Posts filed under 'multilingual'

Reflections from Ubud Writers and Readers Festival

As Asymptote's partnership with this year's UWRF winds down, join our Editors-at-Large as they reflect on all that happened in Ubud.

On the night of October 28, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF) wrapped up after four consecutive jam-packed days. Mornings, afternoons, and evenings were filled with stimulating conversations and lively panel discussions, film screenings and book launches, poetry slams and musical performances, all set in the culturally fertile town of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia. Australia Editor-at-Large Tiffany Tsao and Indonesia Editor-at-Large Norman Erikson Pasaribu were invited to speak in their capacities as writers. In this retrospective dispatch, each of them reflects candidly on their experiences at this year’s UWRF.

One Brain, Multiple Selves (Tiffany Tsao)

There was so much about participating in UWRF that was wonderful and exhilarating, but as I (Tiffany) write this, I’m realizing how exhausted I am! It’s mostly a good exhaustion—the kind that one experiences after being exposed to so many interesting ideas, books, and people. My head and heart are still abuzz, and the festival concluded several days ago!

There’s certainly some physical exhaustion thrown into the mix as well: I brought along my 10-month-old son, Azure. The festival was immensely supportive and bought him an infant plane ticket and made sure there was a crib in the room. Plus, my heroic father flew from Jakarta to babysit while I was busy participating in events and meeting people. Unfortunately, Azure slept fitfully during the nights before deciding at around 5:00 am each morning that it was time to rise and shine, which meant that I gained a new appreciation and appetite for coffee. Glorious, glorious coffee.

READ MORE…

Asymptote Podcast: Back into the Archives

Access some of Asymptote's most iconic recordings from the last four years alongside Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle

On this episode of the Asymptote Podcast, we dive once more into the archives to tune into some of the riches that Asymptote has offered readers over the last 30 (now 31!) issues. Pick up where Podcast Editor Dominick Boyle left off in his last episode to listen to recordings from 2014 up to the present issue. Hear a thought provoking essay by Nobel laureate Herta Müller on the space between languages, along with an experimental translation of poetry by Nenten Tsubouchi that fully embraces this space. A fragmented, anonymous love poem in Old English translated by Christopher Patton and an electric reading by poet Steven Alvarez in English, Spanish, and Nahuatl round out the episode. Take a listen, and revel in the riches.

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Section Editors’ Highlights: Fall 2018

Don’t know where to start with our Fall 2018 issue? Here are the stand-out pieces, according to our section editors.

The brand new Fall 2018 issue of Asymptote was released last week and we are still enjoying its diverse offerings from 31 countries, including a Special Feature on Catalan fiction. After the blog editors posted their highlights two days ago, the quarterly magazine’s section editors share their favorites from this season’s haul: 

What good is French today? After years of patient apprenticeship, and years of mastery, perhaps writing in French was only a means of escape, or a way of doing battle. These are the questions that Abdellah Taïa battles with, in ‘To Love and to Kill: Why Do I Write In French?’ Beautifully translated by Hodna Bentali Gharsallah Nuernberg, Taïa’s essay attacks the French language, with great vigor and style, and—of course—in French. In a succinct essay, Taïa adroitly sets out the class politics of speaking French in Morocco, and the satisfactions (and oblivions) of conquering a language and a place, and all the complicated forms of hatred (and self-hatred) that come with it.

—Joshua Craze, Nonfiction editor

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Announcing the Summer 2018 Issue of Asymptote

Introducing our thirtieth issue, which gathers never-before-published work from 31 countries!

We interrupt our regular programming to announce the launch of Asymptote’s Summer 2018 issue!

Step into our bountiful Summer edition to “look for [yourself] in places [you] don’t recognize” (Antonin Artaud). Hailing from thirty-one countries and speaking twenty-nine languages, this season’s rich pickings blend the familiar with the foreign: Sarah Manguso and Jennifer Croft (co-winner, with Olga Tokarczuk, of this year’s Man Booker International Prize) join us for our thirtieth issue alongside Anita Raja, Duo Duo, and Intizar Husain, and our first work from the Igbo in the return of our Multilingual Writing Feature.

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Translating le multilinguisme

Translation is never a horizontal movement; there is always an uneven power dynamic between two languages.

Mektoub. Taleb. Mesquin. Cheb. Bezef. Each of these French words is also Arabic, albeit represented in French orthography. Through long proximity by colonization and immigration, Arabic influence has bled—at some moments more overtly than others—into the French language, and Azouz Begag’s 1986 autobiographical novel Le gone du Chaâba engages with this reality in each word choice and every line of dialogue.

