Read. Write. Translate.

I read. I read because I’m curious. Because I crave alternate realities. Because I want a book to show me how to unravel experience, unravel life. I read because books exist. Because storytelling and metaphor, symbolism and dialogue are all innately connected to who we are as human beings. And who we want to be as human beings.

I read carefully. I read carefully because I love language. I love that language has the power to transform us, alter our relationships, amend our opinions and change the world. I love the awe-inspiring genius of the very existence of language. I read carefully because I am afraid to miss something. Anything. Everything. The truth. The point. The truth beyond the point. I read carefully because I am willing to forget who I am and experience a book’s reality as my own and this vulnerability is worth respecting.

I read critically. I am demanding. I am severe. I loathe a book that gives up on me, that fails to ask questions, that chooses the easy way out, that forgets its vocation. I read critically because I want literature to work its hardest. To achieve something. To affect change and improve society. I want books to have an impact. To make us, readers and non-readers alike, pay attention.

I write. I write because I’m ambitious. Because I want to find new ways of expressing old ideas. Because I want to see if I can say something different out of what’s been said a thousand times before. And maybe, just maybe, say something entirely new. I write because words in combination are mysteriously powerful. Because words are so much more than just words.

I write because words can create a scaffolding of ideas, structures of vision, entire universes of thought. Because fiction is a way to mirror the world and re-cast it at the same time. Because fiction is alive but also contained. Because fiction waits for us on the page and yet once read becomes a gift to the mind that cannot ever be given back. I want to give gifts.

I write as a way of considering the unanswerable questions. Because each piece written offers a possible solution that can then change a thousand times over again. It just needs to be re-written. I write for those endless reconsiderations of the world. For their grace, their ability to forgive us our mistakes, to celebrate our successes in perpetuum. For the possibilities infinite in a fictional landscape.

I translate. I translate because I’m not satisfied with a single set of words to shape my world. Because I want to make other readers unsatisfied along with me. Make them curious about other places, other voices, other ways of thinking. I translate because I believe translation creates permanent pathways between a person here and another person over there.

I translate because the act of translation makes me into a bridge between the reader and the writer in me, as well as a bridge between the cultures I’ve embraced. Because it allows me to inhabit the expat home I’ve chosen and the real home I’ve left behind.

I translate because translation is an impossible venture, a hopeless work. Because I will never create a flawless translation. I can only construct a path or corridor, a stylized explanation, an echo that resounds in a different key. But I translate because the humility in this repeated attempt and failure makes me a better reader, a better writer.

-Michelle Bailat-Jones


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