Zuhdi Al-Dahoodi is a Kurdish Iraqi author who has published many short stories and novels in Arabic. His university studies were in Germany, and he has taught there and in Iraq and Libya.
The short story “Two Friends” comes from his first short story collection and draws on his experiences as a young primary school teacher. In this story, the narrator, who is a very young primary school teacher, receives a lesson in hunting and in life from a sixteen-year-old student who began primary school fully grown.
Eclogue is the story of Lavinia, a widow who travels with her two young daughters from her port city on the Black Sea to the village of her husband’s kin: a small rural community in the Romanian Carpathians. Lavinia succeeds to raise her daughters through strength of character and hard work as the village seamstress; in the second half of the poem, the story of the younger daughter, Lena, becomes a focus as well. The featured excerpts, in fact, concern the grown-up Lena more than her mother Lavinia, although as the future continuation of Lavinia’s being and, in many ways, her attitudes and values, Lena’s story is of course an extension of the primary one.
Throughout Eclogue, however, it is Lavinia who is the protagonist, bearing her own life, but she also serves as a shrewdly perceptive witness who knows everybody and lets us hear her muted voice as we hear the villagers’ voices. To them, she is paradoxically an outsider, the other, in turn respected and distrusted, and likewise an insider who gradually became part of this mountain locale with its pastoral heritage. The events take place at a margin of space on the still-remembered border between the former Austrian and Ottoman empires. And they fill a thin, transitional margin of time: the Soviet takeover of Romania following World War II.
With its ironic title, Ioana Ieronim’s Eclogue is, to the author, a kind of novel in verse, a book intended to preserve and understand one small place, subject to traumatic change, as a lens for much more than itself.
Romina Doval teaches at the University of Buenos Aires. She has translated several books from French into Spanish, including Isabelle Rimbaud’s Mon frère Arthur. Her short stories and essays have appeared in a wide range of magazines, newspapers, and anthologies, including the featured story, which appeared as “La edad de la razón” in La joven guardia. Nueva narrativa argentina (The Youthguard: New Argentine Fiction).
Sylwia Siedlecka teaches at the University of Warsaw and in the Collegium Civitas. Trained as a Czech and Bulgarian scholar, she knows seven living languages and three dead ones. “Children” is taken from her debut book of fiction, Szczeniaki (Puppies), which appeared in 2010. A recurring motif in the collection is death; Siedlecka is interested in particular in exploring the feelings of the bereaved in her work.
Forschungsbericht, at less than 40,000 words, is perhaps the most immediately accessible of Fichte’s ethnographic novels: set in the coastal Belizean city of Dangriga over the course of a two-week visit in February 1980, it depicts the attempts of Fichte’s alter ego, the writer Jäcki, and his companion Irma, the alter ego of Fichte’s long-time companion, the photographer Leonore Mau, to investigate the religious practices of the Black Carib (or Garifuna) community in Belize. The centerpiece of the novel is Fichte’s unsuccessful attempt to observe the dugu, the Garifuna feast for dead ancestors, which is presided over by the local buyei, or shaman, to placate the departed.
Forschungsbericht serves as an excellent point of entry into Fichte’s ethnographic writing, as meditation on both the consciousness of the writer and the creative process, and as illustration of the epistemological problem of knowing anything outside oneself, especially the foreign. Fichte, who originally meant his life’s work to be regarded as a history of tourism in the latter half of the twentieth century (and who might best be thought of as a French writer who wrote in German, a cross between Proust and Lévi-Strauss), is a crucial figure in that century’s literature, and deserves to be more widely known outside the German-speaking world.
Pierre Autin-Grenier (b. 1947) is a French author living in Lyon and the Vaucluse. His many works are difficult to classify, and the trilogy from which the pieces featured here are excerpted is no exception. They feel very much like prose poems, but combined they read (dixit the author) as autobiography. These pieces are excerpts from the first volume of the trilogy entitled Je ne suis pas un héros (1993). The second volume is called Toute une vie bien ratée (1999); the third, L’eternité est inutile (2002). The three volumes together form Une Histoire, which can be translated as either A Story or A History. Among their many charms are their syntactical idiosyncrasies and the author’s prodigiously refreshing use of set phrases and clichés.
Antonio Gamoneda was born in 1931. He is one of the most widely read contemporary Spanish poets. His most successful early work, Blues castellano, dates to the period 1961-66. He then entered a long period of self-protective censorship, from which he emerged upon the death of Franco with the publication of Description of the Lie (León 1977). In 1986, with the publication of the first five sections of Book of the Cold // Libro del frío, he became recognized for the originality of his language and the way in which it enacts psychological processes of personal loss and responds to the conflicted emotions needed for survival. Book of the Cold // Libro del frío is considered to be most vital and innovative volume in Antonio Gamoneda’s body of work. In 1992, a new edition of Libro del frío appeared, including the major poem featured here, “Cold of Limits,” inspired by and written in collaboration with the painter Antoni Tapies. In 2006, Gamoneda received the Cervantes Prize, an honor bestowed annually upon a distinguished Spanish-language author.
Description of the Lie, Book of the Cold, and another of Gamoneda’s works, Gravestones (all of which were translated by Donald Wellman), are deeply marked by the dark years of the Franco dictatorship. Gamoneda’s poetry can be read as a form of witness, but the work itself is conceived and should be understood as poetry marked by distinctive compositional values of a musical order, both in terms of rhythms and interlaced imagery.
Donald Wellman’s translation of Description of the Lie is forthcoming from Talisman House Press.
Anatoly Gavrilov is a contemporary Russian writer of short stories. Born in Ukraine, and a graduate of the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute, Gavrilov now lives in Vladimir and works as a postman. His work was not published in the USSR until 1989. A writer of modest output, Gavrilov’s laconic style and experimental narratives have left their mark on modern Russian prose, particularly the so-called “new prose” movement. The mood of his works is pessimistic. His heroes are despondent and confounded by unexpected twists of fate. His basic theme is the futility of the little man’s existence–the writer has little faith in his heroes’ attempts to change the world. His artistic approach is one of unwavering authenticity and specificity.
Miransù is the name of a place and Monica Sarsini’s family home outside Florence, in the Valdarno. The book is in two voices, Monica Sarsini’s and her grandmother’s; the voices alternate. Each voice follows different memories about the place and relations with generations of family. Stylistically, the voices differ as well: Sarsini’s is intensely physical, though reflective; her grandmother’s more direct, like speech.
Najem Wali, who was born in al-Amarah, in southern Iraq, October 20, 1956, currently lives in exile in Berlin, where he works as a freelance writer and cultural correspondent. In 1978, he earned a degree in German literature from Baghdad University. He left Iraq at the end of 1980 after being imprisoned and tortured and after witnessing the start of the First Gulf War, which has influenced his work. He has studied German literature in Hamburg and Spanish and Latin American literature in Madrid. He has devoted many years to travel and to language study, spending six months in Oxford in 1993, six months in Florence in 1996, and three months in Saint Petersburg in 1998. He writes for major German newspapers and for the Arabic paper al-Hayat and is one of the better-known Iraqi and Arab authors internationally.
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).