Posts filed under 'dispatch'

Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

No matter where you are, we've got you covered.

Since 2013 we’ve been bringing you the latest news in the literary world, and we’re not about to stop anytime soon! This week our Executive Assistant, Cassie Lawrence, showcases the latest exciting books being published and prizes being awarded in the UK; our new Editor-at-Large from Brazil, Lara Norgaard, focuses on racial and gender diversity in festivals across the country, as well as newly published work that had been previously lost; finally, our Editor-at-Large for Taiwan, Vivian Szu-Chin Chih, fills us in on the latest prizes as well as film festivals happening right now! 

Cassie Lawrence, Executive Assistant at Asymptote, reports from the UK: 

An unpublished manuscript from the late author Maurice Sendak (known for Where the Wild Things Are) has been discovered. The manuscript is complete with illustrations and is said to date from twenty years ago, according to Publishers Weekly. A publisher for the new title has not yet been announced.

June 20-23 saw twenty British writers and over fifty literature professionals from around the world gather in Norwich as part of the International Literature Showcase. An online platform that allows the showcasing and collaboration of international literature organisations, the live event included panel discussions and readings from Elif Shafak, Graeme Macrae Burnet, David Szalay, and more.

 

Good news for libraries finally! Following the cuts that have taken place across the country in recent years, The Bookseller brings news that 14 libraries across Lancashire are set to reopen later this year and early next year. These will be partly run by community groups, but with the majority still being run by the council.

Amy Liptrot’s memoir The Outrun (Canongate) has been awarded the PEN Ackerley Prize 2017 . The book was up against All at Sea by Decca Aitkenhead (4th Estate) and This Is the Place to Be by Lara Pawson (CB Editions). Liptrot also took home the Wainwright Prize in 2016 for the “best writing on the outdoors, nature and UK-based travel writing.”

Zed Books are to release the first anthology of Russian contemporary art writing to be published outside of Russia. The book, entitled Cosmic Shift: Russian Contemporary Art Writing, will be published on the October 5, with contributors including artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, e-flux founder Anton Vidokle, critic and theorist Boris Groys and avant-garde artist and writer Dmitri Prigov.

Lara Norgaard, Editor-at-Large, covers the latest in Brazil: 

The much-awaited 15th annual Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty (Flip) will take place in Paraty, RJ from July 26-30, gathering authors to discuss topics ranging from theater and film to politics and science.

Women now constitute over half of the forty-six invited authors. Black authors, though still underrepresented, now make up 30 percent. This year’s honored author is Lima Barreto, a black writer from Rio de Janeiro whose work 100 years ago engaged social critique on topics of race and class.

Writers invited to participate include Jamaican 2015 Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James, Angolan rapper and activist Luaty Beirão, and Brazilian poet and translator Josely Vianna Baptista. New this year, each discussion will open with a performance art series, “Fruto estranho”. The research organization Intelectuais Negras UFRJ will release a catalogue/portfolio hybrid at the conference entitled Intelectuais Negras, containing information on contemporary black women writers in Brazil.

Despite Flip’s progress on inclusion, more can be done. On the horizon: the first-ever national conference for women writers in Brazil, Mulherio das Letras (October 10-15 in João Pessoa, PB), brings together a diverse group of over 400 women writers to discuss writing in the male-dominated Brazilian literary world. The events are being organized collectively and without hierarchy. For information or to get involved, message the group’s Facebook page.

A black female author will also be commemorated in São Paulo this month. On July 10-14 journalists and writers will meet for the Ciclo Carolina Maria de Jesus and host discussions about author Carolina Maria de Jesus (1914-1977), a black woman from Minas Gerais who lived in Sao Paulo’s Candidé favela. In 1960 she published a collection of her journals, Quarto de Despejo – Diário de uma Favelada, which explores the everyday of the favela. The journal has been translated in forty-two countries.

In publishing news, June yielded the posthumous release of two famous Brazilian writers’ works. On June 22 researcher Milena Wanderly found a poem by Hilda Hilst (1930-2004) in an archived issue of the magazine Tentativa, published when the poet was 19 years old.

