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11.12.2017
Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 22. OpenType

The most recent font format emerged at the beginning of the new millennium. Is it an essay, a memoir, fiction, poetry, reportage? Whatever we write, we are in it, and we better deal with that.

29.11.2017
A Leuconoe. Ventidue odi

In «A Leuconoe. Ventidue odi», recensione dell’omonima raccolta di versioni oraziane del poeta polacco Adam Ważyk pubblicata a Varsavia nel 1973, Wisława Szymborska riesce in poche righe a trattare, con acume e leggerezza, alcune questioni cruciali della traduzione poetica. Nessun gergo accademico o di traduttologia per lei, ma semplici e preziose reazioni ai versi di due suoi colleghi.
Ringraziamo la casa editrici Adelphi e la Fondazione Wisława Szymborska per averci concesso di pubblicate l’estratto, in italiano e nell’originale polacco.

22.11.2017
Araber in Rumänien: Eine orientalische Liebesgeschichte
German
English

Vielfältig waren die Beziehungen zwischen Rumänien und den arabischen Ländern. Die Schriftstellerin Dana Grigorcea erzählt in ihrem Text von ihren Eltern, die als junge Leute unabhängig voneinander in Bagdad und in Tripolis waren.
Dana Grigorcea (Bukarest, 1979) lebt in Zürich. 2015 ist ihr zweiter Roman, «Das primäre Gefühl der Schuldlosigkeit», im Dörlemann-Verlag erschienen.

Romania’s relations with the Arab countries have been many and various. In this article, Dana Grigorcea writes about her parents, who spent time in Baghdad and Tripoli when they were younger, independently of one another.
Born in Bucharest in 1979, Dana Grigorcea now lives in Zurich. Her second novel, Das primäre Gefühl der Schuldlosigkeit [The primary feeling of innocence] was published by Dörlemann-Verlag in 2015.

15.11.2017
Silens Moon

In Hermann Hesse’s 1927 groundbreaking masterpiece “Steppenwolf“, the reader first makes the acquaintance of the Editor of the manuscript, a character we know very little of. Nothing is revealed of him, not even his name, age or profession, although one cannot but feel the powerful and life-changing impact that his encounter with Harry Haller, the “Steppenwolf“, has made upon him. This is the story of his life, ten years after the enigmatic disappearance of Haller, as told by himself.

15.11.2017
Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 21. Oblique

“In a word,” commented Tristram at one point, “my work is digressive, and it is progressive too, – and at the same time.” As Nietzsche noted, Sterne’s style is an “endless melody. – His digressions are at the same time continuations and further developments of the story; his aphorisms are at the same time an expression of an attitude of irony towards all sententiousness, his antipathy to seriousness is united with a tendency to be unable to regard anything merely superficially”. Tristram’s chat was careful, it was thematically precise.
– Adam Thirlwell

09.11.2017
La peor parte

I visited Guatemala earlier this year for a migratory procedure. I was offered an urgent job to teach Arabic language at the university, replacing a professor who was forced to suspend his teaching for the rest of the semester due to the occurrence of a force majeure. In order to get paid, I needed to exit Mexico, with my new employment contract and passport, and visit one of Mexico’s embassies abroad. Avoiding our neighbors up north and the trouble it entails to visit them, and not knowing how long the procedure might take, I flew south to Guatemala City and reserved a room at the Hotel Spring, on 8th Street and 12th Avenue, Zona 1, for one week.
The procedure was efficiently carried out at the Mexican Embassy in  Zona 10 in one day, and so I found myself, unexpectedly, having to spend the rest of the week in Guatemala before I had to fly back to Mexico. Captivated by the city’s human scenery and Babylon sonority on the Zona 1’s pedestrian Sixth Avenue, where indigenous Mayan-languages speakers (Ixil, K’iche’ and Kaqchikel, to name a few) stroll through the “Sexta” shouldering Spanish speaking Ladinos, Palestinian merchant newcomers who speak Spanish with a Jerusalem accent, and black Garifunas speaking Garifuna, and amused by how the city is divided up into numbers of zones, streets and avenues one needs to constantly keep track of to move around, and feeling at home in the small-world but intense vibe of the place, I decided to spend the rest of the week in Guatemala City.
I was having coffee with my friend, a friend I had just made, at La Esquina Jazz Café on 6th Avenue, right on the border between Zona 1 and Zona 2. I asked her about Guatemalan literature and what I should read, and she mentioned the name of Rodrigo Rey Rosa and suggested that I would enjoy reading him. I knew of the author and had read a few of his stories that appeared in Siempre juntos y otros cuentos, published by Almadía in Oaxaca. “It’s literature on the violence in Guatemala,” was all my friend said. After having more coffee with milk, “the person who just walked in and sat at the table behind you is Rodrigo Rey Rosa,” she said.
As we were exiting the café, we approached Rodrigo to say hi. My friend reproached Rodrigo for not having written her back after she had written to him in the past. Rodrigo pronounced his easy to remember e-mail address, adding that “I always answer e-mails.”
Two days before leaving Guatemala I decided to write RRR to meet and chat, and he immediately wrote back, suggesting a time and a three-coordinated address. On the next day, my last, I met him in the afternoon in the café San Martín on 20th Street between 12th and 13th Avenue in Zona 10. When I told him what I was in Guatemala for, he asked me why I didn’t think of going to the Mexican Embassy in Belize and carry out the procedure there. Belize also shares a border with Mexico, he reminded me, and I remembered in amazement, followed by horror and then shame. Later we talked about a variety of things like Tangiers, his meeting with Muhammed Shukri in Tangiers, Bowles, indigenous literature, and violence.
Long story short, the idea of translating one of Rodrigo’s stories into Arabic came up, and here is “La peor parte” in Arabic, original Spanish and an earlier Italian translation (by Vittoria Martinetto). It’s the story of a Ladino man in Guatemala City forced into exile, but instead of exiling himself to the familiar abroad, he seeks refuge in the country’s foreign interior.
Many thanks to Iraqi poet Bassem Al Meraiby for revising the Arabic translation of the story.
– Shadi Rohana

31.10.2017
Australian Babel: A Conversation with Karrabing

A tower whose technical prowess and hubris is attributed to the homogeneity of language and a jealous God who smote both human tower and homogeneity by creating linguistic multiplicity from an original unity: Humans who were one are made many and in the many are the seeds of misunderstanding conflict rage and diminution. Babel is the relay between the city in which the human was one and the name for humanity dispersed. But whose story is this—whose account of the linguistic origins of conflict and rage, ethics and morality? These questions are discussed in a conversation for Specimen: The Babel Review of Translation among Karrabing members Angelina Lewis, Cecilia Lewis, Joclyn MacDonald, Elizabeth Povinelli, Linda Yarrowin and Sandra Yarrowin at Wagait Beach on 13 August 2017.

