“When, years later I myself became a writer and was asked, ‘Are you a Haitian writer, a Caribbean writer or a Francophone writer?’I would always answer that I took the nationality of my reader, which means that when a Japanese reader reads my books, I immediately became a Japanese writer,” said Haitian-Canadian writer Dany Laferriere in his novel I Am a Japanese Writer (2008), which was originally written in French and then translated to English.

These words were used by Teju Cole, the first Gore Vidal Professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Harvard, to illustrate how translations bond readers and authors. Translated works transcend the barriers of language and ethos as long as they touch the human heart. By touching deep emotions they create bonds and links to mankind. He talks of how lives are lost over refugee crisis and borders and says “literature can save a life”.

Brought up between US and Nigeria, Cole developed broad world views. Cole’s forte are novels and essays, including the much acclaimed Open City (2011) which was named ‘Best Book’ in more than twenty end-of-the year lists, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist , Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Kirkus Reviews. It was also named a New York Times Notable Book —  one of the ten top novels of the year by both Time and National Public Radio (USA).

a is for alienation


seeing that the holidays have come around
everyone ready to cross state lines in sedans
parking lots and main roads emptied out
even the corner pitstop shutters its doors
on this christmas eve strangely tranquil
as the reader vaguely recalls the week before
blurring into stormy nights on pismire island
the way sisley would repaint molesey weir
the palm warbler next to the prairie warbler
against a blue canvas where the mermaid
surfaces to break water to wander closer
to shore the way the reader is hunched over
manet’s dead matador his head turned
to his left as if in resignation and remorse
or the beggar with oysters also named
the philosopher as if heidegger wrapped
a black shawl just like that over his chest
like a breastplate even as the security guard
scours the floor for someone looking forlorn
yet alert enough for an evening of discourse
with the priest waiting for his annual ride
to an equally quiet family dinner and hoping
for someone to read him the day’s headlines
each a lyric reminder of this forgotten world