Weekly News Roundup, 18th April 2014: Happy in translation land, Don’t call me a storyteller!

This week's literary highlights from across the world

The absolute happiest news of the week? Asymptote’s April issue is out, and it sure is star-studded: our most recent issue features the likes of Nobel laureate Herta Müller; writer, editor, and translator David Bellos; Spanish-language sensation Antonio Ungar, Prix-Goncourt prize carrier Jonathan Littell; up-and-coming Amanda Lee Koe (highlighted in our special Diaspora English-language fiction feature!); Robert Walser Prizewinner Marianne Fritz; and past Asymptote favorite Jonas Hassen Khemiri… among so, so many others—it’s a spectacular issue from top to bottom (we promise we aren’t biased!) and absolutely worth checking out. Blog co-editor extraordinaire Eva Richter tackled some of her personal favorites earlier this week: dive into the issue and discover your own! READ MORE…

Gatsby in Translationland, Part II: between Words and Films

"Jacek Dehnel’s translation of the The Great Gatsby reveals, above all, the impotence of words as characters try to take control of their lives."

Asymptote Blog is celebrating The Great Gatsby’s 89th anniversary with two essays dedicated to Gatsby, translated: What does a seminal work of 20th-century Americana look like outside the tight nexus of American lit? This essay, second in a two-part series, takes a look at four very different Gatsbys, in translation and onscreen. Read Part I here.


“Alcoholism, insomnia, anxiety, depression”: this is the diagnosis that appears in the medical record of Nick Carraway, protagonist of Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 film “The Great Gatsby.” Luhrmann’s is the fourth filmic Gatsby, published on April 10, 1925, and one of the first works tackling the mythic American Dream. READ MORE…

Asymptote Spring 2014 Issue – Out Now!

…and it's packed with the most exciting new literary translations, critical pieces, and more from around the world.

What are you waiting for? Highlights from Asymptote’s Spring 2014 issue include new work by Nobel laureate Herta MüllerDavid Bellos (author of “Is that a Fish in Your Ear?”), and Prix Goncourt-winner Jonathan Littell. Plus, our annual English-language fiction feature spotlights Diasporic literature from Bosnia, China, India, Japan, and Singapore.


Interview with Alex Cigale: Part II

Featuring poetry by neo-futurist poets Serge Segay and Rea Nikonova!

In Part I of Asymptote blog’s interview with Alex Cigale, Cigale discussed the roots of Russian Futurism, its modern inheritors, and politics at play in Russian poetry. Now he discusses his poetry and translations of Russian neo-futurist poets Serge Segay and Rea Nikonova. Read on for new poems by Segay and Nikonova, and to find out about Cigale’s Kickstarter campaign to finish exoDICKERING: Compositions 1963-1985, translated poetry by Serge Segay.


Cuban Literature, Translation, and Baseball with Leonardo Padura

"What I say here in Brooklyn is exactly what I say in Havana.”

As the diplomatic stand-off between the United States and Cuba reaches its forty-fifth year, an anxious audience packed into 61 Local in Brooklyn, New York to hear from Cuban writer Leonard Padura and his translator, Anna Kushner.

Online translation journal Words Without Borders gathered Padura, Kushner, and writer-editor Jonathan Blitzer to discuss the recently released Padura novel The Man Who Loved Dogs (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux 2013), translated by Kushner. The evening included a reading by Padura in the original Spanish, followed by Kushner reading the same passage in English. READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 11th April 2014: Sade goes home, Prizes everywhere

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Good news always seems to come in threes—or fours, or fives… News of this week’s literary accolades struck with some seriously heavy hitters. The Dublin IMPAC Award has announced its finalists, which include five books in translation and a novel by Asymptote interviewee Tan Twan Eng. For this prize, especially, the stakes are quite high: the winning author receives a 100,000-Euro prize, or in the case of a translation, a 75,000-25,000-Euro writer-translator split! Karl Ove Knausgaard, contentious memoirist and nominated for the IMPAC, has been graced with double honors this week: he’s also been shortlisted for the International Foreign Fiction Prize, which historically includes two female Japanese writers as well (a first!): Yoko Ogawa and Hiromi Kawakami. It’s a good week for female writers in general: the prize formerly known as the Orange Prize the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has announced its shortlist. READ MORE…

Gatsby in Translationland: A Polish “Gatsby” in the 21st Century

"We have to bear in mind that Demkowska was working under very different circumstances: behind the Iron Curtain and without access to Google."

Asymptote Blog is celebrating The Great Gatsby’s 89th anniversary with two essays dedicated to Gatsby, translated: what does a seminal work of 20th-century Americana look like outside the tight nexus of American lit? This essay, first in a two-part series, focuses on rewriting Gatsby in 21st-century Poland. 


Exactly half a century divides the first (and, until recently, the only) Polish translation of The Great Gatsby by Ariadna Demkowska that saw several editions from my new version (a second translation, by Jędrzej Polak, was issued only once). Until now Poles unable to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work in the original had only Demkowska’s translation to rely on. I myself read the book as a teenager when it first appeared in Czytelnik’s Nike series.  READ MORE…

Interview with Alex Cigale: Part I

"As is true for many of my current projects, for the first fifteen years of reading him, my feeling was: Untranslatable."

