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Articles tagged "English"

Falling in Love with Bahia & Brazil: On Negritude, Saudade, & Surrender

I have been trying actively to stave off a case of Brazil-o-philia since the early 2000s when I lived in pre-gentrification Brooklyn. Preventive care for me looked like resisting the allure of capoeira classes, which offered the promise of instant friendship and community, endless references to obscure terminology, a pet name (as a West Indian, it’s hard for me to resist affectionate teasing and nicknames), and a warrior physique. Determined to keep my hot foot off Brazilian soil, I...

In Praise of Nonconformity: The Queer Issue

Welcome to our annual salute to international queer literature. This issue, our seventh, comes at a less than celebratory time in the US. The current presidential campaign has propelled public discourse to new lows of coarseness and blunt prejudice, and the euphoria following last June’s repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act has petered out in the face of continuing anti-gay sentiment, most recently expressed in the rancorous debate over transgender bathroom access. Behind the bigotry...

Bridging Distances: Three Hispanic Canadian Authors

There is a substantial gap in the current discourse on Latino Lit in North America. First, some context: The landscape of Canadian literature is vast and varied: It comprises works written in the original languages and in the official English and French, Quebec literature, and a small percentage of works published in nonofficial languages and in translation. The country itself is far from being a cultural or linguistic monolith, although it may often be perceived as such from the outside....

On Cuban Time

A broad promenade runs up the middle of the leafy boulevard, still known to locals by its Spanish colonial name, Prado, that divides Old Havana from Central Havana. On weekends when the weather’s fine, artists offer their work to tourists there: black and white photographs of street scenes, etchings on handmade paper of dancing stovetop coffeepots, luscious Cuban women, Charlie Chaplin, Che Guevara, and Marilyn Monroe, oil paintings of cityscapes that always feature a classic car or...

Interview with Mary Jo Porter

Images: Mary Jo Porter If paradise ends where choice begins, as Arthur Miller observed, then our digital age fantasy of paradise as a tropical island with no Internet collapses with our choice to travel to one. The permanent inhabitants of such an island, who live without Internet access or the luxury of travel, would likely have a lot to tell the world about life in paradise, if only they could get online. As of 2016, these inhabitants represent 95% of the Cuban population. In January...

Obama in Havana

December 17, 2014 The night before Raúl was to address the Cuban nation to make an important announcement I was invited to a gay party in Playa, a middle-class district of Havana. The host, who worked for the state film institute, had invited several dozen friends—mostly professional men in their twenties and thirties—to celebrate San Lázaro, patron saint of difficult causes and an important figure in Cuban culture. Some of the guests worked in culture, others in...

Women, Writing War

Since Odysseus paddled home to Ithaca, most of the world’s great war stories have belonged to men. Men have written them and men have starred in them, because, for the most part, male soldiers have occupied the frontlines from Sparta to Verdun. In addition, men’s voices have been the dominant voices elsewhere in literature, why not in war? In the landscape of contemporary conflicts, this no longer holds true. Now, more women travel to battlefields, as soldiers, aid workers, and...

From “Clarice: The Visitor”

  I         “At three in the afternoon, I’m the most demanding woman         in the world . . . When it’s over, six in the afternoon comes, also         indescribable, in which I turn blind.”...

Terra Incognita

I plugged my poem into a manhole cover That flamed into the first guitar, Jarred the asphalt and tar to ash, And made from where there once was Ground a sound instead to stand on.   "Terra Incognita" from The Ground by Rowan Ricardo Phillips. © 2012 by Rowan Ricardo Phillips. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. 

Crossing Boundaries: Ten Moroccan Writers

I went to Morocco for a year in 2014 to translate a book of poetry by Ahmed Bouanani. I was originally introduced to Bouanani’s work in the summer of 2013 by Omar Berrada, the director of the library at the international arts residency Dar al-Ma’mûn, located just outside of Marrakech, where I would volunteer for the year. From my first day in Morocco, I tried to keep my eyes and ears open for more Moroccan writers whose work resonated with me, for writing that was doing...

Uyghur Modernist Poetry: Three Contemporary Writers

The Uyghur people, who live primarily in the Xinjiang region of northwestern China, have for many centuries held poetry and poets in high esteem. While many aspects of Uyghur life have been altered by social, cultural, and political change over the last century, the importance of poetry in Uyghur culture remains undiminished. Perhaps that’s why modernist poetry, which burst onto the Uyghur literary scene thirty years ago, initially inspired such vigorous debate. The modernists,...

Graphic Novels at WWB: The First Ten Years

Ten years ago Words without Borders published our first graphic novel issue, presenting seven pieces by French, German, Polish, Spanish, and Russian artists. We were so delighted with the result, and with the response, that we made it an annual event, scheduled each February to coincide with the conclusion of the Angoulême Comics Festival, the most important in the field. As our fondness for the form and our awareness of its singular narrative ability increased, we also began...

The Reverberations of History: Contemporary Austrian Literature

The variety and exuberance of contemporary Austrian writing is little known among English readers. Often lumped into the unwieldy category of German-language literature or overshadowed by Austria’s literary giants, many of its most interesting writers have yet to be translated into English. A country of eight million people, Austria has six official languages. A century ago, under the Hapsburg Empire, more than twice that many ethnic and linguistic groups were bound in a fruitful if...

