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Poethreesome 2023

Every year since 2016, three Swiss poets meet at the Swiss Institute in Rome and translate each other’s work during a two-week residency. If they do not know the source language, they rely on interlinear versions or a common lingua franca. The result of their work is then presented at national and international literary events and finally published here in “Specimen.” The poets of Poethreesome 2023 are Matteo Ferretti, Ariane Von Graffenried, and Eva Marzi. Poethreesome is a project initiated and curated by “Babel. Festival di letteratura e traduzione.” More about Poethreesome >>

Le Tiret d’Alice

Known as one of the greatest writers of 20th century Swiss literature and a pioneering feminist novelist, Alice Rivaz (1901-1998) influenced generations of readers, both women and men, through her remarkable poetic writing and her ability to focus on life’s unfulfillments, on the stories and aspirations of the voiceless.

This selection of fragments from her novels, short stories, essays, and biographical writings was compiled by the Institut d’étude des intervalles (iEi) in connection with the project, “Le Tiret” (2021 – 2030) from the Villa Bernasconi Art Center in Lancy.

These extracts illustrate Rivaz’s recurring themes: the condemnation of “domestic slavery” and recognition of forms of invisible work, the portrayal of communication failures between people along with wonder at the power of a caregiving gesture, reflections on writing and music, celebrations of “sisterhood” and its transformative qualities and, always, a gaze that was both incisive as well as imbued with a profound empathy for everything and every being brought together on the page through words.

Specimen has curated the translation of such selection in multiple languages here gathered and published for the first time.

With the support of République et Canton de Genève, Ville de Lancy and Ville de Meyrin.


On June 22, 1948, The Empire Windrush docked in Essex, England. This single event, widely held as the beginning of the mass migration of Caribbean immigrants to the United Kingdom, was also the beginning of the problematization of immigration.

2023 marked the 75 Anniversary of The Windrush, and wishing to bear witness, Inua Ellams commissioned 10 writers of Caribbean origins to compose new work engaging with Windrush. The writers were Raymond Antrobus, Dean Atta, Casey Bailey, Malika Booker, Anthony Vahni Capildeo, Courtney Conrad, Mr Gee, Keith Jarrett, Safiya Kamaria Kinshasa, and Deanna Rodger. Their responses are as vast and nuanced as they are heart-breaking and truth-telling.

In this new Dossier commissioned by Specimen, you can now read the original poems along their French and Spanish translations by Jeanne Jegousso and Manuel Portillo.

In collaboration with the Royal Society of Literature.

M’illumino d’immenso Poetry Translation Prize 2023

Anche quest’anno “M’illumino d’immenso”, Premio Internazionale di Traduzione di Poesia, si è rivelato un concorso che attira l’attenzione di traduttori di molti paesi diversi.

In totale, 382 traduttori di 28 paesi del mondo si sono cimentati nella traduzione delle poesie proposte dagli organizzatori: “‘82. Scirea” del poeta italiano Roberto Mussapi ed “È un turbine che stritola” della poetessa svizzera di lingua italiana Prisca Agustoni, per la VI edizione del premio verso lo spagnolo; “Canción del burócrata” di Eduardo Lizalde (Messico) e “Ypacaraí” di Daniel Samoilovich (Argentina), per la I edizione del premio verso l’italiano.

Il Premio è organizzato dai poeti Vanni Bianconi (Svizzera) e Fabio Morábito (Messico), e dalla traduttrice Barbara Bertoni (Italia), con il sostegno dell’Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Città del Messico e dell’Ambasciata di Svizzera in Messico, e con il patrocinio di varie istituzioni (Ambasciata del Messico in Italia, Ametli, Biblioteche di Roma, Fondo de Cultura Económica, IILA, Istituto di Italianistica dell’Università di Basilea) e media: Biblit. Idee Risorse per Traduttori (Italia), La otra (Messico), Luvina (Universidad de Guadalajara, Messico), Periódico de Poesía (UNAM, Messico), Specimen. The Babel Review of Translations (Svizzera) e Vasos Comunicantes (Spagna).

La giuria è internazionale ed è composta da poeti e traduttori di grande prestigio: Jorge Aulicino (Argentina), Barbara Bertoni (Italia), Vanni Bianconi (Svizzera), Valerio Magrelli (Italia), Fabio Morábito (Messico).

Il vincitore di M’illumino d’immenso dallo spagnolo all’italiano è Gabriele Mancini (Pomezia, Italia). Menzione d’onore a Michele Morella (Zurigo, Svizzera).

Il vincitore di M’illumino d’immenso dall’italiano in spagnolo è Jorge Yglesias (Cuba). Menzione d’onore a Carlos Mayor (Spagna) e Marco Perilli (Messico).

I vincitori hanno ricevuto un premio di 1000 euro e la pubblicazione delle traduzioni.

The Peirene Stevns Translation Prize 2024 is now OPEN

This year’s prize is aimed at emerging translators from Dutch to English.

Entrants are invited to translate a sample from Zee Nu by Eva Meijer, which addresses the greatest global challenge of our time: a timely novel about rising sea levels, human complacency and the adaptive power of nature.

The winner of the Peirene Stevns Translation Prize 2024 will receive a £5,200 commission to translate Zee Nu, for publication in 2025, a mentorship with International Booker Prize winning translator Michele Hutchison, and a translation retreat in an 18th century mill house in the foothills of the French Pyrenees.

The 2024 judges are Michele Hutchison, Haico Kaashoek and Paul Vincent. Entries are judged anonymously and submissions close on 4th March 2024.

Founded in 2018, the Peirene Stevns Translation Prize is now entering it’s sixth year, thanks to the generous support of Martha Stevns. We are also grateful to the Dutch Foundation for Literature for working with us on this year’s prize.

For full entry instructions, prize details, and eligibility guidelines click the link below.

Veel geluk!

Babel 2023 | Isole | Werner Herzog

Filmmaker and author Werner Herzog was the guest of honor at the 18th edition of “Babel. Festival di letteratura e traduzione,” which took place in Bellinzona, Switzerland, from Sept. 14 to Sept. 17, 2023.  Mr. Herzog discussed his work with Swiss-Italian poet Fabio Pusterla, starting from his novel The Twilight World, which tells the incredible story of Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who defended a small island in the Philippines for twenty-nine years after the end of World War II.

Premio internazionale di traduzione di poesia M’illumino d’immenso 2023

Pubblicato il bando dell’edizione 2023 del Premio internazionale di traduzione di poesia M’illumino d’immenso. Premio Internazionale di Traduzione di Poesia dall’italiano in spagnolo, di cui Specimen è partner.

Verrà premiata la migliore traduzione in spagnolo di due poesie di lingua italiana, una di un poeta italiano e l’altra di una poetessa svizzero-italiana.
Ai vincitori verrà assegnato un premio di 1000 euro.

Per la prima volta quest’anno, pubblicato anche il bando M’illumino d’immenso. Premio Internazionale di Traduzione di Poesia dallo spagnolo in italiano.

Le poesie da tradurre sono per la sezione dall’italiano Scirea di Roberto Mussapi e È un turbine che stritola (frammento) di Prisca Agustoni, per la sezione dallo spagnolo Canción del burócrata di Eduardo Lizalde e Ypacaraí di Daniel Samoilovich.

Entrambi i bandi scadono alle ore 23.59 (GMT) del 20 agosto 2023.
Per informazioni:

Dans une sorte de langue étrangère

“Les beaux livres sont écrits dans une sorte de langue étrangère. Sous chaque mot chacun de nous met son sens ou du moins son image qui est souvent un contresens. Mais dans les beaux livres, tous les contresens qu’on fait sont beaux.”
– Marcel Proust, “Conclusion”, Contre Sainte-Beuve (posthume, 1954).

M’illumino d’immenso Poetry Translation Prize 2022

M’illumino d’immenso, International award for the best translation of Italian poetry into Spanish, Arabic and German was first conceived to promote the translation of Italian language poetry, both from Switzerland and from Italy, within the Spanish speaking countries but now includes other languages (Arabic and German). The award is organised by Swiss poet Vanni Bianconi (Switzerland) and poet Fabio Morabito (Mexico), together with translator Barbara Bertoni (Italia), with the support of the Italian Institute of Culture of Ciudad de México, and Il Cairo, the Swiss Embassy in Mexico and Egypt, Toledo Programm – Deutscher Übersetzerfonds and Biblioteche di Roma. The 2022 prize winners are the following: Isabel Teresa García Casalta de Puglisi (Venezuela) for the Spanish translation, Reddad Cherrati (Marocco) for the Arabic translation, and Ruth Gantert (Svizzera) for the German translations.


Argentine writer and translator Pablo Ingberg during his time as a guest in Bellinzona for the Babel 2021 festival, discovered the vertical dimension of the Ticino town. The historic center of Bellinzona is in fact overlooked by three castles, placed one on top of the other and partly connected by a wall that has long marked not only a political-administrative border but also a linguistic one.

We thank Pablo Ingberg for allowing us to present his poem here, almost as an invitation to our readers to come to Bellinzona for the next edition of Babel, from the 15th to the 18th of September 2022.

Ospite a Bellinzona in occasione del festival Babel 2021, lo scrittore e traduttore argentino Pablo Ingberg ha scoperto la dimensione verticale della cittadina ticinese. Il centro storico di Bellinzona è infatti sovrastato da tre castelli, posti uno sopra l’altro e in parte collegati da una murata che ha a lungo segnato un confine non solo politico-amministrativo, ma anche linguistico.

Ringraziamo Pablo Ingberg per averci autorizzato a proporre qui questa sua poesia, quasi come un invito rivolto ai nostri lettori a venire a Bellinzona per la prossima edizione di Babel, dal 5 al 18 settembre 2022.

