A Whisper Heard in Babel

Spread the love

KG Hammar on Babel
Right: Former Archbishop KG Hammar reading his poem “Hörs en Viskning i Bruset” composed during the first day of the Gothenburg Book Fair and broadcast on the Swedish TV culture programme Babel from the floor of the Book Fair.

The following is my attempt at a free translation.

A Whisper Heard in Babel

At the high mass for the printed word
the sound of the masses at the mass


Voices overwhelming voices
Come and buy!
Conserved pastimes

Who has time for pastimes?

Thoughts become words
become print
that want to be read
once again to be thought

Thoughts heard in whispers
even in the midst of all this clamour

Seek a room where the whispers can be heard
can become flesh
can make a difference

New thoughts
and old thoughts thought in a new way
change the world

My world
and that world we share with one another

Our grandchildren expect:
the whispers that speak to our inmost space
shall drown out the noise of the market place

Perhaps I should add that I’ve not seen KG Hammar’s poem in print. This translation is based on his reading on the the Babel TV programme. There was one word I’m not be sure I heard properly.

Also, the Swedish for Book Fair is bokmässa (literally book trade fair alt. book mass) which gives KG Hammar a third sense of “mass” to play with. I did what I could with only two senses.

Spread the love