An eye devised for night spits out bright figures that dance in symmetry /disorder can’t reach the word for mulching the ground where /we have lily dreams. An eye devised for night beats stealthily behind your ears, proposes slow sentences interlacing daytime /routines. An eye devised for night clothes you in the pelt of a lynx charging, whose howls bruise the unmarkable, who catches butterflies like words soaring on the /wind.
Un ojo diseñado para la noche escupe figuras brillantes que bailan en simétrico /desorden, no alcanza la palabra para abonar la tierra donde /hemos soñado lirios. Un ojo diseñado para la noche late con sigilo detrás de tus orejas, propone oraciones lentas que entrelazan las diurnas /rutinas. Un ojo diseñado para la noche te pone la piel de lince que avanza frenético, que aúlla magullando lo inmarcesible, que atrapa mariposas como palabras caladas por el /viento.
This thirst turns checkered over dog days, dances to the rhythm of flies glistening above /the table of afternoon napping. At memory’s end, I have the key to the desert. A ritual’s machinery recurs in the afternoon’s /whirring opens in time like a mirror. Anguished and tame is the afternoon’s melody: making a nest to shelter our fears.
Esta sed se cuadricula en la canícula, danza al ritmo de las moscas que brillan sobre /la mesa de la siesta. En el fondo del recuerdo, tengo la llave del desierto. La mecánica de un rito se repite en el zumbido /de la tarde que se abre como un espejo en el tiempo. Angustiosa y doméstica es la melodía de la tarde: diseñada con pequeñas madrigueras para anidar nuestros miedos.
No, we’re not fire from a tide inhabited by voices. Nor the quiet memory of a stone recording us /in its blood. A bird’s green song doesn’t come to brush against /our eardrums. No, we’re not the syllable occupying space in /muteness. Which bones instruct our shadow? Sometimes, among the ruins, we move luckily forward ignoring our scar from angels in haste.
No, no somos el fuego de una marea habitada de voces. Tampoco la memoria callada de la piedra nos registra /en su sangre. El verde canto de un pájaro no llega a rozarnos /el tímpano. No, no somos la sílaba que ocupa un espacio en /la mudez. ¿Qué huesos edifican nuestra sombra? A veces, entre las ruinas, avanzamos dichosos ignorando nuestro estigma de ángeles desalados.
Sharply wrought imagery and a gaze so intense as to be almost intimate—these are the forces that drive Paura Rodríguez Leytón’s Small Changes (Pequeñas mudanzas). The three untitled poems that appear in this issue exemplify Rodríguez Leytón’s world building, the dream-landscape perceived—and rendered—by “an eye devised for night” (“Un ojo deseñado para la noche.”) In translating these poems, I found I had to lean back fully into that dream-landscape, with its “thirst [turning] checkered over dog days” and its “lily dreams.” As figured as they are, the poems resist—they never settle for—conceit. In Rodríguez Leyton’s work, the image is everything; even, in the philosophical “No, we’re not fire from a tide inhabited by voices” (26), where ontological desire, the need to understand our essential nature is rendered largely through its negation: “we’re not fire . . . nor the quiet memory of a stone. . . No, we’re not the syllable occupying space in / muteness.” What a pleasure it has been to enter this world for a while to translate these poems.
Janet McAdams is the author of the poetry collections, The Island of Lost Luggage, which won the American Book Award, and Feral. A chapbook of speculative prose poems, Seven Boxes for the Country After, was published by Kent State Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared recently in Poetry, Spoon River Poetry Review, Southern Humanities Review, Shenandoah, and the anthology New Poets from Native Nations.
Paura Rodríguez Leytón (La Paz, 1973) is a poet and journalist. Her books include Del Árbol y la arcilla azul azul [From the Tree to the Blue Blue Clay] (Argentina, 1989); Ritos de viaje [Travel Rites] (La Paz, 2004; Caracas, 2007, ed. digital); Pez de Piedra [Stonefish] (La Paz, 2007) and Pequeñas mudanzas [Small Changes] (Colombia, 2017), which was the runner up for the 2017 Pilar Fernández Labrador International Poetry Prize (Premio Internacional de Poesía “Pilar Fernández Labrador” 2017).
In my heart, something unspeakable, something even tears can’t quench, while her body –a mere footprint of flame. Only my eyes are left to dream, to fuel the embers from the ash of my chest.
Oh, what a fire to spend the night alone in. Each creak of this bed echoes the ache of this pulse. I have cried ‘Oh my soul’ and that soul has melted amongst the craters of this indifferent moon.
This indifferent moon, who desires comparison to the sun, yet no adjective exists for this, none. I am conscious of nothing except the sideways glance of what I hope to own but fear have lost.
I can’t let her escape me, I can’t allow the censor see my right as wrong, you are mine doncella, you are loved, unclasp your sabre. Sleep well. No- one, nothing should make you doubt.
What girl doesn’t fear her lover? What girl doesn’t ask her mother what should she do?
And the girl sings:
He is ready to kill if I venture outside. I see it in the burn of his gait, his eyes; each small gesture I make, scrutinised. Mother —tell me, what should I do?
The Iberian Peninsula in medieval times was home to a society unique in the history of Western Europe. Al-Andalus, although by no means a democracy in the way one would think of it today, was a place where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together under a political system that advocated religious tolerance. One of the legacies of this multi-culturalism was a rich literary tradition including a complex form of Hispano-Arabic poetry called the Muwashshawah ( موشح) which translates in to English as ‘girdle’ poem, so-named because the individual stanzas were often linked by a refrain in the same way a belt might be linked by chains. The form is similar to the more well-known Ghazal.
The girdle poems of Al-Andalus were written almost exclusively by men in Hebrew and Arabic and often with an ending written in Andalusi Romance called a kharja or exit verse. It is thought that the kharjas were women-authored songs imitated or borrowed by their male counterparts. These exit sections are full of desire, they are often salacious and at times suggest sexual violence nearly always ignored by the male poetic voice. Modern scholars have attempted to reject the kharja as a representative of ‘feminine poetry’ and to down play the fact that a woman is protesting a male-imposed state of affairs. In so doing, there is a sense of silencing the female voice twice over – once by the initial action of the poet in appropriating the text and then by the scholar by calling into question its authenticity. Throughout history, women’s voices have remained largely unrecorded, primarily because they haven’t been deemed important enough to preserve but also because women were largely thwarted in their creative endeavours having limited access to a literary education. Their only recourse was to turn to the vernacular, the language of the street and wash houses, to songs and ballad, forms which sound refreshingly modern today in their concerns and approach. The kharjas do not disappoint in this regard – whether they are directed to lovers, confidants or mothers, they are frank and honest appeals that give us a glimpse into the life of women in medieval Andalusia, women whose words continue to reverberate today.