Asymptote editor-at-large and accomplished poet and translator Alex Cigale is hard at work on a forthcoming book of translations of neo-futurist Serge Segay’s poetry titled exoDICKERING: Compositions 1963-1985, and recently set up a Kickstarter campaign to help him finish his work. In part one of a conversation with Asymptote Blog, Cigale talks about the roots of Russian Futurism and its modern inheritors, politics at play in Russian poetry, and the unique challenge of translating a linguistic system that associates every letter of the alphabet with a feeling-sense (and a color!).


Imagined Bridges: On Ivo Andrić’s The Bridge Over the Drina

What does medieval Bosnia have to do with a destroyed-and-rebuilt Italian bridge? An architect responds.

The word bridge comes from the words log and beam; the earliest bridges were trees that fell over and connected two opposing banks. The wood beams that make this bridge, the Ponte Coperto in Pavia, Italy, are exalted in the vault, their circumference larger than any neighboring tree. The columns that support this vast lid were exhumed from a mountain of granite, their chisel marks and eased edges the distilled labors of a multitude of hands. Up close, they are heavy, rutted, imperfect—but from a distance the columns stand delicately, twenty-four strong on each side of a thickened waist. The roofed colonnade is held by four arches that touch the river in three places below. The sense of solidity underfoot is echoed overhead, shelter and possibility both made new in the connection.


The Joys and Dangers of Translating Asian Dictionaries: Part III.

"If the king organizes the Mānasollāsa, he is also organized by it."

Click back to see Part I and Part II of this series. Or you can enjoy this post all on its own!


The translation of the language of things into that of man is not only a translation of the mute into the sonic; it is also the translation of the nameless into name. It is therefore the translation of an imperfect language into a more perfect one, and cannot but add something to it, namely knowledge.

—   Walter Benjamin, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man”

In my previous posts I discussed the dangers of reading Asian encyclopedias by discussing two fictional representations of Asian systems of knowledge. Today, I return to reality by looking at a very real, very dear-to-me Indian encyclopedia, the Mānasollāsa of the 12th century South Indian king Someśvara III. It is the first general accounting of the various forms of scientific knowledge we find in pre-modern India. Topping 8000 verses, it is monumental, true to Aude Doody’s definition: “a grand-scale reference work with retrieval devices.” Because of its massive scope, it has not yet been fully translated into English or any other language (though sections have been translated into Kannada).


Weekly News Roundup, 4th April 2014: Wiki-Dictionaries, Muhammed: the Opera, Translating Kafka and Joyce

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Happy April! It’s too late for April Fool’s trickery at the roundup, but the announcement of German publisher PediaPress’ proposal to print out all of Wikipedia—yes, all four million articles, amounting to one thousand volumes and a bookcase eight feet long and 32 feet high—certainly seems like a prank of Rushdie-selfie proportions. READ MORE…

But will translators scare the children?

"My sons can handle knowing their Calvino was translated."

My first literary entanglement—or the first one I remember—was with folktales. While Danish and German tales were undoubtedly my introduction to the form, by the time memory kicks in, I am scouring local libraries and filling Christmas wish lists with requests for Greek myths, Norwegian sagas, Chinese tales, Italian fairy stories (yes, the Calvino), and any others that an intrepid relative might find.


My l’esprit de l’escalier and Croatian literature abroad

"Should I be firm and show attitude, or rather go with the soft, constructive approach? I chose the second, and I made a grave mistake."

January and February marked a celebration of the third anniversary of a valuable international volunteer project: a journal dedicated to literary translation going under the unexpectedly mathematical name of Asymptote. Literary evenings and panels were organized in London, New York, Boston and Zagreb on this occasion (the birthday party lasts throughout April as well, venturing to Philadelphia, Shanghai, Berlin, Buenos Aires and Sydney). READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Jáchym Topol on Bohumil Hrabal

"Hrabal juts up in front of me like a boulder."

March 28, 2014, marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of Bohumil Hrabal, perhaps the best-loved author ever to write in Czech. His life’s work—numbering over three dozen volumes, including the slim yet overflowing Příliš hlučná samota (Too Loud a Solitude, translated by Michael Henry Heim), described by James Wood as “his finest book” and “the closest Hrabal came to a self-portrait”—itself would suffice to make a legend of him. Yet it also served as the inspirational launching pad for the 1960s Czechoslovak New Wave in cinema. Celebrations of Hrabal’s centennial are underway this year not only in Prague, but in New York and Madrid as well.

Today, Jáchym Topol is recognized as the leading author of the generation of Czech authors who’ve come of age since the end of communism in Eastern Europe with the Velvet Revolution of 1989. He shares a language with Hrabal, though his writing style and life experience are worlds apart. Here, he shares what it was like to grow up in Hrabal’s shadow and the not-so-straightforward impact that Hrabal had on him.