The Spring 2021 issue, which went live earlier this week, features three poems by Sheri Benning. One of these poems, “Winter Sleep,” serves as the basis for a short film of the same name. Shot in the Rural Municipality of Wolverine Creek in Saskatchewan, the project is a collaboration between Sheri and her sister, the visual artist Heather Benning, along with the filmmaker Chad Galloway.
It has been nearly fifty years since I played college football, but sometimes I still wake up on Saturday with the old feeling. It’s fall, there’s a certain chill in the air, and suddenly I am catapulted back into the bruised light of my dorm room in the early morning, a brisk day dawning in rural Iowa, football weather. I can feel the tingle of anticipation as soon as I open my eyes—a day for running routes and catching passes, blocking down on tackles, hitting, and getting hit.
I was a pass receiver. All night I ran the patterns in my mind until they seemed like second nature: the quick pass over the middle, the sideline or down-and-out, the buttonhook, the post pattern, the fly. The key was getting off the line, feinting the defender—I was quick but not fast and so needed the finesse—cutting on a dime, turning for the ball to come into your hands, holding on afterward. If you touched it, you should catch it—that was the motto I was taught, what I believed. I caught it falling down or stepping out of bounds, I caught it with a linebacker’s helmet planted in my back, I caught it over my left shoulder. I reeled it in with one hand. But I dropped it because I heard footsteps, I dropped it because I took my eye off the ball and looked upfield, I dropped it because I was stretched out and creamed as soon as I touched it. The key was to stay in the moment, to read the defender and keep a Zen-like concentration, run your route with precision. Soft hands. The ball on a string from the quarterback. Keep your head up for the broken play and then improvise, turn, and race down the field while the quarterback looks as if he is going to get sacked. Every now and then he ducks out of it and finds you—you’re floating free. You can see the ball lofting in the air, there is no one else around. Do not take your eyes off it. It takes thirty or forty minutes to come down … Read More
“The writing of Enrique Vila-Matas,” Adam Thirlwell writes in his introduction to the Art of Fiction interview in our current Fall issue, “is marked by a dazzling array of quotation, plagiarism, frames, self-plagiarism, digressions and meta-digressions: an intense and witty textual delirium that has made him one of the most original and celebrated writers in the Spanish language.” Vila-Matas has not only written in nearly every genre, blending fiction, essay, and biography into a single form, he is also the director of two short films, Todos los jóvenes tristes and Fin de verando, as well as a former film columnist for the magazine Fotogramas. We asked him to tell us what he has watched during these past few months of isolation.
Malian-French director Ladj Ly realizes a tense and impressive X-ray analysis of a Paris banlieue weighed down by an infinite number of problems.
A fantastic film from the Safdie brothers (Benny and Josh, filmmakers with a grand future) that places us in the insanely fast-paced shoes of a Jewish jeweler in New York City.
Based on Story of Your Life, a perfect novella by Ted Chiang, this film directed by Denis Villeneuve confirms that we ourselves are science fiction.
A poetic and subversive film from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón brings us into the world of Cleo, a servant to a family in Mexico City’s Colonia Roma at the beginning of the seventies.
Bande à part
A marvelous Anna Karina, and a memorable film from the seventies that I have returned to once again to invigorate myself. The director, Jean-Luc Godard, described it as “Alice in Wonderland meets Kafka.”
To showcase the variety of the short stories published in the Summer issue, we asked the five writers to select a single sentence that marked the moment they first knew what story they were writing.
This sentence struck me because it is delivered completely innocently, almost boastfully. It tells us that the narrator has learned about sex in a way that occludes the danger of pedophilia. “Men” shouldn’t kiss “girls,” obviously. Girls are children. Men are adults.
To celebrate our Summer issue, we asked each of the six featured fiction writers to share an image that evokes their story.
Tanner’s striking use of color here evokes for me some of the mood of my story, as does the depiction of Washington’s eyes, which seem as haunting—and haunted—as I would imagine my narrator’s eyes to be.
The poetry in the Summer 2020 issue hails from Portugal, Uruguay, Iran, France, India, China, Lithuania, and the United States. To celebrate the range of this work, we asked the translators responsible for bringing these poems to our pages to explain a particular challenge they faced in the process of translation. As Margaret Jull Costa says in her Art of Translation interview, “There’s something so very intimate about poetry and about the process of translating it.” The following essays in miniature attest to this delicacy.
Translating from a Romance language (Portuguese) to a Germanic one (English) always involves the choice of how Latinate to sound. The English language derives both from Latin and German and often offers two words for every idea. One can say “Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost,” “sacred” or “holy,” as Jorge Luis Borges reminds us, and most words representing abstract ideas stem from the Latin while the majority of words exemplifying concrete ideas come from the Saxon. In a newspaper article, the choice may be irrelevant; in a poem, the choice matters.
One such instance in our translations of António Osório is the noun serpente, which may be rendered as serpent (from Latin) or snake (from Proto-Germanic). In the poem “Crater of the Beginning,” we chose the former, whereas in “The Circus,” we opted for the latter. In “Crater of the Beginning,” the serpent is a mythological symbol in the biblical sense, so it is obviously the tempter in the book of Genesis that best fits the translation. In modern English, the word snake gradually replaced serpent in popular use, so we considered snake the more appropriate noun in “The Circus,” given the poem’s modern-day context. Our choice of the monosyllabic word snake also accomplishes three things: it renders the sense of immediacy, it fills the reader’s imagination with circus-related stunts, and it acts out onomatopoetically the hissing sound (the sn- consonant cluster) of the limbless, scaly, elongate reptile.
Finally, the Portuguese verb estava (meaning “was”) in the last line of “The Circus” provides another example of the Latin-versus-Germanic choice. Unlike English, the Portuguese language has two separate verbs for to be: ser and estar. If we were to succeed in transmitting the intensity of the poem’s final image, we needed an alternative to the ordinary meaning of estava. We needed a muscular verb capable of specifying the seductive nature of the scene. By opting for the verb stand to refer to the position of the snake, we conferred strong physicality to an otherwise lukewarm verb, and we let its presence assume an upward movement within the poem itself, as if it would spiral up through the preceding lines of the poem and subsume it all into itself. In addition, the sibilant consonants (snake and stand) enact the hiss, which in turn enhances the uneasiness, thus making vivid what is only latent in the Portuguese. —Patricio Ferrari and Susan Margaret Brown, translators of António Osório’s “Crater of the Beginning,” “September,” and “The Circus” Read More