Posts filed under 'world literature'

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Robert Walser, and the Salzburg-based, Georg Büchner Preis-winning author Walter Kappacher, who read some of his own unpublished fragments.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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“Old Seams of the Ancient World”: Reading Patrick Chamoiseau’s Manifesto Against Borders

“The dream and the political vision must arise, and that is when the poetic word is as fundamental as that of experts or economists.”

In our Spring Issue this year, we ran a special feature covering literature from countries affected by President Trump’s infamous “Muslim Ban.” This was in recognition that literature is reflective of political conditions and that it is a powerful form of protest against oppression. In today’s piece, Fiona Le Brun looks at the manifesto against the Muslim Ban penned by Patrick Chamoiseau, a Prix Goncourt recipient and notable figure in Créolité literature. As France emerges from a divisive election against the backdrop of the unprecedented European refugee crisis, reading Chamoiseau reminds us that literature enables us to conceptualize cultural openness. 

This February, Martiniquais author Patrick Chamoiseau, whose previous works include the Goncourt-winning novel Texaco (1992. Translated into English by Rose-Myriam Réjouis and Val Vinokurov in 1997),  launched a call for solidarity with migrants of the world. Not only was this call a reaction to President Trump’s executive order blocking citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, but also a reaction against Europe’s palpable fear revealed by Brexit and the several manifestations of the rejection of migrants.

A couple of months later in May 2017—between the two rounds of the closely watched French presidential election—his essay Frères migrants: Contre la barbarie (Migrant Brothers: Against Barbarism) was released. This invitation to resist intolerance, racism, and indifference is concluded by his manifesto, Les Poètes déclarent (Declaration of Poets).

Today Chamoiseau’s manifesto is more relevant than ever, for both the United States and France. While the French are rejoicing in the victory of the youthful, moderate and well-read Emmanuel Macron over the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, the latter still gathered over 10 million votes, mostly motivated by immigration topics. This temporary relief must not have us overlook the fact that France, whose leaders never miss an opportunity to cast the country as the nation of human rights, has welcomed only a little over 25,000 refugees last year, far less than Germany or Sweden over the same period of time. The results of this election sure bring a glimmer of hope, as the winning candidate seems interested in real change and wants to work hand in hand with fellow EU countries. He also appears to be ready to wipe the dust off our old colonial shelves: back in February, while on a trip to Algeria, Macron called France’s colonial past a “crime against humanity,” and stood firm in the face of attacks by right-wingers. But his task remains difficult. He still has to convince millions of French citizens to support his agenda. The upcoming parliamentary elections will be decisive for Macron’s mandate in a very divided country, as well as for the uncertain future of the EU.

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Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

The latest literary news from Argentina, France, Taiwan, and Singapore.

The end of the year is nearly upon us, and we can hardly believe it here at the Asymptote blog. 2016 has been difficult the world over, but that hasn’t stopped a flourishing of creative energy in literature and the arts—which may be of more importance now than ever. This week, we check in with Asymptote team members on the latest literary happenings in places they call (or have once called) home.

Our world tour begins in Argentina, where Assistant Editor Alexis Almeida brings us the latest:

As the year comes to an end, there has been a steady stream of literary festivals in Buenos Aires. Most recently, the sixth annual Fanzine Festi took place at the Convoi Gallery, which featured zines and underground presses like Tren en Movimiento, alcohol y fotocopias, Fábrica de Estampas, Ediciones de Cero, and many others. On the same weekend, Flipa (Fería del Libro Popular [Popular Book Fair]) took place at the Paco Urondo Cultural Center. This initiative, free and open to the public, came out of “Construyendo Cultura,” a collective of cultural spaces in Buenos Aires, and aims to create a editorial circuit that reaches “the largest possible number of authors, readers, and spaces for the diffusion…of collective, homegrown presses and graphic cooperatives.” This is just another example of the thriving DIY print culture in Buenos Aires. Also held recently was La Sensacíon, a monthly book fair held at the bookstore La Internacional in the Villa Crespo neighborhood. It boasts titles from independent presses such as Blatt & Ríos, Fadel & Fadel, Milena Caserola, and others.

