All posts tagged: Translation

The Man Who Was Killed


There once was a man who left his home every morning at about six or six-thirty after shaving his face. He sprinkled heavy golden droplets of cologne onto his palm and then patted his cheeks. His cheeks tingled, and he experienced the subtle scent of lemon. The sting and aroma made him feel as if he were passing by a fruit orchard whose scent was dispelled in the air. Next, he put on a clean pair of shoes, one that he had polished as the final chore of the previous day, just before going to bed. He quietly stepped out of the house. In wintertime he encountered the first beams of the rising sun. In summertime, everything was lit already. He picked up a pebble from the sidewalk nearby. He used to choose one carefully, scooping up and inspecting a handful until one special pebble called out to him and his heart was pleased with it. Now he automatically put a pebble in the pocket of his pants, feeling it from time to time. The mute texture gave him comfort, and the solid roundness made him feel that he was carrying something unique and precious, something whose value was not diminished by the fact that it was picked up from the sidewalk.

Megan DoThe Man Who Was Killed

Sample Lesson Plan for Literature in Translation

Learn more about teaching The Common and request a free sample issue.

Living with an Author and a Translator

Adapted from Curtis Bauer, The Common’s Translation Editor, and Director of Creative Writing Program and teacher of Comparative Literature at Texas Tech University.

In this exercise you will explore the multidimensionality of a poem, essay, or story by “living with” the author and translator: reading and thinking about their work every day for a week. This is a multi-step assignment so read carefully and make sure you plan in advance.

Whitney BrunoSample Lesson Plan for Literature in Translation

November 2018 Poetry Feature: New York Elegies

New York Elegies Cover

This month we offer you selections from New York Elegies: Ukrainian Poems on the City, edited by TC contributor, Ostap Kin, forthcoming from Academic Studies Press.

Ukrainian poets have long connected themselves to the powerful myth of New York, offering various takes on its aura of urban modernity, its problematic vitality. New York Elegies demonstrates how evocations of New York City are connected to various stylistic modes and topical questions urgent to Ukrainian poetry throughout the past hundred years.

Julia PikeNovember 2018 Poetry Feature: New York Elegies

Santurce, un libro mural / Santurce: A Mural Book


Santurce, originalmente llamado Cangrejos, fue municipio desde el siglo XVIII, aunque luego fuera anexado como barrio de San Juan. Fue también el primer pueblo fundado por negros en Puerto Rico en 1773, cien años antes de la abolición de la esclavitud en el país. A partir de la construcción del trolley (primero a vapor en el último cuarto del siglo XIX, luego eléctrico a partir del 1901), se cambió el nombre de San Mateo de Cangrejos al de Santurce, en homenaje a Pablo Ubarri, Conde de Santurzi, encargado de la instalación del tren. Durante el siglo XX, en especial durante la modernización del país a partir de los años 40, Santurce se convirtió en el centro económico y cultural del país. Llegó a tener una población de 195,000 personas en 1950. Luego del proceso de suburbanización del país y la construcción de los centros comerciales a partir de finales de los años 60, la importancia de Santurce decayó notablemente. En la actualidad su población ronda los 82,000. Aun así, sigue siendo el barrio más poblado del país.

Los textos que siguen están narrados por Santurce/Cangrejos mismo. Las imágenes son de los murales tal como se reprodujeron e instalaron por todo el barrio. En todos los murales hay una imagen, un texto, el título del libro, un mapa y unas instrucciones para el peatón.

Para más información puedes ver nuestra página web:


Although it was later annexed as a neighborhood of San Juan, Santurce—originally called Cangrejos—has been a municipality since the eighteenth century. It was also the first town founded by blacks in Puerto Rico, in 1773, one hundred years before the abolition of slavery in the country. Since the construction of the trolley (first the steam model in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, then the electric one in 1901), San Mateo de Cangrejos was renamed Santurce in homage to Pablo Ubarri, Count of Santurtzi, responsible for building the commuter railroad system. Throughout the twentieth century, particularly during the modernization of the country which began in the 1940s, Santurce became the island’s economic and cultural center, with a population of 195,000 people in 1950. After the suburbanization of the country and the construction of malls at the end of the 1960s, Santurce’s importance declined significantly. Its population now stands at approximately 82,000. Even so, it remains Puerto Rico’s most populous district.

