Even not-happily-ever-after endings are preceded by a certain amount of speculation about what is to come. As a matter of course, all the important changes in organizational structure and relevant administrative decisions take place on the last Thursday of each month, ushered in by a few days heavy with anticipation and flare-ups among the employees.
Sabah sits in front of the computer screen, Americano in hand, trying to concisely respond to customer queries.
I feel the wall with my bare hands, the peeling paint, the cracks along its surface…. They’re just superficial and haven’t impacted the solid masonry. There’s no light coming through.
The soaring, towering wall is solid; it is two lights and one darkness long. This is how I measure the passage of time in the endless enclosure of this space, either as glaring light or as pitch darkness…. Once, to figure out how long it was, I hugged the wall, reaching its farthest edge after two lights and one darkness. Truth be told, this exhausted me, and I may have slept one or two lights without knowing it.
We were happy children. Fear didn’t stop us from doing what we wanted whenever we wanted. The clock had no place in our daily lives, as long as we were armed by play and by the secret weapon of Allah y-saʿdak, that Iraqi phrase that we used as a password to keep the soldiers at bay.
But when it came to rescuing me from the claws of a heart sickness that sent me to the hospital, twenty-nine years after the invasion, the password didn’t work. In truth, I don’t know what struck me. It seemed that my heart could no longer contain the force of all the memories of the days of the invasion, when I was a nine-year-old who spent most of his time playing football or riding a bicycle. The stream of images pushed my heart rate to over 160 irregular beats per minute. As doctors struggled to figure out the reason, I myself was certain of it.
The cold stings your skin as you walk out of the hotel. It’s your first visit to Europe. You’re with a cultured friend who knows these countries well and, most importantly, is an art enthusiast. He immediately suggests, with a friendly and zealous shake of the head: “How about a museum?” And you think it’s a great idea. Restaurants, cafés, streets, tourists, crowded squares… they’re the same everywhere. But if you go to a museum, you’ll be able to show off about it to your co-workers. And it’ll be a conversation starter with Sarah, the woman you can’t stop staring at, who has an odd-looking painting in her office and who once told you that it was by someone called Dalí, although you’ve already forgotten the rest of the name.
If their history together hadn’t begun this way,
they both would have been left alone, each with their war.
August—hellish, the bathhouse filled with bodies.
She squeezes the familiar palm and comes to life again.
Everything that has happened and didn’t happen to them,
is established, set in stone, unforgettable,
Cho Ji Hoon’s “Sorrow of Phoenix” appeared eleven months before the Pearl Harbor attack in the literary magazine Moonjang in 1940. This poem, along with “Old Fashioned Dress” and “Monk Dance,” published a year earlier, are considered to be among his major works. Born in 1920, Cho Ji Hoon grew up under Japan’s oppressive colonial rule after the demise of Chosun Dynasty in 1910 and has said that the foundation of his poetry was his attachment to what was vanishing from his native culture. He longed for the beauty of traditional Korea.
The following is a translated excerpt from the novel Antes que desaparezca by Sylvia Iparraguirre, published in 2021 by Alfaguara.
Unannounced, the past invades the Russian literature class one autumn morning in Buenos Aires. I’m facing one of the windows of the museum library, talking about Pushkin. It’s raining outside and I allow myself a few seconds’ pause—after all, I’m the one teaching the class—to linger on the beauty of the rain falling on the sculptures in the modern interior courtyard, the clear water sliding down the bronze.
The following are two stories from Evil Flowers by Gunnhild Øyehaug, translated by Kari Dickson, published by FSG (2/14/23).
The Cliffs, When Dead
To get to the top of the White Cliffs of Dover was not that hard. It was, in principle, just a matter of walking. Moving one foot in front of the other, up a narrow, romantic path through the green grass. The hardest part was getting to England in the first place. Being a neurotic and booking flights could be problematic. Veronika knew all about that. Because she was a neurotic.
Translating the poetry of Ana Carolina Assis can best be described as an ebb-and-flow process. By this I mean that her poetry seems to possess its own current, with waters that rise and recede from one line to the next. Tapping into this current is precisely what proved key to translating Ana’s poetry. Like many contemporary Brazilian poets, Ana largely favors the omission of punctuation, often creating ambiguity in how a line or stanza should flow. She also does not capitalize proper nouns. In English, I maintain the lack of capitalization, including
We’re pleased to offer these new translations from ON CENTAURS & OTHER POEMS by ZUZANNA GINCZANKA, translated by ALEX BRASLAVSKY, out from World Poetry Books this month. This is the first selected volume in English of Zuzanna Ginczanka, a visionary Polish-Ukrainian-Jewish poet of the inter-war years whose life was cut short by the Holocaust.
Zuzanna Ginczanka (1917-1945) was a Polish-Ukrainian-Jewish poet of the interwar period. Born in Kiev, which her parents fled to avoid the Russian Civil War in 1922, Ginczanka began writing seriously as a child in Równe, Poland (now Rivne, Ukraine). She was nationally recognized for her poetry by sixteen years of age. Encouraged by a correspondence with poet Julian Tuwim, she moved to Warsaw in 1935. There she became associated with the Skamander group and the satirical magazine Szpilki, and befriended many writers including Witold Gombrowicz. Her 1936 collection, On Centaurs, was widely lauded upon its release. At the start of World War II, she moved east, living in Równe and Soviet-occupied Lviv. In 1942, after the German takeover of Ukraine, she escaped arrest and fled to Kraków on false papers to join her husband. She was arrested in 1944 and shot by the Gestapo a few days before Kraków was liberated by the Soviets. After the war, her last known poem “Non omnis moriar…” was used in court to testify against her denouncers.