The Isis | Motion Sickness | MT21

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Ayna Li Taira & Natalie Perman Cia Mangat George Adams Jigyasa Anand Kyoka Hadano Coco Cottam

Editors’ Letter

all of these things are true and not true

Inferno XXVI (trans. from Italian)

Love at the Airport On Sappho and the Reading of Fragments

‘Motion Sickness’ Photography Competition

Tridib Bhattacharya

Tagore and I

Ainhoa Santos Goicoechea

Simple Truths Simply Put (trans. from Basque)

Gaia Luce Clark Nevola

In Conversation with Torrey Peters

Niamh McBratney Mizan Rahman

‘Motion Sickness’ Photography Competition The Devil Resells Prada

Matilda Houston-Brown Sara Hashmi

help for when the tide is out When the Grass isn’t Greener

Grace Lawrence Faith Wong Millie Jacoby

Post-mortem of a fallow-field Chinatown, Singapore Sa Majesté la Mort

Elizabeth Tiskina


Aaron Hammond Duncan Aaron Hammond Duncan

Creative Direction by Joseph Dobbyn and Anna Du Toit. Covers by Aaron Hammond Duncan, Faith Wong, and Anna Du Toit.

Portraits Contact Sheet


2 3 5 11 13 17

On the tide of the summer, one of us returning home and one still on the year abroad, we met in Germany. As conversations moved from DB train delays (bad) to socks and Birkenstocks (good), we exchanged learned languages; ‘Halligalli’ and ‘hullabaloo’, ‘pidge’ and ‘plodge’. The past year, we hadn’t known whether we were stationary or moving. We chatted about our shared love of translation, how it helped us find joy in the present dizziness. Motion sickness emerged as a result of these cancelled flights, time differences, and being chronically online. We were desperate to travel even as we found ourselves stuck in foreign countries. So we created a magazine of mementoes: collecting hammers in the Basque Country, hot samosas in Kolkata, family histories at the Auberge du Cheval Blanc, giraffes in St Petersburg, fragments in Lesbos, and solar panels in Torrey Peters’ old hunter’s cabin.

19 23 27 32 34 37 40


These journeys wouldn’t have been possible without our incredible team. Our heartfelt thanks to the Deputy Editors, capable of anything: Eliott, Grace, Kiana, and Sara. Our Creative directors, Anna and Joe, for keeping us moving even when we felt stuck. And Aqsa, for the Freud and Plush parties that made us dizzy in the best way. For all of our readers: we hope this issue takes you somewhere new.


Somebody roll the windows down,


Liebe Grüße / 敬具 / Yours / 此致 敬礼

47 49

Natalie & Ayna

51 53


Art by Millie Dean-Lewis


prayer warbles all day beneath our birdcage because one of the budgies is always pretending to be a landline the only palm reader i know has never taken her jewellery off because the skin of her fingers folded the wedding ring in i have nothing to say but it is to you that i want to say this nothing i am overusing the word light to sound more interesting like the night unforgivably sour

i am inventing dreams

i am folding into myself

i am turning and turning

like milk

once i sat down with a biro in each

of my back pockets

& had twin red and blue stains holding

my jeans to my hips on the way home

like palms smeared

with diagram blood in a biology textbook dreamt we were in the mcdonald’s bathroom

last night i you drank

light straight from the soap dispenser into your hands i have nothing to say to you but

the only palm reader

i know told me to paint my nails more often


she holds my face up to hers and swears she embroidered every hair of my eyebrows in place

with a needle

last night i dreamt i answered the telephone with my eyes closed and instead of your static hello? hello? i was being led through plants and leaves

have i told you about

the morning i woke up with shards of biro plastic in my mouth like glass

you told me you had nothing to say

the only palm reader i know once slapped me across the face








ODYSSEUS (In rags, with clay pipe, red-faced, moustachioed. He wears the pale pink nightie of an empress. Appears on his haunches in the London tube. Looking at the ceiling. Puddle of phlegm on sneakers.) Ooooooooooooooo brothers! (Slaps thigh gleefully.) After a hundred thousand perils You have reached the West.


(With a clown’s wig, lipstick applied suavely, in a wheelchair with a lopsided wheel, glancing at his watch. Rabbit’s ears.) Coughing. (Dabs hooked nose with spotted handkerchief. Looks wistfully at crag in distance. Decidedly ungleeful.) ODYSSEUS (Mortar-boarded, drunk, a crown of thorns. The manner of a policeman.) Guard your few senses that are remaining, experience the world before the birth of the sun, think of your beginnings (wipes blood from eyes.) You were not made to live like animals, but for the pursuit of virtue and knowledge. VIRGIL (Dancing in a pit of fire. Bored, hairy, with pince-nez, linen suit, and briefcase. Clutches miniature of Augustus to chest. Perturbed. Unreachable.) Screaming. (Non-human.) PENELOPE (Graceful, heroic, with bootcut jeans, Stetson, and two revolvers slung from her hips. A million dollars. Smells of honey, juniper, and marzipan. At a large writing table, concentrating.) Seven years! Go back to her. She wants you.


(Holding a fiddle. Saluting a picture of the Queen. Eating hors d’oeuvre.) And with these few words (maniacally.) I galvanised my friends for the journey ahead. From then on, I couldn’t hold them back.


(Sniffing uncontrollably. Leaving for France.) Coughing. Pause.

Need a doctor. Pause.

(Acerbically.) Perilous.



(Serious now, on the battlements, sceptre-in-hand, kneeling, staring at a postcard with great intensity. Fairy wings. Ski-wear. Looks like he might jump. Cries of distant army audible.)

The night sky saw stars of the other pole, we were very low, not rising above the sea floor. (Peers over the edge. Whimpers.)

We ummm (intelligible) entered the deep passage, the light was rekindled five times under the moon; a mountain appeared, dusky in the distance, it seemed much higher than any I had seen before We were happy at this, but we soon turned to tears. PENELOPE (Disappointedly. Peaceful. Bed sheets stained from crying.) How the many-minded lie.


(Bashfully. Dressed as a bumblebee. At a wedding.) Aye. Sunt lacrimae rerum.


(Beardless, panic-stricken, in Scouts’ uniform, on a dentist’s chair, with mould in one hand, mouth wide open, cataleptic, garbled.) a whirlwind appeared crushed (incoherent)

our boat

three times


on the waters

on the fourth the stern was torn and the bow plunged deep into


the sea


(Playing tiddlywinks. Blonde hair. Bumbling.) ka mee fete pleasire (English accent) ODYSSEUS (As a baby, with a T-shirt that reads ‘I was at Troy.’ Hyperglycaemic, mucoidal, catatonic, in a cold sweat. Suspended in air. Whispering at a dream.) the sea closed over until (gasps for breath) us (pulled, marionette-like, back into the shadows.) (Sobbing inaudibly.)



‘ Te a s i n g m e a n i n g o u t o f t h e s e s i l e n c e s ’ On Sappho and the Reading of Fragments By Kyoka Hadano

We are strangely drawn to bits and pieces. The blunted shimmer of sea-glass, newspaper clippings, crumbling broken hazelnuts atop a cake. But what if we were thinking about fragmentary language? Words ending mid-sentence ] random indentation grammar eluded dissolve our expectations of lexical coherence. Teased out of the cohesion of sense and sentence, we find ourselves riddled with interruptions, lacunae, punctured openings, and unhemmed endings. Sappho’s poetry is one of fragmentation. Intentional or not, her writings have remained with us in bits and pieces, preserved as citations in the works of other ancient authors or inscribed on strips of frayed papyri. Of the nine books of lyric poetry she is said to have composed, only one poem has reached us in its complete

state. In the rare case that papyri do survive without significant damage, they still make for problematic reading: text is written upon them in columns, without word division, punctuation, or lineation. The very act of reading – even in this primary editorial phase – is one of piecing together the gaps. This broken form chimes well with Sappho’s prevailing poetic theme of unrequited desire. The lover always yearns for what they do not have, and Sappho’s lyrical ‘I’ is no exception, for whom love unreciprocated is a condition predicated on absence. Having recently thumbed through the pages of the writer and classicist Anne Carson’s essay collection Eros the Bittersweet, I recall her observation that “[t]he Greek word ‘eros’ denotes ‘want,’ ‘lack,’ ‘desire for which is missing’”. Such is the condition of Sappho’s lyrics, which evoke love as a yearning for what is not there, absences brought into relief by scenic displacements. Carson’s interpretation of Sappho’s Greek is also an imagining of this distant realm:

I long and seek after (fr. 36) Moon has set And Pleiades huddle Night, the hour goes by, Alone I lie. (fr. 168B)