Two years ago, a professor at the Federal University of São Carlos, Dr. Wilton Marques, made a similar discovery when he found eight stories written by young José de Alencar in the Correio Mercantil newspaper from 1854 and 1855. On June 27, the Editora da Universidade Federal de São Carlos published this collection, with a critical introduction by Marques.

Vivian Szu-Chin Chih, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Taiwan:

The Taiwanese literary translator and English literature professor at National Taiwan University, Ping-Ta Ku, received the second English Presents award granted by English PEN at the end of June, with his English translation of the well-respected contemporary Taiwanese fiction writer, Yijun Luo’s novel published by INK in 2008, Tangut Inn (Xi Xia Lu Guan).

Luo’s Tangut Inn depicts the condition of Taiwan’s society by comparing it to the Xi Xia Empire (Tangut Empire) that existed through the 11th century in northwestern China and some parts of Inner and Outer Mongolia. By drawing an analogy between an Empire conquered by an unidentified political force (some historians attribute it to the Mongolians led by Genghis Khan) and Taiwan in the 20th century, the novel transcends the past and present, contrasting the protagonist’s psychological world and the realities in the society. The translator employs Renaissance English to cross the barrier posed by the author, who composed in complex traditional Chinese.

Shifting our focus from the literary scene to films, the 19th Taipei Film Festival is currently happening in several major movie theaters in the capital, introducing most up-to-date film works from local and pan-Asian areas, including northeastern and southeastern Asian countries. One noteworthy program of the film festival this year showcased the Taiwanese film music composer, Lim Giong, who was the winner of the Cannes Soundtrack Award for his work in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “The Assassin” in 2015. The Taipei Film Festival invited Lim to cooperate with a few new directors and rank the seven selected films directed by these directors. The audience was enabled to enjoy the luxury of peeking into Lim’s composing process at Zhongshan Hall, with all the required equipment for sound composing set up by the festival crew.

From this week until the end of July, Taipei will be remembering one of the greatest Taiwanese directors from the “New Wave Cinema” in the 1980s, Edward Yang, who passed away a decade ago. With three of his digitally restored films screened, “That Day, on the Beach,” “Taipei Story,” and “Yi Yi: a One and a Two,” once again, the audience will be reviewing the director’s legendary life and re-understanding the city through the beloved director’s eyes and camera.

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Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

If you're wondering what's happening in the world of literature, you've come to the right place

This week brings us the latest, most exciting news from Austria, Taiwan and the United States. Contributor Flora Brandl gives us a taste of what Austria’s literary festivals have in store for us; Editor-at-Large Vivian Szu-Chin Chih shares the wonderful news about same-sex marriage in Taiwan and its connection with literature; Educational Arm Assistant Reverie Powell serves up some fantastic and diverse performances taking place in the United States. 

Contributor Flora Brandl reporting from Austria: 

In Salzburg, the city’s annual literature festival took place this May. Among its most renowned guests were the actor Bruno Ganz, who read excerpts from the deceased Swiss author Robert Walser, and the Salzburg-based, Georg Büchner Preis-winning author Walter Kappacher, who read some of his own unpublished fragments. Other authors featured in the five-day festival were Kirsten Fuchs, Nico Bleutge and Franz Schuh.

In Vienna, the multicultural and interdisciplinary art festival Wiener Festwochen is currently showcasing a number of performances, theatre productions, installations and exhibitions. With this year’s overarching theme of diversity, most works dedicate themselves to pertinent contemporary issues such as postcolonialism and global conflict. The play Während ich wartete (‘While I Was Waiting’, performed in Arabic with English subtitles), by the Syrian director Omar Abusaada and dramatist Mohammad Al Attar, portrays the story of a family as it comes to reflect larger military, political, cultural and generational conflict in Syria. The production has been touring Europe for a year, albeit with a heavily alternating cast: some actors had not yet completed their own asylum processes and were lacking the necessary papers to perform.