In this translation, I chose to dismantle the classical structure of the Muwashshawah but to retain a discipline pertaining to stanza length. There is a sense of the formal in the male poet’s language through use of classical metaphor as well as a sense of refrain through the use of repetition. The female led kharja stems from an early translation into Spanish that scholars dismissed because they deemed it too shocking. I have decided to reinstate that version here.
My hope is that through the act of interlinguistic transfer and the process of translation the female voice resists marginalisation and what emerges is a dialogue of equal standing between both the male and female voice.
Mary-Jane Holmes has been published in such places as Modern Poetry in Translation, Myslexia, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Prole, The Tishman Review, The Lonely Crowd and The Best Small Fictions Anthology 2016 and 2018.
She is the winner of the 2017 Bridport Poetry Prize, the Martin Starkie Poetry Prize, the Bedford International Poetry Prize and the Dromineer Fiction Prize. Her poetry collection Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass was published by Pindrop Press in 2018. She is chief editor at Fish Publishing Ireland, consulting editor at The Well Review and Guest Editor at V Press. Mary Jane is currently studying for a PhD on resistance strategies in poetry. She holds an Mst. in Creative Writing from Kellogg College, Oxford. www.mary-janeholmes.com
Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Arfa’ Ra’suh was a poet at the court of al-Ma’mun ibn Di-l-Num of Toledo, in the Taifa period of the 11th Century in what is now Andalusia, Spain.
—an elegy for the martyred Egyptian immigrants who drowned on the coasts of Italy, Turkey, and Greece
All my life I have wondered: where is the face of my country? Where are the palm trees, the warmth of the valley? In the horizon only darkness, and the headsman’s image: it never fades away. It is part of our fate, between birth and resurrection. I live in the call that raises palaces from gray hills. I long for my beloved land’s honor of both will and drive. I long for children dancing like drops of dew in morning. I long for days whose magic has faded, the bustle of horses, the joy of feasts.
I miss my old country. We moved, and it moved. In every bright star, an orphaned dream. Every cloud a gown of grief. In the horizon, flocks of leaving birds forego singing, become a swarm of locusts. This country traded in its land, fragments of the whole, subdivided for the auction. All that remains of the hustle of horses is sorrow.
Our history is full of glistening horses, but now I only see the headsman raping the valley, and a gang that twirls the blood from our eyes. The day’s cries subside, and the tombs are heavy with ancestors. There is no light from a wandering star. No longer a release dove’s coo. Sadness cackles past us, drops by without an appointment. Something has broken in my eyes.
The times are fed up with the revolution I loved to the edge of madness. When beauty is pimped, even the morning gets beaten. The land is devoured by the fire of slavery. Don’t ask me about my country’s tears during martyrdom, when agony hunts every acre. In the pale distance, beyond the black mountains, I see black mountains. I see waves breaking over our heads, feel gravel grit my skin in the wind, as the horizon’s line is washed out.
I raise my frostbitten hands to flag down a passerby, and see it is my mother dressed in black. We embrace, as if saying goodbye, and the sea heaves on with its corpses. Up until the moment of death, I will still rise with a bright heart, knowing this is my daughter’s face carved on my chest. Farewell, mother—a sack of salt is all our food. Give my shirt back to my mother, she saw what I couldn’t see: the string between destiny and death, a hijacked homeland that threw me away.
I see from behind the borders a parade of the hungry chanting for their masters’ protection, and death-crowds cheering around the hungry. In the middle of this weeping life, seized in the call of longing, the times passed me by.
Remember the story of a hopeful lover who left his home for the promise of another country? It turns out that country had nothing to offer, could only bow to the pimp.
My pulse is heavy, and all will be silent soon. The mirror of birth and death is glass-dust, and in its grains I see the headsman and his gang. And I see the river, and I see the valley, and I open my mouth for silence, for a country that is no more.
I carried all I had through the tangled night, blaming the road that spurred me backward to green windows, witness
to the hunger of our bodies, witness to the underside of forever. Alone now in the road’s slow night,
I re-sense the first days’ blush, the flash of your hand in mine: how do you bear all that is past?
Such bluff inside my boast: I will forget you. I try to move on, but a shadow slides along, chiding that folly.
Beside the road, pale light seeps into yellow tulips, and I quicken for what is lost: youth, freedom, dreams.
Aimless, I stare at the ground until dizziness takes me. Somewhere in the dust of these empty streets where we began:
the warmth of our hands. Somewhere in this dust our savoring footsteps, somewhere my roving tears.
Like the endless road, my story is here and there at once. Can I resist the was that beckons? Shall I continue alone?
As your memory strums the chord in my chest, the threads of my journey unravel, unravel.
Who Said Oil Is Worth More Than Blood?
As long as we are ruled by madness, hounds will devour fetuses still in their wombs, mines will sprout in wheat fields, and even the crossed light of morning will be eye-fire.
We’ll see the young hanged, wronged at the dawn prayer. It’s an age witness to a snarling pig fouling mosques.
When madness rules, there are white flowers on the ruined branches, emptiness in a child’s eyes, no kindness, no faith, no dignity held sacred. All fates futureless,
everything present worthless. As long as madness rules, the children of Baghdad can only guess why they wander hunger’s thorns,
why they share the bread of death, why off in the distance, American Indians hover in the cold, why greed shouts them down, every race crawling ghost-hearted.
Through blood-colored streets, between humiliation and disbelief, crippled shadows creep, and the madness-hounds howl in our minds.
We are on our way to death.
The children of Baghdad scream in the streets as Hulagu’s army pounds the city’s doors like an epidemic; his grandchildren roar over the bodies of our young.
The wings of wild birds are blood rivers, black claws claw eyes—all this cracks the silence.
The Tigris River remembers those days, so look behind the curtain of history—how many aggressors have passed through the centuries of our land, and still we resist?
Hulagu will die, and the Iraqi children will dance in front of Degla. We are not to be hanged from all corners of Baghdad.
