Today is the deadline to send tree- and forest-related links in for the upcoming Festival of the Trees. Email your submissions to kelly (at) ginkgodreams (dot) com, with “Festival of the Trees” in the subject line.
I just opened up my copy of Pablo Neruda’s El libro de las preguntas (The Book of Questions, a bilingual edition from Copper Canyon, with translations by William O’Daly) at random, and found this:
Cuánto dura un rinoceronte
después de ser eternecido?
Qué cuentan de nuevo las hojas
de la reciente primavera?
Las hojas viven en invierno
en secreto, con las raíces?
Qué aprendió el árbol de la tierra
para conversar con el cielo?
I can’t improve on Daly’s translation:
How long does a rhinoceros last
After he’s moved to compassion?
What’s new for the leaves
of recent spring?
In winter, do the leaves live
in hiding with the roots?
What did the tree learn from the earth
to be able to talk with the sky?
El libro de las preguntas bears a strong, if superficial, resemblance to the 4th-century B.C. Chinese work Tian Wen, “Questions of Heaven” (which are really questions for heaven, though I’d be the first to agree that there’s something divine about the impulse to raise difficult questions). It too features riddles without answers, such as:
ç„‰ æœ‰ çŸ³ æž—? Yan you shi lin?
ä½• ç?¸ èƒ½ è¨€? He shou neng yan?
Where do the stones have their forest?
Which animals can talk?*
Of course, both books were written in the absence of internet search engines. I typed “question tree” into Google and found this intriguing sentence: This is a leaf Question in a boolean Question tree and its pointers to boolean operands are null values.
It occurred to me this morning that if I wanted to make the contents and purpose of this blog more readily apparent to first-time visitors, I could replace the Rene Char quote with something like, “Living with the questions.” But that’s not a question, is it?
*I studied classical Chinese in college. I haven’t kept up with it, but the grammar is fortunately quite basic and I haven’t forgotten how to use a Chinese dictionary.
Steven Field did a translation of Tian Wen for New Directions, but I haven’t seen it.
Incidentally, if you see only question marks in front of the Pinyin in the two lines of Chinese above, that’s not me trying to be cute. It means you don’t have Chinese characters enabled in your browser.