Anfibia/The Amphibian

Following my first few encounters with the English language as a teenager, I – an Italian native speaker born and raised in Italy – fell in love with it and pursued it as a major at University; I then spent several years working as a linguist between Nigeria and China, always feeling my Italian identity very strongly.
It was only when I settled in the UK twelve years ago that I started realising how complex it is to be a linguistically and culturally hybrid human being: just like parents, over time Italian and English have forged my personality, each through its own strengths and weaknesses. And like every child must eventually do, in this poem I reflect on my linguistic identity as a clumsy attempt to reconcile a two-fold legacy, trying to embrace what I enjoy about it and accept what I have absorbed from it in spite of myself. Considering the different natures of Italian and English (more complete vs more concise), it felt just natural to write this Italian poem in longer (eight-syllable) verses and then create an English version made of shorter (six-syllable) lines. Although the poem was first conceived in Italian, the English version is not a mere translation of it: rather, it was born out of the original but then engaged in mutual contamination with it, eventually becoming an independent being.
– Antonietta Bocci


‘엄마 없는 집에’ is the only Korean poem I have ever written. The Korean used is likely broken and outdated, as I left my first homeland in 1994 at the age of seven — but it is my own. The poem was written in 2013 during my doctoral studies in the UK, while visiting my childhood home in America. At the time, I was greatly struggling to write my thesis because I felt so unsure about my claim to literature of the American South. The poem came to me as fully formed as it could be (considering my mutated Korean), in the span of time it took for me to walk from my childhood bedroom to the kitchen of my family home. In the poem, I am home alone with my father, observing him doing dishes at the sink, while my mother is away in Korea visiting her dying sister. The poem makes no direct mention of my mother coping with her sister dying, noting only my mother’s absence. There is some sense that my mother might be dead. My mother and her sister were the closest in age of their siblings and my mother tells me they looked very much alike in their youth with their snow-white, full moon faces. They are present, my mother and her sister (my aunt I hardly remember as she is dying) in the poem’s closing focus on a rice bowl my father holds, gleaming like a pearl. I translated the poem into a monologue from my grieving mother, imagining her voice in English. Through this imagined, other voice of my mother, I found room to speak to things unsaid between me, my mother, and my father. In the monologue, instead of speaking directly of her sister’s death, the character of my mother poses questions around both the possibility and certainty of her own death and how my father and I would survive. The two pieces are extensions of one another, sisters in shared in-between spaces.
– S J Kim

Poesia eta phrasal verbs/Poetry and phrasal verbs

I was born in the Basque country, Northern Spain in 1991, surrounded by the Pyrenees and the Cantabric Sea, yet not far from the Mediterranean. I was brought up by a family of poets who fed me books and songs until I left home at the age of 16. I came to London to study Chinese at SOAS in 2010, when  London was a pool where all of us Europeans gathered. After graduating, I worked in Asia for several years, but I always wanted to come back to this city I was still calling home –London.
I started writing poetry during my year abroad in Beijing- I was very far from home, I had no one to talk my language (Basque) with and I felt that after 5 year abroad I was slowly losing it. As Basque had been for a long time an endangered language I could not let losing it within me, ‘a language is not lost because those who don’t know it don’t learn it, but because those who know it don’t use it’. Thus I started writing to keep closer to my childhood roots, creating a world of language intimacy in my poetry.
Here in the UK I’m surrounded by all the languages I had the pleasure to learn around my years abroad: I speak Spanish with my Argentinian flatmate, Chinese with the friends I met in Hong Kong that recently moved to the UK, Italian with my neighbours, Basque with my mother (on the phone) and my notebook, and English with all the rest of the people around. In that multiplicity of words, I feel comfortably at home and it could not happen anywhere else but here – in London.
The poem here aims to represent that mix of sounds, smells and belongings that are represented in my small grammar mistakes, accents, thoughts, misunderstandings and emotional contexts attached to particular words dancing together in my mind.
– Beatriz Chivite


Basag/Broken is a non-fiction piece about my accidental discovery of the secret location of Margaret Thatcher’s body upon her death in 2013. The incident triggers reflections on my youth during the Marcos era, and the parallels and contrasts between my and my (British) husband’s experiences during the same epoch, and how these shape our different understanding of English words such as poverty, freedom, and oppression.
– Carla Montemayor

Kyiv: A War Diary

Yevgenia Belorusets is a Ukrainian writer, journalist, artist, and photographer who lives between Kyiv and Berlin. Her photographic work calls attention to the more vulnerable sections of Ukrainian society—queer families, out-of-work coal miners, the Roma, people living in the war zone in the East—and was shown in the Ukrainian pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale. Lucky Breaks, her first work of fiction, was given a 2020 HKW International Literature Award in Germany.
Her diary provides the news from a different vantage.
Updates are published by ISOLARII at 4:00 PM EDT each day

Η Ουκρανή Γεβγκένια Μπελορούσετς (γεν. 1980) είναι φωτογράφος, καλλιτέχνις, συγγραφέας και μεταφράστρια. Ζει στο Κίεβο και το Βερολίνο. Από τις 24 Φεβρουαρίου 2022 γράφει το «Ημερολόγιο από το Κίεβο», που δημοσιεύεται στον ιστότοπο του γερμανικού περιοδικού Der Spiegel.
Η δημοσίευση των ελληνικών μεταφράσεων εδώ άρχισε με την ημερολογιακή καταγραφή της 4ης Μαρτίου και θα γίνει προσπάθεια να μεταφραστούν και να δημοσιευτούν οι προηγούμενες και οι επόμενες καταγραφές.

Yevgenia Belorusets è una scrittrice, giornalista, artista e fotografa ucraina che vive tra Kyiv e Berlino. La sua opera fotografica mette in luce gli strati più vulnerabili della società ucraina, famiglie queer, minatori disoccupati, Rom, persone che vivono nella zone di guerra dell’East ucraino, ed è stata esibita al padiglione ucraino della 56° Biennale di Venezia. Il suo primo libro, Lucky Breaks, è stato premiato in Germania nel 2020 con l’HKW International Literature Award.
Il suo diario informa da un punto di vista privilegiato.
Gli aggiornamenti sono pubblicati quotidianamente su ISOLARII alle 16:00 (EST).

Elena Botchorichvili

Elena Botchorichvili, born in Georgia, studied journalism and English in Tbilisi. She worked in the Soviet Union as a journalist and emigrated in 1992 to Canada. She is the author of eight books, translated into various languages, among them: The Butterfly Drawer (1999), Opera (2002), and Faïna (2007). She was awarded the Russian Prize in 2015.

Serhiy Zhadan

Serhiy Zhadan is a Ukrainian poet, writer, musician, and political activist, born in Starobilsk, Luhansk Oblast in Ukraine, in 1974. He wrote 12 books of poetry and 7 novels and is the winner of more than a dozen literary awards. His works have been translated into more than 20 languages. Zhadan collaborated with Kharkiv-based music bands. Since 2014 Serhiy Zhadan has made numerous visits to the front lines of the Donbas region, in 2017 he co-founded Serhiy Zhadan Charitable Foundation to provide humanitarian aid to front-line cities.

Lyuba Yakimchuk

Lyuba Yakimchuk is a Ukrainian poet, screenwriter, and journalist. She was born in Pervomaisk, Luhansk Oblast, in 1985, and now lives in Kyiv. She is the author of several full-length poetry collections, including Like FASHION and Apricots of Donbas, and the film script for The Building of the Word. Yakimchuk’s awards include the International Slavic Poetic Award and the international “Coronation of the Word” literary contest. Her works have been translated into eighteen languages.

Anastasia Afanasieva

Anastasia Afanasieva was born in Kharkiv in 1982. She is the author of six books of poetry and the winner of numerous major literary awards and prizes, including the Debut Prize and the Russian Award, two of the top awards in Russian poetry. Her poetry has been translated into English, German, Italian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian. In the US, her poems in translation have appeared in Cimarron Review, Jacket Magazine, and Blue Lyra Review. She is the translator of Ilya Kaminsky’s book Music of the Wind (Ailuros, 2012). The English language translation of Afanasieva’s poem about refugees won First Place in the 2014 Joseph Brodsky/Stephen Spender Prize Competition.

Poethreesome 2020/21

Poets around the world have always translated other poets, often without even knowing the source language. Given the poor contacts between Swiss poets from different language areas, and noting that mental barriers may be more granitic than physical ones, Babel conceived the project titled Poethreesome in 2016.

Each year, three Swiss poets translate each other into three national languages. When they do not know the source language, they rely on the mediation of interlinear versions-word for word, with notes on lexicon and prosody prepared by scholars or other poets or translators-or on a shared lingua franca. In any case, the translator and the translated always share a language, that of poetry. Poetic language knows no barriers, not even linguistic ones, that cannot be overcome. Both for writers and for readers. Translation between writers from different linguistic areas thus offers a model of mediation for approaching other people’s cultures and ways of being.

The results of this work are presented at national and international literary events and finally published in Specimen. The Babel Review of Translations.

The 2020/21 edition of Poethreesome is all-female, with three poets whose work of writing and translation intertwine almost to the point of merging: Michelle Steinbeck for German, Laura di Corcia for Italian, Rebecca Gisler, a Swiss-Romanian poet who writes in French and German

Translation With No Common Measure

I am used to writing texts, but nothing prepared me for writing an original. In 2012, François Félix was putting together a publication for the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences of China on “the field of aesthetics in Switzerland today and contemporary Swiss research into aesthetics.” He invited me to write an article on the aesthetics of translation, an article publish in Chinese in a volume titled 瑞士当代美学和诗学研究. The first publication of this text was therefore its translation; it was only later that it appeared in its original French (François Félix [éd.], Xi Dong – Voies esthétiques, L’Âge d’homme, Lausanne, 2015). It was this non-coincidence between the language of my writing and the language of the publication that, for me, initiated the singular experience of writing an original: not one of the words I was writing would be read by the person I was addressing; by the same token, the text that they would be reading would for me remain unreadable. Writing words to be translated that would not be read, making sense of translated signs that one did not write. This strangeness is nothing more than the ordinary event that translation makes happen. I think of it as its most beautiful miracle: that by releasing something between languages, taking something away from both you and me, in a place between there and here, there can be an encounter. Now, thanks to Kate Briggs, the text has found a new writing and a new language; it has been returned to its initial mystery. Once again, its words have been detached from their inscription; they are floating now, incomparably. Listen there, look: other fish are keeping silent, other worms are making their homes in other apples, other voyagers are registering the depths of other nights and, between us, are singing again.
– Arno Renken

M’ILLUMINO D’IMMENSO Premio Internazionale di Traduzione di Poesia / Italiano > arabo

L’Istituto Italiano di Cultura Il Cairo, l’Ambasciata della Confederazione Svizzera in Egitto e il Laboratorio Trādūxit, al fine di promuovere la traduzione e la diffusione della poesia italiana e svizzero-italiana nei paesi di lingua araba, bandiscono la seconda edizione per i paesi di lingua araba di M’ILLUMINO / D’IMMENSO Premio Internazionale di Traduzione di Poesia dall’italiano all’arabo. Scarica il bando >>

M’ILLUMINO D’IMMENSO Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía / Italiano > Español

El Instituto Italiano de Cultura de la Ciudad de México, la Embajada de Suiza en México y el Laboratorio Trādūxit, bajo el patrocinio de Biblioteche di Roma, con el fin de fomentar la traducción y difusión de la poesía italiana y suizo-italiana en los países de habla hispana, convocan a la cuarta edición de M’ILLUMINO / D’IMMENSO Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía del italiano al español. pdf >>

M’ILLUMINO D’IMMENSO Premio Internazionale di Traduzione di Poesia / Italiano > ceco

L’Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Praga, l’Ambasciata di Svizzera in Repubblica Ceca, il Laboratorio Trādūxit con il patrocinio di Biblioteche di Roma e del festival di poesia Den poezie, al fine di promuovere la traduzione e la diffusione della poesia italiana e svizzero-italiana in Repubblica Ceca, bandiscono la prima edizione per la Repubblica Ceca di M’ILLUMINO / D’IMMENSO, Premio Internazionale di Traduzione di Poesia dall’italiano al ceco. Scarica il bando >>

Belarusian New Writing

Belarusian New Writing: In solidarity with the Belarusian arts and culture community and to draw attention to the country’s current situation.