A river can be a weapon against injustice on the earth. A palm can be a weapon against injustice. A garden can be a weapon.
Among the water, in the silence of tunnels, though we hate death, for God and right we will set fire forever to your refusal that Islam is holy.
Baghdad, raped by tyranny, your children are raising flags. Where are the Arabs and the white swords, wild horses, glorious families?
Some of them were condemned, some fled shameful, some stripped and gave away their clothes, and some are lined up in the devil’s hall to get their share of the spoils.
And people ask about a great nation’s ruins, but nothing remains of that shining empire that spans from the ocean to the gulf.
Every calamity has its cause.
They sold the horses and traded in the knights in the market of rhetoric: Down with history! Long live hot air!
Death comes to the children of Baghdad in the smallest toys, in the parks, in restaurants, in the dust. Walls collapse on the procession of history, shame upon civilization, shame from a thousand borders.
From the unknown, a missile charges, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?”
Will daylight come again after the virgin smile has been erased, after planes block the sunrays, and our dreams spurt suicidal blood?
By what law do you demolish our homes, and flood fire upon a thousand minarets?
In Baghdad, days pass, from hunger to hunger, thirst to thirst, under the gaze of the master of the mansion, the thousand-masked face. Will there never be an end to this nonsense?
The curtain rises: we are the beginning.
To starve people—is this honor? “To prey upon supplicants”—that’s the glorious slogan of victory? To chase children from one house to another—the joy of tyranny.
These days, people have the right to humiliation, submission, death in every atom, and the chronic question, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?”
The children of Baghdad are playing in schools: a ball here, a ball there, a child here, a child there, a pen here, a pen there, a mine here, a death there. Among the fragments, the cactus.
There were children here yesterday, fluttering like pigeons in open spaces. One of these days, dawn might lighten the universe, but for now the sun of justice is far below the horizon.
Despite sacrifice, there is a dark gluttony: some are faithful, and some are sellouts.
Oh nation of Mohammad, my heart longs for Al Hussein. Oh Baghdad, land of Caliph Rasheed, oh castle of history, and once-glorious age, the two moments between night and day are death and feast.
Among the martyrs’ fragments, the throne of the universe, shaken by a young voice. The dark night leaves when a new day flows.
Oh land of Al Rasheed, don’t lose hope, every tyranny ends: a child adores Baghdad, holds a white notebook and flowers, paper and poetry, some piasters from the last feast.
Behind his eyes, a tear that won’t break but flows like light deep in his heart: the picture of his father who left one day and never returned. The child embraces ashes, and stays a long time.
A thread of blood runs through his mouth; his voice and shed blood are one. His features washed out; all of this world is separation.
The child whispers, I long for Baghdad’s day. Who said oil is worth more than blood?
Don’t ache, Baghdad, don’t surrender. Although there is dissent in this blind time, there is, in the far horizon, a wave of visions.
Although the dream is distant, it rises. Rise, and spread my bones in the Tigris River, so daylight will one day rise over my funeral procession.
God is greater than the madness of death. Who said oil is worth more than blood?
Walid and I are met as part of an international educational exchange program housed by the College of Saint Rose here in Albany NY, during which Walid regularly visited my high school classroom for about three months to observe, talk, and collaborate. After teaming a couple of lessons on political poetry from a variety of countries, we thought it would be fun to collaborate on some translations of contemporary Egyptian poetry, which has received relatively little attention here in the U.S. Walid was particularly drawn to the work of Farouk Goweda, who is a literary giant in the Middle East.
Because I do not speak, read, or write any Arabic, Walid is responsible for the most important step: the initial renderings of Goweda’s work into English. Parts of those initial translations need, in my view, very little or no editing or re-casting into poetic American English. I take the parts that do need reworking and edit for simple correctness, clarity, and suggestiveness. Sometimes I move lines around a bit out of their original order to emphasize certain images or progressions. I often follow up with Walid on questions about intent, clarity of meanings, allusions, historical figures, shifts in tone, and cultural symbols. I always send him final drafts for approval, and he has been in touch with Mr. Goweda, who is glad to see his work steadily and increasingly recognized in the United States.
Line and stanza breaks are the most consistent liberty I take (though I do take occasional ones with certain images or colloquialisms): I do not think any of the poems we’ve published actually follow Goweda’s original lineation or stanza structures. I have approached those features searching only for a combination of line and stanza that both contains and propels the rhythm, power, and image-laden lyricism of Goweda’s work. I am fond of either uniform or alternating stanza lengths, with a small range of syllables per line, but I have tried to let the content of the lines drive the shaping of the lines, so some poems have had small syllabic ranges, whereas others stretch and sprawl similar to those of Whitman or Ginsberg.
In terms of content, Goweda is especially well-known for his political, religious, and love poetry—sometimes, at certain moments in certain translations, we have allowed those lines to be blurred. Of the three included here, “Forgetting” is both love poem and lament on the passage of time, and “Who Said Oil…” is a response to American foreign policy in Iraq. “This My Country No Longer My Country” elegizes a story we find in more than one part of the world, but has occurred in Egypt since the 1980s: illegal immigrants fleeing corruption and poverty in their home countries in hopes of making a better life in Europe.
Farouk Goweda is a bestselling Egyptian poet, journalist, and playwright whose nearly 50 books have been widely influential in the Middle East for their technique and content. His work has been translated into English, French, Spanish, Chinese and Persian, and he has been awarded several national and international prizes.
Walid Abdallah is an Egyptian writer whose books include Shout of Silence, Escape to the Realm of Imagination, and Male Domination and Female Emancipation. He has been a visiting professor of English language and literature in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Germany and the United States. His co-translations with Andy Fogle of Farouk Goweda’s poetry have previously appeared in Image, RHINO, Reunion: Dallas Review, and Los Angeles Review.
Andy Fogle’s sixth chapbook of poetry, Elegies & Theories, is forthcoming from Presa Press. A variety of writing has appeared in Blackbird, Best New Poets 2018, Teachers & Writers Collaborative, English Journal, Gargoyle, and elsewhere. He lives in upstate NY, teaching high school and working on a PhD in Education.
In my heart I still believe your promises were true
In my heart I still believe your promises were true, And I wouldn’t care if they have fled your mind.
Now why do you sit and sulk so, my huzoor? There is no cause for displeasure in our tale.
