Saturday, May 6, 2017

unrasiert und fern der heimat

There are less direct, less indelicate translations available, but the 1960 Wildhagen German-English dictionary I have always made my heart soar with its translation of "unrasiert und fern der heimat." "Down on one's luck" or even the more literal "unshaven and far from home" simply could not hold a candle to the in-your-face "fucked and far from home."

Far from home without a handhold in sight. What a feeling. What a sorrow. In the fourth-and-a-half-grade, I was sent away to boarding school and on the first night away from home wept my eyes to their arid ends as I realized I had be shunted off by my mother. The house mother and father, who had probably seen it all before, sat in the darkness of night and consoled me until I ran out of steam.

I pulled the Wildhagen off the shelf just now and found the beloved translation nestled among other definitions which also had gnat-sized print. I knew it would be there because "fucked and far from home"  brought me such delight when I first saw it in Berlin... and noted it was hosted in part by an English publisher.

My own youthful tears reiterated themselves today as my younger son got closer and closer to a commercial flight that would take him and his National Guard comrades "fern der heimat" in Egypt-- far from home in a way that most of them have probably never been. Does it matter if you're in the fourth grade or your middle twenties if the trek to "fern der heimat" gathers momentum? My son wasn't crying on Skype, but I could feel the tears ... family, girl friend, country ... soon enough the rug would be pulled out from under his feet. Such a trip is an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) for anyone's belief system. Talk about feeling fucked, even if it's not entirely clear how.

How will things be when the way that they were and the beliefs they supported are taken away in a trice? And yet without such an experience, how can anyone's beliefs and footing be anything more than shaky at best? Not least is the surprise at how resilient (or forgetful?) anyone might be. By the sixth grade, when my mother asked me if I'd prefer to live in New York with her, I said without a backward glance, "no." Perhaps it will be the same for my son -- gathering and donning new armor and capacities in a fern-der-heimat that is no longer so far and so homeless.

Listen to Dylan Thomas in Under Milk Wood: "Time passes. Listen! Time passes."

1 comment:

  1. Fucked and far from home is the reality we ignore our entire lives. You can't fall out of the universe perhaps, but you may at any moment, die alone in your body.