Enzensberger, Titanic 12


[Follows on from last post. This is Canto 12 of the suite. ‘This is the captain speaking…’]

Hans-Magnus Enzensberger: The Sinking of the Titanic (Twelfth Canto)

Translated by Peter Lach-Newinsky

From this point on everything goes according to plan.
The steel hull is no longer throbbing,
the engines lie still, the fires have long been put out.
What’s the matter? Why aren’t we making headway? Everyone
is listening. Outside in the gangways rosaries are being mumbled.
The sea is smooth, black, glassy. The night moonless.
Oh, it’s nothing really. Nothing has been broken on board,
not a vase, not a single champagne glass. People are waiting
in small groups, wordless, walk up and down,
in furs, dressing gowns, overalls. Obedient.
Ropes are being rolled up, tarpaulins pulled back
from the boats, davits swung out. It is as if
the passengers had swallowed pills. This man for example
dragging his cello behind him over the endless deck,
you can hear the endpin scraping away at the planks,
scraping, scraping, and yet you think: how
is that possible? – Ah, look! An emergency flare! –
But it’s only a feeble hiss, already fizzling out
in the sky, and in its reflection faces, bluish and blank.
Silently a line of lift boys, masseuses and bakers stands to attention.
Aboard the California, an old tramp twelve miles away,
the radio operator turns in his bunk and falls asleep.
Attention attention! Women and children first! – Actually, why?
Answer: We are prepared to go down like gentlemen.
Roger. – Sixteen hundred are left behind. The calm on board
is incredible. – This is the captain speaking. It is now exactly
two o’clock and my order is: every man for himself! – Music!
The bandleader raises his baton for the last number.


~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on November 10, 2016.

One Response to “Enzensberger, Titanic 12”

  1. But the brochures all said the ship is unsinkable! Full speed ahead.

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