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Roots in the Air

In the air, that’s where your roots are,

over there, in the air.

                           Paul Celan


Written by Milan Richter

Translated from the Slovak by Ewald Osers

Narrated by Bill Wolak



– Off to the cemetery, are you, doctor?

– Yes, neighbor, visiting the graves. We’ve got our mother there,

my brother, too lies there, and the wife’s niece,

buried her last year, only seventeen,

leukemia, they said. And you, neighbor?

– Home. The days are drawing in.

That’s when I like to be at home…

– You’ve been to your graves then?

– I have no graves. My wife left me, long ago,

as you well know, my sons are living,

but far away, in Canada, yes Canada…

I have no graves…

– But your mother, your father, brothers,

grandparents, where do they lie?

– In the air above Auschwitz, over there,

in the air they lie.



Milan Richter was born in Bratislava, Slovakia, and is a poet, dramatist, translator, essayist, publisher, and former diplomat. From 1993-1995, he served as first head of the Slovak Embassy in Norway. From 2017-2020,  he was President of the Slovak PEN. Richter has published 10 books of poetry and 3 theatre plays. His poems were translated into 40 languages. Richter has translated more than 80 books and theatre plays into Slovak, including poetry of Emily Dickinson, Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Paul Celan, Tomas Transtromer, large parts of Goethe‘s Faust, and aphorisms and short prose of Franz Kafka. His awards include: Bjornson Prize, Swedish Academy Translation Prize, Norwegian Royal Order of Merit – knight of the 1st class, and Prize of Slovak PEN.
Ewald Osers was a Czech translator and poet.  Osers was born in Prague into a Jewish family. Since 1938, he lived in Great Britain. He translated mostly poetry from Czech, German, Slovak, Bulgarian and Macedonian, including the poetry of Jaroslav Seifert, Miroslav Holub, Jan Skácel, Reiner Kunze, Mateja Matevski, Milan Rúfus. Osers wrote a book of his own poems and a book of memoirs. He received the European Poetry Translation Prize and the Hviezdoslav Prize.
















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