2 July 12 | Sarah Winstein-Hibbs | Comments

Click here to read the latest issue of Aldus, a new literary translation journal from Brown University. The pioneers behind this ambitious new publication are Three Percent contributors Matthew Weiss and Tim Nassau. Tim’s also a former Open Letter intern, and recently reviewed Tomas Tranströmer’s The Deleted World.

In this issue you’ll find a conversation between Steven T. Murray, translator of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and his wife and fellow translator, Tiina Nunnally. Also included in this edition: translations from Forrest Gander, winner of the 2012 Best Translated Book Award for his translation of Kiwao Nomura’s Spectacle and Pigsty ; translations by Lytton Smith, translator of Children in Reindeer Woods and The Ambassador (both published by Open Letter); and new works by C.D. Wright, Susan Bernofsky, Andrei Codrescu, and Andrew Barrett – as well as a piece or two by Tim himself.

12 December 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Since February 15th is the deadline for applying for the 2012 Banff International Literary Translation Centre residency program, this seems like a good time to start spreading the word and/or working on your application . . .

For anyone unfamiliar with Banff, here’s the description from their website:

Inspired by the network of international literary translation centres in Europe, the Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC) is the only one of its kind in North America. The primary focus of the residency program is to afford working and professional literary translators a period of uninterrupted work on a current project, within an international community of their colleagues.

The program is open to literary translators from Canada, Mexico, and the United States translating from any language, as well as to international translators working on literature from the Americas (both the North and South American continents). Since the inaugural program in 2003, the Centre has hosted translators from approximately 30 countries translating work involving nearly 40 languages. The annual BILTC residency program has places for 15 translators.

Translators may request a joint residency of up to one week with the author they are translating. Most guest authors come from Canada, the United States, and Mexico, but the program is sometimes able to bring authors from farther away. Consultation with the program directors and experienced translators serving in residence as advisors is also available. Three or four times a week participants meet for informal presentations, workshops, and readings, and to discuss their work in progress with the group.

This year’s faculty will include Roberto Frías, Russell Scott Valentino, Lori Saint-Martin, and others. And anyone planning on participating should plan on arriving in Banff on Sunday, June 3, 2012, and departing on Sunday, June 24, 2012.

Last year, Andrew Barrett—one of the students enrolled in the University of Rochester’s MA in Literary Translation program—was awarded the single invitation given to a U.S. student. The expenses for his trip were covered by Banff, and based on his comments to me afterward, it sounds like this was more or less life changing.

So if you’re at all interested, you should definitely apply. And you can do so by clicking here.

27 September 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Not sure why/how we haven’t written about this until now, but there’s a new online literary journal called Anomalous that’s worth checking out, especially now that they just released their third issue.

Founded and run by Erica Mena, Anomalous came into being in earlier this year

as a non-profit press dedicated to the diffusion of writing in the forms it can take. Its backbone is an editorial collective from different backgrounds and geographies that keep an eye out for compelling projects that, in any number of ways, challenge expectations of what writing and reading should be.

At the time of its launch, Anomalous is an online publication, available in both visual and audio forms on various platforms. It has its sights set on publishing chapbooks, advancing audio forms and creation, and supporting all sorts of alternative realities of the near future.

A lot of translation people are involved with this, both in terms of providing content, and on the masthead.

In this new issue — which you can download for free as a PDF, audiobook, ePub file, or Kindle version — you’ll find a Mani Rao’s translation from the Sanskrit of Guru-astakam, attributed to Sankara along with Dick Cluster’s translation from the Spanish ob “The Sign” by Pedro de Jesus, original poems by translator Anna Rosen Guercio, original work from fellow translator John Pluecker, part of Andrew Barrett’s translation from the Ancient Greek of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, and Steve Bradbury’s translation from the Chinese of Hsia Yu’s “Lining Up to Pay,” along with work from a dozen other writers.

There’s a lot of poetry in here, which is one thing that really sets Anomalous apart. (That and the fact that every issue has an audiobook version.) It’s a very nice publication, and one that I’m sure we’ll be referencing again in the future.

