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Monday, January 26, 2009

 

The Meltdown Hits Close to Home

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Hard Times * C.P. Cavafy

A 100 employees getting the axe at Company "A", 5000 to be laid off by Company "B". The daily headlines about layoffs and increasing number of jobless had become old hat; they no longer meant much. Most of us had resigned ourselves to the bleak economic landscape......that the crisis facing us would get worse, the end was nowhere in sight. Nevertheless, it disturbed me when I heard on Saturday evening that two friends received notice of termination from their employers. Now, when I read or hear about the meltdown, I can put faces on the terrible toll being paid by men and women in the work force.

An example of the difference between fact and truth? 30,000 Circuit City employees losing their jobs is fact, a sad fact; to hear that two friends are joining the ranks of unemployed is truth -- it is personal -- the effect is deeper.

From the Silicon Valley to New York; Shanghai to London (UK) the nights are uneasy for those who still have jobs. The anxiety and the hard choices they face are very real.

The Poet of Alexandria

The currrent issue (January 26th) of The New Yorker magazine contains a poem by C.P. Cavafy, translated from the Greek by Daniel Mendelsohn. The poem didn't make an impresssion but it reminded me of the excellent translation of Cavafy's works by John Mavrogordato.

Cavafy was born in Alexandria, Egypt, of parents who were from Constantinople. A homosexual, Cavafy wrote lovingly about the city and people of Alexandria. The one below is from Lawrence Durrell's Justine -- the first volume (published 1957) of The Alexandria Quartet. Great. Durell's notes stated that the translations "were by no means literal"

The City

You tell yourself I'll be gone
To some other land, some other sea,
to a city lovelier far than this
Could ever have been or hoped to be--
Where every step now tightens the noose:
A heart in a body buried and out of use;
How long, how long must I be here
Confined among these dreary purlieus
Of the common mind? Wherever now I look
Black ruins of my life rise into view.
So many years have I been here
Spending and squandering and nothing gained.
There's no new land, my friend, no
New sea; for the city will follow you,
In the same streets you'll wander endlessly,
The same mental suburbs slip from youth to age,
In the same house go white at last--
The city is a cage.
No other places, always this
Your earthly landfall, and no ship exists.

C.P. Cavafy --translated by Lawrence Durrell
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