Art by Millie Dean-Lewis

Reading her fragments this way is a process of re-composition – the absences of the text coax forward the presence of the reader. Punning on the gaps in the text of Sappho’s corpus, the scholar Yopie Prins proposes that “[r]eading Sappho is a form of riddling”. She suggests that “[w]hen we read the fragments, we ask a question about voice that we answer by projecting voice into the[m].” This question-andanswer movement of “projecting voice” suggests that reading is a sort of interiorised dialogue: a conversation with, and through, the text before us. The act of deciphering ‘Sappho’ from the crumbled array of words before us is a demand to make sense of characters on the page, to pay careful attention to calibrations of context and ornament. The intimacy of this process – of reading, of translating, of (re)composition – aligns the reader to the figure of the lover, as Carson writes: Eros is always a story in which lover, beloved and the difference between them interact. The interaction is a fiction arranged by the mind of the lover. It carries an emotional charge both hateful and delicious, and emits a

light like knowledge.1 This account could just as well be ascribed to the reader and editor of Sappho’s poetry, invited as we are to tease meaning out of these silences in her oeuvre. It is therefore through the act of readerly interpretation – of resting our fingertips along a poem’s ragged edges and contemplating that which may have been lost – that unlocks what Plato’s Socrates describes as the process of “heal[ing] the wound of human nature”.2 Through literary love, lyric can be completed, an undeniable link between Sappho’s writing of desire and the readerly desire for ‘Sappho’ as poet. In this way, she is the lyric poet of ‘eros’ par excellence, inviting, through a history of material loss, her readers into piecing back together the trailing lines. Consider fragment 21 (à la Carson):

] ] ]pity ]trembling ] ]flesh by now old age ]covers ]flies in pursuit ] ]noble ]taking ]sing to us The one with violets in her lap ]mostly ]goes astray


Carson’s typographical choice of using squared brackets in translation indicates destroyed sections of the manuscripts, or unclear characters, “an aesthetic gesture towards the papyrological event”, in her own words. She thus encodes and accentuates the silences whorled in the fabric of the poems by weaving together a filigree of lovelorn asymmetries. The seventeenth-century writer George Puttenham described these purposeful gaps in rhetorical terms as “the figure of silence” or ‘aposiopesis’, the term for an abrupt breaking off in speech.3 The gaps’ texture is akin to that of rest-signs in sheet music, or the pauses for effect given in an oratory speech. But instead of visual prompts, we are looking at words, shimmering and inchoate, mediated by lexical deciphering and scholarly remediation. Amidst a poem peppered with these ambiguities, the only line in fragment 21 which survives in its entirety is an enigmatic reference to “the one with violets in her lap”. In the endnotes to the volume, Carson admits with readerly deference that “I do not know what this adjective means exactly”. The adjective (“ιόκολπον” in Greek) is a compound word,

from “ion”, meaning “violet” ( “purple” or “dark” or “like violets” are other options) and the word “kolpos”, for which Carson gives many possible meanings: “bosom, lap, womb, fold formed by a loose garment; any hollow.” Carson also notes that, in Sappho, the dusky purples of violets are “an epithet of brides and of a goddess” and this fact conjures in my mind other similar referents across her oeuvre. Is this reference to “violets” in fragment 21 the same as that of fragment 30: “girls […] might sing of the love between you and the bride / with violets in her lap” or of fragment 103: “]child of Kronos with violets in her lap”? Interweaving the images of “a child of Kronos”, jealous “anger” and “the bride”, I wonder whether Sappho is hinting Hera to us, wife of Zeus and the goddess of marriage. This could imply – I twirl my pen at my desk as I write this, quietly proud of my literary sleuth work – that some of these songs were ‘epithalamiums’, wedding poems.


There seems to be a sad irony in the idea of lovers twinned à deux, who are however – over the contingencies of time and history – torn away from one another, only to be pieced back together in the realms of ambiguous obscurity. For, after all, fragments are also ruins. They imply something left behind from what had once been a whole. Yet such an interpretation – of course – is only in the realms of readerly conjecture. The nature of fragments, from an author no longer breathing and before us, diffracts and unlocks a plethora of potential meanings from a text. Where anyone can have their own unique reading of a text, sometimes necessarily mediated in translation, fragments create a conversation between ourselves and the forms the words cast before us. Through these intertwined threads of interpretation, reader and the lover together become “mythoplokon” (“weavers of fictions” (fragment 188)). These fragmented translations of Sappho encode an admission of frailty – their very form is suggestive of the compositional process, the fraying away of words by time

and memory, the incoherent passion of a lover’s confession, its flickering impressions. And yet, there is something in tears and aches that invites sympathy. The critic Virginia Jackson writes about how we define lyric poetry not in terms of fixed taxonomies, but as a way of reading or “lyricisation”.4 Through the process of lyric reading, of pausing our fingertips upon a poetic fragment and slipping closed the knots of imperfection, we can tend to these poetic wounds and re-calibrate our understanding of the broken condition as something in fact complete.

1 Carson, Eros the Bittersweet, p. 169. 2Plato, ‘Symposium’, in Lysis. Symposium. Gorgias, trans. by W.R. M. Lamb (Cambridge: MA: Harvard University Press, 1925),192e (pp. 144-5). 3George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie (London: Triphook, 1811), p. 139. 4Virginia Jackson, Dickinson’s Misery (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 6.


Photography by Coco Cottam Winner of the ‘Motion Sickness’ Photography Competition

By Tridib Bhattacharya Art by Natalie Hytiroglou

As a child growing up in the US, my awareness of Rabindranath Tagore was quite limited. I knew him principally as the namesake of my younger brother, who shares his birthday. Every other month, one family would host the rest of the local Bengali community for an evening music session, generally celebrations of Rabindra Sangeet, as Tagore’s songs are referred to. The adults would crowd into the living room, seating themselves in a large circle with their instruments and copies of the Gitabitan – a compilation of over 2,000 Rabindra Sangeet. Whilst the children entertained themselves upstairs, I preferred to sit beside Baba as he played the tabla, helping pass plates of hot samosas around as I listened to a language largely foreign to me. Whenever these sessions were held at our house, a minimalist wooden carving of Tagore’s face would preside over the gathering from its shelf above the television. With his eyes serenely shut and a long, white beard flowing down, Tagore had a certain mystic air about him, reminiscent of the wisely sages that populated the illustrated Indian epics I was so fond of reading. It was only after moving to India as an eight-year-old that I was gradually exposed to the man behind the wooden carving. Numerous summer mornings were spent sprawled on the large bed in the guest room as Dida, my maternal grandmother, patiently taught me to recite Tagore’s poems for children. Dida, who took up writing herself post-retirement, was overjoyed at our move to India, and saw no better way to broaden her grandchildren’s exposure to Bengali culture than through the works of Bengal’s foremost poet. On Dida’s prompting, I was also enrolled in music classes to learn Rabindra Sangeet, joining local Bengali children. Although I could recognise some tunes from the communal music sessions I attended in the US, I struggled to understand Tagore’s lyrical poetry and grasp his more complicated melodies. Yet what started as a chore – the echo of an American accent in my Bengali making things no easier – eventually became one of the highlights of my initial years in India. Dida found that getting me to sit still became an increasingly simple task, and I began to feel an intoxicating mix of fascination and pride whenever I performed a song in front of my music teacher, the strains of an electronic tanpura reverberating in the background. I had always been very conscious of my Americanised Bengali, and it was as though mastering the words of a Rabindra Sangeet allowed me to connect with my heritage in a way I had never known, if only for the few minutes of a tune’s duration. Tagore’s verses filled my mind with a colourful world that seemed just like mine, while remaining somewhat unfamiliar. One of my favourites captures a child lamenting the seemingly endless wait for Sunday and its pleasures to his mother:

“Shom mongol budh, era shob ashe taratari Eder ghore achhe bujhi mostahawa gari Robibar she keno maa go, emon deri kore Dhire dhire pouchay shey shokal barer pore (…) Shey buhji ma tomar moton gorib ghorer meye?”

“Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday – they all come in such a hurry Do they all own fast, expensive cars? Why oh why mother, does Sunday come so late? At a snail’s pace she arrives after all the other days (…) Does she, oh mother, come from a poor family like yours?”

