Tomaž Šalamun

Car le Vice by Tomaž Šalamun translated from the Slovenian by Brian Henry
August 23, 2023 Salamun Tomaz

Car le Vice



Car le Vice, rongeant ma native noblesse,
is guilty of this snarling, of flapping wings.
All day I brag and whoop and dance,
when the sun sets, I’m stunned: a white square of white blueness,


hit with a harpoon like a whale. A little pin,
little as a diamond, makes a histological preparation
from my soul. Hey! how do you even survive,
my dearest, how do you recover?


Such incredibly pathetic questions
Tomaž Šalamun asks his soul to get to
the bottom of things. But there are no things. No bottom.


Just this instructive tale about the creative process
with which sooner or later every immortal destroys
its observers. So that it may float in peace, il Terribile.


Note: The first line is from Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem “Angoisse”; the line is in French in the original Slovenian poem. It means “For vice, gnawing my native nobility.”



Car le vice


Car le Vice, rongeant ma native noblesse,
je kriv za to renčanje, za mahedranje s krili.
Ves dan se hvalim in vriskam in plešem,
ko pade sonce, ostrmim: bel kvadrat bele modrine,


s harpuno zadet kot kit. Mala, kot diamant
mala bucika naredi iz moje duše histološki
preparat. Hej! kako potem sploh preživiš,
moja najdražja, kako se obnavljaš?


Taka, neverjetno patetična vprašanja
postavlja Tomaž Šalamun svoji duši, da bi
prišel zadevi do dna. A ni zadeve. Ni dna.


Samo taka poučna bajka o ustvarjalnem procesu,
ki z njo prej ali slej vsak nesmrtni zamori
svoje opazovalce. Da plava v miru, il Terribile.

Tomaž Šalamun (1941-2014) published more than 55 books of poetry in Slovenia. Translated into over 25 languages, his poetry received numerous awards, including the Jenko Prize, the Prešeren Prize, the European Prize for Poetry, and the Mladost Prize. In the 1990s, he served for several years as the Cultural Attaché for the Slovenian Embassy in New York, and later held visiting professorships at various universities in the U.S.