The Strand Magazine: TRANSLATIONS | Volume 61, Issue 10

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STRAND VOLUME 61 | SPRING MAGAZINE



n a r t slations Dear reader, We are constantly translating even when we are speaking the same language. A set of words will never hold the same meaning for any two people—they’re coloured by our own personal experiences and interpretations. Each word and every movement is a translation. We can never be certain of how they will be read. Our Spring Magazine features eleven translations across cultures, languages, and experiences. Hadiyyah Kuma opens this collection with a personal essay about creating herself through metaphor, and we end with Anna Maria Sordjan’s reflection on her relationship with her father and the difficulty of expressing trauma outside of his native tongue. In between, we have poetry, essays, and stories that all attempt to explain what it is that we lose and gain when we begin the act of translation. A special thanks, once again, to our incredible team for offering their time and expertise to ensure that our final magazine is the best that it can be. Thank you to Jay, for your dedication and for all of the weekends that you have spent in the office. Thank you to Harrison and Rebecca for the enthusiasm that you continue to share with writers and their work. Thank you to Tamara for the thought and care you put into editing each piece. And finally, to all of our contributors, illustrators, copyeditors, and the rest of our masthead, for their support and passion over the last nine months. With love, Ainsley and Sabrina Editors-in-Chief


editors-in-chief ainsley doell sabrina papas design jay bawar sabrina papas senior copyeditor tamara frooman features editor rebecca gao poetry editor harrison wade cover illustrator sarah farquhar


table of contents

hadiyyah kuma miranda carroll

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julianne he

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tamara frooman

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kenneth kim

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kate reeve

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renna keriazes

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helen jingshu yao

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noah kelly

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ellen grace

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anna maria sordjan

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Turn Palat Turn how I have birthed the world through metaphors written by hadiyyah kuma

illustration by misbah ahmed 4


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In The Unbearable Lightness of Being, when Kundera says that a single metaphor can give birth to love, I’m not quite sure what he means. And I worry, because if I cannot analyze that single phrase, then I may very well be unfit to be a writer. Having just re-watched, for the fifth time, the Bollywood film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (also known as DDLJ) with my favourite on-screen couple, Kajol and Shahrukh Khan, I can safely say that actions in themselves are metaphors. “If she loves you then she will turn around and see you ... turn ... turn!” the subtitles interpret Raj’s lines to his new love, Simran, who is boarding a train back home. One of the Hindi words for “turn” sounds like “palat” and looks like पलट, a word that sounds much nicer in its cacophony than “turn,” which has many meanings but one sound. Turn to look at someone. Recoil at my touch. Turn back. It’s fitting in Khan’s moment of love to hear an urgent “palat,” which is such a quick sound but hastily dressed in so much hope. “Palat,” and then she turns on the third. They smile at each other, and the rest is history. What if she didn’t turn back?

me and I have to leave for school. The turn is the metaphor. The action says I am desperate to stay, so will you just look at me? Your eyes are my selfish reassurance that we will be alright together. Whatever is in front of you is a lesser thing than when my eyes meet yours and give me life. Palat is the desperate ache itself. The stakes of love and life are based on a meeting of eyes, a turning of the neck to see, see, see. What about meeting your own eyes? That feeling of staring into a mirror while brushing your teeth, only to turn around before you turn the bathroom lights off to make sure what you saw was correct. To ensure that you’re a three-dimensional being with a beating heart. What about the surprise you feel when you realize your reflection is not three-dimensional? It has a heart that fails to beat, so maybe no heart at all. Then looking into a mirror is death; it is Bloody Mary’s semiotic murder. Suppose I lived a life without mirrors. Say I simply felt my own teeth as I brushed. Then looking into a mirror is life, because there is my own face borne out of a physical form I have never seen. I haven’t imagined what I looked like because there is no need, there wasn’t a thing like a photograph because nobody desired to look themselves. It would be astonishing to me that suddenly I could be beautiful. I have seen beauty, but I would wonder if humans can be beautiful too. Isn’t it only flowers, I’d think, that seize the brain of physical pleasure? The touch of a loved one on the back, or letting a baby’s fist curl around my pinky? What if my face was more beautiful than all of these things? I’ve given birth to myself just by looking. I have given birth to a romanticized idea of a high school crush. I have renamed him Fred, because his real name is unsuitably elegant. I have given birth to Fred by smiling at him when he turns to say, “have a good weekend,” or, “can I borrow that Tylenol?”

It would be astonishing to me that suddenly I could be beautiful “Palat.” When the boy I think I love walks away. “Palat.” When my grandmother boards Wheel-Trans back to her home in Markham. “Palat.” When my mother is angry with

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A guy like Fred was full of wild metaphors, and this is where stacks of digital poetry are born. Each handing of a pencil was a step closer, closer to nothing and everything at once. Each smile was a sign of something daunting and disturbed, each

my heart rate increases. Even a bus driver. Even the lady who sells iron-on badges on the street corner. Even my mother. The man who sits across from me on the subway, his legs twisted together like the croissant I had for breakfast, even him. I turn away (palat).

I have seen beauty, but I would wonder if humans can be beautiful too. Isn’t it only flowers, I’d think, that seize the brain of physical pleasure? laugh and accidental eye flutter a sign of intrigue. There were warning signs too. A crushed paper airplane, the first I ever made, under Fred’s heavy foot without so much as a sideways glance at me. A glance would have said to me that he’d done it on purpose, which I could live with, even embrace. If a single metaphor can birth love, then maybe it can birth death too. When Tomas compares Tereza to Moses, solitarily floating downstream, he births tenderness, he births love, Kundera proposes. But maybe he births illness, and maybe devotional love is that illness. To care for Tereza like a baby, protect and adopt her as part of his own heart is a disease that cannot be cured. “Palat” is such a virus. If Simran never turned back in DDLJ, then that would be a very different metaphor, but for Raj, maybe it would still be love. If he gave up on her then, then love it never was. Either way, the moment he says, “if she loves me, she will turn around,” he creates a signifier of devotion. Kajol’s expressive eyes are implanted in my brain, and whenever someone turns to look at me

I’m recovering from the flu as I write this. In a hot haze of not doing anything for days, I can see now how it is I survive. Illness was my metaphor, and if it is a device like that then it is a lesson. That fever was a metaphor for my need to relax. The heat swelling in my head was a reminder to take it easy, take a break to cool off my anxiety. A warning sign like the flattened paper airplane, drenched brown under his soggy Chuck Taylor. When someone asks for an answer and I only nod, is that a metaphor for lifelong silence? I edited myself out of my best friend’s essay because it deemed me disproportionately special. The flu is the kind of illness that lets you know that you need to stop and consider your metaphors before you think of waking up the next morning. Once you consider them you consider yourself lucky for owning the ability to perceive things in retrospect. When you wake up with a cough, you allow yourself to go to back to bed. Nobody else can do this, can understand this like you. This could be love.

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Avoiding grey hair and diseased teeth A modern translation of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter written by miranda carroll illustration by wandy cheng

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Helen used one hand to hold the phone to her ear, the other running through her thick, greying hair. The wrinkles in her face folded into their habitual creases as she smiled. Once Helen had hung up the phone, she returned to her lunchtime routine. Sitting in the Red Hen Diner in her booth beside the kitchen, listening to the radio and ordered her classic breakfast. Helen knew she would miss the grumpy ladies, the smell of bacon grease, and the fatigue of the employees, but she carried on and picked up the Coffee News. Helen’s heart leapt at the first joke on the bottom of the back page. It read, “What do the moon and dentures have in common?” She pondered, trying to recall her knowledge of dentures. Flipping the page over, she traced her thin finger down its length. “They both come out at night.” That’s a good one. Barb at the front desk is going to love that one, she thought. It might just soften the blow. The sun was shining by the time Helen shoved open the ice-crusted door of the coffee shop, heading back to the office, with her head held up. She could see a little girl holding onto her mother’s hand wearing a bright blue and pink jacket and a smile on her face that lit up the whole street. A lovely day. Barb was getting older, Helen noticed, back in the office. Over the last five years, more of Barb’s hair had turned to grey and her fingers had become bent. Helen couldn’t help but think about this loss of dexterity alongside the spinal crunch that were both inevitable factors of age. “Hey Barb! What do the moon and dentures have in common?” Helen asked as she approached the reception desk. “Dr. Dontia—I really don't know,” Barb said dryly, glancing up at Helen for a moment, then quickly directing her gaze back down at her computer. “They both come out at night!” Helen replied, her eyes gleaming, hoping to evoke a laugh from her soon to be ex-employee. The response was silence. Helen flashed Barb a large apologetic smile and retreat-

ed into her office. Clearly the joke had not softened her up enough. It would have to wait until the end of the day. Before Helen was finite space: the blue walls of the dentist’s office and closed white door gave her privacy to look over the X-rays of her next patient. She looked down at the name messily scratched on the page. “Denis Campbell.” The chart said to monitor growing cavities between his teeth— characteristic of a person who doesn’t floss. She had a feeling she was going to need to book Denis in to get these cavities filled. The small, gnawing cavity would have to be ground out, but not by her.

