“Mandorla,” the Italian word for “almond,” refers to the almond-shaped intersection between two overlapping circles. An ancient symbol of the union of opposites, the mandorla has represented, throughout the history of both Eastern and Western cultures, a sacred space within which a mortal being can realize his or her divine potential.
“Mandorla,” the Italian word for “almond,” refers to the almond-shaped intersection between two overlapping circles. An ancient symbol of the union of opposites, the mandorla has represented, throughout the history of both Eastern and Western cultures, a sacred space within which a mortal being can realize his or her divine potential. The web site of Mandorla, a journal of “New Writing from the Americas,” re-envisions this enlightened realm as a center for “exchange and imaginative dialogue that is necessary now among the Americas.” Dispensing with the notion of “opposites,” Mandorla focuses on “union” – a fluid interaction among interdependent and complementary American perspectives. The poems, stories, and essays selected for this issue appear in their original languages or in translation – sometimes, in both. Within these pages one can enjoy a Spanish-language version of John Ashbery (“Mordred”) along with several pieces translated to Spanish from the Portuguese. Those who read only English may count themselves in for a treat as well: beyond its generous inclusion of English-language pieces, Mandorla offers English translations of some of the best contemporary authors writing in Spanish.
But Mandorla’s commitment to intersection isn’t limited to cross-cultural communication. The pieces themselves share a grappling sensibility, a tone of exploration poised at the heart of many possible “intersections.” Nathaniel Tarn’s poem “Ins and Outs of the Forest Rivers” limns the delicate boundaries between humans and the natural world, positing that “we […] have not achieved full-scale humanity.” Omar Pérez’s essay, “El Intelectual y el Poder en Cuba,” ponders the meaning of art – and the identity of the artist – in an environment of ideological oppression. The photographs of Silvia Malagrino (“Stills from Burnt Oranges”) juxtapose images from the state-terrorism of 1970s Argentina with images of modern-day demonstrations against war in other lands. Peter Ramos’ superb scholarly essay on James Wright’s translations of César Villejo’s poetry (“Beyond the Deep Image […]”) is a must-read for anyone interested in translation – or, for that matter, anyone engaged in the study of intercultural relationships. Mandorla, at 325 pages, requires considerable reader investment – and returns an important, vivid illumination of investments already made.