Posts filed under 'Latin America'

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An unpublished manuscript from the late author Maurice Sendak (known for Where the Wild Things Are) has been discovered.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.
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Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

A trip around the literary world, from USA to Latin America to the Czech Republic.

The weekend is upon us—here’s a detailed look at the week that was by our editors-at-large. In the United States, Madeline Jones reports directly from the trenches of the Book Expo in New York City. A gathering of publishers, booksellers, agents, librarians, and authors, the event is the largest of its kind in North America. We also have Sarah Moses filling us in with tidings from Colombia and Argentina, and updates on the Bogotá39, a group of thirty-nine Latin American writers considered to be the finest of their generation. Finally, Julia Sherwood brings us some hot off the press literary news from the Czech Republic. Settle in and get reading.

Madeline Jones, Editor-at-Large, reports from the United States:

Last week in New York City, Book Expo (formerly Book Expo America) set up shop at the famously-disliked Javits Center on western edge of Midtown Manhattan. Publishers, literary agencies, scouts, booksellers, and readers gathered for discussions about the future of publishing, meetings about foreign rights deals, publicity and media “speed-dating” sessions, and more. Authors and editors spoke about their latest books for audiences of industry insiders, and lines trailed from various publisher booths for galley signings.

Though the floor was noticeably quieter than previous years, and certainly nothing compared to the busy hub of foreign rights negotiations that the London and Frankfurt book fairs are, Asymptote readers will be pleased to hear that multiple panel discussions and presentations were dedicated to foreign publishers, the viability of selling translations in the U.S., and indie books (which more often tend to be translations than major trade publishers’ books). READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: A selection from Poems for Michael Jordan by Francisco Ide Wolletter

fate is the phenomenon of the ball passing through empty space to arrive at your empty hands

Awarded first place in the CNCAs Roberto Bolaño Prize for Young Literary Creation in the Poetry category, twenty-seven-year-old Francisco Ide Wolleter stands out from the latest generation of Chilean litterateurs. His “Poems for Michael Jordan” are miracles of observation, imbuing quotidian life with existential drama. You won’t ever watch basketball the same way again after this.

I

 the ball’s porous plane

makes me think of human skin

 

a tactile nostalgia

though contact is always illusory

 

the facts are thus: we’re structured on emptiness

built of atoms,

atoms whose nature is to repel

and be repelled.

 

that’s why we don’t mix with things

that’s why when we touch

we haven’t really touched anything at all

 

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Translation Tuesday: “Okinawa, Mon Amour” by Betina González

In Japan everything always happened in reverse: wolves did not eat people, kamikazes were not afraid of death, grumpy people smiled.

It’s #Giving Tuesday! If you’ve enjoyed our Translation Tuesday posts, please consider a $25 donation to our newly launched fundraising drive today! Every little will help us bring you more of what you love.

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In Japan everything always happened in reverse: wolves did not eat people, kamikazes were not afraid of death, grumpy people smiled, and Cinderella was a stoker’s son named Mamichigane.

Every day, Miriam thought about that typhoon-exhausted island she had never seen: Shuri Castle cloaked in flames, the drowned children of the Tsushima Maru, and the woman who came down from Heaven and had to stay on Earth because some man stole her magic kimono.

Every day, Miriam fed her fish, dusted off the glass cases of her tragic geishas, and cursed, with much gentility, her destiny as a South American. Her big brother’s explanations didn’t help much. As Kazuo so often reminded her, the Ryukyu Kingdom had little to do with Japanese traditions, and the people of Okinawa ever fled their island. Okinawa had to be the one place in the world with a commemorative statue of the Father of Immigration: Kyuzo Toyama, the hero who arranged the flight of the first Okinawan-Hawaiian citizens in 1899. For Kazuo, the argument reinforced a historical truth: their ancestors were in fact the first settlers of the Americas and, according to him, merely completing their millennia-long task. The Indian-American was practically Japanese; if Kazuo had any talent, he would draw a manga of the second wave of continental population, destined to perfect a race of supermen through dry-cleaning and karate. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: “The First” by Mariana Graciano

Short fiction translated by Kadiri Vaquer

 An unpredictable cloud of smoke forced him to move around constantly. He had nowhere to stand to avoid it. That day, grandpa mentioned how every January 1st, the wind blew in all four directions. The rest of the family watched him start the fire for the barbecue and his theory, once again, was proven.

