Inici > Ecos de l'Odissea > Joseph Conrad i Ulisses. The Mirror of the Sea

Joseph Conrad i Ulisses. The Mirror of the Sea

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Hi ha un moment emblemàtic que marca l’entrada d’Ulisses en l’escena del segle XX europeu. És el moment en que Joseph Conrad —un polonès que, nascut a Ucraïna, va viure a Rússia, feu els seus estudis a Cracòvia, emigrà a França i s’embarcà per primera vegada en un vaixell francès, passant, llavors, a la marina mercant i a la nacionalitat britànica— publica en anglès (llengua que escull aviat com a pròpia i en la que es consolidarà com un dels més grans escriptors del seu temps) un llibre de memòries i impressions dedicat a l’experiència fonamental de la seva vida i la Musa principal de la seva narrativa: el mar.

Aquest llibre, compost en la seva major part d’articles apareguts anteriorment en diaris i revistes, es publica el 1906 (per tant, bastant abans que l’Ulisses de Joyce i que les composicions «ulissíaques» d’Ezra Pound) amb el títol de The Mirror of the Sea (El mirall del mar). En ell, com ell mateix afirma a la nota que precedeix l’edició de 1919, mira de «revelar en tota la seva nuesa, amb la sinceritat d’una última confessió, l’essència de la seva relació personal amb el mar. Iniciada misteriosament, com totes les grans passions que els Déus inescrutables inspiren als mortals, seguí després, irracional i invencible, sobrevisquent a la tentació de desencant i desil·lusió que s’agotzona en cada jornada d’una vida fatigada per a, finalment, plena dels delits i les penes de l’amor, enfrontar-s’hi amb exultació i amb els ulls oberts, sense amargor ni pena, des de la primera fins la darrera hora”.

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Piero Boitani
L’ombra di Ulisse
Versió catalana a partir de la traducció
al castellà de Bernardo Moreno Carrillo

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Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, conegut com a
Joseph Conrad
(Berdyczów, aleshores Polònia, actualment Ucraïna, 3 de desembre de 1857 – Bishopsbourne, Anglaterra, 3 d’agost de 1924)

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XXXVIII.

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Dichoso aquel que, como Ulises, ha hecho un viaje aventurero; y para viajes aventureros no hay mar como el Mediterráneo, el mar interior que los antiguos encontraban tan inmenso y tan lleno de prodigios, Y, en efecto, era terrible y maravilloso; pues no somos sino nosotros mismos, regidos por la audacia de nuestras mentes y los estremecimientos de nuestros corazones, los artesanos únicos de cuanto portentoso y novelesco hay en el mundo.
 
Era a los marineros mediterráneos a quienes sirenas de rubias cabelleras cantaban entre las negras rocas efervescentes de blanca espuma, y a quienes voces misteriosas hablaban en la oscuridad sobre las movedizas olas: voces amenazadoras, seductoras o proféticas…
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Happy he who, like Ulysses, has made an adventurous voyage; and there is no such sea for adventurous voyages as the Mediterranean—the inland sea which the ancients looked upon as so vast and so full of wonders.  And, indeed, it was terrible and wonderful; for it is we alone who, swayed by the audacity of our minds and the tremors of our hearts, are the sole artisans of all the wonder and romance of the world.

It was for the Mediterranean sailors that fair-haired sirens sang among the black rocks seething in white foam and mysterious voices spoke in the darkness above the moving wave—voices menacing, seductive, or prophetic, like that voice heard at the beginning of the Christian era by the master of an African vessel in the Gulf of Syrta, whose calm nights are full of strange murmurs and flitting shadows.  It called him by name, bidding him go and tell all men that the great god Pan was dead.  But the great legend of the Mediterranean, the legend of traditional song and grave history, lives, fascinating and immortal, in our minds.

The dark and fearful sea of the subtle Ulysses’ wanderings, agitated by the wrath of Olympian gods, harbouring on its isles the fury of strange monsters and the wiles of strange women; the highway of heroes and sages, of warriors, pirates, and saints; the workaday sea of Carthaginian merchants and the pleasure lake of the Roman Caesars, claims the veneration of every seaman as the historical home of that spirit of open defiance against the great waters of the earth which is the very soul of his calling.  Issuing thence to the west and south, as a youth leaves the shelter of his parental house, this spirit found the way to the Indies, discovered the coasts of a new continent, and traversed at last the immensity of the great Pacific, rich in groups of islands remote and mysterious like the constellations of the sky.

The first impulse of navigation took its visible form in that tideless basin freed from hidden shoals and treacherous currents, as if in tender regard for the infancy of the art.  The steep shores of the Mediterranean favoured the beginners in one of humanity’s most daring enterprises, and the enchanting inland sea of classic adventure has led mankind gently from headland to headland, from bay to bay, from island to island, out into the promise of world-wide oceans beyond the Pillars of Hercules.

