To close the old year and open the new one, we have released the print and Kindle anthology of In the Middle, the peripatetic short stories published on our digital platforms weekly throughout 2020.

This perypatetik project has explored facets of contemporary being around the world. From 2016 to 2019, contributors wrote about instability, uncertainty and polarization or extremes in their respective countries. Now, in this edition, we have begun a transposition or – more accurately – transadaptation of experience with twelve of them. This first florilegium of fiction is called In the Middle because it does not attempt to correlate the various authors’ experiences: Each writer was free to compose their story without content guidance, although each narrative had to be set primarily in their native country or place of residence. These short stories should be conceived of as the trunk from which the future work will branch out. Set in Argentina, Armenia, Cuba, Lebanon, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay and Venezuela, they open (non-ideological) windows into small parts of our daily routine of waking, passing through a day (or night) and going back to sleep again before we repeat it. Although the general structure is largely the same for all of us and has never changed, the content of the conscious part of this experience has varied considerably over time, between places and from one person to the next. A fragment of these perspectives is refracted here in this volume.

The stories run the gamut.

In Forgetting, Seyit Ali Dastan describes the surreal changes throughout Turkey as the eponymous protagonist tries to trigger memories in his father Mehmet. Little remains from the past: His former primary school has turned into a garage; trees around his former secondary school have all been chopped down; vacation on the coast is unaffordable; soccer fields have become facilities with artificial turf; and even the narrator has had to change his name after being placed on the government’s ‘terrorist’ list.

Unreal Reality by Armine Asryan (Nane Sevunts) explores a girl’s struggle with identity in Armenia. Julie is an outsider everywhere – in her family, at school, in the workplace. She never feels part of the group and suffers. It is not until she gets in touch with Nare, another side of her self, that she can throw off the shackles of social expectations and constraints.

We gain further insight into the trials of not-belonging through Unwanted. In South Africa, Toni Wallis (Sarah-Leah Pimentel) relates the experiences of being an outsider wherever she finds herself. Her hopes of a relationship with a young man are dashed by their divergent backgrounds. Among people with a similar background, her views are too tolerant. Abroad, her identity does not conform to foreigners’ expectations.

As we travel to the Middle East for A Journey to the Edge, Rayan Harake portrays conflicts similar to those of Asryan and Wallis. Zeinab Ismail, the main character, comes from a traditional family and environment where being well-mannered, shy, good to others and religious was respected. When her top grades in the Lebanese equivalent of high school allow her to enroll in a leading university, shyness becomes a weakness, well-mannered is too soft, religious means close-minded. The new place has a different set of values: being confident, independent, a leader.

Moving to Poland, we catch a snippet of the hypocrisy in the business world through Pawel Awdejuk’s The Last Day. In this story, an office employee sits down with his colleague on the last day of work and reveals the reality behind the facades of respectability in his (former) company, politics and society.

To receive your pension in cash, to go to school, to survive, you must pass an endurance test in Venezuela, as Veronica Cordido chronicles in Pedro and Elizabeth: Pedro spends the whole day riding on the bed of a cargo truck to a different town, waiting in line for hours and then hanging off the side of a vehicle on the way back. Elizabeth recounts children missing school because they faint from malnourishment, while the elderly wonder about contributing to the country for 30 years only to get misery in return.

When we shift to Ukraine in Gennady Bondarenko’s House with a Stucco Ship, the mood lightens up. Igor Pavlovich proposes to a stranger, Rita, whom he has just become smitten with at a café. She politely brushes him off by explaining that her mother must agree. But fate causes them to meet again, and she draws him into her scheme: He should plan to buy her dad’s house at a newly discovered archeological site as a representative of UNESCO.