It was a thick and humid beginning of the year. After eating, the family rested under the ombu tree like animals waiting for the storm. When the sky turned black, the women hurried to take everything inside: cups, chairs and the clothes hanging on the line.  Then it began to rain, just like that, a curtain of water, hard and even. READ MORE…

Who’s Who in La Zona? (Part II)

In conversation with translator Steve Dolph on Juan José Saer

Catch up on Part I of this fascinating interview here.

Steve Dolph is the translator of three books by the late Argentine novelist Juan José Saer, who died in Paris in 2005. All three were published by Open Letter Books, the most recent (June ’14) being Saer’s final, unfinished novel, La Grande. Mr. Dolph is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where his research treats Renaissance ecopoetics and the pastoral tradition. His most recent translation, of Sergio Chejfec’s “El testigo” / “The Witness,” is available in the July 2014 issue of Asymptote.

Jeremy Davies: I seem to recall reading, third hand, of Saer demolishing, in Le Monde, an apologist article by Vargas Llosa, likewise in Le Monde, in which the latter more or less put forward the notion that everyone should just “forgive and forget” regarding the “disappearances”… Are you familiar with that altercation?

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Who’s Who in La Zona?

A conversation with translator Steve Dolph on Juan José Saer

Steve Dolph is the translator of three books by the late Argentine novelist Juan José Saer, who died in Paris in 2005. All three were published by Open Letter Books, the most recent (June ’14) being Saer’s final, unfinished novel, La Grande. Mr. Dolph is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Hispanic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where his research treats Renaissance ecopoetics and the pastoral tradition. His most recent translation, of Sergio Chejfec’s “El entenado” / “The Witness,” is available in the July 2014 issue of Asymptote.

This interview was conducted via e-mail over the early summer months, rambling like “a long afternoon’s conversation,” as Dolph commented, which is perhaps the most apposite way to approach an author so devoted to the vagaries of unfocused thought, and the ways its wandering through time and space makes itself manifest in language.

—Jeremy M. Davies

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Interviewing “Los bárbaros”: Ulises Gonzáles, Spanish literature in New York

A conversation with the editor of "Los bárbaros," a Spanish-language journal based in the Big Apple

Peruvian writer Ulises Gonzáles founded the thrice-yearly journal Los bárbaros in 2014. Gathering work from Spanish-language writers about New York, Gonzáles talks about the important role of New York City for contemporary writers in Spanish and his hopes for the journal’s future.

Eric Becker: How did the journal come to be?

Ulises Gonzáles: It’s a great story, actually.

Some of us were in a class at the CUNY Graduate Center and someone mentioned something about the poem “Waiting for the Barbarians” (by the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy). But that person connected it to the idea that now the barbarians are major figures in language and literature departments (throughout the world) and were creating their own literary theories and not leaving it just to the French anymore—because of people like Borges.

And today, for example, people in English departments are reading Borges and it was all about this idea that now the barbarians are in charge. The reach of English is still, of course, broad. But one thing that I like about these Latin American writers is that every one of them is going to tell you that among their favorite writers are maybe Faulkner, maybe Hemingway, maybe Wilde. There’s a big connection: it’s like “I got all this from English literature, I’m going to recycle it and I’m going to tell you about my world through what I learned and at the same time I’m going to teach you something about my world.” READ MORE…

July Issue Spotlight: Sergio Chejfec’s “The Witness”

A close look at Sergio Chejfec's masterful not-quite fiction, non-quite essay, "The Witness"

Patty: The phrase “of-the-moment” is so annoyingly trite, but for lack of a better expression, Sergio Chejfec is perhaps one of today’s most of-the-moment writers, and the short fiction/systematic essay-musing “The Witness”—translated by Steve Dolph and published in Asymptote’s July issue as part of our Latin American feature—proves beyond a shadow of a doubt just why that is.

