Posts filed under 'Pinochet'

Highlights from the Asymptote Winter Issue

Our editors recommend their favorite pieces from the latest issue.

First off, we want to thank the five readers who heeded our appeal from our editor-in-chief and signed up to be sustaining members this past week. Welcome to the family, Justin Briggs, Gina Caputo, Monika Cassel, Michaela Jones, and Phillip Kim! For those who are still hesitating, take it from Lloyd Schwartz, who says, “Asymptote is one of the rare cultural enterprises that’s really worth supporting. It’s both a literary and a moral treasure.” If you’ve enjoyed our Winter 2017 issue, why not stand behind our mission by becoming a sustaining member today?

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One week after the launch of our massive Winter 2017 edition, we invited some section editors to talk up their favorite pieces:

Criticism Editor Ellen Jones on her favorite article:

My highlight from the Criticism section this January is Ottilie Mulzet’s review of Evelyn Dueck’s L’étranger intime, the work that gave us the title of this issue: ‘Intimate Strangers’. Mulzet translates from Hungarian and Mongolian, but (being prolifically multilingual) is also able to offer us a detailed, thoughtful, and well-informed review of a hefty work of French translation scholarship. Dueck’s book is a study of French translations of Paul Celan’s poetry from the 1970s to the present day (focussing on André du Bouchet, Michel Deguy, Marthine Broda, and Jean-Pierre Lefebvre) and is, in Mulzet’s estimation, ‘an indispensable map for the practice of the translator’s art’. One of this review’s many strengths is the way it positions Dueck’s book in relationship to its counterparts in Anglophone translation scholarship; another is its close reading of passages from individual poems in order to illustrate differences in approach among the translators; a third is the way Mulzet uses Dueck’s work as a springboard to do her own thinking about translational paratexts, and to offer potential areas for further research. The reviewer describes L’étranger intime as ‘stellar in every way’—the same might be said of the review, too.

Chief Executive Assistant Theophilus Kwek, who stepped in to edit our Writers on Writers section for the current issue, had this to say: 

When asked to pick a highlight from this issue’s Writers on Writers feature, I was torn between Victoria Livingstone’s intimate exploration of Xánath Caraza’s fascinating oeuvre and Philip Holden’s searching essay on Singapore’s multilingual—even multivocal—literary history, but the latter finally won out for its sheer depth and detail. Moving from day-to-day encounters with language to literary landmarks of the page and stage, Holden surveys the city’s shifting tonalities with cinematic ease, achieving what he himself claims is impossible: representing a ‘polylingual lived reality’ to the unfamiliar reader. And as a Singaporean abroad myself, Holden’s conclusion sums it up perfectly: the piece is ‘a return to that language of the body, of the heart’.

Visual Editor Eva Heisler’s recommendation:

Indian artist Shilpa Gupta addresses issues of nationhood, cultural identity, diaspora, and globalization in complex inquiry-based and site-specific installations.  The experience of Gupta’s work is explored by Poorna Swami in her essay ‘Possessing Skies’, the title of which alludes to a work in which large LED light structures, installed across Bombay beaches, announce, in both English and Hindi, ‘I live under your sky too.’  Gupta’s work, Swami writes, ‘positions her spectator in an irresolvable conversation between the abstracted artwork and a tangible sense of the so-called real world, with all its ideologies, idiosyncrasies, and fragilities’.

READ MORE…

What’s New in Translation? January 2017

Asymptote reviews some of the best new books from Spanish, German, and Occitan.

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Proensa: An Anthology of Troubadour Poetry, tr. by Paul Blackburn, edited and introduced by George Economou. New York Review Books.

Review: Nozomi Saito, Executive Assistant

Translated from the Occitan by Paul Blackburn, Proensa: An Anthology of Troubadour Poetry is a remarkable collection of troubadour poetry, which had vast influence on major literary figures, including Dante and Ezra Pound. As poems of the twelfth century, the historic weight of troubadour poetry might intimidate some, but the lively language in Paul Blackburn’s translations is sure to shock and delight twenty-first century readers in the same way that these poems did for their contemporary audiences.

The context surrounding the original publication of Proensa in 1978 is nearly as interesting as the troubadour poems themselves. Although Proensa was in fact ready for publication in the late 1950s, lacking only an introduction, the collection was not published until seven years after Paul Blackburn’s death. The manuscript was then given to George Economou, who edited the collection and saw to its posthumous publication.

The circumstances of the publication of Proensa, of the pseudo-collaboration between a deceased translator and a living editor, are reminiscent of another publication that came out in 1916, Certain Noble Plays of Japan. This manuscript was a collection of Noh plays translated by Ernest Fenollosa, which Ezra Pound received after Fenollosa’s death.

