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10 Questions for Naira Kuzmich

Date: 06/24/2016
Amal Zaman and Danielle Brown

This is the first installment in a series of interviews with our contributors. "10 Questions" was created to give MR's readers a closer look into the professional lives of those who populate our pages.

"When I write, I am singing my Armenian womanhood to whoever might listen. I am dancing a dance about losses I am only just beginning to understand. I am repeating myself, filling my body and the page with all the same notes. Our mothers are our martyrs. What I really want to say is simply I love you, but instead I kill and kill again the women I create in the image of the women I love." - from "On Grief" which appears...

XXXXL: Cuban Science Fiction Now in English

Date: 06/05/2016
Matt Goodwin

A Review of Yoss’s Super Extra Grande, Translated by David Frye (Restless Books, 2016).

If humanity ever makes contact with extraterrestrials, what language will we use to communicate? Musical tones, as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  English, Hindi, Spanish, or Chinese?  If you’ve read the novel Super Extra Grande by Cuban science fiction writer Yoss (the pen name of José Miguel Sánchez Gómez), then you’ll know that it’s none of these. The dominant language of the planet will be Spanglish of course! With apologies to English and Spanish purists, I find Yoss’s vision of a Lati-Anglo future both lovely and plausible. An English translation of ...

Conversations with Susan Bernofsky, Part 3

Date: 06/02/2016
Ryan Mihaly and Susan Bernofsky



The conclusion of a conversation with translator Susan Bernofsky. Read Part One here, and Part Two here.

Ryan Mihaly: The Metamorphosis and Robert Walser’s Microscripts both deal with these cramped spaces – Microscripts being these texts written on the back of business cards, newspapers, pamphlets, and so on. And both Walser and Kafka write in this old, highly formal style, which comes off as very comical in English.

Susan Bernofsky: Both Kafka and Walser use bureaucratic language to comic effect. 

Ryan Mihaly: Were they funny in their time, too?

Susan Bernofsky: Yes, but not everyone thought they were funny. 


Conversations with Susan Bernofsky, Part 2

Date: 06/01/2016
Ryan Mihaly and Susan Bernofsky

Part Two of a conversation with translator Susan Bernofsky. Read Part One here.

Ryan Mihaly: When did you begin working on Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and to what extent did you consult the various other English translations?

Susan Bernofsky: I started working on it, I think, in the spring of 2013, about a year before it came out. When I got offered the job to do that translation, the first thing I did was run to the library and look at all the existing translations of it. When you’re doing a new translation of a classic, you have to ask yourself, what’s the point? There’s only a point if you feel that you have something...

Conversations with Susan Bernofsky, Part One

Date: 05/30/2016
Ryan Mihaly and Susan Bernofsky


Ryan Mihaly: You recently translated The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, the fourth work of hers that you’ve translated. It seems that the more books she publishes in German, the quicker you translate them into English. How important is it for you to translate her books quickly?

Susan Bernofsky: It’s funny, it doesn’t seem that it’s going that quick to me. The End of Days came out in German in 2012, and I’m hyper-conscious that it took two years for the book to come out in English. That seems way too slow to me! I know with the first one I translated, The Old Child, there was a longer time lag.

It takes a while for books to go through production. It...

Snapshots of Romania

Date: 05/23/2016
Rachel Hall

A Review of King of the Gypsies, a short story collection by Lenore Myka (BkMk Press, 2015).

In praise of linked story collections, Michael Chabon has said: “A group of linked narratives can create an effect you can’t get from a novel or from one story alone. It’s like a series of snapshots taken over time. Part of the pleasure is turning to them again and again. The interest lies in what has happened in the interstices.” This is certainly true of Lenore Myka’s rich and compelling King...

Above and Against the Heroic

Date: 05/04/2016
Jeffrey Wallen

The movie Son of Saul, which has received very positive reviews, immerses us in a few days of the life of a member of the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz-Birkenau. They were responsible for helping shepherd the Jews into the gas chambers, and for disposing of their corpses, after first gleaning what was valuable from them (gold fillings, hair from the women). Primo Levi writes, “Conceiving and organizing these squads was National Socialism’s most demonic crime.”

In the movie, we are almost always with the main character Saul, and we quickly come to sympathize with him, and with his quest to provide a proper Jewish burial for a boy who for a short time miraculously survived the gas chamber. Against the inhuman work of the Sonderkommando, and against the horrific killing enterprise of the Nazis, his quest comes across as a glimmer of purposefulness and dignity. His frantic efforts...

Not Communication, Communion

Date: 04/23/2016
Michael Thurston

A Review of Save Twilight: Selected Poems. New and expanded edition, by Julio Cortázar, Translated by Stephen Kessler. (City Lights, 2016).

In “Axolotl,” an early short story by Julio Cortázar, the protagonist watches the titular amphibians very closely, day after day, imagining his way into their consciousness (or lack of consciousness), taking up the point of view from inside the aquarium, until, as a consequence of this attention, he finds himself suddenly looking out through the glass to see himself staring: “No transition and no surprise, I saw my face against the glass, I saw it on the outside of the tank, I saw it on the other side of the glass. Then my face drew back and I...

The Continuous Conversation

Date: 04/11/2016
Maryam Zehtabi Sabeti Moqaddam

A Review of The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible, by Aviya Kushner (Spiegel & Grau, 2015).

After two years in Jerusalem as a financial journalist and travel columnist during the second Intifada, Aviya Kushner returned to the United States in 2002 to enroll in the MFA program at the University of Iowa, seeking the safety and luxury of reading as a student. Before the long drive from her New York hometown to Iowa City, the only directions she had received was written on a small sheet of paper: the name of someone that two poet friends had told her to look up—Marilynne Robinson. Professor Robinson’s class on the Bible in English would forever change the course of Kushner’s life and career.

Growing up in a Hebrew-speaking family, Kusher was accustomed to reading the Bible in the original language and discussing its hidden meanings over dinner; she found herself, from an early age, participating in debates over the correct...

Read Like a Rabbi

Date: 04/11/2016
Andrés Amitai Wilson

A Review of The Grammar of God: A Journey into the Words and Worlds of the Bible, by Aviya Kushner (Spiegel and Grau, 2015).

Pirkei Avot (“The Chapters of Our Fathers”), a compendium of rabbinic ethical aphorisms, includes  Ben Bag Bag’s prescription for studying Torah: “Turn the Torah over—turn it over for everything is in it. See into it, grow old and worn over it and from it never turn away, for you will not find a better portion than it.” Jewish tradition encourages a reverent grappling with its sacred texts, and the concept of “Torah” is itself elastic. Literally “teaching” or “instruction,” Torah is also the unifying heading of the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, traditionally attributed to Moses; Torah is a catchall for the entirety of Jewish texts and a metonym for wisdom. A famous midrash depicts God consulting the Torah before creating the universe, and Torah is frequently hypostatized as God’s consort. Blessings are recited before...