The Karrabing Collective was initiated in 2008 as a form of critical activism bringing together separate Indigenous clans in Australia’s Northwest Territory in the wake of their government’s Emergency Response intervention – measures taken in the name of protecting Indigenous children that have enabled police to enter homes at will, drastically increased Indigenous incarceration for minor offenses, lead to cuts in social welfare and pressured clans to open their land to mining corporations. These issues are all manifest in their collective’s films, appearing via staged and even humorous scenes that together form an approach the group has called ‘improvisational realism’.

31.10.2017
Irrawaddy Literary Festival

Mandalay, Myanmar
November 3–5, 2017

26.10.2017
Penguins Outside the Accounting Office

Chirstos Ikonomou writes in that borderless country of existence that may appear meaningless but is still punctuated by flashes of great beauty, tenderness, and the occasional sliver of hope. In this short collection of stories, Ikonomou has managed to bring the tragic poverty of Greece’s working population into sharp focus, and has gone further by elevating this from a very specific political environment into a dark and compassionate meditation on the human condition.
– Stephanos Papadopoulos, from “When Greece Appears“, Los Angeles Review of Books, March 28, 2016.

26.10.2017
Frammenti di un’autobiografia che non scriverò mai

Ruska Jorjoliani lascia la Georgia a sette anni, in fuga dalla pulizia etnica del 1992-93, e si trasferisce in Sicilia. A trent’anni pubblica il suo primo romanzo in lingua italiana, «La tua presenza è come una città» (Corrimano edizioni), che sarà presto tradotto in tedesco per le edizioni Rotpunktverlag di Zurigo. È un caso letterario: ne scrivono in molti e gli editori cominciano a contendersela.
Non ama scrivere di sé, ma per Specimen ha fatto un’eccezione: questi Frammenti di autobiografia restituiscono l’atmosfera di un tempo passato, un tempo fatto di persone e luoghi a cui la lega un affetto tenero e profondo. I ricordi sono schizzi, immagini che insieme danno forma a un quadro in cui uomini, donne, animali e montagne si prendono per mano in un girotondo che Ruska dirige con cura, mai soddisfatta, sempre alla ricerca di una sfumatura migliore: «Ogni frase la riscriverei fino ai limiti estremi del tempo, non esitando anche ad andare oltre, perché è sempre lo sconfinare, lo sguardo del dopo che m’interessa, sia un libro che, riletto, è un altro libro, sia una bevuta tra amici che assume un senso quando non si è più amici o lo si è più di prima».

19.10.2017
A Common Misconception About Writing

My solipsistic authorial habits would seem to feed into a common misconception about writing, which is that it is merely a conduit for the writer’s interiority, and that a good writer—or even just a capable one—possesses the skills to transfer the contents of that interiority onto the page with as little loss as possible. Much of the creative-writing industry depends upon that misconception and the promise, implicit or explicit, that the acquisition of those skills is unconditionally achievable. I’ve grown to be suspicious of that notion, as I have learned that writing generates the content and therefore transforms—or even creates—the interiority. Writing is a means of interaction with the world, and therefore it changes the writer. If it doesn’t, it contains no discovery and merely reproduces the already known and familiar. Writing, I believe, should be a matter not of execution but of transformation.
– Aleksandar Hemon, from The Transformative Experience of Writing for “Sense8”, The New Yorker, September 27, 2017

17.10.2017
Five Poems
French
English

On pourrait définir le style de Russell Edson ainsi : la description de situations impossibles, dans un langage simple et précis, sur un ton plat et raisonnable, avec des chutes souvent déconcertantes. Edson fait des phrases courtes, utilise peu d’adjectifs, presque pas d’adverbe, accumule les répétitions. Ces textes sont accessibles à tout le monde, mais complexes à comprendre. Ils sont construits avec une logique qui possède sa propre folie. On croise des femmes qui transforment leur fils en lampadaire ou des hommes qui épousent une chaussure. Mais Edson n’est pas surréaliste, ses textes n’ont rien à voir avec l’écriture automatique. Ce sont des sortes de miniatures poético-philosophiques.
C’est en lisant une interview de l’écrivain Lydia Davis que j’ai découvert Russell Edson. Elle cite souvent cet auteur comme une de ses principales influences. Je me suis dépêché de fouiller sur internet évidemment. On peut y apprendre les choses suivantes sur Russell : son père dessinait des comics dans la presse new yorkaise, lui-même faisait beaucoup de dessins, il a étudié l’art au Black Mountain College, certains l’ont surnommé « le Parrain de la poésie en prose », jeune il ressemblait étrangement à John Cale, vieux à un croisement entre John Huston et le Capitaine Haddock. Russell semble avoir eu une vie calme et discrète avec sa femme dans le Connecticut, où il est mort en 2014. Dans le monde anglo-saxon, beaucoup de poètes contemporains se réclament de lui. En dehors, il a l’air d’être complètement inconnu (du moins dans le monde francophone).
Je ne suis pas traductrice et je ne parle pas très bien l’anglais. Je me suis lancée dans cette affaire de traduction avec naïveté et inconscience. Et aussi une forme de culot. C’était l’été 2017, je n’arrivais pas à écrire mes propres textes, j’ai décidé de traduire une sélection des siens pour ne pas tourner en rond. J’ai beaucoup transpiré sur les détails. Comment rendre la simplicité et la fluidité d’un texte qu’on pourrait croire écrit par un enfant mais qui, lorsqu’on le décortique, révèle la précision d’une horloge suisse ? Dans un entretien, Russell Edson a dit un jour : « Tout le monde peut écrire comme Edson s’il le veut. Moi-même je le fais tout le temps ». Bonne lecture.
– Fabienne Radi

