Blesok no. 37, July-August, 2004

What Books Smell Like

Pavle Goranović

On the International Route Munich – Salonika

On a dirty train,
international route Munich – Salonika,
I am trying to read Rober Musil's The Man Without Qualities.
But this, I come to realize, is surely impossible in places like this.
I reach for a banal substitutes:
to continue reading infinitely harder is
than to find a dozy idler
in every carriage, first or second class no matter,
on all train routes.

Interestingly, this international train
frequently stops even at stations that are local:
I seek invisible symbols in this disobediance of schedule.

I find it is better to give up on reading.
Thus, I am silent and watch,
first, the nightly landscapes of Slavonia,
then, opposite myself, the mirror –
I see my two modest travel bags,
Seemingly not so heavy luggage.
But I fell it is impossible to get rid of.

As the train pulls away
and day comes close
I think it does not matter
at which station to disembark
whose luggage to take.

          Translated by Nikolai Jeffs


Again, I am thinking in verses,
delivering words no fault of my own.
I accept all complicity provoked by writing.
Writing the open, under an open sky,
after despair and sickness, but with the sam passion.
Salvation every writing.
On stone, on the closed and the unknown,
even though all words are equally unknown.
Writing on all the year's seasons,
apocryphal, already mastered signs.
And on all meridians,
writing on the margins, dangerous writing.
And, that without any reason – as is, again, all writing.
On the kilometres along which lonely
we think how to close the emptiness of paper,
how to write – in the world.
Salvation also those pauses between writing.
On pages already written upon,
the writing of the first lines of the next poem…

The magic of creation. The creation of the seductive.
Writing –
always a chivarly in vain.

        Translated by Nikolai Jeffs

The Shipwreck's Mirror


It is the same on the other side of the road, you think.
It is same there, on the open sea
where you once thought that life
had proximity. But this you will never feel so
as you will never know
the invisible breadth of Middle Europe
or any twillight on the Eastern coast.
Everywhere in the world it is invariably
the same – there where lives are brought to an end.
Every morning seems yours – unhappy
participation in life. And every end
of the day is the same, as when you dive into sleep:
your not in the least glorious death.
And here you are just temporarily – in the world.


You're going from one place to another,
but, in truth, you're not really going anywhere. Your current
state you know not how to name.
(Pitful these things emptied of naming!)
You discover no lands, encounter no new worlds,
even the existing you do not use as you would wish.
Increasingly, the days seem like woman's idleness.
As this is story that has already been told,
and as all stories – so once you heard or suspect -
are just the same, once again you force yourself
into a corner, not finding a way to tear yorself
from the world. Sadness is the signification of your existence,
sole thing to separate you from others. At least
with it to cheat reality, your reality
told so many times before. Thus, you'll be going from one
place to another, but, in truth, you're not going to go anywhere.


In this night contained are all your nights
all your being similar to a random
order of hours, months, years. Time lost forever
is hard to mourn.
To extinguish life persistently – obviosly somewhat easier.
Once long ago you at least believed in some illusion
burned for some poem or woman. Today
even more distant seems that era. Now you are just
in another episode that, so it would seem,
has lasted for years. In another daily act of life's termination.
Your every action is already foreseen.
In vain also that this sadness
is the nearly the same on all meridians, courts
and dens. Because – you are nowhere!
You have only invisibly risen from your solitude.
It was a moment, it was life.

        Translated by Nikolai Jeffs


Part IV

I have been preparing the ingredients of my own hemlock
since a long time ago. I deny no detail;
do not give up – although it is hard to get used to
the monotony of speech. Thus every fragment
has its role and complies with different time frames.
I have taken pleasure in every little bit
of the poison thus mixed since a long time ago. Truly,
many want to call this writing poetry.
Some complain that they heard these words before.
But I continued listening to the silence,
to assure myself that dead poets are being cited again.
In the end, it came out that there was no flood,
closed remained the books with pictures,
in which blind people seek meaninig of the mirror's existence.
All that I want is to lessen the enthusiasm
occasioned by gazes in to the bottom of emptied goblets.
And this because every gaze sets on the final
touch of the world. They say that before committing seppuku
the Samurai left farewell poems behind. Right now,
as the day is withdrawing, I am thinking how
every poem is in fact a poem before death,
every effort interpreting mirror – seppuku.

