Cristina Rivera Garza: ‘Para dejar de creer en la realidad’

“Uno necesita el mar para esto: para dejar de creer en la realidad. Para hacerse preguntas imposibles. Para no saber. Para dejar de saber. Para embriagarse de olor. Para cerrar los ojos. Para dejar de creer en la realidad.”

“You need the ocean for this: to stop believing in reality. To ask yourself impossible questions. To not know. To cease knowing. To become intoxicated by the smell. To close your eyes. To stop believing in reality.”

— Cristina Rivera Garza, with translation by Sarah Booker. La cresta de Ilión (2002). The Iliac Crest (2017).

Saskia Vogel: On ‘translating silence’

“As a translator of Swedish, I find myself translating silence often. The Swedish language has a stunning capacity for silence. There seems to be a trust or an understanding between writer (plus the publisher) and reader about a certain freedom in the text. Pauses, inferences, and space left in between the lines for the reader to draw their own conclusion, to decide what something means for themselves. Moments that in my experience, will sometimes get flagged by English language editors asking for clarity or specificity.”

—Saskia Vogel, “The Same River Twice: Notes on Reading, Time, and Translation,” Words Without Borders, January 23, 2023

On listening to transgender people

From the interplanetary donut cornucopia that is the novel Light from Uncommon Stars:

“The audience wanted transgender? They would get transgender. Or queer, or whatever else they wanted. But they would also get her.

And she was beautiful.

Listen to me. Listen to me now. For if this dogwood bow can force beauty upon you, then I shall shove every part of myself into that beauty. I shall make you feel all the joy, the terror in loving who you are.”

— Ryka Aoki, Light from Uncommon Stars
Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Mirabai Starr: ‘The power of not knowing’

“If I were to identify the single most transformational song I have heard echoing from every one of the mystical teachings it would be the power of not knowing. This transmission comes through the Christian mystics in the form of the Cloud of Unknowing and the Dark Night of the Soul. In Sufism it is fana, the blessing of annihilation. In Hinduism she is the Dark Goddess Kali, who consumes anything that stands between her children and their total liberation, and Shiva Nataraj, who dances in a circle of fire. At the heart of Buddhism is the beauty of Beginner’s Mind and the liberating doctrine of sunyata, the emptiness that is plenitude. Each of these wisdom ways affirms the necessity of dying before we die, which, to me, means dropping our preconceptions and letting ourselves down into the unknown.”

— “The Luminous Darkness That Connects Us,” Mirabai Starr, in Order of the Sacred Earth: An Intergenerational Vision of Love and Action, ed. Matthew Fox, Skylar Wilson, Jennifer Berit Listug (Monkfish Book Publishing, 2018)

On the belief that you can make the world better

Not that people can make the world better, but that specifically you can make the world better because people will listen to you. A passage from the novel The Immortal King Rao:

Sita was smoothing the hem of her sari, not looking at him.
“I’m not trying to be famous,” he said at last. “I’m trying to make the world better. Chinna told me, ‘If you just make the world better than it was when you got here, that’s a good life.’ That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Sita laughed bitterly. “That’s something only a man would come up with.”
“You disagree? Amma, you think he was wrong?”
She laughed again. “No one cares what your mother thinks; that’s my point.”

—Vauhini Vara. The Immortal King Rao. W. W. Norton, 2022.
Book cover for The Immortal King Rao by Vauhini Vara