Nicoletta Asciuto writes: Katja Perat is a contemporary Slovenian poet and novelist. Her first poetry collection, Najboljši so padli (The Best Have Fallen), was published by Beletrina (Ljubljana) in 2011 and received the Best Debut Award and Best Book of the Year from the Slovenian Literary Critics Association. Perat is also the author of another collection of poetry, Davek na dodano vrednost (Value-Added Tax, 2014) and a novel, Mazohistka (2018), published in English by Istros Books (2020, translated by Michael Biggins).
Perat’s voice in her first collection is often witty and humorous. ‘Strah pred jezikom’, which I have translated, is an ironic take on the classic amorous rendezvous. In Slovenian, ‘jezik’ means both ‘language’ and ‘tongue’, thus creating an ambiguity in the title, first and final line, which is partly lost in English.
Strah pred jezikom
Vse je jezik, Rečeš, In mizo med nama zasedejo Misli, ki ostajajo na koncu stavkov. Obrazi južnoameriških starešin S platna na steni Bdijo nad nama. In so tiho. Po toplem in suhem diši In po sadju, Ki polni ladjevja srebrnih pladnjev. Kar rečem, Je več kot beseda In manj, kot sem jaz. Rolete so spuščene, Življenje z druge strani okna Je tiho. Še ta kozarec medu spijem, Preden te poljubim; Nobene besede več. Jezik je tvoj zaveznik.
Fear of Language
It’s all language, You say, And thoughts loiter at the end of sentences Occupying the table between us two. Faces of South American elders From the canvas on the wall Keep an eye on the two of us. And they are silent. It smells of warm and dry And of fruit, Which fills the fleets of silver trays. What I say Is more than a word And less than me. The blinds are down, On the other side of the window life Is silent. I only have this jar of honey to drink up Before I kiss you; No more words. Your tongue is your ally.