The girl from Pampeluna

I don’t know if there are many works of art referring to Pampeluna. One of the most important must be the masterpiece of the Flemish poet Paul van Ostaijen (1896-1928), with the French title Spleen pour rire, and with a German dedication to the German couple Fritz and Sophie Stuckenberg whom he visited in 1926 at their Bavarian home. Fritz painted a constructivist (almost cubist) portrait of them both (see below).

Van Ostaijen’s poem in his native Netherlandic (Dutch) tells playfully a story of a girl born in Pampeluna, living now in Honolulu. He paints a colorful portrait of the girl, who is painting herself a parrot, and he shows us her outlook and her ways, only to admit in the end that he doesn’t know her at all. She as well may not have existed, being a somewhat grotesque construct of the imagination, or better a pure word concert of sound and sense associations. According to his autonomous poetics „the girl born in Pampeluna” has been not invented as a fictional figure acting in a story, but made up as a sense-sound-theme for a following variation. The duality of sonic and semantic texture should guarantee the „full sonority” of the poem, that may not be exclusively musical (abstract) nor purely semantic (narrative).

I translated this poem into Polish and published it in 1987 in a collection  containing some 55 poems chosen from all his volumes and his handwritten legacy. See below for the Polish text, and at the end the Flemish original.

I never imagined I would get an opportunity to visit Pampeluna, or even to go there on business. So I have smiled hearing from my Institute’s Director that I could be attending a conference in Pampeluna soon. Our  Institute of Literary Research joined the European Consortium of Humanities Institutes and Centers whose 5th annual meeting is going to be held in Spain’s Navarra, in the latter’s capital Pamplona, scheduled 25-27 March 2015.

The first day of this year’s gathering will discuss “civic humanities” with a focus on aspects of the humanities related to human capacity to create commonality. An objective of the project is to build a network of institutes and civil institutions that work on this topic.

The second day will discuss the financing of humanities’ research. At a time where public resources for R&D are scarce (particularly in Southern Europe), the conference will address and explore ways beyond the conventional financing mechanisms. The aim will be to expose and share specific cases and further discuss how ECHIC may serve to aid the financing of humanities research.

The programme includes keynotes, panel discussions and workshops that will explore both the challenges and concrete strategies to tackle them. The conference will end with the Annual ECHIC Meeting.

Here are the details of the programme.

Ideas we study have the power of relating different language areas and of connecting people with different background. Networks like this may exist merely by semantic associations based superficially on their sonority. But a piece of poésie pure successfully translated in many languages gives a proof that, muchly independent of ethnic surface ways of expression, there is a common language of thought.


Paul van Ostaijen


Sophie-Fritz Stuckenberg zu eigen

Panny co urodzona w Pampelunie

a teraz mieszka w Honolulu

i w polakierowanej na czerwono klatce więzi

papugę barwy błękit kobaltowy

– pomalowala ją farbą Ripolin

jak powiedziano na niebiesko pióra

na żółto dziób i łapy –

panny z Pampeluny w Honolulu

co wokół długiej szyi ma wianek anemonów purpurowych

na opalowej piersi drobne korale barokowe

i nic na udach

(ptasich piór jej uda nosić nie miały odwagi

tak cieniutkie są jej cienkie uda)

tej pampelunianki co mieszka w Honolulu

nie znam

Priez toujours pour le pauvre Gaspard

Il n’est pas encore mort ce soir

Paul van Ostaijen, Poezje wybrane,
transl. Andrzej Dąbrówka, Warszawa 1987: 97

Spleen pour rire

Sophie-Fritz Stuckenberg zu eigen

Het meisje dat te Pampelune geboren tans te Honoloeloe woont
en in een rode lakkooi gevangen houdt
een kobaltblauwe papegaai
– zij schilderde hem met Ripolinkoeleuren
zoals gezeid de veren blauw
de snavel en de poten geel –
het meisje van Pampelune te Honoloeloe
dat om haar hoge hals heeft een krans van purperen anemonen
op haar opalen borst kleine barokkoralen
en om haar dijen niets
(Vogelveren dorsten haar dijen niet te dragen
zo zeer zijn dun haar dunne dijen)
dit pampeluner meisje dat te Honoloeloe woont
ken ik niet

Priez toujours pour le pauvre Gaspard
Il n’est pas encore mort ce soir

Paul van Ostaijen, Verzamelde gedichten (ed. Gerrit Borgers).
Prometheus / Bert Bakker, Amsterdam 1996, vol. 2 p. 478.

The poem was first published in the monthly journal „Vlaamsche Arbeid” (21) 1926 No 5, p. 178.

Informacje o Andrzej Dąbrówka

Tenured professor, Institute of Literary Research (Polish Academy of Sciences), Warsaw.
Ten wpis został opublikowany w kategorii art, conferences, literature, Netherlands, personal, poetry, Poland, research i oznaczony tagami , , , , , , . Dodaj zakładkę do bezpośredniego odnośnika.

3 odpowiedzi na „The girl from Pampeluna

  1. Soon follows a sequel post about what happened in Pampeluna, on the first day after my arrival. I myself would never believe such thing could happen.

  2. About the cubist picture:
    F. Bulhof, Paul van Ostaijen en Fritz Stuckenberg
    Het referentiepunt van deze voordracht is een reproduktie van ee schilderij dat in 1919 in Berlijn is gemaakt door Fritz Stuckenberg: Bildnis P. und E. van Ostaijen. Het bevindt zich sinds vijfentwintig jaar in het Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte in Oldenburg in West-Duitsland, de stad waar ik als neerlandicus werkzaam ben.


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