Literary Translation

Chantelle Gray van Heerden translates Jan Sebastian Rabie

 

Illustration: Jaroslav Serych

Drie kaalkoppe eet tesame

’n Drie-eenheid kaalkoppe sit rondom die tafel. Die ligte van die restaurant gloei metaalagtig op die kaal gepoleerde krone. Dit laat dink aan eierdoppe, oopgekraak tot monsteragtige misgeboortes van drillende wange en monde. Die lywe van die kaalkoppe is enorm en geswolle bo die drie pare verdwergde beentjies wat hongerig onder die tafel trappel.

’n Lang skraal kelner in ’n swart aandpak bedien hulle met al die geregte wat hulle verlang. Hul veelvoudige kenne flap op en af terwyl hulle die vleis met vratige haas afwerk; en as hulle glase wyn lig na hul monde wat rooi en gretig onder hun bolagtige neuse oopgaap, verdwyn hul oë in die voue van hul wange.

Die skraal kelner bedien hul swyend. Gereg na gereg bring en plaas hy voor hulle. Hy toon geen emosie voor sy kliënte nie; maar ander mense in die restaurant is verbaas oor die etery van die drie kaalkoppe, en verlaat hul eie tafels om in ’n kring om die drie eters te kom staan.

Die drie kaalkoppe swaai op en af in die woeste vaart van hul eet. En terwyl hulle al vinniger eet, kwylend van ongeduld voor hul vliegende hande hul monde vol kan prop, gebeur ’n vreemde ding: Sodra ’n nuwe bord voor hulle neergesit word, neem die inhoud daarvan menslike vorms aan: arms, bene, borste van maagde, en selfs ’n kinderhofie, rosig gekook.

Die omstanders hyg van walging, maar die drie kaalkoppe gewaar daar niks van nie. Hulle eet met onstellende wellus, en vergeet selfs om die strome vet wat oor hulle wange loop, af te vee. Hulle gun hulself geen verposing tussen elke nuwe stuk mensvleis nie; hulle monde maal soos groot vleismeulens.

Die dun, swygende kelner is altyd betyds met die volgende gereg. Maar die drie kaalkoppe skyn verblind te wees van hul duiselende inspanning en al die sweet wat in hul oë tap: hulle kan nie langer die kring toeskouers onderskei van die geregte wat die kelner bring nie. Een kaalkop begaan die fout om ’n jong meisie vir ’n saggekookte hoender aan te sien, en, terwyl hy sy vurk in haar steek om haar op sy bord te lig, skeur hy haar lid van lid. Die tweede kaalkop kap die boonste helfte van ’n man naby hom netjies af; die derde maak sy mond wyd genoeg oop om ’n skreeuende vrouehoof met een hap af te byt. Die toeskouers vlug in die afgryse: die restaurant loop leeg.

Die drie kaalkoppe gaan waansinnig voort met hul maal. Hul hande vlieg links en regs om hul kwylende monde te voer. Hul oë het verdrink onder die bulte van hul wange; hulle kan die borde vleis wat die kelner aandra, nie langer raaksien nie; hulle byt hul eie vingers af en skeur groot stukke uit mekaar se lywe.

Die tafel en die stoele tuimel neer en die eetmaal word in stuiptrekkende wanorde op die vloer voltrek. Die liggame verdwyn in die newelende warreling van die monde. Niks bly oor op die vloer nie, behalwe die drie kaalkoppe glimwit soos doppe van oopgekraakte eiers.

Dan vee die kelner die vloer. Hy gooi die drie kaalkoppe in ’n vullisbak waar hulle soos drie verrotte pampoene lyk. Hy dek die tafel swyend vir die volgende dag se maal.

© Jan Sebastian Rabie

 

Three bald-heads share a meal

A trio of bald-heads are seated around the table. The restaurant lights shine metallic on their bare, polished crowns. It is reminiscent of eggshells, cracked open to reveal monster-like miscarriages of flabby cheeks and mouths. The bodies of the bald-heads are enormous and swollen above the three pairs of dwarf-sized legs, pitter-pattering ravenously under the table.

A tall, skinny waiter in a black evening suit serves them all the meals their hearts desire. Their manifold chins flap up and down while they digest the meat with gluttonous haste; and when they raise their wine glasses to their mouths, gaping red and eager under their bulbous noses, their eyes disappear in the folds of their cheeks.

The skinny waiter serves them wordlessly. He fetches them dish after dish and places it in front of them. He shows no sign of emotion in front of his clients; but other people in the restaurant are flabbergasted by the consumption of the three bald-heads and leave their tables to form a circle around the trio of gorgers.

The three bald-heads sway to and fro in the rumpus drive of their consumption. And while they eat increasingly faster, salivating with impatience for their flying hands to stuff their mouths some more, a strange thing happens: the moment a new plate of food is placed in front of them, the food takes on human forms: arms, legs, breasts of virgins and even a little child’s head, cooked rosy red.

The spectators gasp with repugnance, but the three bald-heads take no notice thereof. They eat with offensive lust, forgetting even to wipe the streams of fat running down their cheeks. They allow themselves no respite between each new piece of human flesh; their mouths grinding away like huge masticators.

Then thin, taciturn waiter is always on time with the next course. But the three bald-heads appear to be blinded by their giddy exertion and the sweat dripping into their eyes: they can no longer distinguish the circle of spectators from the dishes brought by the waiter. One bald-head mistakes a young girl for tenderly roasted chicken and, while he sticks his fork into her to lift her into his plate, tears her to pieces limb from limb. The second bald-head neatly chops off the top half of a man standing nearby him; the third opens his mouth wide enough to remove a screaming woman’s head with a single bite. The onlookers flee from the horror, leaving the restaurant deserted.

The three bald-heads continue eating their meal maniacally. Their hands fly left and right in an effort to feed their slobbering mouths. Their eyes have drowned under their bulging cheeks; they can no longer see the plates of meat brought by the waiter; they bite off their own fingers and tear large pieces from each other’s bodies.

The table and chairs start tumbling and the banquet is completed on the floor in paroxysmal pandemonium. The bodies disappear in the nebulous frenzy of mouths. Nothing remains on the floor, except the three bald-heads, agleam like the shells of cracked-open eggs.

The waiter starts cleaning the floor. He throws the trio of bald-heads into a garbage can where they look like three decomposing pumpkins. Silent as the grave he sets the table for the next day’s meal.

© Chantelle Gray van Heerden

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Chantelle Gray van Heerden is a doctoral student at the University of Stellenbosch. She completed her MA Degree in Cognitive Linguistics at UNISA where she lectured for five years. Her current research interests centre on the politics of translation and questions regarding the ontological and emergent ethical considerations of each translation instantiation. She is an avid reader of any good literature and philosophy in particular, though not exclusively, writes literary reviews and interviews, translates and writes short stories and, on occasion, has been known to write copy for wine labels. In her spare time she turns feral and returns to the mountains where she runs for hours.

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