The son of an Algerian migrant worker who settled permanently in France in 1949, not long before the brutal war for independence began, Begag employs a remarkable mixture of French, spoken Arabic, and Lyonnais slang to illustrate the linguistic realities of his community—something that poses problems for a translator who wants to retain its linguistic flavor without rendering the text totally opaque. Written in the eighties, the book and its projet linguistique is perhaps even more relevant at a time when so many Westerners think the Arabic phrase “Allahu akbar” is exclusively synonymous with terrorism.

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Meet The Publisher: Antares Press’s Margarita Feliciano on Publishing from Spanish, French, and Indigenous Languages

I’m interested in bringing to the attention of readers in the world the fact that there are other languages—not known languages.

ANTARES Publishing House of Spanish Culture is a trilingual press located at York University’s Glendon Campus in Toronto, Canada. ANTARES aims to bring literary and scholarly works from the Spanish-speaking world to North American readers. With this in mind, the press publishes non-fiction, fiction, poetry, and theater either written in or translated from Spanish, English, and French. In recent years, ANTARES’s interests have expanded to include the literature of indigenous languages such as Quechua and Ojibwe. Asymptote’s Editor-at-Large for Argentina, Sarah Moses, met with director Margarita Feliciano to chat about ANTARES’s catalog and their commitment to publishing translations of works written in Spanish and indigenous languages.

Sarah Moses: How did ANTARES get started?

Margarita Feliciano: The press started in the year 2005, but officially we started to publish in the year 2006. I’ve been a professor at York University since 1969 and I’ve always taught literature. In 1989, I started to publish a magazine called Indigo—before Indigo the store; I didn’t have a chance to register it. The subtitle of the magazine was The Spanish/Canadian Presence in the Arts. Things were not done in translation but published in their original language—it could be Spanish, English, or French.

I was forced to retire in 2005 because at the time we had lost a strike and one of the requirements was mandatory retirement for people aged sixty-five. The law is now gone but I unfortunately fell in that category. So in view of that, I decided to create ANTARES—to continue to do what I was doing and at the same time keep me at university because in my life all I’ve done is either be a student or a teacher. So I wanted to continue my work.

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What’s New in Translation? February 2017

Asymptote reviews some of the best new books from French, Kannada, and Danish.

 

Goblet_cover_for_web_1024x1024

Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet, tr. Sophie Yanow, New York Review Books

Review: Sam Carter, Assistant Managing Editor

Dominique Goblet’s Pretending is Lying, translated by fellow cartoonist Sophie Yanow in collaboration with the author, immediately recalls the best work of those figures like Alison Bechdel, Adrian Tomine, and Chris Ware, who have done so much to insist on both the relevance and elegance of the graphic narrative form in the Anglophone world. Fortunately, New York Review Books is dedicated to showcasing the many voices contributing to an ongoing, worldwide comic conversation, and its latest contribution is this Belgian memoir. Originally titled Faire semblant c’est mentir, it centers on the experiences of Dominique—a fictionalized version of the author herself—as she navigates fraught relationships with her parents, including with her looming lush of a father. Also sketched out is a romantic relationship where Dominique attempts to grapple with that most fundamental question of heartbreak: why did he leave me?

A certified electrician and plumber, Goblet clearly understands a thing or two about the necessary connections running through structures to make them work, and her illustrations carry this skill into Pretending is Lying, her first work to appear in English. Image and text perform an intricate choreography, reveling in an aesthetic that frequently slips between the easily imitated and the utterly remarkable. If the easy analogy for reading comics is the process of examining a series of film stills—and even if we might be tempted to label parts of the construction of this work cinematic—I would instead suggest that Goblet offers something that more closely resembles a well curated series of photographs, each of which could easily stand on its own, given each frame’s clarity of vision and attention to detail.

In illustrations that move from Rothko-like explorations of pure color to nuanced collections of penmanship that gradually reveal a series of ethereal forms, the melancholia that we often find in other works emerges here as well—maybe there’s something about the form that lends itself well to expressions of such emotions in its ability to match words with alternatively visceral and measured strokes. The muted color palette of Pretending is Lying is also remarkably expressive. READ MORE…

Highlights from the Asymptote Winter Issue

Our editors recommend their favorite pieces from the latest issue.

First off, we want to thank the five readers who heeded our appeal from our editor-in-chief and signed up to be sustaining members this past week. Welcome to the family, Justin Briggs, Gina Caputo, Monika Cassel, Michaela Jones, and Phillip Kim! For those who are still hesitating, take it from Lloyd Schwartz, who says, “Asymptote is one of the rare cultural enterprises that’s really worth supporting. It’s both a literary and a moral treasure.” If you’ve enjoyed our Winter 2017 issue, why not stand behind our mission by becoming a sustaining member today?

