Cameroon: ‘On your feet, you bunch of bandits’ by Enoh Meyomesse

To show our support for imprisoned poet Enoh Meyomesse, English PEN has been asking supporters to help us translate his prison poetry. Here is our latest crowd-sourced translation, courtesy of Andrea Reece 

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 on behalf of Writers at Risk around the world.

We are now looking for volunteer translators to help us translate his work into as many other languages as possible. If you are able to translate from English or French into another language, please consider getting involved. Email cat@englishpen.org for more details.

Here is our latest translation of Meyomesse’s ‘Debout Bandits’ courtesy of Andrea Reece:

 

On your feet, you bunch of bandits!

In police custody at the gendarmerie…

 

clink, clink, clink

and the padlock on the bars

wakes you

 

ON YOUR FEET, YOU BUNCH OF BANDITS!

it’s time for your ablutions

before the squad awakes

before the sun comes up

before the town arises and starts

swarming with people

ON YOUR FEET AND FAST!

 

clink, clink, clink

and the padlock on the bars

wakes you

 

it’s time for cleaning

this foul cell full of lamentations

it’s time to fill your lungs with air

from the paradise that’s now out there

it’s time to empty your bloated bladder

it’s time to shift your aching

legs

it’s time to come to life

before plunging back into death

 

clink, clink, clink

and the padlock on the bars

wakes you

 

you! the bucket!

you! the broom!

you! the mop!

this rat hole must sparkle

      The fetid stink

      washed away

PURIFY YOUR NOSE!

 

clink, clink, clink

and the padlock on the bars

wakes you

reminding you each morning

that you are no longer

in the world of the FREE

 

Translated from French by Andrea Reece.

The original version is available here.

More details of the campaign and suggested actions available here.

 

About the translator

Andrea Reece is a French and Spanish to English translator based in the French Pyrenees. Specialising mainly in the translation of heritage circuits for audio guides and mobile apps as well as literary and general business translations, she has just completed an MA in Literary Translation at Exeter University. A great believer in the power of the collective voice to bring about change, equality and justice she is delighted to be involved with the wonderful work of English PEN and have the opportunity to translate into English Enoh Meyomesse’s powerful poetic cry against injustice, torture and corruption.

About Cat Lucas

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

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

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