“Translating poetry is not an arid academic and philological exercise on the grammatical and syntactical complications of language. Translating poetry means striving to understand it; it almost means reliving it. All you need (but it is indispensable) is to have a common denominator with the poet on man’s position on life.” Joyce Lussu

For the first time, and for a poem I have “relived”, as the poet rightly states, please find here the recording of both the English and Italian versions of the poem.

C’è un paio di scarpette Rosse  

di Joyce Lussu  

C’è un paio di scarpette rosse
numero ventiquattro
quasi nuove:
sulla suola interna si vede
ancora la marca di fabbrica
“Schulze Monaco”.  

C’è un paio di scarpette rosse
in cima a un mucchio
di scarpette infantili
a Buchenwald.  

Più in là c’è un mucchio di riccioli biondi
di ciocche nere e castane
a Buchenwald.
Servivano a far coperte per i soldati.
Non si sprecava nulla
e i bimbi li spogliavano e li radevano
prima di spingerli nelle camere a gas.  

C’è un paio di scarpette rosse
di scarpette rosse per la domenica
a Buchenwald.
Erano di un bimbo di tre anni,
forse di tre anni e mezzo.
Chi sa di che colore erano gli occhi
bruciati nei forni,
ma il suo pianto
lo possiamo immaginare,
si sa come piangono i bambini.  

Anche i suoi piedini
li possiamo immaginare.
Scarpa numero ventiquattro
per l’eternità
perché i piedini dei bambini morti
non crescono.  

C’è un paio di scarpette rosse
a Buchenwald,
quasi nuove,
perché i piedini dei bambini morti
non consumano le suole…    
There is a pair of red shoes  

by Joyce Lussu  

There is a pair of red shoes
toddler size eight
almost new:
on the inner sole still
visible is the brand name
“Schulze Monaco.”  

There is a pair of red shoes
on the top of a heap
of toddler shoes
in Buchenwald.  

Not far from there is a pile of blond curls
of black locks and brown
in Buchenwald.
They were used to make blankets for the soldiers.
Nothing was wasted
and the children were undressed and shaved bald
before being pushed into the gas chambers.  

There is a pair of red shoes
red shoes Sunday shoes
in Buchenwald.
The shoes of a three year old boy
or maybe three and a half.
Who knows what colour his eyes were,
burnt in the ovens,
but his tears
we can imagine,
we know how children cry.  

And his feet too
we can imagine.
Toddler shoes size eight
for eternity
because the feet of dead children
don’t grow.
There is a pair of red shoes
in Buchenwald,
almost new,
because the feet of dead children
don’t wear down the soles…    

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi 2020

From http://www.enciclopediadelledonne.it/biografie/joyce-salvadori-lussu/

Joyce Salvadori Lussu was born in Florence on May 8, 1912.

She was the third child of Guglielmo Salvadori and Giacinta Galletti, who were anti-fascist intellectuals. In 1924, at the age of 12, after her father was beaten by a fascist squad, she moved to Switzerland with her family. She then studied philosophy in Heidelberg, Germany. In 1933, with the advent of nazism, she abandoned her studies for moral reasons. She returned to Switzerland and became a member of the anti-fascist association Giustizia e Libertà.

In 1943 she returned to Italy. Her experience in anti-fascism and as a partisan in the war are found in her highly autobiographical texts Fronti e frontier (1944), L’uomo che voleva nascere donna (1976), and Lotte, ricordi e altro (1992).

In the years to follow, she would travel Europe on behalf of the Peace Movement. In Stockholm she met the poet Nazim Hikmet; she became his friend and translator, making his poems known to the Italian public. In the text Tradurre poesia (1967) Joyce Lussu explains how, by allowing the words to travel, she felt she was putting forth the values of the Resistence.

Painting by Lucio Fontana: SPATIAL CONCEPT, WAITING, 1967
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

2 thoughts on “Joyce Lussu: C’è un paio di scarpette Rosse/ There is a pair of red shoes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.