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One week after the launch of our massive Winter 2017 edition, we invited some section editors to talk up their favorite pieces:

Criticism Editor Ellen Jones on her favorite article:

My highlight from the Criticism section this January is Ottilie Mulzet’s review of Evelyn Dueck’s L’étranger intime, the work that gave us the title of this issue: ‘Intimate Strangers’. Mulzet translates from Hungarian and Mongolian, but (being prolifically multilingual) is also able to offer us a detailed, thoughtful, and well-informed review of a hefty work of French translation scholarship. Dueck’s book is a study of French translations of Paul Celan’s poetry from the 1970s to the present day (focussing on André du Bouchet, Michel Deguy, Marthine Broda, and Jean-Pierre Lefebvre) and is, in Mulzet’s estimation, ‘an indispensable map for the practice of the translator’s art’. One of this review’s many strengths is the way it positions Dueck’s book in relationship to its counterparts in Anglophone translation scholarship; another is its close reading of passages from individual poems in order to illustrate differences in approach among the translators; a third is the way Mulzet uses Dueck’s work as a springboard to do her own thinking about translational paratexts, and to offer potential areas for further research. The reviewer describes L’étranger intime as ‘stellar in every way’—the same might be said of the review, too.

Chief Executive Assistant Theophilus Kwek, who stepped in to edit our Writers on Writers section for the current issue, had this to say: 

When asked to pick a highlight from this issue’s Writers on Writers feature, I was torn between Victoria Livingstone’s intimate exploration of Xánath Caraza’s fascinating oeuvre and Philip Holden’s searching essay on Singapore’s multilingual—even multivocal—literary history, but the latter finally won out for its sheer depth and detail. Moving from day-to-day encounters with language to literary landmarks of the page and stage, Holden surveys the city’s shifting tonalities with cinematic ease, achieving what he himself claims is impossible: representing a ‘polylingual lived reality’ to the unfamiliar reader. And as a Singaporean abroad myself, Holden’s conclusion sums it up perfectly: the piece is ‘a return to that language of the body, of the heart’.

Visual Editor Eva Heisler’s recommendation:

Indian artist Shilpa Gupta addresses issues of nationhood, cultural identity, diaspora, and globalization in complex inquiry-based and site-specific installations.  The experience of Gupta’s work is explored by Poorna Swami in her essay ‘Possessing Skies’, the title of which alludes to a work in which large LED light structures, installed across Bombay beaches, announce, in both English and Hindi, ‘I live under your sky too.’  Gupta’s work, Swami writes, ‘positions her spectator in an irresolvable conversation between the abstracted artwork and a tangible sense of the so-called real world, with all its ideologies, idiosyncrasies, and fragilities’.

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Highlights from Our Winter 2017 Issue

The blog editors share their favorite pieces from our latest issue!

Here at the blog, we’ve been mesmerized by the new Winter 2017 Issue since its launch on Monday. We hope you’ve had time to dive in, too, but if not, here are a few great places to start!

“Daland” by Lika Tcheishvili, translated from the Georgian by Ekaterine Chialashvili and Alex Scrivener, is a curious little story, told in the first person by an unnamed dock worker in Bandar Abbas, Iran. Anyone who has seen or read about Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton will find themselves in familiar territory when the narrator becomes the unlikely participant in a duel. Any sense of familiarity stops there, however. The man who challenges him is a mysterious smoker with a perpetually fresh lily—flowers foreign to Bandar Abbas—in his lapel and an appointment with a schooner no one has heard of…

I also cannot get the words of Christiane Singer out of my head. In her essay, “The Feminine, Land of Welcome,” translated from the French by Hélène Cardona, she writes to women, “stand bewitched and ready to leap: the queen, the sister, the lover, the friend, the mother—all those who have the genius for relationship, for welcoming. The genius for inventing life.” She highlights the danger of defining women only by their commonalities, as well as the horrors that could have come to pass—and could still—in a world without women. Their absence would be powerfully felt, even in comparison to situations in which they are already roundly ignored or discredited.

—Madeline Jones, Blog Editor

In “Always Already Translated: Questions of Language in Singaporean Literature”, Boston-born Philip Holden, who has lived in Singapore for more than 20 years, writes lyrically about this multilingual city-state. Having worked with languages Holden mentions—Malay, Malayalam, Javanese, and many others—I loved his description of situations where “I speak in Mandarin to Chinese patients, and they reply not to me but to my Chinese co-worker, who looks back at me in incomprehension. She speaks in Malay to older Chinese and Malay patients, and they reply in Malay not to her but to the third of us, the Indian woman who wears a tudung that marks her out as Muslim and, by a process of mistaken association, Malay.” Multilingual societies are sadly often depicted as wrought with conflict. While language in Singapore is, like everywhere in the world, a political issue, too, Holden focuses on the opportunities it provides for performing and literary arts. We don’t have to search for a common language, he argues—it’s more interesting to find “holes between languages that everyday translation continually fills up”.

