The turntable hacked up a melancholy blues
The air was heavy with dust and odors
Several zazous danced while holding to their hearts
Short girls with spasmodic behinds
In a closet, an amateur obstetrics couple
Delivered themselves to games full of art and naiveté
Another in a corner attempted with ardor
Tonsil-coupling, to music.
Hands encountered one another under too-short skirts
Drunk, two lovebirds—(what if I said: two dodos?)
Looked everywhere for a bed; they were all full...
Let this happy youth screw itself
Why eradicate from them this impure manure
If their hope restricts itself to rubbing membranes?
Boris Vian was born in 1920 in Ville d’Avray, France. “Surprise Party” is from his book Cent sonnets, which has not been translated into English. A jazz aficionado and trumpet player, he kept a day job as an engineer while writing novels such as his acclaimed l’Ecume des jours (Froth on the Daydream) and J’irai cracher sur vos tombes (I Spit on Your Graves). As a member of the Collège de ‘Pataphysique he palled around with the likes of Jacques Prévert, Ionesco, and Raymond Queneau. Vian met his first wife, Michèle, at a “surprise-party” in 1940.
Translator Rachel Galvin is a writer and editor for Humanities, the journal of the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has received fellowships at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Hedgebrook. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Spinning Jenny, Mars Hill Review, Comstock Review, and Nimrod.