Two Poems for Joseph Brodsky

Joseph Brodsky passed away 25 years ago, on January 28, 1996. We remember him today with the words of his great friend Derek Walcott, who, through the years, wrote various poems for Joseph, either directly addressed to him, like Midsummer, II, or in his memory, like White Egrets, VIII.

York to Teheran

York to Teheran is the winner of “To Speak Europe in Different Languages: Hybrid and Collective Writing Competition.” The prize was awarded during Babel Festival 2020 in Bellinzona, Switzerland. (More on the prize and the winner.)
This week I sat down with my aunt’s travel diaries from 1963, making this piece a blend of my writing and her words. Two journals of inspiration have been greatly condensed to meet the word limit, reliving Ruth’s journey through 15 countries. Leaving from York, U.K, Ruth travels all the way to Tehran, with her best friend, in a Mini-Cooper. A trip of epic proportions, it spans an incredible array of languages, cultures and people. The required element of human hybridization is therefore met by this technically being the combined effort of two people, based on archival material. The nature of the itinerary also involves many different realities- from tongue to time zone.
A horticulturist and visual artist, my Aunt was especially observant of nature, and describes in detail how the vistas vary along the drive. With each border they cross, sense of time and communication change. It is a heady mix, for nine weeks.
There is a saying: “New York minute” referring to a super quick instant, a flash! My parents met in New York but my mother’s family hail from Old York, which has the questionable honour of being known as ‘the most haunted city in Europe.’ Perhaps not all that surprising, considering its violent history from Romans and Vikings to medieval monarchs and highwaymen. With the spectre of Brexit looming, maybe it will be demoted to ‘most haunted city in England.’
What could an ‘Old York Minute’ then be defined as, I wonder? Much longer, heavier than a New York one, and maybe somewhat of a hybrid measurement of time, dimensions. Expandable time, time where alternate planes exist, linking to those who have gone before us, and those still yet to arrive.
– Desta Haile

መጀመሪያ ቃል ነበረ…

መጀመሪያ ቃል ነበረ… is one of the five texts shortlisted for “To Speak Europe in Different Languages: Hybrid and Collective Writing Competition.” The prize, which was awarded during Babel Festival 2020 in Bellinzona, Switzerland, went to Desta Haile for her York to Teheran. (More on the prize and the winner.)
The text I have submitted to “To Speak Europe in Different Languages. Hybrid and Collective Writing Competition” tries to satisfy the guidelines of the linguistic and genre hybridization, in that it is hybrid between languages, between written and oral forms, and between genres, mixing prose and poetry. It also tries to satisfy human hybridization within soliloquy since the story is written by the characters in a collective way.
– Yohanes Molla

Prendre Langue

Prendre Langue is one of the five texts shortlisted for “To Speak Europe in Different Languages: Hybrid and Collective Writing Competition.” The prize, which was awarded during Babel Festival 2020 in Bellinzona, Switzerland, went to Desta Haile for her York to Teheran. (More on the prize and the winner.)
“Prendre langue” is an invitation to think about what hybridity means. Is combining words or registers from two different languages the only way to create hybridity? This poem shows that, on the contrary, hybridity can also be reflected by addressing the question of who can make words and who can solely use these words. My relationship to French as a native tongue is shaped by the inherent colonial tension between two types of French: the French that my mother used at home as part of a creole of Darija, Amazigh and Spanish, and the French of Jacques Derrida who appropriated the decolonial question of language from Abdelkebir Khatibi to make it universal. In the first type of French, I observed my mother’s unconditional love for her children. Although she never learned French outside of home and barely left her house in an immigrant’s ghetto twenty kilometres away from Brussels, she made tireless efforts to use French, albeit in fragments. This domestic hybrid French was her own making of a mother tongue. In the second type of French, the official French which I learned outside of home, I suffered the absence of my mother and my reality. To think about a society that made my mother and my reality invisible, I had to disuse the dominant French and make my own language, one that recognizes my history as an indigène. This French is as hybrid as my mother tongue.
– S.C.


Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces

Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces is one of the five texts shortlisted for “To Speak Europe in Different Languages: Hybrid and Collective Writing Competition.” The prize, which was awarded during Babel Festival 2020 in Bellinzona, Switzerland, went to Desta Haile for her York to Teheran. (More on the prize and the winner.)
Africa is the Land of Wide Empty Spaces was written as part of a project called Camel Meat and Cassette Tapes, an intergenerational project with the Somali elders of Bristol. During this project, myself, Ayan Cilmi and Fozia Ismail, collaborated with the elders to learn more about the cassette tapes the diaspora used to use to keep in touch with family members back home.
As we co-created more with them, it became clear that the elders were of course themselves and human and fallible, but also represented whole archives of knowings that stretched beyond themselves.
This text I wrote in response to that, is about us, the Somali diaspora living in the UK, the orality of Somalis, and the gaps that we are faced with as we try and connect, with each, older generations, those back ‘home’ and the intangible sense of ‘homeland’. The theme of archives emerged after we worked within those colonial institutions.
It is written in both English and Somali. Some of the portions in Somali are quotes or words and phrases that stuck with me from interviews with the elders we worked with. It is also, in two different dialects of Somali, both those spoken in Somaliland, and the one spoken in Somalia. As translator in the project, watching the elders reach across dialects + languages was humbling. We made meaning and found ways to understand each other, utilising the internet or bringing in physical examples.
Thanks to Fozia Ismail, Ayan Cilmi and the Somali elders of Bristol. And special thanks to Arnolfini, where this project was commissioned for Camel Meat and Cassette Tapes.
– Asmaa Jama

Кога заминав од „Карл Либкнехт“

Lidija Dimkovska’s Кога заминав од „Карл Либкнехт“ is one of the five texts shortlisted for “To Speak Europe in Different Languages: Hybrid and Collective Writing Competition.” The prize, which was awarded during Babel Festival 2020 in Bellinzona, Switzerland, went to Desta Haile for her York to Teheran. (More on the prize and the winner.)

“When I Left Karl Liebknecht is a short story cycle which (in a modified way) received the Special Mention for “European cultural heritage” by the EU in 2018 in Vienna, Austria. In 2019 I published in Macedonian an entire short story collection with the same title When I left Karl Liebknecht, short listed for the Macedonian Writers’ Association Award for the best book of prose of the year, 2020. This cycle contains the shortest individual stories about Vitalie, a 32 years old fromTiraspol, Transnistria,  Moldova, moved to Bucharest, Romania, speaking Romanian language (or Moldavian, as it is officially called in Moldova), Dona a 47 years old from Skopje, (Northern) Macedonia, moved to Ljubljana, Slovenia, speaking Macedonian language, Oleg, a 25 years old from Minsk, Belarus, moved to Vienna, Austria, speaking Belarusian language and Taras, a 68 years old and Jamila, a 66 years old from the village of Libknehtivka in Crimea, moved to Prаgue, Czech Republic, speaking Crimean Tatar language. They all used to live or were connected with the name Karl Liebknecht, or more precisely, with an address named for the German leftist, comrade and like-minded thinker of Rosa Luxemburg. These are real places (toponyms), framed within real historical events, but original, fictional people. All the characters speak in their own languages and their stories are translated in English at the meeting in Leipzig. The cycle of stories When I Left Karl Liebknecht is a dissection of actual (political, cultural, migration) events and questions in Europe and the world.”

–Lidija Dimkovska

Babel-Laboratorio Formentini Prize 2020

The Babel-Laboratorio Formentini Prize 2020 has been awarded to Silvia Manzio for the translation of Fran Ross’ Oreo (SUR, 2020). Congratulations to Silvia and her fellow finalists: Cristina Dozio for Ogni volta che prendo il volo by Youssef Fadel (Brioschi, 2019), and Giulia Zavagna for La parte inventata by Rodrigo Fresán (LiberAria, 2019).
The Babel-Laboratorio Formentini Prize, awarded every two years to a young literary translator into Italian worthy of attention, has a budget of 3,000 euros + a residence at the Translation House Looren.
The call for the next edition (2022) will be announced on the Babel Festival website and social media.
Go to the Prize webpage >>

The House of Many Lands

When I was a child one of my favourite things was looking through the windows of strangers as darkness fell. I could have people watched for hours, had I had the chance, watched them living their lives illuminated in the windows. I painted myself a picture of what they did, who they were, their roles and relationships, the careers they pursued, and for some reason I struggled to imagine a single one of them ever having to deal with a problem, a tragedy, or a misfortune.
Framed in the cosy light and under the protection of the familiar they seemed predestined to be happy, secure, loved. In my childish naivety I bestowed upon those people a cloudless life.
Yet what fascinated me the most, and what placed this occupation so close to my heart, was the simultaneity of the flow of events I was witness to. Rarely did the narrow perspective of one’s own life afford this kind of insight. I was dimly aware of it even as a child, and on some subconscious level it made me sad: always being trapped in one’s own life; only ever so rarely partaking in the life of another to the extent that would, perhaps, be necessary to comprehend the sheer colossal scale of life in its total brutal parallelism.
Just why I was so dead set on grasping that I can’t say, but plain as day this attitude formed an important foundation for my choice of career. There, where insight was denied, where the curtains were left drawn, I wove my own whole cloth instead.
A lot of time has passed since then, but till this day when I walk along a street in the dark I find my eye drawn inexorably upward, catching on some bright window, and my imagination starts to gallop, as if my thoughts were a day at the races. The naivety of my childhood is long behind me of course, and I’m not enough of a utopian to fall for all these people enjoying the harmonious, carefree life. And yet for that, a peculiar, raw longing remains.

© 2020 Nino Haratischwili, Translation Bryn Roberts

M’illumino d’immenso Poetry Translation Prize 2020
 “M’illumino d’immenso, International award for the best translation of Italian poetry into Spanish” was conceived in 2018 to promote the translation of Italian language poetry, both from Italy and from Switzerland, within the Spanish speaking countries. The 2020 contest featured the works of 183 translators from 21 different countries. The jury has awarded the prize to Teresa Lanero Ladrón de Guevara (Spain).

This year marked the first edition of “M’illumino / d’immenso” for Arabic-speaking countries. Among the novelties of the Egyptian edition is the creation of a special prize for young translators. The jury evaluated the translations of fifty competitors and awarded the prize to Abdelrazek Fawky Eid. The special young translator prize went to Fatmaelzahraa Emad Hanafi Abdou Abdalla.

M’ILLUMINO / D’IMMENSO – Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía

El Instituto Italiano de Cultura de la Ciudad de México, la Embajada de Suiza en México y el Laboratorio Trādūxit, con el fin de fomentar la traducción y difusión de la poesía italiana y suizo-italiana en los países de habla hispana, convocan a la tercera edición de M’ILLUMINO / D’IMMENSO, Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía del italiano al español.
pdf >>

From Drinks With Dead Poets

Author’s note: Every word said here by Coleridge is taken from his prose writings. The Narrator – Glyn Maxwell in a prolonged dream of an autumn term – is appalled that a famous actor has been hired to read ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ instead of Coleridge himself, but the great poet seems too drunk to care…. Maxwell finds him in the pub.