I have never read Albanian literature before, however. If you are like me, I can warmly recommend the three poems by Luljeta Lleshanaku, one of the country’s most important writers, as an introduction. Taken from the collection Negative Space and translated by Ani Gjika, the poems describe a simple life: apple trees, a butcher carving meat, “gardens hidden behind houses like sensual neck bites”. But behind each poem is a rotten apple, or cold floors, and getting one’s way without any real gain—poetic realism. Do also have a listen to the translator reading the original text in Albanian!

—Hanna Heiskanen, Blog Editor

Check out the gorgeous video preview of the new issue here:

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Read More from the Asymptote team:

In Absentia: Photo Journals from Readings Abroad

Catch what you missed from two special events, plus the details on what's next

Happy Monday, Asymptote readers! We kick off the new week with two literary dispatches from South Africa and Germany.

Asymptote Editor-at-Large Alice Inggs attended the launch of the latest Ons Klyntji issue in Cape Town:

publicity-image-alice-inggs-outside-the-book-lounge

Alice Inggs outside the Book Lounge

“What is Ons Klyntji?” is a question often asked of its editors. The answer? Complicated: the unconventional pocketbook anthology has been through several incarnations throughout its 120-year history. First published in 1896 as the first ever Afrikaans-language publication, it has transformed into a modern literary zine, currently under the editorship of Toast Coetzer, Erns Grundling, and Asymptote Editor-at-Large Alice Inggs, featuring predominantly English and Afrikaans poetry and prose, but also multilingual pieces, translations, and works by graphic designers and fine artists.

Over the years, Ons Klyntji has published a number of celebrated South African writers, including Rian Malan (My Traitor’s Heart), Breyten Breytenbach (Confessions of an Albino Terrorist), and musician-author Koos Kombuis (who also edited Ons Klyntji in the 1990s). Recent editions have featured work by established poets Nathan Trantraal (Chokers en Survivors) and Moses Mtileni (ed. Ntsena Loko Mpfula A Yo Sewula); writer Jaco van Schalkwyk (The Alibi Club), and controversial artist Anton Kannemeyer (Bitterkomix), as well as a new generation of poets like Sindi Busuku-Mathese (Loud and Yellow Laughter), Genna Gardini (Matric Rage), and Rosa Lyster (Modern Rasputin).

erns-grundling-ons-klyntji-editor-reading

Editor of Ons Klyntji, Erns Grundling

Since 2015, Ons Klyntji has hosted an annual event at the Book Lounge, an independent bookstore in Cape Town. The event acts as a platform for writers featured in Ons Klyntji to share their work with a live audience, as well as a way of promoting the zine to readers and future contributors. The event also helps to underscore the main aim of Ons Klyntji: to encourage South African writers to write—be they eminent authors, emerging poets or even teenagers penning their first, awkward verse.

READ MORE…

Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

This week's literary news from the Nordic countries, the UK and Israel.

The week is nearly over, which not only means it’s the weekend but also that it’s time for our literary catch-up! For this edition, Blog Editor Hanna Heiskanen shares updates on the upcoming awards season, among other news from Scandinavia. Editor-at-Large Julia Sherwood then reports on literary happenings from the UK. Rounding it all up is our correspondent for Israel, Alma Beck, currently residing in New Orleans, where she teaches philosophy for children.

Obligatory reminder: After you’ve caught up with all the news, head over to our just-launched Fall 2016 issue here!

First up, Blog Editor Hanna Heiskanen has the latest from the Nordic countries:

Lars Huldén, the Swedish-speaking Finn poet, has passed away at the age of 90. Born in Pietarsaari, Finland, Huldén was a much loved and highly regarded writer, scholar, translator, and recipient of the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize in 2000. He grew up among a tradition of oral storytelling in the local Swedish dialect and worked tirelessly throughout his adult life, publishing a large collection of poetry, prose, plays, and sonnets, among other works. He also produced Swedish translations of Finnish and English classics, such as the Finns’ national epic, Kalevala, and Shakespearean texts.

Finnish Literature Exchange (FILI) is accepting applications for grants until November 1. If you are a publisher, translator, author, or event organizer interested in working with Finnish literature, FILI has a handy guide on their site to guide you through the options. FILI, founded in 1977, hands out approximately 700,000€ worth of grants annually, in addition to hosting translator residencies and maintaining a database of translations of Finnish literature.

