June Chronicle by Orestis Giannoulis

| tag: St.Erme

“We love you, Europe,” says Ghayath Almadhoun (translated from Arabic to English by Catherine Cobham), “we love the freedom you gave us when we fled into your arms, and we pretend not to notice the racism that you try to brush under the carpet when you clean the living room.”[1]

I translate, “σε αγαπάμε Ευρώπη. Σε αγαπάμε για την ελευθερία που μας έδωσες όταν πετάξαμε στην αγκαλιά σου, και προσποιηθήκαμε ότι δε βλέπουμε το ρατσισμό που προσπαθείς να κρύψεις κάτω απ’ το χαλί όταν καθαρίζεις το σαλόνι μας.”

“We love you, Europe,” continues Gayath, “and carry your passports that open doors for us as easily as your bullets ripped open the flesh of millions of Algerians who wanted to enjoy the freedom called for by your French Revolution.”

“Σε αγαπάμε Ευρώπη, και κουβαλάμε τα διαβατήριά σου που ανοίγουν πόρτες για μας τόσο εύκολα όσο οι σφαίρες σου διαπέρασαν τη σάρκα εκατομμυρίων Αλγερινών που θέλησαν να απολαύσουν την ίδια ελευθερία που διαπόμπευε η Γαλλική σου Επανάσταση.»

And it goes on. An ode to sadness. The loss of Hope?

To refer back to Jazra Khaleed, Ghayath’s once Greek translator:

“…στις πόλεις περιμένουν την ελπίδα/ στις κωμοπόλεις περιμένουν την ελπίδα/ στα χωριά περιμένουν την ελπίδα/ στα βουνά περιμένουν την ελπίδα/ στις πεδιάδες περιμένουν την ελπίδα/στη θάλασσα περιμένουν την ελπίδα/ …στις ειδήσεις είπαν ότι κανείς δεν ξέρει πότε και από πού θα έρθει ελπίδα…”[2]

Hope always has a Plan B. I don’t think this is an optimistic proclamation. Hope is inescapable probably, as nostalgia of past promises, the fallacy of them and their partial and temporary fulfillment. You have to ask: Whose hope? Hope for what?

I wonder to what extent “hope” is translatable, not as a word, but as a collective feeling.

As I write now, here, in English, attempting to get something across, doing my best to make no grammatical mistakes, I have an intense need to refuse this process. I want to refuse to translate myself, even more, to translate others.

Who is this collective subject of hope, who are all those translated without second thoughts into a united front of hopelessness? Weaved into a non-critical “we” that erases them?


Huying Ng on the big “We”:

“We who, reading this, are statistically less likely to be a person of color or Indigenous, and less likely to be socioeconomically unstable, living in precarity, or poor. We who choose modernity without a care-full look behind, who have little to lose in a dying world, having terminated our roots in the Earth along with our identification with it. We might speak English as a first language, so that our inheritances and injuries are obscured from us.”[3]

I have two more excerpts to add on this:

  1. “… all developmental processes became reduced to one exclusive type of perfection, that is, technological. Hence the puzzle: What is it that you are demanding when a language, one single language, would provide you with the key to progress? …Nations could have only one linguistic or cultural feature, either this seclusion within a restrictive particularity or, conversely, dilution within a generalizing universal.”[4]
  2.  “How is Europe perceived by those who may be in but are not from Europe, as well as by those who may perceive themselves to be from but will never be allowed to be in Europe – physically or intellectually?”[5]


Writing from within the European borders, as well as from within my linguistic borders, that are not so distinct after all from those of Europe, I admit I am seduced by the hope of progress, I admit my approach to English is instrumental. What now?


[1] Source: https://www.europenowjournal.org/2018/04/16/ode-to-sadness-by-ghayath-almadhoun-translated-from-the-swedish-by-catherine-cobham/

[2] Source: https://jazrakhaleed.bandcamp.com/track/a-a-fokurov-jazra-khaleed

[3] Huying Ng, “Soil’s Metabolic Rift: Metabolizing Hope, Interrupting the Medium,” in AGROPOETICS READER, ed. Elena Agudio, Marleen Boschen, and Lorenzo Sandoval, co-ed. Onur Çimen and Cleo Wächter (Berlin: The Institute for Endotic Research Press, 2019), 212.

[4] Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1997), 103.

[5] Chiara Bottici and Benoit Challand, “Europe After Eurocentrism?” Crisis and Critique 7, no. 1 (2020): 58.


BACK TO INTRODUCTION: COOP study group ~ SOIL IS AN INSCRIBED BODY: on Agropoetics, Land Struggles and the Aesthetics of Sovereignty