Letter from the Editor

March 1, 2018 in Letter from the editor by aogunmok

Language is a strong weapon. Inherent in us since birth, and apparent to us in every aspect of life, metaphysical and otherwise, an aspect of pathetic fallacy. Language is at once a method of communication and an act of translation of abstract into tangible, a mimetic flow of shapes and sounds attached to ideas.

It is no wonder that some of us have a hard time speaking to one another.

It is no wonder that these times are virulent, divided by the very language that could unite us, and one must wonder what is okay and not okay to express, both on a microcosmic and macrocosmic scale.

The selections in the current issue of Alchemy provide insight into lives which may never be spoken. For instance, Ayden LeRoux’s translation of the Spanish author Pepa Merlo’s short prose piece “Petrushka” follows a male voyeur as he observes his lonely life, a life filled with boxes and routine, absence of dialogue save for a sole exclamation at a song he enjoys, and his ‘favorite’ object to the point of fetishization are his binoculars. These binoculars are a way to separate him from the world while participating in it from afar.

Xia Fang’s translation of Hong-Kong Chinese poet Chan Lai Kuen’s “bottle (blue bottle)” also has a unique sense of separation from the world, the glass as a barrier for the speaker as they observe the world as blue through this tint, hinting at what power bias and perspective have on the individual. What people say is “unconnected” to the speaker, perhaps because of her own disconnection within this cut off world.

Even more heartening is the translation of a nonfiction piece on the trend of student suicides and self-mutilation in China, Joy Zhu’s take on Hong Kong columnist Lewis Loud. In it, there is an important question posed: “Why do Hong Kong’s youth keep killing themselves?” The operative word is keep. In it, there is an amazing lightheartedness with cultural references to movies, food, and religion, but the weight of young death and the inability to be straightforward with the grief while striving for solution keeps it grounded.

Writing is an important medium in order to access these crevices in which despair, death, and isolation can creep in to haunt us. Without language, these three would dominate. Without reaching out and expressing, effectively translating trauma, we would not be here, this far.

Thank you for reading this issue.

-T.m. Lawson

 

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