“We’re going through some difficult times, as you surely know. Who can tell what the future holds for us, for you, me, the planet? Nothing’s simple. Care for some water? No? As you wish. After all, if you’ll allow me, I believe I can confide in you, a person in my position is very much alone, terribly alone, and you’re some kind of doctor, aren’t you?”
“Not really…” the Investigator murmured.
“Come, don’t be so modest!” said the Manager, tapping his visitor on the thigh. Then he took a long, deep breath, shut his eyes, exhaled, and opened his eyes again. “Remind me, what’s the exact purpose of your visit?”
“To tell the truth, it’s not really a visit. I’m here to conduct an investigation into the suicides that have affected the Enterprise.”
“Suicides? News to me… I’ve been kept out of the loop, no doubt. My Coworkers know it’s best not to cross me. Suicides, imagine that! If I had been aware of them, God only knows what I might have done! Suicides?”
When Liborio Uribe found out he was going to die, he wanted to see for the last time a certain painting of Aurelio Arteta’s. He had spent his whole life in the deep-sea fisheries, plying the seas aboard the Dos Amigos and, like his son Jose, captain of the Toki Argia, was the hero of unforgettable stories that were subsequently forgotten forever. Years later and confronting that same painting, his grandson Kirmen, a writer and poet, goes seining through those family stories to write a novel. Bilbao-New York-Bilbao takes place during a flight between the airports of Bilbao and JFK in New York, and unravels the history of three generations of the same family. By means of cards, diaries, e-mails, poems, and dictionaries, it creates a mosaic of remembrances that together make up a memorial to a world that is nearly extinct, and at the same time a praise-song to the endurance of life. With this novel, Kirmen Uribe had a brilliant debut on the Hispanic literary scene. The work received the National Prize of Literature 2009, the Critics´ Prize 2008 in Basque language, the Ramón Rubial Foundation Prize, and the Booksellers Guild of Euskadi Prize. Considered to be one of the most outstanding innovators of present-day literature, Uribe delves into the waters of autobiography with a rich, complex, and evocative style that is truly moving.
The entries that make up Dinge, die verschwinden (Things That Disappear) originated in part as columns that novelist, short-story writer, and theater director Jenny Erpenbeck published in the respected German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. This work is a reflection on farewells, gathered under such headings as Men, A Simple Life, the Warsaw Ghetto, Words, Cemetery Visits, Garbage, and Memories. A blend of grief, melancholy, and humor, Dinge, die verschwinden assembles slivers of daily life into a portrait of the transience of life.
The City: Discoveries in the Interior of Vienna
The City… is a collection of essays documenting Gerhard Roth’s extensive exploration of the city of Vienna. He takes the reader behind the scenes of the Natural History Museum and the Austrian National Library. He reports on the extensive art and treasure collections of the Habsburgs, visits the Josephinum, the historic Vienna School of Surgeons with its Museum of Forensic Medicine, and the famous Clock Museum. Roth complements these essays, which explore humanity’s fight against transience, with reports of his visits of the institutes for the blind and the deaf and the refugee camp of Traiskirchen. In these essays, he portrays the challenges facing humanity in a new global world.
Dr. Konrad Feldt, a bibliophile and an employee of the Austrian National Library, discovers the theft of a rare handwritten Mozart musical score. The culprit, a fellow employee, hands over the score to Feldt and commits suicide. Feldt decides not to return it to the library, but to follow through with his colleague’s plan to sell it to a rich collector from Japan. Under the pretext of a lecture tour, he travels to Japan to meet the collector. The rarity and value of the manuscript complicates the transaction, however, attracting criminals. And when Feldt arrives at the collector’s shop he finds him dying, the victim of an assault. Feldt finds himself now a murder suspect. Embedded in the detective story plot are rich descriptions of the Japanese traditions, cityscapes, and landscapes, and the constant danger of earthquakes and volcano eruptions.
