A review I wrote of The Morning News is Exciting by Don Mee Choi just went live at the Quarterly Conversation. This book moved me in so many ways to rethink issues of translation and political engagement and poetics:
Translation is at the center of the whole text. It becomes a means of searching for home, of narrating the inability to find a home: “What is truly home? I am here, but I remember there.” For Choi, translation has become an activity inseparable from her own writing; in fact, Choi seems to be questioning this very duality of translation vs “one’s own work.” Her work provokes questions: what is the difference in process between translation and writing based on appropriated text? How does collaboration and miscommunication come to form the basis of a poetics that can no longer distinguish clearly between the original and the derivative? Translation is a necessity to communication, especially due to the continuous repetition of scenes of leaving and returning. In this process, translation is at once mundane (“Translation must remain as ordinary as the bed” in “Petite Manifesto”), but is also not to be trusted—an inscrutable tool of imperialism and colonialism ( it is, in fact, the bed, “where I am likely to die”). In “Diary of Return” Choi boils it down to: “Translation for me is a form of exile and empire.” Choi is able to contain both of these realities of translation in her own writing: translation as liberatory both creatively and politically and also translation as contaminated by imperial conquest and contemporary power imbalances.
Read the whole review here.