Section Editors’ Highlights: Spring 2019

Special selections from our Spring 2019 issue!

If you have yet to read our spectacular Spring 2019 issue, what are you waiting for? Maybe for our Section Editors to give you their favourites so you can get off of the right foot—well, we’ve delivered. From the poetry by the hand of acclaimed fiction writers, to century-traversing tales, to contemporary criticism on the role of the translator, here are the highlights, straight from those who have devoted themselves to perfecting this issue.

From Lee Yew Leong, Fiction and Poetry Section Editor:

This issue’s fiction lineup is bookended by two Argentine authors (born in 1956) who grapple with Jewish identity in their work. With The Planets shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award in 2013, Sergio Chejfec is much better known to Anglophone readers, but Daniel Guebel is not exactly an unknown entity—recently the publisher Beatriz Viterbo released an anthology of essays contributed by such writers as César Aira celebrating Guebel’s work. Via “Jewish Son,” Jessica Sequeira’s perfectly pitched translation, English readers are introduced to bits of a weltanschauung that include pilpul (aka spicy thought, a method of interpreting the Talmud), tango singers, readings of Kafka and The Aeneid, all taking place in the last act of a father-son relationship. Yet, it is also very emotional—despite, or perhaps all the more so because of, the philosophical exposition. As with the best fictions, Guebel gestures toward a gestalt beyond the text. I can’t wait for more of this heavyweight to appear in English.

In the poetry section, which I also assembled, two highlights (also bookending the section) are Raymond Queneau, co-founder of the now-international formalist Oulipo movement, and Georgi Gospodinov, acclaimed for The Physics of Sorrow, showing that they have as much talent as poets as they do as fiction writers. An especially exciting discovery is Gertrud Kolmar, nom de plume of Gertrud Käthe Chodziesner, advocated by cousin Walter Benjamin, but only now celebrated as one of the great forgotten poets. Characterized by mystery, the taut but dreamlike poems channeled with elan by Anna Henke and Julia Gutterman are fueled by an “ache unnamed”; “a glimmer burning out its flame.” 

From Caridad Svich, Drama Section Editor:

In this issue, we witness two disparate pieces that speak across centuries. First, there is Aaron Poochigan’s translation of a choral ode from Euripides’ The Bacchae. A spry, musical and passionate rendering by Poochigan from the original! Secondly, we have a contemporary piece from Japan. Translator Matthew Perkins brings to life in the English language a section of Tanioka Sachi’s play October Fūrin, which details the mysterious and wryly comic lives of lonely citizens looking for human connection.

From Joshua Craze, Nonfiction Section Editor:

Abdelfattah Kilito’s “The Dream of a Baghdad Night”  takes a seemingly simple short tale from One Thousand and One Nights and reveals its metaphysical complexity. Luminously translated by Hodna Bentali Gharsallah Nuernberg, Kilito’s essay is a work of criticism that can—like the very best of its genre, like Benjamin and Barthes—itself be thought of as literature. As we read Kilito tease apart the possible meanings of the tale, the ambiguities of its language and its translations mount, and we read over the shoulders of others. Burton, Weil, Lane, and always Borges, sit with us, as Kilito takes us into the mysterious world of a tale in which, despite its easy surface, reader and writer, dream and reality, home and travel, blur and lose their contours, as we enter the world of literature.

From Ellen Jones, Criticism Section Editor:

My highlight of the Criticism Section this issue is Brigette Manion’s review of Adélaïde Bon’s The Little Girl on the Ice Floe, translated from the French by Ruth Diver (Maclehose Press, 2019), Bon’s memoir of childhood sexual abuse and of her encounter with her assailant many years later in court. Manion’s close reading of both French and English versions makes this an exacting and incisive assessment of Diver’s considerable skill as a translator and of the book’s attempts to articulate the effects of post-traumatic stress. As Manion notes, the book is as much about language as it is about trauma; it “highlights the shocking, wounding effects of violent language” and works through language’s limited ability to express the experience of abuse and its long-lasting consequences for both mind and body.

From Sam Carter, Special Feature Editor:

The etymology of metaphor refers to a process of a movement or transfer, so it’s no surprise that there are more than a few metaphors for translation, that wonderful process of moving works across languages. In this issue’s special feature, both Maggie Zebracka’s “On (In)visibility” and Katherine M. Hedeen’s “Manifesto?” offer refreshing takes on the tropes of the translator, and Jen Calleja and Sophie Collins’s “She knows too much” tackle the highly problematic aspects of a metaphor like “bridge translation.” As they put it, the ways we talk about translation “not only reveal how we conceive of it in the present but will have a continuing, long-term effect on how translators are figured and treated within literary culture as a whole.” Like all translators, then, we should always be careful about the language we use when trying to bring more visibility to their art.

From Victoria Livingstone and Ah-reum Han, WoW Section Editors:

In this issue, Emmanuel Ordóñez Angulo takes us on a wild journey through the work of Samanta Schweblin, the Argentine author twice nominated for the Man Booker Prize, most recently for her collection of short stories Pájaros en la boca (translated by Megan McDowell as Mouthful of Birds). Like Jorge Luis Borges’s Fictions, Schweblin’s stories rely only minimally on plots; rather, they are windows into “the strange ways the world might be.” Ordóñez Angulo explores these worlds as well as the novel Fever Dream (also translated by McDowell) through the work of Latin American writers like Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Roberto Bolaño, as well as some from the English-speaking tradition, such as John Cheever and Raymond Carver. In addition to giving us a fascinating introduction to Schweblin, this essay is also a reflection on translation and the ways in which we read within different literary traditions. 

From Eva Heisler, Visual Section Editor:

Diana Khoi Nguyen’s debut collection of poetry, Ghost Of, mourns the loss of her brother through innovative, moving poems that use the page in surprising ways. A few years before his suicide, Nguyen’s brother had cut his image out of family photographs, and the poet used the white spaces left behind as visual constraints around which she speaks to her brother and investigates other losses endured by her parents, who emigrated from Vietnam to California after the fall of Saigon. Nguyen, in an interview, discusses how the visual work in Ghost Of has led her to explore the creative possibilities of new media as well as intergenerational storytelling within the Vietnam diaspora.


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