Posts filed under 'world literature'

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.

1.

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…

Translation Tuesday: An excerpt of “Life in the Court of Matane” by Eric Dupont

"The funny thing about memory is that it always ends up chasing its own tail. The most important thing is to keep it moving."

Nadia Comaneci’s gold-medal performance at the Olympic Games in Montreal is the starting point for a whole new generation. Eric Dupont watches the performance on TV, mesmerized. The son of a police officer (Henry VIII) and a professional cook—as he likes to remind us—he grows up in the depths of the Quebec countryside with a new address for almost every birthday and little but memories of his mother to hang on to. His parents have divorced, and the novel’s narrator relates his childhood, comparing it to a family gymnastics performance worthy of Nadia herself.

Life in the court of Matane is unforgiving, and we explore different facets of it (dreams of sovereignty, schoolyard bullying, imagined missions to Russia, poems by Baudelaire), each based around an encounter with a different animal, until the narrator befriends a great horned owl, summons up the courage to let go of the upper bar forever, and makes his glorious escape.

***

From the first lot we lived on, if you went down a big grassy hill and crossed the road you’d find us by the river. In the summer, the sand could become burning hot in the sun, despite the glacial currents that flowed down from Labrador. Reels of dried-up seaweed revealed how high the tides rose and stretched out in arcs from east to west. We found green sea urchin skeletons, blue shells, and pink tampon applicators. Sometimes we would step on a piece of glass polished by the salt. It would slide so smoothly between our fingers that we could barely imagine its sharp past. When we held it up to the sun it would look like part of a stained-glass window washed up on the beach at Matane. Coke and Pepsi bottles produced translucent shards of polished white. The green bits of glass came from 7UP bottles. Beer bottles splintered into small, dark amber pieces. On this strip of beach, the waves deposited at our feet the shattered stained-glass windows of a church sunk off the Matane coastline. My sister and I picked up the pieces without ever beginning the impossible task of putting them back together. We knew that they had once been part of a whole, but that an earthquake had probably separated them. The sea salt had made them smooth so that their edges no longer fit together. They had taken on a shape all their own. They could be traced back to a family only by their colour. A distant kinship. They had ended up where the Gulf of St. Lawrence melts into the northern blue sky, leaving ships arriving from the Atlantic in July dangling from an invisible thread. The horizon gives way to a blue void that draws the soul northward. The trip is pleasant enough. When you really let yourself go, you soar high above the gulf, the taiga, and the permafrost, until you reach the tundra, where on a sunny January day you can drift off into the light of the north. READ MORE…

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…