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XXXIX

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[…]
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La verdad era seguramente que, nada versado en las artes del sagaz griego, el engañador de dioses, el amante de extrañas mujeres, el evocador de las sanguinarias sombras del averno, aún anhelaba el comienzo de mi propia y oscura Odisea, que, como correspondía a un moderno, habría de desplegar sus maravillas y terrores más allá de las Columnas de Hércules. …
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The truth must have been that, all unversed in the arts of the wily Greek, the deceiver of gods, the lover of strange women, the evoker of bloodthirsty shades, I yet longed for the beginning of my own obscure Odyssey, which, as was proper for a modern, should unroll its wonders and terrors beyond the Pillars of Hercules.  The disdainful ocean did not open wide to swallow up my audacity, though the ship, the ridiculous and ancientgalère of my folly, the old, weary, disenchanted sugar-waggon, seemed extremely disposed to open out and swallow up as much salt water as she could hold.  This, if less grandiose, would have been as final a catastrophe.

But no catastrophe occurred.  I lived to watch on a strange shore a black and youthful Nausicaa, with a joyous train of attendant maidens, carrying baskets of linen to a clear stream overhung by the heads of slender palm-trees.  The vivid colours of their draped raiment and the gold of their earrings invested with a barbaric and regal magnificence their figures, stepping out freely in a shower of broken sunshine.  The whiteness of their teeth was still more dazzling than the splendour of jewels at their ears.  The shaded side of the ravine gleamed with their smiles.  They were as unabashed as so many princesses, but, alas! not one of them was the daughter of a jet-black sovereign.  Such was my abominable luck in being born by the mere hair’s breadth of twenty-five centuries too late into a world where kings have been growing scarce with scandalous rapidity, while the few who remain have adopted the uninteresting manners and customs of simple millionaires.  Obviously it was a vain hope in 187- to see the ladies of a royal household walk in chequered sunshine, with baskets of linen on their heads, to the banks of a clear stream overhung by the starry fronds of palm-trees.  It was a vain hope.  If I did not ask myself whether, limited by such discouraging impossibilities, life were still worth living, it was only because I had then before me several other pressing questions, some of which have remained unanswered to this day.  The resonant, laughing voices of these gorgeous maidens scared away the multitude of humming-birds, whose delicate wings wreathed with the mist of their vibration the tops of flowering bushes.

No, they were not princesses.  Their unrestrained laughter filling the hot, fern-clad ravine had a soulless limpidity, as of wild, inhuman dwellers in tropical woodlands.  Following the example of certain prudent travellers, I withdrew unseen—and returned, not much wiser, to the Mediterranean, the sea of classic adventures.

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Ja al final del seu llibre, Joseph Conrad ens refereix la història d’un vaixell, El Tremolino (és a dir, el “trèmol”, el “pollancre trèmol”, si bé Conrad no sembla identificar el nom del vaixell amb el de l’arbre, i el tradueix com el “tremolós”), de la seva tripulació i del seu capità, Dominic Cervoni. Aquest darrer, Cervoni, ens el descriu Conrad com “Astut i sense escrúpols, podria haver rivalitzat en recursos amb l’infortunat fill de Laertes i Anticlea. Si no oposava la seva embarcació i la seva audàcia nogensmenys que als déus, era només perquè els déus olímpics estan morts. Per descomptat no hi havia cap dona que pogués atemorir-lo. Un gegant amb un sol ull no hauria tingut ni la més remota possibilitat contra Dominic Cervoni, de Còrsega, no d’Ítaca; […]. Parlava el català, l’italià de Còrsega i el francès de la Provença amb idèntica soltura i naturalitat.”

Cervoni i la tripulació del Tremolino es mouen en el marc de les intrigues i trifulques de la guerra carlina (som al 1875), fent contraban d’armes i municions en benefici dels carlins, a les costes catalanes.

L’episodi que posa fi als dies del Tremolino, i que en provoca el seu enfonsament per part del propi capità, es desenvolupa entre Barcelona i el Cap de Creus, on es propueix el naufragi. Cervoni, i la tripulació desembarquen amb un bot al Cap de Creus. El Capità fa peu a terra amb un dels rems del bot, i el clava a terra a la platja. Després d’explicar els detalls dels fets que han dut a la trista fi del Tremolino, el capità arrenca el rem de terra…

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XLV

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[…]

He pulled the oar out of the ground and helped me carefully down the slope.  All the time he never once looked me in the face.  He punted us over, then shouldered the oar again and waited till our men were at some distance before he offered me his arm.  After we had gone a little way, the fishing hamlet we were making for came into view.  Dominic stopped.

“Do you think you can make your way as far as the houses by yourself?” he asked me quietly.

“Yes, I think so.  But why?  Where are you going, Dominic?”

