These five translations are all taken from Anna Margolin’s first and only book of poetry, published in 1929 and simply titled Lider, which means both “poems” and “songs” in Yiddish. While this book was well received by Yiddish readers and critics, following its publication Anna Margolin stopped publishing poetry and eventually became a recluse. Nevertheless, Lider has gone on to become a classic of Yiddish-language literature, with some of its poems even being set to music.
– Maia Evrona
“Wish You Were Here” is a delightful memoiristic short story by Pavel Lembersky. It brings together the grungy old 42nd Street porn theaters, the New York City blackout of ’77, JD Salinger, John Lennon, Central Park, American tourists in Moscow, and an immigrant’s gradual acculturation in one of the most exciting cities in the world, to form a work of beauty, humor, and intelligence.
The story is a cacophonic symphony that celebrates all the ugliness and prettiness and nastiness and love that make New York City such an interesting place to live. Con Ed goes bust one day and the streets go dark, but for a young Russian immigrant who’s just learning to make the city his own, there’s no need for panic. In the small armies of men breaking into stores and stealing vacuum cleaners, televisions, and lamps, he divines a sign of salvation: at least the criminal faction believes the electricity will eventually go back on. “Wish You Were Here” is also a romantic picaresque about a guy who’s just trying to find a place to make it with his girlfriend: a movie theater, a dark alley, his parents’ home. The story ends, as all New York stories should, with a miserable apartment search and a wall that looks out onto nothing. We are told, at one point, that “to stay in Brooklyn is to stay an immigrant forever.” This is a million-dollar line, but one that’s also bankrupt–for immigrant, as Lembersky shows, is just as much state of mind as street address.
– Ross Ufberg
“Clemens Berger, the Austrian playwright,” writes Damion Searls, “was telling the audience one of those stories–you know the kind–about ‘untranslatable’ words, in this case a word from an indigenous language in southern Patagonia, and the word means, well, when a man and a woman are in a bar, and he looks at her, and she looks at him, and they look at each other and their looks say okay I’m interested in you but you need to make the first move and come over to me? The word means that. Everyone laughed, Clemens Berger is charming and tells a good story. I was on the panel as the translator, of his play Angel of the Poor, and he’d told the audience the story because I had just said that as a translator I didn’t like to admit that anything was untranslatable, and now I said: ‘See, you translated it! You told us in English and everybody laughed!’ He said: ‘But you can’t translate it in one word–‘ and I said: ‘Well, what matters more to you, how many words it has or whether everybody laughs?'”…
Evgueni Bezzubikoff Diaz was born in Huancayo, Perú in 1978. He studied at the Colegio Salesiano and graduated from the Instituto Pedagógico Nacional Monterrico (IPNM) in 2000 with a degree in Education, majoring in the English language. He has lived in the United States since 2001, but wrote poetry well before his voluntary exile to this country, winning IPNM’s Primer Premio de Poesía, Libertad Bajo Palabra, in 2000. Cartas de Nueva York was published by Hipocampo Editores (Lima, Perú) in 2007. His new book, Crónica del Adiós will be published in 2010 by the same press.
Marina Temkina was born in Leningrad in 1948 and emigrated to New York City in 1978. She has published four books of poetry in Russian: Chasti chast’ (A Part of A Part), V obratnom napravlenii (In Reverse), Kalancha (Watchtower), and Canto Immigranto. Temkina’s first book in English, WHAT DO YOU WANT? (just out from Ugly Duckling Presse) consists of several texts made for installations or as part of handmade artist’s books, and two poems translated from Russian (by Vladislav Davidzon and Alexander Stessin) accompanied by installation images and original drawings by the author. Many of her other poems have been translated by Alfred Corn. She is a past recipient of an NEA grant and a Charles H. Revson Fellowship on the Future of New York at Columbia University.
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).