Interestingly, it was Ezra Pound’s influence and the great importance he placed on the troubadours that ignited the fire of translation within Blackburn.  Pound, as Economou explains, “did more than any other twentieth-century poet to introduce the troubadours and their legacy to the English-speaking world”. Pound viewed the translation of the troubadours as an all-important task, and Paul Blackburn answered the call-to-action.

Six degrees of Ezra Pound. The coincidence (if it is one) begs the question of why Proensa is being reprinted now, thirty-nine years after its original publication, and one hundred years after the publication of Certain Noble Plays.

In the case of Certain Noble Plays, the significance of its publication was that Pound (as well as William Butler Yeats) felt that the Noh plays could revitalize Anglo-American poetry and drama in ways that suited modernist aesthetics. One might wonder if the same intention lies behind the reprinting of Proensa—if these troubadour poems are appearing again to twenty-first century readers to revitalize poetry and performance using literary forms from the past. READ MORE…

Translation Tuesday: Dead Stars by Álvaro Bisama

"The past is that: a photo taken in a hotel we wish was our home—false photographs, proof of the life we never had."

Forthcoming from Ox and Pigeon Press is Megan McDowell’s English translation of Álvaro Bisama’s Dead Stars, which won the 2011 Santiago Municipal Prize for Literature and the 2011 Premio Academia, given out by the Chilean Academy of Language for the best book of 2010.

Álvaro Bisama’s award-winning novel Dead Stars is a story-within-a-story set against the backdrop of Chile’s transition to democracy after decades under the Pinochet dictatorship, filled with characters desperately searching for a way to escape their past, their present, their future: a small-town metalhead; left-wing revolutionaries without a new cause; a brotherhood of cough syrup addicts; punks, prostitutes, and thieves. Through them, Bisama’s tragic novel explores how our choices, the people we know, the places we pass through, and the events of our lives exert an unsuspected influence long after their light has gone out and they have faded from our memory (Ox and Pigeon).

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Javiera failed almost all of her classes. We always used to put her name on our assignments. That way she’d come closer to passing her courses. I made that gesture, same as Donoso, and Luisa, our classmate who was going out with Charly Alberti, the drummer from Soda Stereo.

You’re fucking with me, I said.

Seriously, that’s what she said, that she was Charly Alberti’s girlfriend, that he was crazy about her and sometimes he’d sneak away to Chile in secret to see her. Donoso and I knew about it. No one else. Not even Javiera, unless Donoso told her. But I don’t think he did. Donoso was very discreet. But that’s what Luisa told us. She confessed one time when she was drunk, and it was all downhill from there. She was always telling us the gory details about her and Alberti. She told us they’d spent the weekend in Reñaca, because he’d flown in on his private jet to show her his new album. She told us her parents knew about it. That it had been hard to convince her father, who was a cop and an evangelical, but Alberti had done it. That he was serious about their relationship. That he had been respectful of her. That she was still almost a virgin. I don’t know what she meant by that almost, but Donoso would hug her and sometimes she’d open her backpack and take out a giant album full of photos of Charly Alberti, a heavy book full of concert memorabilia, posters from TV Grama and VEA, and newspaper clippings. There was only one photo of them together, Alberti and Luisa, taken in the hallway of a hotel.

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Her: Aside from many other things, the past is that: a photo taken in a hotel we wish was our home—false photographs, proof of the life we never had.

