Monthly Archives: April 2014

From the Front Lines of AWP: A Dispatch

Managing editor Tara FitzGerald on meeting the Asymptote community at this year's AWP!

I’d been warned (in jest) about the rain, but the first day of AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) in Seattle dawned bright and clear, and the weather stayed that way throughout my stay. Not that it would have mattered anyway, because my home away from home was the Asymptote table at the AWP book fair, which was safely tucked away inside the Washington State Convention Center. Thousands of writers had gathered at this convention center to hobnob, talk craft, and attend panels during three days of intense book-related activities. From my vantage point at our table, I had the chance to meet around 250 AWP-ers—some of them Asymptote contributors, some editors from other journals, some already our fans, and others simply curious about the journal and what we do here. It was also exciting to hear that at least a handful of them found out about us because they had attended a panel where we were mentioned as the go-to place for international literature.

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Hebrew Poetry from Ron Dahan’s Collection “Youth”

Dahan's portrayals of war and daily life in Israel are stirring: precise yet deftly ambiguous, casual yet anguished

A soda machine burns outside a grocery store

and all the Pepsi and the Coke (diet, too) and the Sprite

Explode in all directions like grenades.

The village of Markabe is burnt and bombed like in a war movie.

And like in a war movie

there’s the guy who carries a heavy jerrycan on his back

and the guy with the cigarette between his teeth

and the guy called Nir

and the guy who’s going to die and doesn’t know it so he allows himself to reminisce about that time when

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In Review: Marek Hlasko’s “Killing the Second Dog”

First published in Polish in 1965, Tomasz Mirkowicz's translation of a crime novel set in Tel Aviv delights Asymptote's new editor-at-large

Marek Hlasko’s novel, Killing the Second Dog, is set in Tel Aviv, but it isn’t any Tel Aviv that I know. Not only the years that separate my Israel (I was born there in 1982) from the novel’s newly independent Israel of the early 1950s account for this lack of familiarity. Nor is it the fact that Killing the Second Dog is, essentially, a crime novel. Hlasko’s Tel Aviv is an identity-less city, where a multitude of languages is spoken and a variety of currencies is exchanged. Still overcoming British rule and catering to the many post-war tourists financing its new path, this Israel offers itself up for grabs, trying, in spite of the suffocating heat and the shoddy infrastructure, to constitute as small an interruption as possible.

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Weekly News Roundup, 25th April 2014: Gabo and Shakira, Books and Roses

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Strong voices in poetry and protest, remembered: this week marked the unfortunate loss of two poetic voices in protest. Romanian poet Nina Cassian sought exile in the United States after her poems satirizing the Romanian regime stepped on too many toes. Doris Pilkington Garimara exposed systematic injustice toward the Aborigines in Australia most famously through her book, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. It may have happened last week, but the literary world is still reeling from the death of Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez. In the New York Times, Michiko Kakutani remembers García Márquez’s memory while Salman Rushdie asserts that Gabo was “the greatest of us all.” We might see more from him, still: an unpublished excerpt, En Agosto nos Vemos. Or step back in time and read the magical realist’s profile on fellow Colombian pop sensation, Shakira. READ MORE…

Pop Around the World: Rising Sun Blues

There is a house...

It’s hard to say just how your favorite songs become your favorite songs, but it shouldn’t be hard to understand that sometimes our favorites are also immensely popular. We are not unique snowflakes, at least not when it comes to pop music, and sometimes (as previous iterations of this column have tried to show) we aren’t even that different from people across borders, seas, and continents.

A good song travels at the speed of radio waves, taking up residence in ears wherever, whenever.  Folk songs have traveled best of all, passing from porch to porch or from prayer-bench to prayer-bench, until the likes of Alan Lomax and the Greenwich Village folkies recorded and spread these tales like acoustic wildfire. READ MORE…

Asymptote Editor and Contributor News, April Edition

Productive as ever, Asymptote's phenomenal editors and contributors continue to shake up the literary world

Contributor News

Dolan Morgan’s short story collection, That’s When the Knives Come Down, is now available for presale. Eric Nelson writes in Electric Literature that the “unparalleled voice of this debut is surely one that will be copied, but not replicated by future writers,” and other critics have called the work “devlishly clever” and “wry, seductive, and breathtaking.” Read the work’s synopsis, and watch its trailer for a preview of the work’s humor and surrealism.

Contributors to our very first issue Efe Murad and Sidney Wade have won the first annual Meral Divitci Award for their translation of The Selected Poems of Melih Cevdet Anday. Stay tuned: we hear that the book will be released next year.

Bitter Oleander Press also has a new release from Asymptote contributors John Taylor and José-Flore Tappy. Sheds/Hangars is a bilingual volume that collects all of José-Flore Tappy’s poetry to date for the first time in English translation. We can’t wait to read this work, which translator Taylor previously discussed in Asymptote’s January 2012 issue (as it turns out, Taylor’s essay became a substantial part of his introduction).

Italy’s MART (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento and Rovereto) presents the work of Sherman Ong, guest artist for Asymptote’s July 2011 issue, in a new exhibition called Lost in Landscape,” dedicated to contemporary landscape and its many meanings. Ong is shown alongside Marina Abramović, Agnès Varda, and Michael Wolf in this important show—so don’t miss out!

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Marcel Schwob’s “Mimes” – Prologue, Mime I

Post one of Asymptote Blog's serial translation of a hallucinatory, undiscovered French work by a revered fin-de-siècle author

Read all the posts in Asymptote’s “Mimes” translation project here

“We rarely live our own life with pleasure. We almost always try to die of a death other than our own.” – Marcel Schwob, Spicilège

“Nous vivons rarement avec plaisir de notre vraie vie. Nous essayons presque toujours de mourir d’une autre mort que la nôtre.”

Marcel Schwob, a Jewish French writer beloved by Alfred Jarry, Jorge Luis Borges, and Michel Leiris, was born in 1867 and died at an early age in 1905. Scholar of ancient Greek and Latin literature, translator of Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas De Quincey into French, specialist in fifteenth-century French literature (especially the poetry of outlaw poet François Villon)—Schwob steeped himself in the literature of the past while defying countless literary and philosophical boundaries in his own works. From Le Livre de Monelle, recently translated into English by Kit Schluter, which so influenced Michel Leiris that Leiris called reading it a “capital event” and based an episode of Aurora around it (Oeuvres, 17), to Schwob’s inquiry into the nature of argot, Schwob’s works mark an unprecedented, important turn in the history of French literature.

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Reviewing “Red Monsoon,” Interviewing Eelum Dixit

"I think that Nepali cinema is at a point now where if people at the top work together, we can really create a proper industry. "

Red Monsoon, a Nepali-language feature film directed by young Nepali filmmaker Eelum Dixit, will open in Kathmandu multiplexes in May. A select crowd of Lalitpur intelligentsia, myself included (I say this with my tongue firmly in cheek!) were invited to preview the film last week in the more intimate atmosphere of the refurbished 1920s-era Yalamaya Kendra complex.

South Asian film is perhaps too often synonymous with Bollywood. The overwhelming image is of the colourful, sequined song-and-dance routine, melodrama, three-hour-plus duration, as well as big-budget, cartel-backed production.

But Red Monsoon contains only one of these characteristics. The low-budget film (starring several members of Eelum’s family) opens with footage of one of Kathmandu’s many crowd-pulling religious festivals, yet riot police are beating back revelers. In the next scene, a group of young men discuss migration to the Gulf. “Good luck with your new life in Dubai,” says one friend. READ MORE…

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.

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“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.

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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.

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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 fifty-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…