Posts filed under 'shakespeare'

In Conversation: Zee Edgell on Belize, and Writing About Home From Afar

Our Guatemala Editor-at-Large interviews Zee Edgell about history and politics seeping into her fiction and Belize as a character.

Zelma Edgell is Belize’s most celebrated writer. Zee, as she’s better known, has also worked as a teacher and journalist. Zee’s first novel, Beka Lamb deals with the relationship between Beka, her best friend Toycie and their conservative community. Published in 1982, Beka Lamb has since become a classic of Belizean literature.

Three novels later, Zee continues her exploration and analysis of Belize’s history, political turbulence, and racial structure. In her second book, In Times Like These (1991), we’re thrown right in the middle of Belize’s independence. In 1997 Zee published The Festival of San Joaquin in which we get a glimpse of the way religion has shaped the country’s traditions and inhabitants. With Time and the River Zee presented yet another facet of Belizean history: slavery.

Zee regards Belize as one of her characters. Belize affects her as a writer and becomes the environmental engine of her protagonists. Belize shapes the community that psychologically cornered Toycie in Beka Lamb; it affects Pavana’s motivations in In Times Like These. Belize is often not only a compassionate and beautiful landscape but also the driving force of the elements that pull at and constrict Zee’s characters.

Formerly known as the British Honduras, Belize is sandwiched between Mexico, Guatemala, and the Caribbean Sea, and is the only country in the isthmus with English as the official language. Zee attributes Belize’s disconnection to Central America’s literary scene to this idiomatic difference. However, her work—and that of her peers—is historically and creatively crucial to the region, defining Latin America’s literary contemporaneity.

Asymptote Guatemala Editor-at-Large José García Escobar

José García Escobar (JGE): I am curious about your creative upbringing. Can you describe your experience of growing up in Belize, and your relationship with art

Zelma Edgell (ZE): In primary school, I participated in yearly school entertainments. We sang Belizean patriotic songs and listened to marching bands and marimba. During the Christmas and New Year holidays, we listened to Garifuna drummers and watched their dances. We also acted out scenes from plays. Also, during the school year, we regularly attended masses at the cathedral. In that sense, yes, I was close to creative activities.

JGE: What were some of the early authors that shaped your reading and writing habits?

ZE: Some of the authors that I read in high school were William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Outside of school, I read a large a variety of writers, including books by Mark Twain.

JGE: Any Belizean or Caribbean writers?

ZE: As a young girl, I read the work of Belizean poets. I started reading the work of Caribbean writers when I was in my late twenties or thirties. READ MORE…

Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

This week's literary news from the Nordic countries, the UK and Israel.

The week is nearly over, which not only means it’s the weekend but also that it’s time for our literary catch-up! For this edition, Blog Editor Hanna Heiskanen shares updates on the upcoming awards season, among other news from Scandinavia. Editor-at-Large Julia Sherwood then reports on literary happenings from the UK. Rounding it all up is our correspondent for Israel, Alma Beck, currently residing in New Orleans, where she teaches philosophy for children.

Obligatory reminder: After you’ve caught up with all the news, head over to our just-launched Fall 2016 issue here!

First up, Blog Editor Hanna Heiskanen has the latest from the Nordic countries:

Lars Huldén, the Swedish-speaking Finn poet, has passed away at the age of 90. Born in Pietarsaari, Finland, Huldén was a much loved and highly regarded writer, scholar, translator, and recipient of the Swedish Academy Nordic Prize in 2000. He grew up among a tradition of oral storytelling in the local Swedish dialect and worked tirelessly throughout his adult life, publishing a large collection of poetry, prose, plays, and sonnets, among other works. He also produced Swedish translations of Finnish and English classics, such as the Finns’ national epic, Kalevala, and Shakespearean texts.

Finnish Literature Exchange (FILI) is accepting applications for grants until November 1. If you are a publisher, translator, author, or event organizer interested in working with Finnish literature, FILI has a handy guide on their site to guide you through the options. FILI, founded in 1977, hands out approximately 700,000€ worth of grants annually, in addition to hosting translator residencies and maintaining a database of translations of Finnish literature.

READ MORE…

Carlos Fonseca on Masks, Perspective, and History

An identity is nothing but a coherent life narrative weaving together separate fragments of lived experience.

Carlos Fonseca is the author of Colonel Lágrimas, first published in Spanish in 2015 by Anagrama (Barcelona) and coming out in English on 4 October from Restless Books. A British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge, Fonseca’s research interests lie in Latin American literature, philosophy, and art history, and the formal links between novels and politics, among many others. He was born in Costa Rica and grew up in Puerto Rico, but he considers himself Latin American.

Blog Editor Hanna Heiskanen interviewed Carlos over email about his debut novel, the people who inspired his characters, and his thoughts on identity and the evolving nature of memory. Read an excerpt of Colonel Lágrimas here.

Hanna Heiskanen (HH): Could you begin by describing your book to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

Carlos Fonseca (CF): Imagine a book that works like a virtual map: you can zoom in or you can zoom out. If you zoom in, you will see the daily life of an eccentric old man who is constructing an encyclopedia of human knowledge. If you zoom out, you will see the political history of the twentieth century. Colonel Lágrimas tries to link these two narrative layers.

HH: This is your first novel—how did you get into writing fiction, and why did you want to tell this particular story?