Are we mere companions or explorers of heavenly love? Is this a night among friends or the heights of paradise?
And when she is absent, I am without The presence of any other thing in the world.
Look upon the stars wandering deep into the night, Our destiny is death and morning is near.
All you can know, Ishrat, is there exists A poet, my youth, and the smile on your face.
The heart believes your promises are true – let it be No matter if you forget one or two – let it be
Now why do you sit there sulking so, my huzoor? When there is no such vex from me to you – let it be
Are we mere companions or did we flow into streams from the fountains of heaven, something new? – let it be
Circumstances change in her absence, the world is void of any other thing to catch my view – let it be
Hey! You stars, wandering in the jungle of this night! Death is your destination, the day is due – let it be
Ishrat, all you can know is that somewhere there exists A poet, a smiling face, and my youth – so let it be!
You and I have a special friendship
You and I have a special friendship, Call it a day, call it a lifetime!
My attempts to forget you Are only an excuse to remember you.
Oh, sorrowful life, in this world What value is there in my verses?
Dear broken-hearted, don’t sink these boats down with your despair
You may elect for yourself, For this is our love, this is our lifetime.
Misery is my companion on this path, We only share this one lifetime.
These are webs, Ishrat, entrapped. Untangle yourself from memory, be free.
There’s a friendship between you and I now What a time to be alive now!
Even my attempts to forget you Only keep you in my mind now
In this time, this desolation Do strange rhymes have value in life now?
Voyager, don’t bring your despair this way These vessels might drown and die now.
Perhaps you should choose for yourself This is love and life for you and I now
Destitute, we travel together, Together, we cry for life now.
Memories harass you Ishrat; Leave those nights, open your eyes now.
With veiled eyes you enter my heart
With veiled eyes you enter my heart, Concealed now from the people of the world.
Indeed, we’ve had some tiffs in our love, Yet I yearn for the one who abandoned me.
Oh, good tidings! With a signal from the sommelier, Raise our goblets, raise them with the clouds.
I fear I’ll lose you somewhere among the flowers. Upset, you camouflage yourself in the garden.
The wine graces me with such faith, such emotions, such sincerity! Strange folk are those who revel in drink.
Don’t fall for her promises, oh distressed-heart, don’t do it! She’s only grazing by you, forward, in transit.
Ishrat, they pretend with one face to protect our language, And with the other, erase its script from our nation.
In my heart, they unfurl, and I sing for them, Lost to the world, I sing for them.
And even after the squabbles of our love, For the ones I have hurt, I sing for them.
What a time! I return a nod to the sommelier, Raising the cup, far up above, I sing for them
I fear you will be lost somewhere among the flowers, In their gardens of disguise they don’t budge, I sing for them.
You worship the spirit with such faith, candour, spirit, In revelry the drunkards overcome, I sing for them.
Don’t go trusting their promises! Oh, troubled heart, don’t go! Those who leave and don’t return to us, I sing for them.
Those professing to be the guardians of Urdu, Ishrat, From our nation, they subvert, I sing to them.
The Indian poet Amrit Lal “Ishrat” was a respected scholar of history and literature in India during his lifetime. A collection of Ishrat’s most popular ghazals—written roughly in the period between 1955 – 1975—was published in both the Urdu and Devanagari scripts in the collection entitled ‘Yaadgar-E-Ishrat’ (“Memories of Ishrat”) in 1994. He was also my grandfather.
Ishrat’s speciality was the ‘sher-o-shayari’ format of Urdu poetry. Each ‘sher’ is a rhyming couplet that must strictly be kept within its predefined meters per line. A number of these couplets can be formed together to be made into longer poems, called ‘ghazals’, which usually continue the same rhyme and metric scheme throughout in exploration of a common theme.
The ghazal is a strict format, whose value and aesthetic quality depend almost entirely on its formal structure. The repetition of key words adds a rhythm to the recitation of the ghazal, and prepares the listeners—or readers—to focus not just on the word that is repeated, but the rhyming word that precedes it in the rhyming lines. It is through this language of repetition and cleverly-placed emphasis that the reciter or writer is able to reach his audience.
In translating Ishrat’s ghazal into English, I hoped to keep both the strict, repetitive format of the ghazal while not losing its essential meaning. I realized that, by focusing on one, I was sacrificing the other. The solution, I discovered, was a synthesis. Presented here are two versions of each of Ishrat’s most famous works, The Verse—a translation that attempts to stay closer to the meaning of the poem’s original Urdu; and The Ghazal—a structurally formal translation that modifies the poems to pay closer attention to the classical Ghazal format. In this way, I hope to transfer over the cultural aspects of Urdu even as the poems are read in English.
Karan Madhok is an Indian writer and a graduate of the MFA programme from the American University in Washington DC. His short fiction has been published online and sports journalism work has been frequently published for SLAM, Nation of Sport, NBA-India, and more. He won American University’s 2018 Myra Skralew Award for the best MFA Thesis (prose) and is currently working on his first novel. His poetry translations have also been published on The Literary Review.
Amrit Lal “Ishrat” Madhok (1930-1989) was an Indian poet, professor, and historian. He published nearly a dozen books on his lifetime, focusing on subjects of Iranian history, literary criticisms of well-known poets such as Ghalib, and the history of Urdu shayari in Varanasi and beyond. Outside of his academic work, he published several of ghazals in Indian literary journals, most prominent of which appeared in Bisawi Sadi. A collection of his most popular ghazals–written roughly in the period between 1955–1975– were published in both the Urdu and Devanagari scripts in the collection entitled Yaadgar-E-Ishrat (“Memories of Ishrat”) in 1994.
The first study of a woman who wants to be a poet is to know herself entirely; she searches her soul, inspects it, tests it, learns it. Once she knows her soul, she must cultivate it. This seems simple—a natural evolution which comes to pass in every mind, in every body—there are many who would declare themselves writers, who would boast of their intellectual growth. But the soul must be made monstrous, must be birthed into another form. Imagine a child pruned in the womb as you would a bonsai, snipped and stitched and stunted even before it’s born. Imagine the bones malformed and dislocated, relocated, orifices slit and cartilage burned. Can you see these comprachico children emerge from you?
I say that you must have vision, become a visionary.
You must become a visionary through an extended, immense, and deliberate derangement of all the senses, through carefully executed mutilations of the mind.