The Dragon Can’t Dance: Prologue

Described as “a landmark, not in the West Indian, but in the contemporary novel” by C.L.R. James, Earl Lovelace’s Caribbean classic tells the story of Calvary Hill – poverty stricken, pot-holed and garbage-strewn – where the slum shacks ‘leap out of the red dirt and stone, thin like smoke, fragile like kite paper, balancing on their rickety pillars as broomsticks on the edge of a juggler’s nose’. The Dragon Can’t Dance is a remarkable canvas of shanty-town life in which Lovelace’s intimate knowledge of rural Trinidad and the Carnival as a sustaining cultural tradition are brilliantly brought to life.


Il premio Babel-Laboratorio Formentini viene assegnato ogni due anni a un giovane traduttore letterario di lingua italiana meritevole di attenzione. All’edizione 2020 possono partecipare traduttori la cui data di nascita non sia anteriore al 1 gennaio 1981, con opere pubblicate tra il luglio 2018 e il marzo 2020. Scadenza: 31 marzo 2020. >>

The True Story Award

The True Story Award, the first global prize for print and online reporting, provides recognition for exceptional written reports and commends articles in 12 of the world’s most widely used languages for excellence in research, reporting and relevance to society.
Call for submissions 2020/21

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 26. Teardrop Terminal

A terminal that resolves into a teardrop shape. But there is nothing wrong with happy endings, really.

Due poesie

Conosciuto soprattutto per le sue prose brevi, i suoi racconti e i suoi romanzi, Robert Walser (Biel 1878-Herisau 1956) è anche autore di una libro di poesie e di un’opera in versi emersa nella sua ampiezza (quasi 350 liriche) soltanto dopo la sua morte. Le due poesie qui riportate fanno parte della raccolta pubblicata da Bruno Cassirer nel 1909 e ora riproposta in edizione italiana con testo originale a fronte dalle edizioni Casagrande, a cura di Antonio Rossi. Le versioni francesi di Marion Graf sono state pubblicate da Zoé nel 2008.

Best known for his short prose, stories and novels, Robert Walser (Biel 1878-Herisau 1956) is also the author of a book of poems and a work in verse that emerged in its breadth (almost 350 lyrics) only after his death. The two poems published here are part of the collection published by Bruno Cassirer in 1909 and now republished by edizioni Casagrande, with an Italian translation by Antonio Rossi. The French versions by Marion Graf were published by Zoé in 2008.


JUNIVERS, a project initiated by the program TOLEDO, enticed translators of poetry from around the world to the Literary Colloquium Berlin in June. Together, they approached the poetical and translative works of Erich Fried and worked on his poem “Angst vor der Angst,” which loosely translates as “Fear of Fear.” They came up with several versions of the poem – and almost as many versions of fear, which shows itself in a new light in every linguistic universe. Here are the collected poems, from language to Language, from fear to Fear.”
– Aurélie Maurin & Florian Höllerer
“The International Literary Festival Erich Fried Days is a biennial event taking place in Vienna with a focus on new literary developments and relevant socio-political discourses and debates of our time. A special theme is chosen for each festival by the Erich Fried Society – the programme then includes international new book releases as well as authors whose body of work reflects upon the subject. All books are presented by the authors themselves in their mother tongues– thus evoking a multitude of sounds, tones and voices. In 2019 the chosen theme is “NO|FEAR. Literary Spectres and Overcoming Fear.”
– Anne Zauner

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 25. Specimen

A typographic specimen presents the same string of words repeated a number of times in different alphabets, fonts, styles: each one of these paragraphs is unique yet related to every other, is individual yet representative of a wider family, each is significant both for its differences and its similarities with every other. Did we tell you we like metaphors?

M’illumino d’immenso Poetry Translation Prize 2019

M’illumino d’immenso, International award for the best translation of Italian poetry into Spanish was conceived to promote the translation of Italian language poetry, both from Switzerland and from Italy, within the Spanish speaking countries. The award is organised by Swiss poet Vanni Bianconi and Mexican poet Fabio Morabito, together with translator Barbara Bertoni, supervisor of Laboratorio Trādūxit, with the support of the Italian Institute of Culture of Ciudad de México, the Swiss Embassy in Mexico and Bibloteche di Roma. This year’s contest featured the works of 109 translators from 14 different countries, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, Nicaragua, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela. The jury composed of poets Fabio Morábito and Francisco Segovia and Italian translator Barbara Bertoni has awarded the prize to Rocío Moriones Alonso.

M’illumino d’immenso, Premio internazionale di traduzione di poesia dall’italiano allo spagnolo è un concorso pensato per promuovere la traduzione e la diffusione della poesia italiana e della poesia svizzera in lingua italiana nei paesi di lingua ispanica. Organizzato dai poeti Vanni Bianconi (Svizzera) e Fabio Morabito (Messico) e dalla traduttrice Barbara Bertoni, coordinatrice del laboratorio Trādūxit, con il sostegno dell’Istituto italiano di cultura di Città del Messico, dall’ambasciata Svizzera in Messico e con il patrocinio delle Biblioteche di Roma. Questa edizione ha visto la presentazione di 109 proposte da 14 paesi: Argentina, Cile, Columbia, Cuba, Guatemala, Germania, Italia, Messico, Nicaragua, Regno Unito, Spagna, Stati Uniti, Svizzera e Venezuela. La giuria, composta dai poeti Fabio Morábito e Francisco Segovia e dalla traduttrice Barbara Bertoni ha premiato come traduzione migliore quella di Rocío Moriones Alonso.

M’illumino d’immenso. Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía del italiano al español es un concurso pensado con el fin de fomentar la traducción y la difusión tanto de la poesía italiana como de la poesía suizo-italiana en los países de habla hispana. Es organizado por los poetas Vanni Bianconi (Suiza) y Fabio Morábito (México), y por la traductora Barbara Bertoni, coordinadora del Laboratorio Trādūxit, gracias al apoyo del Instituto Italiano de Cultura de la Ciudad de México y de la Embajada de Suiza en México, con el patrocinio de Biblioteche di Roma. En esta edición llegaron 109 propuestas de 14 países distintos: Alemania, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, España, Estados Unidos, Guatemala, Italia, México, Nicaragua, Reino Unido, Suiza y Venezuela. El jurado, compuesto por los poetas Fabio Morábito y Francisco Segovia, y por la traductora Barbara Bertoni, eligió como mejor traducción la de Rocío Moriones Alonso.

An excerpt from Kraft

Kraft is Lüscher’s critically acclaimed debut novel, which won the 2017 Swiss Book Prize.
The protagonist, a professor of rhetoric Richard Kraft, travels to Silicon Valley to justify the benefits of scientific and technological advances and earn a million dollars for this. Jonas Lüscher creates a brilliant and fascinating satire by criticizing digital totalitarianism and demonstrating the clash of European cultural traditions with unreasonable American optimism. 

Richard Kraft, Rhetorikprofessor in Tübingen, unglücklich verheiratet und finanziell gebeutelt, hat womöglich einen Ausweg aus seiner Misere gefunden. Sein alter Weggefährte István, Professor an der Stanford University, lädt ihn zur Teilnahme an einer wissenschaftlichen Preisfrage ins Silicon Valley ein. In Anlehnung an Leibniz’ Antwort auf die Theodizeefrage soll Kraft in einem 18-minütigen Vortrag begründen, weshalb alles, was ist, gut ist und wir es dennoch verbessern können... 


Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía del italiano al español

Non parlerai la mia lingua

Nel 2019 Babel si spinge ai confini delle lingue naturali, alla ricerca di lingue immaginate, scomparse, futuribili, gergali, disprezzate, scientifiche, silenziose, visive ed enigmatiche.
Lingue per articolare un cosmo ipotetico, come quello di Tlön tratteggiato da Borges, o mondi, come in Tolkien o Star Trek, oppure paesi, come gli Antipodi di Rabelais e la Persia nel Dialogo dei massimi sistemi di Landolfi.
Lingue per chi è senza lingua, sia che la fugga o che la stia cercando: Nimrod, primo re di Babilonia e ideatore della torre di Babele, che si esprime in un linguaggio «a nullo noto»; le lamine d’oro orfiche, che infilate nella bocca dei morti guidavano nell’oltretomba l’anima iniziata, o la lingua ignota inventata da Hildegard von Bingen per riscattare il linguaggio dalla sua caduta.
E ancora, lingue per tutti, come l’esperanto e gli esperimenti di lingue ausiliarie internazionali, lingue perfette e lingue logico-matematiche. E lingue per pochi, come i gerghi, gli slang, gli argot, ma anche crittografie, controscritture e anagrammi; lingue scherzose, infantili e furbesche; lingue iniziatiche, magiche o segrete; i dialetti e i patois, le lingue marginali, espatriate e disprezzate.
Non parlerai la mia lingua sperimenta nuovi metodi e formati alternativi, per portare al pubblico di Babel lingue inaudite, inaccettabili, inaccessibili, accostando ai dialoghi con gli autori le dimensioni del laboratorio, della creazione collettiva e della performance.

Babel. Festival di letteratura e traduzione
12-15 settembre | Bellinzona | Svizzera

in 2019 Babel reaches out to the borders of natural languages, in search of languages that are imagined, invented, despised, censored, regional, silent, visual and enigmatic.
Languages fit to articulate a hypothetical cosmos – like Tlön, sketched by Borges, or the one described in detail in the Codex Seraphinianus – or alternative realities. Languages that let us listen to other worlds, as in Tolkien or in Star Trek, and to countries, such as the Antipodes of Rabelais and Persia in Landolfi’s The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.
Languages for those without a language, whether they are escaping it or searching for it: Nimrod, first king of Babylon and creator of the Tower of Babel, who in Dante expresses himself in a language known to none: “Raphèl maì amècche zabì almi”; the Scottish slang created by Irvine Welsh to give voice to those who never had it on the page; the books written by Valeria Luiselli, in Spanish, in English, in Spanish and in English, in order to listen to the silenced children who crossed the Mexican border.
And then again, languages for everyone, such as Esperanto and the countless experiments in international auxiliary languages, perfect languages and logical-mathematical languages. And languages for the few, such as jargon, slang, argot; cryptography and anagrams; playful, childish and cunning languages; initiation, magical or secret languages; dialects and patois; marginal, despised or disappeared languages. The words Michael Fehr makes up, and everybody falls for, and the language for Christian Zehnder’s contemporary yodel, and his Songs from New Space Mountain. And the space, ever renewed, between languages: translation.