The texts that follow are narrated by Santurce/Cangrejos itself. The images are of the murals just as they were reproduced and installed throughout the neighborhood. Each mural includes an image, a text, the title of the book, a map, and instructions for pedestrians.

For more information, visit our website:


A grave

Isabel MeyersSanturce, un libro mural / Santurce: A Mural Book

Natal Promise, Natal Debt: On the Recent Poetry of Mara Pastor


A Spanish translation follows the English.


Se acabaron las promesas, / decían nuestros carteles.
[The promises have run out, / our signs said.]


So many perfectly good words have been ruined: Promise. Paradise. Free. Even: Like. Love. Friend. We know that the task of the poet is to renovate ruined words, to make language livable again. To make sure the mouth doesn’t hang off its hinges. To make sure the flame of the tongue stays lit in the storm of speech. But what happens when the poet tires of her labor? In English, this word for work is the same as the word for what a woman must do to push a baby out of her body and into the world. Mara Pastor’s new book of poems, Falsa heladería (False Ice Cream Shop) emerges from a double exhaustion and takes a big breath—then lets loose a current of sound—from the other side.

Isabel MeyersNatal Promise, Natal Debt: On the Recent Poetry of Mara Pastor

Review: Alpha: Abidjan to Paris

Graphic novel written by BESSORA and illustrated by BARROUX. Translated from the French by SARAH ARDIZZONE.


Abidjan to Paris
In 1994, the last year my husband and I lived in Paris, a Senegalese woman named Delphine cleaned our apartment, often bringing her baby girl. At some point, she asked us to help her resolve her immigration problems. The baby was a French citizen; Delphine had come to France to work for French expats returning from Dakar and been let go some years ago.

Emily EverettReview: Alpha: Abidjan to Paris

An Untouched House

Excerpt from the novel by W. F. HERMANS
Translated from the Dutch by DAVID COLMER

Cover of An Untouched House by Willem Frederik Hermans

I went out the back door, across the marble terrace and down into the garden, as I had done so many times before. I looked up at the two windows I had calculated as belonging to the locked room. There was nothing to see. As always, they were covered with blackout paper. Nothing had changed. Walking back and forth, I studied all of the protrusions on the back wall: window frames, downpipes. I couldn’t see any way of climbing up without a ladder. It wasn’t even possible to reach them from the window of another room.

Avery FarmerAn Untouched House

Excerpt from The Occasional Virgin

The Occasional Virgin coverBy HANAN AL-SHAYKH



The sea had depressed Huda ever since she was a schoolgirl, bent eagerly over a drawing of a Phoenician princess walking with her prince beside the sea, while their dog played with a shell. The creature that lived in the shell had dyed the dog’s mouth a purple color that clashed with the blue sea. She had written below the picture, ‘The color purple was discovered in the city of Tyre. Tyre is a Phoenician city situated on the Mediterranean Sea, like Beirut.’ Then she took her crayons and gave the prince and princess the most beautiful clothes, and colored the world around them like rainbows mingling with the blue of the sea, but instead of being happy that she had finished her homework, she felt a pain, different from when she had a toothache or grazed her knee: it began in her throat and descended into her belly, because the world and the colors she had drawn on the sheet of paper were what she longed for, unlike her house, empty of color and pictures and music. The pain attacked her throat and she felt as if she was suffocating because she would never walk by the sea like this prince and princess and their dog, never set eyes on its blueness or the lovely colors of the prince and princess’s clothes except in her dreams, and only then if she dreamt in color and not in black and white as usual.

Whitney BrunoExcerpt from The Occasional Virgin