All posts tagged: Translation

Symphony of the South

By TAHIR ANNOUR 
Translated by MAYADA IBRAHIM 

Dew
Uncle Musa died. A year after his passing, my father headed north. He said he would be back in a month.

It all happened so fast I barely caught it, like a migratory bird resting in a dark corner of the forest, like all the things that crowd my memory. No sooner do they appear than they vanish. When I try to recall the details, to understand what happened, none of it makes sense. Time lures the mind into letting go, submitting to the abyss, but I know the mind is capable of reaching into the well of the past. All these memories, from time to time they pierce through the pitch-black darkness. They gleam and fade into the shadows of this exile, of this rotten world.

On one of the shadowy days before his departure, I accompanied my father to the farm. It was the afternoon. Our farm was just outside the village. People were drying their earthenware in the sun: cups, bowls, pots, censers, jars. Children ran around them and erected little churches. They waded deep into the mud, sinking their hands in as if into spilled blood—the blood of an offering, perhaps—smearing their faces and tossing it at one another. They yelled and called each other names. Their clothes were the color of rust, their faces crocodile-like.

Symphony of the South
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The Day Azrael Committed Suicide

By ARTHUR GABRIEL YAK

Translated by SAWAD HUSSAIN

Note: The following story contains graphic language related to war and sexual violence.

News of the clashes poured into the Gudele district police station from everywhere, not least from the general headquarters of the People’s Army, conveyed by the intermittent, staccato rattling of Kalashnikovs and DShK heavy machine guns, and the roar of tanks that left gutter-deep tread marks on the main roads in their wake. Thick, dark columns of smoke soared skyward from the city of Juba, visible from a distance to Colonel Franco just as he was ending his call with his sister Christina, who told him of how their youngest sister, Rebecca Majok Majak, the doctor working in Bentiu hospital, wife to a Nuer tribesman, was at risk.

The Day Azrael Committed Suicide
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Morning Light

By JEMAL HUMED 
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

The piece appears below both in English and the original Arabic.

 

For the fighter Taha Mohammed Nur [1]

1

The hallway is cold and disquieting, lined with austere doors marked with consecutive numbers, giving no indication of their occupants.

The corridor is never-ending, leading to a room at its end whose grand entryway, formidable and rigid, seems to surveil the movement of the other doors.

He stood in front of it and straightened his service uniform. He took deep breaths, as if to expel the fear that had accumulated between his ribs on this particular morning inside the prison.

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A Cause Postponed

By SIMON ABRAHAM ODHOK AKUDNYAL
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

 

The teacher, Ms. Nyiboth, was tenderhearted and gorgeous, with a small, proud beauty mark on the bottom of her left cheek. Her features added to her charm, and as for her voice, it had some hidden magic; whenever we heard it, we were tickled by a kind of madness that made us go still and quiet, as if a gentle breeze had blown through the class. I remember the time fate smiled on me and I got a perfect score on that month’s test; you wouldn’t believe how happy I was when Nyiboth came close and patted me encouragingly on the head. Her hand was soft, her warm touch enveloped me, and there are no words for how I felt; it gave me goosebumps. And now here I was, being beaten like a mangy donkey in front of her. How degrading!

A Cause Postponed
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A Slippery Coffin

By AHMED SHEKAY
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

 

I hear a sound at my apartment door, and I just know it’s her. I follow her down the stairs. As I put my left foot onto the first step, I see the tips of her curls as she rounds the bend and, a moment later, glimpse her sneakered left foot as she takes her final step between the stairs and the exit. Then she’s swallowed up by the trees in the Ostpark. I tell myself, Good for Ababa, getting some morning exercise, and run after her, looking for her among the trees and in the forms of the other people out jogging. Every time I see a thick derrière, I’m sure it’s her and no one else, but when I get close, they start looking nervous, fear visible in their eyes, and jump out of my path. It takes me a full hour of looking to figure out why they’re acting this way, at which point, I’ve almost frozen from the cold. My breath has left frost on the tip of my nose, my tongue is parched, and I begin to cough violently. But I have absolute faith that she knocked on my apartment door and then ran away: Who else would do that? She’s the only visitor I’ve been wanting.