The universal impatience of childhood which these lines capture so perfectly unsurprisingly resonated with me. Indeed, our own Sunday afternoons were usually spent at the park down the road, Ma and Baba often letting us stop by the neighbourhood sweet-shop on the way back. As childhood gradually made way for adolescence, however, the socioeconomic underpinnings in these verses and others from Tagore became clearer. Even in simple children’s songs, Tagore manages to uncover the world of poverty and inequality that still marks much of Bengal’s rural countryside, one I began to grow more aware of as I got older. With age also came a refinement in my literary appetite, and I grew particularly fond of Tagore’s short stories, a form he introduced to Indian literature himself. One of the first I discovered was The Postmaster, a memorable early attempt at portraying the voiceless women of rural Bengal. The narrative follows a young, unlettered girl who grows attached to the new, self-absorbed village postmaster, ultimately conveying that the simple act of being empathetic to a fellow human requires neither age nor formal schooling. I remember being taken aback by the depth of emotion I felt for the girl who is eventually abandoned without warning. Having lived in cities all my life, I will never understand what it means to have grown up in an Indian village, far removed from the ubiquitous features of modern urban existence. And yet, I felt a deep empathy for this girl, a feeling exacerbated by the realisation that the educated, city-bred postmaster was likely a stand-in for those from backgrounds like mine – and perhaps more extremely, Tagore himself, with his prominent aristocratic lineage. However, while I completed my schooling and went on to university in London, as is conventional, Tagore largely shunned classroom teaching and positively detested formal education. Indeed, as a child of considerable wealth, Tagore could instead afford to be tutored by his worldly, accomplished elder brothers, going on to discover classical texts in both Sanskrit and English as he travelled across northern India with his father, and later in England as a young man. The extent of Tagore’s exposure to ‘conventional’ education lasted all of a single day at Kolkata’s Presidency College, before he briefly read law at University College London. In fact, he never obtained a formal degree. Tagore would later conclude that formal education was a failure, stating: “[the] highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.” In 1921, he sought to put these ideals into practice, with the foundation of the Visva-Bharati University at Shantiniketan. The university’s independent curriculum was one that cultivated an understanding of the political, social, and environmental aspects of not just India (‘Bharat’) but the world (‘visva’) as a whole. In many ways, that is exactly what I came to London in the hopes of achieving, a marriage between my Indian home and the Western world, to borrow the title of one of Tagore’s most famous novels Ghare Baire (‘The Home and the World’).


As it happens, it has taken me nearly a quarter of a lifetime to come to appreciate Tagore’s contributions not only as a writer, but also as a political philosopher. As a politics student myself, his writings on nationalism are particularly fascinating. Tagore rejects the idea of artificially created nationhood in favour of a naturally created human society, noting that: “nationalism is a cruel epidemic of evil that is sweeping over [the] human world of the present age, eating into its moral vitality.” With much of the academic theory I have studied viewing states as the key actors in international relations, Tagore’s universal humanism stands out to me for rejecting the nation-state as a core unit of political analysis – an idealistic yet refreshing stance. In recontextualising the abstractions of academia, Tagore’s philosophy reminds me that political decisions, made in what often appears to be a detached, theoretical world of governments and policymakers, can have very real effects on the ground. When the region of Bengal was partitioned between India and Pakistan in 1947, my grandparents were among the millions of refugees who made the arduous journey across the new border to India. Dida was a little girl then, all of ten when she was forced to abandon the house her father had built brick by brick, condemned to make an unknown journey across a hastily-drawn, ill-informed line. Even in trying times such as these, when hate and division ruled, Tagore’s words served as a point of strength and union. Songs he composed following the 1905 Partition of Bengal, including ‘Amar Shonar Bangla’ (‘My Golden Bengal’), gained immense popularity among the masses, serving as a rallying point for the Swadeshi movement which would eventually force the British to abandon their first attempt at dividing Bengal. Another song of resistance against the British divide-and-rule policy, ‘Bidhir Badhon Katbe Tumi’ (‘Are you strong enough to revert the course of destiny?’), was composed to an incongruously joyful tune, one that helped it evade the watchful eye of police forces attempting to gauge the general mood of public

meetings. Directly addressing the British officers who did not understand Bengali, the song boldly proclaims: “Shaasone jotoy ghero, achhe bal durbalero/Howona jotoy boro aachhen bhagoban.” (“You may rule hard, but the oppressed resist harder/ As great as you may become, the greatest remains the Almighty.”) Discovering this aspect of Tagore’s work has allowed me to further appreciate the remarkable grit that runs through the history of many Bengali refugee families, including mine. The scars of Partition undoubtedly remain, but I take solace that ‘Amar Shonar Bangla’ is today the national anthem of Bangladesh, representing cultural bonds across a divided land. Indeed, Tagore’s understanding of nationalism advocated unity and companionship between different faiths and communities, eschewing a primal sewing of divisions. And the fact that I, as Dida’s grandson, can enjoy a relatively privileged existence is surely an indication that the oppressed do indeed prevail, that a higher power exists. Tagore’s position as both a literary and sociocultural icon means that it would not be an exaggeration to call him an architect of modern India. As the country’s inaugural Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: “Tagore and Gandhi have undoubtedly been the two outstanding and dominating figures in the first half of the twentieth century. Not just Bengali, (…) but all the modern languages of India have been moulded partly by his writings.” Nehru went on to assert that: “[m]ore than any other Indian, [Tagore] has helped to bring into harmony the ideals of the East and the West, and broadened the bases of Indian nationalism.” This vision for the future of India and the world was best expressed by Tagore himself in a stirring poem, published in English as ‘Let My Country Awake’:


“Chitto jetha bhoy sunno, uccho jetha shir Gyan jetha mukto, jetha griher prachir Apon prangan tole dibashshorbori, bosudhare rakhe nai khondo khudra kori (…) Nijjo hoste nirdoye aaghaat kori, pita, Bharoter shei shorge koro jagorito. Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high Where knowledge is free Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls (…) Into that heaven of freedom, my father, Let my country awake”

Throughout his lifetime, Tagore produced over 2,000 songs, 50 volumes of poetry, eight novels, four novellas, around 50 plays and 3,000 paintings. But it is lines like these that ensure that, in my eyes, Tagore remains above all a poet. His essays and short stories I admire from afar – the head can appreciate his great intellectual aptitude. But it is his poems, especially the lyrics of his songs, that have occupied a space in my heart, served as sources of otherworldly emotional experiences. In 2011, on our first visit to Kolkata after moving to India, Ma and Baba decided to take my brother and me on a tour of the city. Visiting the Tagore family home and standing in the room where Tagore did most of his writing – at once both grandiose and quaint – I felt a strange but comforting sense of calm in my chest, as

if I were temporarily at peace with myself and the world around me. In the years since, that strange sense of privilege I felt to be standing on the ground on which Tagore once walked has gradually revealed itself to be entirely befitting. As I write this in the early hours of a typically cold, dreary London morning, my mind goes back to one of Tagore’s paintings that hangs in the guest room at home. Depicting a woman dressed in flowing robes, head covered and holding a large bowl, the caption reads: “She is the woman ever so strange to me and yet I seem to know her.” Just like his poetic bideshini character – the eternal stranger from afar – Tagore is someone I have never met or personally known, yet there exists a distinctive, enigmatic connection to him I know I will always feel.

Simple Truths Simply Put. Translating Gabriel Aresti Content Warning: mentions of murder and rape

By Ainhoa Santos Goicoechea

Art by Nat Cheung

“El mundo cultural que articula la obra, tan distinto en problemática, historia y estructura, resulta en este caso intraducible.” “The cultural world the work articulates, so different in its problems, history, and structure, is in this case untranslatable.”

So lament the editors of Basque poet Gabriel Aresti’s collected works: a thick book with a crimson red cover published in 1967. As a Basque national and aspiring translator, I can understand where they are coming from. It matters that Aresti wrote in Basque, a language faced with the threat of extinction. On top of the fusillades and other forms of violence common throughout Francoist Spain, the dictatorship spurred a period of strict cultural repression. For a generation, schools in the Basque Country were banned from teaching in Basque, those who spoke the language in public were fined, and baptizing newborns with Basque names was forbidden by the state. Aresti’s choice to not only learn Basque as an adult, when these measures became more relaxed, but to also write his poetry in Basque, is thus both an act of political defiance and essential to the creation of meaning in his work. This presents a unique challenge for his translators. Often times, so-called ‘literal’ translations cannot cut it. When Aresti writes “Gaur diot hau. / Bai. Nik.”, he is not just saying “This I say today. / Yes. I.” The translation

is literal, ‘correct’, but these words lack the power of the original. It matters – politically, historically, socially – that the ‘I’ is in Basque, that those lines are being written and presumably recited in Basque, and that it is being done by someone who proudly identifies as a speaker of the language. The literal ‘I’, by contrast, feels hollow. Its true significance needs explaining, and this explanation – a footnote, perhaps, or a commentary – runs the risk of killing the poem, of turning it into a historical artefact to be annotated instead of felt. When I set out to translate these poems, I did not want to produce artefacts, but to recreate the irreverence of Aresti’s work. It felt important to produce a translation that incorporated the poems’ history, that would help readers unfamiliar with the Basque language and the region understand what Aresti was all about. So, despite my limited grasp on the language, I ventured in and took some liberties – I added verses and titles for context, played with form and, at times, just sat back, and let the poetry speak for itself.

In the three poems presented here, Aresti is as multifaceted as ever. He converses with Basque intellectuals amongst mountains, he defies fascist forces, and he works to rebuild a language, one close to death, with the very hammers that define the Basque metalworking tradition. In Basque, Aresti’s poems are simple and sharp, quick and ravaging. In English, my hope is that they feel alive.