The style of Russell Edson could be defined as follows: the description, in a simple and accurate language with a flat and reasonable tone, of impossible situations with often bewildering endings. Edson’s sentences are short, sparing of adjectives, almost adverbless, with a heavy accumulation of repetitions. His texts are accessible to any reader but not so easy to understand. They’re built with a logic having a folly of its own. You can run into a woman that turns her son into a floor lamp or a man that gets married to a shoe. But Edson is not a surrealist; his work has nothing to do with the process of automatic writing. His texts are some sort of poetic-philosophical miniatures.
I first heard about Russell Edson in an interview I read where he was often mentioned by writer Lydia Davis as one of her major influences. So I obviously searched for him on the internet and here is what I found out about Russell: his father worked as a cartoonist for the New York City press industry, and Russell too was good at drawing; he studied the arts at Black Mountain College and he’s called the “godfather of the prose poem in America”; when he was young he looked strangely like John Cale while later, in his old age, he became a combination of John Huston and Captain Haddock. Russell seems to have lived a peaceful and secluded life with his wife in Connecticut, where he died in 2014. A number of contemporary poets align themselves with him within the Anglo-Saxon world but outside of it – or at least in the Francophone world – he seems to be quite unknown.
I am no translator and I can’t speak English very well. I got into this thing of translating with naivety and recklessness, and also pushed by some sort of audacity. That happened during last summer, 2017, when I couldn’t go on with the writing of my own texts and decided to translate some selected poems of Russell Edson to stop going around in circles. I worked really hard on details. How could I return the plainness and fluency of a text that you might at first sight think had been written for a child and then, instead, reveals the precision of a Swiss watch as soon as you dissect it? One day, during an interview, Russell Edson said, “Everyone can write like Edson if he likes it. I’m doing it myself all the time.” Enjoy your reading.
– Fabienne Radi

14.10.2017
Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 20. Multiple Language

Specimen is open to all alphabets, its contents will be in all languages, in original or translation. Most texts will be translated into at least one other language, in non-systematic ways. The different versions will share the same page and will influence each other, in non-hierarchical ways, as if there weren’t such things as an original and a translation.

12.10.2017
Cinq poèmes from Atemnot (Souffle court)

Marina Skalova was born in Moscow in 1988, and now lives in Geneva. She grew up in France and Germany. After gaining a master’s degree in literature and philosophy, she moved to Switzerland to pursue her studies at the Haute école des Arts in Bern. A bilingual writer, literary translator, and playwright, she is editor in chief for francophone literature at the magazine “Viceversa Littérature”. The Russian translation of the present selection of her poems has be conducted using both the French and German versions as a source.

25.09.2017
From Buchi
Italian
French

Ho scritto questa cosa, Buchi, in un momento di forte malumore, forse potrei dire che ero in uno stato un po’ angosciato, come credo che, ogni qualche anno, capiti più o meno a tutti. Credo che la scrittura abbia veramente un valore terapeutico e infatti poi il malumore, pian piano, si è consumato e mi è passato. Devo dire che in un certo senso sembra un po’ un ritornare su alcune cose che avevo già raccontato nel mio primo romanzo, che si chiama Sulla felicità a oltranza, e che è uscito a fine ’99, ma che avevo scritto tra il ’94 e il ’96. Quindi tra una cosa e l’altra erano passati quasi vent’anni. Vent’anni sono tantissimi si dovrebbe dire, ma nella testa, nella vita e negli affetti credo che a tanti capiti di essere allo stesso tempo vicinissimi e lontanissimi da alcune medesime cose. Delle volte lontanissimi da cose successe ieri l’altro e delle altre volte vicinissimi a qualcosa che è successo venti anni fa. Tutto va via, poi ritorna, poi rivà via. D’altra parte ho scritto una cosa abbastanza diversa, con un ritmo diverso, una voce un po’ diversa, eccetera eccetera, ma era la voce che avevo a disposizione in quel momento, che mi veniva su dalla gola, un po’ senza fiato, forse. Si vede che a una parte di me piace abitare coi fantasmi e dispiace lasciare le località infestate. Più di così non saprei cosa dire.
– Ugo Cornia

J’ai écrit cette chose, Buchi, dans un accès de mauvaise humeur, je pourrais même dire d’angoisse, comme il en arrive à tout le monde, me semble-t-il, de temps en temps. Je crois que l’écriture a réellement une valeur thérapeutique, et en effet, ma mauvaise humeur s’est peu à peu calmée puis dissipée. Je dois dire qu’en un certain sens, je suis revenu sur certaines choses que j’avais déjà racontées dans mon premier roman, intitulé Sulla felicità ad oltranza, publié fin 99, mais écrit entre 94 et 96. Presque vingt ans s’étaient donc écoulés entre les deux livres. Vingt ans, c’est beaucoup devrait-on dire, mais je crois qu’il arrive à beaucoup de gens de se sentir à la fois très proches et très éloignés de quelque chose, dans leurs têtes, leurs vies et leurs affects. Certaines fois très éloignés de choses survenues l’avant-veille et d’autres fois très proches de ce qui a eu lieu vingt ans plus tôt. Tout s’en va, puis revient, puis repart. D’un autre côté, j’ai écrit quelque chose d’assez différent, avec un autre rythme, une voix un peu différente, et ainsi de suite, mais c’était la voix que j’avais à disposition à ce moment-là, qui montait dans ma gorge, peut-être un peu essouflée. On dirait qu’une partie de moi aime habiter avec ses fantômes et n’aime pas quitter les lieux hantés. Je ne saurais en dire plus.
– Ugo Cornia
Translated by Véronique Volpato

21.09.2017
How My Books Have Roamed the World

Originally written for the discussion “Local Literature in a World Context” at the Romanian Book Festival, November 17, 2016.

10.09.2017
Bureau des élucidations – Entrer sans frapper
French
Italian

Voici venue l’heure du verdict, l’heure des révélations. Albert Moindre est mort et il découvre l’au-delà, ce qu’il en est, ce qui s’y passe. Sommes-nous vengés ? Sommes-nous punis ? À quoi ressemble le Royaume des cieux ? Ce témoignage de première main apporte des réponses à nombre de nos interrogations anciennes. On le lira si ces questions nous tourmentent, pour être fixés une bonne fois.
Éric Chevillard et son traducteur Gianmaria Finardi seront au Festival Babel le dimanche 17 septembre à 16h00.