Translating as Transformative Experience: Columbia’s Word for Word

For the fourth year in a row, Columbia University’s School of the Arts hosted a reading to celebrate Word for Word, an exchange program that brings together pairs of writers from different countries and languages to translate each other’s work. For the past three years, Columbia students collaborated with German counterparts. This year, they partnered with students from Scuola Holden in Turin, Italy and Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. The American...

Translating to and From a Native Language

My first English word was KNIFE. I learned it at a preschool center run by the highbrow weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta for the children of its busy writers and editors. It was like a boarding school where we were left Monday through Saturday. It sounds much more glamorous than it was in reality. In Russian, the boarding school was called disdainfully a shestidnevka, meaning "six-day care." The shestidnevka was a run-down villa surrounded by a tall iron fence on a side street off Bozhedomka...

The A to Z of Literary Translation: W, X, Y & Z

Worldwide web development and the long-tail phenomenon offer new opportunities for the visibility of literary translation. Electronic translation software is to be avoided. Postcolonial and new immigrant writing benefit from cross-frontier digital exchange. And lesser known cultures and languages can become more familiar to wider audiences—Ala Al Aswany's runaway seller The Yacoubian Building (translated by Humphrey Davies), comes to mind.   Xenophobia feeds off ignorance...

The Last Farm Novel?: An Interview with Michiel Heyns

I met Michiel Heyns—author, translator, and professor of English at Stellenbosch University from 1987 until 2003—last year when he was here in the U.S. as a visiting professor at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. He's a tall, large-framed man who easily dissolves into crinkles of laughter, quickly revealing a gentle spirit beneath the somewhat imposing exterior. He's an ideal dinner companion—charming, erudite, gracious, and full of wit. And though our...

from “City in Crimson Cloak”

March marks the end of the long dry season in Rio. It's the month when the tropical rains begin, rains that persist for days, nights,weeks. A huge army clad in black suddenly spreads over the horizon; it approaches at a gallop, full speed, and attacks just like that, without warning. It descends upon the city like an abominable, inescapable fate, without even allowing time to pull down the shutters. A furious, savage, vengeful, insufferable, merciless downpour . . . The sky finally...

An Interview with Hisham Matar

Concern. I think that was what I craved. A warm and steady and unchangeable concern. In a time of blood and tears, in a Libya full of bruise-checkered and urine-stained men, urgent with want and longing for relief, I was the ridiculous child craving for concern. And although I didn't think of it then in these terms, my self-pity had soured into self-loathing. —Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men Hisham Matar was born in New York City in 1970 to Libyan parents and spent his...

The Grammar of Easter (You Don’t Say That in English)

The rate at which Christian festivals were upstaging the local, traditional ones was accelerating. To the older generation, who professed the traditional religious faith, the rapid transformation was simply stupefying. To the middle-aged, younger generation, the educated elite, the change was a welcome miracle, an evangelical achievement, the rewards of which they hoped to reap in paradise. They returned to their small villages in full Christian fervor and forced their parents to renounce...

The Book about Blanche and Marie by Per Olov Enquist

In Andrè Brouillet's famous painting of neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot's lecture on female hysteria, a woman is draped over Charcot's assistant's arm. She is placid and completely sensual in the cold room; her dress has fallen from her shoulders and a nurse reaches out to help her as she swoons. This woman is Blanche Wittman, the favorite hysteria patient of Charcot, the head of the women's psychiatric hospital. Brouillet's painting was the only existing...

Egyptian Literature Today

As the largest Arabic-speaking country (at 70+ million inhabitants and counting), Egypt, with its teeming capital of Cairo, plays a disproportionately large role in the intellectual and cultural life of the Arab world. From the pan-Arab nationalism of the 1950s and 1960s to the Islamist movement of today, Egypt has always been at the forefront of new ideas in the region. But while Egypt is very much part of a greater Arabic-speaking literary and cultural milieu, Egyptians are also keenly...

In Other Words: A Foreword

I rather suspect that when Sofia Coppola made her movie Lost in Translation, she prayed that it might turn out to be, if nothing else, a succès d'estime. Had that turned out to be true, her hopes would have had a nicely linguistic irony all of their own, since the French phrase is barely translatable itself, and refers to a phenomenon-an artistic creation unlikely to make much money but loved by the wiser critics-that, incredibly, is matched by no handy off-the-shelf equivalent...

Scots: The Auld an Nobill Tung

What is Scots? Is it Gaelic? A dialect of English? English with a Gaelic brogue? A hodgepodge of English and Gaelic? In fact, none of the above. Scots is "ane o the wee leids o Europe, ane o the leids o Scotlan, alang wi Gaelic an Suddron." Linguists consider it an autonomous West Germanic language, with its own dialects-Glesca, Aberdonian, Doric, Shetlandic, Orcadian, Black-Isle-and its own standard literary language, Lallans (Lowlands). Its closest relatives are English and Frisian....

from “Mew” instead of “Moo”

I should declare in a steady and powerful voice that the world itself is just a prolonged "mew," which has been fried and served to us instead of a noble "moo." -V. Khlebnikov You ask me what America looks like? America looks like the Aegean Sea. In the West it is inhabited by tribes of bellicose Hollywood people. In the East there are trade cities of Phoenicians and New Yorkers. In the middle, there is a large archipelago of universities and colleges, and boats of cunningly smart...

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