Axular Gorbeia mendian dago ehortzirik.

The Priest Axular must be buried nearby in Mount Gorbea. Who else would teach me to write simple truths simply put?

Noise Egai bat esateagatik, alabak hil behar bazaizkit, andrea bortxatu behar badidate, extea lurrarekin berdindu behar bazait; Egai bat esateagatik, ebaki behar badidate nik eskribitzen dudan eskua, nik kantatzen dudan mihina; Egai bat esateagatik, nire izena kenduko badute euskal literatuaren urrezko orrietatik, inoiz, inola, inun eznaiz isilduko.


If for telling a truth fascists must kill my daughters, rape my wife, raze the house we live in; If for telling a truth they must cut my writing hand, slice my singing tongue; If for telling a truth my name is erased from Basque literature’s lemony pages, I will never, no way, nowhere, shut up.

26 Esanen dute hau poesia eztela, baina nik esanen diet poesia mailu bat dela.

Manifesto They will say this isn’t poetry, but I’ll say poetry is a hammer.



It is a warm summer day in Oxford and I wake up to find myself in the armchair where I’d been reading late into the night before. Initially, I had planned to only flick through Detransition, Baby once more so that it would be as clear in my mind as possible before the interview. However, under the spell of Torrey Peters’ writing style, I wound up reading the whole novel again, crying a lot, and getting very little sleep. Then, in a flash, it’s morning and I am face to face (or face to Zoom, I guess) with the woman whose writing had brought me to tears just twelve hours ago. Peters is someone who I have been hoping to speak to for months. Best known for her debut novel, Detransition, Baby, she is also the first trans woman to have been nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2021. Needless to say, I am nervous. Not only do I admire her work, but I’ve always been struck by how frankly she speaks in other interviews, at times rather candidly pointing out the ones she finds boring.

As soon as Peters joins the call, however, I realise I needn’t have worried. She immediately feels like someone it would be easy to spill your secrets to, an effect produced by both her dry, disarming humour, and her rather piercing hazel eyes. She tells me that her plan for the day is to wire up some solar panels in the old hunter’s cabin in Vermont she has spent lockdown renovating, trying to remember tutorials that she’d watched back in the WiFi zone of the nearest town. This is all just to say that, apart from having the capacity to write with a stunning intensity, Peters also happens to be almost definitely cooler than you. Still telling me about the cabin, she goes on: TORREY PETERS: It’s coming along, I can stay here for four or five days pretty comfortably now. I think solar panels will be nice, but I like it now too. It’s funny to have to fall asleep when it gets dark out.


GAIA LUCE CLARK NEVOLA: I get that. I’m half Italian, and in Italy they call it ‘Effetto Gallina,’ which is like, ‘the chicken effect.’ I guess it’s because you go to sleep like a chicken does: the minute it gets dark. PETERS: Absolutely. I like that phrase a lot. CLARK NEVOLA: Not to say you’re living like a chicken! PETERS: No, it’s pretty close. I’m not offended, It’s accurate. It’s 8am. (laughter) CLARK NEVOLA: Now, before we start on the questions about Detransition, Baby, I guess I wanted to ask you a little bit about your earlier work and your novellas. I haven’t read all of them, but I know they are often about the apocalypse or horror. What is it about those genres that appealed to you, and would you like to get back into them?

PETERS: Yeah so, I was writing those in a particular moment, in a Brooklyn trans scene. At the time, there was really only one place that was publishing trans women, creating a sort of scarcity where we had to fight amongst ourselves for publishing slots. So I was like, if we all self-publish, then we can have as many slots as there are, you know, copies of Adobe in the world. However, I needed a format that was doable and didn’t take 3 years to write, so I encouraged trans girls to write novellas. They are cheap to publish and quick to read, which means you can just say ‘I’m going to try out this new author’ without too much commitment. I didn’t want to write something literary and hard because it wouldn’t circulate in the same way, so I went for things that were sticky and fun. I’ve always had a soft spot for horror for that reason – it’s compelling. I can’t watch horror, but I like reading it. Speaking to your question more, writing horror also had the secondary effect, which I think is probably more speaking to your question, of allowing me to not have to be respectable. One of the hardest parts about writing as a trans woman is the fact you have to represent people, and people are like: ‘Ah, this is like speaking for the trans experience.’ That’s how it ended up with Detransition, Baby; people were like ‘this is me,’ ‘this isn’t me,’ ‘I don’t see myself in this,’ or ‘I do see myself and I’m upset about it.’ However, the thing about horror is that nobody is looking for positive representation there. My first novella was about a cop who got bad plastic surgery, a masking fetishist, and a cowardly sissy, but no one was fussed and, as a result, I had this real freedom to write, the kind you get when you’re not writing from an identity position. I might go back to genre for that reason, it really is quite liberating to write in genre because you’re not asked to do that identity work. Also, historically, a lot of really interesting trans writing has been pulpy books, smut, and noir. CLARK NEVOLA: Yeah, that makes so much sense, it’s a really interesting answer. I’m curious, do you have a book that you’d recommend to everyone?


PETERS: I have two answers. I have the book that I’ve been recommending to everyone while doing press, which is Time Is the Thing a Body Moves Through by my friend T. Fleischmann. But I’m going to add one more to that, which is a book that I just constantly go back to. It’s Independent People… I can’t believe I’m blanking on the author’s name – how embarrassing for

me. It’s the Icelandic author who won the Nobel… Halldór Laxness. But yeah, it’s just about a really annoying sheep farmer in Iceland, and it’s full of fallibility, hypocrisy, sheep jokes. I just feel like it’s a book that has everything of what it means to be human in it. CLARK NEVOLA: Hah! Thank you. Now, I don’t want to quote your own book back

“No persona can convey everything that I am. That’s how the book, as it exists in the world, has come to feel” at you, because that’s just so embarrassing, but there’s a bit when you’re talking about ‘the iciness of truth’ and telling truths invertedly. Going back to the way you were talking about representation in your early work, has the amount of truth and vulnerability in Detransition, Baby ever felt ‘icy,’ with people regarding it as their own identity and, in doing so, maybe have a lot to say about how that felt for them? PETERS: It felt pretty bad for the first couple of weeks because it was this thing that I had sat with by myself for years, so I felt it was, like, mine. But when it was released, other people sort of took it on as theirs, and took it differently than how I intended it, which maybe is how it is for all authors. The interesting thing about publishing on a big press is that your work gets to so many people and so many reviewers. I think about four or five weeks after Detransition, Baby was published, it began to stop feeling like mine. The novel which had my vulnerability within it became a different thing from the novel that was out there in the world. I think that’s sort of a metaphor for the way that most of us see ourselves. Like, there’s our actual selves that we feel are true, and then there’s a kind of persona that we create for ourselves in the

world. While not quite the same, it’s akin to the way that an internet persona feels. If somebody doesn’t get my internet persona, I don’t think ‘You hate me,’ or ‘You don’t get me,’ I’m just sort of like, ‘Wow, that persona didn’t work for you.’ Am I separate from this persona? Definitely, because no persona can convey everything that I am. That’s how the book, as it exists in the world, has come to feel. There’s a secret book of my heart and a secret way that I feel about the book, and then there’s the book as it exists in the world, which other people are going to have opinions about. Covid also made the release very particular because the idea of me in the world has changed, but my life hasn’t. For me, if someone is staring, even if they’ve read my book, it’s probably because they’re just staring at me. I don’t think many people would recognise me. CLARK NEVOLA: Hm, I guess. I’ve heard you’re very famous for your motorbike though, right? So perhaps if you were on your bike then it would be a different thing… just while I’m on this tangent, how did you get into biking?