Two recent conferences spotlighted 20th century poets: Alejandra Pizarnik and Susana Thenon. The former was held at the MALBA contemporary art museum, and brought together various contemporary writers and literary critics, such as María Negroni, Daniel Link, and Federica Rocco, to discuss different aspects of Pizarnik’s work. There was also a screening of Virna Molina and Ernesto Ardito’s documentary, Alejandra. The latter was part of a series on gender and poetry presented by Arturo Jauretche University.

Ni Una Menos, the feminist advocacy group, recently led a march on November 25, for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. There was also a national assembly held the same day in public spaces in cities throughout the country, in which advocates and citizens made public demands for legalized abortion and stronger legislation for the prevention of gender violence, among other issues.

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Weekly Dispatches from the Frontlines of World Literature

I wrote whenever anything struck me. As I started to write, I began to revive little by little, from my fingernails to my hair.

Happy Friday, readers! The Asymptote team has some exciting news: starting this week, we will be replacing our Friday literary news round-up with a more diverse and decidedly international column, brought to you by our team members around the world. We’ll have the latest and most pertinent updates on the literary scenes from various regions each week, from national trends to local events. This is your one-stop, world tour!

Starting this week in India, Poorna Swami, Editor-at-Large for India, updates us by region:

Noted Assamese poet Nalinidhar Bhattacharya passed away on September 2 in Guwahati at the age of 95. The Sahitya Akademi Award winner’s books include five poetry collections, five essay collections, and even a translation of Dr. Zhivago into Assamese.

But while the country lost a literary great, it also regained one. Tamil writer Perumal Murugan ended his self-determined literary exile on August 22. His reentry in to the literary world comes a year and a half after he publicly declared to quit writing because his book, Madhorubhagan [One-Part Woman], faced attacks from Hindu fundamentalist and caste-based groups. He had said on his Facebook page: “Perumal Murugan the writer is dead. As he is no God, he is not going to resurrect himself.”

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Weekly News Round Up, 9 September 2016: The Meanings of Words

This week's literary highlights from across the world

A very merry greeting to you, Asymptote readers. Today is Leo Tolstoy’s 188th birthday, so we’ll kick this Weekly News Round Up with the Read Russia translation prize shortlist. If you happen to be in Moscow on September 10th, why not go see the award ceremony?

Russia’s rich literary history is well-known, but did you know that the most translated short story in African history is from Kenya? It’s a fable about how humans learned to walk upright and it was written by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o.

Going to better-known literary histories, statisticians predict Japanese writer Haruki Murikami is most likely to win the Nobel Prize in Literature this year. They predict it’s more likely than Philip Roth, Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, and Joyce Carol Oats.  It’s great to see so many faces in world literature on the list. READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, 2 September 2016: Empty Pockets, Full Shelves

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Hello there, Asymptote readers! The weekend is upon us with its festivities and time to read all the things we meant to read during the week. Our Weekly News Round Up is a great way to catch up on what you missed: a starting point, if you will.

August was Women in Translation Month. It was a time to honor those who face different forms of sexism and hardship around the world simply for their sex. These women, despite these hardships, still go and do what speaks to them. In this case, it’s translation. Read this list of women translators from India, for example.

Ah India, a place where so many languages are spoken. And who gets to decide what is truly from or for a specific language? LitHub writer Gabrielle Bellot discusses this matter in her essay about who decides what is English and what is not. In it, she discusses Singlish, a Singaporean colloquial English, and compares it to her own Dominican roots.  READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, 26 August 2016: Firsts and Bests

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Friday is trickling in through the time zones of the world this morning, Asymptote readers. And trickling along with it is today’s Weekly News Round Up. We start this week with some self-reflection on self-translation in this essay by Ilan Stavans. Stavans is a polyglot who speaks English, Spanish, Yiddish, and Hebrew. In 2001, he published his memoir On Borrowed Words, which was supposed to cover the subject of self-translation. Since then, Stavans has more to say about it.