The 48-hour performance by Spanish artist Santiago Sierra was also showcased at the Wiener Festwochen. Bearing one of Sierra’s characteristically self-revealing titles, his performance The Names of those Killed in the Syrian Conflict, between 15th of March 2011 and 31st of December 2016 aims to attach individual identities to the many nameless war victims of those images that circulate in our media. Researched by a team of Brazilian academics, Sierra’s reading of names (accompanied by images projected to a wall) toured Tel Aviv, Vienna, London and Buenos Aires. The performance was accessible not only to a number of local spectators, but also to virtual audiences around the globe who were following it online, ensuring that the humanitarian toll taken on the Syrian population is neither overlooked nor forgotten.

Vivian Szu-Chin Chih, Editor-at-Large, reports from Taiwan:

May 24 marked a milestone in Taiwan: the Constitutional Court ruled that the constitution should serve to protect the rights for same-sex marriage. This unprecedented and long-awaited decision has made Taiwan the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. Taiwan’s fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage has lasted for decades and has taken an arduous journey, one which has been reflected through the country’s literature. Last Words from Montmartre, a novel composed by the notable Taiwanese lesbian writer, Chiu Miao-Jin, who took her own life at the age of twenty-six, as well as Pai Hsien-Yung’s fiction depicting the condition of gays in Taipei in the 1960s, Crystal Boys, are again being widely reread and discussed.

From the last Saturday of May until early July, Prof. Li-Chuan Ou of the Department of Chinese Literature in National Taiwan University will be speaking about Chinese Tang poets and classical Chinese poetry at Kishu An. On June 17, the two Taiwanese doctors under forty will give a joint talk on how they have been striking a balance between their vocations and passion towards writing, together with the everyday realities they face in hospital that have been recorded through their writing. Kishu An will also host an exhibition and a series of related talks to pay tribute to the great Chinese writer, publisher, and translator, Ba Jin, starting from mid-June.

From mid-May to July, the winners of 2016 Taiwan Literature Award are touring around the island to share their experiences of writing. The themes of their speeches span from restoring Taiwanese history through historical novels, to aboriginal poetry about the natural landscapes of Taiwan to the world, to silencing and violence in theatre.

Reverie Powell, Educational Arm Assistant, reports from the United States:

Wordspace in conjunction with the South Dallas Cultural Center, presented poet, performer, and librettist, Douglas Kearney on May 25 in the third season of the reading series, African Diaspora: New Dialogues . Much like the Sankofa, a bird that simultaneously looks backward and forward, Kearney embeds the past, present, and future of African Americans into his work exploring themes important to African Americans such as the reality of being threatened and being ‘threatening’ as well as the historical pressure to ‘signify’ one’s identity. Kearney samples hip hop lyrics, rewrites the myth of Stagger Lee, who kills Bill Lyons for stomping on his sometimes magical, sometimes expensive hat, and sentences him to twelve Herakles-like labors.

Additionally, Dallas’s Mark David Noble is “listening to the arts community” with his new podcast, Wordwire, which broadcasts local performances and interviews giving listeners inside peeks at various authors’ creative processes from inception to delivery.

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Dispatch from Translation Day at Oxford University

There is more wisdom in a poem than a poet herself possesses. Though necessarily incomplete, translation captures some of that expansive heritage.

‘I live half an hour away from Gaza. Two years ago, when we began work, we were at war.’

It’s an overcast day, and soft light floods into the room, filled with students, writers, academics, and publishers. I count translators from at least four languages, but these are only the regular faces I know. Many others have come into Oxford especially for the day, drawn by a rich programme of talks, readings, and workshops. Up front, the Israeli poet Agi Mishol is telling us how she and her translator, Joanna Chen, started collaborating on their recent volume of Mishol’s verse, Less Like A Dove.

‘We were hard at work on a poem when it came. The siren caught us with dictionaries open, and there was nothing we could do. We found ourselves laughing and panicking in the same language.’

