My Testament (Resist) & Postscript - Michalis Katsaros Poems

My Testament (Resist) & Postscript - Michalis Katsaros Poems - Michalis Katsaros, Photographic Portrait of the Poet
Michalis Katsaros, Photographic Portrait of the Poet

CONTENTS

The Poet & His Work

The poems entitled My Testament (or Resist) and the Postscript, written by Michalis Katsaros in 1953, were first published in the Democratic Press (Δηµοκρατικός Τύπος – Dimokratikos Typos) newspaper, and were included in the famous collection Against the Sadducees, published in the same year thanks to the financial contribution of his friend Vangelis Poledouris (Βαγγέλης Πολυδούρης) in few copies, having the cover designed by the painter and director Nikos Koundouros.

Michalis Katsaros (1920-1998) was a special case of a poet: politicized and lyrical, thoughtful and surrealistic – especially in the second and most productive phase of his creative life – he left his own indelible, critical and fruitfully ironic mark in poetic art.

But he was also a poet in various aspects of his life, such as:

  • When he wore a ribbon that read "ELAS Air Force" (Ellinikós Laïkós Apeleftherotikós Stratós – Greek People’s Liberation Army) participated in an anti-occupation demonstration in Nazi Germany’s slave Athens, to be arrested a little later, tortured brutally, and imprisoned in "Hatzikosta" (Χατζηκώστα) prison
  • When he organized in the forest of Hymettus, the rather universally innovative, sculpture exhibition for dogs
  • When he sent the British Museum a dollar, which was plain and clear signed by him, asking them to buy it for a few thousand dollars, to receive the equally surreal response of the British, that they were really willing to buy it, but paying the poet only the exact value of the banknote, that is, for a dollar

Katsaros’s total poetic work reached fifteen collections, while he published six prose writings as well as the magazines System (Σύστημα), A Sixth (Μιά Έκτη) and Stadiou 5 (Σταδίου 5).

The Poems

The poem My Testament, that is the first recorded here, had suffered severely censorship. How and why narrate immediately after, followed by the Postscript.

At this point, however, it is worth mentioning that both poems go beyond the time, place and language (where possible) that were written, remaining worryingly up-to-date.

And especially now that the Planetary Troupe of Authority continues for the third consecutive year to upload the successful revenue-generating comedy "Shock and Awe" at the Ecumenical Theater of the Absurd.

… It ‘s probably time for the audience to take them on a hunt with expired yogurts and rotten tomatoes – or at least with any other suitable product of plant or animal production.

Michalis Katsaros - My Testament

Resist
to the one who builds a little house
and says: I’m happy here.
Resist to the one who returns home again
and says: Glory be to God.
Resist
to the Persian carpet in apartments
to the short man of the office
to the imports-exports company
to government education
to tax
even to me the one telling you this.

Resist
to the one who salutes from the platforms
the parades for endless hours
to the barren woman who distributes
paper of holy incense and myrrh
even to me the one telling you this.

Resist again to all those who are called great
to the president of Court of Appeal resist
to the music of drums and the parades
to all those superior conferences that chatter
with participants and consultants drinking coffee
to all those who write speeches about the era
in front of the heater in winter
to obsequity to wishes to that many bows
from pen-pushers and cowards for the wise leader of theirs.

Resist to the department of foreign affairs and passports
to the terrifying flags of states and diplomacy
to the war weapons factories
to those who call nice words as lyricism
to the marches
to the sweetish songs with mournings
to the audience
to the wind
to all those who are indifferent and wise
to the others who pretend to be your friends
even to me, the one telling you this, resist.
Then we can confidently approach Freedom.

The Censorship of the Poem

As soon as personnel in the center-left position of the Democratic Press received the poem, they realized that they were holding in their hands a certain ticket for their impeachment and imprisonment, together with the closure of the newspaper.

Because hung above their heads the Emergency Law no. 509 – 1947 “On security measures of the State, the regime, the social status and the protection of civil liberties”.

Of course, this was another "communist-eater" law which, among other things, persecuted, suppressed and punished any free voice, which by the freedom of speech advocated ideas and views that were not to the liking of the vengeful, short-sighted and intolerant post-civil war Greek state of Nazi sympathizer victorious.

In this context, the personnel of the newspaper decided to censor the poem themselves – without even informing the poet – removing perhaps the most meaningful lines.

