The vast, ancient, solitary sea

Discovery Green-muscled ocean Idol of many arms like an octopus Convulsive incorruptible chaos Ordered tumult Contorted dancer Surrounding the taut ships We traversed row on row of horses Shaking their manes in the trade winds The sea turned suddenly very young and very old Revealing beaches And a people Of just-created men still the colour…

I don’t want them to reward me for nonsense

Dear Nadezhda, The Boarding-School Girl, tr. Karen Rosneck (2000. Original: Пансионерка, 1861), very much like your sister’s novel City Folk and Country Folk, tr.  Nora Seligman Favorov (2017. Original: Городские и деревенские, 1863) is as layered as a Russian doll: inside the social satire and comedy of manners, we can glimpse a coming of age story;…

The sea’s only sentence

The scalpel and the metronome on my father’s piano kept a silence between them, when I was a child. Only now, with time, have I begun to hear, understand their strange stories. They hone time to transparency. (Source: Shape of Time, by Doris Kareva, tr. Tiina Aleman (2010. Original: Aja kuju, 2005) When the fear of death…

The milk of incomprehension

Dear Nora, Soviet Milk, tr. Margita Gailitis (2018. Original: Mātes piens, 2015) was this odd thing: a butterfly that, going in reverse, moults back into a chrysalis. What had started as a nuanced, enraged depiction of life under Soviet rule, gradually turned into a black and white, poor reproduction of what the book might have been….

Hardness was probably his most distinctive quality

Dear Laura, Reading your novel Breathing into Marble, tr. Marija Marcinkute (2016. Original: Kvėpavimas į marmurą, 2006) feels like being trapped in a room of glass: it’s cold and solid, and we can see everything from a great distance; however, if we try to come near the glass to see more clearly, it gets misty,…

Sitting deep in the human heart

Dear Selma, Your short-story collection Invisible Links, tr. Pauline Bancroft Flach (1899. Original: Osynliga länkar,1894) reads like a visit to one of those Scandinavian wooden churches, decorated with dragon heads on the outside and Christian symbols inside. The book is composed of fourteen short-stories crossed by mythical elements drawn from pagan and Christian legends. Natural beings…

Every traveller’s time is a lot of times in one

Dear Olga, Flights, tr. Jennifer Croft (2017. Original: Bieguni, 2007) reads very much like one of the cabinets of curiosities it alludes to: each story is like a small drawer we are eager to open; in each drawer, we find an odd, mythical-sounding anecdote, or a slightly distorted idea. The strangest thing, however, is that…

Because there is desire within me, everything glimmers

Hi, folks, Next on my series of posts for Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard, you have eight poems by Brazilian author Hilda Hilst, in various translations. You can find the whole series here, along with other Brazilian gems. Enjoy! Yours truly, J. This mournful moon, this unease Inner turbulence, lagoon, Inside the solitude, a dying body, All…

To confront desire

Hi, folks, Next on my series of posts for Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard, you have four poems by Brazilian author Ana Cristina César, in various translations. You can find the whole series here, along with other Brazilian gems. Enjoy! Yours truly, J. Bedside Intractable. I don’t want to put poems on paper anymore or let my…

The mere life of the obscure

Hi, folks, Next on my series of posts for Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard, you have two poems by Brazilian author Cora Coralina, translated by Gilson P. Borges. You can find the whole series here, along with other Brazilian gems. Enjoy! Yours truly, J. All Lives Inside me lives An old backwoodswoman Of evil eye, Crouched by…

Felipa set the caravels on fire

Hi, folks, Next on my series of posts for Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard, you have three poems by Brazilian author Adelaide Ivánova, translated by Francisco Vilhena. You can find the whole series here, along with other Brazilian gems. Enjoy! Yours truly, J. for laura in 1998 when they found the gay body of matthew shepard his…

Cutting and repetition

Dear Marília, In your poetry collection Um teste de resistores (2014, ‘a test of resistors’, not translated yet), each poem undergoes, as its starting point, a resistance test: the attempt to draw a map; to cross this map as it is drawn; and, finally, to offer steady resistance to the very act of crossing it….

This sand so clear

Hi, folks, Next on my series of posts for Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard, you have four poems by Brazilian author Cecília Meireles, in various translations. You can find the whole series here, along with some other Brazilian gems. Enjoy! Yours truly, J. Introduction Here is my life: This sand so clear Withdrawing that walk Dedicated…

Nothing holds the wind back from its wings

Dear Anna, Moving back and forth between early modern Italy and Nazi-occupied Florence, your book Artemisia, tr. Shirley D’Ardia Caracciolo (2003. Original: Artemisia, 1947) unfolds as in a game of hide-and-seek: we are constantly drawn out of your protagonist and into your narrator; out of your narrator and into yourself as an author – and then…

it’s a love story and it’s about an accident

Hi, Folks, Next on my series of poetry posts for Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard, you have six poems by Brazilian author Marília Garcia, translated by Hilary Kaplan. You can find the whole series here, along with some other Brazilian gems. Enjoy! Yours truly, J. it’s a love story and it’s about an accident by Marília Garcia,…

Women in Translation Month | 2018

Hello, folks! It’s that time of the year again! Meytal over at the Biblibio blog is hosting the Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) in August. The event aims to encourage readers, reviewers, publishers, and translators to explore more books written by women writers in translation. Here you can find a FAQ on the event. Here and here Meytal compiled very useful lists of books. Here you can find my…

The various crimes of sadness

Dear Fleur, Most of the twenty-one stories in your collection I Am the Brother of XX, tr. Gini Alhadeff (2017. Original: Sono il fratello di XX, 2014) have a claustrophobic feel to them: like when we are aware that we are dreaming, but we cannot wake up, no matter how much we try. The stories are set…

I believe in the god of carnage

Dear Yasmina, Threading the thin line between civility and barbarity, you manage to convey, with acerbic wit, how civility and good intentions are slowly but steadily sacrificed to The God of Carnage (2008, tr. Christopher Hampton. Original: Le Dieu du carnage, 2007) The play revolves around two middle-class couples who meet to discuss a fight…