Find love, find pain, find madness—drain their poisons into your body and distill them, preserve their essence. In this inexpressible torment, find faith, find superhuman strength, and birth it too: your soul the madman, the criminal, the damned—and the savant, for she approaches the unknown.
You have cultivated this soul past all knowing—stare it down, your comprachico child who no longer has a face. See with the sharpness of his scarred-shut eyes, and even as your vision fails, remember: you have seen. And if—as you leap into such unnamable, innumerable things—if you lose yourself, no matter.
There are others who will follow, who will begin at the horizons where you failed.
I begin again:
And so the poet is truly the thief of fire—she, Promethea who sculpted man from clay. The poet bound to a boulder and made to wait while an eagle pecks at her liver every day.
She is given this task by man, by beast even—she must make her creations known, felt, heard. If what she brings back from beyond has form, she gave it form; if it is formless, that too she gave.
To derive a language—after all, every word being a thought, the time of a universal language will come. You must be an academic, deader than a fossil, to complete a dictionary of any language at all. The weak may begin by thinking about the first letter of the alphabet, and quickly stumble into insanity.
This language would be of the soul, for the soul, encompassing all—scents, sounds, colors—a thought caught in the weave of another thought and pulled. A pattern of stitches looped or knit or crocheted, this language is women’s work. In time, the poet will discover her universal soul, define the quantity of the unknown—she will give more (than the formula of her thoughts, than the notations of her steps towards progress). Enormity becomes norm, absorbed by all, she will truly be a multiplier of growth.
This future will be materialistic, you will see—always filled with Number and Harmony, her poems will be made to endure. At their core, they might be like Greek poetry once more. Eternal art will have its duties, just as poets are citizens too. Poetry will no longer give rhythm to action—it will forge ahead.
These poets will come to be! When the infinite servitude of woman is broken, when she lives for herself and by herself—man, an abomination until now, him being expelled—she will be a poet, she too! Women will find their piece of the unknown! And will our worlds of ideas differ?
We will find strange things—unfathomable, repulsive, delectable—thieves of fire that we are, we will seize them, we will understand.
Until then, ask of the poets something new—ideas and forms. The clever ones may soon believe they’ve satisfied this demand. It is not true!
Rimbaud’s May 15 letter to Paul Demeny is one of a series of letters often referred to as the “lettres du voyant” (letters of the seer/visionary), where he espoused his ideas on poetry and the figure of the poet. This particular letter is perhaps the most recognized, for it contains his famous line advocating for a “dérèglement de tous les sens”—most commonly translated as a “derangement of all the senses.” In my translation, I worked to remain faithful to my understanding of this derangement of sense, and in that spirit, to reveal the strangeness that lurks beneath his epistolary prose. In places, I expand and “derange” Rimbaud’s metaphors and references to expose his most troubling or intriguing suggestions. I have made one more important change—an act of resistance against Rimbaud’s vision. The poet that Rimbaud saw, the poetry that he wrote about, was definitively male. In this translation, the poet, like me, is a woman.
Erika Luckert is a writer from Edmonton, Canada, and a winner of the 92Y/Boston Review Discovery Prize. Her manuscript, Prepared Ground, was a finalist for Tupelo Press’ 2018 Berkshire Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, CALYX, Room Magazine, Tampa Review, F(r)iction, Atticus Review, Boston Review, and others. Erika holds an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University, and lives in New York City, where she teaches creative and critical writing. www.erikaluckert.com
Arthur Rimbaud was a French writer known for his influence on the surrealist movement. Born in 1854 in a small town in northern France, his best known works include Illuminations and A Season in Hell. Rimbaud wrote most of his celebrated poetic oeuvre in a span of five years. During that time, Rimbaud also had an affair with Paul Verlaine, which ended dramatically in 1873, when a drunken Verlaine shot Rimbaud in the hand. Rimbaud died in 1881 at the age of 37; Verlaine published his complete works four years later.
Original title: “El capot, de Nikolai Gògol” From Mai no sé què fer fora de casa by Neus Canyelles Translated from Catalan by Marlena Gittleman
Nobody remembers when or how I joined the newspaper’s proofreading department, except for me, of course. It was in the spring. To fill the opening, they held a little writing test, to which ten of us showed up. My great stroke of luck was that none of the other nine knew how to spell the word desahuciado correctly. They all put the “h” between the “s” and the “a.” In the early nineties, that word was rare in Spanish-language newspaper pages. I assume that now, as evictions have become so much more common, they all would have spelled it right. That was how I made my triumphant entrance into La Gaceta Balear, one of the widest-read newspapers in Palma, where I would work six days a week, from seven in the evening until one in the morning.
They sat me at a table with two pretty large trays, one on each side of the computer: the texts to correct were piled up in the left-hand one—they always printed a paper copy of each article—and the right-hand one was where I would leave them after correction. I can say that the little I know about computers I learned there, on the fly. I’ve always liked words to be well written. First words, then sentences. Everything in order, without any mistakes. Some people can’t stand seeing dust on top of furniture or people touching their car. I don’t like seeing words mistreated. You know those people who say that accent marks aren’t important or who don’t use commas or periods and don’t let you breathe until the end of their interminable sentences? I can’t stomach them.
Each hour was different from the next. Some moments of the day were quite calm. But between eight and nine, the reporters started to get nervous, and the pace of work multiplied tenfold. Sundays, especially, were horrifying. Most of the texts that needed correcting were regional soccer rosters and game recaps. I didn’t understand anything the journalists wrote. The Sports section was the one that felt the most distant in all senses, despite the fact that the men in Sports yelled the most, and you could hear them from anywhere. The TVs stayed on all night in that buzzing office, where the windows were always kept shut. I spent the entire time watching the clock, hoping it would be time to wrap up.
It would be a waste of time to try to explain now how I found myself at that desk, with two drawers in which I kept a good journalist’s style manual and a Real Academia de la Lengua dictionary, as well as a pack of Inca biscuits for quick breaks. I was convinced that, after the summer, I would leave that job and look for another one. I got bored. I got bored a lot. Sometimes, I typed up some things that occurred to me in the midst of that chaos, in a personal file that I’d saved in a folder on the computer.
One day, Fani, a young woman in the Legal section, came over to tell me not to change anything in an official text. She was very friendly. She told me that she too had started as a proofreader.
“If you’re patient, maybe you’ll become a writer,” she said, as if wanting to encourage me.
