Letter to My Grandchild

by Tarık Günersel    /  March 5, 2014  / No comments

Tarık Günersel with his grandson

Having grabbed the pen, Karl Tarik Illeditsch puts a mark into his grandfather's new book of poetry. Photo courtesy of Tarık Günersel.

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a<br />
column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  6. Tarik Günersel
  7. Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

Letter to My Grandchild

May each day be fruitful in relationships
with nature, compassion and labour.

Protect yourself in order to develop,
and develop to protect yourself.

Trying to be powerful
implies weakness.
Trying to be successful
makes it harder to succeed.
Does a flower try to open?
It ‘simply’ opens.

Creativity requires no greed.
Enthusiasm is enough.
Pain and sorrow are not necessary.
Joy of living is enough.

Modesty saves energy
and thus helps fruitfulness.
Choose positive limits.
Tranquillity doesn’t make the ocean shallow.
Don’t complain. Approach.
One who leaves out is left out.
But be alone when necessary.

Transitory doesn’t mean worthless.
Can you live fully if you underrate the senses?
Can comprehension be rich if intuition is blocked?
Life can’t be explained in every detail
but the effort is pleasant—and not fruitless.

What is a limitless horizon?
Critical imagination—with knowledge.
Yet ‘knowledge’ is usually conjecture.
Rather than an ignorant and insolent prime minister,
be refined and ‘ordinary.’

Belief is not knowledge. Which legacy
should one accept from world history?
A habitual belief may be handy–but
it may hinder progress.

Learn from the wisdom of other animals:
Two open windows, side by side, one with a screen.
A winged insect -trying to get out
through the one with the screen, in vain,
forcing the nearby spots
unaware of the free way out.
Then it flies back, gains distance, and
easily perceives the exit.

You cannot govern nature
but you can dance with her.
First there was nature, probably.
Then the universe began -14 billion years ago.
After this adventure? There’ll still be nature. Maybe
leading to a different universe–if any.
Perhaps there are multiple universes, as some claim,
and humans are nature’s chance to understand herself.

Isn’t it a pity to praise an imaginary power
for our good deeds
but condemn ourselves for misdeeds?
To humans what they deserve.

Isn’t the idea of a god unfair
to nature and labour?
Religions are cocoons.
Humans can grow out of them
and fly freely
by holding wisdom dear
and getting rid of beliefs.

Capitalism seems normal to some realists.
But slavery, too, seemed normal once.

You were born with two mother tongues to enjoy.
Hybridity is good for world peace.

Human Rights are part of Animal Rights are part of
Nature’s Rights.

Let the light in you be light
and not masked darkness.

Prepare your own guide as a new Earthling
with quotations and your contributions.
Open to interaction. With questions:
Then what? What if I’m wrong?

Freedom implies uncertainty. Endure.
Flexibility helps you see the better path.
You fall when you are too sure.

Write. In order to understand
rather than to tell.
And rejoice. Now there’s at least one person
who understands you
even a little bit:
Yourself.
One good sentence a year is good enough.
But a thousand are necessary prior to it.

An apprentice is a master in his dream.
A master is an apprentice even in his dream.

Don’t ruin your life with a ‘Plan B.’
Accomplish? Without giving up, one can.
Enjoy the journey, my dear.
Courage is not fearlessness,
but taking steps despite fear.

A drop in an ocean leads a richer life than a lake.
Approach with care, contribute, and celebrate.

Beware of letting your name outshine your works.
If you don’t want to go out of fashion,
refrain from becoming fashionable.

We come with traces and leave traces behind.
May yours be fruitful. Plain, constructive, deep.
At least for one person –when all is done.
Your traces have already begun.

(English translation by Beverly Barbey / T. Günersel)

About the Author

Tarık Günersel is a poet, playwright, aphorist, librettist and short story writer. He is the president of PEN Turkey and an ex-member of the PEN International Board. He studied English Literature at Istanbul University. A self-exile after the military coup in 1980, he spent four years in Saudi Arabia with his wife Füsun and their daughter Barış, teaching English. A dramaturg at Istanbul City Theater since 1991, he has acted on stage and screen and directed some of his plays. He proposed World Poetry Day in 1997 which was accepted by PEN International and declared by UNESCO as the 21st of March. His translations into Turkish include works by Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Arthur Miller. His works include The Nightmare of a Labyrinth (mosaic of poems and stories), and How’s your slavery goin’? His Oluşmak (To Become), a “life guide for myself,” includes ideas from world wisdom of the past four millennia. He has recently initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the support of several intellectuals from various parts of the planet.

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Fearless, Ink.