A poet invites, yes calls for, silence;
because he receives the word,
because he remembers.
but silence belongs to poetry,
ever since there have been dictators.
is dictatorship’s weapon against the word,
in order that our word might outlive dictatorship,
must master both:
our weapon, language,
and the enemy’s weapon, silence.
Our language must make visible the graveyard’s stillness
that dictatorship has produced;
and our silence must not ignore the screams of those who seek to pierce through this stillness.
This seemingly paradoxical situation forces us
into a hazardous balancing act with no net
into a circus ring, where history is the audience.
If we fall,
we sink into the chasm of oblivion,
accompanied by the audience’s jeers;
Lady History always was cruel.
The opening of a speech by SAID, an Iranian-German writer in exile, at a literary symposium entitled ‘Language and Dictatorship’
SAID, Dann schreie ich, bis Stille ist (Tübingen: Heliopolis, 1990), p. 71 [translation by Joseph Twist].