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January 2007

Look Back In Anticipation: Translation Prize Winners

We bring in the new year looking both backward and forward, saluting the winners of the various 2006 translation prizes by presenting exciting new work by the winning author/translator pairs. Humphrey Davies tells Elias Khoury's "Secrets." Sarah Death brings us Ellen Mattson's portrait of a relationship literally gone up in smoke in "Splendorville." Susan Bernofsky ushers us into the mind of Jenny Erpenbeck's dreamy child and her "Book of Words." Ellen Elias-Bursac shows David Albahari's bemused language teacher "Learning Cyrillic" and other nonnative languages. And Anne Born says amen to Per Petterson's "Today You Must Pray to God." We hope you'll join us in toasting these feats and celebrating a new year of literature in translation.

The Grammar of Easter (You Don’t Say That in English)
By Akinwumi Isola
“Akin Isola remains one of our most versatile Nigerian writers.”—Wole Soyinka
Translated from Yoruba by the author
Today You Must Pray to God
By Per Petterson
One morning the teacher came in for the first class, sat down heavily on the chair behind his desk, looked around the room, and said:“Today you must pray to God, for today a nuclear war will probably…
Translated from Norwegian by Anne Born
I Look: it happened here. A sense of surfeit grew from the unfeeling past- Paternal Moneymen, whose alphabet lay buried in the mud rosettas where pigs leave their traces; the torch-eyed eagle passing…
Translated from Spanish
Rimbaud in America
By Alberto Martins
Fever in the kneesgold in the bellyand—almost forgot—the varicose veins:so you arrivedrenched to the boneby the salt of Abyssinia.Deep inside, a desireto be ever departingas if poetry were—horror…
Translated from Portuguese by Idra Novey
Domestic Sadness
In the seed of lilies I buried you serenely we loved each other in old belfries years unravel like old lace I look for you everywhere, God but you know it's too little I buried you in November when…
Translated from Romanian
from Splendorville
By Ellen Mattson
Splendorville is set in the 1920s and written from the perspective of a youngish woman, Dr. Esparto, who lost her mother early and was brought up by a tribe in the desert of North Africa where her archaeologist…
Translated from Swedish by Sarah Death
My Mother’s Garage Sale
By Daniel Laverdure
Every spring my mother decides to organize a garage sale. But every spring she wonders whether she should do it.“I really don’t know if I should, Christophe. It’s so much work.”“You’re…
Translated from French by Lawrence Venuti
Learning Cyrillic
By David Albahari
Fridays I go to church. I do not go to pray.
Translated from Serbian by Ellen Elias-Bursać
from The Book of Words
By Jenny Erpenbeck
One. Two. And three. During the first three years of school, we are required to cross our arms if we wish to rest them on our desktops when we aren’t writing. Only when we are older, the teachers…
Translated from German by Susan Bernofsky
An Austro-Hungarian Guidebook
By Milica Miçiç Dimovska
Novi Sad, Thursday afternoon, April 9, 1987Energy and resourcefulness. These virtues have excited me lately, sending me into a pathological rapture, duping me into rashness and loss of self-respect.I’m…
Translated from Serbian by Sibelan Forrester
Come with Me to the Countryside
House under construction with dried branches, like spiders, in your scaffolding Rise to skies with serenity Until the clouds will have served as curtains And the stars: relief for lamps on balconies in…
Translated from Romanian
The Stranger in His Own Icon
The one whom you found by chance in the mirror, whom you found, by chance, in the mirror in its dark side to be exact was there, alone, thinking of you and trying to ingratiate himself with your isolation…
Translated from Arabic
Selections from Our Archives
Of special concern to Borges aficionados, Alberto Manguel deciphers his detective fictions and Alain Mallard has an epiphany about him by means of oneiric word games. Whereas Cecila Vicuña charts…
Translated from Spanish
from “A Nation behind Bars”
By Khalid Oways
TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: The author is Sudanese. This excerpt is a translation from Watanun Khalfa al-Qudban (Beirut: Dar Al Saqi, 2002, ch. 17, pp. 46-52). It takes place in the early to mid-1990s, a…
Translated from Arabic by Jonathan Smolin