The journalist Viktor Gartner travels to Greece in order to write a story about the Greek Orthodox cloisters on the holy mountain Athos. The real reason for his trip however, is to find the Serbian author Goran R., whom he had met during the war in Bosnia and who is rumored to be hiding in the cloister Chilandar. Goran R. has witnessed a massacre similar to that committed by General Mladić in Srebrenica, and he fears for his life. Gartner’s search for Goran R. is accompanied by a series of mysterious, disorienting, and ominous events. One of Gartner’s contacts is murdered; others want nothing to do with him after they find out the real reason for his trip. The journey takes Gartner across the Balkans to Istanbul, where he finally is able to locate Goran R.
This eccentric, grotesque, and thrilling story of a murder and a fatal connection between a man and a woman who are both drowning in the misgivings of their solitude might have happened anywhere. Its theatre setting provides a unique space for the expression of deep passions and hysteria. The theatre is a stage on which the curtains will draw for ever–for the energetic actors, the passive voyeurs, the backstage manipulators. There is no possibility of actors stepping in to play our lives. We are not acting in a one-man-show. Our past and our distress cannot be stripped off like a costume. Even the smallest “role” of one’s life should be played with the utmost conscientiousness. Visiting director Buch has only a strange suspicion that this is so, but writer and dramatist Birgit knows it very well. And those whose knowledge is so true are in the danger of being silenced.
The title Runners is taken from a nineteenth-century religious sect in Russia, extremists who believed the only way to remain free of the devil’s influence (embodied by the established church and state) was to remain ceaselessly on the move. The book, made up of interwoven fragments of narrative and essay on a wide variety of distinct topics and set in a wide variety of periods and places, revolves around the ways in which all people are always attempting to escape something by never being fully at rest. Preoccupied with the workings of the human body, the mechanism of death, and how people connect with and disconnect from each other, Runners is an unsettling, thought-provoking, and elegant work. Another excerpt from Runners, also translated by Jennifer Croft, recently appeared in eXchanges.
At the center of Wasted Morning is Vica Delcă, a simple, poor woman in her 70s who has endured the endless series of trials and tribulations that was Romanian history from WWI to the end of the twentieth century. She’s a born storyteller, chatting and gossiping tirelessly. But she also listens, and it is through her that the author is able to show us a panoramic portrait of Romanian society as the fortunes of its various strata shift violently. Rich or poor, honest (more or less) or deceitful, all of the characters in this polyphonic novel come vividly to life. From Bucharest’s aspirations to be the Paris of Eastern Europe to the darkest days of dictatorship, the novel presents a sweeping vision of the personal and collective costs of a turbulent century.
Antonia Arslan is a former professor of Italian modern and contemporary literature at the University of Padova. She is the author of innovative studies in nineteenth century Italian literature (Dame, droga e galline. Il romanzo popolare italiano fra Ottocento e Novecento) and the “submerged galaxy” of Italian women writers (Dame, galline e regine. La scrittura femminile italiana fra ‘800 e ‘900), and, with Gabriella Romani, the author of Writing to Delight: Italian Short Stories by Nineteenth-Century Women Writers. Through the poetry of the great Daniel Varujan (who died during the Armenian Genocide), which she translated with Chiara Haiganush Megighian and Alfred Hemmat Siraky, she rediscovered her profound and unexpressed Armenian identity. Since then she has written and edited scores of books and articles on the topic. Among them are her edition of a brief history of the Armenian Genocide (Claude Mutafian, Metz Yeghèrn. Il genocidio degli Armeni) and a collection of memoirs of the survivors of the Genocide who lived in Italy (Hushèr. La memoria. Voci italiane di sopravvissuti armeni). She wrote her first novel, La Masseria delle Allodole (Skylark Farm), because she could not help doing so. The characters, those people whose lives had been cut short, called to her. They wanted to be heard. She wrote her second novel, La Strada di Smirne, to continue their story.
