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As for any immigrant or exile, the past always looms large--even while living fully in the present, having made Spain and Europe my home and Spanish increasingly the language of my creative output in the twenty years I have lived in Madrid, the roots of my upbringing and mother tongue are always there. That creates a kind of melancholy or nostalgia that permeates everything, even while my move from the United States to Europe is in many ways a return (two generations after my grandparents arrived in New York, just ahead of the horrors of the Holocaust which killed most of their siblings and family).
At the same time, a lot of my writing--especially my books for children--focuses on creating space for and telling the stories of people who don't always have the same freedoms or liberties in the world we live in today, or at the least, they are not as commonly depicted in our cultural representations. As such, there is a kind of forward-looking nostalgia in my work as well, a utopian idealism--one which find itself in closer harmony with the ideals of Europe (even as it suffers fractures from things like Brexit and a resurgence of fascism, anti-semitism, etc). This is perhaps similar to, or an extrapolation of, Portuguese's untranslatable word “saudade”.
Furthermore, in addition to my own writing, I work as a literary translator--translating works from my adopted language, my daily language, into what is in many ways the language of my past. And lately I have also been translating more and more into my adopted language, my stepmother tongue. The very act of translation seems to me to recreate this looking back and looking forward I mention above: bringing one piece of culture from the past (however distant or recent) into the future in a new language. This is to me something both amazing and inspiring, as a reader and human being, and also as a writer.
I find I write differently in each of the languages I create in (different from languages I translate between). I am more cerebral in English, in part due to how English and Spanish differ from one another. Having attended various poetry workshops in Slovenia, I am now aware of the dual that neither English nor Spanish has, but I am nonetheless always aware since learning about it to consider whether I am talking about a you-and-I we or a we that is some larger group.
As a human being, as a writer, as a reader, I move back and forth between many different groups. And I look back toward groups I used to belong to, and forward to other groups, or hope that groups may change or adapt, to return more to the way they were or to advance toward what they might be, with a mix of both nostalgia and hope, two sides of the same coin.
Lawrence Schimel (ZDA/Španija) – književni gost 18. mednarodnega Lirikonfesta Velenje (2019)