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Translation Tuesday: “Miss Chapati Queens” by Bino A. Realuyo

"Her accent sounds like it comes from the deepest part of a rock."

“Miss Chapati Queens” is part of a fiction manuscript titled The F.L.I.P Show, an interconnected collection of stories about the Filipino American community on the East Coast. The Philippines is an archipelago of 175 languages and/or dialects. Most of us are at least bilingual.  In my household alone, five major Filipino languages, including English, are spoken.  As a former colony of the United States, the Philippines has been using English as a lingua franca—the language of power, and of the media and the government—for over a hundred years, further complicating its multilingual tradition.

Although set in Queens, “Miss Chapati Queens” explores Filipino multilingualism. The protagonist, Rosario, is half-Indian, half-Filipino but grew up with a Filipino mother, and thus understands and speaks Tagalog. Her voyage into becoming more “Indian” coincides with her decision to join a beauty contest called Miss Chapati Queens. There are almost four million Filipinos in the U.S., some of whom are of mixed heritage, like the character in this story.  These households reflect the multilingual backgrounds of the Filipino people.  I speak English, Filipino (Tagalog), and Spanish, but understand Bicolano and Chabacano (language of my maternal heritage from Zamboanga City, a former Spanish port).   READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Multilingual Poems by Peter Wessel

Translated by Elena Feehan.



Select translation:

Bedstefar

 

Ma petite fille,

Salome, mit barnebarn,

mi nieta

para ti soy “Bedstefar”,

tu única palabra en danés.

Le meilleur père, père

de ta mere,

ton grand-père danois

en danois.

 

Cubana de padre, francesa

de madre

y yo, tu raiz nórdica.

doce por cien

y medio, lo que hay de danés

en mi poesía

ou d’alcool

dans une cépage de bonne qualité.

 

De moi t’as déjà herité

Plus que ta mere:

un mot, an

heirloom du nord:

“Bedstefar”

avec tout ce que celà

veut dire

y con todo lo que tu dirás

cuando me llames,

quand tu m’appelles.

 

When you call my name.

 

Blodets bånd, siger vi.

Barnebarn, grandchild, petit en–

fant,

blood of my blood

a bond which cannot be severed.

Más que un vincula, plus que un lien,

yet nada

nothing

rien

unless we invest it with meaning.

 

So, what sense

qué sentido tuvo para mí

tu nacimiento?

Hvad betød din fødsel for mig,

en far

der aldrig er blevet kaldt, har

hørt sig kalde

far

og kun sjældent

rarement

a pu agir, actuar,

como père?

 

¿Qué tal te sientes como abuelo?,

me preguntaban,

and I was at a loss, no supe contestar

comment je me sentais.

I didn’t feel any different, no notaba

ninguna diferencia

and could not see why I should have changed.

 

Pasaron cinco años, cinq ans

sans practiquement se voir

y solo ahora me doy cuenta,

only now,

gazing back at a gap of five years,

do I realise how you, ou plutôt

ta presence,

changed the perspective of my life,

gav mit liv

et dybere perspektiv

making both past and future unfold.

 

Probablement, je n’ai jamais occupé

la place du père,

dans la vie de tu mama.

Like a fool I offered her up

as a sacrifice for my love to her mother

y su abuelo, mi suegro, me la arrancó.

 

That man, tu bisabuelo, now dead,

rife with heirs and hardly mourned

stole my daughter and supplanted me

leaving me,

dejándome,

a childless, self-deceitful

papa chatré.

 

Salomé, nieta mía,

para ti soy todavía poco más

que una palabra, but a word which,

ahí dedans,

contains,

esconde,

gemmer et løfte, a

meaning and promise

that we both must explore:

 

din “Bedstefar”,

la meilleur père

de ta mere.

***

Offering

 

The pain,

el dolor de esas dulces disonancias.

Le ton aigu, den skærende

intonation

pa nippet til… a breath

from keeling over.

 

Et smertefuldt, jublende skrig.

 

Like Coltrane

we must squeeze the reed, estrujar

nuestra alma

hasta que la nota se quiebre, indtil

kernen spaltes, permitiéndonos

seguir fluyendo

 

indtil

sjælen kælver

og døden os skiller

 

until we cave in

and death do us part.

 ***

Django’s Lullaby

 

Toutes les chansons d’amour,

todas las flores de primavera y los

colores de otoño

que je t’aurais cueilli

se me han marchitado.

 

The songs that my thoughts of you

stirred in the wind

are now a dry rustle, an autumn lullaby

perhaps.

Fugle som trækker mod syd,

pájaros,

birds of passage.