From the thirteenth to the fourteen century, two Persian poets of Indian background changed literary history. The most famous is Amir Khusrow, who has attained iconic status in South Asian historiography. The second is Amir Khusrow’s friend, rival, and contemporary, Hasan Sijzi, whose work has almost been forgotten, except by devotees of classical Persian poetry. (Although in Central Asia, where the longest standing tradition of modern scholarship exists [see Salmatshoeva], and South Asia, where Hasan’s poetry has until recently been neglected, scholars have begun to rediscover the founder of the South Asian ghazal [see Borah; Jahan 1998]). Although Hasan’s fame does not approach that of Amir Khusrow, many medieval Persian poets acknowledged Hasan to be superior to Amir Khusrow in the domain of the ghazal, a genre introduced to South Asia. Amir Khusrow himself was among Hasan’s admirers; he acknowledged the inspiration he drew from his fellow poet:
Khusrow, your poetry contains the secrets of speech
but your words breathe Hasan’s poetry.
Shibli Numani, arguably the most famous modern Urdu critic, offered much the same praise to Hasan as a poet who surpassed Amir Khusrow in the domain of the ghazal (Numani 1: 131). Concerning Hasan’s prose recollections of the Sufi Shaikh Nizam al-Din Awliya, entitled Fawa’id al-Fuwad (Morals of the Heart), Amir Khusrow was even more enthusiastic:
If only all my writings were inscribed with the name of Hasan
if only Hasan’s book would be inscribed with my name.
In addition to his many ghazals, Hasan also composed a verse narrative called Ishqnama (Love). This narrative tells the story of a Muslim man who falls in love with a Hindu girl. Contrary to the common practice of widowers burning themselves on pyres when their husband died, the Muslim man in this particular narrative burns to death on a pyre after his wife’s death. Until Amir Khusrow and Hasan Sijzi, such tales had never been part of Persian literature. These two Delhi poets Indianized Persian, and thereby influenced the future of Indo-Persian literary culture.
Morals of the Heart testifies to Hasan’s preference for keeping a distance from courtly life. Like Amir Khusrow, but to an even greater extent, Hasan severed his connections with the court late in his life. From 1307 onwards, Hasan completely broke with the Khalji court and turned to Shaikh Nizam al-Din Awliya as his spiritual guide. He eventually moved to Dawlatabad, a city in southern India to which Mohammad Tughluq had moved his capital in 1327, with the intention, according to one scholar, of “preaching Islam” (Jahan 1998: 9). Hasan died just under three decades later and was buried in Khuldabad in the district of Aurangabad in modern-day Maharashtra.
Called the Sa’di of Hindustan even during his lifetime, after the most famous Persian poet and didacticist of the thirteenth century, Hasan’s ghazals probe the depths of human condition, asking what it means to love, to die, and to be born. Their meaning is frequently as ambiguous as the gender of the beloved (Persian does not distinguish between male and female pronouns; I have chosen to translate the neutral third person by “she” though the beloved Hasan had in mind may well have been male). But even and especially when their precise referents are ambiguous, these ghazals seek, and sometimes find, that space where language overcomes mortality. (Rebecca Gould)
Born in Anhui Province in 1967, Yang Jian worked as a factory laborer for thirteen years. A practising Buddhist and scholar of Chinese traditional culture, he began writing poetry during the mid-’80s. Laureate of the first Yiu Li’an Poetry Award (1995), the ninth Rougang Poetry Award (2000), the first Yulong Poetry Award (2006), and the prestigious Chinese Media Literature Award (2008), his books of poetry include Dusk (2003), which was rated as one of the ten best books of the year, Old Bridge (2007), and Remorse (2009). Yang Jian also paints with ink and brush. He now lives in Ma’anshan, Anhui.
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Published since April 2007, InTranslation is a venue for outstanding work in translation and a resource for translators, authors, editors, and publishers seeking to collaborate.
We seek exceptional unpublished English translations from all languages.
Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry: Manuscripts of no longer than 20 pages (double-spaced).
Plays: Manuscripts of no longer than 30 pages (in left-justified format).