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Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 14. Descender

“Even as a child, I belonged to my words and my words only. I don’t belong to a Country, I don’t belong to a specific culture. If I didn’t write, if I didn’t work on my words, I would have no way of feeling my presence on earth. What is a word? And a life? I think that, in the end, they are the same thing. As a word can have several dimensions, several nuances, such complexity, so does a person, and a life. The language is the mirror, the main metaphor. Because, after all, the meaning of a word, just like the meaning of a person, is something boundless, ineffable.”

– Jhumpa Lahiri

“The principle underlying all our solutions”

Cage once told me of a lesson he learned from Arnold Schoenberg, who taught him counterpoint while he was still living in Los Angeles. Cage offered many solutions to a technical problem his teacher posed, but Schoenberg kept asking for yet another answer. “Finally I said—not at all sure of myself—that there weren’t any more solutions,” Cage recalled. “He told me I was correct. Then he asked what the principle underlying all the solutions was. I couldn’t answer. This happened in 1935 and it would be at least fifteen more years before I could answer his question. Now I would answer that the principle underlying all of our solutions is the question we ask.”
– From Tim Page, “John Cage’s Gift to Us”, The New York Review of Books, October 27, 2016.

Cage una volta mi raccontò di una lezione imparata da Arnold Schoenberg, che era stato il suo insegnante di contrappunto quando ancora viveva a Los Angeles. Cage aveva proposto varie soluzione a un problema tecnico postogli dal maestro, ma Schoenberg continuava a chiedergliene ancora una. “Alla fine gli ho detto – per nulla sicuro di me stesso – che non c’erano più soluzioni”, ricordava Cage. “Lui mi disse che avevo ragione. Poi mi chiese quale fosse il principio all’origine di tutte le soluzioni che gli avevo dato. Non lo sapevo. Stiamo parlando del 1935, e ci sarebbero voluti almeno altri quindici anni prima che fossi in grado di rispondere a questa domanda. Ora risponderei che il principio che sta all’origine di tutte le nostre risposte è la domanda che poniamo”.
– From Tim Page, “John Cage’s Gift to Us”, The New York Review of Books, October 27, 2016.

10 ottobre from Absolutely Nothing

Nel parcheggio di un motel di Marfa al calare della notte, Giorgio Vasta e Ramak Fazel, il fotografo che lo accompagna per i deserti e le ghost town degli Stati Uniti, si trovano a discutere, mentre preparano un piatto di maccheroni su un fornello da campo, di antropofagia e del senso ultimo del viaggio. Il “10 ottobre” non è che una delle tante tappe di un libro magistralmente orchestrato, nel quale lo scrittore e i suoi compagni di viaggio diventano altrettanti personaggi di una narrazione che attraversa incessantemente i confini tra scrittura documentaristica e fiction, riflessione e autobiografia.
Absolutely Nothing è il quinto volume della collana di scritti di viaggio pubblicata in collaborazione da Humboldt e Quodlibet. Ringraziamo l’autore e gli editori per averci concesso di riprodurre questo estratto.

While cooking macaroni on a camp stove in the darkening parking lot of a motel in Marfa, Texas, Giorgio Vasta and photographer Ramak Fazel engage in a passionate discussion about anthropophagy and the ultimate meaning of travelling. “10 ottobre” is but one of many stops in a masterfully orchestrated book, where the Italian writer and his fellow travellers though the US deserts and ghost towns become characters in a narration that continuously crosses the borders between reportage and fiction, essay and autobiography.
Absolutely Nothing is the fifth volume of a travelogue series jointly published by Humboldt and Quodlibet. We would like to thank the author and publishers for kindly granting us permission to reproduce this excerpt.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 13. Counter

Specimen embraces the entire world in its diversity and wishes to oppose globalisation in its own territory by engaging–through translation and correlation–all the world’s tongues in dialogue.

Gateway Litfest

Mumbai, India
February 25-26, 2017

“las repercusiones incalculables de lo verbal”

Ningún problema tan consustancial con las letras y con su modesto misterio como el que propone una traducción. Un olvido animado por la vanidad, el temor de confesar procesos mentales que adivinamos peligrosamente comunes, el conato de mantener intacta y central una reserva incalculable de sombra, velan las tales escrituras directas. La traducción, en cambio, parece destinada a ilustrar la discusión estética. El modelo propuesto a su imitación es un texto visible, no un laberinto inestimable de proyectos pretéritos o la acatada tentación momentánea de una facilidad. Bertrand Russell define un objeto externo como un sistema circular, irradiante, de impresiones posibles; lo mismo puede aseverarse de un texto, dadas las repercusiones incalculables de lo verbal. Un parcial y precioso documento de las vicisitudes que sufre queda en sus traducciones. ¿Qué son las muchas de la Ilíada de Chapman a Magnien sino diversas perspectivas de un hecho móvil, sino un largo sorteo experimental de omisiones y de énfasis? (No hay esencial necesidad de cambiar de idioma, ese deliberado juego de la atención no es imposible dentro de una misma literatura.) Presuponer que toda recombinación de elementos es obligatoriamente inferior a su original, es presuponer que el borrador 9 es obligatoriamente inferior al borrador H -ya que no puede haber sino borradores. El concepto de texto definitivo no corresponde sino a la religión o al cansancio.

– From J.L. Borges, “Las versiones homéricas”, in Discusión, 1932.

