Kei Lim

Translation: to and back

By HALYNA KRUK 
Translated by LADA KOLOMIYETS

Poem appears below in English and the original Ukranian.

Translator’s note

Since February 2022, the metaphorics of Halyna Kruk’s poetry have undergone transformation on the way to nearing the genre of testimony. Kruk explains in her speech at the poetry festival in Berlin in June 2022 that metaphors have lost their power in front of what is actually experienced (Kruk, Halyna. “Krieg ist keine Metapher.” Zeit Online, June 18, 2022). The voice of the diarist of wartime has become the most important feature of literary expression. In her Berlin speech—just as in the poem to and back, written in spring 2022—Kruk warns the prosperous western world against erecting an emotional wall between Ukraine and itself. While addressing the Western audience, she tries to explain a painful feeling of irreparable loss—in our souls, in our culture, science, economy, industry, society —of men and women, someone’s parents, someone’s children, who were killed by Russia: “War creates a gap between those who have experienced it and those who are far from it; with each passing day of the war, I see that it is more and more difficult to explain to people from the outside what we feel here, on the inside. … Poetry acquires very peculiar forms—a spontaneous prayer, a stingy testimony, a lament or even a curse to the enemy. These are not the forms of poetry to which modern European culture is accustomed, they are functional and ritualistic, too primeval in their emotional coloring, too subjective, too pathetic, and intolerant” (Kruk, “Krieg ist keine Metapher”; my translation).

In her poem to and back Kruk writes about the unfitting of war in the eyes of Western world, even if the words for war may be found by survivors and those who have experienced it. Incompatibility of war and peace, of poetry and war calls for the memory to work in place of creativity. The healing power of poetry—as a witness of war crimes in Ukraine—is encoded in Kruk’s poems, written in the spring and summer of 2022.

—Lada Kolomiyets

Translation: to and back
Read more...

Podcast: Mayada Ibrahim on “Symphony of the South”

Apple Podcasts logo

Listen on Apple Podcasts.

Spotify Logo Green

Listen on Spotify.

Transcript: Mayada Ibrahim

Mayada Ibrahim speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about her translation of “Symphony of the South,” a short story by Tahir Annour that appears in The Common’s most recent issue, in a portfolio of writing in Arabic from Chad, South Sudan, and Eritrea. Mayada talks about the process of translating this piece, including working with the author and TC Arabic Fiction Editor Hisham Bustani. She also discusses gravitating toward translation as a way to reintegrate Arabic into her life, after years of studying and learning in English. Her translation of Forgive Me, a novel set in Zanzibar and co-translated with her father, will be out in the UK this year.

Podcast: Mayada Ibrahim on “Symphony of the South”
Read more...

The Fish Market

By ESTHER KARIN MNGODO
Translated from the Swahili by JAY BOSS RUBIN

Piece appears below in English and the original Swahili.  

 

Translator’s Note

I was drawn to “Soko la Samaki” by its rich variety of registers, and by its use of the second-person point of view, which in my experience is not so common in Swahili literature. I was also taken by the story’s close attention to class and gender dynamics, and the role of language, indeed languages, in interactions between men and women of different backgrounds and social standings. In my initial draft, I retained quite a bit of Swahili. As I began to revise, in consultation with both colleagues and the author, I was encouraged to seek out English that corresponds to not just Swahili meanings but Swahili cadences, especially when they play a role in one character trying to convince or gain entry into the world of another. The version here contains less Swahili than my earlier drafts, but the Swahili that is retained is more intentional. Of the handful of authors whose work I have been so fortunate to translate, my author-translator relationship with Esther Karin Mngodo has been, by far, the most interactive. In addition to drawing my attention to rhythm, Esther helped me comprehend some of the story’s slang and proverbial language, and she offered invaluable feedback and suggestions on how to render specific moments in English. Going back and forth in our comments in the margins of a shared doc, often when it was morning for me and evening for her, I felt like I was getting to collaborate with an author, editor, and fellow translator all at once. For that, and for the story itself, I am enormously grateful.

—Jay Boss Rubin

The Fish Market
Read more...

