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trans writers in translation: why here? why now?

In a conversation published by World Literature Today, Ari Larissa Heinrich and Veronica Esposito discuss the dearth of translated work by trans writers, as well as the unique opportunities translating trans writers presents for the world at large. “Imagining more transgender visibility in translation is inseparable for me from a utopic imagining that foregrounds race, class, animal, and environmental liberation,” says Heinrich, and it’s here where the door opens onto why smoke and mold is publishing ACROSS / WITH / THROUGH: Trans Writers in Translation.


It’s difficult to convey the emotions I experience when reading the work collected here. This is partly the point of this special folio published outside of our regular schedule of spring and fall issues. I don’t wish to fall into the trap of trying to translate these translations to you. If putting together this collection has taught me anything, it’s that trans writers and readers, if we share anything at all, it’s the love of figuring things out for ourselves. This applies to the individual (“I will decide what is best for me and my body”) and the collective (“we will decide what it means for us to be trans together”), across time, national borders, language and identity. I could tell you any number of things about the positioning of this issue, how it came together over the course of a year, the boundless permeability evoked by the title, but it wouldn’t really matter. Your experience with these texts will differ vastly from mine depending on who you are, where you live, and how you got there. That’s the only reliable thing at the end of the day.


But as for why translation in a journal like smoke and mold—a journal devoted to place, nature, and the time we have/left from a trans perspective—that I can speak to a bit more concretely. It’s a common misconception that translation exists solely to bring people together, to improve communication and increase readership or access. It certainly can do all of those things. But the more time I spend thinking and reading and even doing translation, the more confusing things become. I feel I know less than when I started. This, to me, is the real goal of translation. To shock us back awake to the incredible reality of just how different we are, and how many different ways there are to see and interact with and describe the world. To remind us how little we know. The Manifiesto Transchanga announces this proudly in the first line: “here in Latin America, in the third world, the human doesn’t exist.” 


Once one gets started thinking like this, translation is seemingly everywhere. Translating love into one’s own body. Translating anger into art. Translating the sea into words. Translating multiple removals into a fragmentary release. Translating the fantastic archive of the past into the self. Translating the meanders of a river. After spending time with the work presented here, communicating with the writers and translators, I am convinced that whether or not a trans writer’s work appears in one language or fifty, it is still engaged in translation. It’s about the difficulties, true pain, joy, ebullience and complicated nature of communicating across different realms of knowing. This is also what smoke and mold is about. For a long time—basically since I started this journal back in 2019—I’ve been seeking another way to translate our mission, our purpose for existing. Yes, we publish “nature writing, broadly defined, by trans and Two-Spirit writers,” but that’s also not even remotely close to capturing what we publish. I worry that those who can’t read between the lines of that simplified statement, who need someone to translate what it actually means to write and think about trans nature, are missing out on what’s been happening here. It feels only natural to invoke translation and translators, many of whom represented here are also trans, to help us do so.

So maybe this is your first time reading smoke and mold. Maybe you’ve methodically pored over every issue. Regardless, I hope you'll take the time to read through this folio, as it absolutely deserves your attention. And I hope you'll continue to stay in touch across the many things that endeavor to keep up separate.

In solidarity,

— Cal Angus, Managing Editor of smoke and mold

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