Portals: a journal in comparative literature is published annually by the Comparative Literature Student Association of San Francisco State University. It contains the usual jargon-laden exercises in academese (“The goal of this paper is to investigate a theory of hybridity that I find implicit in these two novels. I will argue that what is at stake is a critique of epistemologies of identity that are grounded upon dichotomic ways of thinking…”), but Maksim Hanukai’s article on Nabokov and Robbe-Grillet is perfectly comprehensible (and made me think I should give R-G a try, since Nabokov respected him so highly); furthermore, translations of poetry include the original text, as here from the Italian of Italo Testa and Roberto Bartoli, here from the Serbocroatian of Amir Brka, and here from the Chinese of Qiu Jin (a feminist who was executed by the Manchu government as a revolutionary in 1907), the last with extensive annotation. I’ll quote one of the Testa poems, with the translation by Benjamin Morris and Ari Messer of the University of Edinburgh:

gloria e i gelsi

ma le foglie di gelso premono alle finestre
e la tua gola bianca, sul banco, offerta,
Gloria di un giorno, la luce nell’aula
leva dall’ombra l’insidia degli occhi:
noi, saremo presto invasi dalle foglie,
tu, crescerai paziente nell’aperto dei giorni

Gloria and the Mulberries

but the mulberry leaves press against the windows
and your white throat, on the desk, a gift,
Gloria of the morning, the light in the room
lifts from the shadows the snare of your eyes:
we, we will soon be invaded by the leaves,
you, you will grow calm in the flowering of the days.

(Via wood s lot.)


  1. The Chinese translation is very interesting because it isn’t literal at all, but it’s not really free either. The translator explains his method very well — a literal translation would be exotic and strange and would not read well. I’m impressed.

  2. It sure is easy for Italian to sound good. I’ve heard that Italian poets sometimes have to fight against writing too beautifully.

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