Thursday, 8 May 2014

Dikter av Nelly Sachs (4/5)

First published: 1967
Original title: -
Original language: German
Translation to Swedish by: Olof Lagerkrantz, Erik Lindegren, Gunnar Ekelöf, 1967

Page count: 93

The back says: Nothing. These are selected poems from her previously published collections.

I say: I read a Swedish translation but will write the review in English because, I believe, her poetry has been translated into English, but I was only able to get the Swedish translation from the library.

Prior to my plan of reading works by all the recipients of the Nobel Prizein Literature I confess I hadn’t heard of at least half of them; Nelly Sachs included. So, I bought a book about all the prize winners up until the year 1985, read a bit about her and started with this collection.

Being a Jew in Germany at the start of the century is at the centre of the majority, if not all, of the poems in this collection. Death, persecution, and fear are the constant companions to Sachs’ words, and it is intriguing how she folds and bends them into different shapes. It is the death of the child, of his parents, of neighbours, and also a death threatening – promising – to come, but never does.

There were passages that I didn’t understand and passages that gave chills and made gasp. The imagery is dark, and I love the juxtaposition of the surrounding nature and the emotions inside the characters, and the ingenious similes. The only problem I had, and the reason I’m not giving this a full 5/5 is that some of the language was archaic and therefore somewhat stilted and trying, and I could also sense the difference between the three translators.

What I'll do now is look for a translation by a single person and continue my discovery of this amazing poet.

This collection of poems was published a year after she received the Nobel Prize in Literature (shared with S. J. Agnon). Sachs escaped Nazi Germany to Sweden in 1940 and exact copy of her apartment, complete with all her belongings, can be seen at the Royal Library in Stockholm (I must go there).

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