— Today I was Thomas Mann's guest.
We had tea together. He has not changed at all,
he is still amiable, healthy, and not so rigid
as my fellow-writers, Móricz and Babits.
We drank tea with the family. His son,
Klaus — he observes laughing —
only comes home to ask for money. My German
was praised by them, though you know
how late in life I started to learn the language.
From here I went to England and from there back to Doorn,
where I paid a visit to Wilhelm, the old Kaiser.
Here, too, I was welcome, well, and offered a cup of tea.
When the Emperor asked me what I did,
I quietly replied: "I am a poet".
This made him turn to his aide-de-camp:
"Do you hear? A poet!" and he laughed heartily.
I suppose it was the first time he'd ever seen
a live poet; but true, it was the first time I had seen
a Kaiser, exiled, without his iron hat.
Summer Evening at Sirmione
"If you set out on your way to Ithaca, you should always choose the longest way" (Cavafy)
Already past the lovelier half of life
but on my way towards distant Ithaca,
we stopped at Lake Garda, and only
at twilight reached Sirmione's tiny,
main square from which the tomb of Catullus
was just a short walk. Finding the garden
locked, we sat by the still shore of the lake.
The boys were bouncing stones across the water
while step by step the moon climbed up
the violet sky. The air was lukewarm
and I closed my eyes, counting the splashes
of small waves against the long shore. Sweet music
drifted our way from the restaurant
— I did not think about Ithaca, held as I was
in the moment, in the arms of summer.
Then a cool wind tore into the night
and we started out toward Desenzano.
A German Lesson, January 1945
when someone alive
from being male
into something neutral
translated from the Hungarian by Mari Gömöri, Jamie McKendrick, and George Gömöri
'Tea with Germans in 1931' was translated by George and Mari George Gömöri, 'Summer Evening at Sirmione' by Jamie McKendrick and George George Gömöri, and 'A German Lesson, January 1945' by George Gömöri.