Pier Paolo Pasolini
Fragment to Death
I come from you and go to you,
A feeling born with the light, with the heat
which aroused the first cry as joy
I, baptized and known as Pier Paolo,
at the beginning of a restless epic:
I walked into the light of history
but was always heroic under your dominion:
my being you my innermost thought.
In your path of light,
in the horrific uncertainties
of your flame, the course
of the world, of history:
and in your light it truly existed,
it lost life so as to win it back:
and life really only existed when it was beautiful . . .
First the urge to confess
then the fury of clarity,
which came from you, a wrong, dark
feeling! And now
they also love vilifying each of my passions,
besmirching me, calling me degenerate,
perverse, possessed, dilettantish and perjurious:
you especially make me, give me that confidence to survive:
I am on the funeral pyre, playing the trump card of the flames
and win this, my minimal
inner happiness, win this infinitely
miserable pity, which makes a friend for me:
my righteous anger
as I have suffered you so much.
I come back, come home to you
the way one returns to the village of an emigrant, and rediscovers it:
I have made my fortune (in spirit)
and am happy the way I
once was, released from being coerced.
In my breast a black rage, poetry.
A demented old age in adolescence.
Once your joy was mixed
with horror, so it was, but now
it is with this other joy, darker
and nearly dryer: my disappointed passion.
Now you truly strike me with terror,
for now you are really by me, enclosed
in my anger, my dark
hunger, my fear—you are almost a new life.
I am sound, as you would have me,
the neurosis puts forth its branches from me
I am desiccated with exhaustion, but
it does not have me: beside me
laughs the last glow of youth.
I have everything that I ever wanted:
I have gone further than certain hopes
for the world: you
are now drained here inside me, you fill
my time and these times.
I was rational and
irrational: both to the core.
But now . . . oh, desert, dazed
by the wind, by that gorgeous and dirty
african sun, which illuminates the earth.
Africa! the one way
left to me ……………
Fragment to death, a translation of Müller’s German rendering of Pasolini’s 1958 poem ‘Frammento alla morte’.
If your song won’t help you to live
Thus will it help you towards death (Brentano)
The sky promised a beautiful day It begins
With reading the newspaper in the hotel bar
A survivor describes a bloodbath
I LAY UNDER I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY DEAD
AFRAID THAT SOMEONE ALIVE AND MOVING
OR STARTS SCREAMING ABOVE ME THEY SHOT
AT ANYTHING THAT MOVED OR MADE A SOUND
LUCKILY EVERYONE WAS DEAD
The luck must reach to the ceiling
Alive because everyone is dead a human dream
Idle time One day tosses me to the next
Axel Manthey is dead They should write a comedy
Life in this cloudy human broth
With happy idiots in front of the screen
Last night i dreamt I was Actaeon
I was being chased by seven women
An actress led them on
Through forest and field we trampled the flowers
They hunted me with a wire garrote
I bombarded several friends with questions
About my new play I am IRRITATED
Said the most tactful The others were silent
My wife asked me DO YOU NEED THAT
Gründgens dines with Göring the hunter-gatherer
In the cellar the Gestapo give
The Communist Hans Otto singing lessons
I AM AN ACTOR NOT THE PEOPLE Hamlet says
When Laertes gets political For his part he
Knows how you twist and turn in
Conversing with murderers from a love for art
I MEAN TO SLEEP FOR A LONG TIME
Was the last thing they heard from him
HAMLETWALLENSTEIN to his killer
Had to break his legs because the coffin
Turned out to be too short Our Hamlet
In Plato’s cave Althusser for example
A Communist massages his wife All along
Her neck had been made stiff by his
Ground-laying scepticism all along he wanted
As some graffiti says on the wall of the école normale
To be a manual labourer
O MOTHER MOTHER
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE
GIVE ME YOUR ARSE PELOSI I
WANT YOUR DIRTY ARSE SON OF ITALY
A WHORE OF MARLBORO AND COCA-COLA
GIVE ME YOUR DIRTY
A bloody marriage
With that class which carries the future
On its shoulders tattooed by capital
The red dawn of one night The night
Of the red dawn
Then Pelosi put the car in gear
And drove it over the owner
NOW PAOLO YOU ARE ONE WITH YOUR ITALY
Or St Martin forest and garden gnome
In leather shorts waiting for the Führer
. . . HIS BEAUTIFUL HANDS JASPERS
In his Black Forest where Kafka the eternal Jew
Saw the hunter Gracchus the dead who
Did not learn mortality that master from Germany
Who warms his hands in the blood of his animals
Anyway he knew St Martin
Ever since crossing the middle of the Jordan
As the bottom of the abyss is life a leap
For God is dead his orphaned angels
No longer lend out their wings
His skeleton circles in outer space
In the hotel bar a drunken guest bores
A waitress she takes her break and must
Sit at the bar with his dead wife’s cancer
Then they talk about dogs
I LIKE CHOW CHOWS says the waitress
BECAUSE THEY’RE SO LITTLE PLEASE WHERE IS
MY DRINK the drunk shouts I HATE DOGS
THEY TOOK MY TIME WHEN I LIVED WITH MY WIFE
AND SHE’S DEAD NOW AND THE DOGS TOOK MY TIME
Yesterday I saw Teorema
I DIED FOR THIS COMPANY
Says the tired capitalist in the railway station’s strip
How is the world supposed to end if the money tires
The rent boy already undresses on the platform
Amid a crowd of passengers into nothing
The world is described no more place for literature
Who’s knocked off a barstool by a good rhyme
The last adventure is death
Apart from myself I will return
One day in october in the falling rain
Baden-Baden October 1995
409, possibly an allusion to 409 bce, the year Sophocles’ Philoctetes was first performed in Athens and a play that Müller adapted (see p. 10 in this volume).
Brentano, Clemens Brentano (1778–1842), German romantic poet.
Axel Manthey (1945–95), the German costume and set designer who died from AIDS in October 1995.
Gründgens, Gustaf Gründgens (1899–1936), German theatre actor whose career spanned the Weimar, Nazi, and postwar periods; played Hamlet as a heroic figure, in keeping with Nazi ideology, in the 1936 Berlin Deutsches Theatre production.
Hans Otto (1900–33), German actor and one of the first communist artists to be executed by the Nazis.
I AM AN ACTOR . . . the back-cover copy of HamletMaschine: Tokyo Material (1996), in which this poem was first anthologized, states that ‘the contribution of an actor to the emancipation of the spectator is his emancipation from the spectator’.
I MEAN TO SLEEP . . . , the curtain line spoken by the titular hero of Friedrich Schiller’s trilogy Wallenstein (1799).
Althusser, Louis Althusser (1918–90), who had allegedly strangled his wife, sociologist Helene Rytmann, in 1980.
école normale, the École normale supérieure in paris, where althusser lived, worked and taught.