At the age of fifteen, our family relocated to Brazil for three months. We lived with my uncle’s family. During our stay, the Brazilian part of our family spoke only Portuguese, because their country was insistent on them only speaking their language. I spoke not a word. Within the first week, I learned “Este” (this) and “Obrigado” (thank you); those became my arsenal of communication.
Years later, I can still recall the musicality of Portuguese, how it moved with a tender invitation to conversation, which I was unable to accede to because of my limited vocabulary. This intensified my loneliness and alienation, and many hours were spent in silence, listening. Because of this, my ears learned the rhythm and intonations of Portuguese and when I hear it today, I am able to understand the gist of a conversation.When a language is translated, much is lost of the richness of thoughts and feelings.
The way a language flows with bodily and facial expressions is so unique and revealing of the human experience in a particular place and time.-Katia Aoun Hage, founder of Elyssar Press
This brings us to the nature of publishing in multiple languages, which is a core value to us at Elyssar Press.
Queen Elyssar and the Phoenicians
To have Queen Elyssar as the muse for Elyssar Press means that we relate to the stories of her people, the Phoenicians or Minoans. As traders, the Phoenicians were in contact with many other cultures around the Mediterranean sea of three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. They devised a language to speak and write that was simple enough to learn and to communicate with one and all.
In that regard, they were also able to learn the different languages and translate between countries. It also gave them a window into the heart and soul of all these cultures, enriching them with an infinite vocabulary for expression and communication.
What started as a means to trade material goods slowly developed into communicating ideas, thoughts, ways of life, and anything that related to these cultures. And whoever knew many languages became the bridge between them all.
Why We Publish in Multiple Languages
To know another’s language is not just the ability to understand and communicate an idea or a concept, but also the key to unlocking the idioms and traditions of that culture through the everyday incantations, the traditional sayings, the genuine exclamations, and the play of metaphors to explain the depth of life and personal experience.
To encounter a person from a different geographical place who speaks one’s language is a gesture of respect and an honoring of lineages that this person represents. It denotes an effort and willingness to learn, to be open to new perspectives on life and experiences. It also acknowledges the importance of that culture that we are approaching and its validity in the scheme of the history and geography of this planet.
Birthed in the United States, Elyssar Press’s first language has been English. But it has carried the dream of speaking in tongues to welcome all writers and artists and to reach a multilingual audience. After all, we do live in a melting pot, bringing together people with different stories from many walks of life. As our books carry in their papers characters reflecting the tastes and sounds of these divergent groups, the authors are able to reach their audience and elevate it to new heights of understanding. As one holds a book written by a person who is a kindred spirit, there is born the possibility of becoming a thinker, a writer, an artist, or a poet. And finally, there is the resounding sound of the experience that one lives in the words and expressions used in their own culture.
What’s Next From Us
We are looking forward in the coming year to have our website reflect the importance of languages by making it available not only in English, but also in Arabic, French, and Spanish. That said, we’ve already published books in English, such as Letters under Rock, Performance Poetry by Cindy Rinne and Bory Thach; Walking Along the Edge by Rev. Alden Sproull; Poetic Dwellings, A Soul’s Journey by Helga Vroom, in Arabic, Asmahan, an unfinished Symphony أسمهان، سيمفونية لم تكتمل by Dr. Renee Hage, in French, Le Liban ou l’Irréductible Distance by Dr. Frank Darwiche, and Spanish, an upcoming book in 2022.
Right now, we are accepting manuscripts in all of these languages, and especially those stories that reveal our humanity in its high and low plethora of experiences.
Come share your story with us, and let us dance together in the joy of listening, learning, and healing in the many sounds of our native languages.