“Anywhere.  What a question!  Signorino, you are but little more than a boy to ask such a question of a man having this tale in his family.  Ah!  Traditore!  What made me ever own that spawn of a hungry devil for our own blood!  Thief, cheat, coward, liar—other men can deal with that.  But I was his uncle, and so . . . I wish he had poisoned me—charogne!  But this: that I, a confidential man and a Corsican, should have to ask your pardon for bringing on board your vessel, of which I was Padrone, a Cervoni, who has betrayed you—a traitor!—that is too much.  It is too much.  Well, I beg your pardon; and you may spit in Dominic’s face because a traitor of our blood taints us all.  A theft may be made good between men, a lie may be set right, a death avenged, but what can one do to atone for a treachery like this? . . . Nothing.”

He turned and walked away from me along the bank of the stream, flourishing a vengeful arm and repeating to himself slowly, with savage emphasis: “Ah!  Canaille!  Canaille!  Canaille!. . .”  He left me there trembling with weakness and mute with awe.  Unable to make a sound, I gazed after the strangely desolate figure of that seaman carrying an oar on his shoulder up a barren, rock-strewn ravine under the dreary leaden sky of Tremolino’s last day.  Thus, walking deliberately, with his back to the sea, Dominic vanished from my sight.

With the quality of our desires, thoughts, and wonder proportioned to our infinite littleness, we measure even time itself by our own stature.  Imprisoned in the house of personal illusions, thirty centuries in mankind’s history seem less to look back upon than thirty years of our own life.  And Dominic Cervoni takes his place in my memory by the side of the legendary wanderer on the sea of marvels and terrors, by the side of the fatal and impious adventurer, to whom the evoked shade of the soothsayer predicted a journey inland with an oar on his shoulder, till he met men who had never set eyes on ships and oars.  It seems to me I can see them side by side in the twilight of an arid land, the unfortunate possessors of the secret lore of the sea, bearing the emblem of their hard calling on their shoulders, surrounded by silent and curious men: even as I, too, having turned my back upon the sea, am bearing those few pages in the twilight, with the hope of finding in an inland valley the silent welcome of some patient listener.

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Se volvió y, apartándose de mí, echó a andar por la orilla de la corriente, esgrimiendo un brazo vengativo y repitiendo lentamente para sí, con acerbo énfasis: «¡Ah! Canaille! Canaille! Canaille…!». Me dejó allí, temblando de debilidad y mudo de espanto. Incapaz de emitir un sonido, vi la figura extrañamente desolada de aquel ma­rino que llevaba un remo al hombro alejarse por una quebrada yerma y pedregosa bajo el cielo apagado y plo­mizo del último día del Tremolino. Así, andando despa­ciosamente, la espalda vuelta al mar, Dominic desapare­ció de mi vista.

Con la cualidad de nuestros deseos, pensamientos y asombro proporcionados a nuestra infinita pequeñez, me­dimos hasta el mismo tiempo de acuerdo con nuestra propia magnitud. Encerrados en la morada de las ilusio­nes personales, treinta siglos de la historia de la huma­nidad parecen menos, al mirar hacia atrás, que treinta años de nuestra propia vida. Y Dominic Cervoni ocupa su lugar en mi memoria al lado del legendario vagabun­do del mar de las maravillas y los terrores, al lado del fa­tal e impío aventurero, a quien la sombra evocada del adivino predijo un viaje interior con un remo al hombro, hasta que encontrara hombres que jamás hubieran contemplado barcos ni remos. Me parece poder verlos el uno junto al otro en el crepúsculo de una tierra ári­da, malhadados poseedores del saber secreto del mar, llevando el emblema de su dura vocación al hombro, ro­deados de hombres silenciosos y curiosos: incluso ahora, cuando, habiéndole yo también vuelto la espalda al mar, alumbro estas pocas páginas en el crepúsculo, con la es­peranza de encontrar en un valle interior la callada bien­venida de alguien paciente dispuesto a escuchar.

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Joseph Conrad
The Mirror of the Sea
Fragments en castellà, versió de Javier Marías

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Joseph Conrad

El espejo del mar. Recuerdos e impresiones

Prólogo de Juan Benet

Nota sobre el texto de Javier Marías

Nueva traducción de Javier Marías

Reino de Redonda. Barcelona, 2005

ISBN: 9788493365608

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Piero Boitani

La sombra de Ulises

Historia, ciencia, sociedad, 318

Traducción de Bernardo Moreno Carrillo

Ediciones Península. Barcelona, 2001

ISBN: 9788483073896

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  1. Stefano
    15/03/2012 a les 10:26 AM

    Magnífic. M’acabeu de donar una clau més per llegir “Heart of darkness”, entendre Marlow/Kurtz i els elements iniciàtics i rituals que impregnen l’obra, més enllà de James Frazer.

  2. 17/03/2012 a les 11:30 AM

    De jove, a Marsella, a J. Conrad l’anomenaven “Ulisses”.

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