Ecco giunta l’ora del verdetto, l’ora delle rivelazioni. Albert Moindre è morto e scopre l’aldilà, com’è, cosa vi accade. Siamo vendicati? Siamo puniti? A cosa somiglia il Regno dei cieli? Questa testimonianza di prima mano fornisce risposte a gran parte degli interrogativi che ci poniamo da sempre. Lo si leggerà se queste questioni ci assillano, perché siano risolte una volta per tutte.
Éric Chevillard e il suo traduttore Gianmaria Finardi saranno al festival Babel domenica 17 settembre alle ore 16.00.

06.09.2017
Agora e na ora da nossa morte

Now and at the Hour of Our Death follows journalist Susana Moreira Marques as she attempts to report on a project of palliative home care in Trás-os-Montes, in the Planalto Mirandês, a rural area abandoned by the young. Susana writes about death in a way no journalist ever has and in a range of generic registers: travel notes, standard narrative, stream of consciousness, interviews, as well as what seem to be personal confessions. Rather than erase herself from the text, as most journalists would, she guides us through her impressions and transformation during her experience “at the end of the world” (or of Portugal) and of life.

– Julia Sanches

Susana Moreira Marques will be at Babel Festival in Bellinzona, Switzerland, on Sunday, September 17, 2017.

03.09.2017
Babel Festival 2017 L’aldilà – The Afterlife

Bellinzona, Switzerland
September 14-17, 2017

01.09.2017
Poethreesome – One
English
Italian

Poets the world over have always translated the work of fellow poets, even without knowing a single word of the language they were translating from. This situation, more relevant for poetry than any other genre, is widespread throughout the world.
In an ideal scenario, the translator works with an interlinear translation that combines a literal translation (mot-à-mot) with a series of notes about the form, tone, style, cultural references and so on. Otherwise, one would use a third, known language to translate from. Whatever the case, the source poet and the translator poet do share a language: the language of poetry.
Babel has been promoting this way of translating, less common in Western Europe, with several projects. The most prominent resulted in two mirrored anthologies, one, Il vetro è sottile, published in Switzerland by Edizioni Casagrande, and the other, Szyby są cienkie, in Poland by Biuro Literackie, where young Swiss Italian and Polish poets translated each other. The outcome has been brilliant and the books keep circulating widely.
Considering that Swiss poets from the country’s different linguistic regions don’t really know each other’s work, in 2016 Babel Festival got the project Poethreesome under way, by inviting Odile Cornuz, Laura Accerboni and Ulrike Urlich to translate each other’s poems. The result of their joint work has been presented at Leukerbad Literature Festival in July 2016, and subsequently at Babel Festival in Bellinzona. Here is a sample.

I poeti di tutto il mondo hanno sempre tradotto altri poeti, anche senza conoscere una singola parola della lingua originale.
In uno scenario ideale, il traduttore lavora a partire da un’interlineare (una traduzione parola per parola) corredata di note che charificano la forma, il tono, lo stile, lo schema metrico e il ritmo dell’originale. In seconda istanza si può ricorrere a una traduzione in una terza lingua conosciuta sia dal poeta tradotto che da quello che traduce. In ogni caso, i due poeti condividono sempre una stessa lingua: la lingua della poesia.
Babel ha promosso questo metodo di lavoro – meno diffuso nell’Europa continentale che altrove – mediante diversi progetti: i più recenti sono due antologie a specchio, la prima, Il vetro è sottile, pubblicata in Svizzera dalle Edizioni Casagrande e l’altra, Szyby są cienkie, in Polonia da Biuro Literackie, che hanno visto poeti ticinesi e polacchi tradursi vicendevolmente.
Ora, considerando gli scarsi contatti tra i poeti svizzeri delle differenti aree linguistiche, e come le barriere mentali possono essere più granitiche di quelle fisiche, nel 2016 Babel ha lanciato il progetto Poethreesome, invitando Odile Cornuz, Laura Accerboni e Ulrike Ulrich a tradursi vicedenvolmente nelle tre lingue nazionali. I risultati del loro lavoro sono stati presentati in eventi letterari nazionali e internazionali. Eccone un esempio.

19.08.2017
Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin

Berlin, Germany
September 06-16, 2017

22.08.2017
Zabor – Présentation du roman par l’auteur

Pourquoi raconte-on des histoires depuis toujours ? Pour contrer le temps ? La peur ? Peupler la nuit par un feu et un récit ? Pour s’amuser ? Il y a dans ce rite immémorial une nécessité, un besoin et pas seulement un désir. Car lorsqu’on raconte ou lorsqu’on écrit, l’histoire a un début et une fin, contrairement au monde et à ses étoiles qui parsèment nos interrogations. L’histoire en est l’alternative, la possible cohérence, notre part : il y la pierre tombale et la première pierre, la quête et le triomphe. Cette nécessité de la parole, qui plus tard deviendrait langues, livres, bibliothèques, récits, m’apparut très tôt comme une évidence. Les Mille et Une Nuits en résument la formule : une femme raconte pour sauver sa vie. La sienne, seulement. Alors que toute la littérature est là pour sauver la vie des autres, autant que possible, la part humaine.
Sauf que, pour écrire ou raconter, il faut un feu pour fixer le voyageur et une langue qui maîtrise la peur nocturne. L’aventure de la langue n’est pas dans l’extension de sa synonymie vertigineuse et arbitraire mais dans celle de notre puissance, celle du narrateur et de l’auditeur. La langue est une aventure en soi. Possibilité de libération, preuve de liberté : prendre la parole, c’est amoindrir un dieu qui l’accapare. Dans mon pays, elle est dissidence et correspond donc à mon propre schisme. Elle est aussi le lieu des imaginaires désobéissants. Comment raconter le monde entre le récit de la guerre de libération, qui fait passer la mort avant la vie, et le récit des religieux, qui fait passer l’au-delà avant l’ici-bas ? C’est une question qui obsède mon écriture : prouver que le monde existe !
J’ai écrit Zabor pour raconter mes croyances : toute langue est autobiographique. Écrire, c’est se libérer ; lire, c’est rejoindre ou embrasser ; imaginer, c’est assurer sa propre résurrection. Le dictionnaire est une escalade du sens.
Mais aussi une impasse : les livres sacrés racontent la chute mais ne disent rien du goût du fruit défendu. La langue est dans l’antécédent du mot : le goût. C’est aussi le but de cette fable : rappeler cette hiérarchie.
L’idée était de sauver la Sheherazade des Mille et une nuit et s’interroger sur la plus ancienne des questions : peut-on sauver le monde par un livre ? Vieille vanité (et nécessité) à laquelle le dieu des monothéismes a cédé quatre ou cinq fois.
– Kamel Daoud