“This is the moment in which we get to invent what it means to be trans, and part of that is creating the media that we are in.” PETERS: I’d just moved to Brooklyn, and I felt very meek. I had just transitioned and sometimes, especially post-transition, you don’t want to have attention, especially if you’ve had some bad experiences. I felt like I never took up any space, never asserted myself. So, I got a motorcycle. It’s a way of kind of taking up space but in a sort of safe way. I can have a presence and, at the same time, if I ever need to, I can just, you know, turn the throttle and I’m gone. It’s very easy to get around the city on a motorcycle. It was also a way to talk to strangers. When you have a motorcycle, people want to talk to you about it, and it was a pleasant way to have conversations because it was never

going to be about my body, it was going to be about the motorcycle. Then, of course, everyone thought it was my boyfriend’s bike or something, so I painted it pink. CLARK NEVOLA (laughter): Naturally. Did you name your bike? PETERS: I never named it, no, but I do name my cars. My Prius’ name is Bernice. CLARK NEVOLA: Oh, amazing. PETERS: She’s like an old lady, so she’s got an old lady name. I don’t know why I didn’t name the motorcycle, it just didn’t come to me. CLARK NEVOLA: Yeah. So, I’m running the risk of doing the thing you said about taking the novel away from what you meant it, but here I go. While I was reading it, I was thinking about my own non-binary identity and especially about how it’s often characterised by a dizzying openness and pro-active story building. Obviously, I’m not saying that Detransition, Baby is the first novel to have an inconclusive end, but I was wondering if you think there’s something about trans thought or trans experience that aligns with this style of ending, and the way that readers are made to narratively procreate the ending, if that makes any sense? PETERS: Yeah, it absolutely makes sense. I would say that there’s nothing that inherently links transness and openness. A lot of time, people like to talk about transness as something in which ‘you can be anything.’ I see that’s not what you asked or were saying, but many people do say that, and I think that actually, in many ways, transness is as bounded as any other gender experience. It can be as confining to be trans as it can be to be cis. However, to answer your question, I think there’s something in this particular moment for trans people that does speak to openness. This is what I was speaking to, the possibilities for life as a trans woman. Trans men and non-binary people probably experience this too, but for trans women especially, I think the possibilities for life are much more because we are inventing them right now. For so long, the project for trans women was survival. It wasn’t necessarily flourishing or taking our place in society, it was mostly just day-to-day. It was ‘how am I going to make money?’; ‘how am I going to have some modicum of joy in the near future?’ However, suddenly the time horizon for trans women is quite different. I

talk about this a lot with friends when they say, ‘Oh, I missed my moment, for transness’ and I’m like, ‘you didn’t miss the moment, this is the moment!’ This is the moment in which we get to invent what it means to be trans, and part of that is creating the media that we’re in, you know, like Detransition, Baby. I think that might be the first trans book lot of people read that wasn’t educational, but a media experience. People in my generation, we get to invent transness for ourselves. Subsequent generations are going to iterate on it, but we’re laying a lot of the groundwork. It’s unclear what that’s going to look like, what will succeed, and what will advance. That’s the challenge, and that’s the reason why I think I thought specifically about leaving the book open at the end: it’s our job to invent it. The openness of the ending, for me, is a challenge to my generation of trans women, like, are you going to stop? How are you going to invent family? How are you going to invent a place for yourself in the world? How are you going to come up with new rules and new structures? So, circling back again, yes, I think the openness has something to do with the moment of invention that we as trans women are actually in at this juncture.


CLARK NEVOLA: Thank you, that was just wonderful. Not wonderful in a kind of stultifying way, just a really good answer. Now, I’ve got lots of questions, but I don’t want to take up more of your time. PETERS: Do you want to do one more? CLARK NEVOLA: Of course! Yeah, let’s do one more. Then I’ll let you get back to those solar panels. For my final question, I wanted to ask if you always knew you wanted to be a writer, and how that came about. Also, do you have advice for young LGBTQ+ writers, or indeed writers in general? PETERS: So, I was a reader long before I was a writer, and I only started writing when I was in college. Back then, I was writing for everybody and nobody; I didn’t know who I was or who I was writing for. Then, during my transition process, I was sort of disillusioned, so I didn’t write for about five years. However, what I learnt is that, when I have an audience in mind I write with a real sense of urgency. This was a really important lesson. When I wrote Detransition, Baby I had perhaps ten people in mind, mostly of trans women and, in particular, trans women who had something urgent to say. Specificity of voice is what I would recommend any new writer to find; find the reader to whom you have something to say, and really speak urgently to that reader. CLARK NEVOLA: Wow. That is very wise advice. PETERS: Thank you. CLARK NEVOLA: No, thank you. Best of luck with your renovations and everything that you’re going to be doing in the next year. PETERS: I hope to have more books to talk about soon, both by me and maybe by you. Bye!


Photography by Niamh McBratney Commended in the ‘Motion Sickness’ Photography Competition

Photography by Coco Cottam

the Devil resells By Mizan Rahman

Charity shops are now a familiar sight on UK high streets, and a saviour for many – from struggling students to pensioners looking for a bargain, they provide a cheap and sustainable alternative to fast fashion. If you’re willing to scroll through enough racks you could score yourself a few branded pieces for a fraction of the original cost. However, a simple scroll online, and you’ll see more of these pieces are ending up on platforms which enable sellers to sell their old clothes for profit such as eBay, Depop, and Vinted – but there’s a question of how ethical this purposeful resale of charity shop items is. The worry is that resellers buy charity shop pieces to resell at a higher price, taking away originally lowpriced goods from those who need them while also raising subsequent price points at those very same charity shops. This is all in a bid, apparently, to take the profit for themselves rather than charitable organisations. But how far is this interpretation really the case? Alongside being a more viable option for the country’s most vulnerable, charity shops have become an alternative for consumers who are increasingly conscious of climate change and its links to fast fashion, providing a cheap and environmentally friendly way to buy new apparel. These unsustainable production methods such as the 2,700 litres of water required in the production of a singular T-shirt - have contributed to phenomena like the drying up of the Aral Sea, caused by a Soviet agricultural programme which promoted cotton production. With 61% of arable Uzbek land being devoted to said cotton production in the 1960s, the Eastern Basin of the Aral sea shrunk in size so rapidly that it dried up

entirely in the 2014 (for the first time in… roughly 600 years).1 When environmental disasters like this are taken into consideration, the appeal of secondhand clothing for its buyers – in partially relieving such intensive continual drains on the environment – becomes clear. The online second-hand clothes consignment site ThredUP noted in their 2021 resale report that used clothes use 98.5% less water2, and over the past decade a total of 116bn pounds of carbon dioxide have been displaced through consumers choosing to purchase secondhand clothing instead of new apparel.3 This appeal, tied to the ease with which certain demographics can participate in online shopping, explains how the process of reselling has taken off, especially during the pandemic. Owing to demand doubling over lockdown4, apps like Depop have reported “tremendous growth,” growth which isn’t likely to slow down any time soon: the business of reselling is projected to grow 5.4x over the next 5 years.5 If reselling is truly unethical and works to deprive the people in need of inexpensive essential and popular goods by selling them at inaccessible costs, then charity shops and its users will be facing an imminent and worsening crisis of undersupply and price hikes. This is clear when looking across the Atlantic, where non-profit organizations work under the same corporate structure as UK charity shops. The parent organization provides charitable services funded by the retail charity shops: take the example of Goodwill in the US, which provides community programs for veterans and those with disabilities, to help them find employment. Valuation guides


Prada published by Goodwill between the years 2010 and 2020 inclusive indicate that charity shops are charging more for their goods than before: a sweater sold in 2010 had a suggested base price of five dollars but in 2020, the upper end of the sweater’s price range increased threefold, an increase only partially attributable to inflation6, and possibly finds explanation in the rise in resale popularity. This has led some to believe that it is solely resellers driving up demand in shops and they should be rightfully condemned for doing so. The disapproving masses turn to social media to vent their frustrations at these perceived injustices. It’s not hard to come across chiding and wry tweets highlighting the need for such reselling tactics to stop. The example of “if u [sic] buy stuff from charity shops just to resell it on depop [sic] for an extortionate amount… stop it” has racked up 58.7 thousand likes.7 A Twitter poll – showing that 56% of respondents think that it’s not okay to buy at a low price from a charity shop only to then sell for profit on sites like eBay or Depop – is not an uncommon sight.8 Resellers, regardless of whether they are morally in the wrong, are at least looked upon unfavourably. But one wonders whether this disapproval is fair. Instead of attributing rising price tags solely to

Photography by Anna Du Toit

resellers, we should consider the forces of corporate greed which might be the root of the issue. Whilst charity shops are there to raise money for charitable causes, their CEOs benefit disproportionately from being the heads of such organisations. The very CEO of Goodwill made $730,000 in 2018 as the price tags in his stores steadily rose, but some Goodwill workers were paid as little as $0.58 per hour (including some 200,000 workers with disabilities being paid below the minimum wage).9 This is not to take away from the good that charitable organisations have done, however it must be acknowledged that CEOs, motivated as they are by corporate greed, are inevitably part of the problem. In applying the ‘wheel of retailing’ analysis – which seeks to explain the phases that retail stores go through – academics Horne and Maddrell10 note that charity shops start in areas with little prestige, reflected in the low prices, but after entering the ‘trading up phase’ (that is, having now acquired prestige in the local area) sell at higher prices and operate with higher margins. As a result, the charity shop model moves towards prioritising profits over people and in turn isolates the very consumers who rely on charity shops. Scarcity of items is not a real issue at hand in rising inaccessibility in charity shops, the problem instead being to do with the inherent profit-motivated model charity shops function on. The words of an ex-charity shop manager - “there’s simply enough to go around” - are statistically backed when we consider that only around 50-70% of donated items are put out on the shop floor owing to a surplus in donations. Dr Brooks, a lecturer in Development Geography at King’s College London, estimates that this figure of what is actually sold from UK charity shops could be as low as 10-30% of what is donated.