Self-reflection can lead people down paths of self-discovery, and critical thinking can do the same. However there are sources that spark critical thinking that leads to nothing, or perhaps, too much of something. This may be the case of the cryptic Voynich Manuscript, about to be released by a Spanish publisher. Apparently no living person can understand it. READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, August 19th, 2016: Worlds and Worlds of Literature

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Thank you for joining the Asymptote blog again on this lovely Friday for another segment of the Weekly News Round Up in our digital world. Worlds change constantly with time and influence, just like the world of India. Graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee works to depict the ever-changing sub-continent in all four of his books. A review of his work is available in The New Yorker this week.

Worlds we grow up in and come to know are not constant, however much we may think they are, and they change with time and memory. Just ask Vu Tran, a Vietnamese refugee, whose entire world changed at the age of four. His “uncertain memories” were featured in LitHub this week. It’s a haunting and beautiful story of transition.

Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street, Caramelo, and most recently the memoir A House of My Own, spoke with NPR about the importance of creating her own world. This world is simpler, but just as important: moving out of her parents’ house and into her own first apartment. READ MORE…

The Borders Project Reading: Atlanta’s Narrative Collective + Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop

The word “borders” could suggest both the presence and the absence of limits.

The Borders Project gave its first reading in Atlanta recently. A multi-genre literary collaboration between the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop and Atlanta’s Narrative Collective, the project aims to examine all sorts of boundary lines—physical, temporal, emotional, relational, among others—and their implications. Eighteen writers and one translator came together to create work in two languages. In this essay, Stacy Mattingly, founder and co-founder of the two constituent collectives, follows the process to the Atlanta reading.

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The Warhorse coffee shop at Atlanta’s Goat Farm Arts Center is a long room with a garage door on one end and a wall of bookshelves on the other. Hanging from the ceiling in front of the books is a large screen. On it is the face of a friend of mine in Sarajevo. The background is a field of stars. Selma Asotić is a head floating in outer space, reciting her English poem “The Nation.”

“You are /everything which does not love me. / You are / the curse I hide under my tongue …”

Those present are fixated on the image. Some make references in jest to Star Wars. We take photos to post online for Selma and others. Danny Davis, the Goat Farm’s technical director, stands at a ladder positioned below a projector and tells us not to worry—that starry background will definitely be gone before our event.

I am just relieved all the videos from overseas are working.

My colleagues and I are doing a run-through of our reading for The Borders Project, a literary collaboration involving two writing groups—Narrative Collective in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Sarajevo Writers’ Workshop (SWW) in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I belong to both, having launched SWW in 2012 and co-founded Narrative Collective with poet L.S. McKee in 2014.

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Weekly News Round Up, 12 August 2016: Dreams

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Friday is here again Asymptote readers, creeping upon us like Saturday will tomorrow. Will there ever be time enough to read and keep abreast of all the literary news? Well, with another Friday comes another Weekly News Round Up to help you do just that.

The National Translation Awards announced its longlist this week, twelve of which are Asymptote contributors! We are proud to call these writers a part of our family of contributors. Good luck to them as the judging continues!

What a dream come true for those writers, and speaking of dreams, the Awl published a piece on the history of interpreting dreams. If you think it began with Freud, you are dead wrong, or you might just be dreaming! READ MORE…

Weekly News Round Up, 5 August 2016: -isms, Galore!

This week's literary highlights from across the world

What a week for world literature, am I right Asymptote readers? I have a lot of good news, but also sad news, for you this week. Legendary Bengali activist and writer Mahasweta Devi, who had an unmatchable empathy and understanding for the oppressed classes, passed away last week. Her publisher Naveen Kishore and translator Gayatri Spivak remember her. Art is a gift, and Devi gave us so many gifts.

