With Deer

August 10, 2010

posted by Caroline Picard

What follows is an excerpt from “With Deer,” a book by Aase Berg, translated by Johannes Goransson; published by Black Ocean Press.


I came across this book at Open Books in Seattle. It’s rife with organs and blackness and ghoulish, exquisite terror. Like walking through a metal, psychedelic landscape with the back of your neck chilled and perplexing. I couldn’t put it down. This version also includes the original Swedish which is nice, as a constant reminder of the practice and processes of translation. I included an excerpt below, along with a sketch.

In The Guinea Pig Cave

There lay the guinea pigs. There lay the guinea pigs and they waited with blood around their mouths like my sister. There lay the guinea pigs and they smelled bad in the cave. There lay my sister and she swelled and ached and throbbed. There lay the guinea pigs and they ached all over and their legs stuck straight up like beetles and they looked depraved and were blue under their eyes as from months of debauchery. My sister puked calmly and indifferently: it ran slowly out of her slack mouth without her moving a single nerve. And the cave was warm as teats and full of autumn leaves and beneath the soil lay the arm of a mannequin. There lay the guinea pigs and ached and were made of dough. There lay the guinea pigs beside the knives that would slice them up like loaves. And my sister with lips of blueberries, soil and mush. In the distance, the siren bleated inhumanly. That is where the guinea pigs lay and waited with blood around their mouths and contorted bodies. They waited. And I was tired in my whole stomach from meat dough and guinea pig loaf and I knew that they would take revenge on me.

posted by caroline picard

While in Boston I found a book of poems by Mao Tze Tung translated by Willis Barnstone. I copied two of them here, as I was particularly interested in a tense atheism–an ironic appeal to God as a bearer of plagues. I like to pretend that Mao would have had a weak spot for heavy metal, something only his closest associates would know, when sometimes he would go to the most remote part of whatever cave he was staying in where he would hook up a very fine pair of headphones to a small world radio (capable of picking up soundwaves from the future) where he could listen to Norway and Iceland ripping up electric.


Saying Goodbye to the God of Disease (1)

July 1958

Mauve waters and green mountains are nothing

when the great aincient doctor Hua Tuo

could not defeat a tiny worm.

A thousand villages collapsed, were choked with weeds,

men were lost arrows.

Ghosts sang in the doorway of a few desolate houses.

Yet now in a day we leap around the earth

or explore a thousand Milky Ways.

And if the cowherd who lives on a star

asks about the god of plagues,

tell him, happy or sad, the god is gone,

washed away in the waters.

Saying Goodbye to the God of Disease (2)

July 1958

Thousands of willow branches in a spring wind.

Six hundred million of China, land of the gods,

and exemplary like the emperors Shun and Yao.

A scarlet rain of peach blossoms turned into waves

and emerald mountains into bridges.

Summits touch the sky.

We dig with silver shovels

and iron arms shake the earth and the Three Rivers.

God of plagues where are you goin?

We burn paper boats and bright candles

to light his way to heave.