No problem is more consubstantial to literature and its modest mystery as the one posed by translation. The forgetfulness induced by vanity, the fear of confessing mental processes that may be divined as dangerously commonplace, the endeavour to maintain, central and intact, an incalculable reserve of obscurity: all watch over the various forms of direct writing. Translation, in contrast, seems destined to illustrate aesthetic debate. The model to be imitated is a visible text, not an immeasurable labyrinth of former projects or a submission to the momentary temptation of fluency. Bertrand Russell defines an external object as a circular system radiating possible impressions; the same may be said about a text, given the incalculable repercussions of words. Translations are a partial and precious documentation of the changes the text suffers. Are not the many versions of the Iliad–from Chapman to Magnien– merely different perspectives on a mutable fact, a long experimental game of chance played with omissions and emphases? (There is no essential necessity to change language; this intentional game of attention is possible within a single literature.) To assume that all recombination of elements is necessarily inferior to its original form is to assume that draft nine is necessarily inferior to draft H–for there can be only drafts. The concept of the “definitive text” corresponds only to religion or exhaustion.

From J.L. Borges, “The Homeric Versions”, translated by Eliot Weinberger, in Selected Non-Fictions, Penguin, New York 1999.

The Integrity of a Poem

So you end up saying that the poem does have some integrity and can have some beauty apart from the beliefs expressed in the poem.

I think it can only have integrity apart from the beliefs; that no political position, religious position, position of generosity, or what have you, can make a poem good. It’s all to the good if a poem can use politics, or theology, or gardening, or anything that has its own validity aside from poetry. But these things will never per se make a poem.

– Robert Lowell interviewed by Frederick Seidel, “The Art of Poetry No. 3”, The Paris Review, Issue 25, Winter-Spring 1961.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 12. Contextual

“To be radicant means setting one’s roots in motion, staging them in heterogeneous contexts and formats, denying them the power to completely define one’s identity, translating ideas, transcoding images, transplanting behaviours, exchanging rather than imposing.”
– Nicholas Bourriaud

4+1 translatar

Chur, Switzerland
March 10-11, 2017

She Is Another Country

Commentary to My Arabic Translation of She Is Another Country
By Saleh Addonia
I translated She is Another Country into Arabic, a language I once knew intimately. I say once because when I arrived to London, I decided to forget it (i.e. the written form at least–spoken Arabic is different from written Arabic), for then I felt it was the language of a master. I had to replace it from scratch, and perhaps without being conscious of it, with the language of another master. But learning English wasn’t that easy, if you take into account my deafness; because of it, my main source of learning was the written word. Perhaps, that is why I studied art and design: even if I failed at it, it was an attempt to communicate in images rather than words.
In translating the story, I was also unearthing memories. For when I was searching for words, online or in dictionaries, and found a few alternative meanings, I found myself exclaiming: Ah! yes! I remember this word. I remember that word. I felt enriched by both, the past and the present associations. My sensations and feelings about those words sometimes veered from their given meaning in the dictionary. When I was living in Sudan, I was called a refugee (لاجئ), in Saudi Arabia, a foreigner (أجنبي), and in Britain, I am an immigrant (مهاجر). At the time, I didn’t like the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘foreigner’ in Arabic, and now ‘immigrant’ in English. But ‘immigrant’ in Arabic has a positive connotation. Perhaps that is to do with the prophet Mohammed’s migration to Medina and that of his companions to Ethiopia (المهاجرين).
If I had originally written my stories in Arabic, I think I would  have over-written them. Arabic is a decorative language. I could needlessly have been lost in sea of adjectives and seduced by its lyrically derived words from (mostly) three root letters. I am struck by the child-like intensity of feeling I get upon reading an Arabic word aloud now. I couldn’t say the same with respect to English, which does not prompt me to utter the word and feel it sensually. However, writing the stories in the limited English I have acquired over these 20-odd years made me write very slowly, as the right words would not come easily. This failure to find the words to express my thoughts and the failure to write a sentence correctly after repeated attempts would often lead me to abandon my writing for long periods. Though time-consuming, this slowness gave me more time to think about what I was writing, until perhaps, my intentions had matured. This delay then would become a creative act. Writing in English, the thoughts lead my writing; were I to write in Arabic, the words would.
I am half Eritrean, half Ethiopian. We escaped the war to Sudan when I was 3 or 4 years old. I barely speak my mother’s tongue; Tigrinya. I speak Arabic as well as the Arabs and I speak English well enough (in my own accent) to communicate my ideas. I don’t know how I learnt those two languages, Arabic and English, nor do I know how I lost Tigrinya. And this leads me to say that language doesn’t belong to people nor is it given; it is found and can be lost too. But I would say you’d be better find it young, and when you find it, let it be erotic.

Xiaolu Guo. An Interview by Alice O’Keeffe

For all of you, art provided an escape. When did you realise you wanted to be an artist?
In the book I describe meeting some art students on the beach in Shitang as a very young child, and immediately feeling a connection with them. I think there was a deep genetic memory there – my father was an artist, and my brother also became a painter, though of course I didn’t know either of them at that point. But it was when I started reading western books as a teenager that I felt rage about my own childhood. It was this rage and bitterness that sent me into the world of literature.
– From The Guardian, January 15, 2017.

Per tutti voi l’arte ha rappresentato una via di fuga. Quando hai capito che volevi essere un’artista?
Nel libro parlo dell’incontro con alcuni studenti d’arte sulla spiaggia di Shitang, da bambina, e di come mi sono subito sentita vicina a loro. Credo fosse per via di una profonda memoria genetica – mio padre era un artista e mio fratello è poi diventato un pittore, anche se come sai allora non li conoscevo ancora. È solo da adolescente, quando ho cominciato a leggere la letteratura occidentale, che ho provato rabbia per la mia infanzia. E sono state questa rabbia e questa amarezza che mi hanno spinto verso la letteratura.
– Da The Guardian, 15 gennaio 2017.


alPestine is a dossier of new Palestinian literary voices edited by Adania Shibli. The texts are “A Moment Must Come” by Mays Dagher, an excerpt from the novel “The Pick-pocketed” by Abd al-Mu’ti Maqboul, and “First Year London” by Mahmoud Omar, written in Arabic and translated into various languages for their publication on Specimen.

alPestine è un dossier di nuovi voce letterarie palestinesi curato da Adania Shibli. I testi scelti dalla scrittrice sono: “Arriverà un momento” di Mays Dagher, un estratto dal romanzo “Gli ingannati” di Abd al-Mu’ti Maqboul, e “Primo anno, Londra” di Mahmoud Omar, scritti in arabo e tradotti appositamente per Specimen in varie lingue.