13 September 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Over the next couple months, we’ll be featuring some of the recent University of Rochester translation students on our weekly podcast. They’re all extremely interesting (and entertaining) people, and all working on very cool projects that we’d like to feature.

One of those students is Andrew Barrett, who you might remember from such Three Percent posts as this one about Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, the “erotic” Greek epic poem that he’s working on. Or this review of The Leg of Lamb by Benjamin Peret. Or this announcement about how Andrew was selected as the only U.S. student to attend this year’s Banff Translation Program. (Andrew also plays in April in the Orange.)

Well, Words Without Borders just published a couple Greek poems by Christopher Kontonikolis that Andrew translated.

According to Words Without Borders, Christopher Kontonikolis was born in Athens in 1981. He studied classics and is now completing a master’s degree in Byzantine literature at the University of Athens. He has composed poems in Greek and in Ancient Greek language and meter. This is his first publication in an American journal.

The two poems Andrew translated are Timon vs. Newton:

Timon and Newton were arguing about fruit.
Netwon said: “I prefer the apple
since I discovered gravity while peacefully dozing
under the shade of an apple tree.”
Timon shot back with stinging words:
“Newton, you’re an idiot, a fool
and utterly conceited in your intelligence. [. . .]

and Timoniad:

Sing, Muse,
of that misanthrope,
who was homeless and forever wandering,
since he had yet to chop down his fig tree. [. . .]

Be sure and check both of them out — along with the rest of the always excellent Words Without Borders — and for more info on the U of R’s translation programs, click here.

2 June 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

Very excited to share the news that Andrew Barrett — a former Open Letter intern and U of R Translation Student who has written for Three Percent on a few occasions — was the only U.S. student to be chosen to attend the Banff International Literary Translation Centre’s annual summer program. I could go on and on about how cool this is, how awesome Andrew is, how our MALTS program obviously kicks national and international ass, but instead I’ll let the U of R’s official press release do some of that for me.

From the U of R Communications Office:

Andrew Barrett, a graduate student in the University of Rochester’s Master of Arts in Literary Translation program, is the only student from the United States selected to attend the Banff International Literary Translation Centre’s annual summer translation program.

The Banff International Literary Translation Centre (BILTC) is the only international residency program for literary translators in North America. The primary focus of the program is to provide literary translators with a period of uninterrupted work on a current project, within an international community of translators. Each year, BILTC accepts one student from each of its signatory countries—Canada, Mexico, and the United States—as well as 15 translators, up to nine writers, and at least three consulting translators. Since the inaugural program in 2003, Banff only accepts 10 translators each summer, which includes three students. BILTC has hosted translators from more than 21 countries working in more than 30 language combinations.

“We had many high-level student applications this year, and his application, especially the sample of the translation he is working on, was truly extraordinary,” said Katherine Silver, co-director of BILTC. During the program, Barrett, who translates from ancient Greek, will complete his translation of portions of the Dionysiaca, a 48-book epic poem written in the 5th century by Nonnus. “The first time I picked up the Dionysiaca, the virtues of the poem jumped out at me. It’s vivid, wild, playfully self-aware and an absolute treasure-trove of Greek mythology,” said Barrett.

Professor, translator, and renowned poet Anne Carson, whose work frequently draws from Greek mythology, will be this summer’s special guest writer, and prize-winning translator Peter Constantine, who also works with ancient Greek, will be a consulting translator in residence.

Barrett began Rochester’s Master of Arts in Literary Translation program, or MALTS, after earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in classics from Wayne State University, in Detroit, Mich., where he also taught Greek mythology. A member of the first MALTS class, Barrett said he was attracted to the translation program’s treatment of translation “as a fine literary art.” As part of the program, Barrett has interned at Open Letter Books, Rochester’s literary publishing house, which publishes a dozen international authors’ works each year. “Working at Open Letter is a direct line into the publishing world,” said Barrett, who added, “The act of translation and the light it sheds on the tangled intersections of culture, language, and thought, can provide very potent opportunities to genuinely appreciate the complexity of different societies, even those societies that no longer exist.”

