Man Ray, Benjamin Fondane, 1928 Victor Brauner, The Head of Benjamin Fondane, 1931
Yes, exactly like you I was cruel,
I yearned for tenderness, for power,
for gold, for pleasure and pain.
Like you I was mean and anguished,
solid in peacetime, drunk in victory,
and staggering, haggard, in the hour of failure.
Yes, I was a man like other men,
nourished on bread, on dreams, on despair. Oh, yes,
I loved, I wept, I hated, I suffered,
I bought flowers and did not always
pay my rent. Sundays I went to the country
to cast for unreal fish under the eye of God,
I bathed in the river
that sang among the rushes and I ate fried potatoes
in the evening. And afterwards, I came back for bedtime
tired, my heart weary and full of loneliness,
full of pity for myself,
full of pity for man,
searching, searching vainly upon a woman’s belly
for that impossible peace we lost
some time ago, in a great orchard where,
flowering, at the center,
is the tree of life.
Like you I read all the papers, all the bestsellers,
and I have understood nothing of the world
and I have understood nothing of man,
though it often happened that I affirmed
And when death, when death came, maybe
I pretended to know what it was, but now truly I can tell you at this hour,
it has fully entered my astonished eyes,
astonished to understand so little-
have you understood more than I?
And yet, no!
Benjamin Fondane, I was not a man like you
from “Super Flumina Babylonis” c.1933
Benjamin Fondane (1898-1944)