Translation – Chairil Anwar: Night-Time in the Mountains (Malam di Pegunungan)

by indonotes

Another translation from Chairil Anwar’s poetry collection Deru Campur Debu. This one is very short, only four lines, but is tricky in its own way, and the ambiguity that runs through much of Anwar’s work is in evidence here.

Reading the translations by Burton Raffel and M. Balfas (the links are to the Google Books versions) there are several subtle divergences. One point is the translation of the word ‘terlalu’ which can mean ‘very’ but also ‘too much’. By translating it as ‘too much’ my version casts a subtly different light on the meaning, hinting more at the self-defeating dimension of rumination.

Nigh-Time in the Mountains

I think: is it the Moon that makes it cold,
The houses pale and the trees stiff?
This time I want the answer too much
Hey, there’s a little kid playing chase with the shadows

Malam Di Pegunungan

Aku berpikir: Bulan inikah yang membikin dingin,
Jadi pucat rumah dan kaku pohonan?
Sekali ini aku terlalu sangat dapat jawab kepingin:
Eh, ada bocah cilik main kejaran dengan bayangan!