Delighted to feature Aurélia Lassaque in the Backroom today. Aurélia is a poet who writes in Occitan, the language of the medieval troubadours, spoken in the south of France, Monaco, Val D'Aran in Spain, and the Guardia Piemontese in Italy. Collectively, these regions are sometimes referred to as Occitania. Occitan is an ancient romance language with a connection to Catalan. Like Scots with English, Occitan is often thought of as a dialect of Catalan, though, like Scots, the language has the historical and linguistic right to be thought of as at least the equal to its neighbour. Occitan is hampered by the fact that less than 10,000 still speak it, and that it lacks a standardised vocabulary. It is beautiful, though, isnt it?
Aurélia Lassaque (b. 1983) is a bilingual poet and performer who writes in French and Occitan. She is interested in the interaction between various forms of art, and often cooperates with visual artists, videomakers, dancers and particularly musicians. She accompanies her readings with short songs from the Occitan folklore tradition. She has performed all over the world, in Europe, Northern and Latin America, Africa, Scandinavian countries, Indonesia, India and China.
Her work has been translated into over twenty languages including Asturian, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, English, Finnish, Hebrew, Italian, Norwegian, Polish and Spanish. Her collection 'Pour que chantent les salamandres' (Editions Bruno Doucey, 2013) has been translated in many different languages and received critical attention from, among others, Her second French/Occitan collection, 'En quête d’un visage', a prescient dialogue between Ulysses and Elle/Ela (She), was published in France by Editions Bruno Doucey (May 2017). She has also collaborated as a screenwriter for the cinema with director Giuseppe Schillaci: Transhumance (co-screenwriter, actress), a short film poem, presented at the 76th Venice Film Festival (MaTerre 2019, Cantiere Cinepoetico Euromediterraneo).
Here she reads an excerpt from 'En quête d’un visage', a dialogue between 'She' and Ulysses. The English translation is supplied by Madeleine Campbell, a Canadian writer, researcher and translator who teaches at the University of Edinburgh.
Dona-me un nom, Ulisses
dona-me un nom que te posquèsse esperar
serai aquí, i aurà lo miralh
e parlarem de tu, ieu e l’autra al dedins del miralh
la rejonharai aquí, sempre de galís, al ras d’una cadièra, al biais dels aucèls
amb la dolor dins ma cuèissa per me pas perdre d’aquel costat del miralh
lo matin portarai mos pendents d’aurelhas
los servarai emai benlèu al lièch se me deviás susprene al mitan de la nuèch
mas s’ai pas de nom cossi saupre quala d’entre ela o ieu velha ?
Give me a name, Ulysses
give me a name so that i can wait for you
i’ll be here, the mirror, there
and we’ll speak of you, i and the other in the mirror
i’ll join her there, a little slant, on the edge of a chair, the way birds do
the ache in my thigh keeps me from losing myself to that side of the mirror
in the morning i’ll wear my earrings
i may even wear them to bed should you surprise me in the night
but if i have no name how will i know which of us, her or me, is waiting?
Te donar un nom ?
Te donar un nom quand balas dins lo negre dins de carrièras desèrtosas amb de grands gosses ?
Te donar un nom quand vas a la rivièra en tenguda de nuèch jos lo naut solelh en ignorar los òmes que se son perduts en te cresent sasir ?
e per las pelar un cotèl pas mai grand que lo poce
un cotèl d’ivòri qu’aurai raubat aprèp la batalha
lo present d’un defunt a una autra femna
e te caldrà pensar a ela, a sos lençòls freds, al trauc dins sa pòcha a la plaça del cotèl
t’ofrirai de brots d’èrbas qu’aurai servats longtemps jos ma sòla
que creisson aquí ont repausan los còsses
e se quilhan coma de sentinelas al quite punt ont s’acaba la fugida
Give you a name?
Give you a name when you dance in the dark with great hounds in empty streets?
Give you a name when you stroll to the river dressed for night in the glaring sun, spurning
the men who were doomed the moment they thought they possessed you?
I’ll offer you oranges
and to peel them a knife no bigger than a thumb
an ivory knife I’ll steal when the battle is over
a dead man’s gift to another woman
and you’ll be bound to think of her, of her cold sheets, of the hole in her pocket
traded for the knife
I’ll offer you blades of grass that cling to the soles of my feet
from shoots that grow there, where the bodies lie
standing tall as sentinels at the precise point their retreat ended
More Information on her Work here: