Posts Tagged ‘Magda Kapa’

In the Morning (Tweets, May 2012)

August 3, 2012 10 comments

by Magda Kapa


In the morning, we return to the day like fallen angels.


In the morning, before memories and dreams have said goodbye to each other.


Before light has taken our bodies back.


Before we need something, and after we’ve had everything.


In the morning, we’re thrown out of our dreams like banished dictators.



Magda Kapa tweets as @MagdaKapa and keeps a regularly updated blog, I was not born in English, where she writes: “It takes me too long to write anything: a day, three trains, one hundred poems, a few deaths, one sorrow and the present tense.”

Categories: Fragments Tags:

St George’s Bell

March 24, 2011 2 comments

by Magda Kapa

St George’s bell was gone.

The cleaning woman, an Albanian who had been living in the village for almost eighteen years, one of the first to cross the border and, in search for work, come all the way down to Peloponnese, mostly on foot and occasionally hitch-hiking, noticed it first when she went to clean up and prepare the chapel for the annual liturgy on St. George’s name day, April 23rd.

The priest, terribly shocked at the news, ran immediately to the cafenion where the village men were enjoying their first coffee in the open. (Spring was really here now and even a Greek winter can cause depressions.)

No, not St George’s bell. It has been ringing ever since 1907, more than a hundred years, and it was the village students’ present to the newly built chapel, financed mainly by their collection of donations. It was from a time when students wore uniforms and caps, and needed almost half a day to arrive here by horse carriage from Athens, nowadays just one and a half hour drive away.

During the German occupation, St George’s bell rang to warn the partisans whenever the German soldiers mobilized towards the hills where the partisans were hiding and from where the chapel watched over the village. The men now in the cafenion, mostly in their sixties or younger, where the sons and grandsons of those men sent running scared up the hills when the bell spoke to them.

A spontaneous meeting was held in the cafenion. A few phone calls and a few more of the village elders joined the angry round. It didn’t take long and, as always happens on these occasions, the foreigners were blamed. But the Albanians who for years and years used to be the usual suspects were not illegals anymore, didn’t sleep under the orange trees in improvised tents, didn’t have to steal everything not nailed down and sell it in order to survive till the next job appeared. No, the Albanians now had labor permits and lived in houses, their kids went to school here and were actually the reason, a few years ago, why the village elementary school was not closed down. Too few were the children being born, the birth rate of the village too low. Blame it on the stress of modern times; everyone knows that we are real men otherwise, all the men in the cafenion agreed.

Spirits were already somehow calmed down. The new illegals, the young Africans who usually hung around in the main district town, were soon also disqualified as bell thieves. The village’s teenagers explained that these were too well controlled by their own Mafia, which was not interested in bells but in whores and pirated CDs and DVDs. They knew this of course, because they were grateful customers themselves.

There was just one possibility left: the old usual suspects, the Gypsies (no one called them Romani here, not even they themselves).

Yes, the Gypsies controlled the scrap metal market and since the prices of copper and iron skyrocketed, the Gypsies had ransacked, bought, took, or dismantled anything they could. Two neighbors went to court last month, accusing each other of stealing the iron posts that had marked the shared border of their properties, before discovering that the posts had been stolen, like everybody else’s in the area.

The metal prices shot up after the real estate crisis in the US for reasons that no one in this cafenion could really explain; it’s just the way capitalism functions.

The villagers agreed that St George’s bell which had been ringing for this village ever since 1907 likely landed in capitalism’s melting pot, together with the iron posts marking land ownership. And not only the communists in the cafenion laughed at this joke.

It was agreed that a new bell would be ordered at the best bell foundry in the prefecture. Who knows, something from the old bell might find its way into the new one. It’s a small world after all.


Magda Kapa was born in Greece and now lives in translation in Northern Germany. She has worked as a freelance screenwriter and teaches Modern Greek and English. She writes poetry and short stories.

Categories: Translation Tags:

Flicker and Flux: Versions of Heraclitus

February 8, 2011 3 comments

by Magda Kapa and Teju Cole

The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus sounds strikingly modern. He wrote in fragments, of which only fragments survive, and this is part of the secret of his seemingly miraculous talent for compression. Not a word is wasted. Each aphorism strikes the ear like a mathematical formula: direct but gnomic, amoral and shorn of sentiment. One of the fragments might be read as an apologia for this mode of working: ὁ ἄναξ, οὗ τὸ μαντεῖόν ἐστι τὸ ἐν Δελφοῖς, οὔτε λέγει οὔτε κρύπτει ἀλλὰ σημαίνει. (“The lord whose oracle is at Delphi is neither clear nor cryptic. He signals.”)

We were interested in doing “versions” or “readings” of Heraclitus rather than “translations” because we wished to test the fragments against modern expression. We tried to find a voicing balanced somewhere between poetry, vernacular speech, and laconic statement, always with an eye to brevity. We began with the ancient Greek text, and were guided by German, English, and modern Greek translations. What we aimed for was not a word-for-word rendering of each fragment, but a statement that retained the pith of the original while plundering it for new signals. Our version of fragment 49a, probably the best known of the Heraclitean fragments, illustrates our approach.

(The Greek fragments are taken from, and numbered as in Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker [9 ed. Berlin 1960], edited and translated by Hermann Diels and Walter Kranz.)



ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων. (119)
Human being, human daimon.


ξυνόν ἐστι πᾶσι τὸ φρονέειν. (113)
Mind is all, and in all.


ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν. (101)
I have searched myself.


ὅσων ὄψις ἀκοὴ μάθησις, ταῦτα ἐγὼ προτιμέω. (55)
The things I can see or hear or study are the things I prefer.


ὀφθαλμοὶ γὰρ τῶν ὤτων ἀκριβέστεροι μάρτυρες. (101a)
Eyes see better than ears.


χρυσὸν γὰρ οἱ διζήμενοι γῆν πολλὴν ὀρύσσουσι καὶ εὑρίσκουσιν ὀλίγον. (22)
Goldminers mine earth mostly.


. . . μεταβάλλον ἀναπαύεται. (84a)
Things are at ease in flicker and flux.


τοὺς καθεύδοντας ἐργάτας εἶναι καὶ συνεργοὺς τῶν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ γινομένων. (75)
Even sleepers are at work on the work of the cosmos.


ποταμοῖς τοῖς αὐτοῖς ἐμβαίνομέν τε καὶ οὐκ ἐμβαίνομεν, εἶμέν τε καὶ οὐκ εἶμεν. (49a)
We cannot enter a river at all. We are and are not.


Magda Kapa was born in Greece and now lives in translation in Northern Germany. She has worked as a freelance screenwriter and teaches Modern Greek and English. She writes poetry and short stories.

Teju Cole (website) is a Nigerian-American novelist, photographer, and historian of art. He is the author of Open City, just out today from Random House.

Categories: Translation Tags: ,
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