Anomaly #27 :: Translation

FEATURED IN THIS FOLIO

Kelsi Vanada translating Álvaro Lasso
Simon Rogghe translating Louis Aragon
Lida Nosrati translating Ahmad Pouri
Anthony Seidman translating Rodolfo Hinostroza
Paul Sohar translating Zoltán Böszörményi
Mary Jane White translating Marina Tsvetaeva
Julia Bohm translating Catullus

At Anomaly, we’re still thinking about resistance. Hell, in the translation section, we’re always thinking about it. How a language, form, text resists being represented by another, and in this process, what skins are shed, what variants spawned, what illuminating sparks thrown off. Julia Bohm’s translation/erasure of Catullus 85 is a celebration of those sparks, the three versions of the poem illuminating its resistance to such a distant incarnation as 21st century American English as they tease out a new charm and beauty.

Some selections in this issue bring us explicitly political resistance, such as six poems from Álvaro Lasso’s Izquierda Unida, which moves unflinchingly through the stages of idealism, revolution, and as translator Kelsi Vanada says, the ultimate failure of the Peruvian leftist coalition. Others, such as the poems of Zoltán Böszörményi, aren’t expressly about political resistance, but enact it—his choice to write in Hungarian under Romania’s communist dictatorship landing him in an interrogation room. These poems are, translator Paul Sohar tells us, about embracing “the intellectual ferment of the world,” a cosmopolitanism that flies in the face of dictatorship.

Louis Aragon’s experiments in connecting France’s medieval and 20th century literary traditions argue for the form itself as resistance. As translator Simon Rogghe explains, these are sharp, violent incantations responding to “both the effectiveness and the futility of poetry as a political tool.” Despite—or because of—being written in France during World War II, despite—or because of—their invocation of dragons and drought and biblical locusts, they speak powerfully to our current political moment in all its malicious ineptitude.

Aragon is also exploring “the surrealist idea that the poetic voice does not obey the laws of time and space, that it unites past and present within the realm of poetic creation itself,” and it is this idea made literal, made narrative, that animates Ahmad Pouri’s Two Steps This Side of the Line. Pouri’s beguiling Iranian novel is both by and about a translator of Anna Akhmatova, and in this excerpt from Lida Nosrati’s always-painstaking translation, the pseudonymous Ahmad is presented with the baffling possibility of meeting the long-dead Russian emblem of resistance. His pursuit of that encounter leads him into a maze of politics, poetry, and the political/poetic resistance inherent to the work of translation.

Peruvian Rodolfo Hinostroza uses collage and accretion, lyrical celebrations of Eros next to recontextualized political propaganda, and even chemical equations in an attempt to resist that maze, to “escape from history’s labyrinth.” In this ambitious translation by Anthony Seidman, Hinostroza’s “electrifying” difficulty is ultimately about love, lyricism, and “the transformative powers of the Verb.”

Finally, Russian icon Maria Akhmatova—brought back to supposed life in Two Steps This Side of the Line—is herself present here, once again in startling new translations by Mary Jane White. These relentlessly enjambed, emotionally raw poems were written far from home, and speak to the personal fallout of her famous exile, of uncoupled rhymes, broken pairs, a partner from whom she has been forcibly separated. Here, the poet’s voice is a weapon, as exemplified in her question: “Woman, what have you concealed from the guards / Between your tongue and the roof of your mouth?” And when she asks, “Woman, what do you have beneath your shawl?” the answer comes: “The future!”

Anna Rosenwong
Translation Editor
26 December 2018