Helen wanted to scrape away the impurities, but she did not want to cover them with a porcelain filling. Helen wanted the golden light to shine like clementine-fingered sun. Helen could smell the coffee Denis had drunk as soon as he opened his mouth, and she spotted the little bits of Shreddies. Helen scraped and took X-rays, saying, “There seems to be a lot of plaque build-up on your teeth, Denis. And I can see a couple of cavities starting in quadrant three. Call back in about two weeks when everything is settled down here and book an appointment for a filling.” Sometimes when Helen was grinding out decomposing tooth matter, she could see a glimmer of light shining from within her patients. Her coworkers told her it was the glare of their teeth, but Helen had faith that it was an inner immortal godliness that she saw in her patients. She would

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scrape and scrape until the blacked tooth was gone, just as her father had before her, until she could see the glimmer of light that had served as her source of hope for all her years as a dentist. Helen wanted to scrape away the impurities, but she did not want to cover them with a porcelain filling. Helen wanted the golden light to shine like clementine-fingered sun. After several more patients, Helen checked the clock. The hour hand had just passed five. She put on her coat, gathered her belongings, and approached the front desk once again. “Bye Barb,” said Helen shakily, guilt growing. She turned back to her faithful receptionist, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something import-

The wind had begun to pick up and the piles of leaves in the parking lot stirred. Helen couldn’t stay at the dentist office for 35 years too. So, after a pensive moment, Helen clicked open her car, flashed Barb an apologetic smile, and drove off. In the rear-view mirror, she could see Barb looking particularly old and sunken. Hunched, possibly from 35 years of service as a receptionist to her family, or maybe just protecting her face and neck from the wind. Helen drove westward, fast, and didn’t look back. The wind hit her face and deposited bits of sand in her hair and onto her glasses as she stepped out of the car. The field Helen had chosen was vast with only a silo and a distant forest on the flat horizon. She could

Crouching naked on the damp earth, Helen could feel the heat emanating upwards.

ant, do you have a minute?” “Yes. I was just packing up for the day, can we talk on the way to the car, Dr. Dontia?” So, on their way to her car, on her last day of work, Helen told Barb that she had sold the practice, and that it would be shut down for two weeks until the new management came in. “But Dr. Dontia—Helen!” Barb exclaimed. “Have you been planning this long? I’ve been working here 35 years, I worked with your father before he retired! You’re leaving?” “I am leaving, Barb, and I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I thought it would be easier like this. The new practice taking over owns several other dental practices, so once you get a handle of the new filing systems, I’m sure you will be just fine,” Helen replied, her hand on her keys, brows furrowed, feigning empathy.

see for miles and the wind glided smoothly over the flat, barren land. She unloaded her materials: shiny tinfoil that reflected the sun, logs to lay on the green grass, rocks to prevent the flame from spreading to the little shrubs and bushes nearby, an egg timer, and a bottle of golden nectar. The structure was just six or seven logs on top of the grass, surrounded by a ring of stones. Helen lit the fire. The grass under the logs sizzled and turned to black dust, like charred earth. It was not long before the orange wind-licked flames began to swirl wildly, intimidating the untouched grass that surrounded the fire. Once the fire was roaring and the wind had died down ever so slightly, Helen set her egg timer for 25 minutes. The fire grew larger as Helen took off her clothes and felt the cold air on her body. She wrapped herself in a tinfoil blanket and stared into the flames. Crouching

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naked on the damp earth, Helen could feel the heat emanating upwards. She eased her way in, as if entering a hot tub. It wasn’t a simple task to burn out one’s mortal parts and live forever. The mortal parts are bound so tightly to the godly parts. If you cook even a little too long, you risk losing it all. In her long career as a dentist cutting out the cavities in the teeth of her patients, she had never had such a difficult task. There was leeway with teeth. If you grind out too much of the cavity and remove a bit of the tooth, you can fill it in with porcelain. Helen’s 40-year-old body was engulfed in flames in a matter of minutes. The smell of burning hair and the sizzle of roasting flesh carried through the wind. Ten minutes passed, then 20, then 24. It is difficult to say what happened on the twenty-fifth minute, but from the restless flames in the

middle of that barren field there flashed an astonishing light followed by the scent of ambrosia. Some particles escaped the fire and traveled upwards like a flock of birds taking off toward the clouds. They formed and reformed in the sky until they were completely diffused by the wind into the atmosphere. Then, out of the roaring flames came a hand that reached and poured the bottle of nectar over the glowing fire and embers. It was not a suicide— quite the opposite, really. The mortal flakes did float towards the heavens carried on the rose-fingered winds, but what stayed was the godly core that Helen had been certain rested at the center. Lying on the ground among the embers, barely visible through the ambrosia steam, the mortal eye could just make out supple wrinkleless skin and flowing golden hair splayed over charred grass.

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trans

la

ting

my

feelin gs Understanding languages a c r o s s cultures and generations written by julianna he illustration by keelin gorlewski

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I am a first-generation Chinese-Canadian. My parents immigrated here when I was four years old, and my earliest memory in Canada is going to Pre-K, not knowing a single word of English, and bawling my eyes out as I watched my mom leave from the classroom’s large windows. Like many immigrants, my parents came from a poor family in rural China, and they came to Canada in hopes of raising a family and creating a better future for me and my sister than the one they had. We were the motivation for everything they did. I remember the houses we lived in growing gradually; each was larger and nicer than the one before. It is these memories that I look back on to see how much my parents struggled and worked to create the life I have now— attending university and living a pretty privileged lifestyle. We are by no means rich, but we aren’t poor, and I’m privileged enough to not have ever experienced financial instability. My story isn’t a special one. My family and I are just a speck in part of a larger immigrant diaspora that emigrated in search of more. One of the first things any immigrant faces is the language barrier. Anyone who has ever tried to learn another language knows how difficult it can be, and the feeling of embarrassment that comes with speaking in the foreign language and being judged when it doesn’t come out right. The reality is that immigrant parents, like mine, had to do just that. This was at a time when the internet wasn’t at the tip of their fingers. They couldn’t Google Translate sentences. They only had themselves to rely on, as they were the first of their family to settle in this new country, and their children relied on them heavily as well. I can only imagine the kind of difficulties they faced in understanding not only the legal affairs of living in a new country, but also the cultural nuances. This is unlike me and my sister, who were raised in Canada (my sister being born here). Everything is absorbed and normal in our view; it is just the way we do things. It is this almost instinctive knowledge we have

about the workings of society, government, and legality of things that our parents can now rely on us for. We become their lawyers, doctors, and teachers. We take on duties that are not in our job description but are implied in our status. At first, it’s translating menus and ads, random things you read on the internet. Then it’s that letter in the mail from the bank. Then that passport renewal form. Then the results of a doctor’s examination. Then you’re filling out legal forms pretending to be them. But we’re all family, so it’s okay. We’re family, so I can ask you to do this for me. We’re family, so I have to do this for you. We are their children, and that comes with the duty and obligation to repay them for raising us, giving birth to us, and providing for us. Maybe that’s a reflection of our character or a product of cultural values instilled in us. But it’s a sentiment that I found is consistent among immigrant children. However, these requests become more frequent, adding to our ever-growing busy lives trying to balance school, work, hobbies, and social life. It can get time-consuming and frustration can build up when you’re overwhelmed with so much. I have watched friends juggle internships, lectures, school work, and side projects, busy from 9 am to 11 pm, six days a week. To add to that, they manage social media accounts for their dad’s business and translate statements for their mom’s art projects. With that schedule, there’s little room to breathe. But I’m not just translating words. I’m translating the culture I grew up in, one that is different from the experiences of my parents. I remember as a kid and even into my teens, my parents would never allow me to go to sleepovers even with my friends, and I would be so frustrated and angry that I couldn’t go. I would ask them why and argue back a little, but it would still end the same way: no sleepovers. Then on the coming Monday, I would hear about how much fun my friends had and what they did, and I would feel this sense of loneliness because I felt like I was missing out on friendships. I

