Come in! Let us show you around.
As we made our selections for this issue, we were struck by the recurrent use of the second person, and how this form invites us to inhabit different characters, emotions, spaces. This sense of invitation is integral to translation—bringing a text from one language into another confronts us with a new way of being in the world. Translators often upend the dichotomy that separates host from guest, recognizing that a relationship of hospitality rests on the premise of mutual invitation. We want to welcome you to these translations in the same way that these authors and their translators have welcomed one another. We’re especially happy that this issue hosts several languages traditionally underrepresented in English translation, in showcasing new work from Korean, Chinese, Turkish, German, Italian, Cuban Spanish, and Greek.
With what we hope will become a new tradition of collaboration between Exchanges and the Iowa Translation Workshop’s Translator-in-Residence, Deborah Smith opens this issue with a translation of excerpts from Han Kang’s novel The White Book. Here we are invited into flat #301 and the early house of the narrator’s childhood. The blood ties between mother and daughter that feature in this piece are also explored in Anna Lidia Vega Serova’s “Paper Family”, translated by David Lisenby, a haunting narrative where darkness can be felt behind even a closed door.
In many of these pieces, the second-person “you” functions not just as an invitation, but as an appeal for empathy. Julie Winter’s translation of a story by Noemi Schneider guides us through a narrator’s experience of chronic pain, as assumptions of normalcy are challenged by her encounters with other patients and doctors. No less fleeting are the passing perspectives captured in Joan Xie’s and Sam Perkins’ translations of Hu Xian, whose poems offer vision through the eyes of unlikely focalizers, whose gaze asks to be returned by the reader’s own: “If you gaze back long enough, / they will blink”. The first-person gaze of Ursula Foskolou’s two flash fiction stories, translated by Pavlos Stavropoulos, asks us to inhabit a distant father who can only observe a daughter through the translucent borders that separate them. Throughout the issue, artwork by Normal Gergley offers glimpses, as if peeks stolen from behind keyholes, into a constellation of universes, images barely grasped before they’re gone.
Invitations not only take us within but also lead us out. In Gonca Özmen’s poem “Mulberry Orchard,” translated by Buğra Giritlioğlu, we’re invited to “Come toward the mulberry orchard / Away from the houses,” and out into the wider world, one where we find Antonia Pozzi hiding “a dense, bristly branch / of prickly pear, behind an old wall,” as translated by Amy Newman. In Jessica Harkins’ translation of Rossano Pestarino’s poems of departure and transition, we linger too long like departing guests, who look for an opportunity to “...discreetly / say our goodbyes to the party’s hosts, / and disappear into the shade of the backyard, / leaving swift footprints in the grass / that immediately erases them.”
As recent graduates of the Workshop, we’re leaving, too, but hopefully not before leaving a trace or two of ourselves behind. We stand at the door ready to welcome the new team of editors and contributors, whose hard work is visible on every page of this newest issue. We can’t wait to read what you invite into the world next.