Cocteau in West Frisian by Antsje Swart & Friduwih Riemersma

I am truly delighted to be able to feature a translation of Jean Cocteau’s poem “Batterie” into West Frisian, by two brilliant guest translators: Antsje Swart and Friduwih Riemersma. Antsie and Friduwih very kindly sent us an audio file, which helps us discover and savour the musicality and rhythm of Cocteau’s poem in this fascinating language. We are most grateful to these translators for introducing Transferre to their linguistic universe.

Jean_Cocteau_b_Meurisse_1923


West Frisian

Antsje Swart & Friduwih Riemersma

West Frisian, or Frysk, is the language spoken in the Dutch province of Fryslân. In the early middle ages the Frisian language was spoken, as well as written, in the regions along the North Sea coast from Belgium to Denmark. By around 1500 the Frisian speaking area was reduced to present day Fryslân, and Frisian was merely an oral language, spoken mostly in rural places for common usage. Frisian had stopped being an official language.

Only when the 19th century romantic patriotism hit Fryslân, several poets searched for their authentic language. The revival of the Frisian language began. Writers, intellectuals and cultural patriots took care of the transition of the repressed Frisian to a written language and of the promotion of Frisian literacy.

Today West Frisian has approximately 400.000 speakers, which represents 75 percent of the region’s inhabitants. Although Frisian has been recognized as an official language in the province of Fryslân, mother-tongue education is not taken seriously. Most schools do not offer Frisian reading and writing classes and Frisian is almost never the instruction language. The Dutch and Frisian governments believe that the handing down of the Frisian language can occur in the private sphere. This means that, without public planning, the Frisian language will eventually die out.


Our Guest Translators

Antsje Swart grew up in a small region called the Bilt, which kept its own Frisian dialect, thank to its isolated location close to the Wadden Sea. By the time Antsje was an adolescent, in the 1950s, the Frisian movement for autonomy was at its peek. So Antsje took a Frisian language course, read Frisian books, and chanted Frisian freedom slogans. She married a Frisian author, she assisted with his creating and publishing, she read books to their children while translating from Dutch to Frisian because there weren’t enough Frisian children’s books at the time. Antsje went to live in France for a few years, studied literary sciences, and wrote a few articles on Frisian literature. Antsje loves poetry, always did, always will do.

Friduwih Riemersma, Antsje’s daughter, was born in a rural region not yet permeated by the major (at the time singular official) Dutch language. When she was eight, she moved out of the province of Fryslân to the vicinity of Amsterdam. Frisian remained the language spoken at home. It was only much later she discovered that, as a consequence of the rising multiculturalism that spread from the capital, in the Amsterdam area Frisian was accepted as an equal language—her Dutch language textbook had Frisian texts too—whilst in the provincial Fryslân the Frisian language was not highly valued by the majority of its speakers. Friduwih studied fine arts and psychology, she reads books from all over the world, but she writes in Frisian because she thinks that vernacular literature is always worthwhile.


SLACHWURK

Translated by
Antsje Swart & Friduwih Riemersma

Listen to the Audio File 

Sinne, ik oanbid dy as in wyldeman,
plat op it liif op it strân

Sinne do glânzgest dyn tinten,
dyn fruitkuorren, dyn bisten

Meitsje my it liif brún en sâlt;
jei myn djippe leed wei

De neger, mei tosken dy’t blinke,
is swart fan bûten, rôze fan binnen

Ik bin swart fan binnen en rôze
fan bûten, meitsje de metamorfoaze

Set my myn rook, myn kleur om,
sasto Hyasint omset hast yn in blom

Lit krite it imerke heech yn ’e din,
lit my fiele dat ik in brea-oene bin

De beam middeis fol mei nacht sûgd
ferspriedt dy om him hinne de jûns

Lit my myn boaze dreamen kond dwaan,
sinne, boa fan Adam en Eva

Lit my wat wenne der oan,
dat myn earme freon Jean is ferstoarn

Lotterij, lit dyn prizen sjen
fazen, ballen en messen

Set del dyn dingen
Foar de bisten, op de Antillen

By ús, helje der út it bêste,
sadatst ús de eagen net bedjerst

Barak fan de Goulue, draaimûne
fan flewiel, mei spegels, mei puonnen

Skuor myn pine fuort, hurd lûke,
sloaier fan de goudene koets

Wat bin ik hyt! It is ommers middeis
ik wit net mear goed wat ik sis

Ik haw net langer myn skaad om my hinne
sinne! do bistespul fan moannen

Sinne, Buffalo Bill, Barnum,
do benevelest mear as de opium

Do bist in clown, in bollefjochter,
do hast in gouden keatling om hongen

Do bist in blauwe neger dy’t bokst
ûnder de gurdle, de ekwinoks

Sinne, ik ferduorje dyn stekken;
dyn grutte fûststompen yn myn nekke

Noch hieltyd wol ik dy it leafst,
sinne, hearlike hel


Original French Version

BATTERIE

Jean COCTEAU, Poèmes (1920)

Soleil, je t’adore comme les sauvages,
à plat ventre sur le rivage

Soleil, tu vernis tes chromos,
tes paniers de fruits, tes animaux.

Fais-moi le corps tanné, salé ;
fais ma grande douleur s’en aller.

Le nègre, dont brillent les dents,
est noir dehors, rose dedans.

Moi je suis noir dedans et rose
dehors, fais la métamorphose.

Change-moi d’odeur, de couleur,
comme tu as changé Hyacinthe en fleur.

Fais braire la cigale en haut du pin,
fais-moi sentir le four à pain.

L’arbre à midi rempli de nuit
la répand le soir à côté de lui.

Fais-moi répandre mes mauvais rêves,
soleil, boa d’Adam et d’Eve.

Fais-moi un peu m’habituer,
à ce qe mon pauvre ami Jean soit tué.

Loterie, étage tes lots
de vases, de boules, de couteaux.

Tu déballes ta pacotille
sur les fauves, sur les Antilles.

Chez nous, sors ce que tu as de mieux,
pour ne pas abîmer nos yeux.

Baraque de la Goulue, manège
en velours, en miroirs, en arpèges.

Arrache mon mal, tire fort,
charlatan au carrosse d’or.

Ce que j’ai chaud ! C’est qu’il est midi.
Je ne sais plus bien ce que je dis.

Je n’ai plus mon ombre autour de moi
soleil ! ménagerie des mois.

Soleil, Buffalo Bill, Barnum,
tu grises mieux que l’opium.

Tu es un clown, un toréador,
tu as des chaînes de montre en or.

Tu es un nègre bleu qui boxe
les équateurs, les équinoxes.

Soleil, je supporte tes coups ;
tes gros coups de poing sur mon cou.

C’est encore toi que je préfère,
soleil, délicieux enfer.

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