All posts tagged: Translation

Words We Use to Talk About Home: An Interview with Abeer Khshiboon, author of “The Stranger”

ABEER KHSHIBOON interviewed by NASHWA GOWANLOCK

 

headshot of Abeer Kshiboon

Abeer Khshiboon’s short story, “The Stranger” is featured in Issue 23’s portfolio of stories from Palestine. Here, Abeer and translator Nashwa Gowanlock discuss the story’s inspiration and the context in which its events unfold.

Words We Use to Talk About Home: An Interview with Abeer Khshiboon, author of “The Stranger”
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Translation: “Soliloquy” by Zhang Qiaohui

Poem by ZHANG QIAOHUI

Translated from the Chinese by YILIN WANG

Poem appears below in both English and Chinese.

 

Soliloquy 

You know where Grandma is buried, but do not know 
where Grandma’s Grandma is

Jiaochang Hill’s graves have long been displaced, now covered with lush greenery 
In the mortal world, a saying, “to have no resting place even after death” 

          I stand at the old burial ground, waiting for more fragments to surface  

He claimed women over forty are the most ruthless
She wasn’t moved by the romance of the moon and winds 
The twenty-year-old woman he adored was so lyrical 
She envied the grave and the peach blossoms blooming around it  

To be in full bloom is to join boisterous masses in slaying oneself
Whereas, to die, is a soliloquy  

          Standing before the demolished graves,
          I remember the young lady among the peach blossoms
          I am still waiting, for spring grass to sprout from concrete 

 

独白
张巧慧

你知晓祖母葬于何处,却不知道
祖母的祖母在何处

教场山上的坟墓早已迁走,草木葳蕤
在人间,有个短语叫死无葬身之地

——我在遗址上,等待更多碎片呈现

他说四十过后的女人最为无情
她不为风月所动
他爱恋的那个二十岁的女人善于抒情
她羡慕一座坟以及坟前盛开的桃花

盛开,是喧嚣的集体自尽
而死亡,是独白

——站在拆迁的墓地前
我忽然想起桃花坞的姑娘,
我还等着青草从水泥地里长出来

 

Translator’s Note

Zhang Qiaohui’s poem “Soliloquy” portrays a speaker who stands at Jiaochang Hill, reflecting on the lives of the women who lived before her and on the changes that the world has seen across numerous generations.

Many of Zhang’s poems are set in the city of Ningbo, China. “Soliloquy” is no exception. In the second stanza of this poem, the speaker refers to a place known as Jiaochang Hill. The area used to be called Shaiwang Hill, “the hill for hanging nets,” because the hill overlooks the sea. In the Ming dynasty, guard towers were built in the area, and a part of the hill was turned into a training ground (a jiaochang) for soldiers. The place was thus renamed Jiaochang Hill, which continues to be its name to this day. 

For many years, Jiaochang Hill was a cemetery where people were buried. When Zhang Qiaohui was still in school, she sometimes sat quietly in the cemetery, letting her thoughts dwell on history, on eras of war and prosperity, and on death. The cemetery on Jiaochang Hill has been relocated in recent years, and the hill has been transformed into a busy public park. Through reflecting on the history of the area and how it has evolved over time, Zhang Qiaohui’s poem asks us to ponder the meaning of life in an era of rapid change.

One of the challenges that I faced when translating this poem was how to render the Chinese idiom “死无葬身之地” into English. The phrase refers to a cruel and tortured life, where one cannot even rest in peace after they have died, because there is no place for one’s body to be buried. According to traditional Chinese views on death, it’s crucial to honor and respect the dead by burying them properly and laying them into the ground, or else they would never be able to rest in peace long after their passing. Based on the meaning of the source text, I have chosen to translate the idiom as “to have no resting place even after death” as to evoke the dual meaning of the word “rest” in English.

The opening two lines of the poem were my favourite lines to translate: “You know where Grandma is buried, but do not know / where Grandma’s Grandma is.” They ask me to reflect on my own relationship with my ancestors and family history, because as an immigrant who has lived in the diaspora for most of my life, I know so little about my grandma’s generation, let alone anything about my grandma’s grandma’s life.

As a translator who works from Mandarin Chinese, my heritage language, I see the act of translation as a way for me to reconnect with and reclaim my cultural roots and literary heritage. I am thrilled for the chance to translate this poem about ancestral history and the passing of time into English and to be able to share it with new readers.

—Yilin Wang

 

Zhang Qiaohui 张巧慧 is a Chinese writer, poet, and essayist. She has published five poetry collections and an essay collection in Chinese. Her writing has appeared in Chinese journals including People’s Literature, October, and Poetry Journal, which has named her one of China’s “top 20 most innovative women poets.”

Yilin Wang (she/they) is a writer, poet, and Chinese-English translator living on the unceded lands of the Coast Salish peoples (Richmond, Canada). Her writing and translations have appeared in Clarkesworld, Fantasy Magazine, POETRY Magazine, The Malahat Review, CV2, Words Without Borders, and various other publications. Yilin is the winner of the 2021 Foster Poetry Prize, the recipient of a 2021 ALTA Virtual Travel Fellowship, and has been longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop. 