Chen, like Mishol, speaks with a poet’s careful precision, and laughs and nods at the memory. They are joined, on the panel, by Adriana Jacobs from the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and open the session by reading some of the earliest poems Chen translated for the book. The poems are about place and displacement, and their voices, in Hebrew and English, rise and fall in turn. Call and response: a present-day liturgy of sorts.

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Variations on a Theme: Carolina Schutti & Joanna Walsh on Poetic Prose

"Poets have long been questioning the usefulness/uselessness of the label 'prose poem.'"

When I was invited to create a miniseries of semi-regular author events as translator in residence at the Austrian Cultural Forum London, I wanted to make sure that the Austrian author would always be in dialogue with a British counterpart about something they have in common in their writing. My motivation is to juggle the foreignness and uniqueness of German-language literature with where it meets and overlaps with literature written in English in order to show that writing comes from a specific linguistic, cultural and literary context, but one that connects and communicates with others. As journalist Judith Vonberg summed it up in her review of the event for Literaturhaus Europa: “it’s a simple but unconventional idea. Instead of highlighting the differences between British literature and literature made on the continent, the starting point is similarity, which opens up far more interesting discussions.”

The first of these events brought Austrian writer and musician Carolina Schutti and author and illustrator Joanna Walsh together to discuss poetic prose and how poetry permeates their writing in terms of language, effect and form with me in the ACF London’s Salon back in February. As a writer of both poetry and short fiction, I’m interested in why sometimes one form does and then other times won’t do at all, and why it sometimes happens that I can read the poetry and prose of others interchangeably as if in the other form. What are the markers and where is the boundary? READ MORE…

Notes from the 2016 London Book Fair

"There is something unavoidably, well, icky, about book fairs: it is the necessary monetization, and inevitable corporatization, of art."

If we took Lemony Snicket creator Daniel Handler’s cautionary advice at face value—“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them”—then, at the least, we should not fear the Book Fair as a den of thieves and our attendance an exercise in tiptoeing above and around winking blades.

Quite the opposite: we are among the international literati of the first order, and we are free to ecstatically smile and sniff the books and promotional materials—like an American woman visiting a French perfume shop. On opening day, Guardian columnist and high-flying London salonnière Damian Barr dispensed more practical guidance particular to British connoisseurship. “#LBF16 have a great fair everyone! Remember to sneak out for gin/fags/sunshine,” he tweeted. READ MORE…

Tour de Farce: Julian Gough in Vienna

"'Uh, it kind of doesn't matter what it does. Everyone will want one. Look at it.' They looked at it. It was beautiful.”

Julian Gough’s four-day visit to Vienna started on November 12th, with a reading at Lane & Merriman’s Irish Pub. The Pub features pictures of Samuel Beckett and pint glasses with Oscar Wilde on them, as well as the latter’s appropriate quotation for such an establishment: “Everything in moderation, including moderation” on the wall. The Pub also provided the perfect setting for a lively reading and a long and engaging Q & A session that touched on a number of important current issues—ra(n)ging from 21st century technology to the pros and cons of a return to a gift economy.

The reading was co-hosted by write:now, the Association of English-Language Writers in Austria, the Irish Embassy in Vienna and the English Department at the University of Vienna, each of whom managed to blackmail bring a fair amount of people to the event—the room was packed and the “antici… pation” was palpable. After I had introduced Julian, he took the imaginary stage. READ MORE…

When an Author You Translate Gets Death Threats

On a visit to Krakow last week, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich spoke out in support of Tokarczuk, whom she called a “magnificent writer."

Acclaimed Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk (pictured) has received a steady stream of hate mail and even death threats after questioning her country’s view of itself as “an open, tolerant country.” As one person put it in a post to Tokarczuk’s Facebook page, “The only justice for these lies is death. Traitor.” Many agree that Tokarczuk’s “betrayal” must be punished; milder comments call for her expulsion from Poland. On a visit to Kraków last week, Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich spoke out in support of Tokarczuk, whom she called a “magnificent writer,” saying, “Some people would happily kick me out of Belarus in just the same way others are now calling for Tokarczuk to be removed from Poland.” While others have also expressed their solidarity with the author, the widespread outrage at Tokarczuk’s remarks has yet to subside.