“This is a very impressive achievement for Andrew and we are proud to have a student from our program’s inaugural class chosen for this international honor,” said Chad Post, co-advisor for MALTS and director of Open Letter Books.

The MALTS program includes classes in literary translation, literary theory, and international literatures, as well as a book-length translation project. Students in both MALTS and the University’s undergraduate and graduate-level certificate programs have the opportunity to work with Open Letter Books, Rochester’s publishing house for literature in translation, and Three Percent, an online resource for international literature. For more information about translation at Rochester, click here..

13 April 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Andrew Barrett on Benjamin Péret’s The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works, translated from the French by Marc Lowenthal and published by Wakefield Press.

If we haven’t sang the praises of Wakefield Press yet, it’s because I’m a forgetful idiot. Prior to starting Wakefield Press, Marc worked at—and translated for—“Exact Change,”:http://www.exactchange.com/ one of the coolest publishers ever. In 2009, Marc (and a few comrades) launched Wakefield with this mission:

Wakefield Press is an independent American publisher devoted to the translation of overlooked gems and literary oddities in small, affordable, yet elegant paperback editions. Our publications include the Wakefield Handbooks series (the guidebook as imagined through literature) and the Imagining Science series (science as imagined through literature), as well as forays into classic experimental fiction (literature as imagined through literature). Authors range from literary giants to those underrepresented (or unknown) in English.

Their kicked things off with two gorgeous (I love the careful design of all their titles) offers: Balzac’s _Treatise on Elegant Living, Pierre Louys’s _The Young Girl’s Handbook of Good Manners for Use in Educational Establishments, the latter of which is DIRTYAWESOMEFUN and was in the front display at Idlewild Books until a few customers figured out that the “good manners” being taught here would make a porn star blush. . . . If that whets your curiosity, you can find a few samples by clicking here.

Since these first two very elegant publication, Wakefield has also brought out An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by Georges Perec, and as part of their “Imagining Science” series, they recently published Paul Scheerbart’s The Perpetual Motion Machine: The Story of an Invention, translated by Andrew Joron.

Anyway, for more info on the press, visit their site, or read this interview with Marc Lowenthal.

Andrew Barrett is a translation grad student here at the University of Rochester, and is working on a translation of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, which he wrote about for us a few weeks back. We workshopped a piece of this a few weeks back, and after you give in to the odd stylings of the Greek Epic, it’s pretty awesome. Based on the very surrealistic descriptions of bad-ass supervillain Typhon (such as throats flying through the air eating birds), so it only makes sense that Andrew would write this review . . . Speaking of which, here’s a bit from the beginning:

“The President of the Republic could be seen in the distance, dressed in a diving suit and accompanied by the King of Greece, who seemed so young that one had the urge to teach him how to read.” The defining traits-cum-pleasures of surrealism—hallucinatory imagery, dark humor and irreverence toward authority—are already in full bloom by the third sentence of “At 125 Boulevard Sainte-Germain,” the opening story in Marc Lowenthal’s new translation of founding Surrealist Benjamin Péret’s The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works. Each story in this collection (originally published in French in 1957, towards the end of Péret’s life) proves to be a highly saturated snapshot of Péret’s twilit poetic consciousness, wherein all manner of images bleed together in ways humorous and lyrical amidst a palpable atmosphere of derision for taboo and convention. In other words, the experience of reading one of Péret’s stories is comparable to staring at a Dalí painting; you can try to unlock its secrets, which are shrouded in the free association logic of automatic poetry, or you can simply bask in its sheer beauty and strangeness.

It is unquestionably Péret’s devotion to the automatic writing technique, mentioned above, that lends his stories a quintessentially surreal flavor. But, to view the stories in The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works as simply undiluted automatism can be misleading. Péret always weaves a thread of traditional narrative structure around the dense, variegated imagery generated by his use of the automatic technique. While nothing approaching a traditional narrative ever actually unfolds in The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works, the bare conventions of storytelling are always present to give a story its initial momentum. Thus, Péret’s stories never make for difficult reading (even as they consistently startle, confound and amuse), while their mixture of conventional narrative signposts with dream-like, chimerical imagery presents the reader with compelling linguistic textures that are always unique and accessible.