While Devi cannot be replaced, there are so many up and coming writers all over the world that are starting to make their names in world literature. Literary prizes are now being announced. Longlists and shortlists galore, and winners too! The winners of this year’s Jewish Culture prize for literature are Haim Sabato and Sarah Friedland. Friedland is a poet and Sabato channels the Sephardic traditions of Torah.

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Weekly News Round Up, 29 July 2016: Proustian Tequila

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Linguaphiles of the world unite! Before we start out with different bits and bobs of global and literary news, don’t forget that the Summer issue of Asymptote is out now and waiting for your perusal. For those among you who are teachers,  we’ve just released the Educator’s Guide accompanying this issue. From linguistics to critical essay writing, educational material on a dizzying array of topics is collated in the form of interactive lesson plans, contextualizing resources, interactive learning tools, and follow-up assignments for high school and university students. Grab your free download now!

Now let’s get back to news in the literary world this week, starting off with a Russian award aimed at popularizing the country’s literature through translation. Translators around the world from Spain and Hungary to China and Mexico were nominated. The longlist was released this week and can be read here.

Moving west from one large land mass to another, in the preview of Quill & Quire‘s Fall 2016 issue, Steven W. Beattie muses on the up and coming French Canadian literature in translation. He also lists many of those books to be published as support.

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Weekly News Roundup, 8 July 2016: So Many Questions

This week's literary highlights from across the world

Greetings and happy Friday, readers! This past week, Foyles’ blog ran a piece on the top five books that address the difficulties of translation. Do you agree or disagree with the choices, fair readers? While I’m asking you questions, let’s talk about the infamous Proust Questionnaire. The New Yorker ran a piece about the history behind the notorious literary interview. Its journey through time is striking and not what you would think.

In awards, South African writer Lidudumalingani won the 2016 Caine Prize for African Writing. It’s definitely an exciting time for African literature!

In deaths, the we lost the great poet Yves Bonnefoy. He was a huge part of French literature and will be sorely missed. You can read a translation of some of his poetry on the Asymptote website. We also lost Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel. The world is certainly in mourning for these two great souls.  READ MORE…

A Dispatch from The World in Words: From Ainu to Zaza

"The loss of language implies the loss of people. But before it dies, a language halts, gets stuck in the mud..."

A young man from a mountain village in Tibet arrives in Texas to study. He is alone and isolated. A Ford Mustang is parked on the street-the racing horse on the grill with MUSTANG embossed below prominently featured. His heart rate spikes and a smile spreads across his face, a sign from home! A Texan woman with blond locks and Daisy Dukes gets in the car and drives off. The moment of excitement flips to complete loneliness. Mustang is the mountain village he calls home where his small community speaks Mustangi, a little-known language on the verge of erasure, “one of those village languages.” The man flees Texas for Jackson Heights, Queens. Among the great diversity of languages spoken in the neighborhood, he unexpectedly finds a small community of Mustangi speakers (and fewer Ford Mustangs)—the true home a long way from home.

Aline Simone told this story at a live taping of the podcast The World in Words at the New York Public Library on June 21st. In the episode, “From Ainu to Zaza,” Hosts Patrick Cox and Nina Porzucki focused on endangered languages and the people fighting both to preserve them and to keep them alive. In the conversations, stories and music of the evening, the guests and hosts kept coming back to this question of stories. Cox began the episode with a discussion of Ainu (he has reported on the language before). Ainu has no linguistic relatives. Linguists can map neither the origins of the language, nor of its speakers. Ignored by the government and universities alike, the dominant culture erases the history of the language and its people. Few Ainu speakers remain and yet fewer use the language in conversation—as an active, used language Ainu has all but dissolved.  READ MORE…