They say, more or less, that anyone who’s made the mistake of leaving can’t make the mistake of returning. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: “A Brief Life” by Carlos Labbé

A young man's decidedly uncanny encounter at the beach

One summer I was at a beach in Mar del Plata with a group of young Argentine friends, around ten men and women, the majority attractive, at an age with more than enough time to spend hours arguing about unimportant matters as if they were the most profound things in the world. I remember that I was fresh out of University and had traveled to Argentina for the summer. My principal interlocutor, strangely, seemed older than I, although in reality he was quite young. He was bolder in the discussion, he seemed to know the names of many more books and authors, his hair was long, his voice husky, his face angular, his body athletic. He was drinking maté and his name was Julio. Everyone else was lying around on towels with dark sunglasses, bikinis, beers, CDs, and cigarettes. Every now and then one of them would enliven the discussion with a favorable comment for Julio or for me, with objections or laughter.

– No, loco, you’re wrong. Or, are telling me you want to write like Oliverio Girondo? Man, you’re bitter.

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Borges, the Quixote, and Two Street Markets

The author of "The Antiquarian" tackles Borges, contextual understanding… and the singular joys of book shopping

The first time I read “Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote,” I was seventeen and in my freshman year in college in Lima. As anyone who reads Borges for the first time, I was dazzled by the story of a fictional French writer who, at the beginning of the twentieth century, wants to write once again, without plagiarizing or recovering it from memory, Cervantes’s Don Quixote. The most memorable passage of the story comes when the narrator, a friend of Menard’s, and very likely a French fascist, analyzes one paragraph from the novel in two different ways. First, assuming that Cervantes is the author, he concludes that the paragraph is rhetorical and verbose, when written by a seventeenth-century Spaniard. Later, assuming the author is Pierre Menard, a contemporary right-wing surrealist poet, he finds that the same words are fantastically counterintuitive and herald a new form of understanding the world. Since the narrator is a fascist, one suspects that his interpretation is an overinterpretation, the grotesque imposition of ideas that were not there in the original text.

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Asymptote Summer 2014 Issue – Out Now!

Three cheers for great literature!

Hot off the e-press: Asymptote’s July issue is now live! The star-studded issue reads like a cool glass of water, and with good reason: the cold-as-ice cover is inspired by Latin America, currently in the dead of winter and the subject of this issue’s special feature.

Highlights in this Latin-American edition include writerly tributes to Osvaldo Lamborghini (by César Aira), Julio Cortázar (by Sergio Chejfec), and Gabriel García Márquez (by the legend’s very own Portuguese translator Eric Nepomuceno), alongside poetry from Chilean prizewinner Rául Zurita and fiction by Uruguayan author Cristina Peri Rossi. We’ve even got a video trailer for them!

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Interview with Luis Negrón

"I wanted a book that showed how people find happiness, even if society at large thinks that in their life there is no space for it."

Reading Luis Negrón’s award-winning debut short story collection, Mundo Cruel, one is struck by the author’s daring, his at-times startling insights, and his blistering sense of humor. It is a remarkable collection, and the first translated work to win a Lambda Literary Award for gay general fiction. In his interview with Asymptote blog, Negrón talks about melodrama and monsters in fiction, homophobia in present-day Puerto Rico, and his experience with acclaimed translator Suzanne Jill Levine.

Eva Richter: Your epigraph is a quote from Manuel Puig’s “A Melodramatic Destiny.” “So then, a melodrama is a drama made by someone who doesn’t know the difference, Miss?” / “Not exactly, but in a certain way it is a second-rate product.” How does the notion of melodrama as a second-rate or even naive drama play into your short stories? 