Babel Festival
September 12-15 | Bellinzona | Switzerland


Bellinzona, Switzerland
Sept. 12-15

Compagnia delle poete translates Antonella Anedda

Compagnia delle poete is a theatre poetry ensemble created in the summer of 2009 on the initiative of Mia Lecomte. Its members are all foreign or Italian-foreign women poets writing in Italian – Prisca Agustoni, Cristina Ali Farah, Anna Belozorovitch, Livia Bazu, Laure Cambau, Adriana Langtry, Mia Lecomte, Sarah Zuhra Lukanić, Vera Lucia de Oliveira, Helene Paraskeva, Brenda Porster, Begonya Pozo, Barbara Pumhösel, Melita Richter, Francisca Paz Rojas, Candelaria Romero, Barbara Serdakowski, Jacqueline Spaccini, Eva Taylor –: twenty poets from various continents, each with her own particular history of migration and plurilinguism.
La Compagnia is a sort of “orchestra” that can harmonize the texts of poets influenced by their diverse linguistic and cultural traditions, to create performances in which the word is supported and amplified by different artistic languages. Besides its theatrical activity, the Compagnia is often invited to take part in academic and literary seminars, conferences and workshops, both in Italy and abroad, on the subject of transnational literatures.
This unpublished poem by Antonella Anedda was written in Italian and translated for the first time in the various languages of the Compagnia. This is part of a series of plurilingual translations of unpublished texts by contemporary poets edited by the Compagnia.

The Occasional Demon

“In tutte le civiltà, anche in quelle ancora senza scrittura, molti, illustri e oscuri, provano il bisogno di esprimersi in versi, e vi soggiacciono: secernono quindi materia poetica, indirizzata a se stessi, al loro prossimo o all’universo, robusta o esangue, eterna o effimera. La poesia è nata certamente prima della prosa. Chi non ha mai scritto versi?
Uomo sono. Anch’io, ad intervalli irregolari, ‘ad ora incerta’, ho ceduto alla spinta: a quanto pare, è inscritta nel nostro patrimonio genetico. In alcuni momenti, la poesia mi è sembrata più idonea della prosa per trasmettere un’idea o un’immagine. Non so dire perché, e non me ne sono mai preoccupato: conosco male le teorie della poetica, leggo poca poesia altrui, non credo alla sacertà dell’arte, e neppure credo che questi miei versi siano eccellenti. Posso solo assicurare l’eventuale lettore che in rari istanti (in media, non più di una volta all’anno) singoli stimoli hanno assunto naturaliter una certa forma, che la mia metà razionale continua a considerare innaturale.”
– Primo Levi, 1984

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Per commemorare il centenario della nascita di Primo Levi, «Specimen. The Babel Review of Translations» presenta una selezione di poesie dello scrittore torinese, in italiano e in inglese, tratta dal volume «The Occasional Demon», un’edizione limitata a cura di Marco Sonzogni e Harry Thomas pubblicata nel 2019 da Cuba Press.

In every civilisation, even those without writing, many, renowned and unknown alike, feel the need to express themselves in poetry, and give in to it: so they secrete poetic matter, spirited or lifeless, eternal or ephemeral, and address it to themselves, to their neighbour or to the universe. Poetry certainly happened before prose. Who has never written poetry?

I am human. Occasionally, ‘at an uncertain hour’, I too have surrendered to this impulse: apparently, it is encoded in our DNA. At certain moments, poetry felt to me more suitable than prose to communicate an idea or an image. I can’t explain why, and it never concerned me: I know little of theories of poetics, I read little of other people’s poetry, I don’t believe in the sacredness of art, nor do I believe that these poems of mine are great. I can only assure any prospective reader that seldom (usually no more than once a year), on the spur of the moment, particular motives have spontaneously come to take a certain form, which my rational half continues to regard as unnatural.

– Primo Levi, 1984

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To mark the centenary of his Primo Levi’s birth, “Specimen. The Babel Review of Translations” presents a selection of his poetry in both Italian and English, excerpted from, “The Occasional Demon”, curated by Marco Sonzogni and Harry Thomas, and published by Cuba Press in 2019.

Oca Babel at Flip 2019

Oca Babel – performances of collective and multilingual writing
Oca Babel is the home of translation and linguistic hospitality: it hosts performances in Portuguese, Tupi, Swiss-German, Italian, broken English, Makushi, Quechua, Japanese, Spanish. Writers and translators from Brazilian, Switzerland, Argentina and Mexico have worked in pairs, confronting differences in languages, sharing visions, writings and voices.
Written especially and collectively for Oca Babel, the texts presented at Flip are the result of these meetings. Oca Babel works with writers of indigenous and African backgrounds, and from other migrations or other margins. The margins need to find ways to be heard: hegemonies need to hear them with the same urgency
Oca Babel runs at FLIP from July 11th to July 13th.

The Un-Volunteers of the Fatherland

What is the process of assimilation implemented by the Brazilian state towards the Indian peoples? And what does their resistance mean for us? Inextricably linked to the land that generated them, the Indians and other indigenous peoples of Brazil are a living example of how it is still possible to resist the machine of Western civilisation. The exploitation of natural resources and the consequent destruction of forests and of all their human and non-human inhabitants clearly goes through the assimilation of all these peoples, for which an intrinsic link to the earth is still the only possible way of living. Through this public talk given during the Indigenous April event, Edoardo Viveiros de Castro tells us how the Brazilian state is preparing to launch its final offensive against the Indians. Held a few days after the symbolic occupation of the Congress by the Indian communities, it tells us how an alliance between all the minor peoples of the earth is possible. The Indians of Brazil are the first “Un-Volunteers of the Fatherland” and thanks to their five hundred-year resistance against whites they are a very rich source of inspiration, for those who no longer believe in the promise of happiness boasted by this economic system.

In cosa consiste il processo di assimilazione messo in atto dallo stato brasiliano nei confronti dei popoli indios? E cosa rappresenta per noi la loro resistenza? Legati indissolubilmente alla terra che li ha generati, gli indios e le altre popolazioni indigene del Brasile sono un esempio vivo di come sia ancora possibile resistere alla macchina civilizzatrice occidentale. Lo sfruttamento delle risorse naturali e la conseguente distruzione delle foreste e di tutti i loro abitanti umani e non umani passa chiaramente per l’assimilazione di tutti quei popoli per cui un legame immanente alla terra rappresenta ancora l’unica forma di vita possibile. Attraverso questo discorso pubblico tenuto durante l’Aprile Indigeno del 2016 Edoardo Viveiros de Castro, ci racconta di come lo stato brasiliano si stia preparando a sferrare l’offensiva finale nei confronti degli indios. Tenuto a pochi giorni dall’occupazione simbolica del Congresso da parte delle comunità indios ci racconta di come sia possibile un’alleanza tra tutti i popoli minori della terra. Gli indios del Brasile sono i primi “Involontari della patria” e grazie alla loro cinquecentenaria resistenza nei confronti dei bianchi sono, per coloro che non credono più alla promessa di felicità sbandierata da questo sistema economico, una ricchissima fonte di ispirazione. 

3 Poems from Sk’eoj Jme’tik U/Cantos de Luna

In the International Year of Indigenous Languages, Specimen will publish a series of poems and translations in indigenous languages.
Here are 3 poems by Enriqueta Lunez from Sk’eoj Jme’tik U/Cantos de Luna, written in Tzotzil, a Mayan language spoken in the Mexican state of Chiapas.
Published with a Spanish translation by the author and a German translation from Spanish by Johanna Malcher- 

The Red Indian’s Penultimate Speech To The White Man

At the beginning of 2015, students from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) invited me to participate in one of their seminars as an Arabic-Spanish translator. They were graduate students from different departments at the UNAM who met once every two weeks as part of the “Heteronomías de la justicia: de exilios y utopías” permanent seminar, led by Prof. Silvana Rabinovich from the Institute of Philological Studies. The purpose of the invitation was that they heard about Mahmoud Darwish’s long poem خطبة الهندي الأحمر (translated into English by Sargon Boulos as “Speech of the Red Indian”) through Amnon Raz-Karkotzkin (Nono) when he was a visiting lecturer, and they wanted to translate the poem into Spanish and, through Spanish, to indigenous languages of Mexico.
The poem first appeared in Arabic, in 1992, in the book أحد عشر كوكبًا (Eleven Planets), in which Darwish commemorated the passing of 500 years since the fall of Al-Andalus and the beginning of America’s “discovery.”
The translation was a collective one: at our meetings every two weeks, I would read a number of verses of the poem in Arabic, first, and then I would read them in my own Spanish translation. My translation would be written down and was discussed word by word, constantly referring to the content, poetics, forms and sound of the Arabic original. After finishing each of the seven sections of the poems, we would revise the section as a whole. After finishing the seven sections, six months later, the whole poem was reread and revised a number of times by the group as well as by outsiders, such as the Puerto Rican poet Mara Pastor.
The second stage of the project was to search for indigenous translators, and those who answered the call were Gloria Martínez Carrera (Mazateco translator from San Juan la Unión, Zoquiápam, Oaxaca), Alicia Gregorio Velasco (Chinanteco translator from the Comunidad de San Antonio Analco, Oaxaca), Yasnaya Elena Aguilar (Ayuujk translator from Ayutla), Víctor Cata (Diidxazá translator from Juchitán) and César David Can Canul (Maaya T’aan translator, from the Mesatunich community, Motul, Yucatán).
The book Retornos del Discurso del “indio” (para Mahmud Darwish)  was the result of all these efforts, published in Mexico City by Apofis and the UNAM in 2017.
The students who took part in the Spanish translation seminar are: Silvana Rabinovich, Luz Tafoya, Dánivir Kent, Hugo César Vázquez Morales, Bernardo Cortés, Gabriela Macedo, Rafael Mondragón, Renato Huarte, Alexis Millán, Jorge Rodríguez, María Cataño and Satya Chatillon.
–Shadi Rohana

The Stuffed Elephant Seal in Bucharest

My friend Anja Lutz from ‘The Greenbox’ in Berlin had the idea to ask Fredrik Sjöberg to write a text for my monographic book after I told her about my fascination with his writing. I thought his way of writing has similarities to how I make art. It is a kind of visualisation of thinking and having associations which lead from one thing to another and another and it’s about spending time. His book‚ The Fly Trap inspired me for several works. I asked him to write a text for my book without any conditions. In the end we had the text in three languages: the original text is written in Swedish, my mother tongue is German, and the language to reach a lot of people is English.
Special thanks go to Anja Lutz, Fredrik Sjöberg, Karine Tissot, Benoît Chevallier, Timo Nasseri, Vanni Bianconi and Specimen.
– Franziska Furter

Dossier L’AutoreInvisibile | Turin Book Fair 2019

In collaboration with L’AutoreInvisibile, Specimen dedicates a full Dossier to some of the writers and translators attending this unique, translation focused space. You will find here gathered a wide range of thoughts and reflections on literature, languages and translation by Enrique-Vila Matas, Juan Villoro, Jhumpa Lahiri, Alan Pauls, Fernando Savater, and Adrian Bravi, with an introduction by Laura Pugno. Check the program of the industry talks, curated by Ilide Carmignani at

Sulle spalle dei giganti

Eventi Letterari Monte Verità
Ascona, Switzerland

Babel Goes to BookPride 2019

Fabbrica del vapore, Milan, Italy
2pm | Ritratto di Markus Werner
con Bice Rinaldi e Fabrizio Cambi
7pm | Lucifer Over London
con Xiaolu Guo, Viola di Grado e Vanni Bianconi

Il controcanto del rospo

Mi capita spesso che le idee migliori arrivino la notte, e così di giorno cerco una forma accettabile per esprimerle. (Markus Werner, da conversazione privata con Bice Rinaldi, Sciaffusa, 3 giugno 2007.)