Click here to read the entire piece.

13 April 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

“The President of the Republic could be seen in the distance, dressed in a diving suit and accompanied by the King of Greece, who seemed so young that one had the urge to teach him how to read.” The defining traits-cum-pleasures of surrealism—hallucinatory imagery, dark humor and irreverence toward authority—are already in full bloom by the third sentence of “At 125 Boulevard Sainte-Germain,” the opening story in Marc Lowenthal’s new translation of founding Surrealist Benjamin Péret’s The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works. Each story in this collection (originally published in French in 1957, towards the end of Péret’s life) proves to be a highly saturated snapshot of Péret’s twilit poetic consciousness, wherein all manner of images bleed together in ways humorous and lyrical amidst a palpable atmosphere of derision for taboo and convention. In other words, the experience of reading one of Péret’s stories is comparable to staring at a Dalí painting; you can try to unlock its secrets, which are shrouded in the free association logic of automatic poetry, or you can simply bask in its sheer beauty and strangeness.

It is unquestionably Péret’s devotion to the automatic writing technique, mentioned above, that lends his stories a quintessentially surreal flavor. But, to view the stories in The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works as simply undiluted automatism can be misleading. Péret always weaves a thread of traditional narrative structure around the dense, variegated imagery generated by his use of the automatic technique. While nothing approaching a traditional narrative ever actually unfolds in The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works, the bare conventions of storytelling are always present to give a story its initial momentum. Thus, Péret’s stories never make for difficult reading (even as they consistently startle, confound and amuse), while their mixture of conventional narrative signposts with dream-like, chimerical imagery presents the reader with compelling linguistic textures that are always unique and accessible. Consider, as an example, the opening lines of “The Misfortunes of a Dollar”:

It had been a lovely morning, although all the ducks in town had suddenly died at sunrise, which had not failed to worry M. Detour, the town mayor. M. Detour was a good, if somewhat unrefined man. The sole tooth of his upper jaw made for an admirable substitute for a watch. It actually had the power to turn different colors according to the hour of the day. Red at noon, it went through all the colors of the spectrum to attain a phosphorescent green at midnight. He had a daughter, who had gone off to Paris some years before in the hope of making the acquaintance of a taxidermist. No sooner had she gotten there than the poor woman was killed by a cigarette cast from the mouth of a smoker, which hit her right in the face, penetrated her very cerebellum, and established a cancerous ulcer that carried her off three hours later.

So that morning had been lovely.

Marc Lowenthal’s ability to preserve the almost contradictory elements of Péret’s style—that tension between clarity and chaos—in his English translation is truly commendable. While a lesser translator would perhaps be apt to sacrifice Péret’s syntactical lucidity to the kaleidoscopic parade of his images and characters (or vice-versa), Lowenthal manages to keep the two in perfect balance.

Péret’s wildly imaginative stories remain largely unknown to current devotees of Surrealism in the English-speaking world, even though Péret himself founded Surrealism with André Breton in the early 1920’s and could count Octavio Paz and the aforementioned Salvador Dalí as ardent followers. This is due partly to the rather private manner in which Péret lived (unlike Breton and Dalí, he never sought out the spotlight) but also to the relative lack of Péret material that has been readily available in English translation. Until fairly recently, translations of Péret’s stories and poems have been scatter-shot at best, while a full length English language biography of the man has yet to appear. Thus, Marc Lowenthal’s excellent translation of The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works should be a cause for celebration. Not only does it offer us a sustained and pleasurable experience of Péret at his peak, but it also gives lovers of all things early twentieth century and avant-garde the opportunity to comfortably place Péret into proper historical context within Surrealism’s inverted pantheon.

So, slap a copy of Trout Mask Replica on the hi-fi, pop Un Chien Andalou into the old Betamax, settle into your favorite armchair coated with intestines and crack open The Leg of Lamb: Its Life and Works. You may or may not find out why “That morning little orange-colored fish circulated through the atmosphere,” but either way you will be smiling.

