Who will harvest my pumpkins?

A friend suggested this could be a title for a novel. Or even the final scene in a play, I have subsequently thought. Think of Eugène Ionesco’s play, Les Chaises (The Chairs), billed as a tragic face, in which the stage becomes over populated by empty chairs. My play would have the old man (“in poverty”, as suggested by my friend in search of original book titles), surrounded by unharvested pumpkins at various stages of maturity, some enormous.

This question would be uttered in a thin, piping voice as the final line before the curtain falls. For an equally absurd flourish, there could be a Beckettian flash of light fading quickly into darkness timed to coincide with the utterance of the word pumpkins.

Now you know why I am not a playwright. I am certainly not going to write a novel of that title yet (but do reserve the right to use that question as formulated, if I change my mind in the medium term). It was my response to a slight scheduling difficulty I might have later on in the year.

But back to the question, and Ionesco. Some of you might have noticed that I have a quotation by Ionesco in the footer of my blog. I have never translated it. Now is as good a time as any, given that Ionesco (I have just discovered) was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year that I was born. Ionesco was a master of non sequiturs, so you will forgive me for this one.

L’œuvre n’est pas une série de réponses, elle est une série de questions, elle n’est pas des explications, elle est des demandes d’explication, des demandes d’éclaircissement… C’est bien cela une œuvre: une série d’interrogations et puisqu’il y a construction on peut la considérer comme une architecture d’interrogations. Si tout pouvait s’expliquer, il n’y aurait pas de discours.

Tout œuvre doit être mise en question. Comme on dirait: une mise en scène. Au bout du compte, il n’y a pas de réponse à donner. En tous cas, il n’y a pas de réponse définitive. Ainsi, ce n’est pas la réponse qui éclaire, c’est la question.

Eugène Ionesco, Découvertes


A work of art is not a series of answers, it is a series of questions; it is not a set of explanations, rather it is a call for clarification… That is what a work of art really is: a series of questions, and because it is structured, it could be thought of as an architecture of questions. If everything could be explained, there would be no discourse at all.

All creative work should be a production of questions in the way that we stage productions in a theatre. Ultimately, there is no answer to be found. In any case, there is no definitive answer. It is not the answer, therefore, that provides insight; elucidation comes from the question.

Eugène Ionesco, Découvertes

In the abstract

Now you know why I have never translated this 104-word text, and why, perhaps the book it is taken from has never been translated into English to my knowledge: so many choices!

Just to prove how malleable translation is, your attempts are more than welcome in the comments.

Although I did not take too long to come up with the above, I could tinker for ages with what I have produced, but it is probably safer for others with a knowledge of French and English to do so!

In the meantime, I shall speculate as to who will harvest my pumpkins, and, more importantly, when that will occur.

©2019 Allison Wright

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