The remarks in question are taken from a television interview Tokarczuk gave shortly after receiving Poland’s highest literary honor, the Nike, on October 4. She was awarded the Nike for her latest book, Księgi Jakubowe (The Books of Jacob), a monumental novel that delves into the life and times of controversial historical figure Jacob Frank, leader of a heretical Jewish splinter group that ranged the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth seeking basic safety as well as transcendence. Tokarczuk’s twelfth book, considered by many critics to be her masterpiece, The Books of Jacob is also a suspenseful and entertaining novel that remained a national bestseller for months after its November 2014 release.

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Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations

Translators and scholars discuss stereotyping, globalization, and small sales in English-language literary markets.

Last September, three British universities—Bristol, Cardiff and UCL London—launched a two-year-long project on “Translating the Literatures of Smaller European Nations” in partnership with Literature Across Frontiers. The purpose was to “understand better the ways in which, through translation, these literatures endeavour to reach the cultural mainstream.” In addition to scholarly research, the project involves three public workshops and a conference.

The first of these workshops, held in February 2015 in Bath, explored the question of “Who Reads the Literatures of Small Nations and Why?”.  I had the pleasure of attending the second workshop, “Choreography of Translation,” which took place at the British Library in London as part of the European Literature Night in April 2015 (a third and final workshop, on promoting literature in translation, is planned for early 2016). Featuring publishers Vladislav Bajac of Geopoetika in Belgrade, Susan Curtis-Kojakovic, founder of Istros Books, translator (and Asymptote Close Approximations nonfiction judge!) Margaret Jull Costa, and Nicole Witt of the Frankfurt Literary Agency Mertin, the BL event ended up being more panel discussion than workshop, partly because the venue was not particularly conducive to the workshop format.

By contrast, a conference at Bristol University on September 9-10 provided many opportunities for lively discussions. The participants were a perfect mix of literature and translation studies scholars and practising translators from across Europe, covering a range of smaller European literatures from Catalan to Turkish. I’ll try to highlight some of the major issues covered, divided into often overlapping categories.

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The Afrofuture, for the Time/Being: Mat Randol

"The afronaut tells the disjunctive story of the history of the world, and says it with his own words (read: establishes the new lingual order)."

Mat Randol has a stylist. Her name is Miá—she’s nice, and so is Mat’s agent, Mulu. Mat Randol has an entire crew. I stress this point if only to try to convey my extreme surprise at finding out that I had unwittingly commissioned Mat’s first-ever live performance.

I met Mat on the Internet. He was part of a future-soul scene in Portland, along with formidable rappers like Grape God and Ripley Snell. In fact, these three musicians (Mat, Grape, and Rip) went on to become the Portland faction of a collective I started called The Spacesuits, an international network of musicians putting on otherworldly performances. READ MORE…

KROKODIL Literary Festival: A Dispatch

"Every year in mid-June, in front of the Yugoslav Museum in Belgrade, a strange sect gathers: made up of friends whose names you don’t know."

When organizing an open-air festival, it is easy to realize how religions first came into being: man gazed into the sky and yearned for weather to save the harvest. For seven years now, we—the organization team of the Krokodil festival—have been just-as-obsessively peering at the sky and weather forecasts, always clutching to the one that predicts the worst possible weather. Finally, on the opening day, we phone the Hydrometeorology Institute every two hours. We’re on a first-name basis with its employees.

The festival takes place in the open-air amphitheater in front of the Museum of Yugoslav History, which makes for great atmosphere and an exceptionally high turnout. Krokodil (an acronym loosely translatable as “regional literary gathering which does away with boredom and lethargy”) is conceived as a reading festival and a festival of contemporary literature. More than 120 authors, from over fifteen European countries, have participated thus far.

