Chief Editor’s Note
The biggest change you may notice is that we now have a proper translations section. With Issue 55, we launch our translations “vertical” with four fiction translations and five poets in translation. We hope to publish ten translations in each of our forthcoming issues. We didn’t enter into this commitment lightly. It took a few months to find the right editors. We had to find the money for it. We started without quite knowing if people would submit translations. But for me, the biggest hurdle lay in overcoming my doubts about the necessity of the task. Why the heck should an English literary magazine get into the business of publishing translations from other languages?
There are many answers to this question. TBLM is interested in Literature (always a capital ‘L’). Literature is universal. The universe isn’t restricted to the English language. Q.E.D. There’s the saviour response: the magazine must do its bit to bring attention to neglected works and authors in other languages. There’s also the extractive explanation (English literature benefits from translations– think Chekov, you ingrate!); the Rosetta explanation (translation is often the only means we have to understanding another culture); the why-not explanation; the but-you-love-translations explanation (I do); and several others I cannot now remember. But I could see that it would be a lot of work. Worse, lots of responsibility. I didn’t want to add to the history of bad translations that go on to become very popular, thus doubling the harm to the original work.
I wish I could offer up some epiphany or touching anecdote to show a turning hour in the dark tea time of the soul. It didn’t happen that way. I remember all the other editors arguing for introducing translations; there wasn’t one who thought it a bad idea. That was moving to witness. Inspiring, even. And we found our editors to manage the fiction and poetry translations. We found the money. At one point, I listed all the works I had read, and only read, in translation. Jules Verne, Hugo, Proust, Mallarmé, half-a-dozen other unpronounceable French names, every bloody Russian genius, Naiyer Masud and the Urdu greats, the Sanskrit works, the collections of Tamil and Telugu poetry….the conclusion was inescapable: I, the writer, was as made of translated works as Americans are of corn products. I threw in the towel.
This hasn’t come at the expense of the other verticals. We still have our eclectic fiction and poetry selections from around the world. The stories span the spectrum from fabulist through creative nonfiction to witness narratives to the surreal. The poets weave magic, as only they can, from the frailest and most resilient of threads of experience. We have two deeply contemporary photo-essays (or visual narratives as we call them) and a substantial piece of speculative graphic fiction (32 pages!). We have an bildungsroman essay, and if I continue any further, a far too long introductory note.
Welcome to Issue 55 of The Bombay Literary Magazine.