Takeoff

1.

She walks by. Her gait grabs your attention. She is about to go onto the footbridge.

At the last moment, she changes her mind.

The speakers announce a train is about to enter the station. You look at the clock: almost nine pm. The train’s not yours. Time to kill. Nothing to read. The kiosk’s always open. You buy a paper, return to your bench. You sit back down and keep an eye on your belongings.

You try to read, unable to focus. The daily news is insignificant, anecdotes of no interest. You watch the people around, in search of something unusual.

Rain clouds fill the sky.

2.

The same young woman walks by again. Pretty but disheveled. Something about her strikes you. It’s as if she just got out of bed.

Judging by her clothes, she looks like a young middle class woman. A local, perhaps. A white blouse half tucked inside her pants. Ballet flats, a handbagno doubt a brand nameof stiff leather. Her gaze fixes some indeterminate point on the horizon. She stays put against a pylon. She isn’t your type, although you find her charming.

A loud noise distracts you: a bunch of travelers. They sit down on the next bench: a couple with two rowdy kids. The man and the womanabout forty. They look almost identical. The boys: blond, probably tall for their age. They speak a foreign language. A lot of luggage. You think up their itinerary, imagine what could have brought them here.

There is a thickness in the air: heavy, suffocating.

3.

Your train is late. You glance at the time board hoping it will tell you more. Nothing indicated. A decrepit advertisement boasts the advantages of life insurance. Abandoned trolleys waiting to be put to use. At the end of the platform a conductor informs passengers. You could consult him, but sudden laziness dissuades you. A memory returns: a friend who claimed to love train stations as places of inspiration, of reverie. Tonight, in this gloomy station, it perplexes you.

The young woman stands dangerously close to the tracks. You are about to react, to draw her back, to call out to her. She regains her composure.

4.

You sweat. It’s not the heat.

She climbs up the footbridge that goes to the opposite platform. She stands there. Doesn’t descend. You notice that she left her handbag at the base of the stairs, not far from you.

The bag is open.

You are stunned, frozen.

5.

More and more people are on the platform. A train comes in. At this moment, you feel as if a film is playing before you in slow motion. The young woman, still on the bridge above the tracks, walks up to the railing.

A quick analysis. You brain seizes the situation.

You understood but you didn’t want to accept.

Now you scream. It’s all you can do. Others do the same. With the siren of the train, this noise is like an unreal, outrageous cacophony.

She swings her leg over the railing, the train only a few feet away.

She jumps.

6.

You will relive those few seconds: the train coming in, the cries, the jump.

Her body seems inanimate as soon as she crosses the railing. Maybe she lost consciousness at that moment. The strong current of air created by the locomotive launched her into the atmosphere.

She didn’t touch the train or the platform. After a soaring flight, she found herself stuck between the carriage and the edge of the platform, right above the ballast. One of her shoes came off and continued its course until it landed on a bench.

A lot of shouting. Not everyone has seen what happened, but the panic is contagious.

She fell, almost softly. The current of air slowed down her fall, landed her on the ground, like a floating leaf.

7.

From now on, you will often have this dream: in the street, in public places, you see people who fly without warning. They take off for a moment, then touch the ground.

8.

The conductor and police arrive on the platform. A throng begins to form. You are the first to reach the young woman. You lean over her. There is a crowd behind you.

Her clothes are intact. No blood. She breathes, opens her eyes, looks at you without seeing. You try to talk to her: she is conscious. A miracle.

9.

The firemen have succeeded in pulling her out of the trap of concrete and metal. During this time the police have questioned you, as well as other people who witnessed the scene. It was hard to interrogate the couple. They only spoke Danish. The entire sector was closed off.

You spotted the handbag on the platform. They searched it and found a letter.

They took her to the hospital.

The small group that consists of you and the other witnesses, now gathered in the waiting room, speculates about the content of the letter. A broken romance. A series of professional setbacks. A family drama. Multiple rapes. Despondency. Uprootedness. No one knows.

10. 

Your train enters the station, as if it were on stand-by all this time.

prose_section_divider

1.

Elle passe devant vous. Sa démarche attire votre attention. Elle s’apprête à monter sur la passerelle. Au dernier moment, elle change d’avis et revient sur ses pas.