A Slippery Coffin
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Human Trees Are Not Moved by Wind

By ADAM YOUSSOUF
Translated by ADDIE LEAK

 

The Mango Garden

Birds of prey circled in the distant sky, watching the Earth’s surface: nothing, just warm air and a hot sun that spilled its rays angrily, recklessly. Sando jumped over a stream of dirty water and walked briskly down the road until he saw a group of young boys squatting on the road, defecating on piles of filth. He paid them no heed and continued a bit farther, where he saw another group playing football, bathed in thick dust, creating a commotion as they ran after their small ball. They yelled excitedly, calling each other after famous footballers, bellowing frenzied orders and laughing. One boy whimpered over his scraped knees, and others stood outside the circle, cheering and whispering.

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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
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Zero

By STELLA GAITANO
Translated by SAWAD HUSSAIN

 

I am completely alone, even though I’m not by myself. Here, filthy chickens scratch at the earth around me in search of worms and kernels. Next to me sits a pile of tatty newspapers—old news that I chew over when I’m beset with a yearning to read. I also keep a lot of family photos. Pictures of my children at different ages, from birthdays and other occasions, as well as pictures of work colleagues. Life that we have lived, frozen on these rectangles of stiff paper; how quickly we are ushered into the past by just glancing at one.

Zero
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Translation: Poems from The Dickinson Archive

By MARÍA NEGRONI
Translated by ALLISON A. DEFREESE

Poems appear below in English and the original Spanish.

 

Translator’s note:
The Dickinson Archive is a series of 72 short meditations exploring the creative process through the lens of New England poet Emily Dickinson’s lifework and words. Dickinson said she was in the presence of poetry when “I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off.” The Dickinson Archive is a book that elicits such responses. Its poems, based on a few of the 9,000 words that Dickinson used most often, get under our skin and into our bones—whether our internal scaffolding is thick as a mammoth’s tusk or delicate as the rib of a songbird. Though María modestly describes the book as a “tribute,” the unique and unconventional pieces in this archive showcase Negroni’s own experimentation with form and language. Moments in these translations where word choice or grammatical structure may give the reader pause are not accidents; they are examples of Negroni at her finest as an experimental writer forging a cadence, locution, and syntax all her own. The Dickinson Archive is a book about play and creation. What light and lightness to translate such poems, to join this dialogue between women that spans continents and centuries, to channel the spirit of Emily Dickinson’s work through María Negroni’s words.

Translation: Poems from The Dickinson Archive
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Kidnapped

By AINUR KARIM

Translated from the Russian by SLAVA FAYBYSH

 

Piece appears below in both English and the original Russian.

A rectangular, beige apartment building squats under an overcast sky. Dead branches and leaves crowd the foreground.

A typical apartment building in a residential area of Almaty.

Translator’s Note

There are probably many reasons why people in the West don’t know much about Qazaqstan. Not only do we not know much, but the little we do know is probably all wrong, as much of what we’ve heard is skewed by who told the story. Most people in the U.S. have never read a short story or seen a play or movie written by someone from Qazaqstan (not much is available, frankly). That’s why it was such a delight to be able to translate this excerpt from Ainur’s as yet unfinished novel.

I also imagine that many readers may not be aware of the existence of bride kidnapping, so my hope is that “Kidnapped” will not only introduce something new, but it will demystify the custom from the beginning. I myself did not know anything about this cultural practice until I sat down to translate the story. And now, being a translator means I get to share it with others. Bride kidnapping has been on the rise in Qazaqstan since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Having said that, Ainur made clear to me that the way it works in the real world varies, and it often doesn’t look quite like it does here.

—Slava Faybysh

Kidnapped
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