UK Lit Mag Offers Translations, Absurdism, Horror, and Joy
Structo is a bi-annual literary journal based in the UK. Contrary to its publisher’s physical location this is a journal that takes pride in its international voice and reach. The contributors in this issue hail from places as distant as Norway, Iceland, Australia, and South Africa. While the voices are wide and varied they share a commonality in their overall strength of voice and quality. This journal offers a good mix of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Structo also inserts an interview or two within each issue.
This issue features an interview with David Constantine about translation and opens with the question “Why is it so important to bring non-native voices into English?”. Constantine gives deliciously in-depth responses to support his argument explaining how many genres of literature were born under different languages, drama being one, and English translations allowed the discovery of that genre into our own language. Constantine laments the current state of language studies in English speaking countries and lays down the positive reasons for a strong linguistic backbone that crosses cultures.
Speaking of translations, in this issue Christine De Luca has two poems in translation; one from the Norwegian Øystein Orten and one from the Icelandic Ađalsteinn Ásberg Sigurdsson (Leiđen Heim). What makes these poems noteworthy is the unexpected translation into the Shetlandic, an extinct tongue that shares a branch in the tree of Germanic languages with original poems’. Further translation into English by the reader might be accomplished by reading aloud and hearing the similarities to English phrasings and via some footnoted translated words.
I really liked Caitlin Mackenzie’s poem “Postcards From the Northwest.” Each stanza reads like a postcard to a Father, Mother, and Brother. Poetry has always been a literary medium that aims to say much with few. Mackenzie aims to say much more in her musings than simply “Wish you were here.” Making use of the limited size of a postcard Mackenzie uses poetry to express deeper feelings of regret and paternal abandonment.
The fiction in this issue is also strong. Many of the stories have an absurdist tone. Philosophic thoughts and questions are a hallmark to many of the pieces within.
Laura McCullough’s “The Happiness of Water” drops the reader right into a dank crawlspace under a home where a man has been trapped for several days by an injured fox. The absurdity of being down there for days just under the house without the family members even seeming to notice is not lost on the man as he considers his situation and weighs his choices. Described as an “existential standoff” McCullough stays close to the vein focusing not on foreground or conclusion but rather the dire waning moments of life and the choices that must be made.
In Dominic Dudley’s “The Man from Juneau,” a story that leans towards magical realism, the lead character discovers that place signs have the ability to alter the local climate. It’s an absurd and odd story but then many of this issue’s stories lead toward the odd or absurd, which for this reviewer always scores high on the value scale.
“A View of the Moon From the Moon” by Matthew L. Kabik is a story about three men who agree to spend three years on the earth’s moon to conduct scientific experiments. Deep in to their stay the sensory deprivation of their environment begins to take its toll.
One of the strongest short stories of the issue has to be “Sweet Old Men” by Karen Runge. Opening with a heartwarming description of a grandfather Runge writes about how “sweet old men smell like pipe tobacco, mothballs, wool. Sometimes soap” and how “when you were young, your sweet old man used to sit you on his lap and pinch your knees…He’d grab your hand and pretend to want to eat it…And you would laugh and squeal and try to tug your hand back…” Runge then transitions from the idyllic descriptions and memories a girl’s grandfather to her present state of a harrowing discovery. After her grandfather’s death long held secrets are unearthed that forces the protagonist to challenge everything her heart has ever felt towards her “sweet old man.” Runge’s story takes the reader from joy to horror in a swift and heavy fashion.
I liked the energy and passion the editors Euan Monaghan and Matthew Landrum bring to the issue, as evidenced by their editorial prefaces. Structo seems like a journal that puts high stock in quality literature with some meat on its bones that you can really chew. Given the wide ranging international voice of the publication the reader is also certain to gain a little cultural enrichment as well.