Central Siberia has forty words for snow-like weather, and in the Inupiaq dialect of Wales, Alaska, there are about seventy terms for ice: “utuqaq,” ice that lasts year after year; “siguliaksraq,” the patchwork layer of ice crystals that form as the sea begins to freeze; and “auniq,” ice that is filled with holes, like Swiss cheese. Replace the word ‘ice’ with ‘love’ and it makes perfect sense to adopt these words as our own! They’d be much more accurate than the very general term “love.”
This issue of MQR is devoted to translation in both the specific and the broad sense. We have gathered translations from a host of figures—scholars, critics, poets, novelists— and have reprinted the originals in their original languages, not to prove our scholarly bona-fides, but to emphasize translation in yet another sense, the shuttling between different alphabets—let’s translate that word into less loaded ones, like “written symbol-systems”—which manifest different appearances to the reader.
“I think the idea that writing makes people feel better is usually mistaken. Finishing a book, or a story, or an article, is an accomplishment and that should bring a measure of joy and/or relief, but I think when people set out to write about painful experiences they delude themselves when they claim that they will feel better at the end of the experience. They might feel better by virtue of finishing the book or the story, but I don’t think that means they will feel better about whatever was ailing them when they started out. I just don’t think writing cures despair. Melville says as much in his diaries, and so does Shakespeare’s speaker at the end of the Sonnets: ‘Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.'”