 

Que venga la nieve, la

neige, la manta suave y blanda,

the sweet, forgetful snow

that will cover all the wounds

calmará el ardour de las heridas

and the broken stems

with its cool whiteness,

su fría blancura.

 

La neige de noviembre,

november

sur les petals bleus de mes pensées

de nous.

Bedstefar

My granddaughter,

Salomé – ma petite fille,

mit barnebarn,

mi nieta –

for you I am “Bedstefar”,

the only word you know in Danish.

The best father”, your mother’s

father,

the Danish for

your Danish grandfather.

 

Cuban on your father’s side, French

on your mother’s

and me, your one Nordic root.

12.5%:

like the Danish in my poetry;

or the alcohol content

of a fine wine.

 

You’ve already inherited

from me

more than your mother ever did:

a word, a Northern heirloom:

“Bedstefar”

and all that word means

and all that you mean

when you call me,

when you call me it.

When you call my name.

 

Blood ties, we call them.

Barnebarn, grandchild, petit en-

fant,

blood of my blood

a bond which cannot be severed.

More than a bond, more,

yet nothing,

nada,

rien

unless we invest it with meaning.

 

So,

what did it mean for me,

your birth?

What did your birth mean for me,

a father

who has never been called,

never heard himself called

father,

and has only

rarely

been able to act

as a father?

 

How do you feel about being a grandfather?

people would ask me,

and I was at a loss, I didn’t know how to answer,

how I felt.

I didn’t feel any different, nothing

tangible,

and could not see why I should have changed.

 

Five years passed

and we scarcely saw one another,

and only now do I realise,

only now,

gazing back at a gap of five years,

do I realise how you, or rather

your presence,

changed the perspective of my life,

made that perspective deeper,

making both past and future unfold.

 

I suspect I never really fulfilled

the role of father

in your mother’s life.

Like a fool I offered her up

as a sacrifice for my love to her mother,

and her grandfather, my father-in-law, tore her from me.

 

That man, your great-grandad, now dead,

rife with heirs and hardly mourned

stole my daughter and supplanted me

leaving me,

dejándome,

a childless, self-deceitful

papa chatré ­– a castrated father.

 

Salomé, little one,

for you I am still scarcely more

than a word, but a word which,

deep inside,

contains,

conceals,

holds a

promise and a meaning

that we both must explore:

your “Bedstefar”,

the best father

of your mother.

 

***

Offering

 

The pain,

the pain of this delicate discord.

The pitch set high, the intonation

cutting,

on the verge of… a breath

from keeling over.

 

A painful, joyful cry.

 

Like Coltrane,

we must squeeze the reed, wring out

our souls

until the note cracks, until

its core is cloven, so we can

keep on flowing

 

until

our souls cave in

and death do us part.

 

***

Django’s Lullaby

 

All the love songs,

All the spring flowers and

                  autumn colours

I gathered for you

have withered in my heart.

 

The songs that my thoughts of you

stirred in the wind

are now a dry rustle, an autumn lullaby

perhaps.

Birds that fly south for winter;

birds of passage.

 

Let the snow come,

its soft and tender blanket;

the sweet, forgetful snow

that will cover all the wounds,

soothe the stinging cuts

and broken stems

with its cool whiteness.

 

November snow,

on the blue petals of my thoughts

of us.

 

***

Illustration by Dinah Salama.

******

Peter Wessel is a Danish-born poet who has divided his life between his homes in Madrid and the Medieval French pilgrim’s village of Conques-en-Rouergue (which he considers his second birthplace) since 1981. He teaches a university course titled “Rooted in Song—the Role of African Americans and Immigrant Russian Jews in the Creation of the American Dream” and defines himself as a musician who expresses himself through poetry. Peter’s last two books Polyfonías (2008) and Delta (2014) are multilingual poetry collections both of which include recordings of his readings in dialogue with the musicians from Polyfonías Poetry Project. He blogs at www.pewesselblog.com.

Translation Tuesday: “Mal Paso” by Hugo López Araiza Bravo

Spanish/French/English—a multilingual Translation Tuesday, translated by criticism editor Ellen Jones



Select translation:

“But why do you want to go to Haiti?” they asked her in Santo Domingo. “You crazy?”

She only smiled like a naïve foreigner, mumbled something about a sociolinguistic interest in the borderlands, and went out of the department with her Lotman under her arm. While she waited for the bus to the coach station she looked over the timetable that her classmates had reluctantly given her. It was going to take the whole day. The first thing she had to do was leave the city by the Carretera Sánchez.

“I’m only going as far as Barahona,” the driver warned her when he heard where she was going. “From there, you’re on your own.”