7 March 11 | Chad W. Post | Comments

This post is from Andrew Barrett, one of the students in the MA program in Literary Translation here at the University of Rochester. When he told me he was working on a translation of a poem from Ancient Greek, I though, “huh, OK,” but then when I found out it was an erotic epic poem about Dionysus, I thought, “interesting, must learn more.” When Andrew talks about this is sounds really strange and wild—a mess of forms and techniques all culminating in something that most Greek scholars dismiss as “trash.” (Which naturally makes it sound more interesting to me, personally.) Also intriguing is that Nonnus’ only other poem is about Christ. Yeah, WTF indeed.

Anyway, rather than try and explain this poem, I had Andrew write something up for us. So here you go:

The Dionysiaca of Nonnus is the longest surviving poem from classical antiquity and one of the most entertaining, outrageous and vivid epics ever conceived west of the Ganges. Despite its many points of interest, the Dionysiaca is largely unknown to today’s educated, reading public. Since one of my goals in translating a portion of the Dionysiaca for my Literary Translation Studies M.A. at the University of Rochester is to help bring this epic poem to a wider audience, I’d like to take a moment to outline a few of the literary pleasures and provocative questions that come with immersing oneself in Nonnus and his work.

The Dionysiaca: The Epic That Classicists Loved to Hate

The Dionysiaca is an epic poem from Late Antiquity written in hexameter verse on the topic of Dionysus, Greek god of fertility, art, wine and divine ecstasy. The general opinion of Nonnus’ numerous critics over the last several hundred years is that the Dionysiaca‘s intent is simply to regale the reader with all things Dionysus, from the life and times of the god himself to the various woes incurred by his genetic line, with little attention paid to the rigors of coherent storytelling or careful diction. Such critics have argued that in the final estimate, the Dionysiaca is nothing but a verbal monument to the frivolous and the baroque.

This tradition of the disparaging Nonnian critique is largely responsible for why the Dionysiaca is virtually unknown today. Nonnus’ epic, however, is much more than just a churning and chaotic narrative of Dionysian mythology and past dismissals of the poem are largely based on fundamental misunderstandings of the poem’s literary aims. Further inspection reveals that Nonnus has made a poem whose chaotic veneer conceals subtle narrative construction, vigorous engagement with abstract themes, and a deeply felt intuition for the numinous and ritualistic core of mythology. Thankfully, within the last thirty years a small number of scholars have begun to analyze the Dionysiaca as a work of literature instead of dismissing it as a mountainous heap of doggerel and have thus begun the long process of establishing the poem’s merits within the academy.

Nevertheless, the outdated Loeb Classical Library edition of the Dionysiaca, which embodies the old, contemptuous view of the poem (complete with H.J. Rose’s chastising, Victorian-minded mythological introduction), remains the only available English translation of the poem. I hope that continued academic analysis coupled with literary efforts such as my translation of the Dionysiaca (which seeks to be informed by a strong understanding of current academic attitudes towards the poem’s complexity and worth) will one day nudge the poem into broader literary consciousness.

The Pleasures of Mimesis and the Meta-Epic

Other than the plentiful and luxuriant imagery bestowed upon various acts of sex and violence, one of the most intriguing aspects of the Dionysiaca, for the modern reader, is Nonnus’ exploration of the nature of imaginative literature itself through a non-linear recounting of the mythology of Dionysus. Nonnus’ multifaceted and sophisticated form of narrative construction will often yield ruminations on the nature of literary mimesis and an overt awareness of the literary tradition in which he himself resides.

Mimesis subtly emerges as a major theme in the Dionysiaca once the reader observes that nearly every object and character in the poem is qualified as a dream, reflection or copy. Through crowding his pages with these elusive simulacra, Nonnus constantly reminds us that literature and mythology are not equivalent to the reality of life but only imperfect representations of that reality. While such abstract, philosophical concerns are not unknown to other ancient poets, only Nonnus manages to so consistently weave (in my humble opinion) shimmering, dreamlike textures out of the epistemological.

