30th August 2022


3 minutes read

Lili Hanna Seres


translated by Tímea Sipos

30th August 2022

3 minutes read

You can’t start with: “When he pressed the pillow into my face.”

You could sooner start with: “I couldn’t breathe.”

You can’t explain the scene in too much detail or it’ll soften the impact.

You have to concentrate on the memory, or the feelings rather, otherwise it’ll sound false.

And you can’t be a hypocrite.

You must leave out qualifiers, not use adjectives to describe the person.

There might be room for adverbs, like, “He held the pillow tight” or,

“He whispered firmly,” perhaps, “I fell onto the couch silently

and wouldn’t respond to my family’s polite questions”.

Uh-oh, there’s an adjective. Question: can you qualify the outsiders?

Question: can you qualify yourself?

Question: how do you reconstruct what you only recall like last night’s dream late in the day?

You cannot by any means try to interpret it. Of course, that’s unavoidable, but still.

Every word is an interpretation, even “pressed it to my face”, even “fell.”

But outside that, you can’t add commentary.

Can’t make light of it.

Can’t be over-dramatic.

Can’t write a morality tale.

Can’t be horrific for your own aims.

You must be effective, but you can’t think about it.

You have nothing left but words.

But first, lose yourself.

You can’t be afraid of the conversion of the soul’s tatters.

This is the assignment. You can’t pull back. Don’t overanalyze it.

There’s no men and women.

Only you and him.

The thinning air.

Only the pillow and the wall.

You must ease into it.

You must relive it.

Your heartbeat must speed up.

You must thirst for air.

You can’t concern yourself with Literature from the start, only the experience.

Then, you must take out your word-scalpel and show yourself less mercy than anyone.

Let the literature’s cold excitement grab you. Then you must only focus on the words.

And when you’re done, you have to let go of it forever.

You must place it inside other people to become an entirely foreign experience there.

You must be skilled, no question about it, you must be a tightrope walker. If you fall, you can climb back up.

And at the end, if your consolation prize is empty bewilderment instead of praise, don’t feel sorry.

You’re not allowed to feel sorry.

written by

Lili Hanna Seres

More about the author

Issue 02


More about this issue

translated by

Tímea Sipos

More about the translator


Admonitions by Lili Hanna Seres
A poem by Hungarian poet Lili Hanna Seres, in Timea Sipos’s translation.