A Trinidadian Friendship: Derek Walcott and Peter Doig

Morning, Paramin is a collaboration between two foreigners who have both spent chunks of their lives in a country that is, as Walcott writes, “full of paintable names.” The book finds Walcott, who has himself always made paintings, and who will soon turn eighty-seven, responding to the dreamscapes of the painter thirty years his junior. On the left-hand pages, prints of fifty-one of Doig’s paintings from the past twenty-five years face poems by Walcott, written in the past two, on the right. Walcott’s free verse dilates upon the places the images evoke for him. A beach scene in crimson elicits an elegy, for instance, for “the wisdom you get from water-bearded rocks”; a painting of one of Paramin’s blue devils prompts an ode to islands whose “heredity is night,” their “bats and werewolves, loups garous, doyennes.” (Read more)

– Joshua Jelly-Shapiro, The New Yorker, January 12, 2017

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 11. Character

The distinguishing nature of something. Any letter, numeral, punctuation mark, and other sign included in a font. The quality of being an individual in an interesting way. Also, in unusual ways.

“A low murmur of provisional consent”

After I’ve written a few lines I let the words slip back into the creature of their language. And there, they are instantly recognised and greeted by a host of other words, with whom they have an affinity of meaning, or of opposition, or of metaphor or alliteration or rhythm. I listen to their confabulation. Together they are contesting the use to which I put the words I chose. They are questioning the roles I allotted them.
So I modify the lines, change a word or two, and submit them again. Another confabulation begins. And it goes on like this until there is a low murmur of provisional consent. Then I proceed to the next paragraph.
Another confabulation begins …
– John Berger, from “Writing is an off-shoot of something deeper,” The Guardian, December 12, 2014.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 10. Central European

Specimen stems from Babel, which was born in the middle of the Swiss Alps. Switzerland, Babel and Specimen have the same mother tongue, translation. To start with, much of Specimen’s content will be in languages related to the region: Italian, French, German, English. Then, with the expansion of Specimen’s network, the addition of more and more languages will map this growth.

Il mezzogiorno from Ore del giorno. 7 gennaio

“Il mezzogiorno” è una sezione della poesia inedita di Vanni Bianconi “Ore del giorno”. Il giorno in questione è il 7 gennaio 2015. Le altre sezioni parlano del risveglio la mattina del compleanno, della separazione, di una casa lasciata e delle strade di Londra. “Il mezzogiorno” tratta della strage nella sede della rivista satirica “Charlie Hebdo”, avvenuta quel giorno, e lo fa attraverso il filtro dell’Iliade, non appropriandosi della sua dimensione epica, o tantomeno eroica, ma di quella meno evidente che ci restituisce i dettagli minimi, tristi, umani delle persone qualunque uccise in battaglia.

“Il mezzogiorno” (“Midday”) is a section of Vanni Bianconi’s unpublished poem “Hours of the Day”. The day is January 7, 2015. The other sections are about waking up on a birthday morning, a separation, a deserted house and the streets of London. “Midday” depicts the Charlie Hebdo killing, which happened that very day, and does it through the filter of the Iliad: not for its epic or heroic dimensions, but, on the contrary, for the human undertones that describe the minor details of the lives, the families and the physical traits of the common people killed in battle, as well as the moment of their deaths.

“When Greece Appears”: Review of “Something Will Happen, You’ll See” by Christos Ikonomou

Ikonomou’s gift is a pragmatic, almost flat narrative of everyday snapshots which builds on small, seemingly insignificant acts. He is a writer unafraid of deep silences and of holding us there. It would be easy to merely dismiss his stories as hopeless, terrifying vignettes of poverty, violence, and racism; he doesn’t avoid these, which is heartening because the accuracy of his language and his depictions is unflinching. But underneath the narratives, buried in a phrase or a thought, is a glimpse of humor, the scent of bitter oranges, the smell of fresh rain after a drought — through small but powerful images of beauty, he manages to connect us with something greater than human misery, and that is simply the fact of being human. (Read more)

– Stephanos Papadopoulos, LARB, March 28, 2016.

“Замерзший кисельный берег. Прячущий в молоке” from Nativity Poems

“Ever since I took to writing poems seriously–more or less seriously–I’ve tried to write a poem for every Christmas–as a sort of birthday greeting. Several times I’ve missed the opportunity, let it slip by. One or another circumstance blocked the road.” At the time of his premature death in 1996, Brodsky had managed to write 18 poems on the Christmas theme, later collected by FSG in the bilingual volume Nativity Poems. Variously inspired by the Gospel stories and, mostly, by Italian paintings, his poems are broad in scope, ranging from the birth scene in the cave to the Flight into Egypt, to Christmas celebrations in an unnamed province of the late Roman Empire, as well as the poet’s native Russia, or his beloved Venice. Brodsky was not a Christian in the strict sense of the term–definitely not a churchgoer–but he possessed a profound sense of the Christian tradition as a major force in the shaping of Western culture. And he was invariably drawn, in his poetry and his life, by the metaphysics of the Gospel and the Ancient Testament alike, which he often found himself expanding beyond the limits of doctrine. “Замерзший кисельный берег. Прячущий в молоке” is here presented in the original Russian, along with an English translation by Brodsky’s great friend and fellow Nobel laureate Derek Walcott, and a translation into Italian by Anna Raffetto, taken from Poesie di Natale, published by Adelphi in 2004.

