Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Last Sunday/Ostatnia Niedziela

Yes, I know it is Thursday. "The Last Sunday" or "Ostatnia Niedziela" is a Polish song very popular in Eastern Europe, if I may call all the Slavic countries Eastern Europe. Whenever I refer to Slovakia or Poland as Eastern Europe, someone generally goes blue in the face and says that the country under discussion is in Central Europe. For some people, Eastern Europe starts at Russia. Remember this if you are trying to charm a Croat, Slovak, Czech, Serb, Slovene or Pole. Or Hungarian. Just don't refer to Hungary as a Slavic country, for technically it isn't. Whew. Diplomacy is so tricky.

As you know, I am learning Polish because some very nice Poles paid me the great compliment of translating Seraphic Singles into Polish ("Anielskie Single") and selling it, and some other very nice Poles have paid me the supreme compliment of buying and reading it. I thought then that I ought to learn Polish, so that I can continue chatting about single life and other fun things with Polish girls more easily. And it helped that at least three Polish people told me that I will never ever ever master Polish because learning Polish is too hard for English-speaking people. That made me decide to learn Polish even if it killed me, which actually is the right Polish attitude.

The problem, though, is that the language materials are rarely about fun subjects like love, infatuation, acceptance, and vocation, and usually about business meetings in Warsaw. I was therefore delighted when a Polish man sent me a link to a video called "Komu dzwonia", which is a total young man's fantasy about dying young, drunk and handsome and mourned by beautiful women at his elegant funeral. I busily went about translating this self-indulgent song, so rich in vocabulary, and requested more songs.

I got more songs, equally rich in vocabulary, and all involving love and death. A typical example is a song from the Second World War, a Polish Underground song. In it the partisan apologizes to his girlfriend that he won't be able to keep their date because he is hiding in the woods and the Germans will probably kill him before they can meet again. Cheerful, light stuff like that.

I think I will write a song about how I was going to become a first class novelist but instead I got distracted by Polish lessons and am now starving to death in a garret reading Sienkiewicz, having been abandoned by my disgusted husband. That might be more of a man's song, though.

Anyway, my latest favourite Polish song is "Ostantia Niedziela" sung by Miesczyław Fogg. It is accompanied by tango music, which makes it extra exciting as we all know the tango is an inherently wicked dance. Here is my imperfect translation:

"The Last Sunday" by Zenon Friedwald

Now is not the time to make excuses.
Reality: it's over.
Today came another man, richer and better than me
and with you stole my happiness.

I have one favour to ask, perhaps the last,
the first for many years:
give me one Sunday
the last Sunday
and after that let the world cave in.

It's the last Sunday.
Today we break up,
today we part

It's the last Sunday
so don't begrudge it to me,
look at me affectionately
for the last time.

You will have in future plenty of
Sundays for yourself
and as for what I will have--who knows?

It's the last Sunday.
My dreams of happiness
that I wanted for so long
are dead.

You ask me what I will do and where I will go.
Where I will go, I know.
Today there is for me only one solution;
I know of no other.
What that solution is, well, the less said the better.

One thing is important--that you be happy.
I don't care about myself anymore.
But before everything is over,
before fate divides us,
give me one Sunday.

Well, if that's not an eye-opener about the Polish male psyche, I don't know what is. Something to think about the next time you're being served in a Polish deli by the glum guy behind the counter. Under that wooden exterior, suicidal passions may be seething.

I am going to start a Polish version of this blog--heaven help me--and the first thing I want to do is write a reply to this song. The first thing that springs to mind is what a really lousy Sunday the couple is going to have. I mean, you'd have to be really stupid not to figure out that darling Włodzimierz (or whoever) is going to throw himself in the Vistula afterwards. As elephants in the restaurant go, that's a big one.

As a rule, I take a dim view of suicide threats, and the last time a man made one to me, we were in the same room as a social worker, who had kittens and said by law she had to call the police if she thought he was serious. So he had to climb down and admit he was not. That, however, was all very Canadian and dull, and not romantic and Polish.

What I would actually say to Włodzimierz is something like this:

"I see that you are in terrible pain."

Włodzimierz, mustering up as much sarcasm as a Pole is capable (N.B. a lot), would acknowledge this to be true.

"Well, it is nothing to how you will feel after you are dead, Włodziemierz, as you should very well know, Poland being 90% Roman Catholic, because by committing suicide you will die in a state of mortal sin and will therefore go to hell, and although this might not literally mean demons poking you with forks, it will literally mean you feeling like this and worse for the rest of eternity. So be a man, call up Marcin and Tomek and get smashed on vodka instead."

