Momentous day. A project seven months in its making launches. But not just any project: I have not seen a single member of my team during this collaboration, corollary of the fact that we are some of us in Asia, some of us in Europe and then some in the U.S. Everything was conducted via email including hand-wringing about permissions. Discussions about which pieces to take. What kind of totebag would fit the profile of an Asymptote reader. What kind of Tumblr blog for that matter. What Special Feature to host for our next ish. Which Michel Leiris translator to read. The fact that it came together as it did—and I don't mind letting on that on the very day of the launch itself, I was receiving new material for the website, completed for us just the day before ("Oh, we're definitely at the forefront of Literature", I joked to my poetry editor)—is nothing short of a feat. And I have my wonderful team to thank for this.
But that's not where the amazement ends. Look at the lineup. A knockout Mary Gaitskill essay introducing the Japanese crime writer Natsuo Kirino, a thrilling essay comparing Literature and Mathematics by Masahiko Fujiwara, and a daring recreation of one day in the life of Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu by Boey Kim Cheng. Although all the rest of it is hitherto unpublished, we just had to feature a 2010 Thomas Bernhard translation and a 2010 reprint of Gozo Yoshimasu's Naked Memo: a draft of his lecture on Emily Dickinson to the Emily Dickinson Society of Japan. Yoshimasu san was also generous enough to do a short Q&A which I hope makes up for the full-length interview coming in late. Check back at the end of the first week of February: 2010 World Cup Songwriter Francis Li Zhuoxiong's insights into the world of song lyrics will be just the thing to usher in the Chinese New Year.
Also to put us in the right mood is Liu Zhenyun, a big name in China that nobody has heard of in the West, but thanks to Howard Goldblatt, Asymptote will be Liu's first point of contact for most Western readers. I am also excited to introduce the exuberant prose of Ludwik Sztyrmer—one of the first pieces I accepted as Fiction editor. In his Special Feature essay, Sztyrmer's translator Soren Gauger wryly points out that every 50 years someone will try to stage a Sztyrmer revival. Solar Throat Slashed, the result of a collaboration between translation heavyweights A. James Arnold and Clayton Eshleman, also hopes to "spark a general reassessment of Césaire as a major voice in twentieth century poetry", the case for that surely undergirded by the muscular translations presented here. Césaire is only one of the 20 poets we have in our strong showing of poets this issue; the rest of the cast features: Ko Un, Pura López-Colomé, Tan Chee Lay, Gleb Shulpyakov, Fabio Pusterla and Mihail Gălăţanu, on top of a Swedish Poetry Feature with unforgettable work by Elisabeth Rynell and Fredrik Nyberg, among others. In our drama section, I am thrilled to give you Aya Ogawa's nimble translation, noteworthy for her rendering of colloquial speech.
We'd like to be the sort of magazine where literary translation is not only presented but also discussed, so that the envelope is pushed and no, we'll say up front now that we're not afraid of theory. Our vision of the criticism section includes academic (but mind you, this is no excuse to bore) essays of up to 10,000 words, but we'd also like the occasional casual review, written, as my Criticism editor put it, while drinking coffee. To show the way, we have the very caffeinated Brandon Holmquest bringing us up to date on the latest crop of translations via the Asymptote Jan 2011 Book Reviews.
We had a great time with our last Special Feature call for submissions requiring one writer to introduce another—with the caveat that that other writer must be working in a language other than English—so we've decided to make it a permanent offering, also as a way of providing an entrypoint into the magazine for the writers among us who are not translators. For detailed guidelines on this and on our other Special Feature, especially if you'd like to be published alongside acclaimed translator Edith Grossman, who has already consented to an interview, check out our Submit page.
And while you're at it, walk around our site a little, get to know us better as we also get to know you better: drop us a note on our Tumblr or just go there to check out the terrific stuff that we have been posting up. (If you're more the Facebook or twitter sort, that's fine!) Finally, show us some love if you like what we're doing so that we can really be at the forefront of Literature.
—Lee Yew Leong
Editorial Team for Issue Jan 2011
Lee Yew Leong (Singapore/Taiwan)
Lee Yew Leong (Singapore/Taiwan)
Brandon Holmquest (USA)
Anthony Luebbert (USA)
Wong Chee Meng (Singapore/Germany)
Aditi Machado (India/USA) and Sayuri Okamoto (Japan)
Nathalie Handal (Palestine/France/USA)
Masthead for Issue Jan 2011
Fiction/Nonfiction/Drama/Visual: Lee Yew Leong
Poetry/Criticism: Brandon Holmquest
Special Feature: Anthony Luebbert
Interview: Wong Chee Meng
Photo Illustrations and Cover: Kevin Kunstadt
Design: Lee Yew Leong and fFurious
Legal Counsel: Lindy Poh
Asymptote would like to acknowledge the support and/or contributions of: Balkenende Chew & Chia (Advocates & Solicitors), Choo Lip Sin, Karel Caals, Michael Lee, Quek Hiong Jin, Il (Memming) Park, Huang Yin-Nan, David Chew, Alvin Pang, Ng Yi-Sheng, Nicholas Liu and Yeow Kai Chai.