PRAISE FOR BLACKBIRDS IN SEPTEMBER
Jürgen Becker was born in 1932. His childhood, therefore, was the Second World War—a disease from which he has been recovering ever since the fighting stopped. His poems do not presume to address the horrors directly, but with great courage he casts sidelong glances at things he remembers or the things that prompt such memories. These are important poems, not just about the war but about any unbearable catastrophe the scars of which last forever. Okla Elliott’s scrupulous translations are faithful to the poems’ nervous hurt: their appearance in English is a major event.
—David R. Slavitt, translator of The Theban Plays of Sophocles (Yale Univ Press) and La Vita Nova by Dante (Harvard Univ Press)
A beach scene with paratroopers and migrants; the uncanny silence after a gunshot; a quiet train platform haunted by memories of a tragic past—Jürgen Becker, a German child of the Second World War, finds traces of tragedy everywhere in the everyday. Behind every pastoral escape, or lurking just around the corner from a moment of seasonal melancholy, we find evidence of old wars, or indicators of contemporary moral urgency. A distinguished member of Group 47—an assembly of writers including Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll, and Paul Celan—Jürgen Becker remains largely unknown in the English speaking world. Okla Elliott’s fine translation provides an excellent opportunity for us to change that.
—Robert Archambeau, author of The Kafka Sutra and The Poet Resigns