“Una forma accettabile”. Ben più che accettabile, Markus, è la forma che hai concepito per i tuoi romanzi.
Una lingua inconfondibile la tua: possente, a tratti aggressiva, tesa in un gioco esasperato, dall’esito a volte drammatico, a volte grottesco, a volte irresistibilmente comico. Un ritmo ininterrotto attraversa i tuoi libri, in special modo quello di cui si presenta qui un estratto: La notte del rospo (Froschnacht).
Franz, ex pastore protestante, ha dovuto abbandonare il suo ministero per adulterio. Da allora Klemens, il padre, non gli ha più rivolto la parola. Fino al giorno in cui è morto: da quel momento è tornato a parlargli, piombandogli addosso una volta al mese in forma di rospo che gli leva il respiro. A ritmo di mungitura il padre-contadino gracida la sua rabbia contro il mondo, contro la sua inconsistenza, alternandosi col figlio in un vigoroso canto a due voci, un’esplorazione radicale e impietosa della condizione umana.
Il loro canto alterno scandisce le reciproche accuse e il ritmo dell’intero romanzo, la cui tessitura essenziale, fittissima, tende e forza le parole fin quasi a spezzarle, senza mai degenerare nel virtuosismo linguistico.
Tu riesci, Markus, in un’impresa ardua, forse la più ardua che l’arte della parola conosca: la sintonia perfetta del tema e della lingua. È solo nei grandi scrittori che la lingua balza, come qui, in primo piano, rappresentazione pregnante del mondo e non gioco vuoto.
Hai scelto un rospo a incarnare il grido di Klemens e il tuo, un rospo che vi accompagnasse nel vostro viaggio senza tempo nei territori della contemporaneità. Il verso di un rospo è un suono che stride, martella, disturba, proprio come la tua voce: dissacrante, spietata, così tagliente da rompere i timpani. La tua lingua reitera insistente quel verso, diventa essa stessa gracidare che martella. È così che parlerebbe un rospo, se avesse voce umana.

– Bice Rinaldi

From La disdetta

La disdetta di Anna Felder è uscito per la prima volta da Einaudi nel 1974, per iniziativa di Italo Calvino, ed è ora nel catalogo delle Edizioni Casagrande. Di Calvino si conserva una lettera, spedita alla scrittrice il 17 marzo 1973: “Mi pare che lei sia una scrittrice con una personalità molto netta. Il suo modo di raccontare attraverso oggetti, quasi nature morte; o comunque organizzazioni visive dello spazio, o ‘messe in scena’ di momenti della vita quotidiana è interessante e compiuto e richiama esperienze della poesia contemporanea”. Calvino lodava specialmente lo “humour sommesso e trattenuto e continuo” del libro e il suo “sapore linguistico”. L’io narrante del romanzo è un gatto che osserva con attenzione e ironia i piccoli tic quotidiani dei suoi coinquilini umani, i preparativi per il Natale, le ossessioni di un perbenismo ormai alla rovina.

Atelier ViceVersa italien-français

Casa Cares, Reggello (Florence) Italie
Atelier du 7 au 14 mai 2019
Coordination : Luciana Cisbani et Dominique Vittoz
Les candidatures doivent être envoyées avant le 10 mars 2019


Back in 2008, after several years of living in London, I adopted English as my main writing language. Without going into too much detail, I can say that this was born out of a need to make sense of the world around me, in a language this world could understand. At the time of typing these words (2018) I have all but stopped writing in my mother tongue, Spanish. I will never feel at home in my adopted linguistic medium, but it is precisely this discomfort that keeps me coming back to the empty page, day in, day out.

JOLTS forms part of a series of short stories penned between 2010 and 2017. Although these are quite diverse in nature and tone, they all explore different forms of being in-between places. Some of these stories will be published in December of this year by LCG Editores, from the USA, in a collection called Departure Lounge Music. JOLTS opens the book.

It is perhaps fitting to this state of dislocation that I was asked by Specimen. The Babel Review of Translation to translate these JOLTS — and to translate myself — into Spanish. At first I found this invitation intimidating, for it meant taming discomfort into familiarity. And it wasn’t only a matter of novelty: as corny as it might sound, words in Spanish have a direct sentimental punch for me — what if I cornered myself into some melancholy corner? Yet in the process of translation the opposite happened: translating my own words into my mother tongue had a healing effect. Expressions, names, locations that felt out of place in English gained weight and a new light in Spanish — a linguistic and cultural unconscious loitering in the dark came to the fore. None of these unconscious elements are central to the story and therefore aren’t necessary to the reader in order to make sense of JOLTS. But they are central to me as a writer, as I learned.

If JOLTS deals with the impossibility of being in one place at the same time, this translation attempts to bridge that in-betweenness. Who is this attempt for — for the reader or for myself? — I can’t really tell.

Poethreesome goes to Zürich

Literaturhaus Zürich
Zürich, Switzerland
21.11.2018 at 7.30 pm

Bookcity Milano 2018

Milan, Italy

Premio Babel-Laboratorio Formentini

Laboratorio Formentini per l’editoria
Milano, Italy
18.11.2018 ore 18.00
nell’ambito di Bookcity Milano 2018

Premio Babel-Laboratorio Formentini 2018

Il Premio Babel-Laboratorio Formentini 2018 per giovani traduttori di lingua italiana  è stato assegnato a Elisa Tramontin il 18 novembre nell’ambito di Bookcity Milano. Abbiamo chiesto a Elisa e alle altre due finaliste, Daniela de Lorenzo e Francesca Bononi, di scegliere un passo dai romanzi che hanno tradotto: Lascia fare a me di Mario Levrero (La nuova frontiera), Lo specchio vuoto di Samir Toumi (Mesogea) e La libreria della rue Charras di Kaouther Adimi (L’orma).

The 2018 Babel-Laboratorio Formentini Award for Emerging Translators will be given on Sunday, November 18 during Bookcity Milano. To get acquainted with the translations that made it to the final round, we asked finalists Daniela de Lorenzo, Elisa Tramontin, and Francesca Bononi to choose a passage from the novels they translated: Samir Toumi’s Lo specchio vuoto (Mesogea), Mario Levrero’s Lascia fare a me  (La nuova frontiera) and Kaouther Adimi’s La libreria della rue Charras (L’orma), respectively.

Poethreesome goes to BuchBasel

Volkshaus, Galeriesaal
Basel, Switzerland
11.11.2018 at 3.30 pm

Moshe Khan – Babel-BooksinItaly Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Translators

Moshe Khan’s German translation of Horcynus Orca is the first foreign language version of Stefano D’Arrigo’s linguistically intricate masterpiece, the crowning of a luminous career that in 2017 earned Mr. Kahn the Babel-BooksinItaly Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Translators.
Here you can read an in-depth interview (in Italian) with Moshe Khan about his translation work on Horcynus Orca.

Compagnia delle poete

Compagnia delle poete is a theatre poetry ensemble created in the summer of 2009 on the initiative of Mia Lecomte. Its members are all foreign or Italian-foreign women poets writing in Italian – Prisca Agustoni, Cristina Ali Farah, Anna Belozorovitch, Livia Bazu, Laure Cambau, Adriana Langtry, Mia Lecomte, Sarah Zuhra Lukanić, Vera Lucia de Oliveira, Helene Paraskeva, Brenda Porster, Begonya Pozo, Barbara Pumhösel, Melita Richter, Francisca Paz Rojas, Candelaria Romero, Barbara Serdakowski, Jacqueline Spaccini, Eva Taylor –: twenty poets from various continents, each with her own particular history of migration and plurilinguism.
La Compagnia is a sort of “orchestra” that can harmonize the texts of poets influenced by their diverse linguistic and cultural traditions, to create performances in which the word is supported and amplified by different artistic languages. Besides its theatrical activity, the Compagnia is often invited to take part in academic and literary seminars, conferences and workshops, both in Italy and abroad, on the subject of transnational literatures.
This unpublished poem by Jean-Charles Vegliante was written in Italian and translated for the first time in the various languages of the Compagnia. This is the first of a series of plurilingual translations of unpublished texts by contemporary poets edited by the Compagnia.

Uncertain Glory

Considered one of the most important novels of the Spanish post-war period, Uncertain Glory (Incerta glòria) tells the story of the Republican front in a bombed-out Barcelona during the Aragon Offensive through the voices of three of its main characters: Lluís, Trini and Cruells. The real protagonist of the work is however the enigmatic, cynical and unpredictable Juli Soleràs, who secretly loves Trini, partner of Lluís. Lucid and intense, the novel is shaped as an investigation around love, war, the uncertain glory of youth, violence and, even more, as a search for God and the meaning of life. Written between 1956 and 1971, subjected to censorship and several times amended, the work of Joan Sales is now a contemporary classic of Catalan literature.

M’illumino d’immenso. Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía

M’illumino d’immenso. Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía del italiano al español es un concurso pensado con el fin de fomentar la traducción y la difusión tanto de la poesía italiana como de la poesía suizo-italiana en los países de habla hispana. Es organizado por los poetas Vanni Bianconi (Suiza) y Fabio Morábito (México), y por la traductora Barbara Bertoni, coordinadora del Laboratorio Trādūxit, gracias al apoyo del Instituto Italiano de Cultura de la Ciudad de México y de la Embajada de Suiza en México.
Sus características son que los participantes tienen que traducir un poema de un autor italiano y un poema de un autor suizo de lengua italiana y que el jurado está compuesto por poetas y traductores literarios.
En esta primera edición llegaron 118 propuestas de 16 países distintos: Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Canadá, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, España, Guatemala, Italia, Japón, México, Perú, Portugal, Uruguay y Venezuela. El jurado, compuesto por los poetas Fabio Morábito y Pedro Serrano, y por la traductora Barbara Bertoni, eligió como mejor traducción la de Eleonora Biasin Povoleri, que presentamos a continuación.


Poem “Suliko”of the Georgian writer and poet Akaki Tsereteli (1840-1915) became popular right after it was written in 1895. Soon this poem was transferred to music and the song by Barbara (Varinka) Machavariani-Tsereteli (1874-1948) was born. “Suliko” was translated into Russian and then into Armenian, although tremendous popularity came to the poem and the song in the 30-50s of the past century, when, according to the Stalin’s biographers, the dictator himself often sang Suliko. In the work of the Soviet composer Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) “Anti-formalistic Paradise », created in 1948-1968, Stalin’s aria opens with the melody of « Suliko.” The opera was classified until the collapse of Soviet Union.
While working in the archives, we found more than 70 translations of « Suliko » by Akaki Tsereteli in more than 20 languages, we also found unpublished Russian translations of the song’ stanzas, created for special events in the time of Stalin’s repressions that were hidden from the public eyes. The poem was translated in full into Abkhazian, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Armenian and other languages for the very first time for the book “Suliko in World Languages”, Tbilisi State University Publishing, 2018.
Today we can say that the poem by Georgian Prince Akaki Tsereteli as well as a song of the same title are the simbols of Georgia alongside with Georgian wine, Georgian dance and Georgian polyphony.
– Nino Popiashvili, Suliko in World Languages, Tbilisi State University Publishing, Tbilisi, 2018.

