Sofia Belimova

Playing Frankenstein: An Interview with Alison Entrekin


Image of Alison Entrekin

When I met with Alison Entrekin for this interview, the first thing I noticed was all the books she carried with her: fat dictionaries, field guides on botany, one on the birds of northeastern Brazil—the type of book generally known only to birdwatchers and ornithologists—not to mention a copy of Dylan Thomas’s 1954 radio drama, Under Milk Wood. I thought, only in the hands of a translator, an obsessive sort of word junkie like Alison, could such an assortment of books assemble.

We sat down to discuss her work in a coffee shop/bookstore in Santos, Brazil. As we made small talk, Alison, almost in passing, nodded toward the bookshelf above us lined with guidebooks on Brazil for gringo tourists. She explained that she had translated many of these guidebooks into English, a long time ago. She told me this, it seemed, neither to emphasize the extent of her work, which is no doubt impressive, nor to boast—and there is much to brag about—but in a self-reflective sort of manner, more to herself, as if surprised by how far she has come, from translating tourist guidebooks to now being the most sought after English translator of Brazilian literature. Her long list of translations includes works like City of God by Paulo Lins, Cristovão Tezza’s The Eternal Son, Chico Buarque’s Budapest, Clarice Lispector’s Near to the Wild Heart, and Blood-Drenched Beard by Daniel Galera.

Playing Frankenstein: An Interview with Alison Entrekin

Author Postcard Auction 2020

Image of TC logo with headshots of authors participating in postcard auction

It’s that time of year again: bid for a personalized, handwritten postcard from your favorite author through The Common’s seventh annual author postcard auction! The personalization of the postcards makes them fantastic gifts, just in time for the holidays.

Join in on the fun this year for a chance to receive a postcard from New York Times-bestsellers, National Book Award-winners, and MacArthur Fellows. In the past few years, authors have famously gone all out with their postcards: expect to receive anything from long letters to drawings and doodles to haikus. 

New this year, in celebration of The Common’s 10th anniversary, some bidders will also receive rewards from Penguin Classics! The first and every fifth bidder, plus the highest bidder and top two underbidders (just missed out on winning!), will receive one of a handful of books from the gorgeous Deluxe or hardcover Vitae series including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, George Elliot’s Middlemarch, and the autobiography of Frederick Douglass.

Online bidding will open to the public at 10 am EST on November 9, 2020. Participating authors include literary powerhouses such as André Aciman, Susan Choi, and Valeria Luiselli, as well as writer-performers Jenny Slate and David Sedaris. Newcomers to the auction include acclaimed writers Anne Carson and Phil Klay and world-renowned singer/songwriter Natalie Merchant.

If you’re interested in supporting The Common but don’t want to bid, click here to donate

Author Postcard Auction 2020

Nobody Goes to Mértola



The Alentejo is the landscape of heartbreak. Or at least it was to me. Even its trees are clearly loners, set apart from each other at distant intervals across miles of sere brown fields. The Alentejo is all about waiting, from its numbered cork trees, with their skinned underbellies between harvest years, to the fabled, and perhaps fictional, nun Mariana, writing from Beja to a lover who will never come back. The Letters of a Portuguese Nun have been awaiting an author, an answer, for three and a half centuries now. Once celebrated for sparking a revolution in the European epistolary novel, now considered out of fashion even in Portugal, they remain a literary enigma, the country’s Mona Lisa

Nobody Goes to Mértola



I close my right eye meu olho direito
and see everything tudo                    que
my mother my father meus pais              no meu país    
know                                                            não sabiam 
to do                                                tudo
            then                               que fazer?
                                                                      e hoje, minha vista cansada


Playing Proctor



“… and there is promise in such sweat.”
      —John Proctor, from The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

Given this ruddy, straightened wig no one could place
my face on a spectral scale of “ethnic.” I slid

on and off stage. I spoke plain. I didn’t name names. Some 
audiences mistook me for Muscogee Creek. I spoke

in first person. Under that wig I wore cornrows 
in Oklahoma’s emaciated winter.

Playing Proctor

Enter Different Electronics (II)



35 Enter inhale. Enter time. Enter inheritance. 
Enter or else. Enter doors with handles,
without handles, manually manipulated. Enter alone 
feelings. Enter tension. Struggle entering 
bitterness enter. Love turning towards lust enter. 
Historic languages enter. Human conditions of
oppression enter. Enter roadside assistance. Enter 
talented man killed too soon. Gravemarker write 
L.O.W. Enter near Dayton settlement but 
specifically at Englewood location. Enter chirping 
bird sounds out of the ceiling again. Enter your 
own music mixing up into the chirps of birds. Enter 
memory again. Enter thought again. Enter more and 
more gunshots. Enter yelling. Enter empathy and
critical engagement.

Enter Different Electronics (II)



“Grief is never more than a house being rebuilt.”
Ntolle Mbuyi1

Little Cabindan history 
All the Cabindan strategies were there
To mount the portrait of a free Cabinda. 

The historic chief discoursed on education
The Cabindan earth sketched a faint smile.


Maria, I’m Going to War

Translated by JETHRO SOUTAR

Papá announced, “Maria, I’m going to war,” and stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray. Mamã, clearing the table, gave her usual start. She stood stranded in the kitchen doorway, a dirty plate in each hand.

Going to war meant going out in the dead of night to David’s bar, playing hide-and-seek with military patrols. Our lot’s supporters gathered there after hours, drank a few beers, exchanged questionable information and reliable rumors. It had been the same every night for the last three weeks, since their lot retook the city.

After dinner, Papá would say, “Maria, I’m going to war,” and Mamã would give a start, try to talk him out of it, remind him of martial law and the curfew. 

Then, out of desperation, she’d say, “At least wait for the shooting to die down.”

Maria, I’m Going to War