The Great Nations: a Tuareg Poem


BlaiseP is the pseudonym of a peripatetic software contractor whose worldly goods can fit into an elderly Isuzu Rodeo. Bitter and recondite, he favors the long view of life, the chords of Steely Dan and Umphrey's McGee, the writings of William Vollman and Thomas Pynchon, the taste of red ale and his own gumbo. Having escaped after serving seven years of a lifetime sentence to confinement in hotel rooms, he currently resides in the wilds of Eau Claire County and contemplates the intersection of mixed SRID geometries in PostGIS.

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14 Responses

  1. Mayfly says:

    This poem frightens me for the reason that it shows such a gulf between what is reported about Mali and what he (and I take him to be representative) sees and perceives. There seems to be such an unawareness of the spiritual element amongst the people versus the taking of some village or hamlet.
    So, this raises the question: what are Afghani, Irani and Iraqi poets saying? Do they perceive their worlds in any fashion the same as what the outside world perceives? I’m afraid to know for what I fear will be a shocking answer.Report

  2. James Hanley says:

    Not my style of poetry, but, hey, how often do I get introduced to Taureg poets? Thanks for translating this and making it available for us.Report

  3. Kim says:

    There is great meaning within the empty spaces of this poem.
    I do not know how well the translation is, not speaking french,
    but I thank you for bringing these words to us.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Kim says:

      There are parts which don’t move well into English. Diagho means for us to see choléra, cholera, in contrast with colère, rage. Both happen in the guts, you see, the superficial peace outside, the boiling guts within.

      There’s also this: une source d’eau vive pour apaiser la soif / qui perdure depuis des lunes, The Tamashek use a lunar calendar. I glossed it as “many moons” when it should probably carries some implication of “lasting month after month”, for the springs dry up and so will the oil in time.

      And I’m not particularly happy with pour répartir la chance du milieu, coming out as the chance to reconsider the status quo, though it works reasonably well. There’s something about the “luck of the draw” in there, the way things ended up, the completely arbitrary division of Africa, especially the Sahara, where the Tuareg never got a country.

      I did the best I could with it. Borges says the original is never faithful to the translation. I tried to carry the freight of rage and sense of injustice in the poem.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to BlaiseP says:

        I tried to carry the freight of rage and sense of injustice in the poem.

        Whatever your other frustrations with the translation, you indisputably succeeded in that goal.Report

  4. david says:

    The United Nations was deliberately founded to enable the great powers to enforce the world order, precisely because the rather more optimistic League of Nations had completely failed to deal with the resurrection of hostilities. The great powers simply did not want the expense of going to war with rogue states, especially if those rogues were not particularly threatening, at least initially.

    Hence why the UN Security Council privileges the interests of the great powers. The lack of ‘freedom’ is deliberate. And the world’s powers must participate in the UN process – attempting to flounce out in a huff, as the Axis powers did with the LoN, can much more easily lead to the UN declaring war on your puppet, as the USSR learnt with the Korean War.Report

  5. Shelley says:

    I think I know what “never spelled out” means–but I’m not sure.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Shelley says:

      Okay, et les petits qu’on n’épelle jamais.. The antique French construction, espeler was clearer, for it meant “explain”, much as we say “Do I have to spell this out for you?”

      Tamashek has its own alphabet and they call their own country Azawad. But nobody will ever spell it out and put it on a nice little title bar on a desk at the UN, like all the other countries.Report

  6. North says:

    BP I can’t express how much I appreciate you bringing this to a wider (and English) audience. Seriously, sir, thank you.Report