Nonnus’ awareness of his place in literary tradition comes through in the many episodic digressions, which fragment the conventional coherence of his narrative. Through the heavily allusive style of these digressions, which can focus on both obscure and well-known episodes of Dionysian and non-Dionysian mythology, Nonnus reveals his deep knowledge of Ancient Greek literature. Homer’s presence is the most keenly felt in the Dionysiaca through the very epic form of the poem itself and the numerous linguistic and episodic allusions that Nonnus makes to the Iliad and Odyssey while the Alexandrian poets of the Hellenistic age take second place.

Intertwining with his abstract investigations into literature and literary mimesis are Nonnus’ fascination with archaic ritual and his numinous awe for the natural world. This is the hue of the Dionysiaca that I personally find to be the richest and most mesmerizing. The Dionysiaca is made replete with references to catasterism, blood sacrifice, magic, and an apparent awareness of ancient mystery religions (most likely those of the Greco-Egyptian Hermes Trismegistos and Orphic variety), while the natural world in which the bulk of this ritualistic activity is set quivers with a life of its own. Thus, the Dionysiaca skirts mere comic-book mythology while maintaining a view that the living world is a ritual stage worthy of fear, respect and poetry.

Nonnus: Christian or Pagan?

The evidence for Nonnus’ historical existence is scant. We know that he was a resident of the Egyptian city of Panopolis (modern day Akhmim) and that his dates fall somewhere in the late fourth to early fifth century CE. Other than those two tenuous facts, all we have are the surviving literary poems that bear his name: the Paraphrase of the Gospel of John and the Dionysiaca. That’s correct—Nonnus not only composed a raucous pagan epic but also a tidy little poetic paraphrase of the New Testament’s most mystical Gospel.

The fact that one man composed these two works (which to the modern sensibility seems strange and contradictory) provides unique insight into the socio-religious atmosphere of Late Antiquity. Nonnus wrote his poems at a time when the Near East, North Africa and Southern Europe were roiling cauldrons of Paganism and Christianity, with no one set of religious beliefs achieving widespread dominance.

Nonnus’ poems reflect this state of affairs with more clarity than any other Late Antique author’s works. The Dionysiaca is a work of rampant Paganism with hints of Christian imagery (if one looks close enough) but not a trace of Christian moralizing. There is nothing within the text that suggests that Nonnus does not believe in the mythopoeic reality of his characters and scenarios due to a Christian faith.

On the other hand, the Paraphrase of the Gospel of John is an utterly sincere poetic re-imagining of John’s New Testament Gospel and bears no mark of pagan affiliation other than the hexameter verse in which it was composed.

Did Nonnus convert to Christianity after writing the Dionysiaca and present his Paraphrase of the Gospel of John as literary proof of his new faith? Or was it the other way around? The texts themselves are moot on this point, and we have no choice but to consider a hypothesis that is dissonant with our modern understanding of Christianity but perhaps perfectly consonant with the multifaceted Christianity of Late Antiquity and supported by current archaeological evidence: Nonnus was both Pagan and Christian.

The Poem

I leave you with two excerpts from the Dionysiaca. The first excerpt is the proem of the Dionysiaca, wherein Nonnus calls on a goddess, the standard muses and the Mimallons (an obscure people associated with Dionysus and also a sly reference to the themes of mimesis and literary allusion) before properly starting his epic.

Tell, Goddess,
Of Cronides’ messenger in a blaze of light,
The sky’s breaking from hard deliverance in coital spark,
And the lightning flash, bridegroom of Semele.

Tell of the generations of twice-born Bacchus,
A half-formed infant delivered without midwife,
Whom Zeus raised from the flames dripping wet
After cutting open his thigh with flinching hand
And carried, as father and queen mother, within his male womb
While recalling vividly another birth:
When, after his brow was planted and he carried a sharp weight,
Adulterous yet unsown, in his pregnant temple,
He launched forth Athena, her armor glinting in the light.

