It was not in vain that we awaited the barbarians,
it was not in vain that we gathered in the city square.
It was not in vain that our great ones put on their official robes
and rehearsed their speeches for the event.
It was not in vain that we smashed our temples
and erected new ones to their gods;
as proper we burnt our books
that have nothing in them for people like that.
As the prophesy foretold, the barbarians came
and took the keys to the city from the king’s hand.
But when they came they wore the garments of the land,
and their customs were the customs of the state;
and when they commanded us in our own tongue
we no longer knew when
the barbarians had come to us.
Translated by Vivian Eden
Amir Or, the 2020 Golden Wreath laureate, has been recognized as a major voice in world literature. His poetry won him national and international awards, the recent ones including the 2016 European Atlas of Lyrics award, the 2017 Blue-Met Montreal World Through Poetry award and the 2019 Homer European Medal of Art and Poetry.
Or was born in Tel Aviv, 1956, studied Philosophy and Comparative Religion in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and lectured there on Ancient Greek Religion. He published 14 poetry books, the latest being Wings (2015) and Child (2018). His work was translated to 50 languages, and published in 36 books in Europe, America and Asia. He published 2 novels, and 12 volumes of his translations to Hebrew from Ancient Greek, English and other languages. His selected translations From the Hebrew Side was published in 2017, and his selected essays, Discourse – in 2019.
Or is the founder of Helicon Poetry Society, the Hebrew-Arabic Poetry School, the Sha'ar international poetry festival and the Helicon poetry review. He has served as national coordinator of the U.N.-sponsored Poets for Peace, as national editor for international magazines, and as editor of Catuv poetry series.