#RivetingReviews: Anna Blasiak reviews SOMEWHERE A BLIND CHILD by Ion Cristofor

Ion Cristofor is an established figure in Romania – a poet, literary critic and translator, and a member of the famous ‘eighties generation’. His poetry has been translated into many languages, but this is his first appearance in English. Somewhere a blind child is a selection of his poems translated by Andreea Iulia Scridon, an emerging translator and a talented poet herself, who very skilfully captures Cristofor’s surrealism and sense of humour.

As if on command

A further dog emerged from the barking dog.

A further bird flew out of the bird.

From black earth, black earth is born.

Apart from a touch of the political, Cristofor’s writing has a strong element of the religious. The translator even calls him a ‘modern Christian poet’ in her introductory note. But, she writes, he ‘leaves the door open to possibility’, which, for this particular reader, makes a huge difference. Spirituality in these poems – both in a religious and philosophical sense – is accompanied by sensuality, and all of it is sprinkled with irony, delivered sparingly, but with quite a powerful punch.

from my window in the evening I look out at the solemn faces of idiocy

brutality satisfies its every whim in its impeccable tuxedo

scoundrels grin in the limousine their consciences are up for bidding

now the beast brings its victim roses 

while you Lord have screwed the moon in like a lightbulb

you’ve swept the stars up and let the birds of prey out

our roads go mysterious ways like those of the night butterfly. 

What also comes across strongly in Somewhere a blind child are the contrasts in register, switching from a grand, at times almost biblical tone to the very colloquial. This, again, works very well, snapping the reader out of a particular mode they may otherwise get stuck in. A lot of credit needs to go to the translator for finding effective ways to express the author’s range.

Id gladly leave everything and go

like Iambulus to the Islands of the Sun.

(…)

The time this guy lived in was Eden on earth.

In the language of these Heliopolitans you could hear sounds birds would make.

They never married, they lived happily, in bountiful equality.

As a former communist, I almost envy these wise Solarians. 

But we, we who lived in a world in which some were more equal than others.

Poor us.

I pity myself. I drink too much, make far too little money.

Id slit my veins open like the wise Stoic Seneca.

Maybe I need a disciple like Neros, whod order me to do it.

This is a very interesting collection, and I hope to see more of Cristofor’s poetry appear in English in the future. I also want to see more of Scridon’s translations, and more Naked Eye books, with their admirable focus on translated literature and first-time literary translators.

Reviewed by Anna Blasiak

SOMEWHERE A BLIND CHILD

by Ion Cristofor

Translated by Andreea Iulia Scridon

Published by Naked Eye Publishing (2021)

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Anna Blasiak is a poet, writer and translator. She has translated over 40 books from English into Polish and, mainly as Anna Hyde, Polish into English. She is a co-translator (with Marta Dziurosz) of Renia’s Diary by Renia Spiegel. Her bilingual poetry book, Café by Wren’s St James-in-the-Fields, Lunchtime, is out from Holland House Books, as is Lili. Lili Stern-Pohlmann in conversation with Anna Blasiak. annablasiak.com.

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Category: November 2021 – RomaniaReviews

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