Mathias Énard: Zone

Tell them of battles, kings, and elephants,

without the elegance, without the elephants,

only battles, cruel kings, and pawns,

“Comrade, one last handshake before the end

of the world,” says a madman

at the station in Milan,

Francis Servain Mirković is burdened

by the remark, burdened

by the contents

of his suitcase, by the contents

of his mind,

as the train steers to Rome,

it is not scenery that flash by,

it is his life; no home,

Balkan conscript, a spy,

dysfunctional lover, son,

former informer

in the Zone, epicenter

of my literary quakes,

“the Zone, land of the wrathful savage

gods who have been clashing

endlessly

since the Bronze Age,” but he is

convinced that tomorrow he will

be a new man, as the train moves

memory

is a threnody

of the guilt of nations,

of the sins of the world,

of over a century’s worth

of savagery,

a brutal montage

of conflict, training our eyes to truths 

that we prefer to turn away from, a book

to make our consciences flinch, no one

is ever prepared

for official truth

says our antihero, this man,

a product of a history

of violence,

a tragic aspect

of a portrait

of a man

of our time.