by Léonora Miano, translated by Margaret Morrison
Special Guest Judge, David Shook
All four stories from Léonora Miano’s Soulfood Equatoriale are rich with the flavors of Cameroonian cuisine: warm okra oozing slime, teatime bread slathered in condensed milk, and plantains whose names correspond with their degree of ripeness. The translation reflects a lively French enriched by the influence of the oral tradition, whose incorporation reminds us that food connects us not just to our personal and cultural origins but to the very origin of our species. The selection culminates with “The Avocado,” distinct from the celebration, memory and nostalgia of its companions. Its luckless child protagonist vividly experiences hunger’s cruel despair, an unflinching glimpse of a reality that resists any simple resolution.
David Shook is a poet and translator based in Northern California. Their most recent translations include Jorge Eduardo Eielson’s Room in Rome, a finalist for both the National Translation Award and PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and the definitive edition of Mario Bellatin’s Beauty Salon, forthcoming from Deep Vellum Publishing. Past honors include a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for their translations of Saotomean poet Conceição Lima and a 2019 Lannan Residency. As founder of Phoneme Media, Shook has edited and published translations from over 25 different languages, including the first-ever literary translations from the Lingala and Uyghur. Their present projects include a new collection of poetry, Atlas estelar, and numerous translations from Spanish and Portuguese.