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She said: But it doesn’t matter. The photo isn’t important. What’s important is Luisa’s role in all this, because I was with her when I saw Javiera and Donoso’s relationship start to go to shit. Because, even though she was a facha right-wing conservative, she went with me to a party thrown by the Youth League in a typographical union off Calle Colón. I don’t know why we went. Maybe we just wanted to relax. Or maybe it was easier to go there than home after classes. I don’t know. The fact is, we went. We killed time browsing thrift stores, and then we made ourselves up in the bathroom of a diner. Javiera and Donoso were at the party. We hadn’t seen much of them that semester. Javiera was in the middle of an appeal, trying to get them to let her take a class for the third time, and Donoso was busy at the restaurant. So, I went with Luisa to the party. She complained because they weren’t playing “Luna Roja,” and she insisted that Alberti was coming to see her that weekend. That she wasn’t going to drink too much because Alberti hated it when she drank, he detested drugs and alcohol. Of course, the party was full. I was drinking beer. I didn’t see Javiera anywhere. In the throng of people, I saw Donoso with a bottle of pisco in his hand. There were a few bands that played Andean music, and a couple Pablo Milanés clones. In between the bands, people danced. The party was fun, if you like that kind of thing. I didn’t really like it, but it wasn’t terrible. This was just before the mayoral election in Valparaíso. Back then, before the Spiniak case, that fat guy Pino was way ahead. At the university, someone said Javiera was going to run for council. I don’t know if it was just a rumor. It was probably true. The party would put any university leader up for election; they’d send whoever it was to campaign in villages out in the middle of nowhere, like Catemu or Puchuncaví. To us it seemed like an obvious thing that Javiera would be a candidate. So that’s how things were at that party: Luisa talking about Charly Alberti, Donoso drinking alone, Javiera nowhere to be found. The last thing I saw before disaster struck was this: Donoso sitting in a plastic chair clutching a bottle of straight pisco. That was the cut-off point, maybe. That was the moment when I lost sight of them, because Luisa went to the bathroom and she didn’t come back, and after a while someone told me: Your friend is in the bathroom crying. I went to find her. The bathroom was disgusting, but there was Luisa, sitting on the wet floor, hysterical. She had a piece of paper in her hand. A newspaper page. Luisa was holding a page from a newspaper or a magazine and sobbing hysterically. No, the fucker can’t do this to me, he can’t do this, Luisa said. I hugged her and she repeated it, he can’t fuck me over like this, he can’t do this to me, the motherfucker, she was saying, sniffling. I hugged her and she was pretty drunk and then I saw that page in her hand. There was Charly Alberti with his bride, a model. That’s why Luisa was crying. Because of that page she found on the floor of the bathroom or in the hallway. A social page, a page with the kind of short articles that close every edition of a paper. That loose page, lost at the party, a little bit of trash just like the one you have in your hands now, the newspaper page that shows Javiera with white hair. It’s like someone let these articles loose in the wind, waiting for someone else to see them and break down, just like I’m doing now, man, just like Luisa broke down then.

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The past is always a newspaper page left behind on the ground, she said.

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She said: But then something happened. While I was hugging Luisa, we heard noises coming from the men’s bathroom. Shouts. We heard something break. A mirror. A woman’s voice screeching: Let him go, you asshole, let him go! Then more voices. Let him go, man, you’re going to kill him. Let him go. Luisa stopped crying. I got up from the floor. There was a cumbia song playing. We walked out of the women’s bathroom. The door to the men’s room was across the hall. The paper with the photo of Charly Alberti’s wedding stayed behind on the floor. At that moment, several guys shoved Donoso out of the bathroom. He fought back, legs kicking. His shirt was torn. They threw him to the ground in the middle of the dance floor. They kicked him. We watched as they carried him to the door and threw him down the stairs. The cumbia never stopped. And then they finally played Soda Stereo. It all lasted one minute, two minutes, she said. It lasted for half of one song. We couldn’t do anything, say anything. Then, Javiera came running out of the bathroom. She went after Donoso. She didn’t see us. We stood there, paralyzed. Then, the same guys who had kicked Donoso out went back to the bathroom and hauled out a guy, unconscious, his face covered in blood; it seemed like he was someone important. I’d seen him around campus. He was always surrounded by members of the Youth League, and he always sat in front at the events they held in the quad. He never spoke. The others conferred with him in whispers. But now the same people who whispered to him were carrying him like a sack of potatoes. His mouth was destroyed. I think he was missing teeth. I guess those teeth were scattered around the bathroom and covered in urine, dirty water, and blood, she said. And the guy wasn’t responding. I guess they put him in a taxi and took him to the hospital. Luisa didn’t say anything. I remember the two of us just stood there outside that bathroom, staring at the tiles. More than the blood or the guy’s face, I remember those tiles, just that: the dragons drawn in black and white on the floor. Those tiles were worn out, chipped by the passage of time, cracked. The bathroom at my house had similar ones. I dreamed about those dragons for a week. Finally I said: What just happened? I don’t know, Luisa answered.

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But I know. What happened was that everything went to shit, she said.

I said: It’s a law of nature. When everything goes to shit, someone’s teeth wind up on a bathroom floor. There’s no turning back. No turning back.

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Álvaro Bisama (Valparaíso, Chile, 1975) is a writer, cultural critic, and professor. In 2007, he was selected as one of thirty-nine best Latin American authors under the age of thirty-nine at the Hay Festival in Bogota. Estrellas muertas (Dead Stars), his third novel, won the 2011 Santiago Municipal Prize for Literature and the 2011 Premio Academia, given out by the Chilean Academy of Language for the best book of 2010. His most recent novel, Ruido (Noise), was published in 2013 and was a finalist for the Premio Altazor.

Megan McDowell, Asymptote managing editor, is a literary translator from Richmond, Kentucky. Her translations have appeared in Words Without Borders, Mandorla, Los Angeles Review of Books, McSweeney’s, Vice, and Granta, among others. She has translated books by Alejandro Zambra, Arturo Fontaine, Carlos Busqued, and Juan Emar. She lives in Zurich, Switzerland.