18.08.2017
The Blogosphere’s Protective Edge: Entries from Palestinian Blogs

These texts were selected at moments of impotence in the face of recurrent events.
The first two, Kayyal’s and Omar’s, were selected in 2015 when my friend Benjamín García and I decided to publish a bilingual Arabic-Spanish anthology that would contain a selection of Palestinian and Mexican blog entries and translate them into Arabic and Spanish. The motive was rather simple: both of us were ardent readers of our respective national blogospheres and have been worriedly witnessing their collapse in front of our eyes. Once a free territory for insomniac individuals’ profound and authentic reflections defying all rules of grammar and morals, we were witnessing how the vast majority of bloggers—similar to Bertrand Russell’s turkey—were eventually induced to the use of the ephemeral “social media” and “smart phones” applications that raze everything in their path. Seeing how the “rich, diverse, free web that I loved is dying” (in the words of Iranian blogger Hossein Derkhashan), Benjamín and I desperately decided to print a book we called Tadwiniyyat: desde la blogósfera México-Palestina. Printed in Mexico City in May of 2016, the book contains 10 Mexican blog entries translated into Arabic and 10 Palestinian blog entries translated into Spanish. Our book was freely distributed in the city’s streets and its texts were read out on various occasions. Kayyal’s and Omar’s blog entries, written in 2014, appeared in the anthology in Spanish translation.
The other three texts (Yawda, Miqdar and Tuffaha) were written in July/August 2014 during Israel’s war on the population of the Gaza Strip, the third in seven years. This time, the Israeli army officially translated its war operation into English as “Operation Protective Edge.” In Hebrew, for the Israelis, the operation that killed 2,220 Palestinians, including 551 children, was named Tzuk Eitan: Mighty Cliff. On July 22nd, while war was broadcasted on tv, a group of poets and artists from Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Argentina, Syria, Guatemala, Iran, the United States, Switzerland and Palestine met in Mexico City’s Casa Refugio—a cultural center and residency for writers who have been targets of political persecution in their home countries—to read the Spanish translations of a number of short texts written on the social network by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and abroad.
In Abilio Estévez’ “Why do I write?,” published here on Specimen, we read that “maybe it’s true that whenever a person doesn’t have any answers he writes a story.” Isn’t that how we feel about writing, reading and translating, after all?

– Shadi Rohana, Mexico City, August 2017

09.08.2017
From Bambini di ferro
Italian
English

Quello di “Bambini di ferro” è un complicatissimo mondo in cui il gesto d’affetto è ormai obsoleto, in cui il sentimento d’amore non è più spontaneo, e dev’essere messo in atto come uno spinoso rituale o un algoritmo. Un mondo in cui vengono progettati degli appositi dispositivi, le Unità Materne, per crescere i bambini. Programmate a un amore perfetto, le Unità Materne nascono per creare adulti più felici. Ma naturalmente si rivelano fallimentari e pericolose, a causa della contaminazione di un virus da parte di un gruppo sovversivo. D’altronde anche l’amore umano, non solo quello algoritmico, non può essere perfetto ma viene sempre trasmesso con tutti i traumi, le complessità e le imperfezioni della persona che lo trasmette. Volevo un romanzo la cui struttura rispecchiasse quella di una mente schizoide, in cui si scontrassero e sovrapponessero diversi testi e sottotesti, voci e contro-voci (ermetici sutra buddhisti, teorie scientifiche e antropologiche, narrazione storica e narrazione mitologica, voci effettive e voci interiori). In cui i personaggi stessi potessero essere letti come i cocci di una mente sofferente. In cui l’anima, secondo una visione shintoistica della realtà, non è prerogativa dell’essere umano ma viene dislocata dalla narrazione, così che risultino più umani certi oggetti (i robot, altri feticci come le bambole) rispetto agli esseri umani della storia (Sada ad esempio, la crudele direttrice dell’istituto, o Yuki, l’educatrice che percepisce i suoi stati d’animo come calcoli di un computer). E’ un realismo nuovo, non più antropocentrico, che tiene conto della realtà intera. Volevo che la narrazione, sia effettiva che simbolica, incarnasse l’idea buddhista di “identità”, che consiste di frammenti eterogenei e che solo illusoriamente si organizza in un’unità che per comodità chiamiamo “io”. Trovavo interessante che le antiche teorie buddhiste sull’identità corrispondano oggi a ciò che viene descritto e diagnosticato come schizofrenia. La protagonista, Sumiko, è un non-personaggio: non parla, si muove appena, su di lei si specchiano i traumi degli altri personaggi. Autistica secondo i suoi educatori in istituto, più probabilmente è un Buddha che si è spostato più avanti del livello comune di interazione umana. È su questo livello che si incontrano Sumiko e Yuki, la sua educatrice. A ogni lettura del libro può corrispondere un diverso percorso interpretativo: si può seguire la pista religiosa, neuro-psichiatrica, storica, e così via. A ogni lettura, Sumiko può essere qualcos’altro. È a disposizione del lettore, un piccolo Buddha inerme ma potentissimo, capace di raccogliere e mitigare il dolore dell’umanità. Come scrisse Laing, “la schizofrenia è solo un’etichetta appiccicata da alcune persone su altre sotto certe condizioni sociali”. E allora chi è davvero sano e chi è malato? In una società alienata, non sono gli “alienati” ad essere più prossimi a un concetto puro di umanità?
– Viola Di Grado