And then I would wander away because, although my brother in Christ, Włodzimierz would not be my problem, and women should never sit around drinking vodka shots with men.*

A lovely song though. It's on youtube. Go find.

*Update: This sounds a bit heartless, so I will add that if it were me chucking Włodzimierz, I would tip off Marcin and Tomek myself that their old buddy had had some bad news.

Update 2: Andrew Cusack sent me the amusing photo and this link. The sign reads "Are you looking for a husband? Talk to us." I believe, however, the unspoken adjective here is "Irish".


Anna said...

Here's the link to the song: Ostantia Niedziela

Jam said...

If I were a Polish woman and saw that sign I would DIE of laughter. Amazing.

I think "Inventing Eastern Europe" by Larry Wolff is the book my Polish-historian colleagues favor on the subject of "eastern" vs "western" Europe. Someday I will read it... or realistically, I will read a review and possibly the introduction.

Urszula said...

That is one of my favorite Polish songs ever! And it has such a soothing sound, completely contradicted by the meaning of the lyrics.

I'm obsessed with old Polish tangos, so here a few more good ones:

'Illusion' - he has such a lovely Eastern Polish accent:

"Pamietam Twoje oczy" - although this one gives perhaps a bit TOO much of a look into male thoughts ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm really impressed with your translation! I'd add some a bit more expressive words here and there, but literary it's great. If I'm not mistaken, it's actually singable! :D

You do realize, of course, that now you will start getting loads and loads of recommendations from all of your Polish readers, right?...
...So let me start! ^^
Here's "Ostatnia niedziela" in a slightly different version than the one linked to by Anna (and with full lyrics):

I simply love Polish music of these years... That was the time we really had real artists creating in truly original style! In other words, Polish culture would be really Polish and a real culture. Same with movies - I'd really recommend them to anyone who is interested in Poland, but they can be pretty hard to watch because of their condition and because of the language (the old Polish accent, a bit archaic vocabulary and low audio quality can be trying for a native speaker, so all the more for a foreigner). But once you've gotten through all that, they can be real fun and a glimpse to a world that no longer exist. Anyway, many, many classic popular songs originate from them.
For example, one so famous it's almost a clichee now (sung by one the the biggest heartthrobs!): (nevermind the spoken intro, it's only necessary in the context of the film).
Oh, speaking of clichees, this phrase has long been a saying in Polish:

Of course, once we've entered the "classics" category, you must have heard about artists from a bit later, like Czesław Niemen ("Dziwny jest ten świat" or Marek Grechuta ("Dni, których jeszcze nie znamy" And we've had a couple of brilliant lyricists, like Agnieszka Osiecka (I myself especially love songs recorded by Magda Umer. Here's one I find utterly brilliant and love with all my heart and couldn't recommend more: or Jonasz Kofta - the texts are great, but I don't know how hard they could be for someone learning Polish, since they are actual poetry, with all the difficulties that brings. And then there's the heritage of Piwnica Pod Baranami, artistic Cracovian environment, that created some of the most captivating pieces of music ever...

Oh, dear, I could go on and on.

I'm quite awful, am I not?... I'm sorry, but that's just the thing - it's dangerous to express any interest in Polish culture in presence of a Pole... :D

I hope you won't kick me for that...!
-- Philopator

Seraphic said...

Thank you for all these links and recommendations! I don't have access to youtube yet but I will get it next week when B.A. and I have our very own (not the Historical House's own) internet access.

Until then, though, it is helpful if you all actually type in the names of the songs and artists you are talking about. Often I can find them somewhere else.

I am rather fascinated by Polish culture now because hitherto it was a completely closed book to me and as a rather traddy Catholic I see so much to like. Also I remember how absolutely terrified I was, while listening to Lesson 1 of Pimsleur Polish, of daring to try the very first word, "przepraszam." So now it is very heartwarming to sing along to Polish songs, although, admittedly, only when there are no Poles around.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the YouTube thing! I'm sorry... Should I now go quitely to the corner or write a second elaborate?... In case you might want them - the three songs I haven't given the titles to are: the heartthrob Eugeniusz Bodo's "Umówiłem się z nią na dziewiątą", the saying "Miłość ci wszystko wybaczy" sung by Hanka Ordonówna, and my favourite "Jeszcze w zielone gramy" (which is an idiom, btw, literally translates into "We're still playing the Game of Green"). In case you don't - I'm sorry for troubling you :(


Seraphic said...

Thank you! I've just found out I get my youtube on Monday.