what was I going to do here? Was I a secret agent? Some kind of inspector?
Another person that did not recognize me! No, I was not some kind of inspector.
Then what was I?
'Good day!' I shouted into his face and left. Peerless insolence! I could if necessary easily find a hotel on my own. In the meantime I had to think up some occupation for myself, invent some purpose for my being there; clearly when some wretch of a porter like him was so Inquisitive then the manager of a hotel was going to be even worse. What ,in the eyes of God and Man was I going to be doing in Kalmar? I would also need some credible excuse for my presence there in order not to compromise the Queen of Sheba.»
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Knut Hamsun
(«The Queen of Sheba», Tales of Love & Loss, A Condor Book, Souvenir Press, translated by Robert Ferguson)

Isaac Bashevis Singer: «The whole modern school of fiction in the twentieth century stems from Knut Hamsun».