“Da quando ho iniziato a scrivere versi seriamente – più o meno seriamente – ho cercato di comporre una poesia per ogni Natale, quasi fosse un biglietto d’auguri di compleanno. Molte volte ho perso l’occasione, me la sono fatta sfuggire. Questa o quella circostanza bloccavano la strada”. Così, in un’intervista degli anni Novanta, Brodskij ricordava le sue poesie di Natale, diciotto in tutto, poi raccolte nel volume Nativity Poems, edito da Farrar, Straus & Giroux, in versione bilingue russa e inglese. Ispirate dai racconti del Vangelo e, soprattutto, dalla pittura italiana rinascimentale, le poesie di Natale di Brodskij spaziano nei contenuti e nel tempo, dalla scena della Natività nella grotta alla Fuga in Egitto, dalle celebrazioni del Natale in una provincia del tardo Impero Romano alla Russia natia o alla sua amata Venezia. Iosif Brodskij non era cristiano nel senso stretto del termine – certamente non era un praticante – ma possedeva un profondo senso della tradizione cristiana quale elemento fondante della cultura occidentale. Ed era invariabilmente attratto, sia nella poesia che nella vita, dalla metafisica delle storie neo e veterotestamentarie, che spesso si trovava ad espandere oltre i limiti della dottrina. La poesia “Замерзший кисельный берег. Прячущий в молоке” è qui proposta nell’originale russo, nella traduzione inglese del suo grande amico Derek Walcott, e in quella italiana di Anna Raffetto, tratta da Poesie di Natale, edito da Adelphi nel 2004.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 9. Case Sensitive

Specimen chases second languages in all their forms because translations, multilingualism, echolalias and linguistic hospitalities multiply the layers of language and pronounce diversities. They force us to have second thoughts. They give us a second chance.

Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction

New York, NY, USA
Through March 19, 2017

Tutte le poesie di Giorgio Orelli

Sono usciti in un unico volume curato da Pietro De Marchi i libri di poesia di Giorgio Orelli, compresa la raccolta postuma L’orlo della vita e con un’introduzione di Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo. Le prime poesie risalgono agli anni ’40, le ultime all’anno della morte, il 2013. Orelli ha avuto una vita lunga, ma è stato un poeta relativamente parco e soprattutto molto selettivo. I suoi libri mostrano una continua evoluzione formale e, insieme, una tenace fedeltà ai suoi temi e ai suoi luoghi. La coerenza e la qualità complessiva della sua opera è impressionante. Anche tra i testi scritti a 90 anni si trovano alcuni capolavori che sembrano raggiungere un nuovo grado di semplicità e trasparenza. Per compendiare in due parole il merito della poesia di Orelli, si potrebbe ricorrere all’anagramma italiano tra RILEVARE e RIVELARE e dire che nei suoi versi le due azioni coincidono quasi perfettamente. Questo vale soprattutto per l’Orelli lirico ed epigrammatico.

Orelli è stato anche un poeta civile (lo sanno i politici, gli opportunisti e i mascalzoni che hanno fatto “scricchiare” il suo pennino) e un bravo narratore, sia in versi sia nelle prose di poche righe che ha inserito nei suoi libri di poesia. I temi della fugacità e della morte sono sempre presenti nella sua opera, ma vi appaiono come ombre che, per quanto minacciose, rendono ancora più luminosi i colori della vita. Oppure il contrario: come quel delirio di azalee con cui si chiude la sua celebre poesia del merlo ucciso e schiacciato nel buio di un sottopassaggio. Orelli è fondamentalmente un poeta realista, amava troppo la realtà quotidiana per distanziarsene, ma questo non gli ha impedito di scrivere poesie che hanno qualcosa di fiabesco o, a volte, di onirico e di metafisico, perché la vita si affaccia anche su queste dimensioni.

C’è nella poesia di Orelli un senso ampio del mondo creaturale: ne fanno parte i vivi come i morti, i bambini non ancora nati come i vecchi già simili a sinopie, le vacche del suo paese d’origine in montagna, i gatti e gli uccelli, gli insetti, le piante e perfino i corsi d’acqua e altri rappresentanti del regno minerale. Anche una cassetta della Posta, per esempio, ha bisogno di un’anima per “gialleggiare” e “appagarsi di se stessa”, “inghirlandata di glicine e gracili roselline”.

Tra le sue poesie più note ci sono gli incontri per le strade di Bellinzona, avventure minime ma pur sempre avventure, dialoghi di poche memorabili battute. La forza che guida Orelli nelle sue passeggiate a piedi o in bicicletta è quella del linguaggio. Ogni incontro è anche, per lui, un evento linguistico in cui possono intervenire la tradizione poetica italiana (Dante in primis), lapsus e giochi di parole, le meravigliose uscite e invenzioni dei bambini, i tasselli a volte stranianti di una lingua straniera o le arguzie espressive del dialetto. Tutto questo convive nella poesia di Orelli – come si incarnava nella sua persona – con straordinaria vivacità e naturalezza.

