“Darkness has come when [the light of the public] is extinguished by ‘credibility gaps’ and ‘invisible government,’ by speech that does not disclose what is, but sweeps it under the carpet, by exhortations, moral and otherwise, that, under the pretext of upholding old truths, degrade all truth to meaningless triviality.”
In Men in Dark Times, Hannah Arendt grappled with the ethical and political horrors of her age, arguing for dialogic thinking as a bulwark against the “oversimplifications, compromises, and conventions” of abusive governments.
These past months have further dimmed our own difficult age, and while the Anomalous Translation team is individually and collectively committed to fighting, we nonetheless want to acknowledge feeling that darkness. Though our last submissions period had no theme, the work that poured in was overwhelmingly eerie, bereft, cruel, or macabre. Some pieces were flatly bleak or abhorrent, but a few engaged us in conversation with their darkness, and left us more present rather than less.
So, as Anomalous takes its first steps into what we hope will be a brighter future, here it is, Translation’s “Dark Issue.” Assistant Translation Editor Allison Grimaldi-Donahue brings us the overview below.
Katrin Ottarsdóttir’s poems translated by Matthew Landrum and Sámal Soll are containers for a pain that fights to set itself free “hope sits in the walls/ of the house/ where tears/ rage/ pain/ hold sway…” and as readers we wait impatiently for the walls to crumble down.
In “Letters” by Joan Todó and translated Meg Berkobien “…it’s the ordinary that terrifies; it’s the ordinary that speaks out of turn.” A rich woman forces her young postman to read loves letter from her husband off at war, making reading a violent, erotic task: “But you’ll do it, you’ll begin again, pausing for a long time at every comma, concentrating on every sound, singing it almost, realizing that the words form chains in a current floating above the rustle of the nearby sea and seagull shrieks and her agitated breath while you read.”
“Let’s diminish masculinity without increasing the feminine. The mine embeds the tear, in italics one craves psychotropic amulets against the melancholy of sulfur.” Giancarlo Huapaya’s poems, selections from Taller Sub Verso/ Sub Verse Workshop (poems E, G, S), translated by Ilana Dann Luna stir with energy and spirit. Linguistically complex they are also completely carnal, leaving deep, lasting impressions.
“Good Intentions” by Juan Gómez Bárcena and translated by Brendan Riley doesn’t allow the reader to turn away from humanity at its worst, moments of intimacy are layered with trickery and violence. The narrator abuses his elderly mother relentlessly: “Mom looks at me again in that strange way, because she tries to remember but her memory is nothing but the same blind wall without any windows.”
“Arms falling/ hands slightly open to the sky…” Maram Al-Masri’s poems translated by Hélène Cardona reveal the daily violence of war in Syria but carry with them a lightness as well, a space for light to still find its way in somehow.
Ali Abdeddine’s poems translated by Shireen Hamza are dialogues with the world’s poets in the hope that poetry can do something the material world cannot: “Language is safe from all harm./ It will traverse the distance of this/ damaged moment.” While there is darkness the despair is tempered by verse itself “Waiting for the poem, I long to be myself/ and no one else.”
In Elisa Biagini’s poem “The Outing” translated by Eugene Ostashevsky “we melt with/ the heat, drop by/ drop, we knead/ back into the sea.” Weaving in and out of depths, lost in the mine of language.
Jeanette Geraci’s translations of both Rainer Maria Rilke and Elvia Ardalani are versions, combining elements of the originals and of her own time and place. In “The Panther” waves carry the heaviness of sleep, of abandon. In “When The Heart Stops Ticking, The Soul Does Not Change Shape” the body is once again released: “Someday, you will abandon yourself/ without resistance.”
“’…and flowers hardly stand to the side of this endless succession/ for they are themselves the journey,/ always journeying, carried away, whisked away…” “Amid the Mounting Ugliness” by Jean-Christophe Bailly and translated by Samuel Martin is a poem that breaks boundaries and though it is a poem about a flower “we unlearn the tired reflexes of lyric sentimentality and commercial appropriation” through the poems rigorous and rapid movement.