The world of “Bambini di ferro” (“Iron Children”) is a complicated one in which affection is obsolete, in which the feeling of love is no longer spontaneous, and must be put into practice as a delicate ritual or algorithm. It is a world in which special devices, Maternal Units, are designed to raise children. Programmed for perfect love, Maternal Units were created to create happier adults. But of course they are faulty and dangerous because of being infected by a virus from a subversive group. Then again, human love, not only algorithmic love, cannot be perfect but is always transmitted with all the traumas, complexities and imperfections of the person who transmits it.  I wanted a novel whose structure reflected that of a schizoid mind, in which several texts and subtexts, voices and counter-voices (hermetic Buddhist sutras, scientific and anthropological theories, historical narrative and mythological narrative, actual voices and inner voices) clash and superimpose. In which the characters themselves could be read like the cracks of a suffering mind. In which the soul, according to a Shinto view of reality, is not a prerogative of the human being, but is displaced by narrative, so that in the novel certain objects (robots, other idols such as dolls) are more humane than human beings (Sada for example, the cruel director of the institute, or Yuki, the teacher who perceives her moods as computer calculations). It is a new, no longer anthropocentric realism that takes into account the whole reality. I wanted the story, both actual and symbolic, to embody the Buddhist idea of “identity,” consisting of heterogeneous fragments, which are only falsely organized into a unity that we call “I” for convenience. I found it interesting that ancient Buddhist identity theories today correspond to what is described and diagnosed as schizophrenia. The protagonist, Sumiko, is a non-character: she does not speak, barely moves, the traumas of other characters are reflected on her. According to her teachers at the institute she is autistic, most likely she is a Buddha who moved beyond the common level of human interaction. It is on this level that Sumiko and Yuki, her teacher, meet. Each reading of the book may correspond to a different interpretation path: one can follow the religious, neuro-psychiatric, historical paths, and so on. At each reading, Sumiko may be something else. It is up to the reader: a small unarmed but powerful Buddha, capable of gathering and reducing the pain of humanity. As Laing wrote, “Schizophrenia is just a label attached by some people to others under certain social conditions.” So who is really healthy and who is sick? In an alienated society, are the “alienated ones” closer to a pure concept of humanity?
– Viola Di Grado
Translated by Tom Loughnane

05.08.2017
Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 19. Loop

Specimen likes the web, but it likes being a book as well, so it will occasionally take the form of fine prints or digital publications on-demand. And as it likes voices, flesh and blood too, it will speak and read at events and festivals.

03.08.2017
O homem que sabia javanês
Italian
English

Quella di Lima Barreto (1881-1922) è riconosciuta – postuma – come una delle voci più importanti della letteratura brasiliana del Novecento. Esistenza difficile e breve, minata da alcol, depressione e internamento psichiatrico. Originale e struggente lo sguardo che dedica all’universo dei vinti della sua città; lucida e tagliente la critica militante alle faglie del brasile repubblicano. O homem que sabia javanês viene pubblicato per la prima volta sulla “Gazeta da Tarde” di Rio de Janeiro il 28 Aprile del 1911. Più che lecita la lettura allegorica del racconto in cui l’ironia dell’autore non risparmia una critica impietosa sul provincialismo pedissequo della cultura brasiliana coeva. La versione che qui si traduce è quella, più recente, pubblicata in Contos completos de Lima Barreto, São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2010.
– Roberto Francavilla

Posthumously recognized as one of the most important voices in twentieth century Brazilian literature, Lima Barreto led a brief and difficult existence, weakened by alcohol, depression and psychiatric institutionalization. In his writings, he depicts the world of the defeated of his city with a moving and original outlook, without sparing criticism against the Brazilian culture of his time. O homem que sabia javanes was first published in Rio de Janeiro’s ‘Gazeta da Tarde’ on April 28th 1911. The version of the short story that is published and translated here is the most recent one, published in Contos Completos de Lima Barreto, Sao Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2010.
– Roberto Francavilla

28.07.2017
Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh, Scotland
August 12-28, 2017

27.07.2017
El movimento sintáctico

Traducir el espíritu es una intención tan enorme y tan fantasmal que bien puede quedar como inofensiva; traducir la letra, una precisión tan extravagante que no hay riesgo de que la ensayen. Más grave que esos infinitos propósitos es la conservación o supresión de ciertos pormenores; más grave que esas preferencias y olvidos, es el movimento sintáctico.
– J.L Borges, Los traductores de “Las 1001 Noches“.

22.07.2017
No es lo mismo Beethoven

La traducción es una cosa en sí bastante incomprensible, que cada día me admira más. Yo lo compararía al enfrentamiento con una partitura musical. No es lo mismo Beethoven mal interpretado que bien ejecutado. Con la traducción sucede exactamente igual. Es una actividad literaria más, casi creativa, que tiene además la grandeza de la humildad. Suscribo plenamente con Nabokov aquello de que toda lengua tiene un equivalente exacto en todo texto nacido de otra lengua. Para mí, la traducción es, no obstante, una labor complementaria de mi labor literaria, así que sólo traduzco textos que me ofrecen interés.
– Javier Marías, El País, 15 Juno 1980.

16.07.2017
From The House

Mikheil Kakabadze was a prominent Georgian sportswriter and the editor-in-chief of the first Georgian daily sports newspaper, “Lelo”.
At the age of 19 Kakabadze went to World War II as a volunteer. After being heavily wounded in 1942 he was discharged. Years later he published a collection of short stories describing his war experiences. By that time he was already an accomplished sports journalist and, with his friends and colleagues, had founded “Lelo”. Initially, even without an office space. During those years all Soviet media were heavily politicized, pushing communism propaganda and leaving almost no space for anything else. Short sports news items were squeezed on the last page between some apparatchik’s obituary and weather reports. But in fact they were the most coveted pieces of information. This explains the immense popularity of “Lelo”, which soon became the most comprehensive source of sports-related information. Unlike other newspapers in Soviet Georgia, “Lelo” sold out every day. But in 1976 Kakabadze was dismissed from his position as editor-in-chief after refusing to publish a major Kremlin resolution assessing the work of the Georgian Communist Party – not related to sports at all. His health declined rapidly after losing his beloved “Lelo” and a few years later he passed away. It was only after the fall of the Soviet empire that the Mikheil Kakabadze Award for the Best Sportswriter of the year was established in Georgia.
I came across Mikheil Kakabadze’s short stories a couple of years ago and immediately experienced a sense of encounter with true literature. And I felt regret that his legacy was in journalism and not in fiction.
Mikheil Kakabadze jr. translated the excerpt from Mikheil Kakabadze’s short story “The House” into English. He never got to know his grandfather.
– Elena Botchorichvili

12.07.2017
The Princess and the Penis

We publish the Italian, Gaelic and Spanish versions of an erotic short story by Joanna Walsh, The Princess and the Penis, a tale of sex without body, or body without love, dependence and obsession, that touches upon issues of female sexuality and desire with amused originality and coarse and piercing details.
The Princess and the Penis is one of the intertwined fairytales that inhabit and roam the dark and sexy, absurd and funny realm of erotic possibilities outlined in Joanna Walsh’s Grow a Pair.