Thirty-Seven Theses on Time and Memory

By SVEN BIRKERTS

Drawing of author when young, by his grandfather

Grandfather’s drawing of author when young

1.

Memory, that elusive quicksilver running through our lives. How at first, at birth, there is nothing, really, almost nothing, and how slowly it develops after that, all the years when there is no visible shadow on the ground behind us. And how it is that, for those years, we accept our lives as the steady panorama of whatever is right in front of us, moment to moment.

I’m trying to think when any memory worth remarking arrived. Did I have memories when I was ten years old? I know that in sixth grade, when we were all leaving behind Walnut Lake, our red-brick school, there was some inkling. Not a procession of memories, not yet, but rather an inchoate nostalgia, a definite sense of something being lost. There came an awareness of the past, and with it the realization that there is a kind of timeline, a sense of futurity that had not really been there before.

Thirty-Seven Theses on Time and Memory
Read more...

Around Sunset

By JAMES RICHARDSON

The days seem kindlier near sunset, easier
when they are softly falling away
with that feeling of sad happiness
that we call moved, moved that we are moved
and maybe imagining in the dimming
all over town of hurry and resentment
that difficult loves rekindle

Around Sunset
Read more...

Sunnyside

By JANUARY GILL O’NEIL

                        —for Joseph O. Legaspi

And when you whispered under your mask, I don’t think I can stand these two young lovers, bright as the low winter sun shining through the dingy subway car windows, I knew what you meant: maskless, giggling, boy holding girl by the waist, taking selfies on a gray seat made for two. We sat across, letting their tenderness reflect on us: her back to his chest making a hearth of their bodies while the train snakes its turn over the elevated tracks. Hi-rises loom over gentrified streets, the graffitied walls, a sign for $0.99 pizza—how old neighborhoods create a new belonging. Nothing jostles these two as they attend to their own happiness, not the train’s hard lurch, its rumble and squeal, this couple at the beginning of their desires, you turning to me with your brown eyes in the day’s last light as we approach our final stop.

Sunnyside
Read more...

Excerpts From Great-Grandfather Hage’s Biography

By ABU BAKR KAHAL

The Falling Sun

Great-Grandfather’s name is Hage, which means “revered and noble,” though to some it means “loquacious,” while others deny all definitions and emphasize that the name means “he who imitates the sun or its likeness.”

“At that time, people thought the sun had fallen to Earth. ‘De K’al… De K’al… De K’al… The sun has fallen… The sun has fallen… The sun has fallen…’ they screamed.” That’s how the story was told by our great-grandfather—he who knew all the secrets of the past and how it was. It was known that he had memorized everything that storytellers told about those distant eras and their events.

Excerpts From Great-Grandfather Hage’s Biography
Read more...

Excerpt from The Healing Stage

By LISA BIGGS

This piece is excerpted from The Healing Stage: Black Women, Incarceration, and the Art of Transformation by Lisa Biggs ’93, a guest at Amherst College’s LitFest 2024. Register for this exciting celebration of Amherst’s literary legacy and life.

Book cover of The Healing Stage. Black and white text reading "Lisa Biggs; The Healing Stage; Black women, incarceration, and the art of transformation" on a tan background.

 

Stage healing as a practice of self-repair is generated and sustained by women behind bars in collaboration with the volunteer theater artists who direct their drama clubs. The term is deeply indebted to Cara Page and the Kindred Healing Justice Collective, who characterized healing justice as “how we can holistically respond to and intervene in generational trauma and violence … to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.” This “active intervention,” writes Prentiss Hemphill, makes listening to and collaborating with people who are “imagining transformative responses to harm” other than “feeding Black incarceration” foundational, not only to healing work but also to Black community organizing—in their case, specifically the Black Lives Matter movement.25 Healing justice recognizes that locating alternative, noncarceral responses to harmdoing requires finding ways to “develop and to honor practitioners of many different disciplines and modalities with capacities and skills to be with trauma, who know themselves well enough to navigate the complex terrain of emotion and guide others towards change.”26

Excerpt from The Healing Stage
Read more...