I smiled at her politely, even though I didn’t see what one thing had to do with the other, and I offered her a biscuit, which she declined, touching her belly. Yes, she was a big girl. And also the only person who had acknowledged me instead of just tossing her sheet of paper into the tray of articles to be corrected from half a meter away without even looking at me. She was the only one who said hello and asked me how I was doing when I arrived at seven each day. The coworker who sat behind me, Cata, only spoke to me when she had to tell me to scoot my chair and desk forward a little more because there was barely any space to move, and she was right up against the wall.
The best part about the job was that I knew everything that was happening in the world. The whole world. You could say I’d become a current-events ace. Because for the first time in my life, I read the newspaper from cover to cover almost every day. I couldn’t get distracted at all. I only got up to go to the bathroom. And when the journalists stood in a circle with their coffees or went down to the bar to distract themselves a little and smoke, I had to stay there, trying to reduce the mountain of papers. I gained knowledge of international, national, and local politics. I knew the names of the ministers and the posts they held, and those of the regional and municipal councilors. I knew what happened to the famous people who came to vacation on the island (after spring came summer, after all). I started to have an inkling of what sports were, even soccer, which I’d despised. I recognized team names that I never would have been able to imagine, names of players that didn’t matter to me at all and whose faces I wouldn’t be able to recognize, but I did know which ones scored the most goals. And, finally, I knew about all the concerts, exhibits, book presentations, and everything else that makes up the vast and remarkable cultural world of the city. I could touch culture with my hands. In the end, I even wound up getting interested in sports. But that’s not the story I wanted to tell. What I wanted to say was, even though this was a job I didn’t like—I didn’t like the schedule, the rush, or that no one spoke to me while I typed behind the trays overflowing onto my desk—I had managed to become part of a newspaper, and I was earning a salary.
One evening, at a moment when I had my personal file open because there wasn’t any work to do, the director came over to me. He didn’t even know my name. I don’t think we’d ever spoken. On my screen you could read the following phrase: “They didn’t let me correct a flagrant error, because it was for an ad. And whoever’s paying gives the orders. And whoever’s paying can do as they please with spelling. And whoever’s paying is academic. We deeply disagree with whoever’s paying.” What had happened was that the accent marks didn’t look good in the ad, and they’d made me take them out. And so I wrote those words, angrily. But when I saw that the director was coming over, I quickly closed the file. He gestured for me to come into his office, which wasn’t far from my desk.
“Good afternoon,” I said.
“Hello,” he answered.
We sat down. He asked me my name, and I responded, forcing a smile and trying not to overdo it. He explained to me that they’d found another proofreader. They wanted to move me to the Agenda page, now that they had some confidence in my work; I would have to do a few days of training.
“You’ll like it better. You already know what page it is, right?”
“Yes, yes, of course. The one about which pharmacies are on duty.”
“Well, it’s not just about the pharmacies…”
“Right, I know. That’s just one way to put it.” I smiled again.
The list of gas stations, the calendar of saints’ days, the weather forecasts, the word search, the “this day in history” blurb, and some cultural events were also printed there each day.
“As you already know, the page also contains a short feature text on the bottom right…”
“Yes, ‘Through the Binoculars’.”
“Exactly! And you probably know that a different reporter writes it each day, and it has to be a little opinion piece on current affairs or events.”
“Right, I know.”
“Well, so… would you like to write one once in a while? You already know how stressed the writers get. Especially on the weekend, there aren’t many people at the paper. And someone told me you like to write.”
“Yes, but I can’t say who. Well, if you have no objections, on Monday they’ll explain how to set up the page. Cata will help you. And Wednesday you’ll start. Your hours will also change: now they’ll be from three to nine.”
“And the ‘Binoculars’…?”
But I didn’t get to finish the question. The director had already picked up his phone and I had become invisible to him. I simply wasn’t there. He hadn’t even told me when I could write the current affairs piece and if I would be free to write about whatever I wanted.
In any case, my mood improved a lot that evening. I even opened my personal file and wrote: “To hell with accent marks!”
When it was time for coffee, I mustered the courage to get up and go over to Fani and explain what had happened to me. She already knew.
“Today it’s my treat,” I said.
“You know what? The coffee from this machine isn’t any good. If you want, we can meet up somewhere over the weekend.”
And without giving me time to answer, she yelled:
“Hey, everyone that’s starting at seven tomorrow: meet for coffee at the bar on the corner by six-thirty. We have a new writer!” And she pointed at me.
Some people didn’t even lift their heads from their computers, but three or four said they’d come. I still hadn’t fully managed to fit in among these people who yelled like it was nothing. Sometimes they argued and insulted each other like they were home in their kitchens; I wanted to hide under my desk. That made me suspect I wouldn’t be a good fit for the short, pithy pieces for “Through the Binoculars.”
The next day, seven people turned up at the bar on the corner. I bought them beers and coffees. The head of Sports, seated at the bar, spoke to me first:
“Damn, that was fast. Two months as a proofreader and you’re already doing ‘Through the Binoculars.’ And you definitely don’t know Reinés?”
“No, not at all. Not at all.”
“It can be a really good section,” one of the local reporters told me. “I don’t write for it now, but I did for a bunch of years. It seems like it’s not that important because it’s part of a throwaway page, but if you think about it, there’s the word search, the weather forecast… people do look at it. They entertain themselves with those little things. That and the obituaries steal the show here; you already know how devoted people are to funerals in our dear city,” he noted as he poured himself a glass from the pitcher.
I drank the last sip of my coffee and asked for the check. Fani and Cata came over and congratulated me, even though Cata didn’t seem entirely sincere.
“I’ll be training you on Monday.”
“Oh, right,” I said to her. “I hope it won’t be hard to learn how to do the Agenda.”
“No, no. The page is always set up the same way. You just have to fill it in, as they say. And then you’ll have time to do the opinion piece.”
“Right. Honestly, that’s more exciting to me. Thinking about what I can write.”
I was young then. We mustn’t forget that. It’s essential to keep in mind while reading this story. Over the years, writing articles turns into a job you might even call routine. But you have to start out well and know how to keep going. You can’t ever back down. I had just been given a pair of binoculars with which to observe the world. I had to take the rest out of my toolkit. That was it. Nothing more.