Translation: “Soliloquy” by Zhang Qiaohui
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Two Poems by Alejandra Pizarnik

Poems by ALEJANDRA PIZARNIK

Translated from the Spanish by ILAN STAVANS

Image of shadows of a fern and other plants reflecting against the background of tree bark in golden hour sunlight.

Mexico City, Mexico

Translator’s Note

Translation is home. Whenever I travel, I seek it either by reading translations, or by translating as a grounding exercise. Lately I have been translating into English poems from Jewish Latin American poets, specifically works by conversos or those written in Yiddish and Ladino by immigrants and their offspring. And—in a room of her own—Alejandra Pizarnik, whose life makes me think of Emily Dickinson. I recreated these two poems while visiting my mother, who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s. Pizarnik distills the fibers of existence so as to reveal the madness that palpitates underneath. Her poetry is contagious. The toughest part is to convey her silences. I wish I had met her.

—Ilan Stavans

Two Poems by Alejandra Pizarnik
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In the Fog

By ADA NEGRI

Translated from Italian by LAURA MASINI, CHONA MENDOZA, and LINDA WORRELL

 

Story appears in both English and Italian below.

 

Translators’ Note:

“In the Fog” is taken from Le Solitarie (1917), Ada Negri’s first collection of stories, astute portraits of marginalized women struggling with poverty, exploitation and loneliness. Raimonda is a young woman who was horribly disfigured by a fire in her childhood. Only in the dense and murky fog of Milan, her face concealed by a “nebulous mass of vapors,” does she feel free.

We decided to work together at the close of a week-long Italian translation workshop at the British Centre for Literary Translation and we chose this story because we were captivated by Negri’s richly evocative prose. Much of our lively collaboration, helped along by Tuscan reds, seppie in zimino, minestra di fagioli and lesso rifatto, took place in Lucca and Florence.

                                                            —Linda Worrell, Chona Mendoza, Laura Masini

In the Fog
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Day Trip

By IZZAT AL-GHAZZAWI

Translated by NARIMAN YOUSSEF

The village had many corners, of which the far western side, leading to the bus terminal, was the bleakest. Om Saber sat on the clean plastic bench installed by the village’s youth committee and waited for the first microbus to take her to the city. With an anxious movement, she reached into her bra to check on the piece of paper she had placed there. Abu Hosny, the old taxi driver, had written down for her all the instructions that she needed to get to her destination: Shatta Prison, where the sweetest part of her now resided, which made distance and time nothing but an illusion. A large cat rubbed its dewy fur on the hem of her black dress. Om Saber smiled and tried to stay still so as not to disturb the cat. She smiled again when she found the paper in its fold.

Day Trip
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Well-Lit Garden

By ZIAD KHADDASH

Translated by AMIKA FENDI

 

Well-Lit Garden

I was leaving El Rafidayn supermarket in Ramallah. I had bought coffee, wet wipes, and two cans of tuna. One of the Israeli occupation’s patrols was parked at El Rafidayn roundabout. I was alone in the area, and the hour was approaching midnight. The patrol blew its impudent horn. I ignored it and kept my course due home. But a soldier opened the window and called out, “Come over here, monkey.” 

Well-Lit Garden
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Curses

By EYAD BARGHUTHY

Translated by NASHWA GOWANLOCK


He stormed out of the house, yelling and cursing. His belly, hemmed in and taunted by high-waisted underpants (which had once been white), flopped over his waistband as if trying to flee from his too-short pants. He cursed those raucous kids; cursed their parents, those bastards; cursed the father who spawned those wretched creatures. As for his other neighbors: in a matter of seconds they were at the black iron railings, gripping onto the bars that surrounded the high windows to stop reckless children from falling yet still allow the adults to enjoy the view over the city. Meanwhile, the Syrian characters of the soap opera were left to discuss amongst themselves the various methods of smuggling weapons and prisoners, and how to free themselves from the yoke of the French colonizer.

Curses
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Who Drew the Curtains?

By SHEIKHA HUSSEIN HELAWY

Translated by NARIMAN YOUSSEF

 

The pores of life are clogged in this room. Making it difficult to breathe. There’s a hanging smell of death that’s impossible to miss. Visitors are unnerved by it. Except those visitors whose nerves have been hardened by the tedium of their dutiful weekly visits to the woman at the far end of the room: boredom and emptiness compressed into no more than half an hour.

Who Drew the Curtains?
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The Roc Flew Over Shahraban

By SAMIRA AZZAM

Translated by RANYA ABDELRAHMAN

 

Slowly, we raised our heads as hellish cries echoed in our ears, and we looked up in awe and fear. The sky was a summery blue with no trace of a cloud, and the sun had spread out, occupying every corner. We lowered our gazes, licking our bluish lips as we exchanged panicked glances. Our cracked feet were rooted to the furrowed mud, as if our slightest movement might stir up the screeching. We chewed over our terror for a few minutes, our parted lips emitting silence. Our mounts were as terrified as we were, and they scattered around the courtyard at the inn, fear spurring them to shake off the torpor of the midday heat.

The Roc Flew Over Shahraban
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