Babel goes to fill

London as a second language
Coronet Theatre, London, UK
Sunday Oct. 28, 3pm

Ottobre svizzero a Roma

Casa delle traduzioni
Roma, Italia
2.10.2018 ore 17.30
8.10.2018 ore 13.00
16.10.2018 ore 17.30
In collaborazione con Babel Festival e Istituto Svizzero di Roma

Poésie en Ville

Geneva, Switzerland

Poethreesome goes to Poésie en Ville

Bains des Pâquis
Geneva, Switzerland
28.09.2018 at 7.15 pm

M’illumino d’immenso

Premio Internacional de Traducción de Poesía del italiano a l’español

Brasil Babel

Bellinzona, Switzerland

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 24. Point Size

“Here is a thought experiment: what if you could translate everything you’d ever want from one language to another, if everything in any language would match everything in other languages. If that were possible, we would all be speaking one language. That, to me, is not an attractive proposition. There are many things I cannot translate exactly from one language to another, but that means that meanings and words are transformed – not lost – in that process. Translation creates new layers of language”
– Aleksandar Hemon

il pensare intenso fa di te uno straniero

“Il fatto è che si pensa sempre secondo l’ambiente in cui si vive, ma il pensare intenso fa di te uno straniero, e ancora di più se frequenti qualcuno con pensieri lontani dai tuoi”.
Gianni Celati, Passar la vita a Diol Kadd, Feltrinelli, 2012

Julio Monteiro Martins

Julio Monteiro Martins was born in Niterói, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1955, and died in Pisa, Italy, in 2014. “Fellow in Writing” at the University of Iowa, he had taught Creative Writing in Brazil, Portugal and the U.S. before arriving in Italy, in 1996, where he taught a course of Portoguese Language and Literary Translation at the University of Pisa.

For several years, in Brazil, he carried on his political commitment along with his literary activities. After graduating in Law, he was among the founding fathers of the Brazilian Green Party and also member of the environmentalist movement Os Verdes. Advocating for human rights, he worked as a lawyer for the Centro Brasileiro de Defesa dos Direitos da Criança e do Adolescente, where he dealt with the safety of street children, the so-called meninos de rua. He published nine books including short story collections, novels and essays, such as Torpalium (1977), Sabe quem dançou? (1978), A oeste de nada (1981) and O espaço imaginário (1987).

When he moved to Italy, he settled down in Lucca where he run a narrative workshop as part of a Master in Creative Writing in a school he himself had founded and called Sagarana, along with a literary review of the same name, in 1999 ( He also published: Il percorso dell’idea (Petits poèmes en prose, 1998); the short story collections Racconti italiani (2000), La passione del vuoto (2003), L’amore scritto (2007); the metanovel Madrelingua (2005) and L’irruzione, a short story which was included in the anthology Non siamo in vendita – Voci contro il regime (2002). In 2013 he published his poetry collection La grazia di casa mia and, in 2015, his interview essay La macchina sognante, published posthumously.


Il diminutivo di Mikhail, Misha, in russo suona quasi come mysh, «topolino», ed è così che Brodskij chiamava affettuosamente Baryshnikov. Come molti ballerini classici, anche lui è piuttosto minuto, ma a settant’anni il suo fisico è ancora prodigioso e anche solo quando cammina sul palco si capisce che è stato uno dei più grandi danzatori di sempre.

Come dichiara il titolo, Brodsky/Baryshnikov è uno spettacolo personale, intimo, la ramificazione estrema di un dialogo fra due amici che va avanti da più di mezzo secolo, benché da tempo a parlare per Brodskij, prematuramente scomparso nel 1996, siano solo le sue poesie. E a queste Baryshnikov dà voce, corpo e anima in una performance che è insieme teatro e vita: il suo legame con i versi del poeta russo è profondo e risale a quando, giovane astro nascente al teatro di Riga, li leggeva e li imparava a memoria sfidando la censura sovietica che li aveva proibiti. (continua a leggere)
Matteo Campagnoli, Azione, 02.07.2018.

Fabio Pusterla at FLIP

Swiss poet Fabio Pusterla takes the stage at FLIP, Brazil’s main literary festival ( For the occasion, a collection of Pusterla’s poems has been published in Brazil. Swiss poet Prisca Agustoni translated Pusterla’s poems from Italian, her mother tongue, into Portuguese, her acquired language.  Specimen has now combined a series of published and previously unpublished poems into a variety of first and second languages.
This project is part of a series of exchanges leading the way to Babel’s Brazilian edition, September 13-16 (

Internationales Literaturfestival Leukerbad

Leukerbad, Switzerland
June 29-July 1, 2018

Oath to the Queen from Lucifer Over London

Xiaolu Guo’s take on Britishness and acquiring British citizenship, from Lucifer Over London, a collection of nine cinematographic, architectural and photographic tales, written in an English with Chinese, Arabic, Russian and Italian inflections by the foreigners of the latest wave of migration, those that make up today’s London just as much as they contradict it.

CONTRIBUTORS: Saleh Addonia / Chloe Aridjis / Vanni Bianconi / Viola Di Grado / Xiaolu Guo / Wolfgang Lehrner / Susana Moreira Marques / Joanna Walsh / Zinovy Zinik

Translations: Nausikaa Angelotti, Vanni Bianconi, Marina Mercuriali, Daniela Marina Rossi

Xiaolu Guo and Vanni Bianconi will read from the book at Internationales Literturfestival Leukerbad, June 29-July 1

Xiaolu Guo ci parla della “britannicità” e della sua esperienza nell’acquisire la cittadinanza britannica. Il brano è estratto da Luficer Over London, raccolta di nove racconti cinematici, architettonici e fotografici, scritti in un inglese dalle inflessioni cinesi e arabe, russe e italiane dagli stranieri delle ultime migrazioni, quelli che compongono la Londra di oggi quanto la contraddicono.

AUTORI: Saleh Addonia / Chloe Aridjis / Vanni Bianconi / Viola Di Grado / Xiaolu Guo / Wolfgang Lehrner / Susana Moreira Marques / Joanna Walsh / Zinovy Zinik

Traduzioni: Nausikaa Angelotti, Vanni Bianconi, Marina Mercuriali, Daniela Marina Rossi

Xiaolu Guo e Vanni Bianconi presentano il libro all’Internationales Literturfestival Leukerbad, 29 giugno-1 luglio.


Teatro Politeama Naples, 28-29.06.2018
Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Florence, 3-5.07.2018
Teatro La Fenice Venice, 12-14.07.2018

How My Father Looked and The Sexless Life of My Mother

Sulaiman S.M.Y. Addonia is British, born in Eritrea to an Eritrean mother and an Ethiopian father. His first novel, The Consequences of Love, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and has been translated into more than 20 languages. He currently lives in Brussels and has just finished his second novel.

Sulaiman Addonia est né en Érythrée, d’un père éthiopien et d’une mère érythréenne. Son premier roman Les Amants de la mer Rouge (The Consequences of Love) a été sélectionné pour le Commonwealth Writers’ Prize et a été traduit dans plus de 20 langues. Sulaiman Addonia vit actuellement à Bruxelles, où il écrit un nouveau roman.

Sulaiman S.M.Y. Addonia è inglese, nato in Eritrea da madre eritrea e padre etiope. Il suo primo romanzo, Gli amanti del Mar Rosso. La conseguenza dell’amore, è stato finalista al Commonwealth Writer’s Prize ed è stato tradotto in più di 20 lingue. Attualmente vive a Bruxelles, dove ha appena terminato il suo secondo romanzo.

Three Poems from Clous

In 1956, when Agota Kristof was in her early twenties, she fled from Hungary with her four-month-old daughter. As well as being separated from the country of her childhood she also left behind the notebooks which contained her first poems. The sorrow for the loss of those verses pushed the author to rewrite them as well as she could remember and perhaps to reinvent them. Over the years, Kristof composed other poems, both in Hungarian and in French, her new language, and shortly before dying expressed the wish to see all her poems collected in a book. Her wish came true in 2017, when Éditions Zoé published them in a bilingual Hungarian-French edition, which today also comes in Italian, thanks to the editions of Vera Gheno and Fabio Pusterla.
The themes of these compositions are those well known to the many and faithful readers of the novels and tales of Agota Kristof – dismay, loss, exile, the memory of love, waiting, desire – but here, in the spontaneity of poetry they seem to reach an even greater degree of intensity.

Quando nel 1956, poco più che ventenne, Agota Kristof fugge dall’Ungheria con la sua bambina di quattro mesi, oltre che dal paese dell’infanzia si separa dai quaderni che raccolgono le sue prime poesie. Il dispiacere per la perdita di quei versi spinge l’autrice a riscriverli così come se li ricorda e forse a reinventarli. Negli anni, Kristof compone altre poesie, sia in ungherese che in francese, la sua nuova lingua, e poco prima di morire esprime il desiderio di vedere raccolte tutte le sue poesie in un libro. Il desiderio si avvera nel 2017, quando le Éditions Zoé le pubblicano in un’edizione bilingue ungherese-francese, e si avvera oggi anche in italiano, grazie alle versioni di Vera Gheno e di Fabio Pusterla. 
I temi di questi componimenti sono quelli ben noti ai tanti e fedeli lettori dei romanzi e dei racconti di Agota Kristof – lo smarrimento, la perdita, l’esilio, il ricordo dell’amore, l’attesa, il desiderio – ma qui, nell’immediatezza della poesia, sembrano raggiungere un grado di intensità ancora maggiore.

Specimen goes to Festival Internazionale di Poesia di Genova

Genoa, Italy
Salone dei Resilienti
June 10, 2018, @ 7.30pm

True translation demands a return to the pre-verbal

The conventional view of what this [literary translation] involves proposes that the translator or translators study the words on one page in one language and then render them into another language on another page. This involves a so-called word-for-word translation, and then an adaptation to respect and incorporate the linguistic tradition and rules of the second language, and finally another working-over to recreate the equivalent of the “voice” of the original text. Many – perhaps most – translations follow this procedure and the results are worthy, but second-rate.
Why? Because true translation is not a binary affair between two languages but a triangular affair. The third point of the triangle being what lay behind the words of the original text before it was written. True translation demands a return to the pre-verbal. One reads and rereads the words of the original text in order to penetrate through them to reach, to touch, the vision or experience that prompted them. One then gathers up what one has found there and takes this quivering almost wordless “thing” and places it behind the language it needs to be translated into. And now the principal task is to persuade the host language to take in and welcome the “thing” that is waiting to be articulated.
– John Berger, from “Writing is an off-shoot of something deeper,” The Guardian, December 12, 2014.

Ikke graåt, due er kona mi nå from Sovjetistan

The five former Soviet Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan became independent when the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991. How have these countries developed since then? With this in mind, Erika Fatland explores their recent and ancient history, their culture, and landscapes. Life follows a different pace in these countries, which used to be the furthest border of the Soviet Union. Alexander the Great’s army brought with them the walnut from Arslanbob in Kyrgyzstan to Europe, and in the Yagnob Valley, on the border of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, the population still speaks Sogdian, the primary language of the silk trail. In between the treasures of Samarkand and the bleakness of Soviet architecture, Erika Fatland moves with her openness towards the people and the landscapes around her.