She didn’t mind. She sat on the left hand side so she could say goodbye to the sea; she fixed her eyes on the waves while the vehicle moved over the concrete. The blue was giving way little by little to green. When nothing but mountains was visible, she fell asleep. She woke up just in time to see the Arco del Triunfo.

She had a hard time finding someone to take her the rest of the way. Finally she ended up with a lorry driver whose job was to supply sugar cane to the city’s sugar factory. He was loading his vehicle with big water bottles.

“There’s not enough water over there,” he explained. “I’m going to make more on this trip than I make in a month going back and forth like crazy.”

They set off when the driver was sure that he’d made use of every cubic metre of his hold. They left the city behind and went into the sugar plantations. The lorry’s cabin shook with a wave of vituperation against the sugar industry. How they were worked from sun up to sun down. How bateyes still existed. How people were dying from machete wounds. How even after everything slavery still persisted, it’s just that now they called it minimum wage. Then the Laguna del Rincón appeared, and the criticism was directed towards uncontrolled fishing and the loss of heritage as a result of greed.

“They extract gypsum from that mountain,” he concluded signaling towards the other side. “Don’t get me started on the mines.”

She didn’t. She wasn’t about to get involved in ethical debates with a man who was trying to sell water at the price of mercury to the victims of an earthquake. Besides, enough people had confided in her their misfortunes for her to know that all of Latin America was singing from the same song sheet: each country had its own versions of the same general ills.

They stopped in Duvergé for something to eat: rice and pigeon peas. As soon as their plates were clean her companion stood up.

“We’ve got to get to Jimaní before nightfall: it’ll be hard to find somewhere to spend the night.”

They could barely make out the city when it became clear that something was out of the ordinairy. It was seething. For the second biggest cité in the municipalité, there were too many people. And people in the streets. They had to réduice their speed to avoid running someone over. They soon understood that they were principalment refugees. They stopped in front of a house d’aspect humble.

“They’re distant relatives” her guide excused himself. “Tomorrow you can go to the border. It’s only two kilometres away.”

She passéd the nuit on a pallet in the cuisine.

She sortied early, with only a piece of manioc in her estomac. She calculated that she’d have to marche for three quarts of an hour. The streets were as full as the précéding nuit. The soldats from the Fortaleza looked suspicieusely at the people going past. She commenced to move between the multitudes, parfaitly aware that she was swimming à countercurrent. Quand she left the last houses behind, the route became more sauvage. Elle décida to walk on one side so it would be more facile to mouve. Those who were coming in the opposée direction looked like they hadn’t eaten in days. They came with almost zéro, with seulely the robes they were wearing quand tout had se passé. On her right était the Étang Saumâtre, et elle imagina that if the dominicain gouvernment had not permetted the réfugiés to entrer, these waters would now be full de illegaux swimming pour their survie.

Elle could déjà see Mal Paso. Le nom was apt: négliged constructions that spat out misérables, infernal portes. She made her way à travers the réfugiés et entréed a totalement chaótique square. There were pleine de gens en the mouve, here et là camions could be seen, still trying to continuer with their commerce. Among them were the improviséd campements for those who still pensaient que they pourraient retourn. Elle parcrossed le perimetre lentement, completely submergéed. Vraiment Mallepasse. Elle vint more proche à la frontière. Un point de contrôle de Casques Bleus garded le passage.

“Eh! La fille!”, lui hurla l’un des soldats. “Tu peux pas passer! Rien que de l’aide internationale y peut traverser! C’est pas du tourisme, une catastrophe pareille!”

Elle resta immobile. De l’autre côté, elle vit l’Ayiti. Tout te sanble diferan de lót bò a.

 

–¿Pero por qué tú quieres ir a Haití? –le preguntaron en Santo Domingo–. ¿Estarás tú loca?

Ella sólo sonrió cual extranjera ingenua, balbució algo sobre el interés sociolingüístico de la frontera y salió de la facultad con su Lotman bajo el brazo. Mientras esperaba la guagua hacia la central de autobuses repasó el itinerario que a regañadientes le habían dado sus compañeros. Le iba a ocupar todo el día. Lo primero que tenía que hacer era salir de la ciudad por la Carretera Sánchez.

–Yo voy sólo hasta Barahona –le advirtió el conductor cuando se enteró de su destino–. A partir de ahí, se ampara sola.

No le importó. Se sentó del lado izquierdo para poder despedirse del mar; clavó los ojos en las olas mientras la máquina avanzaba por el concreto. El azul fue cediendo poco a poco al verde. Cuando no se distinguía más que monte, cayó dormida. Despertó justo a tiempo para ver el Arco del Triunfo.

