Caro figlio, my dear son.
Tutti bene. But this country has gone to the dogs.
Tuo padre went off with a dark slut,
but he’ll be back.
Money is not a problem here
ma the water tastes like petrolio.
Don’t you worry, figlio mio.
Over there, in nostro paese,
you have to grow up,
Because here there is no future,
and the girls,
well, I won’t say what they’re like
for this one ragazza who is kind enough
to write this letter for me.
My back’s not so bad now, meno dolore,
because now I work alla macchina only til midday.
I’ll send you money with Don Peppino
e la Santa Benedizione.
Translated by Colaboratorio Ávila, with the participation of Fiona Mackintosh
Terms of Comparison
While my father
bottles tomato sauce
for the whole year and gets ready to salt
sardines from La Guaira
two for Sara
two for Enzo
one for the Arab lady across the way
another for whoever will come
I write a book
who don’t salt sardines
but write other books
that will be refuted and vindicated
in the asignificant smoke
of the academy.
Respectfully, every now and then
not to seem indifferent
I nibble his pungent anchovies
with the obscene intention
of nourishing theories.
And book by book between sardines
a cloud passes over the primal scene:
attentive master and mistress
his fervor disappears
perhaps resisting a little
in the bent over attitude
of cum grano salis
and now it’s not certain if they measure
with delicate fingers
the balance of every flavor and ingredient.
like my books
the ephemeral and tenacious
of that lost
Translated by Peter Kahn
Serpent in Disguise
There is something that slithers
along fine stretch marks,
the legendary memory
of other pulsating species.
What language do you speak?
From what lineage?
Translated by Peter Kahn
Margara Russotto is Professor of Latin American Literature and Culture. Born in Italy, she lived in Venezuela for more than forty years. A specialist in 20th century Latin American Literature (including Brazil, Spanish America and the Caribbean with a comparative and multicultural perspective), her research and teaching interests also include Poetry and Women Writers. She has published several books on literary criticism, more than fifty articles, and various translations of Brazilian and Italian authors (Oswald de Andrade, Antonio Cândido, Cecília Meireles, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Claudio Magris, among others). She has collected and edited the poetry works of important women writers from Venezuela (Antonia Palacios) and Uruguay (Martha Canfield).
Colaboratorio Ávila is a translation collective formed by Katie Brown, Claudia Cavallín, María Gracia Pardo, and Raquel Rivas Rojas. Their objective is to let the Venezuelan accent and the Latin American viewpoint into every text, to add when there is no need to take away, to build without betrayal, to accept sudden revelations, and to celebrate the results with laughs that cross oceans.
Peter Kahn is a professional translator living in Vermont (USA). He has translated works of fiction and nonfiction by numerous Latin American and Spanish writers, including Tununa Mercado, Elvira Orphée, Esther Cross, Javier Moreno, Hugo Clemente, and Gwendolyn Diaz. His fiction and poetry translations have appeared in various publications, including Grand Street, Gastronomia, Santa Barbara Review, Modern Poetry in Translation, The Massachusetts Review, and several anthologies. In 2015, he was awarded the Massachusetts Annual Chametzky Prize for his translation of Márgara Russotto´s poem “Of Useless Knowledge.”
In our August 2020 issue, we celebrate the work of women writers and translators in honor of Women in Translation Month, highlighting the work of Victoria de Stefano, Krina Ber, Rowena Hill, and Margara Russotto—four women united by the coincidence of emigrating to Venezuela and becoming renowned writers in Spanish. We also pay homage to a giant of Latin American letters, Rodolfo Enrique Fogwill, on the tenth anniversary of his passing, and we highlight the work of Mé’pháá writer Hubert Matiúwàa in our Indigenous Literature section. This #WITMonth issue is rounded out with exclusive previews of upcoming books from women translators and an interview with translator Annie McDermott, plus poetry, fiction, interviews, and reviews of fascinating new releases from across Latin America.
Cover Photo: Grupo Mondongo