The German Riveter: STRANGE LIGHTNESS OF LIFE SO CLOSE TO DEATH by Alfred Schmidt-Sas, translated by Jean Boase-Beier, from POETRY OF THE HOLOCAUST, edited by Jean Boase-Beier & Marian de Vooght (Arc Publications, 2019)

                   Nearly nine paces long
is my final whitewashed world
perhaps nine days left
then off,
my head
that now still thinks and speaks and sees and hears.

So near me now the big sleep waits
with its dark wing casting into shade
the luminous blaze of hopes or fears,
to lighten the longest, the blackest
the bitterest moments of human despair.
Strange lightness of life so close to death.

By Alfred Schmidt-Sas

Translated by Jean Boase-Beier

Read The German Riveter in its entirety here.

Find the books from The German Riveter on the Goethe-Institut page.


A poem written in the Berlin Plötzensee prison; it was published with the note ‘Mit gefesselten Händen geschrieben’, that is ‘Written with hands bound’, composed when Schmidt-Sas had been sentenced to death for producing antifascist material. He was beheaded in 1943.


Jean Boase-Beier is Professor Emerita of Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, where she founded the MA in Literary Translation in 1992 and ran it until 2015. She is also Translations Editor for Arc Publications.

Category: November 2019 - The German RiveterThe RiveterTranslations

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