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would continue asking my parents to attend sleepovers, hoping they’d let me because I’m older now and more mature. But the answer would still be the same. I couldn’t understand why, not at that age anyway. How can I have these negative feelings

them to understand our world. Our actions are our words. Looking back on it now, I understand why my parents were against me going to sleepovers, and it wasn’t for any specific reason. It was more about how they un-

I'm not just translating words. I'm translating the culture I grew up in, one that is different from the experiences of my parents. towards my parents who have done so much for me? It is this sense of guilt that corrodes my mind and my heart. How ungrateful. And that’s the thing—this ambivalence isn’t something to feel guilty about. What is important is what comes after the ambivalence. Perhaps one should think that these feelings of ambivalence reinforce bonds of connection between parent and child. It is within these tensions where I will still translate this letter, still fill out that form, that the test of the relationship comes from. It’s unrealistic to believe that a family is going to be one that is always happy and fun and that doesn’t argue. There will be misunderstandings, anger, sadness, and underlying all that is love. Love is one of those hard topics that goes unspoken in Asian households. My friends and I like to joke that we’ve never said “I love you” to our parents, nor have we heard it back. It’s an unspoken but known fact within the household. But that makes actions much more important. Asian culture emphasizes gestures to show respect, courtesy, and kindness—taking the cheque for the meal, gifts whenever you visit a guest’s home. It’s the same within the family. We don’t say “I love you” to our parents; we wash the dishes, make dinner, run errands, accompany them on days off, treat them to dinner, travel together. It’s the forms we fill out for them, the words we translate for

derstood sleepovers and their own cultural upbringing. Sleepovers were not a thing for my parents. So I understand now that they weren’t refusing me because they wanted to “ruin my life,” but because they just didn’t share my understanding of sleepovers. Translations aren’t just the literal translation of words, but the translation of values, perspectives, and understandings across generations, ages, and cultures. I had to and have to translate my experience and perspective of a young first-generation Chinese-Canadian to my parents. And it’s not easy. Things will get lost in translation, perspectives will clash, misunderstandings will occur, and some things just won’t make sense to them. And over the years, I’ve grown to reconcile these contradictory feelings of resentment, familial obligation, and guilt, and understand them to be part of the complicated immigrant experience. It doesn’t make me a bad daughter or bad person for feeling frustrated and irritated at these constant requests. It makes me human. Families aren’t exempt from being the target of these feelings. But it is what I do despite those feelings that matters; it’s the efforts to understand, the communication with my family, which can be difficult in an Asian household of two different languages. But perhaps our languages aren’t that different. Some words mean the same thing across cultures. 15


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Interpreting myself through another written by tamara frooman illustration by eryn lougheed

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The summer before you left, I wrote a note on my phone at 6:03 am: At night, when English ceases to exist and is replaced instead with wordless intonations. I was trying to explain the sounds we make to communicate when we are both somewhere behind our bodies. In sleep we were always clearest to each other. Words got in the way. With words we were both bristling on either side of the divide. When we argued over sugar measurements you thought I meant your parents had failed you. I thought you were denying that your upbringing was gendered. When we argued about music you thought I meant you were sexist. I thought I meant taste is subjective and I won’t subject myself to another band of white, pretentious men because they already dominate the industry and I just don’t care about your favourite band. In retrospect, maybe you were right—I did mean you were sexist. I knew we were speaking different languages when we said I love you. I meant I saw the future in your face. When you said love it meant something else. When I told you not to promise forever, I meant I’ve danced this dance before. I felt you turning away long before you did, just like I knew you loved me before you believed in love. You promised anyway. I believed you the second time. I made that choice but you only chose me back for so many days. To me, love meant choosing to compromise. To you, it meant never needing to. In the fall, before you left, I wrote: I was trying to understand the conversation we had where you so visibly sealed yourself inside and I cried all over the living room and wrote I love you on a note before falling asleep in your bed and when I woke up the note was gone. The day after you left, I wrote: Maybe we will both just feel inadequate for each other until we don’t. It broke my heart to see how hard you were trying to feel nothing. You had that expression I have always interpreted as an apology. The one you give me when you can’t give me what I have no right to demand. You’re my best friend. The ache was so instant. You left and it appeared. When you left the conversation you surrendered your part of the narrative. I interpreted your silences the best way I knew how because that’s the only option you left me with. The ab-

sence signifies. That was before I realized it was only ever me, refracted. I produced the role and cast you in it, you didn’t exist until I created you. How many times will I restart the process of self-translation? When I interpret the words I wrote at the time do I amend their meaning? When I remember a memory am I dismembering it, reassembling it with altered pieces? The moment the thought materializes I am no longer the same person. In a week none of this will hold true. The pieces evolve and I begin again. There was something about your absence or your presence that polarized my reactions. The summer after you left, I said: I didn’t want to lose you to the freeze-frame I wanted you in motion, enduring. Last month I said: I would have loved you in the freeze-frame. The winter after you left, I said: life unpaused when I met you. This winter I said: I liked that you held me still amongst all of my disparate selves, provided consistency to my fluctuations. The truth shifts somewhere in between. You waited on the landing outside my door for months, around every corner on my walk home. You never left. You were only ever leaving or already coming back. The spring after you left, I said: It’s not enough that I’ll find someone else, I want to find you again I want to find me again I won’t ever find me again. You made me feel safe how will I ever feel safe without you? The fall after you left, I said: It’s enough for me to know that some part of you is mine forever. You didn’t believe in love before you met me. I changed your mind in only 18 days. Was it because I was relying too much on the narrative? Did I really think love could make us salvageable? There was a safety in the heartbreak, it kept you with me. The winter after you left, I said: six hours into the future and I still love you. I said: how do I translate midnight into dawn over the Atlantic how do I translate me back to myself when I am still with you? I said: six hours into the future four months into the freeze-frame, jumpcut over the ocean. I left traces of you in places you have never been by remembering you from the other side

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of an ocean. I didn’t want you on the trip with us but I still felt sick when I forgot your laugh in Ireland, in the winter. I felt sick when I remembered it again in the summer, back home. In the fall, after you left, I said I knew you better than you knew yourself. In the winter you told me you had always been happy and the earthquake of the lie took my breath away. Did you mean you thought you were happy? Did you mean this is as good as it gets? I carried your weight around for years and I still don’t know what it was. I started getting the plots mixed up. Were you leaving me or was I leaving you? What tense were we in? Who hid the access code to my future? Which one of us was waiting on the landing? I spent months seeking you further

purposefully. Consciously. I revisited my memories in the context of your absence and now they are tainted. But I am not the shattered jam jar on the sidewalk. I am not the missing person in the bed. You left but I can come back. This time I will not leave me, too. That was before I realized your ghost was just another part of me. I thought it was you for so long. I didn’t know how to translate the image. I didn’t know how to hold my own pieces so I held yours instead. You left and I disappeared too. I lost myself to your void because I never had access to myself on my own. You gave me admission to the world, I engaged with life through you. I didn’t trust myself with happiness so I stored it with you, for safe-keeping. You filtered reality

