The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 7 no. 1


Jacques Roubaud


Translated from the French by Rosmarie Waldrop


What identity would be yours, that of your death?

    you are, some would say, your grave and its inside, 
        the gravestone with your name

    but that means only saying:

    alive, you were this body dressed and undressed, 
        this body that contained your thought (or soul)
        this body also bore this, your, name

    identity does not last in the world except by this

    you are, others would say, as you are in the memory,
        if they remember, of those who had,
        even if but a moment, known you

    thus you would be, but parceled out, changeable, contradictory, 
        dependent, in intermittent light,

    and once all those are dead you would no longer be.

    and, surely, here again the idea of afterlife borrows
its very characteristics from the world that was your life

    but for me, it is quite different:

    each time I think of you, you cease to be.



from The Plurality of Worlds of Lewis, by Jacques Roubaud,
translated by Rosmarie Waldrop (Dalkey Archive Press, 1995)