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Poetry in Translation (CXXXV): Paul STERIAN (1904-1984) Poet of the Romanian Communist Prisons – “Popicele Stau”, “Nine Pins”

October 23rd, 2012 · No Comments · Diaspora, International Media, Poetry, quotations, Translations

Poetry in Translation (CXXXV): Paul STERIAN (1904-1984) Poet of the Romanian Communist Prisons – “Popicele Stau”, “Nine Pins”

Popicele stau în picioare
din: “Pregătiri pentru călătoria din urmă” (1932)

Paul_Sterian (1904-1984)

Popicele stau în picioare
8 şi cu popa 9
Se bucură că stau în picioare.
Popicelor, nu vă mai bucuraţi
Popicelor, din voi
Trebuie să piară îndată câteva
Dacă nu toate
Popa mai ales

Sunteţi 8 şi cu popa 9
Vine ghiuleaua
Şi dărâmă, biet popic
În jurul tău
Una, două, trei
Sau mai multe popice
– depinde de îndemânarea
Şi înverşunarea jucătorului –

Destinul popicului
E să fie trântit
Nu să stea în picioare.
Ţine minte
Că eşti în picioare.
Tocmai ca să fii doborât.

Dura lex, popicule drag,
Frate popic,
Frate cu omul.

Nine Pins
Paul STERIAN (1904-1984)

Nine pins standing
Eight plus the kingpin makes nine
They’re glad to be up standing.
Dear pins, stop being so smug
Because some of you are soon expected to die
If not all of you
And in particular the kingpin.

You are eight plus the kingpin nine
The ball is rolling
To knock out the poor pins
Around you
One, two, three,
Or even several pins
Depending on the adroitness
Or the bloody-mindedness of the player –

The pin’s destiny
Is to fall
Never to stand up.
The only reason why you are standing up
Is to be knocked down.
Dura lex, sed lex, my dear pin,
Brother pin,
Brother of Man.

(Rendered in English
by Constantin ROMAN, London,
© 2012, Copyright Constantin ROMAN)

Paul STERIAN (1904-1984) obtains in 1928 a degree in Law and Economics from the Sorbonne with a dissertation on “Romania’s Settlement after the Great War”. Whilst working as a Sociologist, with Dimitrie Gusti, in Bucharest, Paul Sterian publishes articles in various newspapers, as well as his own poetry and translations from “The 1001 Nights” anthology. In 1937 he is named director of the Romanian Pavillion at the Paris World Exhibition to become the following year Head of Romania’s Legation in Washington DC.
During WWII he acts as a civil servant in the Ministries of Finance and the Foreign Affairs, reaching the position of Director General. However this position had not warranted being included amongst higher official who were tried as “war criminals” by the Soviet Komisars ruling occupied Romania. Sterian is lucky enough to have escaped prison, but he is instead made redundant and as all jobs for which he is qualified are denied to him, he is reduced to sell vegetables in the market. Gradually he manages to find minor employment as a foreign relations officer for the National Union of Composers, before he is employed as a statistician, at Dr Ana Aslan’s Institute of Geriatrics. Still, by the end of the 1950s, and out of the blue, during Ana Pauker’s political witch hunt, Sterian is tried and sent to the notorious political extermination prison at Aiud, to be reprieved only ten years later. Indeed, Sterian was lucky to have survived the Communist most notorious political prisons to live another day and scrape a meagre living for the next twenty years.
He was married firstly to the painter Margareta Sterian and secondly to the actress Alexandrina (Sanda) Dorobantu.

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