Book and ebook are published by readux.

06.07.2017
Santarcangelo Festival

Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy
July 07-16, 2017

03.07.2017
5 Poems on Fear and Courage
English
Italian

These 5 new poems by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Charles Simic have been written, and translated into Italian, expressly for La Milanesiana 2017. The event, which will run through July 13 in Milan and other Italian cities, has “Fear and Courage” as its guiding line. We would like to thank Charles Simic, Adelphi publishing house, and Elisabetta Sgarbi, founder and artistic director of La Milanesiana, for kindly granting us permission to publish the poems.

Le cinque poesie inedite di Charles Simic qui proposte sono state scritte e tradotte appositamente per La Milanesiana 2017. Il tema del festival, che si chiuderà giovedì 13 luglio, è “Paura e Coraggio”. La serata che ha visto tra i suoi protagonisti il poeta americano, premio Pulitzer nel 1990, si è svolta al Piccolo Teatro Grassi di Milano il 29 giugno. Si ringraziano Charles Simic, la casa editrice Adelphi e Elisabetta Sgarbi, ideatrice e direttrice della Milanesiana, per averci gentilmente concesso di riprodurre le poesie.

02.07.2017
Festival d’Avignon

Avignon, France
July 06-26, 2017

28.06.2017
Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 18. Ligatures

“The unity is submarine,” wrote Barbadian poet Edward Kamau Brathwaite. Submarine convergence, submarine roots floating free: “not fixed in one position in some primordial spot, but extending in all directions in our world through its network of branches,” added Édouard Glissant.

12.06.2017
What Can Literature Still Do?

Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov was the recipient of the 2016 Jan Michlaski Prize for Literature for his work The Physics of Sorrow. We would like to thank the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature for kindly granting us permission to publish Gospodinov’s acceptance speech.

03.06.2017
Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 17. Ink Trap

Specimen asks the web: what is it that printed books don’t have, and you could have? Specimen is interactive and customizable: you can change texture and background colour thanks to special slider features, choose the font size and the article layout, create relations among articles, receive notifications for your favourite topics and create your own magazine.

30.05.2017
Babel-BooksinItaly Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Translators

For translators of Italian literature from any country to celebrate their body of work.
Submissions will be accepted through September 15, 2017.
Details 

17.05.2017
Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 16. Hybrid Figures

“What I call creolization is a phenomenon of cultural mixing at a given time and place without the elements brought into contact being dissolved in the mixture: creolization is not dilution”.
Édouard Glissant

26.05.2017
Comment peindre une cascade
French
German
Italian

Le nouveau numéro de “Viceversa Littérature” vient de paraître, avec, entre autres, des inédits de Yari Bernasconi, Irena Brežná, Odile Cornuz, Jérémie Gindre, Dana Grigorcea, Thilo Krause, Silvia Härri, Rolf Hermann, Stefano Marelli, Philippe Rahmy, Tresa Rüthers-Seeli, Matteo Terzaghi et Dieter Zwicky.
Avec l’aimable autorisation de la rédaction de la revue et de l’auteur, nous proposons ici le récit de Jérémie Gindre.

viceversalitterature.ch

Soeben ist die neue Ausgabe von “Viceversa Literatur” erschienen, die Nummer 11. Darin finden sich u.a. unveröffentlichte Texte von Yari Bernasconi, Irena Brežná, Odile Cornuz, Jérémie Gindre, Dana Grigorcea, Thilo Krause, Silvia Härri, Rolf Hermann, Stefano Marelli, Philippe Rahmy, Tresa Rüthers-Seeli, Matteo Terzaghi und Dieter Zwicky.
Mit freundlicher Genehmigung des Jahrbuchs und des Autors veröffentlichen wir hier die Erzählung von Jérémie Gindre.
viceversaliteratur.ch

È appena uscito il nuovo numero, l’undicesimo, di “Viceversa Letteratura”, con inediti, tra gli altri, di Yari Bernasconi, Irena Brežná, Odile Cornuz, Jérémie Gindre, Dana Grigorcea, Thilo Krause, Silvia Härri, Rolf Hermann, Stefano Marelli, Philippe Rahmy, Tresa Rüthers-Seeli, Matteo Terzaghi e Dieter Zwicky.
Per gentile concessione della rivista e dell’autore, proponiamo qui il racconto di Jérémie Gindre.

viceversaletteratura.ch

06.05.2017
Specimen al Salone del libro di Torino

Turin, Italy
May 18, 2017 @ 2 pm
Lingotto – Sala Professionali

11.05.2017
Pensare la parola
Italian
English

Se è vero che pensare noi lo possiamo soltanto nel linguaggio, se, come diceva Wittgenstein, ogni interrogazione filosofica può essere presentata come un’interrogazione sul significato delle parole, allora la traduzione è uno dei modi eminenti in cui l’uomo pensa la sua parola.
–Giorgio Agamben, “Vocazione e voce” (1980), in La potenza del pensiero, Neri Pozza, 2005.

If it is true that we can think only by way of language, if, as Wittgenstein put it, every philosophical interrogation can be presented as an interrogation of the meaning of words, then translation is one of the eminent means by which man thinks his words.
–Giorgio Agamben, “Vocation and Voice” (1980).