Luis Negrón: There are two ways to answer this question. One, the most obvious one, is by explaining melodrama itself: it is a drama where destiny cannot be escaped. I played with and tried to transform this notion of melodrama in my texts, but not only with the structure of them, but with their aura, the environment of the melodrama, its false and perhaps fake way of suffering. It is also important to put the stories in context. In Latin America, melodrama is king. Our music is melodramatic; our politics are melodramatic, our sports, our way or conceiving love, romantic love, all kinds of love, are pure melodrama. It is our way of dealing with most situations. This is more the case in the working class population, where access to different forms of dealing with feelings are not at hand or are simply unknown. For this reason, melodrama is abundant in the book: it shows how my characters construct whole gammas of feelings, and how they make decisions or just follow the paths dictated by their destiny.

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Interview with Suzanne Jill Levine

"A greater problem is that there are fewer and fewer readers interested in serious or innovative literary works."

Luis Negrón’s short story collection Mundo Cruelrecently translated into English by Suzanne Jill Levine, has met the acclaim it well deserves. The first translated work to win a Lambda Literary Award for gay general fiction, Negrón’s debut book is an exceptional merging of absurdist humor (one story chronicles a man’s desperate attempts to have his dead dog stuffed), naturalism (the characters’ voices instantly take shape, come to life), and melodrama. In an interview with translator Suzanne Jill Levine, winner of PEN USA’s Translation Award, Levine discusses what drew her to Negrón’s work, and her career as a writer, translator, and educator.

 

Eva Richter: How did you first learn about Luis Negrón’s work, and how did you come to translate him?  

Suzanne Jill Levine: Out of the blue I received an email from a young editor at Seven Stories Press, Gabriel Espinal, asking me to consider translating Mundo Cruel. The stories and the author, Luis—who is now a dear friend—were totally unknown. At first glance through the book, I was skeptical. Then Gabe invited me to visit him in NYC to talk about it. I was touched by his enthusiasm, the story of how he discovered Luis, and I felt admiration for the work of Seven Stories Press, and so I agreed to do a sample.

As I began translating, I found myself smiling and even laughing as I went along. A miracle: I had discovered a new writer who had a sly sense of humor, and who was dealing with such a destitute, sometimes sordid microcosm, which in his hands became a rich kasbah of living speech, ordinary yet extraordinary characters, depicted with pathos, wit and penetrating wisdom. I was sold.

ER: Mundo Cruel recently won the 26th Lambda Literary Award for gay fiction. Could you speak a little about contemporary LGBT literature in English translation? 

SJL: I cannot comment authoritatively on this, though I presume that LBGT literature receives more recognition now than when I began translating in the 1970s. Translations in general have a double challenge in an English-speaking world—or should I say marketplace—where publishing literature even written originally in English is getting more and more difficult. I wasn’t aware, either, that Lambda had never in its history awarded a [fiction] translation, though I was struck by the fact that mine was the only translation considered this year. Maybe Lambda should add a category for works in translation? Anyway, in the context of Latin American literature, I was among the first to seek out and translate gay writers Severo Sarduy and Manuel Puig, subversively marginal among the Boom writers such as Garcia Marquez—and can only hope that this helped paved the way for others. Puig, from Argentina, was an important pioneer and spokesman for Latin America in this respect.

ER: What were some challenges you faced when translating Mundo Cruel? There are two short stories told by narrators speaking on the phone, using slang, colloquialisms, which I thought specifically must have been demanding. 

