Among The Thugs by Bill Buford

By Bill Buford

A journalist who spent six years traveling with and amassing details on Britain's infamous football hooligans chronicles his awesome reviews with those risky, violent, and fiercely dependable enthusiasts.

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The poem dies when it has no place to go. Translation, above all, means change. In Elizabethan England, one of its meanings was “death”: to be translated from this world to the next. In the Middle Ages translatio meant the theft or removal of holy relics from one monastery or church to another. In the year 1087, for example, St. Nicolas appeared in visions to the monks at Myra, near Antioch, where his remains were kept, and told them he wished to be translated. When merchants arrived from the Italian city of Bari and broke open the tomb to steal the remains, Myra and its surroundings were filled with a wonderful fragrance, a sign of the saint’s pleasure.

Both call for constant vigilance, and their reward is the ability to absorb something that will disturb and to a certain extent hurt you as it alters the way you see or hear or speak. Something that will shift the muscles around your mouth and chest, and, instant by instant, revise the way you relate to the world. If this sounds a little like a kind of surrogacy, it is perhaps worth noting that the kabbalistic term for the beneficent transmigration of a meritorious soul from one generation to another is ibbur—impregnation.

There was a lively international dialogue among the living. But for the next thirty years or so, the subsequent generations remained invisible. At various times I was asked to edit anthologies of Latin American poetry, but I realized that at least half of the poets I would want to include had never been translated, and there were simply not enough poet-translators to take on the work. Paradoxically, the rise of multiculturalism may have been the worst thing to happen to translation. D. Instead it led to a new form of nationalism, one that was salutary in its inclusion of the previously excluded, but one that limited itself strictly to Americans, albeit hyphenated ones.

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