Bombs

The Dutch poet Paul Rodenko was an important Dutch poet, writer and more. The inspiration for many of his poems – just like the translated poem “Bommen” (“Bombs”) – came from his experiences during World War II. Read more about this poet and the translated poem.

Paul Rodenko

Paul Rodenko (right), receives a price in 1960.
Collection National Archive Netherlands
Image source: Wikipedia

Who was Paul Rodenko?

Paul Thomas Basilius Rodenko was born on 26 November 1920 as the son of an English mother and a Russian father. He was involved with the Dutch resistance in World War II. He wrote for several underground magazines, such as “Parade der Profeten” (“Parade of the Prophets”).

After the war, he was part of the literal movement “De Vijftigers” (“The Fiftiers”). At the time this movement started, he lived in Paris (France). This city was a great influence on his work. It brought him in contact with Existentialist and Surrealist artists.

Rodenko found it important that everyone learned about the war. It wasn’t just important for The Netherlands. He wanted to reach out to a broader audience. To explain what war would lead to.

About this poem

About this poem

It’s always a matter of choosing your words wisely when translating a poem. The words must come off the same way the original writer intended.

Let’s take a moment to view this poem. It’s just like any other day. A day in a city (metropolis). Kangaroos aren’t indigenous animals in The Netherlands. Still, these animals seem to watch over the street where it takes place. The way they’re watching the scenery, from window holes (small windows), suggests that these indigenous animals are occupying this city.

To show it’s just another day, the woman passes by. But there is something off. It’s moments before a bombardment takes place. Three houses are hit.

The bombing may have been carried out by the Allies. It could also just be the case, hence the looking kangaroos, that it is a reprisal measure by the Germans. It’s unclear. What is clear: war leads to destruction and death (red flag).

Paul Rodenko - Bombs

Bombs

It’s quiet in the metropolis
The streets
have expanded.
Kangaroos look through the window holes.
A woman passes.
The echo picks rushed
her steps.
 
It’s quiet in the metropolis
A cat rolls stiffly from the window frame.
As a block the light moves
Silently three four bombs fall on the square
and three and four houses hoist tedious
their red flags

— Paul Rodenko (translation: Harm Jagerman)

Bommen

Bommen

De stad is stil.
De straten
hebben zich verbreed.
Kangeroes kijken door de venstergaten.
Een vrouw passeert.
De echo raapt gehaast
haar stappen op.
 

De stad is stil.
Een kat rolt stijf van het kozijn.
Het licht is als een blok verplaatst.
Geruisloos vallen drie vier bommen op het plein
en drie vier huizen hijsen traag
hun rode vlag.

— Paul Rodenko

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