Desert Island

The children of today
When they are between fifteen and twenty
Are sad and quiet
Afraid of of vicious old men
They get bored in cafés
And nothing makes an effect on them
And when you speak softly to them
At first they are still afraid
And after, little by little they open up
And they dare reply to you
The young men they say
There are no jobs
We cannot accept
To work for our food
And then there will be war
And we are sick of waiting
The trees are green with tender eyes
The sun is out, and in fifty years
We will have skin so thick
That it will not be crossed again
And to what end, to what end
We will have become old or crippled
And will no longer gain from it
And the women
They will not love the men
A man can hurt them
Can buy them, leave them, can have his child with them
We must work, they are so pretty
We will sink ourselves
The unattractive women don’t have any problems
Or at least their problems are resolved
They think of other things: those that pass by
They are waiting for their bus
How would you live with
People that are interested in their bus
It doesn’t stand to reason
And so, brothers? Shall we go
Live on a desert island?
There is no desert island
But one can always hope
Without engaging one’s engagement
That we will build one
That, then, that makes it all easier
But the desert island takes on water
For after we are no longer making it
Just like for the three violent old men
The secret is lost to us.

By Boris Vian
translated, from the French, by Claudio Sansone

Claudio Sansone is a Foundation Scholar in English Studies at Trinity College Dublin. He has published a number of poems, academic articles, and a short story. He is currently the editor of Icarus (Ireland’s oldest creative writing publication) and the Trinity Journal of Literary Translation. He will be starting his PhD research in the U.S. in the coming academic year.

Boris Vian (1920-1959) was a French writer, engineer, and musician who was an extremely importance influence within the French jazz scene.