Windows

Translation of Charles Baudelaire’s “Les Fenêtres”

He who looks out at the world from an open window never sees as many things as he who looks at a closed window. There is nothing deeper, more mysterious, more fruitful, more shadowy, or more dazzling than a window lit by a candle. What we can see in daylight is always less interesting than what happens behind a windowpane. Deep in that dark or luminous aperture, life lives, life dreams, life suffers.

Beyond the waves of rooftops, I glimpse a middle-aged woman, already wrinkled, poor; she is always bent over something, and never goes out. From her face, from her clothing, from her gestures, from almost nothing, I have remade this woman’s past, or rather, her story, which I tell myself from time to time in tears.

If it had been a poor, old man, I would have remade his story just as easily.

And then I go to sleep, proud of having lived and suffered as people other than myself.

You might ask me: “Are you sure that this story is the real one?” What does it matter what reality dwells outside of me, if the story helps me live, helps me feel that I am and what I am?

 

Les Fenêtres

Celui qui regarde du dehors à travers une fenêtre ouverte, ne voit jamais autant de choses que celui qui regarde une fenêtre fermée. Il n’est pas d’objet plus profond, plus mystérieux, plus fécond, plus ténébreux, plus éblouissant qu’une fenêtre éclairée d’une chandelle. Ce qu’on peut voir au soleil est toujours moins intéressant que ce qui se passe derrière une vitre. Dans ce trou noir ou lumineux vit la vie, rêve la vie, souffre la vie.

Par delà des vagues de toits, j’aperçois une femme mûre, ridée déjà, pauvre, toujours penchée sur quelque chose, et qui ne sort jamais. Avec son visage, avec son vêtement, avec son geste, avec presque rien, j’ai refait l’histoire de cette femme, ou plutôt sa légende, et quelquefois je me la raconte à moi-même en pleurant.

Si c’eût été un pauvre vieux homme, j’aurais refait la sienne tout aussi aisément.

Et je me couche, fier d’avoir vécu et souffert dans d’autres que moi-même.

Peut-être me direz-vous: «Es-tu sûr que cette légende soit la vraie ?» Qu’importe ce que peut être la réalité placée hors de moi, si elle m’a aidé à vivre, à sentir que je suis et ce que je suis?

Emily Leithauser

Emily Leithauser

Emily Leithauser’s first book, The Borrowed World, was the winner of the 2015 Able Muse Book Award. Her poems and translations have appeared in New Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Blackbird, Literary Imagination, and Unsplendid, among other journals. Her scholarship has been published in The Hopkins Review and The Global South. This fall, she will begin a position as an assistant professor of English at Centenary College of Louisiana.
Emily Leithauser

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Author: Emily Leithauser

Emily Leithauser’s first book, The Borrowed World, was the winner of the 2015 Able Muse Book Award. Her poems and translations have appeared in New Ohio Review, Southwest Review, Blackbird, Literary Imagination, and Unsplendid, among other journals. Her scholarship has been published in The Hopkins Review and The Global South. This fall, she will begin a position as an assistant professor of English at Centenary College of Louisiana.