Une voix métallique provenant des haut-parleurs signale qu’un train est sur le point d’entrer en gare. Vous regardez l’horloge : il n’est pas encore vingt-et-une heure. Ce n’est pas votre train. Vous avez du temps à tuer, et rien à lire. Un kiosque est toujours ouvert, vous achetez des journaux, puis vous revenez  vers votre banc. Vous vous asseyez, en prenant soin de bien garder vos affaires sous vos yeux.

Vous essayez de lire les nouvelles mais nous n’arrivez pas à vous concentrer, votre esprit est ailleurs. Les informations du jour vous paraissent insignifiantes, des anecdotes sans intérêt. Vous observez les gens autour de vous à la recherche de quoi que ce soit d’insolite.

2.

La jeune femme passe à nouveau devant vous. Hagarde. Jolie mais la mine défaite. Quelque chose détonne en elle. C’est comme si elle venait de sortir du lit.

Ses vêtements pourraient être  ceux d’une jeune femme de la bourgeoisie locale. Un chemisier blanc à moitié rentré dans le pantalon. Des ballerines. Un sac à main, de marque sans doute, en cuir épais. Regard fixant l’horizon. Elle reste plantée là, sous un pylône. Elle n’est pas votre type, quoique vous lui trouvez tout de même du charme.

Il y a quelque chose dans l’atmosphère. De pesant, d’étouffant.

3.

Votre train est en retard. Vous jetez un œil au tableau horaire dans l’espoir d’obtenir des précisions. Il n’y a rien d’indiqué. Sur le côté une publicité décrépie vante les mérites d’une compagnie d’assurance vie. Des charriots délaissés attendent de nouveaux utilisateurs. Au bout du quai un contrôleur informe des passagers. Vous pourriez le consulter mais une paresse momentanée vous en dissuade. Un souvenir vous revient à l’esprit : un ami qui prétendait adorer les gares. Pour lui des lieux propices à l’inspiration, à la rêverie. Ce soir, dans cette gare lugubre, voilà qui vous rend perplexe.

La jeune femme se rapproche dangereusement de la voie ferrée. Vous êtes à deux doigts de réagir, de vous lever ou de la héler.  Elle se ressaisit.

4.

Vous transpirez. Ce n’est pas la chaleur.

Elle monte sur la passerelle qui mène au quai d’en face. Ne redescend pas.  Vous venez de remarquer qu’elle a laissé son sac au bord des escaliers.

Son sac à main, entreouvert, n’est pas loin de vous.

Vous êtes tétanisé.

5.

De plus en plus de monde sur le quai. Un train à l’arrivée. A cet instant, vous avez l’impression de vivre un film au ralenti. La jeune femme, toujours sur la passerelle au dessus du quai, s’avance vers la rambarde.

Après une analyse rapide, votre cerveau a désormais saisi la situation.

Vous aviez compris mais vous n’avez pas voulu accepter.

Vous criez, c’est tout ce que vous êtes en mesure de faire. D’autres personnes font de même. Avec  la sirène du train, cela forme un brouhaha irréel, effarant.

Elle enjambe la rambarde. Le train n’est plus qu’à quelques mètres.

Elle saute.

6.

Vous revivrez ces quelques secondes un millier de fois : l’arrivée du train, les cris, le saut.

Son corps semble inanimé dès qu’elle franchit la rambarde. Elle a peut-être tout de suite perdu conscience. C’est difficile à évaluer. Le souffle de la locomotive l’a propulsée en l’air.

Elle n’a pas touché le train. Ni la bordure de quai. Après avoir effectué un vol plané, elle s’est retrouvée coincée entre le wagon et le rebord du quai, au dessus du ballast. Un détail : une de ses ballerines s’est détachée et a fini sa course sur un banc.

Vous entendez des hurlements. Tout le monde n’a pas pu voir ce qui s’est passé mais l’effroi est contagieux.

Elle est tombée presque lentement, le souffle a ralenti sa chute, l’a posée sur terre – comme une feuille bousculée par le vent.

7.

Vous ferez ce rêve souvent désormais : dans la rue, ou dans des lieux publics, des gens qui s’envolent sans crier gare, flottent un moment et se reposent sur le sol.

