I used to think of translation as a process, as what happens when you move words from one language to another, recreating meaning, effects, echoes. Creating new elements, too, out of potentials buried in the source text.
Now I’m starting to think of translation as a place. Part of what makes it conceivable as a locality is your constant effort to get to know it and imbue it with meaning. To fashion it out of meaning, first, and then to layer it with more. Words are responsible for its strata and its topography, and then for its weathering.
Edition 4 brings together seven translation places. It opens and closes with experiments in self-translation that, as the author-translators will tell you in their accompanying notes, come close to drifting free of meaning altogether. To my mind, their willingness to teeter on this precipice is one path for newness making its way into a culture. Hold your breath: skirt the edges of meaning with them.
The edition is arranged into two suites of translations, hinged by one other. The first suite, from Gamilaraay, Indonesian and Georgian, has a post- and anti-colonial thread. The bridge piece is a story translated from youthful, suburban Parisian French. And the closing suite is propelled by movements symptomatic of our globalised world: there is poetry by an ethnic Albanian Kosovar writing from Mexico in non-native Spanish, a multilingual text that is a collaboration between friends, and an act of creation born of travel across both space and time. Let me introduce them to you.
1. Alison Whittaker translates one of her poems into her language, Gamilaraay, and then back into English, to see what newness might fission there, to see if the ideas that ‘vaguely stir’ might find articulation. Her evocative translator’s note, a work of art in itself, explores translation as a fiercely political and restorative act.
2. In ‘Just One Bullet’, Pamela Allen translates Iksaka Banu’s story from the Indonesian. It is set in the Dutch colonial period in Indonesia and, controversially for some, encourages the reader to ‘imagine what the world might have looked like from the Dutch side of the fence’.
3. Titsian Tabidze (1895–1937), one of Georgia’s finest modernists, perished in a Stalinist purge. Here, Rebecca Gould translates five of his poems, showcasing how he ‘elaborates a sophisticated critique of colonial governance’ through forging poetical alliances with Georgia’s Muslim neighbours.
4. In ‘Not Me’, Tiffane Levick selects and translates a series of explosive vignettes from Patrick Goujon’s first novel, Moi non, which was awarded the Bleustein-Blanchet Prize. It follows the lives of two young men who live in the suburbs of early-2000s Paris, and its orality sparks with immediacy and lyricism.
5. Alice Whitmore translates five poems from across the span of Xhevdet Bajraj’s career, poems which ‘capture the troubled voice of the foreigner in a strange land’, an uneasy place ‘populated by fallen angels and the ghosts of the poet’s war-torn past’.
6. In 'Not What I Wished For', Shu-Ling Chua, with Ginger Yeh, presents a short story that grew out of a translation; embedded within it is that same translation into Traditional Chinese. In having access to only the translated words, English-speaking readers are given a sense of the piece’s journey, even if we can’t travel with it. Meanwhile, an extra story is hidden in plain sight, there for bilingual readers to discover.
7. Finally, Kay Are offers, in 'This One Place', four poems that are the result of the poet’s words transformed into and between English and Spanish, and ‘spliced through substandard automated translation software’. Taken together, they represent a ‘collaborative failure to communicate’.
Special thanks to our bilingual proof readers, Cecilia Liando, Yunqian Zhan, Emma Rees and Keely Hamilton, for their careful attention and astute suggestions, and to Magabala Books, Media Indonesia, Nina Tabidze, Éditions Gallimard, Ediciones Era, Editorial Praxis, Editorial Ácrono and Casa de los Escritores for their kind permission to publish the originals alongside the translations.
I hope you enjoy Edition 4.