– Matteo Terzaghi

The collected poems of Giorgio Orelli are now available in a single volume that includes an introduction by Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo as well as the posthumous collection The Edge of Life. The first poems date back to the 1940s, and the last, to 2013, the year of his death. Orelli had a long life, but he was a poet of relatively scant output and he was, above all, very selective. His books show a continuous formal evolution and, at the same time, a tenacious loyalty to his themes and locations. The consistency and overall quality of his work are impressive. Even among the texts he wrote at the age of 90, there are some masterpieces that seem to reach a new level of simplicity and transparency. Orelli’s work is notable for the way in which it discerns and reveals the details of everyday life, giving them an enhanced meaning.

Orelli was also a poet who tackled social issues (a fact well known to politicians, opportunists and other reprobates, against whom his pen “scratched”) and a good storyteller, both in verse and in the short prose pieces that he included in his poetry books. Themes of transience and death are always present in his work, but they appear as shadows and outlines that, however threatening, render the colours of life even brighter. Or they appear as the opposite: like the frenzy of azaleas that concludes his famous poem about the blackbird killed and crushed in the darkness of a tunnel. Orelli is fundamentally a realist poet; he loved day-to-day reality too much to distance himself from it completely, but that did not stop him from writing poems that have aspects of fantasy and fable to them, sometimes even the dreamlike and the metaphysical, because these dimensions are part of our lives as well.

Among his best-known poems, there are encounters on the streets of Bellinzona; adventures that are slight, but still adventures; dialogues composed of a few memorable lines. Orelli’s driving force, that which takes him on his journeys, whether walking or cycling, is language. For him, each encounter is also a linguistic event into which he can introduce the Italian poetic tradition (that of Dante, first and foremost), puns and Freudian slips, the wonderful inventions of children, the sometimes alienating snippets of a foreign language or the telling witticisms of a dialect. All of this coexists in the poetry of Orelli – just as it was embodied in the poet himself – with extraordinary vivacity and naturalness.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 8. Borders

“Because civilizations are finite, in the life of each of them there comes a moment when the center ceases to hold. What keeps them at such times from disintegration is not legions but language. Such was the case of Rome, and before that, of Hellenic Greece. The job of holding the center at such times is often done by the men from the provinces, from the outskirts. Contrary to popular belief, the outskirts are not where the world ends – they are precisely where it begins to unfurl. That affects language no less than the eye”.
– Joseph Brodsky

New Literature from Europe Festival

New York, NY, USA
December 7-10, 2016

Retour à Kimihurura

Twenty years after the Rwandan genocide, Marembo, the book by Dorcy Rugamba from which “Back to Kimihurura” is taken, emerges as one of the most telling reports of what really happened. Unlike most accounts of the genocide, there are no historical reconstructions or political and sociological analyses in this book. It is simply the story of the author’s family that was decimated on the morning of April 7, 1994. In spite of the atrocities, Rugamba succeeds in giving us a luminous tale of familial love, a powerful meditation on culture and spirituality, as well as an antidote to the “culture of death” that haunts are age.

Sono passati oltre vent’anni dal genocidio ruandese, ma Marembo, il breve libro di Dorcy Rugamba da cui è tratto “Ritorno a Kimihurura”, ci appare oggi come una delle più autentiche testimonianze di ciò che allora è realmente accaduto. Non vi si trovano ricostruzioni storiche, analisi politiche o sociologiche, ma più semplicemente la vita di una famiglia, quella dell’autore, sterminata la mattina del 7 aprile 1994. Attraverso la storia sua e dei suoi cari, Rugamba ci offre uno splendido racconto di vita, una meditazione di rara forza sugli affetti famigliari, la cultura, la spiritualità e, di riflesso, un antidoto alle “pulsioni di morte” che continuano a dominare la nostra epoca.

Specimen Goes to Russia

International Spoken-Word Art Festival
Moscow, December 02-04, 2016

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 7. Baseline

The imaginary line upon which the letters in a font appear to rest.
“A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.”
– W.H. Auden

A New Thing

A translated poem is necessarily a new thing, but it has a relationship with the original. Or, as I’m beginning to think more and more, both have a relationship with some text of which each, original and translation, is a manifestation.

– Paul Muldoon, “The Art of Poetry No. 87”, The Paris Review.

Una poesia tradotta è, inevitabilmente, una cosa nuova, ma è anche in relazione con l’originale. O, come inizio sempre più a pensare, entrambi sono in relazione con un testo del quale tutti e due, originale e traduzione, sono una manifestazione.

– Paul Muldoon, “The Art of Poetry No. 87”, “The Paris Review”.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 6. Arc

The linguistic arrow rather than the narrative arc. Specimen looks for types that keep moving, writers who are driven by language: the word, the verse, the sentence, the paragraph – measures more apt to tune to the uncertain, the breath and the imperceptible, rather than plots, characters, messages and other dimensions that can so easily fall into ready-made clichés.

A Tremendous Blessing

“I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not,” Cohen said. “It’s there, you can feel it in people—there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like: ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to coöperate enthusiastically with the process.’ Force yourself to have a sandwich.

“What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol.” The divine voice. “You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it. Even when I was healthy, I was sensitive to the process. At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.”

– From “Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker”, by David Remnick, The New Yorker, October 17, 2016 Issue.

“So che la vita di ognuno ha il suo versante spirituale, che si voglia confessarlo o no”, ha detto Cohen, “È lì, può sentirlo nelle persone – un certo riconoscimento che esiste una realtà che non possono penetrare ma che influenza i loro umori e le loro azioni. Che è all’opera. E in certi momenti del giorno o della notte ti spinge ad avere un certo tipo di reazioni. A volte dice semplicemente: ‘Stai perdendo troppo peso, Leonard. Stai morendo, ma non devi per forza cooperare con entusiasmo’. Sforzati di mangiare un sandwich.