These unsold donations are in fact often exported overseas or sold to textile merchants, ironically contributing to the environmental crisis that some shoppers seek to avoid. It is here that the potential corporate drive and management of charity shops clashes with the good that charity shops seek to achieve, with profits trumping people. CEOs have a responsibility to create a functional system for donating which doesn’t cause further environmental issues in other countries, particularly now when corporate entities are increasingly under pressure to take climate action and address issues in fast fashion. Resellers provide a partial solution to this by buying in bulk and therefore preventing these items from ending up in the landfill. When even some charity shops like the British Heart Foundation have themselves taken to platforms like Depop to sell goods, is there such a contradiction between resale and the objective of charity shops? Some resellers make the point that resellers and charity stores are not direct competitors, so there is no real comparison in how one is leading the price rises in the other. Resellers are simply tapping into a method of reselling which already existed in the form of vintage stores, whereby buying for low prices from a range of sources and selling for higher on other platforms is common practice. It is only the individual element that differentiates these stores from the resellers under attack. However, charity stores are mostly not in the business of making as much money as they can on items; their focus is on raising donations. A reseller interviewed for this article makes the point that resellers, on the other hand, seek to find the items that are on trend and which will sell well to consumers who are not willing to spend hours looking through the racks themselves. In their words, it’s a “completely different

business”. This view has also received traction on various social media platforms, such as TikTok, where @snoopdiamond’s video defending resellers on the same basis has been viewed and shared widely. In fact, Depop sellers such as Jade Lolita suggest that reselling second-hand goods makes these items more accessible for those who have access and ability to use those apps. The argument goes that this is particularly true for those who lack geographical proximity to charity shops, since these items can now be found online. However, this depends on having good access to and understanding of the internet, as well as the intricacies of reselling apps, which are primarily targeted at young people. For individuals who live in the countryside and for whom online shopping is the logistically accessible option, it’s not necessarily financially accessible: they are in any case now paying marked up prices for items on sites like Depop that are sometimes three times as much as what was paid by the reseller. Despite accusations of price hitching, resellers may not be acting purely out of greed and need for excessive profit. When reselling and postage fees are factored in it becomes clear that resellers can lots of money. Some reselling platforms such as Vinted do not charge selling fees and often have prices much lower than Depop, meaning that they are better suited for providing online access to cheaper clothes. When resellers of such items price these clothes, they charge the excess for their services, which involves sourcing the clothes, cleaning, and mending the clothes, as well as listing them. Given that platforms like Depop take 10% of all sales, coupled with the fact that there are PayPal fees and shipping costs, an item that was sold for £20 online may only leave the reseller with £8 profit, considering that it was

sourced from a charity shop for an £10 to begin with. Reselling already exists as a form of business, and for some resellers, this provides a necessary way to make ends meet, not dissimilar to the primary purpose of charity shops upon their creation for consumers who found themselves in financial binds. The nature of charity shops has changed, and it would be blind to only see them as providing clothes for the most destitute. The items found there originally will often be resold or disposed of – why should students (who make up majority of the resellers demographic), or those low on money not be able tap into a market that already exists? Another interviewed reseller points out that reselling is what helps them to pay off their student debts, against the perception that it is not always rich kids who are selling. It is also important to recognise that the prices set by resellers reflect three already existing entities (charity corporations, resale value, and reselling platforms) which are attempting to profit, each for their own very different reasons. It is important to remember that there are resellers who act solely for profit and mark up prices at extortionate rates; equally for most resellers, the environmental considerations which usually motivate the buyers of secondhand items are also not their motivation, nor is it their intention to provide a sustainable alternative to new apparel. However, this attitude of vilifying all resellers for their practice may be dangerous. Even if not well-meaning, resellers provide clothing that is less damaging to the environment whilst utilising a business model that has existed almost as long as charity shops have been around. Though there is heightened use of plastic packaging in resale, resellers can and do use the environmentally-friendly ways of packaging available to them; the same environmental consciousness cannot be said of producing new clothes, or disposing of them in landfill. Whilst of course there is a limit to what resellers can achieve, it should not be automatically assumed that they are the sole reason that charity shops are have raised their prices in recent years. If reselling provides an opportunity to make items more accessible for some, simultaneously preventing them from going to the landfill and allowing people to make extra money without taking away from those who need it, what real harm is being done? A dichotomous disapproval of reselling may be better redistributed to corporate-driven CEOs who can make systemic changes to pricing structures and avoid further environmental disasters yet seem to consistently choose not to.

1Djanibekov, N., Rudenko, I., Lamers, J. P., & Bobojonov, A. (2010) Pros and Cons of Cotton Production in Uzbekistan 2 3Green Story Inc. Environmental Study 4 5GlobalData Market Sizing assessment, April 2021 - ThredUP 6; Donation_Valuation_Guide.pdf 7 8 9 11 Horne, S. and Maddrell, A., 2002. Charity Shops: Retailing Consumption and Society. 1st ed. Routledge.


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38 Sometimes I forget that I can walk for hours – So unlike the long stupid steps, my crawl Under a desk or up the stairs or through the Door when drunk, a spilled coin of vodka Inflating itself on the bedroom carpet, piles Of laundry, crowded surfaces, weight of loose change – And if I remember I forget exactly what The hours quite meant, or where I caught Or spent them. Each anecdote about the Climb, a discussion about earning things – The old sweat stains, or blisters born from Places I don’t remember quite right. Honesty is often wearing walking Boots, I think – or know, perhaps, when I am summited: my body small against the Mountain and the sky, surrounded by damp Smoking clouds and earth that bends to feet, As if I am a single added stone. Years ago, I walked the way to lindisfarne When the tide was out. I remember how The vast soft sand slipped off to the horizon, wet and wide and endless in its quiet, And I could hear with every step the wind Creaking out at me, distant and wanting, Attempting conversation as if it knew this Was a pilgrims’ site – take off your shoes And feel your footsteps slowly sink. And for the last bit of the walk, I did.


WHERE GRASS ISN’T GREENER By Sara Hashmi Art by Elizabeth Tiskina When I leant to turn the radio on in Oxford, a few days after I first moved in, browsing the airwaves caught me by surprise. Here I heard no local Asian radio streaming familiar snippets of Urdu into space. The charity shops noticeably lacked kurtas, decorated shirts with pride of place in my mum’s cupboard and many British Heart Foundation shops dotted across Birmingham. Most bright-eyed incoming university students roll up their duvets and pack up their crockery to the tune of well-meaning warnings: how much we’ll miss our parents, our siblings, our pets, all those little things that make up home. But when I moved to Oxford, I found myself missing more than that. Every disappointing meal in Hall would leave me craving my mother’s beautifully spiced biryani. The grey drizzle of the city would remind me of samosas when I returned from school, those piping hot pockets of comfort awaiting me on rainy days. These absences were just one symbol of my homesickness; really, I was missing  my community  of British-Pakistanis. A community I found at

home wherever I went was suddenly much harder to encounter at university. Although swathes of British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani students go to university, there are very few people from my background at Oxford.     Despite being 0.8% and 2% of the population respectively in 2011, British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani students continue to be underrepresented at prestigious universities across the UK. In 2019, 0.8% of Oxford acceptances went to British-Bangladeshi students, and only 1.3% to British-Pakistanis. A similar story can be seen at Cambridge, where 1.1% of acceptances were British-Bangladeshi, and 1.3% British-Pakistani. The deficiency of these numbers grows more noticeable still when one considers that British-Pakistani students are represented at universities by 0.5% more than the national level in 2011, a trend which continues to grow.     At least one part of this disparity is caused by the cultural pressures and influences  British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani students navigate when applying to university, such as subject

choice. “There’s a lot of pressure to go into vocational degrees,” notes Aiza*, who personally faced parental backlash when choosing to study Politics at Birmingham. Their Pakistani parents initially encouraged them to pursue Law, as they felt it would provide them with better economic stability post graduation. This sentiment was also expressed by Bisma*, a British-Bangladeshi student studying Physics, whose parents encouraged her to choose a degree where “there [would] be a good job where [she could] make a living” at the end of it, primarily nodding to Engineering or Medicine. This preoccupation with financial stability is a consequence of the socioeconomic circumstances many British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani families find themselves in. These groups are the ethnic minorities with the highest poverty rates in the UK, creating a desire for a well-planned, reliable route to financial mobility for their children.     Even for those who willingly apply for vocational subjects, “there [is] influence” from the family, as Khadija points out. A British-Pakistani medic, she openly tells me that whilst her subject was primarily her decision, “my parents pushed me more towards it” and suggests it is an “‘Asian family thing’ to want your children to go into medicine.” These experiences are not mere anecdotes, but established trends in university applications. Sociology professor Vikki Boliver highlights in her research that these observations are “received wisdom”, as ethnic minorities “are more likely to apply to courses that are in high demand”.     Subject choice remains just one piece of the cultural puzzle. British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani students are also 3.6 times more likely to be studying from home than White British students. One contributing factor to this disparity is matters of faith. Most British-Bangladeshis and British-Pakistanis are from Islamic back-