A less amusing love story unfolds as we crisscross back to Uruguay. In Alejandra Baccino’s story Till Love Do Us Part, a young adult finds the perfect man, Torrance, and is finally happy, but her bliss dissipates. After the halcyon days, Torrance nearly becomes violent, calling her a puta, hitting chairs and grabbing her wrists until they bruise. Even if the violence does not return, the relationship steadily deteriorates, although she adamantly defends him nonetheless.

It is very similar in Cuba. Pat, one of four friends looking for love in Marilin Guerrero Casas’s story A Girl Pedaling, likewise sees her beautiful relationship crumble after a short time. According to her filosofía of life, it is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that creates happiness. The enjoyment for her comes from love and being loved in return. On meeting and then dating the university teacher Tony, she immerses herself in momentos increíbles. Yet when she takes the risk of leaving her parents to live alone, he does not join her.

Crossing the ocean to Spain, Jonay Quintero Hernández introduces us to the criminal Evelio and his neighbor Luisa in Amelia’s Euphemism. This neighbor, a mother who is repeatedly beaten by her husband, finally explodes, grabbing his childhood chess trophy and killing him with it in the apartment next to the criminal.

The theme of love gone sour also permeates Javier Gomez’s story Catching Water in Argentina. Gomez tells about Leo, a young retail associate, who briefly enjoys the excitement of love against the backdrop of tedious work. While not as traumatic as the stories in Uruguay and Cuba, the object of his love and escape from dull reality, a girl named Nadia, quickly dumps him to return to her abusive ex-boyfriend.

Finally, rounding out the collection in Russia, is Kate Korneeva’s Unconscious Repetition. Here too, the glass bubble of young love ends shattered, as the protagonist’s relationship with her boyfriend evolves along lines rhyming with those of her and his parents: him laughing at, deriding and ignoring her; she lacking support from a mother always on the other person’s side.

In the difficulties and stress of our everyday lives, we often lose sight of the larger communal nature of our existence. Transposition and transadaptation are ideal means for grasping the commonalities we all share. Various forms of translation, even freer translations, are either awkward or difficult to identify with due to technical linguistic issues, unfamiliar cultures or the perceived distance (“they have that problem; we don’t”). Depending on the approach, even transposition can have an alienating impact if the form of the original is adopted extensively for the transposed content in the new context.

A transadaptation suffers from none of these weaknesses. Specifically in this anthology, we encounter the themes of dashed love and being an outsider in different countries, with divergent age groups, at various stages of life. In this sense, we can also grasp the communal nature of our global existence. The struggles, emotions and spectrum of states are both here and there. I experience them; you do too. We uncover them everywhere. Transadaptation opens up this communal experience to us through reading, reflection and realization.

In 2021 these stories will continue in the context of childhood. In other words, childhood will be transadapted across the countries. Eleven of the twelve authors will return, with a writer from America being integrated as well. They will expand on the stories begun here. As Henry Whittlesey defined in the introduction to the transpositions of classics in From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin, a transadaptation is a derivative artistic work that stands in relation to another one or other ones, but does not necessarily exhibit much formal or content-based concordance. A translation retains the form and content of an original. An adaptation such as a film of a novel preserves the content, but changes the form (e.g. narration is reproduced as visual images). A transposition shifts the content on account of the context, but retains the form (e.g. The Nose, a 19th-century story set in Russia, is moved to 21st-century America with exactly the same structure as Gogol has in his original). In the case of this volume, it is only possible to speak of a transadaptation in the sense that the stories juxtapose experience or life in one country to another. 

As the stories continue in 2021, with each one focusing on or observing childhood in each country, we will be able to speak directly of a transadaptation, as this theme will constitute the consistent formal element binding each narrative. The project will then explore young adulthood in 2022 before the authors will improvise again in 2023, similar to this year. 

Angelika Friedrich

Print edition

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Kindle edition

In the Middle – Prelude to a Contemporary Transadaptation, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2020)

Digital edition

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: Unreal Reality – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Pedro and Elizabeth – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: Unconscious Repetition – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world


Cover photo: Folc – Jr Korpa (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

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