Cameroon: ‘And They Tortured Me’ by Enoh Meyomesse

English PEN has asked our supporters to help translate imprisoned poet Enoh Meyomesse’s work into as many different languages as possible ahead of World Poetry Day on Friday. Here is our second translation, courtesy of Laura Hargreaves

Last year, English PEN invited our network of supporters to join us in working on a crowd-sourced translation of Enoh Meyomesse’s first collection of prison poetry, Poème Carcéral: Poésie du pénitencier de KondenguiThe resulting anthology Jail Verse: Poems from Kondengui Prison is now available to print-on-demand, with all proceeds going to support Meyomesse and our ongoing work of behalf of Writers at Risk around the world.

We are now appealing to supporters to help us translate Meyomesse’s work into as many different languages as possible to mark World Poetry Day this Friday, 21 March. If you are able to translate from English or French into another language, please consider translating one or more of his poems to help us ensure that his voice is heard as widely as possible. Please email your translations to cat@englishpen.org or post them in the comments box below.

Here is the second translation – Meyomesse’s ‘et ils m’ont torturé’ courtesy of Laura Hargreaves.

 

And They Tortured Me

 

and they tortured me

laughing, following orders

from above, with a quiet

heart,

 

they tortured me,

with eyes staring into mine

far more terrifying than

death,

 

they tortured me,

whilst shrugging their shoulders

‘you know,

if you don’t confess, we will destroy your

body.’

So they threw me into darkness,

so they threw me into hunger,

so they threw me into isolation,

so they threw me into fear,

that every waking day was the last,

that every waking day was the last,

that every waking day was the last,

They tortured me, laughing and laughing and

laughing and laughing and laughing and

laughing,

just following orders

from above.

They blame the COLONEL,

the COLONEL blames THE MINISTER,

the MINISTER, the highest authority,

and they tortured me, this peaceful soul.

 

I am a journalist.

Mr. Enoh hold on,

the entire world cries for your

freedom, the entire world cries

for your freedom, the entire

world, the entire world, THE

ENTIRE WORLD

as far as GREENLAND

 

I am a journalist

the entire world called me

the entire world commissioned me

the entire world has me, has me, has me

THEY WANT ME FREE

THAT’S ALL

torture is not deserved for you

torture is not honourable for you

torture is not acceptable in your books

why you have therefore fought

colonialism anyway? To establish

FREEDOM

and they smiled,

and they pouted,

and they shrugged their shoulders,

and they said,

‘AH WELL! THAT THEN!’

and again, they tortured me, laughing,

and again, they tortured me, laughing,

and again, they tortured me, laughing,

just following orders

from above.

They had quiet hearts

those eyes staring into mine

 

O Africa

my beloved land

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE

TO FIGHT

FOR

FREEDOM?

from the blood of the guerrillas,

from the blood of the heroes in the marshes,

who cry out loud

‘DOWN WITH COLONIALISM’

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

 

Translated from French by Laura Hargreaves.

The original version is available here.

More details of the campaign and suggested actions available here.

About the translator

Laura Hargreaves is a UK-based freelance translator working from French and Spanish into English. As well as specialising in commercial and marketing translation, she has a specific interest in poetry translation, and particularly in helping rising voices from vulnerable nations to be heard throughout the English-speaking world, and as such is a loyal supporter of English PEN.

 

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

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