I knew we were speaking different languages when we said I love you and further into abstraction but I still cried when I pictured your face. That was over a year ago. For a long time when I wrote about myself I thought you saturated the process. You told me an image in passing once—jam jar abandoned on the sidewalk. Shards of glass I never even saw. The image as I see it exists only in my mind, a fabricated memory. If I remove you from the story all that remains are shattered particles sticking to the night. But the picture is sharper than my own past: scintillating red glistens on the sidewalk, glittering pieces reflecting the street lights, strawberry jam gleaming ruby ash, scent still sweet. Your image, meanwhile, is blurred—faces don’t remain like poetic imagery, the symbolism of ruptured fragments. Were you ever even in the picture or was it only the scene from your perspective? You told me the story and I assumed your role, our eyes as one. I found myself in you. It took me months to reclaim your side of the bed from the ghost, lingering in your space. And this was supposed to be for me, devoid of you. Instead, I am the absent one and you saturate every sentence. I smeared you all over everything as soon as you left, every memory, even the ones that weren’t yours. I can’t unravel you from the foundations because I stitched you into every row,

into a language I could understand. I couldn’t recognize my future anywhere outside of your reflection. By now you have long been erased from the picture. Every time I revisited our memories they were less us and more me. I squinted more closely at the ghost on the landing and one day she was my mirror image. I was only ever finding pieces of myself scattered within you. You were a projection of my desires onto another body. In certain moments I thought we recognized each other. But you were still a stranger. One I mistook for myself. The closest I ever got to knowing you was without words. Sharing a bed was a conversation we both understood—half-asleep, the gaps between intention and interpretation were easily negotiated. If we ever spoke the same language it was during the Boston evening we sat on a porch together silhouetted from the light spilling out through the windows at our backs. You told me a story—but not in words—in the silences between them, the shared space of the moment. I didn’t understand the scene you had painted but I knew that it was me on the porch with you. The significance translated. 19


a translator lost in translation

written by kenneth kim illustration by maia grecco

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“Translate the following passage into clear, idiomatic English.” My mind wanders from the examination booklet in front of me to my grammars and commentaries. The words of old men, commenting on and arranging the words of older men, bleed together. They suggest a singular reading of a single text—the one I am supposed to replicate here—clean, correct, compliant in draining the colours out of classics. Still, if I carelessly copy and heedlessly hand down only the translations that the exams ask of me, where are my words? That is to say, at what point does the translator become translaticius? To translate is to carry (ferro) words across (trans-) time and space. But in that same breath, the words change and find renewed purpose (transferre). It has perhaps been too easy to lose the purpose of my own translations within the building blocks of Greek and Latin, or the comfortable Vergilian and Ciceronian moulds of my assigned readings. Why do I translate? I came to the classics as a deserter between majors, who found a

camp so foreign and unfamiliar that I could do nothing but study to stay afloat. I stayed as an explorer, who found myself again and again in these passages. Still, “to find oneself ” is too trite an answer to leave unexplained. Do I feel like Lycinus or Hippolytus? Do I sound like Latreus or Pliny? I glimpse at a different perspective of “queerphobia” or “performative allyship” in these passages as often as I see the umpteenth special use of the dative case: dead words embody constructs posthumous to them. And when the passage ends—since all passages, however uncomfortable the thoughts they provoke might be, must end—I set it down and pick up another. By interpreting these experiences into English, I interpret myself. And so I try again to jump across the gap between translation as examination and translation as creative self-interrogation by reading what I want to read. Perhaps I can stoke the flames of another reading, another purpose, another colour. And so I translate the following passages into clear, idiomatic English.

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Cicero complains how Tiro, cheating his lovin’ with a mean trick, snuck a precious few kisses owed to him at dinner away under the dark of night. When I read those things, “Why, after all that,” I ask, “do I keep my own love a secret, and why am I afraid to confess, even though I suffered my own Tiro’s tricks, and I’m familiar with his fleeting flattery, and how his thefts add fuel to my fire?” nam queritur quod fraude mala frustratus amantem paucula cenato sibi debita savia Tiro tempore nocturno subtraxerit. his ego lectis “cur post haec,” inquam, “nostros celamus amores nullumque in medium timidi damus atque fatemur Tironisque dolos, Tironis nosse fugaces blanditias et furta novas addentia flammas?” —Pliny the Younger, Letters, 7.4

And when Elagabalus saw Zoticus, she leapt up to the rhythm, and because the man who addressed her as he ought, “Hail, my lord emperor!” and she who played the part of a woman wonderfully with her neck and turned her eyes towards him, replied and said not hesitating once: “Do not call me a lord, because I am a lady.” ϰαὶ ὃς ἰδὼν αὐτὸν ἀνέθορέ τε ἐρρυθμισμένως, ϰαὶ προσειπόντα, οἷα εἰϰὸς ἦν, ‘ϰύριε αὐτοϰράτορ χαῖρε,’ θαυμαστῶς τόν τε αὐχένα γυναιϰίσας ϰαὶ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἐπεγϰλάσας ἠμείψατο, ϰαὶ ἔφη οὐδὲν διστάσας, ‘μή με λέγε ϰύριον: ἐγὼ γὰρ ϰυρία εἰμί.’ —Cassius Dio, Roman History, 80.16.3-5

Hippolytus: So, to where will I turn my wretched self? Whose house can I enter as a guest, banished by such an accusation? Theseus: The one getting off on seducers of their women, the one who takes care of strangers and housemates plotting evils. Hippolytus: Ay ay, straight through my heart! I’m almost brought to tears, if I just think that I seem so evil to you. Ἱπ. ποῖ δῆθ’ ὁ τλήμων τρέψομαι; τίνος ξένων δόμους ἔσειμι, τῆιδ’ ἐπ’ αἰτίαι φυγών; Θη. ὅστις γυναιϰῶν λυμεῶνας ἥδεται ξένους ϰομίζων ϰαὶ ξυνοιϰούρους ϰαϰῶν. Ἱπ. αἰαῖ, πρὸς ἧπαρ· δαϰρύων ἐγγὺς τόδε, εἰ δὴ ϰαϰόϲ γε φαίνομαι δοϰῶ τε σοί. —Euripides, Hippolytus, 1065-1070

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So Elagabalus wore a veil to her wedding and got fucked as a woman, just as when she had a matron of honour and when she shouted, “Beat that meat, cook!”—and at a time when Zoticus was sick. Later, she asked the philosophers and the most important men whether they themselves had suffered in their youth, what she was suffering—and she did this most shamelessly. nupsit et coit, ita ut et pronubam haberet clamaretque "concide, Magire!" et eo quidem tempore quo Zoticus aegrotabat. quaerebat deinde a philosophis et gravissimis viris, an et ipsi in adulescentia perpessi essent quae ipse pateretur, et quidem impudentissime. —Augustan History, Elagabalus 10.5

Which of these two do you consider better: men who love boys, or men who are satisfied with women? Since I myself am struck by either passion just like accurate scales and I swing back and forth equally balanced on either side, you, free from them, will pick out the better one by reasoning as an unbribed judge. ποτέρους ἀμείνονας ἡγῇ, τοὺς φιλόπαιδας ἢ τοὺς γυναίοις ἀσμενίζοντας; ἐγὼ μὲν γὰρ ὁ πληγεὶς ἑϰατέρῳ ϰαθάπερ ἀϰριβὴς τρυτάνη ταῖς ἐπ᾽ ἀμφότερα πλάστιγξιν ἰσορρόπως ταλαντεύομαι, σὺ δ᾽ ἐϰτὸς ὢν ἀδεϰάστῳ ϰριτῇ τῷ λογισμῷ τὸ βέλτιον αἱρήσῃ. —pseudo-Lucian, Erotes, 4

“Do I have to put up with you, Caeneus? Because you’ll always be a woman to me; you’ll always be Caenis. Doesn’t your birth trigger you or sneak up on your mind, what you did to get that booty and what price you paid for that fake face of a man? Look at what you, a woman, were born as, or what you, a woman, suffered! Go away, pick up a spindle with a hand-basket, and spin wool with your thumb: leave wars to men.” At the centaur spewing such shit, Caeneus tore out his side exposed by running by throwing a spear at where Latreus was joined with a horse. “et te, Caeni, feram? nam tu mihi femina semper, tu mihi Caenis eris. nec te natalis origo commonuit, mentemque subit, quo praemia facto quaque viri falsam speciem mercede pararis? quid sis nata, vide, vel quid sis passa, columque, i, cape cum calathis et stamina pollice torque; bella relinque viris.” iactanti talia Caeneus extentum cursu missa latus eruit hasta, qua vir equo commissus erat. —Ovid, Metamorphoses, 12.470-478 23