        Translated by Nikolai Jeffs


To have no clue of tomorrow.
To be unfamiliar with historic facts,
but, again, to know how many Montenegrins
died in the Balkans’ wars.
To quote a minor Latin-American poet.
To talk to a one-time criminal about deceptions.
And the history of art.
To score a goal in an irrelevant match
on the southern outskirt’s playground
To stay alone in the house
in the season of city fancy-dress balls.
To live in the provinces,
and thence experience the pain of the world.
To see the splendor of orthodox monasteries.
To unselfishly offer to others
Sources of personal pathos.
To have someone at your side.

All of that, and the aggregate of other essential
and unessential matters, probably is in no way whatever
enough for redemption.


At times, and it may take hours,
I embark on eliminating any speech.
I keep on hiding words, and put myself,
their would-be creator, away
together with them. Thus I renounce
most tremendous goods. My own feelings,
experiences and earthly adventures simply,
stay unsaid: I am silent. After that incident
it happens that for an instant I cannot distinguish
the Brahman way of life from the silence
in the town library. (It is, certainly, a consequence of
my fetishistic attitude toward books.)
And each silence, it must be so, possesses
different meanings. Then, what consolation
my adoration of mystics offers?

People say all stories have been told.
But, what if every silence has been used up,
if there is nothing left to be silent about?

           Translated by Uros Zekovic

On Oblivion

I speak now. When it becomes apparent at some point, I feel ill at ease.
I do not remember dates and events, gestures,
maxims, deals… It takes time
Typically not reckonable by verse. And again, I often
pray for it to exist, to spread all over the imposed bitterness.
There, I forgot the Spanish expression for happiness
and the equivalent to our word – silence. I keep forgetting
spy novels’ plots: you may easily plant
different twists and turns on me. In a flash, I cannot remember what mint,
tea or rice taste like. I keep forgetting how many times I have dreamt
insects walking over my bedclothes. (Could it be that I place fewer and fewer
things into my memory?) That was how I even forgot the way
Otto Weininger had chosen to overcome life.
The existence of oblivion, however, makes daily continuance easier.
With such oblivion, I meet requirements for staying in reality;
through recollection, already, I recreate poetry.
From one case to another – I rejoice in oblivion.

           Translated by Uros Zekovic

Lost Manuscripts

I don't deny it: I write untruthful,
deceitful lines. The method
is the same from text to text.
However, here and there it's possible to find
a line or two with a worrying degree of truth.
Not long ago, looking for completely different
texts, I found among rare
manuscripts the following words:
The most important cities are those
already buried – new ones are not
worth founding. The best languages
have died out – there is no point in inventing better ones.
The most respected schools were situated
in gardens now abandoned.
The most interesting manuscripts are lost…

It is worth discovering, them. For us,
surviving members of the Babylonian library.

           Translated by Evald Flisar

What Books Smell Like

For every book there is a smell,
a smell that is level with the meaning,
or the first impression of the book.
Then what is the smell of books –
on dusty shelves,
in forgotten house libraries,
unprofitable bookshops of the capital?
What do books of Nobel laureats smell like?

Books of old masters smell of parchment,
of those pages that have disappeared – maybe they
will be gone when we open pale covers.
Their books come down to yelow pages.
The books of scribomaniacs smell of the toil of printing
workers. At workers' universities – books
don't have smells, they are usually red and untouched.

What do books of my friends smell like?
What is the smell of world best-sellers, cookbooks,
manuals, instructions for better concentration?
(I don't like books that give off the smell of smoke:
vices have been mixed into them.) What do
holy books smell like, in holy languages of the world?
What about the ones in excinct languages?
The books of pagans face the sun,
that is why they lose their characteristic when we approach them.

No smell in harmless.
The ownership of a booklovers does not resemble
any smell,
any book for the matter.
Abandoned books in offices
smell like old painting canvases.

The strangest smell is that of books in
the Argentine National Library,
especially of those published after 1995.
I don't know what books of prisoners
smell of, probably of damp walls
and the past. What do collected classical works smell like?
What is the smell of books that were returned to
Knut Hamsun? His books what do they smell like?

I cherish the smell of one book,
Precious like the knowledge of German.

           Translated by Ulvija Tanovic

from Pavle Goranović's e-book

created by