Welcome to the May 2018 issue of Transnational Literature. Once again, bringing this issue together has been a wonderful process of discovering links and resonances among the disparate contributions of widely-scattered writers and scholars – I counted 22 countries among the current residences of our contributors, on every continent except Antarctica.
A predominant theme in this issue is translation, both literal – between languages – and the translation the self undergoes when borders are crossed. The Zambian-born, UK-based poet Kayo Chingonyi writes in his interview in this issue, ‘Thinking about the margins is to think about subjectivity, the very specific things which cannot be generalised.’ Those specific things are the stuff of literature, and the best literary scholarship is undertaken with that in mind.
We are very fortunate to be able to include a beautifully curated special feature titled ‘Voices from the Margins’. The editors, Lioba Schreyer, of Ruhr-University Bochum, and Lena Mattheis from the University of Duisburg-Essen, have drawn together articles, interviews and poetry on themes of indigeneity, climate change, orality and, above all, marginality.
Among the articles in this special feature is Lotta Schneidemesser’s discussion of the challenges facing a German translator of Samoan poetry written in English. Translation also emerges as a key element in much of the poetry section, edited magnificently as always by Alison Flett. Alison brings us two special features: eminent Australian poet Lisa Gorton is featured in this issue, with her translations from the French poet Rimbaud; and the guest curator is French avant-garde poet Marie de Quatrebarbes, who has selected some contemporary French poetry given both in the original French and in translation. Among the riches of the general poetry section this month, we have two poems by Peter Bakowski, written in English and translated into German and French respectively, with a note on the translation process.
And of course there is as usual a small section, edited by Reza Haque, devoted to translation, with an English rendering of two of Friedrick Rückert’s German ghazals looking back to the fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz. As with all the other translations in this issue, the original text is included along with the translation, and as one of these poems is an English translation of a German translation from Persian, the poem is given in all three languages.
The importance of historical awareness – of acknowledging and understanding the past – is a recurrent preoccupation among the peer-reviewed articles in this issue. Apart from Rohini Shukla’s fascinating examination of the devotional songs of the pastoral region of Maharashtra, the articles mostly deal with canonical works or modern classics of post-colonial fiction in English, and identity, trauma, marginality and embodiment are among the themes explored.
The five short stories in this issue, expertly edited by Ruth Starke, are set in India, Japan, Kuwait and the US, ranging from the whimsical charm of Meredith Stephens’ ‘Cherry Blossom Cycling’ to Leyla Savsar’s deeply moving ‘Almost Home’, a chronicle of a family’s struggle with grief and search for a place to call home.
Twenty-two book reviews, half of which deal with fiction, poetry and other creative writing, and half with works of history, theory and criticism, round out this rich and varied issue of Transnational Literature.
With the May issue of Transnational Literature my time as general editor of the journal ends. I have been in this honorary position since 2008, when I took on the editorship of a journal then known as Quodlibet. It has been an exciting time – building up the journal, expanding its team of editors and extending its reach to encompass writers, scholars and readers from all over the world. It has been a great privilege working with such a dedicated group of editors and with over 600 authors, and I would like to thank all my editorial colleagues, past and present, for their contributions to the journal’s success, as well as the members of the Advisory and Editorial Boards for their invaluable support over the ten years of TNL’s history. It is time for me to step aside to pursue other consuming interests, but I will continue to take an active interest in the wellbeing of the journal. We hope to announce plans for the future over the coming weeks.