Nel corso di settant’anni di regime sovietico, Turkmenistan, Kazakistan, Kirghizistan, Tagikistan e Uzbekistan, i paesi che, dalle catene montuose più alte del mondo al deserto, segnavano un tempo la rotta della Via della Seta, sono in qualche modo passati direttamente dal Medioevo al ventesimo secolo. E dopo venticinque anni di autonomia, tutte e cinque le nazioni sono ancora alla ricerca della loro identità, strette fra est e ovest e fra vecchio e nuovo, al centro dell’Asia, circondate da grandi potenze come la Russia e la Cina, o da vicini irrequieti come l’Iran e l’Afghanistan.
Nel suo reportage sui paesi alla periferia dell’ex Unione Sovietica, Erika Fatland unisce un approfondito lavoro di ricerca e analisi geopolitica al gusto dell’avventura, dando vita a un affascinante diario di viaggio che esplora la società, la storia antica e recente e la cultura di terre che nessuno aveva ancora raccontato in modo così vivido.

Valerio Magrelli al Salone del libro

Torino, Italy
May 10, 2018, @ 2pm
Sala Professionali

Chiasso Letteraria

Chiasso, Switzerland
May 2-6, 2018

Sydney Writers’ Festival

Sydney, Australia
April 30-May 6, 2018

In Defense of Readers

Ahmed Shafie is a writer, poet and translator living and working in Egypt. This piece was written while participating in the Iowa Writing Program 2014, and read before a group of postgraduate students who were studying the works of the participants in the IWP.

“May my enemy be assuaged…” from White Egrets

Derek Walcott, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature and one of the greatest poets of our time, passed away on March 17, 2017. We remember him today with a poem excerpted from White Egrets, published by FSG in 2010.

Derek Walcott, Premio Nobel per la letteratura 1992 e tra i più grandi poeti del nostro tempo, ci ha lasciati il 17 marzo del 2017, a ottantasette anni. Lo ricordiamo oggi, a un anno dalla scomparsa, con una poesia tratta dalla sua penultima raccolta, Egrette bianche, pubblicata da Adelphi nel 2015. 

Homage to Philippe Rahmy

Specimen. The Babel Review of Translations e Suisse Pride dedicano all’autore recentemente scomparso un doppio ritratto a cura delle sue traduttrici Monica Pavani e Luciana Cisbani, che lo presentano a Milano domenica 25 marzo 2018 alle 16 nell’ambito di Book Pride ( Con il sostegno della Fondazione svizzera per la cultura Pro Helvetia.

Specimen. The Babel Review of Translations et Suisse Pride consacrent à l’écrivain récemment disparu un double Portrait, par ses deux traductrices Monica Pavani et Luciana Cisbani, qui viendront le présenter à Milan dimanche 25 mars 2018 à 16h dans le cadre du Book Pride ( Avec le soutien de la Fondation suisse pour la culture Pro Helvetia.

Specimen Goes to Book Pride

BASE, Milan, Italy
March 23-25, 2018


Laboratorio Formentini per l’editoria, Milan, Italy
March 21, 2018
@ 6.30 pm

La rüsümada

Giorgio Orelli (Airolo 1921 – Bellinzona 2013) è stato un poeta, critico letterario e traduttore svizzero di lingua italiana. Tra i suoi libri: Tutte le poesie, Mondadori, Milano, 2015. Quello qui proposto con un titolo redazionale è un estratto del suo racconto inedito, e incompiuto, Suite in là con gli anni (© Eredi Giorgio Orelli, che si ringraziano).

Giorgio Orelli (Airolo 1921 – Bellinzona 2013) was an Italian-speaking Swiss poet, literary critic and translator. His books include the collected poems Tutte le poesie, Mondadori, Milano, 2015. The text here published with a draft title is an excerpt from his unfinished and previously unpublished work, Suite in là con gli anni (© The Giorgio Orelli Estate, with thanks).

Giorgio Orelli (Airolo 1921 – Bellinzone 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 extrait de son récit inédit et inachevé Suite in là con gli anni (© héritiers de Giorgio Orelli, à qui vont ici nos remerciements)

The End of an Affair: Poems from Two Centuries

I came to these two very different poems quite separately, although through the same medium. The Seidl I first heard in its renowned setting by Franz Schubert–it is said to be his very last composition, written just before his untimely death–while the Kaléko was among the texts I consulted for inspiration when working on lyrics commissioned by Bendorim, the Zurich-based Yiddish-language quartet (in the end I settled on Ronsard and Joseph Roth for my material). I was struck, when I read the two elegies together, by their similarity of concern–love, loss, separation–and difference of attitude; indeed, it was as if the two texts summed up the difference between the romantic sentimentalism of Biedermeier and the cold-eyed, nearly cynical objectivity of the interwar period.
– Rafaël Newman

“The Iron Gate” from “Istanbul Istanbul”

Below the ancient streets of Istanbul, four prisoners—Demirtay the student, the doctor, Kamo the barber, and Uncle Küheylan—sit, awaiting their turn at the hands of their wardens. When they are not subject to unimaginable violence, the condemned tell one another stories about the city, shaded with love and humor, to pass the time. Quiet laughter is the prisoners’ balm, delivered through parables and riddles. Gradually, the underground narrative turns into a narrative of the above-ground. Initially centered around people, the book comes to focus on the city itself. And we discover there is as much suffering and hope in the Istanbul above ground as there is in the cells underground.

Pus dağıldıkça çoğalan renkleriyle, surları, kuleleri, kubbeleriyle İstanbul… Kırmızı bir şal, siyah bir hırka, Berber Kamo’nun dükkânı, Şerafet Bey’in saati, Küheylan Dayı’nın tabancası… Yerin üç kat altında, küçücük bir hücrede dört adam, titreyip kıvranarak hikâyeler anlatıyorlar birbirlerine. Kaygıyla ve kahkahayla… İstanbul’daki zamanı, geçmiş ve bugün diye ayırmak yerine, yeraltındaki ve yer üstündeki zaman diye ayırarak, anlatıyorlar.

Una cella, quattro uomini, dieci giorni, una moltitudine di storie: un dottore, un barbiere, uno studente e un vecchio rivoluzionario sono incarcerati in una stanza angusta e gelata nei sotterranei di Istanbul. Fra gli interrogatori, le torture, il tempo sospeso e l’immobilità forzata cui sono inchiodati, scoprono l’incanto e il potere della parola come unica via di fuga possibile. I protagonisti di questo libro, come nel Decamerone, trascorrono il tempo della loro segregazione raccontandosi storie ed è cosí che, in una narrazione corale, svelano il filo che li lega e il motivo per cui si trovano imprigionati.

Specimen’s Typographical Glossary (from A to T): 23. Overshoot

Specimen’s editorial board will pay a lot of attention to all that’s written, translated and editable. As far as it can understand the language. As soon as the life of the project crosses over the known languages, a spellbound editorial board will trust those who bring them the unreadable and the unknown.

A Celebration of Derek Walcott

92Y, New York, USA
January 18, 2018

Other Portraits of Solitude

Susana Moreira Marques traveled to the Caribbean coast of Colombia as a Fellow of the Gabriel García Márquez Foundation in April 2017. She traveled through the territory of 100 Years of Solitude 50 years after its publication. This is her resulting essay.

Nell’aprile del 2017, Susana Moreira Marques ha visitato la costa caraibica della Colombia con una borsa di studio della Gabriel García Márquez Foundation, viaggiando nella terra di «Cent’anni di solitudine» a cinquant’anni dalla pubblicazione del libro. Questo articolo ne è il risultato.

Enquanto bolseira da Fundação Gabriel García Márquez, Susana Moreira Marques viajou pela região do Caribe colombiano, o território de García Márquez, precisamente 50 anos depois da publicação de Cem Anos de Solidão. Este é o texto resultante dessa viagem.

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.

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.

Araber in Rumänien: Eine orientalische Liebesgeschichte

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.

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.

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

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

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’.

Irrawaddy Literary Festival

Mandalay, Myanmar
November 3–5, 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.

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».

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

Five Poems

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

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.

From Buchi

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

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.

Bureau des élucidations – Entrer sans frapper

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.

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.

Babel Festival 2017 L’aldilà – The Afterlife

Bellinzona, Switzerland
September 14-17, 2017

Poethreesome – One

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.

Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin

Berlin, Germany
September 06-16, 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

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

From Bambini di ferro

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

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.

O homem que sabia javanês

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

Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh, Scotland
August 12-28, 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“.

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.

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

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.

Santarcangelo Festival

Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy
July 07-16, 2017

5 Poems on Fear and Courage

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.

Festival d’Avignon

Avignon, France
July 06-26, 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.

What Can Literature Still Do?

Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov was the recipient of the 2016 Jan Michalski 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 Mr. Gospodinov’s acceptance speech.

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.

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.

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

Comment peindre une cascade

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.

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.

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.

Specimen al Salone del libro di Torino

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

Pensare la parola

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).

Multiculturalism is a pleonasm

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

Pen World Voices Festival

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

5 Poems from 40 Sonnets

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”.

As Clean as a Bone

As your experience about writing accrues, what would you say increases with knowledge?
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.

Diventando via via più esperto come scrittore, cosa direbbe che aumenta insieme al sapere?
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.

I luoghi dell’utopia

Ascona, Switzerland
April 6-9, 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

“The principle underlying all our solutions”

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

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

10 ottobre from Absolutely Nothing

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

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

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

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

Gateway Litfest

Mumbai, India
February 25-26, 2017

“las repercusiones incalculables de lo verbal”

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

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

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

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

The Integrity of a Poem

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

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

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

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

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

4+1 translatar

Chur, Switzerland
March 10-11, 2017

She Is Another Country

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

Xiaolu Guo. An Interview by Alice O’Keeffe

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

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


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

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

A Trinidadian Friendship: Derek Walcott and Peter Doig

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

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

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

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

“A low murmur of provisional consent”

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

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

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

Il mezzogiorno from Ore del giorno. 7 gennaio

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

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

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

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

– Stephanos Papadopoulos, LARB, March 28, 2016.

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

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

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

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

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

Tutte le poesie di Giorgio Orelli

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

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

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

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

– Matteo Terzaghi

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

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

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

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

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

New Literature from Europe Festival

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

Retour à Kimihurura

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

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

Specimen Goes to Russia

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

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

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

A New Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Tremendous Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– From NYRCalendar

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

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

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

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

N’est-elle pas toujours un dialogue?

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

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

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

Language and Experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specimen Goes to Palestine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 poems from «Morning, Paramin»

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

Cheltenham, England,
7-16 October 2016

Between Alternative Possibilities of Existence

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

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

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

Babel. Festival di letteratura e traduzione

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

Inspiration and the Real World

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

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

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

You Don’t Write for Anybody

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

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

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

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

Kapittel: Stavanger International Festival of Literature and Freedom of Speech

Stavanger, Norway, 14-18 September 2016