8.

Le contrôleur, ainsi que le service de sécurité surgissent sur le quai. Un attroupement se forme. Vous êtes le premier à atteindre la jeune femme. Vous vous penchez vers elle. Il y a du monde autour de vous.

Vous constatez que ses vêtements ne sont pas abimés. Pas de sang. Vous l’examinez. Elle respire. Ouvre les yeux. Vous regarde sans vous voir. Vous tentez de lui parler : elle est consciente. Un miracle.

9.

Les pompiers ont réussi à l’extraire du piège de métal et de béton.

Pendant ce temps des policiers vous ont interrogé, ainsi que d’autres personnes qui ont assisté à la scène. Le secteur a été fermé.

Vous avez signalé le sac à main abandonné sur le quai. Ils l’ont fouillé et trouvé une lettre.

Ils l’ont emmenée à l’hôpital. A priori elle est indemne.

Le petit groupe que vous formez avec les autres témoins, maintenant regroupé dans la salle des pas-perdus, spécule sur le contenu de la lettre.

10.

Votre train entre en gare. Comme s’il avait attendu tout ce temps.

Translator’s Note:

I experience literary translation as something at once fluid, solid and extremely porouslikely a result of my background. Born in Philadephia but raised in Belgium, I spoke English in daycare, Dutch at home, and learned French early on. Because these three languages coexisted in myself, alternating, blending, I never considered that I had a native language. At times, I still forget in which language I am thinking or dreaming.

Initially, I became interested in literary translation because the authors who inspired my own work wrote in a foreign language. During my literary studies, I read Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Rimbaud in the original, but since I wrote articles in Dutch and my own creative work in English, the language barrier was never stable. It seemed that energy contained in one expression could easily float into another one, that there was no distinctionor, in any case, that it was possible to use one author’s style even when writing in a different language.

For this reason, I’m often drawn to non-formal, experimental workwriting that tends to be evasive, slippery. One of my favorite current translation projects are the aphorisms attributed to Marcel Duchamp’s muse Rrose Sélavy, but written under hypnosis by French surrealist Robert Desnos. To the naked eye, these anagrams and wordplays seem untranslatablebut once it becomes clear that they are just one channel through which pours the lava of a shared, expressive core, another voice is found, with different words, but in the same color and the same musical key.

I have a similar experience when working with Sven Hanson-Löve. I find his stories lend themselves to English translation because he often minimizes references to a specifically French context. In other words, his stories could take place anywhere, and not a few of them feature a mix of languages and cultures, without making the content any less universal. I especially appreciate the dialogue we carry on throughout the process of translation. I get a better understanding of his work because we share ideas about writing, life and our projects. Through translation, our lives don’t just run parallel, they intersect and sometimes mirror one another. This, to me, is what translation does. It is not a transposition of a language A into a language B, but it joins living things that are intrinsically connected.

“Takeoff” spoke to me because of the sparse language, which I often use in my own writing. With prose, I tend to translate without reading the piece first, because I believe that my translation should mirror the impact a story makes on the first read. In “Takeoff” there was a palpable tension and a sense of movementespecially the rhythm: short staccato sentences interspersed with the occasional sweeping juxtapositions. Rhythm is amplified by texture, so I tried to pick words that sounded and looked adequate. I’d still like to make changes, but I think the parts that translated a bit awkwardly in English help to create a slight derailing effect, which contributes to the story.

Simon Rogghe

Sven Hansen-LöveSven Hansen-Löve decided to focus on writing after being a DJ for more than 15 years in Paris and all over the world. His work has appeared and is forthcoming in Paris Lit Up, Crack The Spine, Left Hand Of The Father, all translated from french by Simon Rogghe. He has also co-written with his sister, the well-known French film director, Mia Hansen-Löve, a script for a feature film titled “Eden.” The shooting took place in New York and Paris. The film is in postproduction now.

 

Simon RoggheSimon Rogghe is a poet, fiction writer and translator of French surrealism and contemporary fiction. His work has appeared and is forth coming in 3:AM Magazine, Gone Lawn, Paris Lit Up, and other publications. After traveling Europe and the US competing at horse shows as a professional rider, he is currently earning his Ph.D. in French Literature at UC Berkeley.