Monday, 25 January 2010

hans magnus enzensberger

Homage to Gödel

‘Pull yourself out of the mire
by your own hair’: Münchausen’s theorem
is charming, but do not forget
the Baron was a great liar.

Gödel’s theorem may seem, at first sight,
rather nondescript,
but please keep in mind
Gödel is right.

‘In any sufficiently rich system
statements are possible
which can neither be proved
nor refuted within the system,
unless the system itself
is inconsistent.’

You can describe your own language
in your own language:
but not quite.
You can investigate your own brain
by means of your own brain:
but not quite.

In order to be vindicated
any conceivable system
must transcend, and that means,
destroy itself.

‘Sufficiently rich’ or not:
Freedom from contradiction
is either a deficiency symptom
or it amounts to a contradiction.

(Certainty = Inconsistency)

Any conceivable horseman,
including Münchausen,
including yourself, is a subsystem
of a sufficiently rich mire.

And a subsystem of this subsystem
is your own hair,
favourite tackle
of reformists and liars.

In any sufficiently rich system
including the present mire
statements are possible
which can neither be proved
nor refuted within the system.

These are the statements
to grasp and pull!

trans by author


colin said...

One of the best German poets. He's been fortunate with his translators too.

swiss said...

hadn't noticed i hadn't included that. this one translated by the man himself

Roxana said...

perhaps i don't get this, but why isn't his name Enzensberger? (this could be a sample of British humour, i am wondering)

swiss said...

sadly no. it's just my rubbush transcription and spelling...

Roxana said...

but it was a really funny one, as is "rubbush" as well :-)

tony said...

[for Example....?]

JoAnne said...

I am wanting to contact Enzensberger to arrange permission to include this poem in my blog (Intersections -- Poetry with Mathematics) -- can you please give me a lead as to how to get in touch with him (or with a publisher)? Thanks.

swiss said...

he's on bloodaxe so you could start with them

JoAnne said...

Okay. I can contact them. Just thought perhaps you had a direct line.

swiss said...

if it's just for a blog while i think they'd be happy you'd asked. for one poem i wouldn't be too concerned. of all the poems on here there's only one person i wouldn't post and one other who i deleted once their estate got in touch.

i take the position that i'm into the business of getting people aware of poems and poets they might not otherwise have come across. true i have some more well know works but most aren't and, for me, it's a good way of drawing attention to them. the vast majority come from books i own so, hopefully, it will encourage people to do the same. naive? maybe, but that's the theory!