Specifically, they deleted the following verses and sections of verses:

  • to government education
  • to tax
  • to the one who salutes from the platforms the parades for endless hours
  • to the president of Court of Appeal resist
  • Resist to the department of foreign affairs and passports
  • to the terrifying flags of states and diplomacy
  • to the war weapons factories
  • to the marches

As expected, the poet reacted by reading the censored version of his work in the October 1, 1950 issue: being wiser, he wrote a new poem, the Postscript, which was published in the next issue of the newspaper, a week later.

Note

The poem recorded immediately below is its final form, as it was included in the collection Against the Sadducees, and not the one originally published in the newspaper – from which it differs slightly but at the same time substantially.

Michalis Katsaros - Postscript

My testament before it was read
– as it was read –
was a warm horse of integrity.
Before it was read
it was not the heirs who awaited
but the usurpers transgressed the fields.

My testament for you and ye
was buried deep for years
by bureaucrats sly notaries.

They changed important phrases
hours stooped over it with horror
they vanished the parts with rivers
the new sound in the woods
the wind they killed it –
now I finally understand what I thus lost
who is the one that strangles.

And what about you
you stand so silent with all those resignations
from voice
from food
from horse
from home
you stand disgustingly silent like a dead man:

Freedom mutilated they promise you again.

Translation: Agroikos

Poems from the collection Against the Sadducees of 1953

Audiovisual Document

The poet Michalis Katsaros recites the poem My Testament (Resist). The excerpt comes from the broadcast program "Monogramma" (1983) of ERT (ΕΡΤ – Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation).

Play Video
Michalis Katsaros

The Poem "My Testament (Resist)" Set to Music

There are many poems by Michalis Katsaros that have been set to music by Greek composers (Mikis Theodorakis, Giannis Markopoulos, Thanassis Gaifyllias, etc.).

However, a little below is the music version of the poem My Testament (Resist), as delivered by two important people of literature and the arts, both of German origin, the composer Hans Werner Henze and the writer and poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, entitled Schluss (An End).

But before that, is listed the interesting German version / transformation of the poem by Enzensberger, together with its English translation.

The Transformation of the Poem into German by Enzensberger & the English Translation

Schluss
Schluss mit der Tagesschau
Schluss mit der Eigentumswohnung
Schluss mit dem Gottseidank
nach der eschöpften Revolte
Schluss mit dem Stehaufmann
hinter dem Schreibstisch
mit der Import-Export GmbH
mit der staatlichen Bildungsförderung
mit der Stabilitätsabgabe
und Schluss mit mir
der euch dies alles erzählt
Schluss mit dem Kammerensemble
Schluss mit dem Kammergerichtspräsidenten
Schluss mit dem Tag der Offenen Tür
bei der Reformkommission
Schluss mit der Impotenz
auf dem Protestfestival
Schluss mit der Weltsicherheit
und mit allen weitblichenden Führern
Schluss mit dem Ausländeramt
und selbstverständlich mit mir
der euch dies alles erzählt
Schluss mit allen
die wegweisende Worte finden für unsere Zeit
Schluss mit den echten Begegnungen
auf Botschafterebene
Schluss mit allen die vorgeben
unsere Freunde zu sein
Schluss mit den Interpreter
Schluss mit dem Publikum
und vor allem mit mir
der euch dies alles erzählt
Wenn wir mit alledern Schluss gemacht haben
können wir anfangen
mit der Befreiung

An End
An end to the newsreels
An end to private housing
An end to the Te Deums
after the spent revolts
An end to the puppet
behind the desk
to the import-export firms
to state education
to value-added tax
and an end to me
who is telling you all this.
An end to string quartets
An end to Lord Chief Justice
An end to Open Days
at the reform commission
An end to the impotence
at the festivals of protest
An end to world security
and all far-sighted leaders
An end to the Foreign Office
and naturally to me
who is telling you all this.
An end to all those
who define new directions
An end to genuine meetings
at ambassadorial level
An end to all those who pretend
to be our friends
An end to interpreters
An end to the public
and above all to me
who is telling you all this.
When we have put an end to all that
we can begin
the Liberation.

Audio Document

From the work for voice and orchestra Voices (Stimmen, 1973) by Hans Werner Henze the tenor Paul Sperry is heard in the song Schluss (An End), in libretto by Michalis Katsaros, as performed in German by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.

Play Video
Schluss (An End)
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