This year’s theme was “Centers of Periphery.” We aimed to examine the relation between the “center” and the “margin” in literature, as well as in society and politics, exploring the geographical aspects of banishment from the mainstream. READ MORE…

Hands Across the Water: A Dispatch

Jen Calleja dispatches from "Don't Mind the Gap: An Evening of British/German Literature at King's Place" in London

‘Don’t Mind the Gap: An Evening of German and British Literature’ at King’s Place, though clocking in at two hours, had an energetic, celebratory and comfortable atmosphere from start to finish. Though the venue was larger than the ICA’s cinema where I’d attended ‘Found in Translation’ the previous evening, it also felt like the more intimate of the two events.

Reading one after the other for ten-to-fifteen minutes apiece were some of the finest English- and German-speaking poets and writers working today: Durs Grünbein, Terézia Mora, Simon Armitage, A L Kennedy, Imtiaz Dharker, Marcel Beyer, Don Paterson and Alfred Brendel. All the authors’ texts were projected onto an updating screen, in English for the British writers to help German-speakers (which made a couple of the writers a little nervous, and even confused when they saw English behind them but half-expected to see themselves in German), and in English translation for the German writers. READ MORE…

Poem as Firework, Poem as Bone China: A Dispatch

A dispatch from the "Found in Translation" event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London

We run through groups of snail-paced tourists from Trafalgar Square to arrive just in time for the start of “Found in Translation” at the ICA, almost walking directly into Michael Hofmann on entering the filling cinema. We take our seats just as he walks down to join fellow poet and literary translator Jamie McKendrick and German poet Jan Wagner on stage. While everyone settles down to an ominous soundtrack straight out of Star Wars, I take in the two rows of bulbs, like the lights that surround the mirror in a theatre dressing room, running the length of the ceiling. Some of them are out, which fits an event that glows but never quite reaches its full brightness.

In the introduction, Jan Wagner is sprightly and upright with a schoolboy haircut, Jamie McKendrick cradles his leather satchel before sliding it onto the floor, Michael Hofmann plays with his hands, lets them hang down either side of his chair, then finally folds them in his lap. Microphones are reluctantly taken up. McKendrick hugs his to the side of his head, Hofmann whispers to his like a little friend. READ MORE…

Is Complex Literature More Rewarding? A Dispatch

A dispatch from the Beijing Bookworm

Fish, fungi, kittens, and cockroaches mirror the protagonists in Mexican author Guadalupe Nettel’s psychologically incisive tales. In the fictional world of Hong Kong’s Dorothy Tse, brutal violence unfolds according to the incomprehensible but irrefutable logic of nightmares. Xi Ni Er preserves slices of a changing Singapore in his condensed, dialogue-driven micro-narratives.

“Complex literature” is not an unreasonable description for the work of any of these writers, but it is an awkwardly nebulous pretext for putting them on a stage together. At the beginning of the event, they sometimes seemed burdened by the duty to engage with the topic and valiantly attempt to define what complex literature might or might not be. READ MORE…

An Uncommon Event: A Dispatch from the Compass Translation Award

A dispatch honoring Russian literature and translation

On January 17th—just as the country was getting ready to celebrate MLK and his legacy—a swarm of Russian poetry fans hosted a celebratory (and yet very uncommon) evening of its own. The twofold event, which combined the Compass Translation Award ceremony and the launch of the long awaited 4th volume of Cardinal Points journal, an event occasioned under the auspices of the the StoSvet literary project as well as the Mad Hat Press and the Russian-American Cultural Center.

Set in Manhattan‘s venerable Poets House, the event commenced by honoring two major literary figures that both passed away in recent months: George Kline and Nina Cassian. Hailed as one with an “impeccable ear for translating Russian poetry,” particularly that of Joseph Brodsky, Kline’s multi-decade work made Russian poets better known to the English reader.

He was remembered by Larisa Shmailo, as well as by Irina Mashinski, the event’s main organizer. Furthermore, Nina Cassian, a Romanian poet and translator, who lived in New York City since the late years of the Ceaușescu regime, was honored by her husband, Maurice Edwards, who read two of her recent poems.  READ MORE…