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Market at night the vegetables pull back and the lights netted overhead in thin waves stutter on the alleys choke: arms and legs all look the same in flailing, even Americans on taglit I like to watch here; mouths move and it’s a release to not understand stay behind my roommates as they push don’t mind being shoved like they do but when things constrict I lose them back into something hard and someone backs into me and I’m stuck to a stiffness forced against the triangle space between ass and thighs and lower back twist to see the soldier behind me up close his face is veined like a scallop somehow holographic—something I could put a finger through and not lose the tip he flickered as I looked but didn’t pull back his gun the crowd released I walked stiff away, unstuck my dress sat down in front of the world cup felt myself damp on the metal chair and reached for a beer

written by kate reeve photo by kate reeve

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Night moves dreams moved over me at night fat birds, circling alone in a desert-scape without edges or sun lit by a constant beaming from an invisible plug I see a group of men walking to me tarred in olive oil and feathered in sand I smell it; see the dull shimmer fat and insolence in a sick dredge but they fall as they come bodies frothing on the land disembodied legs of a crushed insect, kicking I watch them until everything goes still again the light doesn’t flicker wake up flat backed teeth ground into flour mouth gummy with it: spit and dust into white bread I swallow

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Valley of dry bones He said to me, “O mortal, can these bones live again?” I replied, “O Lord God, only You know something unthinkable about my own skin a wrap; a shell to be broken crack this yolk to watch it ooze and curdle in the heat but instead—fall asleep listening to voices in the hallway Thus said the Lord God to these bones: “I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live again hair gathers in delicate tumbleweeds— yellow reminder of regeneration; a honey sludge for the starving to adore I drag a brush over my scalp and no longer gather what falls I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with flesh, and form skin over you take a nighttime walk a metal distaste in back of my throat teeth: blood diamonds watch trees hung with faces twitch oblong in the breeze Thus said the Lord God: “Come, O breath, from the four winds, and breathe into these slain, that they may live again

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LIMINAL SPACES growing up greek and queer in suburbia written by renna keriazes illustration by maia grecco

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I vividly remember looking outside the living room window and watching a man walk an elephant down the street when I was a child. I thought this was all a dream at first, but it became a regular occurrence. The Bowmanville Zoo, which was once the oldest private zoo in Canada, allowed their staff to walk the elephants on public streets. Bowmanville is a small Ontario town off of the 401, about an hour away from Toronto. It is the definition of stereotypical suburbia, and a static void for anyone who does not adhere to a white, straight, cis-male identity. It used to be a factory town and is home to one of Canada’s prisoner of war camps from World War II, Camp 30. Camp 30 is now a decrepit and lifeless structure that is littered with graffiti and completely desolate. It was where kids went when they were doing things they didn’t want their parents to know about. My three siblings and I grew up on the corner of town where suburbia met farmland. We woke up to the rooster’s call or the train’s whistle. My parents chose Bowmanville because it was financially impossible for them to raise four children in Toronto. Unfortunately, one of the many things Bowmanville lacked was diversity in every sense, being predominantly white and cis-heteronormative. We grew up privileged because we’re white, but in the community we were constantly perplexing

everyone. They didn’t know where to place us categorically. Ethnic ambiguity became challenging when we sought our first jobs as early teens; we never got any calls back because we thwarted hiring managers with our last name. There were no other Greek families there, at least that I knew of. To this day, I still cannot speak Greek and am often called “fake Greek” by members of my family. My parents were preoccupied with working hard to make ends meet and none of my siblings thought we needed the language. There were no Greek schools in Bowmanville, no Greek Orthodox churches, nothing that resembled a Greek space of belonging and tradition, except our home. We had to drive through two other townships to reach a Greek Orthodox church so we could attend Sunday mass. A man donning sparkly robes would command us to stand up, sit, stand up again, and sit again, and stand up. He drew crosses in the air as he blessed everyone in the church and groaned incomprehensibly. I didn’t know what myrrh was then, but I was raised on the smell. My grandmother continues to use it ceremonially during holy times throughout the year, and it always reminds me of sitting in a space of physical belonging, but feeling complete mental separation. I was a key to a locked door that had no key hole.

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In Bowmanville, I always had to elaborate exorbitantly about my family’s traditions, how to pronounce my name, why I have a shadow over my upper lip, what a name day is, and why our Easter is on a different day. For Greek Easter, my massive family congregates in one of our backyards where we feast on an incredible amount of food, roast lamb on a spit, and play religious games with boiled eggs. Yet, my favourite aspect of the Greek Easter celebration is midnight mass. On the night before Easter, we stand outside a church with a group of other families all grasping candles. The priest and the altar boys stand opposite the crowd and orchestrate the choir performance. Men carry a massive gold crucifix through the crowd and onto a pedestal, and thus everyone joins in a simple song with

body hair, was not thin, had “bug eyes,” or because I treated one act of kindness from a classmate as an invitation to friendship. I remember my high school teachers grading me lower when I dyed my hair bright red, as if that was a signifier of my intellect. I couldn’t exist easily in Bowmanville because I cared about what others thought and how every single one of my actions would be perceived. It would take me hours to prepare for school. I would have daily panic attacks because I couldn’t inhabit an idealized self I’d created in my mind and wanted desperately to look like someone else. My mental health declined to levels that I struggle to think about, and sometimes I find myself in that place again. I couldn’t recognize the privilege of my situation because I was in a constant

I couldn’t exist easily in Bowmanville because I cared about what others thought and how every single one of my actions would be perceived. a hauntingly beautiful tune. The words of the song translate to “Christ has risen…” and it is essentially about the resurrection. Although I cannot understand the words or the specific meaning of this celebration, I love the feeling of belonging and comfort. It looks like everyone is holding their own small star in their hands, and the glow of the candle lights everyone’s faces, making them visible in the darkness. To finish the night, we take a flame home, attempting to keep it lit through the long car ride, and use the flame to burn a cross into the wood above our doorway. Tradition and family have always been some of my core values, and I try to attend midnight mass every year I can. I was an extremely outgoing kid. I remember being enrolled in competitive dance classes and finding them liberating—combining my love of music, art, and movement. But this passion led to bullying that influenced my mental health throughout my teens. Whether it was because I had fast-growing

mental battle against myself. Growing up, my siblings and I treated visiting my grandparents in Toronto as a vacation. I still feel most in tune with the Greek in me when I’m visiting them in the Danforth area. Surrounded by Greek music, people shouting “Opa!” through open windows, the scent of tzatziki hitting you in waves—surrounded by the familiar. White and blue flags cover the streets and shop windows, people sell evil eye amulets, and a bright archway welcomes us back. I’m never tired of seeing Greek men flaunting their fabulous moustaches, accompanied by their wives flaunting similarly fabulous moustaches. On my father’s side, my grandparents’ backyard stretched for what felt like miles. They grew every single fruit and vegetable I had ever heard of. I remember picking dill and mint and crushing it in my palm before covering my mouth and nose with my hands and just inhaling the incredible scent. My grandmother would never let us leave with30


out stuffing us with food; we’d nearly be sick every time we left. My siblings and I would sit on these lavish antique gold-embroidered sofas and watch Greek remakes of Disney movies. Our father attempted to translate, but grew easily tired from the task. So, using subtext and visual cues, we created the stories ourselves. On my mother’s side, both of her parents speak fluent English, so I have gotten to know them much better than I have my father’s side. We knew that they didn’t want us to know something if they spoke Greek in front of us; it became a language of secrets. On my father’s side, I still cannot understand my grandfather when he talks to me. He has an incredibly thick Greek accent which is an unwavering impediment to translation. I am the smallest person in my family, who looks the most in stature and features like my late grandmother who died of cancer a few years ago. I think he deliberately refuses to try to speak English to me because he misses her. He visits my work and my co-workers tell me he speaks English to them, but to me it is all Greek. I nod and smile as he slips me grocery money and kisses my cheeks, but I never know what he’s telling me. I feel like a fraud to my own family, because I pretend to be something I’m not. I must enact the façade of “normalcy” by continuing to pretend to understand Greek and by keeping a part of my life hidden from my grandparents. My family was on vacation in Cape Cod when I was ten years old, and I vividly remember us walking through the gay village while we were on our way to go whale watching. My mother attempted to cover my eyes so that I couldn’t see the people around us, same-sex couples, and individuals who were queer, different, diverse, and incredible. I couldn’t see them; there was no representation of someone even remotely queer in my childhood. I didn’t know that it was a possibility. I’ll never be able to tell my grandparents that I’m queer, and have accepted this only because I must. I’m not willing to sacrifice their perception of me as their grandchild because of something that they never necessarily