“Quello che voglio dire è che senti il Bat Kol”. La voce divina. “Senti quest’altra realtà profonda che ti risuona dentro in continuazione, e il più delle volte non riesci a decifrarla. Sono sempre stato sensibile a questo processo, anche quand’ero in salute. A questo punto dei giochi, sento che mi dice: ‘Leonard, vai semplicemente avanti a fare quello che devi fare’. È molto compassionevole a questo stadio, più di quanto non lo sia mai stata prima. Ora non sento più quella voce che mi dice: “Stai facendo un casino”. È una benedizione incredibile, davvero”.

– Da “Leonard Cohen Makes It Darker”, di David Remnick, “The New Yorker”, 17 ottobre 2016.

“An ice age can hit you any moment”
I make my students memorize, per term, something in the order of 1,600 to 2,000 lines of poetry, in different metres, by different poets, simply because I believe that, well, this is the insurance for our civilization, that one should carry this sort of things into his head, the lines of the poets, the way one carries matches, because an ice age can hit you any moment. The way we live, the way the world goes, it indeed may happen very quickly.
– Joseph Brodsky, from an Interview by Wim Kayzer for VPRO, 1995.

Ai miei studenti faccio imparare a memoria, per semestre, qualcosa come 1.600-2.000 versi, in metri diversi, di poeti diversi, semplicemente perché credo che, be’, questa sia l’assicurazione per la nostra civiltà, credo che ci si debba portare nella testa questo genere di cose, i versi dei poeti, così come ci si porta in tasca i fiammiferi, perché un’era glaciale può sempre arrivare da un momento all’altro. Per come viviamo, per come sta andando il mondo, può in effetti accadere molto presto.
– Iosif Brodskij, da un’intervista di Wim Kayzer per la tv danese VPRO, 1995.

We just witnessed the inauguration of The Gotthard Base Tunnel, which is–with its route length of 35.5 miles–the longest and deepest railway tunnel in the world. So far. In the meantime, the Swiss glaciers that had left such a huge mark on travellers, poets, and painters in the XVIII and XIX century, are shrinking by the hour. If the Alps are one the most important indicators of climate change, what should we infer from it?
While we get ready to zoom through the mountains on our comfortable high-speed trains, Arthur Rimbaud is still trampling on the summits, up to his knees in snow, engaged in a heroic fit that for him was all but unpredictable.
Gertrud Leutenegger lives in Zurich. Her latest novel is Panischer Frühling, Suhrkamp, 2014. The original version of this article, published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung on April 30 2016, can be read here.
È stata da poco inaugurata la galleria di base del San Gottardo. Si tratta, per ora, della galleria ferroviaria più lunga del mondo: 57 km. Nel frattempo i ghiacciai alpini, che tanto avevano impressionato i viaggiatori, i poeti e i pittori del Settecento e dell’Ottocento, sono al loro minimo storico. Se è vero che le Alpi costituiscono un indicatore significativo in merito ai mutamenti climatici, che cosa dobbiamo dedurne?
Mentre ci prepariamo ad attraversare le Alpi a bordo di un confortevole treno superveloce, Arthur Rimbaud è ancora là in cima, sprofondato nella neve, impegnato in un atto eroico per lui del tutto “prevedibile”.
Gertrud Leutenegger vive a Zurigo. Il suo ultimo romanzo è Panischer Frühling, Suhrkamp, 2014.
La versione originale di questo racconto, pubblicato sulla “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” del 30 aprile 2016, può essere letta qui.
The Suppliant Women: November 3–5, 2016, Northern Stage, Newcastle Upon Tyne

Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women tells the story of the Danaiids, women of Egypt threatened by rape and forced marriage, who flee across the Mediterranean to seek asylum in Greece. Its themes of war, migration, sexual violence and sanctuary are so resonant that last December the Los Angeles Times asked whether anyone would risk adapting it. In Scotland, David Greig, the artistic director of Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre, was already preparing to do just that. […] The composer, John Browne, has resurrected an ancient musical scale and written a score for the five choral odes delivered by the women. The “orchestra” is contemporary to the play: skin drums, bells, and an aulos—a double-barreled Greek flute copied for this production from an original in the Louvre. The speeches are delivered as rhythmically and sonorously as the score. Aeschylus offers no neat redemptions for any of the play’s characters, and neither does David Greig. But the immense value of this production lies in the safe space it offers to explore timeless but urgent questions: how do we contain tyranny and transcend violence, and what are our obligations as a demos when war flares along our borders?

– From NYRCalendar

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 5. Aperture

The scope of languages, alphabets and styles published by Specimen: totally wide open. Specimen will feature every written genre, as well as their mixes and combinations. Specimen is oh-so-open, yet in a way concealed in the partially enclosed, somewhat rounded negative space in some characters.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 4. Antiqua

Specimen asks the web: what is it that you don’t have, and that printed books do? And so, thanks to a long experience in publishing that goes all the way back to movable type printing, Specimen brings to the web the typographical and editorial touch of the finest publications on paper. And a slow pace too.

N’est-elle pas toujours un dialogue?

Le grand Rodin examinant une oeuvre dont il était lui-même l’auteur, répé­tait en la regardant: «J’ai beaucoup à apprendre de tout cela». Il avait, en effect, le sentiment de n’être pas seul responsable de cette oeuvre d’art. Une oeuvre d’art pourrait-elle d’ailleurs naître d’un monologue? N’est-elle pas toujours un dialogue? Et l’Inconnu qui fait les répliques n’a-t-il donc pas une part immense dans la création?

– «M. Eugenio d’Ors déclare à “L’Alerte”», “L’Alerte”, 4 avril 1942, nº. 81, pp. 5 et 8. Entrevue.

