Though Abraham Sutzkever is largely known for the poems he wrote during the Holocaust, Yiddish readers and experts consider the collection Poems from My Diary, which was published in 1977 as a collection of roughly 75 poems but later expanded to around 190 in the 1985 volume Twin Brother, to be his masterpiece. These poems range from musings on his daily life in Israel and memories of life in Vilna, to highly imaginative lyrics. They are much like what they sound like they would be from their title, while they are also much more: unlike diary entries, they are polished and mature. Most of the poems in the volume are sixteen lines long, divided into four quatrains–though there are exceptions, such as the collection’s most famous poem “Who Will Remain, What Will Remain.” Poems from My Diary is a remarkably consistent collection–it led to Sutzkever being awarded the Israel Prize in 1985, the only time the prize has been awarded for original literature written in Yiddish rather than Hebrew.
- Maia Evrona
The two stories featured here were published as part of the 2001 collection Pisma iz ludnice (”Letters from the Madhouse”), whose short stories were written during the author’s years as a refugee in the United States and originally published in the Bosnian-Herzegovinian weekly newspaper Slobodna Bosna. Džamonja spoke of his inability to adjust to his new life, as well as his longing for a Sarajevo that could no longer exist, making him a refugee not only in the physical sense, but also in the temporal sense.
- Aleksandar Brezar
Paul Valéry occupies a key place in French poetry, summing up much of nineteenth-century lyric practice while anticipating the preoccupations of the twentieth. His reputation was made by a small amount of highly polished verse, but he also published numerous essays, dialogues and other occasional work, and left behind the 28,000 pages of his early-morning notebooks filled with notes, aphorisms, and prose poems.
A closer reading of Charms (1922), the collection that in many ways defined Valéry as a poet, belies the accepted image of him as all charm and no substance: the polished surface of his deceptively classical poems ripple with barely contained tensions. Any translator of these poems is therefore faced with the challenge of preserving their measured sense of form and precision of language, while losing none of their underlying force.
- Nathaniel Rudavksy-Brody
Zuhdi Al-Dahoodi is a Kurdish Iraqi who writes in Arabic and German and lives currently in Germany. He was born in Tuz Khormato, Iraq, in 1940. In 1956, he was forced to move to Kirkuk to continue his education after leading a student strike in his hometown against the Tri-Partite Aggression. He attended a Teacher Training Institute in Kirkuk from 1957 to 1959, and then taught in the village of Mama near Kirkuk. He was imprisoned in Kirkuk, Baquba, Ramadi, and Hilla from 1964-66, and then studied at the University of Leipzig, Germany, from 1967 to 1972. He received his doctorate from that university in 1976. Between 1976 and 2005, he taught in universities in Iraq, Libya, and Germany.
He began publishing in 1954 in newspapers and youth journals, and at one time coedited a clandestine newspaper called Sada al-Wa’i (”Echo of the Attentive”). “Two Friends” was included in his first short story collection, which was published in Arabic in 1962. He has published numerous other collections of short stories–including al-Zanabiq allati la Tamut (”Lilies that Do Not Die”; 1978). The novella Usturat Mamlakat al-Sayyid (”The Legend of the Master’s Kingdom”) was published in 1990.
His Arabic novels include Rajul fi kull Makan (”A Man Everywhere”; 1974), Atwal ‘Am (”The Longest Year”; 1994), Zaman al-Hurub (”Time of Flight”; 1998), Wada’an Ninawa (Farewell Ninevah, 2004), Tahawwulat (”Changes”; 2007), Firdaws Qaryat al-Ashbah (”Paradise of the Village of Specters”; 2007), and Dhakirat Madina Munqarida (”Memory of a Dead Village”; 2010).
His books in German, which represent both original works and translations of his own novels, include: Die Kurden (1987), Tollwut Kurdische Erzählungen (1991), Das Längste Jahr (1993), and Abschied von Ninive (2000).
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.
- Adam Siegel
Victoria Estol was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1983. She holds degrees in sociology and social communication. Bicho Bola, her first book of poetry, and the one from which the poems featured here are taken, has been well received by local literary critics. She earned a commendation from National Pablo Neruda Competition for Young Poets and contributed to the anthology Cualquiercosario, co-edited by Uruguay (Yaugurú) and Spain (Libros de la imperdible).
Set in Acadia, the French-speaking region of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Bearsaga (L’Oursiade) presents a tale of two families: one of humans, the other of bears. We meet Ozite, a centenarian losing her eyesight and memory and tending to babble (at her age, it is her privilege!), along with the two orphans she’s raised: Simon the Halfbreed and his young cousin, Johnny. Both men are dispossessed–their paternal origins are unknown to them, and throughout the novel they search for the identity of the man who fathered Johnny.
The bears, on the other hand, have been dispossessed of their home: when a summer fire forces them from their section of the forest, they move into a trash heap. Black Ghost, the chief, must save what is left of his clan, including his mother, Bearagenarian, a twenty-six-year-old sow who is losing her memory…and tends to babble.
While Simon is obsessed with finding the stranger who seduced and abandoned the mother of his young cousin, and while Black Ghost exhausts almost every possible solution to get his clan through the winter, Ozite and Bearagenarian meet and befriend each other. As they prepare to pass on, they look not to where they have come from, but to where they may go after death. Their homespun discussions of rebirth and reincarnation eventually provide an answer to everyone’s questions.
- David L. Koral
The poetic form of flyting, meaning a public literary joust, quarrel, or insult-driven throwdown match, was generally regarded in Medieval/Renaissance Scotland as a jocular (and often court-commissioned) entertainment between friendly competitors, a tournament of talents rather than truly venomous vilifications. The form itself dates back to Old Norse and Anglo-Saxon verse; examples of early flytings include the “Lokasenna” (”Loki’s Flyting”) and the “Hárbarðsljóð” (”Lay of Hárbarðr”), as well as parts of “Beowulf” and Chaucer’s “Parliament of Fowls.” Dunbar, however, set the literary benchmark against Walter Kennedy (a fellow poet and Master of Arts at Glasgow University) for the court of James IV, employing an exhaustive compendium of alliteration, allusion, and altercation. Indeed, Dunbar’s “Flyting” is claimed to mark the first use of “shit” as a personal insult in the Anglophonic canon. Inspired by his example,
Sixteenth century Scots literature blossomed with flytings by such other literary notables as David Lindesay, James V, and Alexander Montgomerie.
- Kent Leatham
The new poems featured here contain the characteristic features of Wróblewski’s verse: urban context, surreal perspective, expressionistic intensity, epigrammatic concision. They highlight his encyclopedic knowledge of literature and culture (with which they remain in dialogue), his fascination with science, technology, and new modes of communication, and his profound understanding of contemporary politics. In his preface to Dwie Kobiety nad Atlantykiem, Polish literary scholar Krzysztof Hoffman establishes Wróblewski’s two current preoccupations: the idea of “planetary power” (as in the poem “Tests on Monkeys”) and “the condition of everyday life.” But these poems also announce the presence of a new element in Wróblewski’s work: a more extensive than ever before use of borrowed material (as demonstrated here by poems like “Renoir and Van Gogh” and “Makamba”). A major technique of conceptual writing, especially as practiced by today’s North American writers like Vanessa Place and Kenneth Goldsmith, here the use of appropriated language acquires a distinctly European flavor.
- Piotr Gwiazda
“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
The Brooklyn Rail welcomes you to our web-exclusive section InTranslation, where we feature unpublished translations of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and dramatic writing. Launched in 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).