SJL: The challenges are precisely what make translation worth doing, but yes, the language in these stories is often a very private language, spoken by a particular group in a particular barrio of San Juan. All the stories are “spoken” with the author as eavesdropper, but there is actually only one in which the narrator is speaking on the phone and it is hysterical because the reader hears only one side of the conversation, a device Manuel Puig used in Betrayed by Rita Hayworth.  The main character, the speaker, is gossiping about “La Edwin,” for example: “The thing is that La Edwin fell for this little ‘Che Guevara’ and she’s got it bad… but when it comes to you-know-what the big machetero can’t even use his machete in the name of the Cuban Revolution… No, girl. That’s not the problem. It’s that the guy was and is straight.” Etc. The best way to explain to you is to show you, right? I also recommend that you read my book The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction, in which I recreate the process of translating slang, puns, and other “impossibles.” In a sense your question is like asking how a musician performs a piece of music; it’s a matter of ear.

ER: Did Luis Negrón engage in the translation process?

SJL: Luis, whose English is great, was a wonderful collaborator and the perfect source, of course, for any questions I had about gay slang, meaning, register, tone: we basically hunkered down for three days in a friend’s apartment in NYC and went through the manuscript. I also went over the text with another Puerto Rican writer and colleague in Santa Barbara, Leo Cabranes-Grant. 

ER: A number of contributors to Asymptote blog have discussed Americans’ “lack of interest” [Nicolás Kanellos] in Spanish-language literature. Javier Molea, of McNally Jackson, said, “With few exceptions, there is no connection between the Spanish literary world and the English one. Any literary event in Spanish is allocated to the community events section of the newspaper, while a literary event in English is highlighted in the culture section.” As an acclaimed translator of Manuel Puig, Jose Donoso, and now Luis Negrón, what are your thoughts on this topic? 

 SJL: I think that what Javier is trying to say is that writers play a more important role in Spain and Latin American countries than they do in the United States (I hesitate to speak for Canada and the UK). A literary event in Bogotá will probably bring in a larger audience than in lower Manhattan. A greater problem is that there are fewer and fewer readers interested in serious or innovative literary works. Here and there a significant writer receives recognition, but more often, from what I’ve observed, there seem to be certain fashionable writers who come to represent their culture or nation in the global marketplace, mainly because of a generally superficial knowledge we have of literature as well as of other cultures and countries. Tim Parks has written on this topic, and I think he is completely accurate.

ER: Regarding the diminished appreciation of serious or innovative literature, why do you think that is? How has it affected your work?  

SJL: In part I am speaking as an educator regarding this sense of a diminishing literary readership. My friends in publishing have plenty to say about this problem as well. In the past 30 odd years in academe I have watched the Humanities lose ground to the Social Sciences, but even more so, I have watched generations of students turn from the written word to the video/digital world: they are becoming increasingly illiterate, either uninterested or unable to read.

Obviously there are elite groups that continue to cultivate the study and appreciation of literature, and of course many will say that literature is evolving into other equally creative forms—and no doubt some of this is true.

How does the diminishing interest in literature affect me? There are fewer books I want to translate and fewer opportunities for publishers to translate the works of writers I like.

This being said, I am working more with poetry—and have discovered wonderful new poets from Mexico, Cuba, and Nicaragua—and also on my own creative non-fiction. After all, translation is a rite of passage, as someone once said. In 2012 I came out with my first poetry chapbook (Reckoning: Finishing Line Press), which brings together poems I’ve written with poems I have translated—and the translations seem almost more autobiographical than the originals…

ER: Do you have a translation philosophy that guides your work? How did it serve you (or not) in your translation of Mundo Cruel? 

SJL: The Subversive Scribe speaks about translation as creation or “transcreation.” A writer, a translator succeeds in creating when s/he finds a voice: I would say that this happened in the translation of Mundo Cruel, but only you, the reader, can tell me if this is true.

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Suzanne Jill Levine’s acclaimed translations, which include books by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Three Trapped Tigers) and Manuel Puig (Betrayed by Rita Hayworth), have helped introduce the world to some of the icons of contemporary Latin American literature. She is also an editor of Penguin Classics’ essays and poetry of Jorge Luis Borges and the author of The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction. She is the winner of PEN USA’s Translation Award 2012 for her translation of Jose Donoso’s The Lizard’s Tale.