Too Loud a Solitude – Bohumil Hrabal, translated from the Czech by Michael Henry Heim
I love this tiny treasure of a book with mind and marrow, to the quick. Hrabal counterbalances moments of horror and humiliation with near perfect prose (prosody, really). His is a balanced dialectic, so subtly executed, so haunting it remains like a gumdrop (see page one) that’s really a sentence to be savored, even when stuck to the roof of your mouth and smarting. “For thirty-five years now I’ve been in wastepaper, and it’s my love story.”
Jazz – Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison undoes me, paragraph by consummate paragraph. With Jazz, I unravel on page one, paragraph one: six sentences that are the novel condensed into query, that begin with an “Sth, I know that woman” (Sth? I? That woman? Such disdain?) and end with the uncaging of a parrot that parrots “I love you,” no matter what. The symbolism may seem overwrought, but it’s not.
Look – Solmaz Sharif
We write euphemism to relate the unrelatable, the too raw, the too real. Solmaz Sharif upends this tendency, creating a sort of dictionary whose words do not conceal—as with the official language of the U.S. DoD—but rather mean. She digs through the devastating, euphemistic rubble of U.S. intervention, pulling up a dried fig, a photograph, “the sleeve of a favorite shirt,” or “a fistful of blood and brains.” “Look,” she implores us, remnants limp in the palm of her hands. “Let it matter what we call a thing.”
Translations – Brian Friel
Brian Friel’s Translations occurred to me well before translation itself. The confluence of language/s (which, according to Friel, is what it’s all about) that makes up this text is at once poetry, allegory, historical fiction, a feat of translation, and an acceptance that sometimes, simply, “there’s no English equivalent for a sound like that.” Let’s listen to it, then, and let it be. After all, “uncertainty in meaning is incipient poetry.”
Night Sky with Exit Wounds – Ocean Vuong
To call it a love story would be reckless, but I read it that way and it was. Vuong is how I fall in love, uneven, complete, gravel-rasping, the feeling of a hand on my knee. “He lifts her white cotton skirt, revealing/ another hour. His hand. His hands. The syllables”.
Brianna is an emerging Spanish to English translator, a film photographer, an itinerant traveler, and a sometimes poet. She is interested in themes of landlessness and solitude, especially as borne of censorship, exile, and endings. “