CF: The novel sprang from two different events. The first is the moment in which a friend of mine tells me the life story of the eccentric mathematician Alexander Grothendieck, a brilliant thinker who ended up locked in his cabin in the French Pyrenees, imagining a universal theory of knowledge. The second was the moment I sat down and, influenced by the works of the American photorealist portrait painter Chuck Close, attempted to imagine what a close-up portrait of my character would “sound” like, what his voice would sound like. The moment I figured out which type of narrator I wanted, the novel’s structure became clear to me.

HH: History, its blurriness and dependence on perspective is one of the leading themes in your narrative. I understand your academic research also has to do with representations of history. How did your research seep into Colonel Lágrimas?

CF: I felt that the life of Alexander Grothendieck—upon which the character of the colonel is based—represented in some ways the history of the twentieth century: a century that began with an addiction to political action and ended up hooked on data. A century that moved from the battlefield to Wikipedia, so to speak. I wanted to explore, through the novel, this idea of contemporary history as a giant museum where the possibility of political action itself is at stake.

HH: You also write about how we can’t escape the inevitability of inheritance“walking on a tightrope” means you can only walk in one directionand whether it’s possible to change the narrative and thus the course of history.

CF: I think you are absolutely right: it is a novel about inheritance. A novel about what it means to inherit a history, a history both individual and communal. The protagonist, like Grothendieck, is the son of two left-wing anarchists and, as such, he must learn how to inherit this political tradition. In a way, I was interested in exploring the Colonel’s eccentric projects and actions as his way of appropriating the anarchist tradition from which he came. It is, indeed, a novel about the ways in which we narrate history and the consequences these narratives have upon us.

READ MORE…

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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On the Anniversaries of Dead Writers: Make Room

"There is something to be said about the Western world constantly emphasizing its own literary canon and even more so the canon of dead authors."

Shakespeare is celebrating the 400th anniversary of his death this year and Cervantes is as well. England and Spain are having their respective celebrations. I set up news alerts for these kinds of updates in hopes to find out about literary events around the world. It keeps me in the know to a certain extent.

As I looked through my news alerts for World Literature over the past few months, I was unsurprised by the continual focus on the West, specifically these two writers. I’m not against it. I’m a huge fan of both of these writers’ works. Of course their works have influenced countless writers and of course literature would not be the same without them. Shakespeare and Cervantes are some of the largest names in the canon.

That doesn’t mean the emphasis should consistently be on the canon.   READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 29th April 2016: 400 Years Without Cervantespeare

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Hey, happy Friday, Asymptote! This week marks two extra-special, European four-hundred-year anniversaries: it’s the week of Spanish literary icon Miguel de Cervantes’ death, and there’s all sorts of commemoration: Spain celebrated the Don Quixote author with national celebrations and literary awards, but if you’re unable to make it in person, take a virtual trip to La Mancha. And English poet/thespian/legend William Shakespeare, too, died four hundred years ago (1616 was a killer year, huh?), so the commemorations are similarly virtual and literal (in case you’re curious, here’s a Proust Questionnaire with the Bard). And lest you forget (as much of Shakespeare and Cervantes can be found in the open domain) April 23 was also the UNESCO’s world book copyright day.

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Weekly News Roundup, 27 March 2015: The Knausgaard/Ferrante Personality Test, Leo’d Be Proud

This week's literary highlights from around the world

Whoop, whoop, blog fiends—it’s Friday! You’ve probably already partaken in your fair share of literary personality quizzes (they provide a cheap alternative to psychoanalysis when your insurance goes bad, and it’s always heartening to read you’re more of a Dumbledore than a Malfoy), but the New Yorker‘s article contrasting Italian recluse Elena Ferrante with Norwegian road-tripper Karl Ove Knausgaard is of particular interest to those of us interested in more international literary trends. (Meanwhile, if you’re excited for the English-language release of Book 4 of Knausgaard’s My Struggle, you can read an exclusive excerpt here).  READ MORE…

Weekly News Roundup, 28th November 2014: Happy Thanksgiving, Shakespeare in France

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving to our American readers—and to all non-Americans, happy Friday! Anglophones certainly have something to be thankful for: one of William Shakespeare’s treasured First Folios has been uncovered, practically untouched, in a small chapel in France, where it is reported to have lain for over two hundred years. And any literature lover or archivist from the University of Texas might be feeling extra-thankful this week, as the complete archive of Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez has been donated to the Harry Ransom Center in Austin. And at the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Maloney opines that the proliferation of paperback books helped win World War II for the Americans. 

This week in book buzz: British/Indian author Arundhati Roy is following up her 1997-Booker Prizewinning God of Small Things, at long last, after a period dedicated to political activism. Here’s a profile. You can look forward to more than that, what with an upcoming translation of German counterculture icon Jörg Fauser’s novel, Raw Material. Irish phenomenon and inspiration to all pining novelists Eimear McBride has snagged another award for A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which has already won the Goldsmiths and the Bailey’s Prizes, among others. The biggest international book prize, the IMPAC Dublin award, has announced its glorious longlist, and you might recognize a few titles (the list includes a title translated by Alex Zucker, blog contributor!). If you’re a skeptic to the prospect of awards in general, you might enjoy this look back at the National Book Awards, proving that even the most venerated intellectual institutions are subject to whim and fashion. 

French existentialists, philosophers, and novelists Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre didn’t end on the best of terms, but a forgotten letter from better times has reemerged. Same goes for American beats Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady: a letter from Cassady to Kerouac inspiring Jack’s iconic On the Road is set to be auctioned off. 

Every get a 2-AM book craving? (We know you do). In Taiwan, the 24-hour bookstore is a welcome respite for weary clubbers and bookworms alike.