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March 2013

Spain's Great Untranslated

This month we present poetry and prose by twelve Spanish masters whose dazzling work has been unavailable to the English-language world. Exploring scenes ranging from the devastating Madrid subway bombing to the idyllic coastline of Greece, in rhapsodic poetry and anguished prose, these writers provide new insight into Spanish literature today. Read Fernando Aramburu, Cristina Fernández Cubas, Miquel de Palol, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Antonio Gamoneda, Pere Gimferrer, Berta Vias Mahou, César Antonio Molina, Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas, Olvido Garcia Valdés, Pedro Zarraluki, and Juan Eduardo Zúñiga, and discover the breadth and depth of contemporary Spanish writing. This issue is part of the SPAIN arts & culture program and was made possible thanks to a charitable contribution from the Spain-USA Foundation. We thank the Foundation for its generous support, and our guest editors, Javier Aparicio, Aurelio Major, and Mercedes Monmany, for their excellent work in selecting the authors and pieces presented here.


Elsewhere, we present writing from Syria, as Zakariya Tamer tells tales of djinns and talking walls, Abdelkader al-Hosni reflects on friendship, Golan Haji considers magic and loss, and Lukman Derky mourns a history of war.


Mangled Flesh
By Fernando Aramburu
His father says, Son, if you see me crying when we go inside don’t be afraid, you keep moving forward, they’re my own things and they have nothing to do with you, coming here breaks my heart,…
Translated from Spanish by Valerie Miles
from “Rhapsody”
By Pere Gimferrer
XV The time has come to say good-bye; with farewells comes wind to the vineyard like dark Valpolicella wine in the hand of dark winter dyes: parks, far stations pass by winter platforms, by hills that…
Translated from Spanish by Willis Barnstone
The Baghdad Clock
By Cristina Fernández Cubas
I never feared them nor did they ever do anything to frighten me. They were there, next to the stove, mixed up with the crackling of firewood, the taste of freshly baked bollos, the to-and-fro of the…
Translated from Spanish by Lucy Greaves
from “Rage”
By Antonio Gamoneda
From violent dampnesses, from places where the residues of torments and whimpers mesh, comes this arterial grief, this shredded memory.          They go insane, even the mothers…
Translated from Spanish by Forrest Gander
The Last Day on Earth
By Juan Eduardo Zúñiga
There seemed to be no one left in the barrio now and the windows were bare and the wind stirred through gates and the rats crossed noiseless rooms and the smell of the honeysuckle was fading. At night…
Translated from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead
Crossing Bridges
By César Antonio Molina
I crossed the Vltava by way of the Charles Bridge. I crossed the Neva by way of the Trinity Bridge. I crossed the Danube by way of the Lion Bridge. I crossed the Moskva by way of the Novoarbatski Bridge.…
Translated from Spanish by Francisco Macías
Social Skills
By Ignacio Martínez de Pisón
The Dodge Dart parked on the crosswalk with its right front wheel up on the curb and the fender touching the lamppost. Doña Mercedes, sitting in the passenger seat, opened the door and let out…
Translated from Spanish by Anne McLean
They Destroyed Our Radios and Televisions
By Juan Antonio Masoliver Ródenas
They destroyed our radios and televisionsto leave us without images,without those maudlin songsthat lulled our past to sleepback when we still believed in trainsby the seaside, at the ranch where Lauracarried…
Translated from Spanish by Samantha Schnee
Autumn Here is Magical and Vast
By Golan Haji
A bloody shaft of light shone under our door between their compass & the north star so the road passed through our house out toward the estuary. Its stones are our tears which silted in our chests…
Translated from Arabic by Stephen Watts
Stories from “The Hedgehog”
By Zakariya Tamer
My Invisible Friend My mother went to call on her neighbor Umm Baha’. She refused to take me with her, giving the excuse that women visit women and men visit men, and she left me at home alone,…
Translated from Arabic by Marilyn Hacker
In the Doorway of My Friend’s House
By Abdelkader al-Hosni
I stopped in the doorway of my friend’s house And my palm was glued to the doorbell But my finger trembled, too weak to arouse A desire to ring in its wires I wavered. The road to his house had…
Translated from Arabic by Marilyn Hacker
By Lukman Derky
We who were killed in all wars. In the Basus war our corpses dangled from the Turks’ gallows In Troy’s war We were behind the walls Blood dried in our veins Those besieging us never went away…
Translated from Arabic by Ali Al-Baghdadi
What Do You Expect, Heart?
By Olvido García Valdés
  What do you expect, heart? What do you want from me? To be like Zeno of Elea, who bit off his own tongue in one bite and spit it out at the tyrant? The good angel bad angel speaks: the bearable…
Translated from Spanish by Catherine Hammond
Under the Sign of Anaximander
By Miquel de Palol
I I was raised by a depressed mother and an alcoholic father. Mother soon stopped being a mom in every sense of the word and became more of a nuisance than an iconic figure, just a body to trip over.…
Translated from Catalan by Martha Tennent
Bitter Lemons
By César Antonio Molina
Everything went well until we got to Corfu.  It’s not that things started to go wrong there, but that this may have been an omen that our happiness had already been drawn out far too long. …
Translated from Spanish by Francisco Macías
A Note on Syrian Poetry Today
By Golan Haji
At a moment of simultaneous disintegration and creation, survival looms just where the danger is. What is it like to be Syrian today, when a long ending and an unknown beginning are bloodily mingled?…
Don’t Do It
By Pedro Zarraluki
He left his car in the parking lot of the hospital complex. It had all been under construction for years. Around him were unfinished buildings with display windows still protected by tape beside other…
Translated from Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem
The Devil Lives in Lisbon
By Berta Vias Mahou
On Mondays Mother always got up at five o’clock. She would leave half an hour after getting out of bed, once she had gathered up all the breakfast crockery, and then, looking at us again with a…
Translated from Spanish by Daniel Hahn