The great Rodin, while examining one of his own sculptures, kept saying: “I have so much to learn from that”. Indeed, he had the feeling of not being the only creator of his work. Can a work of art be the outcome of a monologue? Isn’t it always a dialogue? And the unknown that answers back, doesn’t it play a huge part in any creations?
M. Eugenio d’Ors déclare à “L’Alerte”, “L’Alerte”, April 4, 1942, nº. 81, pages 5-8. Interview.

Language and Experience

In their effort to divorce language and experience, deconstructionist critics remind me of middle-class parents who do not allow their children to play in the street.
― Charles Simic, The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 1994.

Nel loro sforzo di separare il linguaggio dall’esperienza, i critici decostruzionisti mi ricordano quei genitori borghesi che non lasciano giocare i figli per strada.
― Charles Simic, The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor 1994.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 3. Anti-aliasing

Specimen stems from Babel, the festival of literature and translation which right from its inception has welcomed writers from the most diverse cultures, detected a worldwide network of affinities, and seen to the publication of columns, magazines and entire book series. Now, Specimen aims at overcoming the boundaries of Babel and at reaching out to the world, through the web, lightly.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 2. Alternates

“Linguistic hospitality, then, where the pleasure of dwelling in the others language is balanced by the pleasure of receiving the foreign word at home, in ones own welcoming house… It is this which serves as a model for other forms of hospitality that I think resemble it.” – Paul Ricoeur

Specimen Goes to Palestine

Qalandiya International,
Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah,
11 October 2016 @ 7pm

Le monde, le texte, le corps, la manière de penser

Le monde est un texte à plusieurs significations, et l’on passe d’une signification à une autre par un travail. Un travail où le corps a toujours part, comme lorsqu’on apprend l’alphabet d’une langue étrangère : cet alphabet doit rentrer dans la main à force de tracer les lettres. En dehors de cela, tout changement dans la manière de penser est illusoire.

– Simone Weil, La Pesanteur et la Grâce, Librairie Plon, Paris, 1948.

The world is a text with several meanings, and we pass from one meaning to another by a process of work. It must be work in which the body constantly bears a part, as, for example, when we learn the alphabet of a foreign language: this alphabet has to enter into our hand by dint of forming the letters. If this condition is not fulfilled, every change in our way of thinking is illusory.

– Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1963.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 1. Accent

Specimen is an entirely multilingual web-magazine, which through translation gives voice to the multifaceted world. Specimen‘s contents are in every language and alphabet, potentially translated into and from any other language, from the original or from an existing translation. With a special inclination for second languages and hybrid forms. Specimen engages a wide network of writers, artists and thinkers, and foregrounds relation as the core of its approach.

5 poems from «Morning, Paramin»

This is what you can call a great gift for Specimen’s launch! Derek Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature, has given us five unpublished poems which are also a world premiere of his latest book, Morning, Paramin, a collection of 51 poems inspired by Peter Doig’s paintings. Originally conceived by publisher and gallerist Harry Jancovici, Morning Paramin is due out in November 2016 from FSG in the US, from Faber & Faber in the UK, and from Actes Sud in France, under the title Paramin, in Pierre Vinclair’s translation. Our deepest thanks to Derek, then, and to Harry and all the publishers for granting us permission to print the original poems and the French translations, to Peter Doig for the reproductions of his paintings, and to Matteo Campagnoli for the Italian versions.

Non poteva esserci regalo migliore per l’inaugurazione di Specimen! Derek Walcott, Premio Nobel per la letteratura 1992, ci ha donato 5 poesie inedite che sono anche un’anteprima mondiale del suo ultimo libro, Morning, Paramin, una raccolta di 51 liriche ispirate ad altrettanti quadri del pittore scozzese Peter Doig, da anni residente a Trinidad. Nato da un’intuizione dell’editore e gallerista Harry Jancovici, il libro uscirà a ottobre del 2016 negli Stati Uniti per FSG, in Inghilterra per Faber & Faber, e in Francia per Actes Sud – col titolo Paramin – nella traduzione di Pierre Vinclair. Grazie dunque a Derek, a Harry e agli editori per averci concesso di riprodurre gli originali e le versioni francesi, a Peter Doig per le immagini dei suoi quadri, e a Matteo Campagnoli per le versioni italiane.

“What, if not this deep translation, is your ardent aim?”

Rilke preferred to wrestle with the questions – and even commands – implied by the existence of the flawed, the broken, the caged, and answered, or obeyed, slowly, painfully, over time. ‘You must change your life,’ a headless Greek statue seems, mysteriously, to say at the end of ‘Archaic Torso of Apollo,’ Rilke’s most famous lyric. ‘What, if not this deep translation, is your ardent aim?’ the Ninth Elegy urgently asks. In the latter passage the poet is talking about the translation of the seen into the unseen, of the world into ourselves.

– Daniel Mendelsohn, from “A Line-by-Line Safari”, on Reading Rilke by William H. Gass.

Rilke preferì lottare con le domande – e persino le ingiunzioni – implicite nell’esistenza di ciò che è fallace, spezzato, imprigionato, e rispose, o ubbidì, lentamente, dolorosamente, con il tempo. ‘Devi cambiare la tua vita’, una statua greca senza testa sembra dire, misteriosamente, alla fine della sua lirica più famosa, ‘Il busto arcaico di Apollo’. ‘Cosa, se non questa profonda traduzione è il tuo scopo ardente?’ chiede in modo pressante la Nona Elegia. In quest’ultimo passo il poeta sta parlando della traduzione del visibile nell’invisibile, del mondo in noi stessi.

– Daniel Mendelsohn, da “A Line-by-Line Safari”, su Reading Rilke di William H. Gass.