Le costó trabajo encontrar quién la llevara el resto del camino. Finalmente dio con un camionero encargado de abastecer de caña al ingenio de la ciudad. Estaba cargando su vehículo con garrafones.

–Allá hace falta el agua –explicó–. Voy a hacer más con este viaje de lo que gano en un mes dando vueltas como loco.

Partieron cuando el conductor estuvo seguro de que cada metro cúbico de su caja estaba aprovechado. Dejaron detrás la ciudad y se adentraron en los cañaverales. La cabina del camión se removió con un vendaval de vituperios al sistema azucarero. Que se trabajaba de sol a sol. Que seguía existiendo la raya. Que la gente moría de una herida de machete. Que después de todo se mantenía la esclavitud, aunque ahora le dijeran salario mínimo. Entonces emergió la Laguna del Rincón, y la queja se dirigió hacia la pesca indiscriminada y la pérdida del patrimonio por culpa de la avaricia.

–De ese monte sacan yeso –concluyó señalando hacia el otro lado–. No me haga comenzar con las minas.

No lo hizo. No estaba para meterse en debates éticos con un hombre que pretendía venderles agua a precio de mercurio a los damnificados de un terremoto. Además, ya había protagonizado suficientes confidencias de desgracias como para saber que toda Latinoamérica cojea del mismo pie: cada país tiene sus propias versiones de los males generales.

Pararon en Duvergé por algo de comida: arroz con guandules. En cuanto limpiaron el plato su compañero se paró.

–Hay que llegar a Jimaní antes que anochezca: nos va a costar trabajo encontrar dónde pasar la noche.

Apenas divisaron la ciudad se dio cuenta de que algo había fuera de lo commún. Bullía. Para ser la segunda ciutat más grande del municipio, le sobraba gent. Y gent en las calles. Tuvieron que diminuir la velocidad para evitar atropellar a alguien. Pronto comprendió que se trataba en su majoría de refugiados. Se detuvieron frente a una casa d’aspecto humilde.

–Son parientes lejanos –se excusó su guía–. Mañana tú podrás ir a la frontera. Está apenas a dos kilómetros.

Passó la noche en un catre en la cuisina.

Sortió temprano, sólo con un trozo de yuca en el ventre. Calculaba que devía marchar tres quartos de hora. Las calles estaban tan plenas como la noche précédente. Los soldats de the Fortaleza miraban méfiantes las gens que pasaban. Commenzó a moverse entre la multitude, parfaitamente consciente de que nadaba à contrecorriente. Quand dejó atrás las últimas casas, el chemino se devenió más agreste. Décidió andar par un lado, de sorte que le fuera más fácile déplazarse. Los que veníaent en sens contrairio paraîcían no aver mangiado en varios días. Veníaent casi sans nada, seul con las robes que portaban quand tout se avía passado. À su derecha étaiba el Étang Saumâtre, et se immaginó que si el gouverno dominicain no hubiera permis la entrée de refugiés, esas aguas serían ahora pleines de illegaux nageando pour la supervivencia.

Elle veía déjà Mal Paso. Lui iba bien el nom: unos bâtiments négligéados qui escupían misérables, unas portes al enfer. Se ouvrió paso à travers de los réfugiés et entró en une plaza totalement chaótique. Étaiba pleine de gens en mouvemiento, aquí et là se apréciaban los camions que avían todavía essayé continuer con el commerce. Entre eux étaiban les campaments improvisés de los que pensaient todavía que pourraient retournar. Parcourrió le pérímétre lentement, duramente impressionée. Vraiment Mallepasse. Elle vint más proche à la frontière. Un point de contrôle de Casques Bleus vigilait le passage.

«Eh! La fille!», lui hurla l’un des soldats. «Tu peux pas passer! Rien que de l’aide internationale y peut traverser! C’est pas du tourisme, une catastrophe pareille!»

Elle resta immobile. De l’autre côté, elle vit l’Ayiti. Tout te sanble diferan de lót bò a.

***

Hugo López Araiza Bravo is a Mexican writer and translator. His first book, Infinitas cosas, won the 4º Virtuality Literario Caza de Letras. His second will be out soon, and he's been shadow-boxing with a novel for over four years. In 2012, he won the Concurso 43 de Punto de Partida in literary translation, with a fragment of a novel by Amélie Nothomb. He's currently studying for a Masters in Translation at El Colegio de México.   Ellen Jones edits the criticism section of Asymptote, and contributes the occasional translation. She has a B.A. in English literature and Spanish, and an M.St. in English Language from the University of Oxford. She is now a Ph.D. candidate at Queen Mary University of London, researching English-Spanish code-switching in contemporary fiction, and the particular challenges associated with reading, publishing, and translating this kind of writing.