grounds, and student loans with interest conflict with Islamic beliefs. Aiza* explains how this was a difficult issue for them, and their parents’ reluctance regarding student loans shaped their decision to stay at home. This is a pertinent issue for many in the community, leading to a push for change. In recent months, there has been another petition for Sharia compliant student loans, applying pressure on the government to accelerate the introduction of the Alternative Student Finance Product. This product addresses the Islamic prohibition on interest and provides an alternative model where student repayments would join a mutual fund, to finance future students. It is likely the implementation of the Alternative Student Finance Product would enable more British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani students to study at university level, particularly at institutions further away from the family home – but is currently unlikely to be implemented as a financial scheme with undetermined feasibility or benefit for the government.   Cultural tensions must also be addressed, also influencing decisions to remain at home for British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani students. Both cultures deeply value family and education, and so for  70% of students from both ethnic groups, studying at university from home is a compromise between these two stressed values.  AB*  described her tightknit family culture as a “this bubble, [which is] just the way it is.” The prospect of moving away for university “really scared” her as she worried she was “tearing [herself] away from that.” Her family were simultaneously very supportive about her applying to Oxford.     These tensions are felt even more deeply by teenage girls hoping to study in other cities. Bisma* highlights how, despite her family encouraging her to “shoot for the stars”, for girls “it is almost frowned upon to move out by themselves before marriage”,  owing to ideas surrounding female honour. The more conservative attitudes held by her family made the separation harder, such as worries that by moving out, she would “ruin [herself] for marriage”. Khadija directly expresses this, explaining that whilst education matters to her family, one of its ends is to ensure she is a “good prospect for marriage.” This pressure is specific to the role girls play in the family, and by encouraging them to stay at home, their honour and future marriage prospects can be better retained. Staying at home means the universities students can apply to are limited by commuting practicalities.     This focus on living at home particularly impacts representation in Oxford, which has residency requirements of students having to live within six

miles of the city centre. Khadija addresses this issue, explaining how her parents wanted her to live with family in Luton and commute into Oxford. Even now, she admits that her moving out from the family home is a “bit of an ongoing issue.” These residency requirements can act as an obstacle for students that deters them from applying and contributes to Oxford’s underrepresentation issue.     Whilst many cultural factors operate conjointly to create obstacles in the general university application process, Oxford’s own reputation can act as a deterrent to students. The lack of multiculturalism often discourages students: as Khadija highlights, she “knew Oxford wasn’t going to be very

diverse” when she applied, and the university’s reputation worried her when thinking about whether she would fit in. She chose to apply to universities in Birmingham, because of their diversity. Bisma*, who grew up in a multicultural area of East London, expresses that “growing up as an ethnic minority, [feeling out of place] is always in the back of your

head as something you have to deal with.” This sentiment is echoed by AB*, who tells me the Oxford application process made her more aware of her race. She also describes the comfort of a multi-cultural area and explains how her other university applications were all to universities in the capital. The safety blanket of having a diverse city at your doorstep is often influential in ethnic minorities’ decisions, and goes some part into explaining why British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani students concentrate at universities in areas like Bradford or Birmingham – with extremely ethnically diverse areas and large Muslim populations – rather than taking the plunge and going to Oxford.     Influences from all angles contribute to the lack of Brit-

ish-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani students at Oxford. And yet,  whilst some cultural attitudes can act as a constraint upon young people’s choices, others can be utilised to push for change in the community. Both cultures deeply value education, and schools’ attitudes can shape students’ choices. They can encourage students to apply to more aspirational universities, as AB* de-

tails. Her school persuaded her to apply to Oxford, and one teacher helped encourage her to leave home “because he knew I didn’t want to [study outside of London.]" Similarly, Khadija’s schools were both very focussed on sending students to university, facilitating trips to Oxford from Year 9. These initiatives run by schools can have far reaching impacts, encouraging more students from underrepresented backgrounds to apply.     Schools are not alone in inspiring students to apply to Oxford – organisations within Oxford are working to encourage British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani applications. In the past year, Jesus College has launched an innovative access programme, targeting students from these backgrounds. This programme has a two-pronged approach, aiming to demystify the Oxford application process to students, families, and educators, whilst also supporting students through their application.  This access scheme supports applicants through every stage of Oxford's admissions process – from initial encouragement, to UCAS applications, through to interviews – instead of leaving it to disparate initiatives to fill in the gaps. Sabyia Ahmed, Access Officer for Oxford Pakistan Society, describes this as “one of the longest access programmes I’ve ever seen”, and commended Jesus College’s involvement of Pakistan Society in the programme. She explains how Pakistan Society supported the programme: providing testimonies and videos, often in both English and native languages, and making the initiative “extremely accessible.” This course attracted 500  applicants and increased its capacity following the unexpectedly large uptake by students with their families. Similarly, Pakistan Society’s own online access conference was a “massive success”, attracting 80 students nationwide. Whilst the impact of these initiatives is yet to be seen, Sabyia is optimistic in its merits.     Whilst I may look around right now and see very few people of my background as my peers, change is afoot. There is hope new access initiatives will act as a driving force, encouraging greater representation. By honing in their focus on particular cultural aspects and values, and providing longer-term support, access programmes can aim to provide meaningful support to underrepresented groups in their journeys to prestigious universities. And who knows? Perhaps, someday soon, Oxford will be home to flourishing British-Bangladeshi and British-Pakistani communities, and we will be welcoming swathes of new members who have just left home for the very first time with open arms.      *names have been changed




I dreamt of home last night. Your eyes were green – a cut of lime against the tongue – they startled me like birds start at the sheep-herds bawling. You had warned of something mystic, pearl chowders, purple dusks – you had said: God writes in chemtrails. Dewdrops are remembrance of touch. We walked like lead to the field we planted last Spring and I said: You never speak when I am dreaming. We walked the next field ripe with grief. You left your coat in a puddle, it was mopped up by the breeze. Why won’t you speak? You howled and howled so silently, each vowel coarse as wind t hat makes the tree spines shiver. We waited for the crop to bear charred teeth from wilted barley. You never speak to me. I dreamt your hands were hard lightning that cracked the earth in yard-halves like an egg. Speak to me. I dreamt of clots of dahlias frail roots upturned from mud your smile lemony moonlight blood oranges ruddy pulp I felt your breath hot on my skin lost within the wind– I won’t call you a spectre: you are too vivid.


Po s t- m o r t e m o f a fa l l ow- f i e l d

At noon, the fever lifts like a veil. Salt tastes of embalmment. You are swimming in red water and on the beach I chew sand into dust and dust into light. You leave a palimpsest of footprints from the estuary to the grave and still: You never speak to me. I’ll wake and press an urchin to your sternum – tuck a note into the cavern of your chest. Take me with you. The tide tugs at the body, claims the atrium as its cage. In the wreck we’ll plant forget-me-nots. Tonight, I’ll dream you do.


Photography by Faith Wong

t Ar



C at



Translation of the French novel by Myriam Anissimov. Content Warning: Discussion of the Holocaust, antisemitism, and disordered eating. When we were finally dressed up on Sunday, Elsi would drive us to the Auberge du Cheval Blanc, up to the French doors that reflected the hill overlooking the hairpin bends of the road. I saw the bus appear over the horizon, the one Maman had certainly taken. It drove slowly up the hill, almost within reach, until it disappeared into the next bend. We heard the driver change gears, and then the bus pulled up in front of us. It had round yellow headlights, a dusty grill, and front windows like an insect’s eyes, behind which you could see the silhouette of the driver. I moved to stand in front of the folding door, which opened with a grating screech. My eyes were glued to the first embarking passenger, who dragged their suitcase off the ramp, then onto the ground. Breathless, I shifted my focus to the next passenger, dreading the thought that Maman was not in the queue waiting behind them. Would she really get off the bus and, by her miraculous presence alone, repair the time shattered by the seven days since last Sunday? Finally, she appeared in front of us. In an instant I forgot everything. She was there, and I wanted to possess her, to melt myself into her forever. But she immediately started to examine me, judging my performance. I was not worthy of her. Was I

not dedicated to my one sole mission, to fatten myself up like a goose for slaughter, to become a child to be proud of, even though everything that I ate turned my stomach, except for saucisson and strawberries? Yet some obtuse, ignorant doctor forbade me to eat either of these two foods, which, according to his expert scientific knowledge, were well-known for bringing on hives. The sight of my skeletal silhouette and my defeated expression, like that of a beaten dog, dismayed Maman. I had not benefitted from being sent away. I had not put on an ounce. After the war, did Jewish children not have a duty to radiate good health? To prove to the survivors that a new, vibrant, joyous generation had suddenly arrived, to proclaim: “We are here!” to ensure a future for the lineage of those who had been murdered? Lola, my sister, wholly embodied the dream of every mother and father who had ever known such hunger. Not the everyday sort of hunger, the sort that would make you salivate with the certainty of a coming meal, that would make you enter a patisserie and point at the cake that you saw in the window. It is the sort of hunger that permeates every second; that destroys all