The rest of the writers simply thanked me for the coffee and beer. I don’t think they even learned my name or knew why we’d been celebrating. As we went up the stairs to the paper, I heard two girls saying: yeah, she’s the new “Binoculars” writer. And that was it.
After a few days of practice at the computer, I had almost memorized the list of every gas station and the on-duty times of every pharmacy. Then, I would go through some famous quotes from years past, and a young writer would send me the puzzles and games. I tried to do it all quickly to gain time to write. On the first day, I deleted my personal file, and I opened a new one to save the ideas and phrases that came to me for “Through the Binoculars.”
I also met the new proofreader. He was tall and thin, a recent graduate, and we hit it off right away. It started when he showed me an article by a reporter who wrote about exotic trips. His writing style was just as exotic as his expeditions.
“I’ve never understood the relationship between traveling and writing,” the new guy told me seriously. “I mean, if you don’t know about a place, why write about it?”
“I sit here. I was the proofreader until just the other day. If you need anything, you can just yell out to me,” I said, trying to make him feel better.
We went for coffee together every day.
I remember my first article perfectly. I devoted the whole thing to writing about a book. It was one of the books that had pushed me to write; in the beginning, we imitate what we discover. But for the story I want to tell here, it doesn’t matter at all what my first article was about. What does matter, however, is the fact that I felt as though I had tried on a new outfit, or a new coat one winter day. One of those rare days when the city wakes up freezing and you search in your closet for the coat that will best cover you. And you put it on and go out to the street feeling very sure of yourself, fearless. It doesn’t matter if the cold leaves your face red and your nose frozen. You keep going, sheltered by your best coat, made from the best-quality wool, firm and resilient. No lapels; buttons up to the chin. Nothing could breach the centimeters of fabric that protected me from the world. That was how I felt when I typed the final period of my twenty-five-line text. I re-read it a few times with pride. With full confidence, I can say that it was not my best “Through the Binoculars” piece. Binoculars need to keep focusing until you can see clearly and the images appear sharp, with perfectly defined contours. I’ve already mentioned that a columnist learns the job on the fly.
And that’s how all my afternoons went for a long span of years. I didn’t leave the paper when summer ended. I became an observer who focuses on all the details. In the summer, I would write tips for planning a good vacation, about sunscreen and the danger of prolonged sun exposure, and the loveliest beaches on the island. In the fall, about the expenses of the back-to-school season and the obligatory November cemetery visit. Then, the traditional annual pig slaughters. Christmas enlivened my beloved page, which would offer recommendations to consumers on how to take advantage of the first days of the winter sales. Some years, if I was lucky, it would snow. An homage to the working woman on March 8th was never absent from my page, and neither was a brief commentary about some detail of the Holy Thursday procession, which I put up with stoically, rain or shine. Then came Sant Jordi and the Book Festival. And let’s not forget the first days of summer and beach-going. The year was a wheel that turned and turned. Nothing new happened. The world continued on without moving from the same spot. Except for some mornings when they would tell us we had to stop writing about daily life, because once in a while we were hit with a yellow alert for devastating storms or a red flag for fierce waves. And I was protected by my coat, which suited me perfectly now that I’d started to have some regular readers. Not just Fani or one of the layout artists who, one evening before leaving the office, surprised me by saying the last paragraph of the “Binoculars” he’d just finished reading clearly put forth a biting critique of the cultural minister. My neighbors in the stairwell, my mother’s hairdresser, the shop owner on the corner, and other acquaintances in the neighborhood greeted me differently. I realized that having a column in a newspaper bestowed prestige.
Reinés, little by little, started leaving “Through the Binoculars” just for me on my own. The reporters seemed relieved. Not having to write those banal lines, which always felt like a drag, definitely allowed them to finish their work early. Did anyone truly want to explain, again—while also trying to be funny—that they’d gone to the sales and seen two women fighting over bras? Or was it necessary to write that every first of November hundreds of people nostalgically left flowers at the graves of their late family members? No, they were tired of it. They’d rather go after breaking news.
My desk was next to Reinés’s office. Every morning there was a long line of people applying to work for him. They all wanted to write for the Gaceta. There’s no shortage of opinions in this world. And putting them down in writing produces a satisfaction that can’t be compared to anything else. I couldn’t figure out what was happening at that newspaper. It was like no one could keep their mouths shut or their hands still. And they all got together to let out what they needed to say. I saw it from where I sat, through my binoculars. I barely had to make an effort. Sometimes you could hear screaming from Reinés’s office. “Do you know who you’re talking to? Do you?!” he once screamed at a wealthy, educated man. But on many occasions, he and his visitor would come out smiling, shake hands at the door, and say goodbye amiably. Some days later, a new column would appear in the main pages, with the visitor’s photograph next to the byline.
And one day, out came two guys who seemed pretty important. Sunscreens, cemetery flowers, and book festivals could last you forever. Everything is, like I’ve already said, about consulting your toolkit to avoid tedium. About saying what you like or what you can’t stand. About criticizing. About crying bitterly. About discussing those who move the pawns of every game. I had done it. And even your neighbors in the stairwell, your mother’s hairdresser, and the shopkeeper on the corner had sensed it. But the person who made decisions at the newspaper still hadn’t. In fact, he didn’t even see me at all. Two years had passed and, to him, I was the same trainee he’d assigned one day to that insipid page of pharmacies and gas stations. And due to a series of coincidences, she had at her disposal a little extra corner of the newspaper with twenty-five lines that had to be filled in some way.
He called me in one day when I was very proud of my “Binoculars.” I had un-fogged them despite the condensation that was a result of the heat and the newspaper windows always being closed. It was winter, and I had arrived wearing my new coat. Feeling very sure of myself. I’d hung it on the coat rack with care and sat down to type furiously.
I went into his office and sat down. He asked me how I felt at the paper. I told him it was going well.
“Soon we’ll have the Christmas street decorations, eh?” he smiled.
“Yes, that’s true, it’s coming up,” I told him. In fact, I’d already had the Christmas article written for days.
He didn’t look at me. His eyes were fixed on his computer, which was much more modern now. He told me that the Agenda page was going to be completely remodeled, and that “Through the Binoculars” already seemed a little outdated. It wasn’t that he wanted to eliminate those little articles I wrote that were so—what was it?—beloved. But now they’d be adding two new collaborators. He wanted to give it a punchier focus, with a touch of political commentary he didn’t envision me writing.
