Posts by Sam Gordon

Marcel Schwob’s “Mimes” – Mime XVIII

Sam Gordon and Katie Assef with two very different translations of one of Schwob’s most captivating pieces.

Read all previous posts in Asymptote’s “Mimes” translation project here.

Mime XVIII. Hermes the Psychagôgos
(trans. Sam Gordon)

I conduct the dead, whether they be shut up in sculpted stone sarcophagi or contained in the bellies of metal or clay urns, bedecked or gilded, or painted in blue, or eviscerated and without brains, or wrapped in strips of linen, and with my herald’s staff I guide their step as I usher them on.

We continue along a rapid way men cannot see. Courtesans press against virgins and murderers against philosophers, and mothers against those who refused to give birth, and priests against perjurers. For they are seeking forgiveness for their crimes, whether they imagined them in their heads, or committed them with their hands. And having not been free in life, bound as they were by laws and customs, or by their own memory, they fear isolation and lend one another support. She who slept naked amongst men in flagstoned chambers consoles a young girl who died before her wedding, and who dreams determinedly of love. One who used to kill at the roadside—face sullied with ash and soot—places a hand on the brow of a thinker who wanted to renew the world, who foretold death. The woman who loved her children and suffered by them hides her head in the breast of a Hetaira who was willfully sterile. The man draped in a long robe who had convinced himself to believe in his god, forcing himself down on bended knee, weeps on the shoulder of the cynic who had broken the oaths of the flesh and mind before the eyes of the citizens. In this way, they help each other throughout their journey, walking beneath the yoke of memory.


Marcel Schwob’s “Mimes” – Mime IV and V

What do mites have to do with seduction? And how do you change the color of a tree's fruit? Sam Gordon translates "Mimes"!

Read all the posts in Asymptote’s “Mimes” translation project here

Mime IV. Lodging 

Inn—replete with mites—this bitten, bloodied poet salutes you. This is not to thank you for the night’s shelter alongside a dark track, the mud of which recalls the way to Hades; but for your broken pallets, your smoking lamps. Your oil festers and your galette moulders, and since last autumn there have been little white worms among the shells of your walnuts. But the poet is grateful to the pig merchants who came from Megara to Athens, whose hiccuping stopped him from sleeping (inn, your walls are thin), and gives thanks too to your mites, which kept him awake by gnawing the length of his body, skittering across his cot in throngs.