Jennifer Croft is a translator, author and literary critic who works from Polish and Argentine Spanish. She was awarded the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her translation of Flights written by Olga Tokarczuk. Croft’s recent translations are a Perfect Cemetery by Federico Falco (Charco Press), and The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal She is the author of the memoir Homesick, the novel in Spanish Serpientes y EScaleras ; the forthcoming novels Amadou, Fidelity and a book-length essay about Postcards.
Jessica Sequeira is the author of A Furious Oyster (Dostoyevsky Wannabe), the collection of stories Rhombus and Oval (What Books), the collection of essays Other Paradises: Poetic Approaches to Thinking in a Technological Age (Zero), and her most recent book A Luminous History of the Palm (Sublunary Editions). Jessica has translated poetry and prose by Latin American authors, both contemporaries as well as figures such as Winétt de Rokha, Sara Gallardo, and Teresa Wilms Montt. Most recently she translated a biography of the Chilean artist Delia del Carril Iraeta. Jessica is associate editor of Sublunary editions and is currently doing a PhD at the Centre of Latin American Studies, in Cambridge, on literary exchanges between Latin America and India.
Mentioned in this episode:
- Osvaldo Lamborghini and His Work An essay by author Cesar Aira
- Writing to the Dead: On Teresa Wilms Montt’s In the Stillness of Marble Essay by Jessica Sequeira
After almost five years of interviewing authors from Latin America, Literary South is exploring a new direction to talk about literature in translation. Many of the authors that have been featured in the show are also translators and Latin American authors writing in Spanish can access English-speaking readers, and important literary prizes, thanks to the translations of their work.
That’s why Literary South wants to explore translation as an art and as a powerful tool to diversify the stories we read. The first three guests of 2021:
February: translator, author and editor Jessica Sequeira.
Jessica Sequeira is a writer, literary translator and PhD candidate at the Centre of Latin American Studies, based in Cambridge (UK) and Santiago (Chile). Sequeira has translated authors like Carlos Fonseca, Osvaldo Lamborghini, Liliana Colanzi to name a few. She is the author of A Luminous History of the Palm (Sublunary editions), A Furious Oyster, a novel (Dostoyevsky Wannabe), Rhombus and Oval, a collection of stories (What Books Press), Other Paradises, a collection of essays (Zero Books).
March: translator and author Jennifer Croft
Jennifer Croft is an American author, critic and translator who works from Polish, Ukrainian and Spanish. Croft is the author of the memoir Homesick (Unnamed Press) With the author Olga Tokarczuk, she was awarded the 2018 Booker International Prize for her translation of Flights (Fitzcarraldo Editions).
April : Translator and editor Eric M B Becker
Eric M. B. Becker is a writer, literary translator, and editor of Words without Borders. In 2014, he earned a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for his translation of a collection of short stories from the Portuguese by Neustadt Prize for International Literature winner and 2015 Man Booker International Finalist Mia Couto (now available from Biblioasis as Rain and Other Stories). He has also published translations of numerous writers from Brazil, Portugal, and Lusophone Africa, including, Noemi Jaffe, Elvira Vigna, Paulo Scott, Martha Batalha, Paulo Coelho, and Carlos Drummond de Andrade. Current book projects include work by Djaimila Pereira de Almeida, Alice Sant’Anna, Fernanda Torres, and Lygia Fagundes Telles (NEA Fellowship 2019), among others.
Fernando Sdrigotti was born in Rosario (Argentina) in 1977. Expelled by the economic crash of 2001, he lived in Dublin and Paris before settling in London in the early noughties. His fiction and critical writing has appeared widely online and in print, and has been translated into French, Italian, Turkish, Norwegian and Spanish. He is the founder of the online literary journal Minor Literature[s] and was a contributing editor at 3:AM Magazine and Numéro Cinq. Shitstorm, a novella, was published in 2018 by Open Pen. Dysfunctional Males, his first collection of short stories in English, was published in 2017 by LCG Media. Jolts Nine stories. Nine ways of not being at home. Nine confrontations to the limits of fiction and memoir. Jolts is a playful and honest exploration of the joys and sorrows of lives lived in-between places. A collection that travels across time, space, and language, in order to deliver the gospel of the Latin American short story. He teaches Spanish and Latin American literature at Birkbeck, University of London.
Yvette Siegert is a Latinx poet and translator based in Oxford. Siegert is a CantoMundo Poetry Fellow currently reading for a PHD in Spanish American literature at Merton College. She received the Lord Alfred Douglas Prize, and her translations of Alejandra Pizarnik, Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962–1972, won the Best Translated Book Award in 2017.