need to know. In my life now, as an openly queer individual, I don’t think my sexual orientation is the only thing that influences my queerness. I was never able to identify with the phrases “I am Greek” or “I am Canadian,” because I am an outsider to both. There was a time in my life when I deliberately orchestrated scenarios so that I seemed convincingly heterosexual, so that I would never be questioned about it. I personally didn’t recognize my queerness at first; my brother is the one who questioned me about it, and seeing him come out to my parents long before I did allowed me to recognize that I can be authentically myself without direct familial repercussions, which I recognize is increibly fortunate. Queerness, I’ve learned, doesn’t necessarily only encompass sexuality. Other aspects of people’s identity influence their queerness, which creates room for an intersectional approach to queerness. Queer activists, theorists, and professors Kimberlé Crenshaw and Cathy Cohen discuss how intersectionality is essential when discussing identities such as race, class, ability, gender, and ethnicity. In my own sense, it is lacking a place of belonging and being neither Greek nor normatively Canadian, and because of my temporary disability. I had a surgery go wrong in my first year of university that left me in a twoyear-long fever-dream I am only beginning to emerge from. I struggle with chronic pain and healing is a day-to-day process. I mostly remember the negative aspects of Bowmanville. A lot of people who told me I was something I’m not, or that they didn’t want to be my friend because they thought I was going to hell, or people I admired telling me to not follow my dreams. There was never anything to do in Bowmanville, and it was full of mind-numbing stasis, people who will never know what exists beyond its borders. Reflecting on my life now, the places I’ve been, my family, friends, accidents, bullies, teachers and professors, have all influenced how I have come to personally know myself. I feel completely comfortable existing in a space between. 31


The nuance of language Becoming the shadow written by helen jingshu yao illustration by keelin gorlewski

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I once heard a claim that the translation of a text is only a shadow of the original work, the greatness of which can never be delivered in a new language. I also heard the prediction that with the advancement of AI technology, the job of translators will soon be replaced. Despite these discouragements, I still devote my enthusiasm to translation and related research, for only the ray of human imagination and creativity can cast such a shadow. Ever since I became a volunteer interpreter of English and Mandarin, my family has been asking me to translate things for them. The work ranges from agendas for meetings with foreign partners, to ingredient lists on imported food, to even random signs they have seen. I struggled to figure out the difference between deputy general manager and deputy director, and I had a hard time trying to look up sodium benzoate. Even without the enthusiasm of my relatives, my frequent practicing of translation makes the process automatic in my mind. When I walk down the street, I often translate whatever I see in English into Chinese and whatever I see in Chinese into English. Sometimes, I cannot find an exact equivalent word in the target language, so I explain it with a phrase or sentence. Most people think translation requires a huge vocabulary, but terminology is just part of the truth. The key to translation is the ability to illustrate, to make connections, to use similes. Translation as a behaviour is a basic instinct for most multilinguals, and language skills are just one aspect. In order to finish the task, imagination, logic, and creativity are all important. “Why don’t you use online translation? Google, Baidu, or whatever,” I asked my family. “They are not accurate,” they replied. Accuracy is the key to science, and there is nothing more accurate than machines— so then why, when we consider the accuracy of a translation, do we prefer humans over a machine? Translation is a process that uses context to illustrate and describe. The mis-

sion of a translator is to clear the barrier of language and culture, rather than to search through a tremendous pool of vocabulary for an equivalent, but perhaps insufficiently nuanced, term. Machine translation often turns out to be nonsense. Witnessing the catastrophic consequences of bad translations triggered my consideration of the translation process: in a translation theory class, we are told that we should adjust sentence structure and word choice and remove or add elements in order to make a translation closer to its original meaning. But the question is, how? Translation failure happens frequently between languages that have very different features. Direct word-to-word translation is not applicable in some situations. For instance, Mandarin is called an isolating language, where every character stands alone to express meanings and grammatical information. English is usually considered as a fusional language, where morphemes, the smallest unit that carries information in language, are attached to one another to express meaning. This inequivalent feature of the two languages becomes the source of problems. In a public toilet at a tourist attraction in China, I saw a sign that read “civilization to the toilet.” The problem results from a confusion in the word category because the phrase 文明 (WenMing) stands for “civilization” as a noun and means “well-behaved” as an adjective. Without identifiable suffixes that shows the lexical category of the adjective (such as -tive, -ed, -ing in English), the confusion in word category leads to the confusion in meaning. Even if the translations are carefully modified with consideration, problems may still be inevitable. My friend Jamie, an American engineer who works in Suzhou, China, knows nothing in Mandarin besides “I don’t speak Mandarin” but is very proud of his exposure to Chinese culture. When we were on a trip to the Great Wall, he expressed his excitement in a group chat that included all of his Chinese supervisors. He posted that we as visitors should show our respect

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to the great heritage monument. He then shared a photo of a bilingual sign, on which the English words read “Commit No Nuisance.” However, unable to read in Chinese, he didn’t realize the Chinese counterpart actually said “Don’t Pee,” which made his words sound like an inappropriate joke in the cultural context. It appears the translation from Mandarin to English hedged the meaning in order to avoid vulgar language,

huge differences between the three translated versions that I have read, and there are still many other versions on the market. The plots are the same, but the word choice and sentence structures are so varied that they give different impressions. The Chinese version by Donghua Fu is the earliest translated version, from when western culture was not well known to China. Thus, Fu devoted great effort to adjusting the names of people, places, and professions to ensure the full contextual comprehension of Chinese readers: for example, using a Buddhist convent to replace a nunnery and adding Chinese slang terms. The American story told in the tone of a rural Chinese tale is a little strange for me in the 21st century, but taking the Chinese society of Fu’s time into consideration, Fu’s translation may be reasonable for successfully introducing the great novel to China despite linguistic and cultural barriers. Some critics argue that translators have no right to modify authors’ works. As a writer, I sometimes translate my own work, as practice. In many cases, the word-toword translation just won’t do, and I end up rewriting the whole thing. I can make whatever changes I wish, for I am allowed to change my own work. If we see translation as an art, should translators be allowed to use creativity and innovation to explain the principle and spirit behind works, instead of merely focusing on the exchange between one language and another? Building a bridge between two languages does not require that someone excel in both languages. Translation as a habit for multilingual people suggests that the ability to illustrate and explain is even more important than language skills. Translation requires accuracy and has rules like science does, but it cannot happen without artistic imagination and creativity. Combining logic and emotion means being flexible—humans cannot be absent from the translation process. Even though people always refer to the greatness of an original work, I am happy to become the shadow of these lights of intelligence.

If we see translation as an art, should translators be allowed to use creativity and innovation to explain the principle and spirit behind works, instead of merely focusing on the exchange between one language and another? but this choice led to inaccurate expression. Jamie ended up apologizing to everyone for a misunderstanding that was hardly his fault. Translation can be subjective: accurate in one situation but not in another, accurate to one person but not to another. This feature casts the act of translation as an art. Sometimes, due to cultural barriers and language inequivalences, the process of translation is also a process of rewriting original works. The reproduction of artwork occurs especially in the translation of literature and poetry, where different individuals may have different interpretations. But the arguments over different versions of translation have never been settled. Take Margaret Mitchell’s famous novel Gone with the Wind: there are

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Appendix A

losing my appendix, gaining insight

written by noah kelly

illustration by erin mccluskey

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This past November, I found myself alone in the ER, in worse pain than I had ever felt before, praying to be sedated, surrounded by people who, like me, thought their pain was paramount. The air hung heavy with disinfectants and frustration as everyone waited for the attention they felt they deserved. Being alone, having just moved to Toronto, with no family or friends there to carry me through the pain and the paperwork, all I wished for was someone to recognize my suffering.

understanding of anxiety. Along with school woes, Toronto’s welcome party came with a piling of misfortunes. A friend back home had died only weeks after my departure, my living situation was unstable, I had been in several bike accidents and dangerous near misses—eventually tearing ligaments in my left ankle and then having two bikes stolen within three weeks of each other. I would spend most of my time cooped up in my Moss Park apartment, ruled by my to do list, isolated in Toronto’s foreign urban expanse,