06.05.2017
Multiculturalism is a pleonasm
English
Italian

Culture is born out of exchanges and thrives on differences. In this sense, “national culture” is a self-contradiction, and “multiculturalism” a pleonasm. The death of culture lies in self-centredness, self-sufficiency and isolation.
–Simon Leys

La cultura nasce dagli scambi e cresce grazie alle differenze. In questo senso la “cultura nazionale” è una contraddizione e il “multiculturalismo” un pleonasmo. La morte della cultura risiede nell’egocentrismo, nell’autarchia e nell’isolamento.
–Simon Leys

30.04.2017
Pen World Voices Festival

New York, NY, USA
April 30-May 5, 2017

21.04.2017
Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 15. Family, Super Family

Super families are collections of coordinated type families that cross type classifications, and are designed to work together in perfect harmony. Specimen‘s contents are commissioned and selected by an editorial board that will grow with each and every language.

15.04.2017
5 Poems from 40 Sonnets
English
Italian

We would like to thank Don Paterson–who was among our guests at Babel Festival last year–for granting us permission to publish this selection from his latest book of poems, 40 Sonnets. The English and Italian translations have been commissioned by Specimen to poets Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke and Matteo Campagnoli, respectively. For a full appreciation of the scope of Paterson’s collection, we suggest Sarah Crown’s review in The Guardian.

Ringraziamo Don Paterson – ospite del nostro festival “Babel” lo scorso settembre – per averci concesso di riprodurre la presente selezione dal suo ultimo libro di poesie, 40 Sonnets. Le traduzioni in greco e italiano sono state appositamente commissionate da Specimen ai poeti Katerina Anghelaki-Rooke e Matteo Campagnoli, e appaiono qui per la prima volta. Per un pieno apprezzamento del libro di Paterson, consigliamo la recensione di Sarah Crow su “The Guardian”.

12.04.2017
As Clean as a Bone
English
Italian

INTERVIEWER
As your experience about writing accrues, what would you say increases with knowledge?
BALDWIN
You learn how little you know. It becomes much more difficult because the hardest thing in the world is simplicity. And the most fearful thing, too. It becomes more difficult because you have to strip yourself of all your disguises, some of which you didn’t know you had. You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the goal.
– James Baldwin, “The Art of Fiction No. 78”, The Paris Review, Issue 91, Spring 1984.

INTERVISTATORE
Diventando via via più esperto come scrittore, cosa direbbe che aumenta insieme al sapere?
BALDWIN
Impari a capire quanto poco sai. Scrivere diventa molto più difficile perché la cosa più ardua in assoluto è la semplicità. E anche la più spaventosa. Diventa più difficile perché devi toglierti tutti i travestimenti, alcuni dei quali non sapevi nemmeno d’indossare. Cerchi di scrivere una frase pulita come un osso. L’obiettivo è questo.
– James Baldwin, “The Art of Fiction No. 78”, “The Paris Review”, Issue 91, Spring 1984.

04.04.2017
I luoghi dell’utopia

Ascona, Switzerland
April 6-9, 2017

21.03.2017
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

14.03.2017
“The principle underlying all our solutions”
English
Italian

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.

06.03.2017
10 ottobre from Absolutely Nothing
Italian
English

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 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.

02.03.2017
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.

25.02.2017
Gateway Litfest

Mumbai, India
February 25-26, 2017

22.02.2017
“las repercusiones incalculables de lo verbal”
Spanish
English

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.

11.02.2017
The Integrity of a Poem

INTERVIEWER
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.

LOWELL
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.

31.01.2017
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

02.02.2017
4+1 translatar

Chur, Switzerland
March 10-11, 2017

21.01.2017
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.

18.01.2017
Xiaolu Guo. An Interview by Alice O’Keeffe
English
Italian

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.

16.01.2017
alPestine
English
Italian

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.

13.01.2017
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

11.01.2017
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.

08.01.2017
“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.

27.12.2016
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.

07.01.2017
Il mezzogiorno from Ore del giorno. 7 gennaio
Italian
English

“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.

19.12.2016
“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.

24.12.2016
“Замерзший кисельный берег. Прячущий в молоке” from Nativity Poems
English
Italian

“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.

16.12.2016
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.

15.12.2016
Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction

MoMA
New York, NY, USA
Through March 19, 2017

15.12.2016
Tutte le poesie di Giorgio Orelli
Italian
English

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.

07.12.2016
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

04.12.2016
New Literature from Europe Festival

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

24.11.2016
Retour à Kimihurura
English
Italian

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.

29.11.2016
Specimen Goes to Russia

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

23.11.2016
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

21.11.2016
A New Thing
English
Italian

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”.

14.11.2016
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.

13.11.2016
A Tremendous Blessing
English
Italian

“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.

09.11.2016
“An ice age can hit you any moment”
English
Italian
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.

07.11.2016
Ruinen
English
Italian
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.
01.11.2016
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

01.11.2016
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.

27.10.2016
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.

20.10.2016
N’est-elle pas toujours un dialogue?
French
English

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.

15.10.2016
Language and Experience
English
Italian

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.

18.10.2016
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.

12.10.2016
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

10.10.2016
Specimen Goes to Palestine

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

23.09.2016
Le monde, le texte, le corps, la manière de penser
French
English

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.

05.10.2016
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.

08.08.2016
5 poems from «Morning, Paramin»
English
Italian

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.

03.09.2016
“What, if not this deep translation, is your ardent aim?”
English
Italian

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.

30.08.2016
Le stalle di Rosagarda
English
Italian
French
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.

Giorgio Orelli, né à Airolo en 1921, mort à Bellinzone en 2013, est un poète, critique littéraire et traducteur suisse de langue italienne. Parmi ses œuvres, citons Tutte le poesie, Mondadori, Milan, 2015. Le texte proposé ici sous un titre choisi par la rédaction est le deuxième chapitre de la réécriture inédite, restée inachevée, de son récit Primavera a Rosagarda (Printemps à Rosagarda) dont l’action se déroule principalement dans la vallée de la haute Léventine, dans le canton du Tessin (© héritiers de Giorgio Orelli, à qui vont ici nos remerciements).

23.09.2016
The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

Cheltenham, England,
7-16 October 2016

03.09.2016
Between Alternative Possibilities of Existence
English
Italian

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.

08.08.2016
Babel. Festival di letteratura e traduzione

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

03.09.2016
Inspiration and the Real World
English
Italian

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.

03.09.2016
You Don’t Write for Anybody
English
Italian

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”.

03.09.2016
Kapittel: Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech

Stavanger, Norway, 14-18 September 2016