Silvia Rothlisberger is the producer and host of Literary South.
This show was broadcast on Resonance 104.4 on 25 November at 8pm.
Music: Dominique by Ela Minus
Ariana Harwicz ha escrito cuatro libros en español, Matate, Amor, La Débil Mental, Precoz y Degenerado. Matate, Amor y La Débil Mental han sido publicados en el Reino Unido por Charco Press. Die, My Love fue nominada al International Booker Prize en el 2018. Ariana Estudió guion cinematográfico; dramaturgia; y licenciatura en Artes del espectáculo en Paris y un máster en Literatura comparada en La Sorbona.
Gabriela Cabezón Cámara: Es autora de las novelas La Virgen Cabezas y Las Aventuras de la China Iron, ambas publicadas en el Reino Unido por Charco Press. Las Aventuras de la China Iron esta nominada el International Booker Prize 2020. Es autora también de dos nouvelles: Le viste la cara a Dios y Romance de la Negra Rubia, y de las novelas gráficas Beya y a su Despojo fue una Muchedumbre.
Gabriela Estudió letras en la Universidad de Buenos Aires. En 2013 fue escritora residente de la Universidad de California en Berkeley. Actualmente ejerce el periodismo de manera independiente.
Feebleminded is narrated with an intense and fragmented prose characteristic of Ariana Harwicz (Argentina, 1977). It is the second book of what Harwicz calls an “involuntary trilogy” where she explores motherhood, how it affects the characters psychically, and how it sways their desires. Divided in three parts and with only 117 pages Feebleminded is a bold and superb short novel that confronts the impossible parameters society has set for women.
In the book, a woman in her late 20s lives with her toxic and alcoholic mother. They are more like two best friends than mother and daughter. Their house is a creepy place with wigs hanging up and mice in jars of formaldehyde. We learn about the daughter’s neglected childhood through feverish memories unveiled in conversations and internal monologues. Memories as far in the past as when she was conceived (“the guy comes inside my mum looking skyward and so it all begins”), or from one night when she was in her mother’s womb and the mum threw dice to decide if she’d get rid of the unknown creature inside her.
The pace of the novel is like a staccato: short punchy sentences where there is an intensity, a heaviness; only with short sentences can this roller-coaster of a book be bearable. We follow the story through dialogues where you don’t know if it’s the mother or the daughter talking. Other times the dialogue is internal. We feel their madness, their constant delirium in each phrase, or as the daughter says: “I’m not crazy, just possessed”.
The daughter is in a relationship with a married man who leaves her because his wife is pregnant. She feels angry — “it was the other common bitch who got him”, she thinks. She wishes for the baby to be born dead, or to be a Siamese twin stuck to a dog. But when her mum learns about this, she has a more sinister plan of revenge.
The two women are marginalised, they are maladaptive, they are happy in a very disturbing way. They have relationships with impossible men. They fantasise about men coming to their house to rape them. They drink whisky, talk about sex and masturbate in an insatiable way. From the opening paragraph —each chapter is one long paragraph— when we are getting to know them: “sitting on my clit I invent a life for myself in the clouds. I quiver, I shake, my fingers are my morphine and for that brief moment everything’s fine”.
They are verbally and physically violent to each other. Sometimes the daughter wishes for a different life. “If I could only have started a new chapter elsewhere… say bye to mum without fearing the crack of a fired arrow”. Yet, they are inseparable. At the end of part I, the mother has left and the daughter is searching for her. At the end of part II, it is the daughter who leaves the mother. But they both return. At times they are tired of life, but most times they can’t get enough of it. At the end of part III they are crawling on hands and knees, covered in blood: “let it all explode, let it all turn to dust, says mother, still wanting more.”
Translated into English by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff, from its original in Spanish La Debil Mental, reading this book is an intense deranged tension that only a writer like Ariana Harwicz, who wants to transgress with her work, can achieve.
Harwicz’s main characters – at least in this trilogy – are women searching for who they are in a world that is telling them how they should be. The first book of this trilogy Die, My Love is similarly a sharp book about a marginalised woman who lives with her husband and unwanted baby. It was nominated for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, and for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, placing Ariana Harwicz at the forefront of the so-called new Argentinian fiction.
* I’ll be talking with Ariana Harwicz and Gabriela Cabezón Cámara in an online event on 3 June 2020 7pm (UK time), Find out more HERE!