to lost friends


In this workshop we were lucky to have both guest translator Dave Haysom and Xiao An’s friend and fellow Chengdu resident Yu Yoyo guiding the workshop’s collaborative translation (Yoyo’s first English translation 'My Tenantless Body' by Dave and poet AK Blakemore has recently been published). Yoyo explained that Xiao’s work is particularly special as it seems to be free of all artifice and yet to remove any part would break it. We noted immediately that the language was both colloquially light and emotionally resonant and tried to capture the quicksilver transitions between childlike or deliberately light expressions (‘mess of buds’ or ‘such a bother’) and the sighing weight of adult themes (‘ay ay ay ay / you can’t explain on the phone’).

From the title we were warned that the sense would often face two directions. We could choose to make the bridge-translation (‘to friends who have lost themselves’) either an address to friends who have been lost themselves or to friends who have lost the speaker. We opted to leave in the ambiguity and go for ‘to lost friends’.