If you are an author aspiring to conquer foreign markets, or a hopeful literary translator, you may find this story illuminating. If you’re a successful literary translator, or an agent representing translated novels, I would love to hear your take on it.
I had finished translating my sister’s novel, “Colombe,” into English from the original Dutch in the fall of 2020. Then, due to other obligations, I needed to put the draft aside for some months. Christine didn’t mind. Living in France, she was more concerned with getting the French translation done, as a translator who had provided some fine…
I’ve been writing for a few decades now. No, I don’t really care to divulge exactly how many :) Here are a few things that have helped me grow. The pandemic has made some of them easier, some a bit harder, and others just a bit different. All of them still work.
Reading is the most essential training school for writing. It’s how I built a considerable vocabulary in a language that was not my first, and not even my second or third, but which has since become my main vehicle of expression: English.
As a child and teen, I…
Mr. C.K. Mishra had taken his morning bath and was now taming his hair in front of the mirror. He poured some coconut oil into the hollow of one palm, rubbed his hands together, and combed his fingers through the wild forest on his head. His mane had barely started thinning, although a few gray streaks would have been visible, but for the black dye that he regularly applied. The oil made his hair look sleek and glossy. He hummed a little tune as he combed it into place. Approaching retirement, Mishra had earned the right to take things easy…
Many years ago, as part of my healing process, I turned a story of betrayal into a comedy of manners. Doing so gave me an opportunity to skewer the individual who (I felt) had wronged me and his whole entourage, although I had long forgiven them. Along the way I inserted some sympathetic characters, based on family friends who asked to be “in my book.”
Above all, I wanted this novel to be humorous, entertaining, and exotic (as in, set in Europe and India). …
Before Raanu there was Mira. When word got around that we were back in Bhopal, women — young and old — once more came to offer their help. And, like last year, I told them that I preferred to do my own housework and make my own food, did not need a person to wash my dishes because I had a machine for that, but yes, I could use someone to help me battle the perpetual Indian dust invasion.
Mira agreed to come every morning and sweep the house with a traditional short-handled broom (jharu), then mop the tile floors…
If I were given the power to bring back any artist from the afterlife, Leonard Cohen would be my first thought. I still remember the very first time I heard that haunting voice. It was exam time in the 11th grade. My classmates and I were quietly studying under the unsmiling supervision of our Latin teacher. From the neighboring classroom came these wondrous, soothing strains of music. We were jealous: the “Moderns” were getting a treat, under the guise of improving their English skills.
I couldn’t understand much –– English was an afterthought in our “Classics” section –– but it…
My sister knows what’s coming; I don’t…
Unsuspecting I set foot onto the market place
She points to the facade of a corner house
I see nothing extraordinary at first glance
But wait, that man playing the cello on the balcony
Is that Pablo Casals, no more among the living?
Next to him an ebullient potted tree and, steps away,
a white-smocked artist takes a break from his canvas
It dawns on me. Are these doors, these panes not real?
Or, like the stucco window friezes, a clever illusion of relief? …
When temperatures plummet in wintry New Delhi, blue skies turn grey and fog becomes smog. That gloomy morning in December I had just checked into an airport hotel, as I had to catch another flight early the next morning. This meant I had just a few hours to shop for an outfit to wear to my niece’s wedding.
Indian weddings are stretched out over several days. At my house in Bhopal I kept a few saris and “frocks” I could wear to some of the functions, but I still needed something new for the main event. There was no time…
Everything Can Be Restored
by Christine Van den Hove
A miller in Occitania
sowed eleven seeds
of a forgotten grain.
Mix flour, water, yeast and salt.
Allow the molecules to rub
themselves warm overnight
into a resilient dough that
will emerge from the hot oven
as a whispering loaf.
Let us listen
to the bread loaf
to the growing
of the wheat.
Let us listen
first and foremost
because what we’re saying
we already know.
(Translation by Elisabeth Khan)
Alles is herstelbaar
Ook de aarde
Een molenaar in Occitanië
zaaide elf graantjes
van een vergeten soort
Meng meel, water, gist…
The seven sisters descend on my garden patch
They talk up a storm
Hopping from branch to branch
Railing to post
On and off the bonnet of
the parked car
One of them starts pecking
at her image in the wing mirror
It sounds like a reproving fingernail
tapping on my window
They’re not much to look at ––
Drab feathers, yellow beaks
With strident voices that remind me
of the blue jays in my other place, America
Their native name, saat bahinen,
reminds me of my siblings
We too were seven ––
Seven girls at home
When was the…
Insatiably curious. Sometimes I fancy myself a writer.