Muses,
Bring me the fennel stalk, crash the cymbals
And place in my hand Dionysus’ thyrsus turned to song.
But for the circular dance rouse for me a partner
From the nearby island of Pharos: Quicksilver Proteus.
May he appear in shape myriad
Since I work an intricate, mercurial hymn.
For if, as a serpent he steals in trailing a spiral path,
I will celebrate in song and step the God’s triumph
And how with the ivy-twined thyrsus he incinerated
The horrifying race of serpent-haired Giants.
If as a lion, he shakes his waving mane, I will shout Euoi
To Bacchus on the arm of voluptuous Rhea,
Who slyly nurses at the lion-rearing Goddess’ breast.
If as a leopard, he springs into the air from his heels,
Altering his variegated form with a furious leap,
I will sing a hymn to the son of Zeus
Who trampled the elephants with his saddled leopards
When he slaughtered the Indian race.
If he likens his body to the image of a boar,
I will sing of Thyone’s son sick at heart
For seductive Aura, killer of boars, daughter of Cybele
And mother of the late-born third Bacchus.
If he is the image of water in a mirror, I will sing Dionysus’ name
When he plunged beneath the sea’s undulating surface
With Lycurgus in armed pursuit.
If, as a rustling tree, he draws out an artificial whispering,
I will remember Icarius, his feet stomping in the divine wine vat
When he competed with the grape.

Mimallons,
Bring me the fennel stalk and, instead of the chiton,
Drape over my shoulders and cinch about my chest
A mottled fawnskin awash in the sweet smell of Maronian Nectar.
Eidothea and Homer can keep the burden of Menelaus’ sealskins,
Grant for another the honeyed song of the double aulos
And give me the Bacchic drums and goatskins.
But, I do not wish to insult my patron, Phoebus Apollo.
For he spurns the echo of the reeds’ breathing
Ever since, he humiliated Marsyas’ god-combative aulos
And draped the skin of the flayed shepherd on a tree,
Rippling in the breeze after he skinned his every limb.

(Translation By Andrew Barrett)

The second excerpt is from the middle of Book One, wherein the monstrous, asymmetrical Typhoeus attacks the constellations as part of a bid to usurp universal authority from Zeus. The saturated, almost hallucinogenic quality that can often be found in Nonnus’ poetry in the Dionysiaca is particularly evident in this scene.

After Taurus was restrained, he checked Dawn
And that timeless Hour, horse-driver, rested incomplete.
Brightness was tempered by darkness
Within the shaded web of his head’s coiling vipers
As the Moon rose at daybreak and glowed with the Sun.

The Giant did not rest.
He turned back and went from north to south, leaving one Pole to stand at another.
After he grasped Auriga with his far-reaching fingers,
He whipped the back of hail-bearing Capricorn.
And as he dragged Pisces out of the shining air and into the sea,
He upended Aries, navel-center star of Olympus, which evenly balances
Day and darkness high above the luminous sphere of its vernal neighbor.

His feet dragging behind, Typhoeus vaulted near to the clouds
And, fanning out his multitude of arms, he shadowed the silvery radiance
Of the cloudless upper air.

The tangled army of serpents quivered.

One of his arms climbed upwards and traced the edge of the pole’s rotation,
Hissing tones of discord as it jumped along the spine of celestial Draco.
One came upon Andromeda, Cepheus’ daughter,
And, braiding with star-shot hands a ring like those that already bound her,
Cinched her with another slanting fetter under her coiled bonds.

Another, a bristling spiky serpent, encircled horned Taurus of a similar shape
And struck the facing Hylades with jaws open like the horns
Of a crescent moon as it coiled above the bull’s brow.

Strands of venomous serpents plaited together as one and girded Bootes.
One darted briskly and, after spotting another serpent on Olympus,
Slid around the arm of Ophiuchus, which grasped Serpens
And wove a second crown around Ariadne,
Curving his throat and coiling his belly into a spiral.

(Translation By Andrew Barrett)

....
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My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Reviewed by Acacia O'Connor

It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

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Stealth
Stealth by Sonallah Ibrahim
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .

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Miruna, a Tale
Miruna, a Tale by Bogdan Suceavă
Reviewed by Alta Ifland

Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .

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Kamal Jann
Kamal Jann by Dominique Eddé
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .

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