“I’m sure you’re aware that everyone has a concrete subject that works best for them. More… appropriate for their personality. That’s how it is, you should know that by now.”
“Yeah,” I muttered.
“Think of something a little more, I don’t know… I don’t want to say frivolous, because we have the gossip page for that, but a light little thing. With your creative touch, of course. You already show promise in column-writing.”
“Yeah,” I said again, thinking: wonderful, ten years and I show promise.
“And hurry. The two new bylines will be added next week.”
I don’t know what happened to me. Maybe it seemed like someone had pulled off my coat and trampled on it. That it was covered with footprints from dirty shoes. And my mouth, so often sewn shut, opened:
“You know, I’m tired of it too, the ‘Binoculars.’ Also, it’s a little bit of a ridiculous section.”
He made a weird gesture, throwing his head back and opening his eyes wide. How could an idea of his be ridiculous, even if it now seemed outdated to him?
“But you do agree with me that there are certain things you just can’t write about.”
“Of course. That’s for the people from the lines, not for me.”
“The lines? What do you mean?”
“I’ve seen people line up and then come in here doing genuflections and twitching their heads like nervous horses. But I have back problems that keep me from prostrating myself correctly…”
“Now I don’t follow.”
“Never mind. Personal matters.”
Before leaving the office I told him I’d already done the “Binoculars” for the following day. Too bad it wasn’t a farewell. At nine on the dot, I turned off the computer as I did every evening and went to look for my coat on the rack. There were many of them, in different colors, piled on top of each other. Some had even fallen on the floor. I went through all of them, one by one. Mine wasn’t there. I went over to Fani’s desk, a little bit worried.
“Hey, I can’t find my coat.”
“Did you really look? Sometimes they get all mixed up, because there are so many.”
Then she asked me:
“Is everything okay? You’re really pale.”
“No. I just can’t find my coat, and it’s cold.”
“If you want, I can lend you mine. I’m driving.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m leaving.”
“I’ll look for it. I finish late today.”
“I don’t think you’re going to find it,” I added.
Outside, it was cold and dark, and mist hovered in the air. I walked slowly, dragging my feet. What pained me most was that the work I’d done over so many years hadn’t served any purpose. I thought about my neighbors in the stairwell, my mother’s hairdresser, and the shopkeeper on the corner. How could it be that they’d understood better than anyone? They had understood me. I walked home very slowly, like a ghost dragging something more than its feet. My cheeks felt warm, but my nose was freezing. I felt feverish. And the only things that came to my mind were unconnected phrases. Who will take over my binoculars? Where will all the things I’ve said wind up? Will anyone remember the flowers I brought to the cemetery this first of November? Or the jokes I wrote about the January sales, in an attempt to be funny? And who will notice that I don’t go to the beaches in the winter anymore, just to prove that they exist and to say that they’re much nicer than in the summer, even though no one actually goes to see them?
“A light little thing,” Reinés had said. All of a sudden, I began to tremble. I couldn’t control the chills without the coat that had protected me before. As if I were naked. My whole body hurt. Head, neck, back. I didn’t even have pockets to warm up my hands.
That’s it. This was the story I wanted to tell. Now I’m at home, sitting in front of the computer, and I’m writing an article. The one for this week won’t be about economics, or politics, or society. Nor do I want to write about books, or about language. I want it to be a banal article, for lots of laughs. About a time long ago when I had a desk among many desks and I worked this job, but as if I were doing it as a joke. And about when I had to listen to men who screamed: “How dare you? Do you know who you’re talking to?!” and in that way got things they considered to be important.
The shopkeeper retired and my mother’s hairdresser sold the business, but my neighbors in the stairwell, who continue to read me, told me a few days ago that, since I changed newspapers, “Through the Binoculars” isn’t worth reading. For me, it’s been a while since it vanished into the mist of the night.
“The Overcoat, by Nikolai Gogol” appears in Neus Canyelles’s 2014 short story collection Mai no sé què fer fora de casa [I Never Know What to Do Outside the House], which won the prestigious Mercè Rodoreda Prize for short stories written in Catalan.
Mai no sé què fer fora de casa is especially intriguing from the point of view of translation. In the collection, Canyelles presents adaptations of 16 short stories by well-known international writers, including Dorothy Parker, Raymond Carver, Isak Dinesen, and Vladimir Nabokov. The title of each story is the Catalan translation of the original title, with the author’s name included. The stories do not directly copy or translate, but rather transform the originals by bringing them into a semi-autobiographical first-person narrative of one central protagonist, a woman who works as a journalist in Palma. The stories are all interconnected, but the episodes do not appear in chronological order. A major theme of the collection as a whole—as signaled in the title—is that of the everyday. The presence of the quotidian and domestic asks us to reconsider what makes a worthy literary subject, as well as the gender implications involved. Per its diverse intertexts, the collection contains an array of styles, and its tone is by turns playful, critical, nostalgic, and ironic.
The collection, through its narrator-as-translator, seems to trace a borderline between what is ripe for translation and what is not, while simultaneously calling that border into question. I, too, have often found myself negotiating this line and engaging not only with Canyelles’s stories, but also with the stories they reference. To that end, I am grateful to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s English translation of the original Russian “The Overcoat,” which was an invaluable intertext in this process.“The Overcoat, by Nikolai Gogol,” adds new metaphorical valences to Gogol’s titular image as it depicts a woman who begins working at a newspaper, first as a proofreader, and later, as a writer. The story incisively transposes Gogol’s critique of bureaucracy into a subtle critique of gender and power in the workplace, particularly in the field of journalism. If Gogol’s overcoat haunts, then we might say that Canyelles’s story haunts back.
Marlena Gittleman is a translator from Catalan and Spanish based in the Bay Area. She is currently earning a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality at the University of California, Berkeley. Some of Marlena’s translations have appeared in Asymptote and eL Paper. She has just completed a yearlong Emerging Translator Mentorship Program in Catalan through the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA).
Neus Canyelles is a Majorcan journalist with degrees in Spanish Philology and Piano who writes for Última Hora, a daily newspaper in Palma. She is the author of five award-winning books, most recently La novel·la de Dickens. Her last published book, the collection of short stories Mai no sé què fer fora de casa, won her the prestigious Mercè Rodoreda Prize. Her new novel, Les millors vacances de la meva vida, has just been published.