Back in the place that I had grown, I started to discover little points of goodness I’d become too comfortable with to appreciate—seeing a new life in my home. I was again with the people I loved; seen by people who reminded me of who I am. I moved to Toronto to attend UofT, transferring from a small school in Winnipeg. I’d lived in Winnipeg my whole life, always in the same neighbourhood, always within walking distance of my closest friends. Before leaving, my life moved with a beautiful ease. I would spend countless late nights with my wonderful friends bouncing between cafés, apartments, and bars—laughing, drinking, and dissecting our personal dramas together. When I was with those friends I felt seen. With them, I had no hesitation about being genuine. I was known in Winnipeg. In moving away, I lost that. I came to UofT to study life sciences. Aware of the social alienation that came with moving to a new school, I loaded up my first semester course load. I thought: I’m not going to have friends to spend my free time with, so why have free time? This, I later realized, was a comical oversight. My first semester at UofT rattled my world. My colossal course load tag-teamed with my fear of failure to give me a deeper

too busy to go out or indulge my creative impulses. A buzz of frustration crept in. My work kept me distracted but alone. With this accumulation of unfortunate events and my social isolation, the city became a grind against my psyche. With each passing day that I spent hunched over my desk, I began to feel disconnected from the world around me. I felt a jadedness begin to creep into my mental rhetoric. Everyone I met seemed a little sharper, a little more unfriendly. I couldn’t tell if this edge was inherent to the big city, or if I was just losing my ability to see the good in people. I was afraid that the boisterous and obsessive prairie boy that I used to be was falling away. I felt like my light was beginning to diminish. I missed home, craving the friendship and connection that I’d left there. So when fall reading week arrived, I was more than excited to escape Toronto and return home. Once home I still spent my days hunched over a desk, but I spent my nights bouncing between the same cafés, apartments, and

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bars with the friends I had left and missed so dearly. I rejoined the ballet of the small city and reunited with all the people and places that had framed my life before I left. Back in the place that I had grown, I started to discover little points of goodness I’d become too comfortable with to appreciate—seeing a new life in my home. I was again with the people I loved; seen by people who reminded me of who I am. The weight of isolation and depersonalization began to fall away. I felt grounded within myself again. I was reminded of why I had transferred to UofT: to be pushed out of my comfort zone, to be challenged by a new environment, and to expand my worldview beyond my prairie experience. It took returning to Winnipeg to remind me of that. Saying goodbye after only a week was almost tougher than first moving away. I found myself becoming emotional anytime someone in Toronto asked me about my reading week. Even saying the word “Winnipeg” would make me tear up. As much as it hurt to leave, I was returning with a renewed energy. I no longer felt small. Reminded of why I was there, I landed and braced for my upcoming wave of midterms. My sense of renewal fed me with a drive to do well. In my first days back, I hit the books hard—pushing myself deep into the night and getting up early for my 9 am classes. I felt resilient, believing that all the hardship thus far was opening up to a new and bright future. Two days after returning, I woke up at 4 am with a pain just below my sternum. I slammed back a handful of painkillers and antacids and went back to sleep. I biked to class in the morning, later returning home to realize that the growing pain had to be more than just indigestion. Two hours later, I was doubled over in the campus health services waiting room. I was ushered into the office of a doctor with a discerning aunt vibe. After examining me, the doctor bore a concerned look. It was noon, and laying on the presenting table, I asked if she thought I would miss my two

o’clock genetics lab. “You’re going to miss a lot more than that, hun.” She broke the news—appendicitis. Barely able to stand, I was wheeled to an Uber and rushed to the hospital. The pain and pressure in my abdomen were growing quickly. I walked in and folded over the admitting nurse’s desk, holding a paper with my doctor’s diagnosis, assuming I would be sedated and operated on within minutes. Instead all momentum fell away, and I was left to wait alone, thinking that this would be the latest bullet point in my list of unhappy anecdotes that I’d call home with. The attending nursing staff was clearly overwhelmed by the constant current of patients, without the professional or emotional resources to properly attend to each individual’s needs. Working in a constant state of emergency, wading through a thick broth of medical bureaucracy—for them to recognize the humanity of every patient and attend to them fully would require a superhuman capacity for emotional labour. I knew this, yet still I was shocked by the lack of empathy for my writhing and vomiting. I tried to crack jokes between dry heaves, hoping that getting a laugh would buy me some sympathy. Two couples sat across from me, chatting after recognizing each other from their birthing class. They were bonding over their delivery stories from days before—discussing the idiosyncrasies of breastfeeding and the small reasons they were there that day. I vomited passively into a baby blue receptacle, illuminated by the neon lights impatiently flickering overhead. Paramedics filled the halls, restlessly waiting for their patients to be admitted, talking about their weekends and joking about their jobs. A woman lay on a gurney next to them, moaning and contorted in pain. Their laughter grated against the sounds of her suffering. Their positivity seemed pointed and cruel—out of place in a room that smelled like it was where one was meant to die. I sat alone and half conscious, wondering if my doctor’s note expressing my need for immediate

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medical attention was doing me any good. It took nine hours before I was operated on. Just before I went under the knife, my cousin Olivia appeared at my bedside. She brought me some much-needed distractions and a much-needed familiar face. She was the first person to bring me outside of myself, who knew me beyond my pain, who was able to listen and laugh through it with me. Seeing her was small, but it oriented my attitude going into the OR to something closer to gratitude. I was thankful to receive this subtle care and recognized that in a less fortunate situation this illness could be fatal. Aside from the pain and isolation in the sea of sick faces, the medical system still did its job, and for that I owe my life. I am alive now: down an organ, but alive. I began writing this story on my phone the night after my operation. That story was a morphine fueled mess, but it ended like this: I don't know what this experience has taught me yet. I'm writing this while still laying in the post-op. I'm in pain, but less than before. I have three little scars in my belly where they sucked out the poisonous tissue. Three buttons on my sash, and a little story to tell. That's what I have from this. Reading that over again, I started thinking about this story as a parable, trying to discern what lesson it was trying to teach me. This not-so-near miss with death now feels like a cruel cosmic wink. I felt like the world needed to drag me down to point out

all that I’d been held up by. Coming from home, finding a renewed direction and appreciation for the ones that I loved, then leaving to be again swallowed by pain and isolation, I was reminded once more to be thankful for the things that I’m too comfortable to recognize—this time extending to a functioning body, accessible healthcare, and someone to push my wheelchair. Happenstance was teaching me this lesson a second time, urging me not to forget.

I felt like the world needed to drag me down to point out all that I’d been held up by. My hospitalization brought me outside of my fixation on academic perfection, knowing that I’m not in control of my destiny. It was the world’s playful way of telling me that no matter how good or bad things may be, no matter how things are presenting at that moment, whether beautiful or painful, I must know that the currents controlling my life aren’t up to me. Knowing that things can always be worse, being thankful for what I have, and surrendering to circumstances while trying to move gracefully through them, is often the best you can do.

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twenty definitions for bytie (бытиe) written by ellen grace illustration by eryn lougheed

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1. While the word does stem from the Russian verb for “to be,” the exact meaning contains a metaphysical property English can’t relay. “Bytie” (бытие) hints at hyper-consciousness or an objective and analytical mindset. Russian-to-English dictionaries might translate it into “being.”

7. To be reminded of things that take you completely out of your body, to smile and breathe and to have fun for the fun of it, for all your problems to disappear while you dance and make a fool of yourself, knowing that in this moment you feel thankful to be exactly where you are.

2. I sit in class as we talk about the power of the ocean, to give life and take it away. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I learned about many of my relatives who had been lost at sea. I don’t know why my family never told me about these people I never got to meet. It was normal, I guess, to belong to the ocean. I guess I didn’t ask.

8. I find it easier to write about the past than I do the present. The past is explicable, exciting, something that can be rewritten. There is something about it that seems so simple, although I’m sure it was not. I can imagine my great-grandmother raising her kids in the tiny cabin I spent my summers in, baking bread and bathing in the waterfalls. I think about what it would be like to live there in the winter, with the wood stove and meals of preserves, salt fish, and dried bread—when the river froze and so did their feet. I think about the hot water bottles my grandfather always depended on, even when he lived in a house with heat and electricity. Sometimes the cold can stay with you forever.

