“Tróiades” [fragments] – Guilherme Gontijo Flores

Cabaret Wittgenstein presents a few fragments from Brazilian poet and translator Guilherme Gontijo Flores’ project Tróiades.

Guilherme Gontijo Flores

this poem-website is entirely a collage between voices of the defeated, even if they can only arise through the voice of the victors, mixed with and partly indissociate from the victors, like a possibility of history, when the defeated speaks, who speaks for her, who speaks through him, who could in reality occupy this space? every encounter of fragmentary cuttings suggests discourse, not a clear voice, not a from whom, or a for whom—without just a dichotomy between the hangman and the victim, but even then like a monument to the unterminated massacre of history: from Troy, archetype of the defeated, to Canudos, this mother of today’s favelas, where the defeated remain to see out their days; from slavery, immemorial and ubiquitous, to the indigenous, still silenced in our discourse, the names would never end, unless perhaps for some eventual tikkun for the rags of this pain.

The texts were cut, freely translated, reworked and rearranged from three ancient tragedies:
Hecuba, by Euripides (424 BC) [referenced as H];
Troiades, by Euripides (415 BC) [T];
Troades, by Seneca (c. 54-64 AD) [S];
and the aphorism 9 taken from “Über den Begriff der Geschichte” (1940), by Walter Benjamin [W].

We proceed here to present a few fragments from the composition. The English edition of Tróiades was translated by Rob Packer in June and July 2016.

at 3200 years from the burning of Troy;
2160 years from the obliteration of Carthage;
807 years from the siege of Béziers;
524 years of the extermination of Native America;
371 years from the butchery of Yangzhou;
119 years from the war of Canudos;
101 years from the Armenian genocide;
84 years from the holodomor in Ukraine;
78 years from the rape of Nanking;
76 years from the foundation of Auschwitz-Birkenau;
71 years from Hiroshima & Nagasaki;
34 years from the massacre of Hama;
22 years from the Rwanda genocide;
13 years from the Darfur conflict;
the inestimable time of the enslavement of man by man.


Fragments from Tróiades


But what limbs does the cliff face leave us?
Bones unpieced
undid themselves in the fall
his body’s illustrious marks
the face the features of a noble father
everything the thud on the deep
earth confused
in the tumble his neck snapped
his open head exhaled
his brain
a body
lying there
In this too
just like his father

[S 1110]



In this service as herald it would be better
to be a man without compassion
more used to shamelessness
unlike me

The closeness of death
fells the best words

[T 786. S 575]



Shaking shaking
Spread this trail of blood
to the grim
last days of life

[T 1330]


The good soldier

At least I saved you the trouble
of crossing the scamander’s flow
washed the corpse
cleaned the wounds

Now let me dig his grave
and it’s over for us
job done
catch the boat home soon

[T 1155]



No law spares the conquered
or overrules his punishment

and now you say it’d be inauspicious
to sacrifice the virgins?

[S 333, 331]


The good soldier

When they invaded our shores
they died without missing
the earth and hearth of the fatherland

Whoever war annihilated
never saw his children
never received last rites from the hands
of his wife
and now lies exposed on foreign land
fed on by birds of prey

The great strategist
for what he hates most
kills what he loves most

At home woe does not change
for those who stay
wife without husband
another orphaned of her son
at home
gave birth for nothing
in the grave no one
to sacrifice their blood for this land

[T 370]


The most beautiful thing

Why bother calling the gods
if they never listen?
Let’s run under the snipers
today the most beautiful thing
is dying in a napalmed country

The blacked-out sun in the smog
and no flame can singe
victory’s thieving fingers

Hobble on your stumps
salute your barrel-bombed city
as best you can

[T 1280, 1275. S 17]



There is no trench for these tears

[S 812]



Bury the body
in a tomb
for he has won
his funeral garlands

For the dead I think
it doesn’t matter much
if he received funeral rites

It’s all vanity of vanities
ostentation for the living

[T 1245]


The good soldier

These ones think death makes up for the ships’ delay Those are glad to see an enemy fall The fickle majority detests all crime and looks on

[S 1126]



About the composition:

The music “Genocide — Symphonic Holocaust” is from the album Blut und Nebel (2005), by Maurizio Bianchi, taken from Wikicommons.

the photographs, also cut and altered, were chosen from Wikicommons:
1. Genius of grief, carving, 2nd century AD, by anonymous;
2. Will Brown lynched and burnt, 1919, by anonymous;
3. Porušena, Borovnica, 1944, by anonymous;
4. Slave girl bound in Tunisia, c. 1900, by Lehnert & Landrock;
5. Jews murdered in Kiev, 1942, by anonymous;
6. Dead Confederate soldier, 1864, by anonymous;
7. German soldiers killed in the Battle of Bastogne, 1944, by anonymous;
8. Russian soldiers in the Russo-Japanese War, 1905, by Victor Bulla;
9. Children hanged in a tree, Italy, 1923, by anonymous;
10. Cannibals, during the famine in Russia, 1921, by anonymous;
11. Enslaved Native Americans, 19th century, by anonymou;
12. Young German girl in front of 800 slaves murdered by the SS, 1945, by anonymous;
13. Tomb of Inês de Castro (1360), by André Luís;
14. Poland, 1939, by Julien Bryan;
15. American Civil War, 1865, by Thomas Roche;
16. Lynching of Laura Nelson, 1911, by G. H. Farnum, postcard;
17. Operation Barbarossa, dead Russian soldier, 1941, by anonymous;
18. Russian soldiers in an open grave, 1905, by Underwood & Underwood;
19. A long geographic shadow, 2008, by Evelyn Simak;
20. Slave in Mississippi, 1863, by MacPherson & Oliver;
21. Dead Crow Indians, 1874, by anonymous;
22. Delia, slave in Columbia, 1850, by J. T. Zealy;
23. Dresden bombed, Germany, 1945, by Richard Peter;
24. Survivors from Canudos, 1897, by Flávio de Barros; and
25. Tombs of Palmyra, Syria, 1935, by Pierre Antoine Berrurier, aerial photo.


Guilherme Gontijo Flores is a Brazilian poet and translator, born in Brasília in 1984. He published brasa enganosa (2013), and ranslated, among others, Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621) and Roman poet Sextus Propertius. Guilherme Gontijo Flores lives in the outskurts of Curitiba, in a farm house designed by himself, with his wife and two children.