With the people from the bridge is the second out of three parts of Poena Damni, a genre-bending esoteric piece written over the course of a couple of decades in reverse order. Dimitris Lyacos, a contemporary Greek playwright and poet, originally released the collection under the title Nyctivoe, later replacing it with the newer version, WTPFTB much more recently. Written in a narrative, stream-of-conscious prose-poetry, With the people from the bridge does not have a clearly defined genre; it is dramatic, tragic, and begs to be performed, although how one would perform this manuscript is a task I would leave up to only the most seasoned directors—there are only what appear to be fragments of stage directions and subtle cues as to who is speaking/thinking each verse.
Grammatically, WTPFTB has a very unnatural use of fragments for the English language, fragments which are perhaps intended to uphold the flow of the original Greek, but which make for a stilted read. Here is where additional “stage directions” would be helpful. Likewise, comma usage is sporadic and may also be demonstrative of a more literal translation. And based on the disjointed imagery of the story, its trance or dream-like quality, I’m inclined to believe that the aforementioned grammatical usages are reflective of Lyacos’s style more than Sullivan’s influence as a translator.
Because this is the second of three parts of the larger Poena Damni, I also obtained the first part: Z213: Exit. I would suggest a reader begins here. While Structurally, tonally, and grammatically like WTPFTB, it is an easier read. I believe this to be largely to structural cues given in Z213: Exit which are not carried over to WTPFRB and its much smaller cast of voices. Also, the rhythm of internal dialogues of the first flows over into the stream-of-conscious dialogue of the second. As a story arc, the protagonist from the Z213: Exit is our narrator for WTPFTB, although thematically the two parts are quite different. In the first, there is a great escape flush with western religion; in the second, a man tries desperately to be reunited with his lover. Like any great love story, our protagonist here worries, “eventually they will get/to us/they will separate us”. Unlike most love stories, she is already dead, and it is her corpse he clings to. Overall, the text is ambiguous but startlingly human.
This lyrical read is best suited for those who adore the avant-garde, experimental prose, and Gothic themes. I personally found it strange, mythic, and rewarding and look forward to reading Shorha Sullivan’s translation of the the third installment, The First Death. (And, of course, there is always Sullivan’s translation of the original second part, Nyctivoe.)
Dimitris Lyacos’s Poena Damni trilogy has been translated into: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. It has been performed across the USA and Europe and reinterpreted as drama, contemporary dance, video, installations, and music. Lyacos is Fellow at the International Writing Program, University of Iowa.