3. The first moment I hear about the Russian use of bytie is in an examination of V. Kuzmin’s “Problems of the Scientific Organization of Everyday Life.” Kuzmin advocates for the rigid scheduling of every moment of the day. He argues that the happiest life is one “where men and women live through the scientific organization of material life—living space, light, colour, ventilation, and the total environment in inner space.” The best use of the everyday life for Kuzmin was as a tool for control.

9. 9:55, the message continues. “I wonder if the average person is happier than they could have been a hundred years ago, or two hundred, and if so, is the ultimate goal for the evolution of society to be happy? I don’t know anymore. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’m trying to believe that short term happiness is possible. If so, what should we be doing to achieve it?”

4. At 9:50 pm, I get a message that reads as follows: “What is your definition of happiness? Or the things that if they would occur, would put you in at least a moderately long term state of happiness? It’s interesting how each person defines happiness in their own 10. “bytie is not just life or existence, it’s respective ways.” the existence of an objective reality that is independent of human consciousness 5. I wear my great-grandmother’s wedding (cosmos, nature, matter).” ring around my neck. It is 101 years old. I have her name. She died long before I was 11. I cannot conceive of anything outside of born. Although we spoke the same language, the mood I am presently in. To combat this, I don’t know what we would have had to say I will write notes to myself from each state to each other. Her life seemed so vastly dif- of mind, knowing that later on I will never ferent from mine. believe I was ever that happy, or that sad. 6. Noun: Being, Entity, something that 12. How does love manifest itself in your goes beyond what we know in our ego- body? I am told to notice what is happening bound existence. on my face, if my eyebrows are raised, if I’m

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breathing from my shoulders. Each time I say I will pay attention and remember, I will be present, I will let the feelings move out of my stomach and into my fingers. Each time I forget.

15. I want to be able to look back on each era of my life and be happy that I lived in it. As much as I feel dread looking in the mirror and wondering if I will ever stand up straight, I know that I won’t be here forever.

13. 9:57, I respond: “Passion. Passion = being so immersed in something I care deeply about that it’s impossible for me to think about anything else. Creating as much as I take in without the constraints of money and creating with people I love who share my passions. Being able to instill the value of passion and creative self-expression in others.”

16. I hear a woman in the bathroom talking on the phone in a Newfoundland accent, the accent I didn’t inherit. I wonder why I had to lose it. More often than not, I get questioned about why I do not speak like the rest of my family. I am erasing my history, I must not love where I come from. It was trained out of me. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t. What does training mean in this sense, why was this being rewarded? Positive reinforcement if you don’t sound like the past.

14. Related words: character, person, soul, spirit, ghost, creation, essence, wind.

the past is explicable, exciting, something that can be rewritten hurts more than you could ever imagine. But sometimes I find myself in unexpected places, in corners of the world I thought meant nothing until I loved away the dust. I must remember this. This is the lesson. I can write what is at the tip of my toes when I stretch, I can write for hands that appreciate how gentle I am. For hands that have lost the same things I have lost, for a sparkle and a kiss in the right direction. Write for them, for what the ceiling would look like if you took a breath and paid attention. I should start paying attention.

17. I love creativity and I love those who are passionate about creativity. Does that dictate who I allow myself to love? 18. 10:01, my friend responds. “It’s nice that you know what your happiness is. It’s nice that someone can put it into words.” 19. Bytie: everyday life, how people live. 20. I do not understand how to exist in the everyday. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it

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When language isn't enough attempting to un d my f a t h e rstan de

r's

written by anna maria sordjan photos courtesy of anna maria sordjan 44

past


“If I hear you speaking English one more time, I’ll wash your mouth with soap and then we’ll see what language you’ll choose to speak!” These words, or inevitably some variation of them—swap “soap” with “stuff your mouth with toothpaste”—were often whooped at me from a young age by an uncle who made it his mission to “militarize” me into being more Romanian. For him, and for so much of my family around me, there was a big fear that we second-generation kids would end up forgetting all of our cultural heritage and become their worst nightmare: maple-syrup-and-hockey-loving English-only Canadian children. Their belief that our loss of language would degenerate us into stereotypical Canadian cit-

he was smoking a cigarette and playing pool, nobody was in proper uniform, everybody was still a teenager and thought that holding a gun was macho and cool. These were the conditions of army training received under the conscription requirement. The training wasn’t taken seriously and was more of a hyper-masculinized boys’ den than an actual training camp. That all changed within the course of one day, when my dad had to put down his pool cue and pick up a sniper. His captain told him to straighten his helmet and gave him five minutes to let his parents know. The morning after the declaration, my dad was sent to fight in the mountains, where he remained for over a year. Once in a while, he’ll share some stories

My parents' fear of me losing my ethnic Romanian language was a fear of me losing my cultural identity izens came from a mix of ignorance and fear. Language and identity are intertwined, so it’s not hard to see how my parents’ fear of me losing my ethnic Romanian language was a fear of me losing my cultural identity, a part of the homeland they had left behind. Romanian was my first language and continues to be the one I use at home to communicate with my parents and family. Despite our shared language, I often find myself caught in the complicated webs of translation—except instead of translating words from one language to another, I’m grappling to find a way to translate my parents’ histories and culture into something I can understand. My parents immigrated to Canada in 1996 from the former Yugoslavia, what is now known as Serbia. Their immigration was spearheaded by the violent wars of national independence and the disintegration of state socialism by 1991. Marked by brutal ethnic cleansing and civil conflict, the Yugoslav wars are often described as the bloodiest wars since WWII. Only 18 years old, my dad was in regular army training when the stakes got real. He always tells me about the day the news came that Serbia and Croatia were at war. He recalls

about his experience during that time. I want to listen and learn everything I can, but I admittedly struggle with putting this into practice. My dad and I aren’t close, but we’re not distant, either. Our relationship hovers in a space of uncertainty and in-between-ness. For the majority of my life, he’s worked grueling shifts in factories. This meant that we didn’t see very much of each other. When he is at home, he likes to drink, which makes talking to him feel like a chore at times. My dad’s a quiet man, except for when he’s had something to drink. Unfortunately, this means that the only time he wants to talk about his life back home or the war is when he’s inebriated and slurring his words. One of my biggest fears is not knowing—really knowing—who my father was before he moved to Canada. I’m terrified of the thought of waking up one day with him gone and not having ever taken the time to learn. What troubles me the most is that it’s become increasingly hard to listen to and understand him. How am I ever going to get to know who my dad is when he needs to translate his experiences through the veil of alcohol? Perhaps this is a coping mechanism for trauma left unaddressed. Nonetheless, I can’t help but

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eriences feel angry that any communication between me and my father has to come through this “translator.” Lately, I’ve noticed that he won’t even talk about his experiences in the war in our native tongue. In all other areas of life, my dad insists on speaking Romanian, so his decision to choose English is mystifying. I asked him about it one day. “It’s harder for my tongue but easier for my brain” was his answer. I’ve wracked my brain to understand what he meant. Perhaps, while speaking English may be more difficult in terms of grammar and vocabulary, speaking Romanian or Serbian hits too close to his past. By using a different language than the one he used in the war, he distances himself from what he is talking about. I understand this need to distance oneself. But, while he may be distancing himself from a certain trauma, I am inevitably distanced from understanding him. Because English isn’t his first language, he’ll take long pauses, in the midst of talking to me about his past, to choose the “right” English word.

ai n e

n a c

ccept that cert

communicat e b ed 't

t

a to ve

o

I ha

me

Or he’ll ask me to choose the “right” word for him. But how can I, someone who has never experienced what he’s describing, ever be able to choose the right word for him? Is there even a “right” word to describe the mass genocide of your neighbouring country? Or to describe the feeling in your chest when you have to decide whether or not to shoot? Nietzsche once said that “to use the same words is not a sufficient guarantee of understanding; one must use the same words for the same genus of inward experience; ultimately one must have one’s experiences in common.” Can my dad ever truly translate his experiences for me? In English, Romanian, or Serbian, can words suffice to communicate the uncommunicable? While I want to know as much of my father’s history as I can, I think I have to accept that certain experiences can’t be communicated to me. Despite sharing a language, a culture, and blood with my father, his past seems to be stuck in a cycle of inadequate translations, which I nonetheless hope to one day break. 46


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VOLUME 61 | SPRING MAGAZINE


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