Le stalle di Rosagarda
Giorgio Orelli (Airolo 1921-Bellinzona 2013) was an Italian-language Swiss writer. Renowned for his poetic oeuvre―just recently collected in Tutte le poesie, Mondadori, Milano 2015―and his deeply-engaged essays on Dante, Petrarca, Pascoli and Montale, Orelli published only one volume of short stories, Un giorno della vita (Lerici, Milano 1960). This single experience in fiction proved nonetheless to be highly influential on his poetic style, giving it the peculiar narrative turn that marked his subsequent and most significant poetry collections. Le stalle di Rosagarda (The Rosagarda’s Cowsheds) is the editorial title for the second chapter of a previously unpublished, and unfinished, rewriting of Primavera a Rosagarda (Spring in Rosagarda), a short story mostly set in the high Levantine Valley of Canton Ticino. We would like to thank the Giorgio Orelli Estate for kindly allowing us to publish it.

Noto principalmente per la sua opera in versi, ora raccolta in Tutte le poesie (Mondadori, Milano 2015), e per i suoi studi su Dante, Petrarca, Pascoli e Montale, Giorgio Orelli ha pubblicato un solo volume di racconti, Un giorno della vita (Lerici, Milano, 1960): un’esperienza unica ma di vasta portata sulla sua scrittura in versi, che nelle seguenti raccolte ha assunto quei tratti narrativi che più la caratterizzano. Quello qui proposto per gentile concessione degli eredi e con un titolo redazionale, è il secondo capitolo di una riscrittura inedita, e incompiuta, del racconto Primavera a Rosagarda, ambientato prevalentemente nell’alta valle Leventina, nel Canton Ticino.

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

Cheltenham, England,
7-16 October 2016

Between Alternative Possibilities of Existence

When I was asked to give an account of the way my ideas have developed from my life, I thought that the concept of the boundary might be the fitting symbol for the whole of my personal and intellectual development. At almost every point, I have had to stand between alternative possibilities of existence, to be completely at home in neither, and to take no definitive stand against either. Since thinking presupposes receptiveness to new possibilities, this position is fruitful for thought; but it is difficult and dangerous in life, which again and again demands decisions and thus the exclusion of alternatives. This disposition and its tension have determined both my destiny and my work.

– Paul Tillich, from On the Boundary, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1966.

Quando mi si chiese un resoconto del modo in cui la mia vita avesse influito sullo sviluppo delle mie idee, pensai che il concetto di confine potesse essere il simbolo adatto per l’intero mio sviluppo personale e intellettuale. Quasi in ogni circostanza dovetti stare fra due possibilità di esistenza, non essere completamente a mio agio in nessuna delle due e non prendere posizione definitiva rispetto all’una o all’altra. Dal momento che il pensare presuppone ricettività di fronte a nuove possibilità, questa posizione è feconda per il pensiero; ma è difficile e pericolosa nella vita, che continuamente richiede decisioni e di conseguenza l’eliminazione di alternative. Questa disposizione e la tensione che ne deriva hanno determinato sia il mio destino che il mio lavoro.
– Paul Tillich, da Sulla linea di confine, Queriniana, Brescia 1969.

Babel. Festival di letteratura e traduzione

Teatro Sociale, Bellinzona, Svizzera, 15-18 settembre 2016

Inspiration and the Real World

The literary man is an interpreter and hardly succeeds, as the musician may, without experience and mastery of human affairs. His art is half genius and half fidelity. He needs inspiration; he must wait for automatic musical tendencies to ferment in his mind, proving it to be fertile in devices, comparisons, and bold assimilations. Yet inspiration alone will lead him astray, for his art is relative to something other than its own formal impulse; it comes to clarify the real world, not to encumber it.
– George Santayana, from “The Essence of Literature”, in Little Essays Drawn from the Writings of George Santayana, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1920.

L’uomo di lettere è un interprete e difficilmente ha successo, come può accadere al musicista, senza esperienza e padronanza delle faccende umane. La sua arte è per metà genio e per metà fedeltà. Ha bisogno dell’ispirazione; deve attendere che delle tendenze musicali automatiche fermentino nella sua mente, mostrandosi feconde di artifici, paragoni e assimilazioni ardite. Eppure la sola ispirazione lo condurrà fuori strada, perché la sua arte è in relazione con qualcosa di diverso dal suo stesso impulso formale; viene per chiarire il mondo reale, non per ingombrarlo.

– George Santayana, da “The Essence of Literature”, in Little Essays Drawn from the Writings of George Santayana, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1920.

You Don’t Write for Anybody

Gertrude Stein said, “I write for myself and strangers,” and then eventually she said that she wrote only for herself. I think she should have taken one further step. You don’t write for anybody. People who send you bills do that. People who want to sell you things so they can send you bills do that. People who want to tell you things so they can sell you things so they can send you bills do that. You are advancing an art—the art. That is what you are trying to do.

– William H. Gass, “The Art of Fiction No. 65”, The Paris Review.

Gertrude Stein diceva: “scrivo per me stessa e per gli estranei”, poi alla fine diceva che scriveva solo per se stessa. Credo che avrebbe dovuto fare un ulteriore passo. Non scrivi per nessuno. La gente che ti manda le fatture scrive per qualcuno. La gente che ti vuole vendere delle cose per poterti mandare delle fatture scrive per qualcuno. La gente che vuole dirti delle cose per poterti vendere delle cose per poterti mandare delle fatture scrive per qualcuno. Come scrittore stai facendo progredire un’arte, l’arte. È questo che cerchi di fare.

– William H. Gass, “The Art of Fiction No. 65”, “The Paris Review”.

Kapittel: Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech

Stavanger, Norway, 14-18 September 2016