Home: a place to be left – an essay (and poem) by Nikola Madžirov

To speak of migration, one must first speak of home – be it the home left behind, the newly-built home, or the home that has never existed.

Macedonian author Nikola Madžirov, who describes himself as “an involuntary descendant of war refugees, and an heir of temporal homes“, will be at the Poesiefestival Berlin in mid-June to present a series of conversations with ten renowned contemporary poets (including Ilya Kaminsky, Valzhyna Mort, Tomaž Šalamun, and Adam Zagajewski) entitled HOME-EXIT/HOME.

“The idea of ‘home’ often only takes shape in the face of its own spatial impermanence. Whether it is social and political circumstances or yearning for a spatial or aesthetic distance impelling them to leave, many poets leave their homes behind them and become – voluntarily or involuntarily – nomads. But how do they manage to reorient themselves? What role does ‘home’ play in language, and is language a home as well?”


The variable concept of ‘home’ is the main theme of this year’s festival, and is also central to Madžirov’s poetics. Issue 1 of Le monde n’est pas rond includes a revised version of his essay Home: a place to be left, originally published in Prairie Schooner. The essay indirectly refers to one of Madžirov’s touchstone poems, also entitled Home. Here it is below, translated into English, French, and German. The original Macedonian poem can be read and listened to (in the author’s own voice) on lyrikline.


I lived at the edge of the town
like a streetlamp whose light bulb
no one ever replaces.
Cobwebs held the walls together,
and sweat our clasped hands.
I hid my teddy bear
in holes in crudely built stone walls
saving him from dreams.

Day and night I made the threshold come alive
returning like a bee that
always returns to the previous flower.
It was a time of peace when I left home:

the bitten apple was not bruised,
on the letter a stamp with an old abandoned house.

From birth I’ve migrated to quiet places
and voids have clung beneath me
like snow that doesn’t know if it belongs
to the earth or to the air.

Translated by Peggy and Graham W. Reid
from REMNANTS OF ANOTHER AGE (BOA Editions, 2011)


J’ai vécu au bord de la ville
comme un lampadaire dont personne
ne change les ampoules.
Les toiles d’araignées maintenaient les murs
et la sueur seule nos paumes jointes.
Dans les recoins des pierres mal raboutées,
je cachais mon ours en peluche
pour le sauver des mauvais rêves.

Nuit et jour, je ravivais le seuil,
y retournant comme une abeille
qui revient sans cesse à la fleur d’avant.
La paix régnait quand j’ai quitté la maison :

la pomme mordue n’avait pas noirci et sur l’enveloppe
de la lettre il y avait encore le timbre d’une vieille demeure abandonnée.

Depuis que je suis né, les espaces calmes m’attirent
et le vide, toujours, colle sous mes pas
comme une neige qui ne sait pas
si elle appartient à la terre ou au ciel.

                       Traduit par Vladimir Claude Fisera


Einst lebte ich am Ende der Stadt
wie eine Straßenlampe, deren Glühbirne
niemand wechselt.
Das Spinnennetz hielt die Wände zusammen,
der Schweiß unsere verbundenen Hände.
In den Metamorphosen der ungeschickt
zusammengemauerten Steine versteckte ich
den samtenen Teddy, um ihn vor dem Traum retten.

Tag und Nacht belebte ich die Schwelle, indem
ich zu ihr zurückkehrte wie eine Biene, die
immer wieder zur vorhergehenden Blüte zurückkehrt.
Es war Frieden, als ich mein Zuhause verließ:

Der angebissene Apfel war noch nicht dunkel geworden,
auf dem Brief klebte eine Marke mit einem alten verlassenen Haus.

Von Geburt an bewege ich mich auf die stillen Räume zu,
und unter mir haften Leeren
wie Schnee, der nicht weiß, ob er zur
Erde oder zur Luft gehört.

Aus dem Makedonischen von Alexander Sitzmann
VERSETZTER STEIN (HanserVerlag, 2011)





About antoinecassar

Poet, translator, editor, activist http://antoinecassar.info http://passaportproject.org http://mondepasrond.org
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2 Responses to Home: a place to be left – an essay (and poem) by Nikola Madžirov

  1. Pingback: Għal għonq it-triq #1: Nikola Madžirov | Antoine Cassar

  2. Pingback: #20 Dar – Nikola Madžirov | MHUX F'ISIMNA

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