“The Clearing” / “Gläntan,” by Tomas Tranströmer

Thank you Lars Midbøe for sharing Robert Bly’s translation of this Swedish short story (from the collection The Barrier of Truth from 1978). Your references to “the clearing” were inspiring to us all. Here is the translation of the story:

The Clearing

In the middle of the forest there’s an unexpected clearing that can only be found by those who have gotten lost.

The clearing is surrounded by a forest that is choking itself. Black trunks with the lichen’s bristly beard. The jammed trees are dead all the way to the top, there a few solitary green branches touch the light. Underneath:
shadows sitting on the shadows, the marsh increasing.

But in the clearing the grass is curiously green and alive. Big stones lie around as if placed that way. They must have been foundation stones for a house, maybe I’m wrong. Who lived there? No one can help with that. The name sleeps somewhere in the archive no one opens (only archives remain young). The oral tradition is dead, and with it the memories. The gypsy tribe remembers, but those who can write forget. Write it down and forget it.

This little house hums with voices. It is the center of the world. But the people in it die or move away. The history ends. The place stands empty year after year. Ant he crofter’s house becomes a sphinx. At the end everything has gone away except the foundation stones.

I’ve been here before somehow, but it’s time to leave. I dive in among the briary underbrush. To get through it you have to take one step forward and two steps to the side, like a chess piece. Slowly it thins out and the light increases. My steps grow longer. A path wiggles its way toward me. I am back in the communications net.

On the humming high voltage pole a beetle sits in the sun. Under his gleaming shoulders his flight wings are lying, folded as ingeniously as a parachute packed by an expert.


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