other thoughts; that becomes your sole focus and drives the starving to search for the slightest morsel that can be digested to quieten the body, to dull its suffering. Lola was deliciously round, chubby, smiling, and docile. She was what they call a ‘beautiful child,’ force-fed day after day with baby food and banana purée with orange juice, to the resounding chorus of “look how cute she is!” ‘Beautiful’: for the Jews who had the audacity to carry on living, for the Jews who had the chutzpah – the nerve – to come back from a place where they should have been reduced to ashes. For those who had known that unfathomable hunger, before becoming fuel for the flames that stunk out the Polish fields, ‘beautiful’ meant fat, or rather, satisfied. But there was no food capable of satisfying the hunger of mouths that were crying out to eat. On the Grande Rue de la Croix-Rousse, my mother often met with her friend Madame Kahn, a sturdy brunette who had escaped from Auschwitz and had a blue number tattooed on her forearm. Having a number tattooed on one’s forearm was a manifestation of the horror of being Jewish. Since Uncle Israel and Aunt Fraye had been staying at our

house, it seemed to me that the mere fact of being Jewish was a source of abominable evil. But there was also cause to be proud – not of the horror, of the abomination, but simply of being born Jewish and still being alive, like any passer-by in the street who found it completely normal to still be alive and who would never even question it, for that matter. For the whole time she talked to my mother, Madame Kahn threw glances at me that were as penetrating as they were disapproving. Yet her face suddenly lit up when her gaze fell on my sister, Lola, who was being admired by passers-by in her pushchair. There was no doubt that Lola was well-fed. No one talked about me; they abstained from commenting. And when a comment did escape Madame Kahn’s mouth, it seemed to pierce my mother’s heart. She would look at me, disgusted, and let the fateful phrases fall from her lips: “How scrawny she is! My word, you’d think she’d just stepped out of Auschwitz.” Hearing this from a large, sturdy Jewish woman who had done precisely that was an affront to my mother, who would stop at nothing to try to persuade me to eat: hugs, promises of rewards, threats, sometimes a spanking and, when the situation escalated, terrifying periods locked in the cupboard under the stairs, in complete darkness. There, I discovered fear, and a sense of disgust at myself. There was doubt in my mind since the day that Uncle Israel and his wife Fraye had turned up in our little apartment on the Rue Richan. I had heard them say that they came from Paris, but before Paris they had been living at Bergen-Belsen – supposedly as free human beings, but the soldiers who had freed them soon became their jailers. Before Bergen-Belsen, they had been at two other camps, Skarzysko-Kamienna and Czestochowa, where the Germans thought it reasonable to either kill the Jews or to make them work. The doubt in my mind persisted because Israel and Fraye seemed like normal people to me. Not starving. Bloated, in fact. No one cared to explain to me that they had been free for three years and were now incapable of controlling their appetite. Israel and Fraye inspired a sort of fear in me. This shapeless fear, without any apparent purpose, I felt as a three-and-a-half-year-old child seeing her aunt and uncle arrive, brought in from SkarzyskoKamienna, Czestochowa, Bergen-Belsen. I listened to them speak in this familiar language without really realising that I was hearing the testimony of a rare breed of people, who, by chance, had come back from among the dead. I learnt new meanings of ordinary words: when assembled with others that I had never heard before, they began to connote a monstrous undertaking carried out by ordinary, conscientious men – as Germans tend to be when they undertake something. These are

the words that came up most frequently when Israel and Fraye told my parents of the last seven years: ‘ghetto,’ Judenrat, Judenälteste, ‘elimination,’ Aktion, ‘trains,’ K.Z., Lager, Lagerälteste, Stubendienst, ‘selection,’ ‘hunger,’ ‘thirst,’ ‘typhus,’ ‘gallows,’ Muselman, Einsatzgruppen, ‘evacuation,’ ‘death march.’ Fraye had concluded: “Ober der mensch is stark wie eisen” – “But man is as strong as steel.” So, despite everything she had seen and endured, she had maintained the certainty that she belonged to the human race. When I started school, I had already begun to build my own specialised vocabulary, but it was incredibly insufficient when it came to anything unfamiliar. At six years old, I was oblivious to the concept of catechism, or who the ‘baby Jesus’ was. I quickly understood that I had to suffer for a crime that was mine, but which I had not committed. When a snotty little girl revealed this crime to me, I was too shy to explain to her that she had definitely got the wrong person. I did not remember killing whoever this was. She had said to me: “Dirty Jew, you killed the baby Jesus!” I thought I understood then that this little boy, the poor baby Jesus, had been killed when he was still a child. “What is a Jesus? What is a baby Jesus?” I asked myself, without going as far as asking anyone else this question. One baffling point left me even further perplexed: how could they identify me as the murderer of someone whose existence or appearance was unknown to me? In any case, there was a link between his death and the fact that people treated me as a ‘dirty Jew’ from the moment I stepped onto the school grounds. During break time, I was alone; they all pushed me away. I wanted to die, but I did not know how to. I was ‘the girl who doesn’t go to catechism and who killed baby Jesus.’ I would ask myself an answerless question: how had they identified me? Did I look Jewish? Was there a ‘Jewish look’ that distinguished me from the rest of the human species, something that marked me out as clearly as the sun and the moon, day and night? My confused answers shaped how I saw the world. Was this why I feared, more than anything, seeing the ‘baby Jesus’ appear at the window of what we pompously called the ‘water closet,’ like Petit Poucet? Did we all have a Jewish air about us? An air that condemned me to solitude and cruelty, which would stay with me forever?

By Elizabeth Tiskina


Art by Anna Du Toit



I see that today you look ever so sad, And your hands are so delicate, clasping your knees. Listen now – far, far away, by Lake Chad, A lone giraffe wanders, swaying in the breeze. God granted him poise and graceful, slow airs, And his fur is mottled with magical shapes, A pattern with which only moonlight compares As it splinters and shimmers on the waves of the lakes. Like a galleon’s sails, he appears at first, His gallop as smooth as a joyful bird’s flight. I trust there are more wonders like him on earth When he shelters in his marble cave at twilight. From these mystical lands I’ve heard tales and songs Those of ‘dark beauties’ and young, passionate kings, But you’re weary, and you’ve breathed in fog for too long, You believe only in rain – not in these fanciful things. So how can I tell you about these tropical gardens? The scent of the grasslands, the sound of palm trees… Are you crying? Listen now… Far away, by Lake Chad, A lone giraffe wanders, swaying in the breeze.


Photography by Aaron Hammond Duncan

EDITORS Ayna Li Taira she/her Natalie Perman


DEPUTY EDITORS Grace Lawrence she/her Sara Hashmi she/her MAG FICTION TEAM Anna Schechter she/her (Director) Meesha Williams she/her (Director) Aili Channer she/her

Kiana Rezakhanlou she/her Eliott Rose he/him ONLINE FICTION TEAM Sze Ann Pang she/her (Director) Anna Stephen she/her (Director) George Adams he/him

Fódhla Duggan-Dennehy she/her

Hannah Ledlie she/they Jana Nedelkoska she/her

Emily Formstone she/her

Xanthe Richardson she/her

Claire Ion she/her

Ellie-Jai Williams she/her

Stepan Mysko von Schultze he/him Haeun Park she/her

Sarita Williams she/her



Aaron Hammond Duncan he/him (Director)

Joseph Dobbyn he/him (Director)

Faith Wong she/her (Director)

Anna Du Toit she/her (Director) Nat Cheung she/her

Jigyasa Anand she/her

Millie Dean-Lewis she/her

Liv Fugger she/her MAG NON-FICTION TEAM

Natalie Hytiroglou she/her Oliver Roberts he/him

Ananya Basu she/her (Director) Bea Petrova she/her (Director)

Alan Sulaivany he/him

Lue Campbell-Smith they/them

Elizabeth Tiskina she/her

Hannah Gardner she/her

Luca Thompson she/her

Ainhoa Santos Goicoechea she/her


Charlie Taylor he/him

Ruchita Raghunath she/her (Director)

Rioghnach Theakston she/her

Amber Syed she/her (Director)


Susie Castledine she/her

Iona Shen she/her (Director)

Isaac Hudd he/him Peter Savery he/him

Jen Jackson she/her Annie Roberts she/her

Clementine Scott she/her



Aqsa Lone she/her (Director) Megan Chin she/her

Talha Islam he/him (Director) Mizan Rahman he/him (Director)

Leona Crawford she/her Martha Galsworthy she/her Isaac Hudd he/him

Jade Calder she/they Dania Kamal Aryf she/her Jonas Muschalski he/him


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